BY : Mannah_Pierce
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 1191
Disclaimer: This story has some of Masashi Kishimoto's characters from Naruto in a universe of my own devising. I do not own Naruto. I do not make any money from these writings.

Iteration’ is part of the space saga that began with ‘In the cold of space you find the heat of suns’ and continues in ‘Tales in Tarrasade’. There is also a one-shot ‘Silver Leaf Tales: Tying the knot’.

Thanks to Small Fox for being my beta. For this story he has also been my muse, suggesting a number of the ideas that have evolved to create this arc.

Thank you to those readers who have taken time to write a review or send an email, particularly those who regularly review. Special thanks to ‘meow-ku’ for leaving the 100th review.

Apologies if the characters have grown differently in their new environment.

This is posted in the Naruto/Sasuke section because it is part of a Naru/Sasu/Naru space saga. However, it does feature many other pairings (and a few threesomes). Apologies to those who are expecting Naruto/Sasuke or Sasuke/Naruto every chapter.

Chapter eighteen: Rescue

“If asked, what would you have done to Gaara once we have finished with him?” Deva asked Sasori.

This was the moment. Originally, Sasori had wanted Gaara killed. Killing him would ensure Temari’s fury.

But Gaara was another of the Sunagakure’s victims. It had been their crazy idea to create a battalion of hybrid soldiers and, when that failed, it had been the Sunagakure who had insisted that Gaara be raised to lead the warrior arm of the resistance.

Sasori knew the sacrifices Gaara had made to control his berserker tendencies.

Seeing him again, realising that he was no longer an emotionless killer, had unbalanced Sasori’s calculations.

“If I ‘rescued’ him and returned him to his sister there would be a good chance that I would end up as head of her new intelligence service,” Sasori answered.

Deva’s eyes widened a little. “We will consider,” he replied. “You will stay in your cabin unless told otherwise.” He considered. “You should plan for Gaara’s return, even though this may not be the decision we make.”

Deva documented his meeting with Sasori.

Then he pondered.

This was one of the decisions he would have to make on Pein’s behalf.

Returning Gaara would limit the time they had to work on him. Usually they kept their captives in stasis. This allowed for a second attempt at interrogation if the first failed.

However, a second attempt was rarely more successful than the first. In this case, even the first was unlikely to yield truly satisfactory results. Gaara was a hybrid; they had never interrogated a hybrid. He was a berserker; they had never interrogated a berserker.

On the face of it, having Sasori as the Kage’s head of intelligence was tempting. However, Sasori was more than he seemed and far more than Orochimaru or Kabuto had implied. He was obviously working for himself as well as the Akatsuki.

They knew Sasori hated the Sunagakure. Did he have any residual loyalty to Kaze and to Temari?

What did he know if he chose to change allegiance?

Did giving him Gaara make any difference?

Should they be killing Sasori now?

Slowly the elements of the decision were made.

No they should not kill Sasori; he was by far the most effective operative Akatsuki had.

There was no point in keeping Gaara for further rounds of interrogation; he could be released or killed.

The risks were not significantly increased by allowing Sasori to take the credit for Gaara’s retrieval.

There was a potential benefit of improving Sasori’s standing with the Kage.

After interrogation, Gaara would be returned to Sasori.

Deva documented his thoughts and the decision he had made.

The Gedo was waiting for them on the other side of the ungated hole from the Kaze III system. Deva docked his ship in one of the two bays. Experience suggested that contact between Paths should be kept to a minimum, so Deva sent Naraka a message saying that the subject was to be returned and that the less time they kept him the better.

Naraka asked if the subject had to be alive and sane.

Deva replied alive and preferably sane; no repeating the procedure if there was less than a fifty percent chance of a significant improvement.

Naraka sighed. It was going to be difficult enough interrogating a berserker hybrid without extra restrictions. Even so he would defer to Deva. He always deferred to them. They were kept closest to Pein; their decisions were Pein’s decisions.

He was different. It was a long time since he had been Pein. Narakas rarely got to integrate their memories back into Pein. Pein did not wish to remember interrogating subjects, or disposing of what was left after Naraka had wrung out the last drops.

He did his job. He recorded the interrogations. He wrote reports. At regular intervals he received reports from Pein, keeping him up-to-date, and from Konan, telling him how important the work he did was to the cause. Otherwise he existed; unlike the other Paths he was allowed any experience he desired that did not interfere with his work or create risk for the Akatsuki.

Every fifth day his state of mind was assessed. One day he would fail. He would be terminated and replaced.

This was the life of a Naraka Path.

He retrieved the pod from where Deva had left it in the docking bay and took it to the laboratory. Naraka studied the pod with satisfaction as he loaded it into the elevator and then unloaded it two decks above.

In the past the subjects had arrived in standard pods, meaning Naraka had to transfer them to the ones required for the mindprinting process. He had seen their faces. One time the subject had woken up and started screaming. Now Naraka insisted that the Deva, or whoever was piloting the retrieval ship, took one of the specialised pods.

In the laboratory, he opened the section of the pod over the subject’s thigh and took a sample of stem cells from the marrow of the femur. A small fraction of the cells were processed and injected into the sequencer. It would take a minimum of one hundred minutes to have the full genome and run it against the clone bank.

Not that he held much hope of finding something compatible.

Once that was underway he froze the rest of the stem cells. If it was thought desirable they would grow clones but, given that it was a hybrid, the task would be given to Orochimaru. Standard techniques would only produce monsters.

After three hundred minutes Naraka stopped the programme. As he had suspected there were no compatible hosts among the clones; if they were going to start interrogating hybrids regularly they would need clones of hybrids.

Naraka laughed. Hybrids themselves were clones. It would be clones of clones. For some reason he found that amusing.

He contacted Deva, telling him that compatibility was so low that they had to print more than six clones. Eighteen, three batches, was the lowest number he could work with.

This done, Naraka steered the pod containing the subject into the input bay of the mindprinter and fastened it into place. He lowered the lever; the machine hummed as connections were made via superfine needles though apertures in the pod and into the subject’s brain.

He then selected the first six clones and waited as their pods were delivered into the output bays. The clones were taken out of stasis. The machine hummed again as their empty, sensory-deprived brains connected via the embedded nets.

Finally, he changed the settings on the pod to bring the subject out of stasis and into a state where his body was immobilised but his brain alert.

This was one of the things Naraka hated most about the mindprinting process; the subject had to be conscious.

As always, he hesitated before pressing the switch. He knew how much the process hurt. He had begun his existence in an output bay, as had every Path. Nagato went through the agonising mindprinting process every time six more Paths were produced. He had that memory. They all did. It was an essential part of being Pein.

He pressed the switch and the process started only to abort after less than a minute.

He wasted the first set of six clones before accepting that it was the subject causing the problem rather than a malfunction in the mindprinter. Something was rendering the subject unconscious. Naraka had expected the subject to go berserk, but not unconscious.

Two exchanges with Deva, separated by ten minutes, and he had his answer. Naraka was angry; he had needed to know about the controller before beginning the process. It should have been removed before the subject was podded.

Rendering the subject unconscious would mean aborting the process and wasting another six clones. He could not justify it; he would have to open the section of the pod over the subject’s face and neck while he was conscious.

Naraka found a set of mirrored goggles and improvised a full-face mask to wear so that the subject, who Deva insisted must live, would not learn the appearance of Pein.

The subject’s face was too memorable: pale skin, red hair and dark rimmed, turquoise eyes.

The collar was locked; Naraka had to cut it off. The moment it was gone the eyes charged; staring at him with berserker rage.

He shut the pod quickly.

His expectations of success, already low, plummeted.

Two days later, with three batches of six clones imprinted, the needles were removed and the subject rendered unconscious. Naraka parked the pod in the docking bay and walked away.

He had eighteen clones to interrogate.

Once Deva had told him how long the interrogation would take and that Gaara would be returned to him, Sasori had finalised his plans. He had even managed to persuade Deva to take him to Tsubusa’s not-so-secret base, which masqueraded as an abandoned miner’s outpost in the asteroid belt of Kaze III.

With Tsubusa far away in another system, there was little risk associated with Sasori using it. It was to this location that the decoy case picked up from the sanctuary grounds had been delivered.

The base even had a docking bay; it was almost too easy. Sasori, in the Kugutsu shell, was able to drive the ground vehicle, with Gaara inside the Hitokugutsu shell, off the ship. There he retrieved the decoy case from the delivery chute and placed it in the back of the vehicle before driving into the airlock and sealing it behind him.

He listened to the docking bay depressurising and then felt the vibration of Deva casting off; he was on his own.

The Sunagakure had a tradition. In times of trouble, one member could turn to another for help. Part of this tradition was that one member’s safehouse would open to another.

Trusting each other was insanity; Sasori kept one small apartment in Suna for the sole purpose of having a safehouse that would open to other members of the Sunagakure. He imagined most other members of the Sunagakure did the same.

Tsubusa was a traditionalist. He hated hybrids, sneered at warriors and thought that women were only for breeding. There was a good chance that this, his main safehouse, would open using the code for this day.

Sasori inputted the code and waited; if it did not work he was confident that he could break in.

It opened.

A solid day’s work and he was ready to summon assistance.

He gave Gaara another huge dose of soporific and moved him to the case that had been delivered.

Then Sasori broke into Tsubusa’s security system and discovered, as he had expected, that Tsubusa was too paranoid to have any cameras or microphones within the base itself. The exceptions were cameras outside and inside the docking bay.

Sasori doctored the recordings changing the time of Deva’s ship arrival and reducing the quality of the recordings so the details of the ship were obscured. He then found images of Tsubusa leaving the base and spliced them in. Hopefully anyone examining the records would believe that Tsubusa had arrived within a day of Gaara’s abduction and then left three days later.

To his delight he found Tsubusa’s version of the Kugutsu shell, which meant that the two of them had not been wearing the same shell in two different systems. Sasori destroyed all trace of it and put his version in its place.

He arranged Tsubusa’s laboratory as if someone had conducted an interrogation and moved Gaara’s unconscious body from the case, to a chair in the laboratory and then to a room, which he locked. Traces of evidence would now be present in the decoy case, on the chair and in the room.

He placed his Hitokugutsu shell on a stand and made it look like he had been locked in another of the small rooms for three days before escaping.

Finally he found the self-destruct and ensured that he could activate it.

Then he contacted Temari by sending a coded light speed message.

Kankuro’s ship docked in the bay less than a day later.

Sasori was in the airlock, Gaara’s body across his shoulder; ready. As soon as the bay was pressurised he was running towards the ship, shouting about a self-destruct that had been triggered by the ship docking.

Kankuro himself was in the ship’s airlock. At first all his attention was on Gaara but he soon focused on what Sasori was saying. He pushed Sasori, still carrying Gaara, into the ship, slammed shut the outer and inner doors of the airlock and then punched the intercom.

“This is Kankuro. Get the doors of the docking bay open and get us out of here. The installation is about to explode. Repeat. Get the doors of the docking bay open and get us out of here. The installation is about to explode. Medicos with stretcher to the loading bay. Repeat, Medicos with stretcher to the loading bay.”

The ship shook as the guns fired; a typical warrior’s solution to opening the docking bay doors. On balance, Sasori thought it a reasonable move; depressurising the docking bay might take too long.

“Give him to me,” Kankuro ordered, taking Gaara from him. He leaned against the bulkhead, cradling his brother’s unconscious body. “Where is his controller?”

Sasori followed Kankuro’s example, bracing himself against the bulkhead to stay upright as the ship manoeuvred. The pilot was more interested in getting the ship out of the remains of the docking bay than the comfort of his passengers. He shrugged. “He was not wearing it,” he answered.

Kankuro turned his gaze from Gaara to Sasori . “I’ve never seen you without a shell,” he admitted. “You sure you are Sasori? You look too young.”

Sasori did feel naked, even though he was clothed. “There wasn’t time to worry about finding a shell,” he replied. “Your sister will vouch for me. She knows what I look like.” He changed the subject. “Did he kill Lee-san?”

Kankuro shook his head. “No. Lee was packed into a case for a courier to pick up but one of the hybrids smelled him.” His eyes went again to his brother’s face. “Temari is furious. I have never seen her so angry. Until your call came in, she was even suspecting you.”

“That is hardly surprising,” Sasori responded calmly. “I vanished at the same time and, to be honest, I was an unlikely victim.”

“In the past I would have said the same about Gaara,” Kankuro whispered.

The first of the medicos slid down the ladder, followed by the stretcher and then the second medico.

Kankuro placed Gaara gently onto the stretcher. They watched as he was strapped in so that the stretcher could be winched up to the infirmary.

“Get him into stasis,” Kankuro ordered. “If he wakes without his controller he will kill you,” he warned. He turned back to Sasori. “I will show you to your cabin, Sasori-san.”

Sasori relaxed a little. Kankuro would not be calling him Sasori-san if he thought him even partly responsible for Gaara’s condition.

They were just clear when the pilot’s voice over the intercom confirmed that Tsubusa’s base had exploded; as there was only space between them and the safehouse they felt nothing.

Later Sasori viewed the images that the ship’s cameras had captured. Unlike most of what Tsubusa did, the self-destruct proved satisfyingly effective. Sasori watched the pieces fly in all directions and suppressed a smile. In space there was no air to slow them down, the pieces would continue their journey unhindered until finally captured by gravity.

It was no longer evidence; it was spacejunk.

Shikamaru woke Sasuke and Naruto using the intercom between the crew room and their bedroom. Naruto had opened the door before Sasuke was awake enough to pull on some sleepshorts. He settled for sitting up in the bed.

“They’ve found him and he’s alive,” Shikamaru told them, He sat down on the bed. “Perhaps you should go tell Kiba, Na-chan.”

Sasuke saw Naruto hesitate; he had realised that Shikamaru had other, perhaps less welcome, news.

“Kiba deserves to know,” Sasuke added.

Naruto gave him a look that said that he expected to be told anything important and left.

“Out with it,” Sasuke ordered.

“He’s in a mess,” Shikamaru confirmed. “His controller is gone. His body is saturated with drugs so he needs a tank and they haven’t got one that will work with a hybrid. Without a controller and a tank they’ve had to stick him into stasis, so there is no prospect of being able to question him. The medicos they have can’t make sense of his brain scan. There are physical signs of needles having been put directly into his brain.”

Sasuke understood. Rin, Shikamaru and Kiba were the only people who could help Gaara. Either they went to him or asked Temari to ship him to Tarrasade. Going to Kaze would be quicker.

Shikamaru sighed. “The warriors went on a rampage once he was rescued. The man they think responsible was hunted down and killed, along with many others who were known to be members of the Sunagakure. The place where Gaara was held has been destroyed by an explosion. The chances of finding out what actually happened are slim.”

It was an easy decision to make. “Gaara is a friend as well as an ally. We take the entire household to Kaze.” Sasuke gave a small, ironic smile. “You did say we were safer travelling,” he reminded Shikamaru. “I shall tell everyone in the morning.” He took in the signs of exhaustion on Shikamaru’s face and in his posture. “You may send a message to Temari saying that we will be sending assistance but no details. Then get some sleep. That is an order, Shika-san.”

As Shikamaru left Sasuke caught sight of Naruto and Kiba sitting on one of the couches in the shared area of the crew room. He checked the chronometer; with some imagination he could pretend it was very early in the morning rather than the middle of the night.

He pulled on some clothes and joined them. Kiba’s face was white and strained.

“He needs a tank that works with a hybrid,” Sasuke told them. “Without that they can’t make a start; they have put him in stasis. We will leave for Kaze as soon as we can.”

“All of us,” Naruto checked.

“The whole household,” Sasuke confirmed and was rewarded by Kiba’s relief.

Sasori knelt, shell-less, in front of his Kage.

“Why can’t I escape the feeling that I cannot trust you, Sasori-san?” Temari asked him.

“I am a member of an organisation that has betrayed you, Temari-sama,” Sasori confirmed. “You should feel free to kill me.”

She scowled at him. “Oh I do, Sasori-san, I do. Just not yet. Stay close, Sasori-san. I may have need of you.”

Sasori bowed. The Sunagakure were all but gone. He was alive.

It was the best of days.

Deva coded, compressed and encrypted all the data they had collected: the raw recordings of the interrogations, Naraka’s analysis, Deva’s summary and his report. He selected the best of the light speed communication routes available. At the other end an operative would download the data and it would be couriered by ship to whichever of the Akatsuki bases Pein was currently using.

He then packed up the controller. It would be dispatched as soon as it was safe to do so.

Most of the clones had been too insane to interrogate but at least they had the answer to one of their questions.

As unlikely as it had seemed, the Wizard was one, surprisingly young, person.


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