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’.

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.

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

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 who have left a review. I truly appreciate them.

Warning: this chapter includes violence, injury and death. None are described in detail.

Chapter twenty-five: Evening

Naruto turned the doll in his hands. It was a plastic cooking spoon, the type used for stirring a pot of food. Someone had drawn eyes, nose, mouth and hair on the bowl and tied scraps of fabric about the handle for clothes.

They should have done more when Inari and the others had returned, but it had not occurred to any of them, not even Shi-chan, that the situation in the Warren was so bad or that it would deteriorate so quickly.

He shivered and shook himself. There were situations like the Warren dotted throughout known space. Sometimes hybrids were the victims. Sometimes it was other groups. He thought of Ranmaru’s home planet, where unauthorised purebred children were captured and killed.

Humans, purebred or not, could be monsters.

He looked about the meeting room, now deserted because Sasuke had called a halt for the day. They had put the children to bed and eaten as a family.

Yuki had been clutching his favourite doll as Naruto had kissed him goodnight. It had reminded Naruto about the one the child, Ume, had sent him.

After the evening meal he had fetched some modelling clay from the playroom and the doll from his office.

He sprang onto the table in the meeting room and picked his way through the tablets and paper to the centre. Once there he pressed the lump of clay onto the table and thrust the end of the spoon into it.

The doll stood a little askew. Naruto rearranged its clothes.

The door slid open. It was Sasuke.

“What are you doing, dobe?” he asked.

Naruto moved aside so that he could see the doll.

Sasuke stared for a moment and then nodded.

Onoki had pushed for ‘Tennyo-san’ to tour the station the day after the meeting but she pleaded other business and held out for one day’s delay. Each day gained increased the possibility that Chaaruzu-san or Naruto-san would intervene and stop the massacre. She had spent the time collecting information. She had codified and compressed it, hacked into the light speed relay and injected it into the data stream.

Sumashi and Mahiru had vied for her attention throughout the tour. Under other circumstances it would have been flattering but not these. They had wanted the character, Tennyo-san who represented a multi-system company, rather than her. It was also difficult not to dwell on the imminent death of thousands. Finally, the more time she spent around Mahiru the less she liked him; she was relieved when he excused himself, pleading a prior evening engagement.

She did not miss that she was not the only one who was pleased to see the back of him; she saw Sumashi’s shudder as he watched Mahiru walk away.

He pulled himself together and turned to her.

“Allow me to escort you to dinner, Tennyo-san,” he suggested.

It was the opportunity she was looking for to learn more about their plans. “That would be pleasant, Sumashi-san. Could you use your position in the council to secure us a reservation at one of the best restaurants? The company would be delighted to pay.”

She had to remind herself that for Tennyo-san, who represented a multi-system company, the restaurant would be provincial and amusing rather than exclusive and incredibly expensive. They ended up in a private dining room. She swiftly ordered a flask of the best sake.

She had nanobots that prevented her becoming intoxicated. She was hoping that Sumashi did not.

A few small cups of sake and he was already talking too much. She swiftly realised that he was under a great deal of pressure.

“You spend all your life trying to get there,” he told her. “Then, when you do, you realise that the room is full of greedy, corrupt old men and bigoted extremists.”

She schooled her face into a suitable expression of sympathy and poured them both more sake.

“Then you stay, because you tell yourself that you can achieve more on the inside than the outside.” He emptied his cup and she refilled it. “Only you are lying to yourself. You vote against things, you abstain, but they still happen. They still happened when you were a member of the council. History will show you were there.”

She decided not to say anything. Instead she made small understanding noises while she topped up his cup.

“I have to be in the same room as that monster,” he added, shuddering. “Kurotsuchi is bad enough, her views are loathsome, but Mahiru.” He shuddered. “If he is human, I am ashamed to be one.”

Mahiru had decided that the woman was irrelevant; they had more pressing concerns than courting multi-system companies.

What was worse, Onoki was right; she thought she was too good for him.

If she had been a local woman he would have taught her a lesson; she needed to understand that the only place for a woman like her was around the cock of a man like him. Unfortunately she was not.

He would leave her to Sumashi. He sneered; Sumashi was so subservient that he barely deserved to be considered a man.

He had more important business.

A quick trip to his apartment and he was dressed and armed appropriately. Then he was travelling towards the designated meeting place. Even one div before he would have hesitated to wear the uniform of the Anti Hybrid Brigade openly. Now men dressed in ABH garb, with their faces covered, were commonplace.

The new man, Kimimaro, was there. Mahiru was pleased. They exchanged nods; acknowledging each other’s reputation.

Then it was down the access tunnels and into the lower levels.

He had a personal target of fifty for this outing. He hoped that they were all functional enough to run. It was much more exciting if he had to chase them.

Deidara was glad that none of his art was permanent and that he cared for no one other than himself. Otherwise making bombs that worked might worry him.

Whatever Kabuto said, the bombs had to be functional. If Han discovered that they were ineffectual he would pull Deidara apart and leave the piece with the brain to die while the other parts twitched. Deidara had seen it happen and once had been enough. He had no intention of being on the receiving end of Han’s ire.

He did not plan to be in the residential sector when Han started using the bombs. He slept elsewhere whenever possible and carried an emergency suit. If he was in the wrong place at the wrong time the suit might save him.

Han was crouched only an arm’s length from his left shoulder, watching him work. It made Deidara nervous. He had tried moving the bomb making to a smaller room in the hope that Han would stay outside.

The tactic had backfired; now Han filled most of the room.

“What are your plans, Deidara?” Han asked.

Deidara jumped, almost blowing both of them to smithereens. Han did not make small talk.

“When you have taken the Warren, I plan to leave,” he admitted. “I was hoping that you would allow me and the other purebreds who have supported the pro-hybrid movement to do so.”

“I will consider it,” Han conceded. He then cocked his head in the way that Deidara knew meant he was utilising his dolphin hearing to receive an ultrasonic message. He stood; his head almost touching the ceiling.

“I must go,” he said, looming over Deidara. “A squad is on a killing spree in the lower levels.”

Deidara sighed with relief once he had left, grateful to the killers.

Sickler sat on the floor of the sitting room of Ebisu’s apartment. Ebisu was in the chair. They were watching old story vids because that gave them an excuse not to talk and made it easier not to think.

Things had changed since Ebisu had sent the message to his father asking for a loan. Sickler had stopped sneaking out to attend pro-hybrid meetings. Ebisu no longer suggested locking Sickler in his room at night. Instead they lived as they had when Sickler was a kit; he slept on a cot in Ebisu’s bedroom.

Every day the situation around them deteriorated while ordinary people like them tried to continue with their lives. Masked members of the AHB openly walked the corridors. There were rumours that hybrids were being slaughtered on the lower levels. Pro-hybrid purebreds were too frightened to speak out. Many of them were leaving, as Ebisu and Sickler planned to do.

At least Deidara had not been back in contact. Sickler was relieved. He did not want to join an anti-purebred organisation. He belonged with Ebisu, in the middle.

Not that there would be a middle much longer, Sickler could see that.

The episode of the story vid they were watching came to an end. To Sickler’s surprise Ebisu switched the viewer off.

“I am not sure that the credit from Father will come in time,” Ebisu admitted.

Sickler waited.

“I am going to contact the harbour master’s office,” Ebisu told him. “I am going to ask him if we can work in the spacer quarter in return for food and somewhere to sleep.”

“That’s a wonderful idea,” Sickler told him, impressed that Ebisu had thought of it.

Ebisu smiled. It was a brief and uncertain smile, but a smile nevertheless. “I will do it tomorrow morning,” he promised.

Kotohime walked around her laboratory. It was painful to see it deserted and empty. Orochimaru had given the order that everything of value was to be packed into containers that could be loaded at a moment’s notice.

Orochimaru himself had visited the nursery and examined the stock. He had insisted Kotohime be there. Only five out of ninety-two hybrids had been judged functional. He had broken the necks of the others and left the bodies for the nursemaids to feed into the recycler.

One of them, Tora, had tried to stop him.

The empty laboratory, the memory of Tora’s body amongst those of the babies she had cared for, the dull ache of her healing flesh; these were the realities of Kotohime’s world.

Realities she had hidden from for far too long.

Naked in bed with him, Kotohime had realised that Orochimaru’s body had changed. It was younger and flawless. Her best guess was that he had spent two standards or more in a tank while a skilled medico had regenerated most of his body.

After he had beaten her she told herself that the process had changed him.

Only it had not. The truth of it had sunk in when she watched him killing the babies. He had always been like this; ruthless, self-centred and cruel. It was her image of him that had been different.

Suddenly she pitied Kabuto instead of hating him.

Kotohime walked towards the nursery. She could hear Tonton singing to the five babies that remained. Tonton’s piggy nature showed in her face and her figure but her voice was pure; pitch perfect and utterly human.

She had moved the five survivors into a different, cosier room. They were each in a cot, small heads on clean white pillows, a favourite toy tucked in beside them.

Her voice did not falter as she spotted Kotohime in the doorway but her bright, black piggy eyes burned with hatred.

Kotohime did not blame her.

Reluctantly, Kotohime thought about the future. She had never lived in the real world and her world of make-believe had all but gone.

Did she want to survive? She could kill herself or annoy Orochimaru enough that he broke her neck like he had the children’s.

Or she could face up to what she had done and try to make amends.

Other hybrids, all soldiers in the Kaiju, appeared around Han as he ran. At first Han followed the instructions in the ultrasound messages but soon it was no longer necessary because there was a trail of pathetic crumpled bodies. Inside he burned with fury that purebreds had dared come onto his territory and kill those they had no right to touch.

“Try not to kill them outright,” Han ordered. “We need to question them.”

It was almost too easy. They had knives but Han’s soldiers moved so quickly and many of them had either natural armour or armguards and breastplates.

One killer stood out. The eyes showing through the gap in the mask were a vivid green. He dropped the child whose neck he had just broken as soon as he saw them and, to Han’s astonishment, transformed.

Han had never encountered a purebred who could move so fast. He killed one of Han’s soldiers and then another, plunging the razor sharp blade of his long knife between the sections of their armour. Han stepped forward, attracting the green-eyed man’s next attack. He dodged and the purebred’s knife skittered across his armguard.

He swiped. The green-eyed man managed a retreating dodge but underestimated the length of Han’s arm. Han made contact and the man flew across the corridor but, amazingly, managed to push off from the wall rather than crashing into it. Then he was running down the corridor with Han in pursuit.

Han was beginning to doubt that the man was purebred. He was too fast, his reactions were too quick and now, astonishingly, he was using echolocation to predict the shape of the corridors ahead. Han was too big, too heavy and too slow to catch him. He stopped and began to laugh.

A purebred had outrun him.

He turned back. Two of the purebreds were dead, another so badly injured that Han chose to snap his neck and two were alive. They had unmasked the living ones. One of them looked familiar.

Han smiled; it was Mahiru, one of the councillors.

This was a good day.

Kimimaro had hoped the big hybrid would chase him but he soon heard the strangely soft yet heavy footsteps behind him slow and stop.

For a moment he considered turning back. Then, as his bloodlust cooled, he remembered that he had other functions than to kill.

He had to tell the AHB that there were hybrid fighters and that Han himself led them.

He supposed he should also report to Kabuto. Kimimaro gritted his teeth. He wanted to kill Kabuto more than any hybrid, even Han. Unfortunately Kimimaro needed the smug, traitorous hybrid lover; wringing his neck was not an option. That would have to change. This time, when he reported, Kimimaro would obtain a sample of the substance that activated his symbiote.

He found a service shaft and started to climb upwards.

Once Sumashi was drunk enough not to notice, she had started to make additions to his sake. She needed to lower his inhibitions without any of the common side effects; she did not want him sleepy, or maudlin, or violent, or lecherous.

Luckily Sumashi desperately needed to talk. Once his inhibitions were gone the floodgates opened.

She activated a hidden recorder and made encouraging or sympathetic noises when appropriate. Occasionally she tried to push him for more detail.

When the drugs wore off, Sumashi proved to be sleepy rather than any of the less attractive alternatives. She moved crockery and cutlery so that his head could rest comfortably on the tablecloth before summoning the head waiter.

Sumashi cooperated by snoring loudly, reassuring the waiter and the manager that he was only sleeping. She paid the bill, including an extremely generous gratuity. They assured her that they would ensure Sumashi reached home safely and offered her an escort to the edge of the spacer quarter.

As soon as she was aboard the Marishiten she recorded her report before processing the information, hacking into the relay and injecting the data.

Then she could rest. For the first time since viewing Shibito’s message she thought she might be able to sleep.

Sasuke held Naruto’s hand as they walked back to the crew room. He thought about the spoon dolly in the middle of the table. It was so like Naruto to think of it and place it there; the perfect reminder of what they were trying to do and why it was worth fighting for.

Sasuke had no illusions that involving Uchiha was sensible. This was not like ridding Kaze of the slavers, where there had been divs of careful planning before they had perfectly executed Shikamaru’s elegant plan. Either they would be too late or it would be messy and bloody, with decisions taken and implemented within moments.

It would be like a battle.

This was his territory, not Shikamaru’s.

He brought Naruto’s hand up and kissed the inside of his wrist.

“Dobe, I need to speak to Kakashi. I won’t be long.”

Naruto looked at him; his whiskers twitched. Then he nodded.

Kakashi was in the galley playing cards with Ibiki, Asuma, Gai, Shino and Fu. Iruka had released one bottle of whisky, which they were making last by using very small cups.

“May I speak with you, Kakashi-san?” Sasuke asked from the doorway.

Kakashi abandoned his hand immediately. They walked together towards Sasuke’s office.

“I have come to a decision,” Sasuke told him as they walked. “Whatever happens in the Warren, I will be in the front line, with Naruto.”

Kakashi stopped walking. “It is not an Uchiha matter,” he complained.

Sasuke turned to face him. “Maybe it is, maybe it is not. Whichever, I will tell Shikamaru, tomorrow, that he should plan for me to be his front line leader. You, he, Neji and Iruka will be in the Sakura. The children and Kiba will be with you.”

“Uchiha-sama...” Kakashi objected.

Sasuke held up a hand. “Kakashi, the moment was always going to come when I had to decide who I was. This is that moment. An Uchiha will put his life on the line in an attempt to save thousands of hybrid humans’ lives.” He took one of the double-sided medallions out of his pocket and tossed it to Kakashi. “Live or die, this will become real.”

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