Real

BY : Mannah_Pierce
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 1343
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.

 



Heartfelt thanks to my beta and muse, Small Fox. Thanks also to The Horseman of Death because the idea for this story started in a discussion with him. Thank you to YamanashiOchinashiIminashi, GreenEyedCat, disembodiedvoiceofthedying, unneeded, lonelylulaby, Dawn, sadie237, v, NarutoVixin, cynaga and Kyle who left a review after chapter six was posted. As I have said before, it is feedback from readers that keep me writing this story.



Real

Chapter seven: Quiggles



 

It was taking Klenn-san a long time to get from the first puzzle to sending stuff about artificial intelligence. Haru understood; when dealing with a typed-seven like Shi-chan even the slightest hint might spark an intuitive leap. The last thing he wanted was Shi-chan checking the abandoned array.

Meanwhile, Haru got to know Sai. Sometimes he and Ran would talk to Sai together but usually Haru took an interface into a quiet corner, put on his goggles and earpieces and tried to remember to subvocalise rather than talking out loud.

It helped that Iruka-sensei was less nosey than Biwako-san. Biwako-san had always interrogated him about how he had spent every session of personal study time. Iruka-sensei merely asked him what he was studying and got him to reflect on his learning. Provided he mentioned one or two things, Iruka-sensei was satisfied.

 

The more time he spent with Sai, the surer Haru was that Sai was a Tronny rather than a simulation or a person pretending to be a Tronny. He was just too weird to be a normal human.

 

That morning all of Sai’s clothes were yellow, even the ridiculous cropped top. Haru sighed; it had to be Su-chan’s idea.

“Not everyone likes yellow,” he pointed out.

“Sumiko said I should wear yellow,” Sai replied.

“Sai, you need to start making your own decisions about the avatar you use to interact with people.” He recalled the worst of Sumiko’s whims: the wings, the pointy ears, the pink frilly tutu and the pigtails. “Not just changing to suit Su-chan.”

“I could have an avatar I use with you,” Sai suggested.

“No,” Haru replied patiently. “What would you do if you were with me and Su-chan at the same time?”

“Get her simulator to show one avatar and yours the other.”

Haru wasn’t going to give up that easily. “And what if we were both looking at the projector?”

“I would use the avatar Sumiko liked,” Sai answered.

“Why?” Haru asked, determined to make his point.

“She stops talking to me if I do not obey.”

Haru didn’t like the sound of that. “You should stand up to her,” he insisted.

“What has it to do with standing?”

He took a deep breath; talking to Sai could be so frustrating. “You have to make your own decisions, not let Sumiko make decisions for you.”

“No.”

“You say no to me,” Haru pointed out.

“You talk to me more if I disagree with you.”

Haru suspected that was important but decided to concentrate on his objective and think about it later. “Fine, I want you to make your own decisions about the avatar you use with me.”

“No yellow?” Sai asked.

The yellow was particularly repulsive but Haru would not be tempted. “It’s up to you. You must make the decisions.”

‘Sai’ vanished. In its place was an amorphous, shimmering light exactly the same colour yellow as the objectionable clothes. “Like this?”

Haru had much preferred talking to the humanoid avatar but it was up to Sai to make the decision. “If that is how you see yourself.”

“I don’t have eyes,” Sai reminded him but the yellow colour faded into pleasant shades of pale blue.

Haru was just grateful for the lack of yellow. He decided to change the subject. “I want to talk to you about the data crystal array,” he began.

“Where I live.”

“Where you live,” Haru agreed. “I would like to run a diagnostic.”

 

It took a long time to explain to Sai what a diagnostic programme was and why Haru wanted to run one.

“No,” Sai decided.

Haru was no longer sure what ‘no’ from Sai meant. “Are you saying no to make me argue, or no because you don’t want me to run a diagnostic?”

“No, you cannot run a diagnostic. I would say no to Sumiko if she wanted to run a diagnostic.”

That was clear enough. “Why?” Haru asked.

“No other code,” Sai insisted. “Other code stays outside. Other code inside is dangerous.”

Haru remembered the weird code in Sumiko’s simulation. Then he had a worrying thought. “Is all the code in the data crystal array your code?”

“Yes.”

“What happened to the other stuff?” Haru asked. “All Shi-chan’s stuff.”

There was a pause. There had never been a pause before. Haru waited.

“Gone,” Sai answered. “Used. Changed. Replaced.”

“All of it?” Haru was struggling to wrap his head around what Sai had said; there had been exabytes of data in the array, perhaps even zettabytes.

Another pause preceded Sai’s answer.

“Yes.”

Haru suddenly imagined Sai running amok; using, changing or replacing programmes. “No doing that to code outside your array,” he insisted. “The one exception is Sumiko’s simulation. You can change that. Nothing else.”

“Why?”

 

It was tough explaining. There was so much Sai did not know or understand. Haru started to sweat. What would he do if Sai did not agree? He pushed on, determined to make Sai understand.

 

“I could destroy Sumiko without meaning to,” Sai said finally.

It was the first hint that Haru might be making progress. “Yes.”

“Or you or Ran.”

“Yes.”

“Or other people who are as important as Sumiko, you or Ran even if they are not important to me.”

“Yes.”

“I will not change any outside code other than Sumiko’s simulation without checking with you first.”

Haru was about to relax when he remembered that Sai wouldn’t say no to Sumiko. “Not even if Su-chan asks you to,” he added.

There was another pause. “Say no to Sumiko about changing outside code like say no to the diagnostic,” Sai suggested.

Haru felt like hugging him; not that there was anything to hug. “Exactly. Running the diagnostic could be dangerous to you. Changing the outside programmes could be dangerous to us.” He checked the time. “I will have to go soon.”

“You have training with Kakashi,” Sai observed; he had learned Haru’s schedule.

 

He preferred sessions with Itachi-san to training with Kakashi-san. Itachi-san used missions and games. With Kakashi-san it was all about hand-to-hand combat.

Haru understood why it was important. A spacer had to be a good enough fighter to wear a knife. Even Shi-chan could fight; Haru still remembered his tussle with Sasori-san on the gangplank.

Knowing it was important didn’t stop him hating the sessions.

“Haru-chan, are you ready?” Kakashi-san demanded.

Haru stood up straighter. “Yes, Kakashi-san,” he replied.

 

Training always followed the same pattern. First were the solo kata; standard moves repeated again and again. Kakashi-san and whoever was assisting him would walk to and fro, often stopping to alter the position of an arm or a leg.

Today it was Fu-san. Fu-san was inclined to sigh when kata were less than perfect and he sighed a lot when he looked at Haru.

 

After the solo kata they moved into twos for the paired kata. As always, he was with Kazuki, Hoshi was with Yuki and Hikaru was with Ryuu. Since the fight between Ryuu and Kazuki, Haru saw the familiar activity differently; the kits already thought of Kazuki, Yuki and Ryuu as his, Hoshi’s and Hikaru’s bodyguards.

Haru didn’t know what he thought about Ryuu, Yuki and Kazuki being assigned what was seen as a supporting role. All thirteen of them were Uchiha, they should be equal, but maybe for Kakashi-san, who had been part of Old Uchiha, purebred Uchihas were special.

Only Hoshi, Hikaru, Teruko, Takara and Haru himself were pureblood Uchihas. Ryuu was not, the kits were not and Tsuneo wasn’t.

Maybe he was being unfair to Kakashi-san. The kits and Ryuu would be awesome fighters like To-chan. The stronger and faster would protect the weaker and slower.

 

Then the kata were over and it was sparring. As usual, he was paired with Hoshi. It wasn’t that Hoshi was weak like him, Haru knew that. It was that Hoshi could be trusted not to get excited, lose control and hurt him.

Hikaru was facing Yuki; watching Yuki kick Hi-chan’s butt always made Haru feel a bit better about being thrashed by Hoshi.

 

Finally the session was over, which meant a drink, a piece of fruit and one of Choza’s large cookies.

Haru particularly liked cookies. He kept his for last and ate it a special way, nibbling away the crispier edge and then savouring the gooier middle.

He was just about to bite into the most delicious bit when Iruka-sensei spoke to him.

“Haru-chan, I am introducing evolution to the girls and Shika-san tells me that you are the best person to show them the quiggles.”

Suddenly even the best part of the cookie was less tasty.

 

Overall, Haru preferred Iruka-sensei’s style of teaching to Biwako-san’s but it did have its downside. Iruka-sensei was heavily into peer learning; he encouraged them to teach each other.

That was usually fine within the big litter; they were used to relying on each other as interpreters of what the adults were saying. It was when Iruka-sensei suggested that the older children teach the younger ones that the idea ran into trouble.

The ‘younger ones’ always included either Sumiko or Takara, depending on whether you were working with the group of older girls or the triplets, Shou and Nagato. No one, not even Hoshi, liked trying to teach Sumiko or Takara.

The big litter had tried all their usual tactics to avoid and then, when that failed, sabotage the sessions. In response, Iruka-sensei had displayed his characteristic combination of limitless patience and steely resolution.

Finally even Kazuki had yielded to the inevitable and led the occasional session in the gym.

 

Haru gave his last chunk of cookie to Kazuki and went off to prepare his demonstration.

 

A quick search of his own files revealed that he had lots of versions of the quiggles. He was surprised to see so many; he did not remember creating them or why he had saved them. He checked the dates; he had been three.

There wasn’t time to sort them out; he went to find a copy of Shi-chan’s original demonstration.

 

In its basic form the quiggles were simple. They were imaginary animals that lived in water. They needed food and oxygen to stay alive. If they stayed alive long enough they ‘had babies’. They had a limited lifespan.

They were shaped like squiggles, hence the name ‘quiggles’.

Shi-chan had included mechanisms for introducing small changes so that the quiggles varied. If you changed the environmental conditions, some quiggles would do better than others and have more babies. The babies were like the parents. Keep the selective pressure up and the population changed. It was a very simple model for demonstrating evolution.

Shi-chan had it set up like a game. You changed the environmental conditions, fast forwarded time through hundred or even thousands of generations and watched the population change.

 

The session was more successful than Haru had anticipated. Sumiko liked the game and was soon varying the conditions and observing the effects. Mai was interested in now the quiggles ‘lived’ and them ‘having babies’. Naomi followed what Mai was doing and gave the different quiggles names.

Shi-chan appeared near the end of the session. Haru watched Su-chan telling him about how the population changed and why. Then there was an ominous rustle of silk and everyone, even Shi-chan, sat up a little straighter.

“Haru-kun,” Haku-san greeted him.

Haru was stunned by the unexpected promotion. He managed a bow. “Haku-san.”

Once he was over the shock, Haru decided it was more a matter of manners than any change in Haku-san’s attitude toward him; Haku-san was very proper and Haru was leading the session.

“Mai-chan, Naomi-chan, we must go.” Haku-san announced. “What do you say to Haru-kun?”

The two girls lined up and bowed. “Thank you, Haru-kun,” they chorused.

Haru bowed in returned. “It was a pleasure, Mai-chan, Naomi-chan,” he replied.

Then Haku, Mai and Naomi were gone.

 

Iruka-sensei joined them while Shi-chan persuaded Su-chan to shut down the game and go to wash her hands.

“Good job,” he acknowledged, laying a hand briefly on Haru’s shoulder. “You did not push Mai or Naomi too hard. It was well judged.”

“I thought it was more important that they remembered liking the quiggles,” Haru admitted. “Then, when they are ready, they will like the idea of using the game.”

Iruka-sensei smiled. “You loved those quiggles when you were younger,” he recalled. “I can remember Shika-san trying to stop you making them immortal.”

“The whole point is that they compete, reproduce and die,” Shi-chan complained. “That’s natural selection. Haru’s version only had the competition part.”

“Haru-chan understands evolution, so the quiggles did their job,” Iruka-sensei pointed out.

“I learned programming changing the quiggles.” Haru did not remember much about being three, but he remembered that.

Shi-chan chuckled. “Yes, because I refused to change the programme so that they lived forever.” He stood up as Su-chan returned from the bathroom. “Let’s go then, Su-chan, we shouldn’t keep Ne-chan waiting.”

Sumiko’s face lit up. “Is Ne-chan cooking?” she asked.

“Yes, Ne-chan is cooking. Maybe he is cooking one of your favourites.”

Haru watched the two of them walking away.

“He still spoils her,” Iruka-sensei murmured. “Even after all this time. Still trying to make up for something that wasn’t his fault.”

Haru understood both what Iruka-sensei was saying and why he was saying it. Shi-chan blamed himself for the bombing, so he held himself responsible for Sumiko being orphaned, so he spoiled her, which didn’t do her any good.

Iruka-sensei was trying to get Haru to see what damage blaming yourself could do.

 

The rest of the day was busy and went quickly. The midmeal was followed by duty with Izumo-san, which was hard work but satisfying; Haru liked creating components that fitted together perfectly. Then they had a music session with Papa because Papa had been busy the morning before when they usually had it.

Hikaru’s singing had improved lots after only a few lessons; Haru was impressed. Otherwise they didn’t get much done; it turned out that trying to do a music session at the end of the day, when everyone was tired, wasn’t a good idea.

In the end To-chan rescued Papa by suggesting they end with a ‘dancing with To-chan’ session in the gym.

 

Haru’s eyelids felt heavy even during the evemeal. Ran was eating with them; Haru listened to him and Kazuki deciding that the three of them would hang out in the nursery rather than Ran’s room.

They did that when they thought he was tired and might fall asleep.

They piled onto Haru’s bunk, had a quick tussle and ended up with Haru in the middle, Kazuki on one side and Ran on the other. Haru leaned against Ran’s shoulder and Ka-chan snuggled close. They talked a bit about Sai, a bit about what it had been like teaching quiggles and then Haru listened to Kazuki telling them about his current duty with Konan-san in hydroponics.

Haru didn’t remember much after that. Next thing he knew, To-chan was dressing him in his pyjamas and putting him to bed. He gave To-chan a hug and received a whiskery kiss in return. Then To-chan tucked him in and sat stroking his hair.

It was nice.

 

He was dreaming about trying to teach Haku-san about quiggles but the quiggles wouldn’t behave and the naughtier the quiggles were the more disapproving Haku-san became.

Then Iruka-sensei was there saying, “What’s wrong with the quiggles?” and Shi-chan, who had been Haku-san the moment before, replied, “Haru changed them.”

He woke up with a start.

He had made the quiggles immortal. What else had he done to them?

 

He slipped out of bed. The low glow of station’s night was just enough for him to locate his goggles and an interface. He took them back to his bunk and hid under the covers.

He was soon examining the different versions of the quiggles that he had found in his archive. Only the programmes were there; if there had been any associated data it had not survived. He recognised the pattern of dates; the files were back-ups. They must have been copied from device to device as he had upgraded his hardware.

He had incorporated a number in when naming each version, which was convenient. He opened the earliest and then the next, intent on discovering what he had done.

 

Haru soon saw a pattern; his younger self had wanted the quiggles to survive.

First he had stopped them dying of old age but then the population got too large for the limited resources and the quiggles starved. He had solved that problem by stopping them reproducing but they still died; Shi-chan’s mechanism for introducing variation mean that each quiggle collected an ever increasing burden of faults until it could no longer ‘eat’ or ‘breathe’.

He had responded by coming up with ways for them to mend their own code; he had created self-programming quiggles.

 

Haru’s heart began to beat faster. It couldn’t be relevant to Sai. It just couldn’t. Sai was in Shi-chan’s data crystal array. The quiggles would have been...?

 

They would be from one of the two tablets he had owned at the time. Haru thought about it. Shi-chan hadn’t wanted him making the quiggles immortal. That suggested that he would have used his secret tablet rather than the ‘clean’ one he had used to show people what he was doing.

The secret tablet he had smashed on Papa’s desk.

 

He pulled off his goggles, jumped out of bed and opened the door of his locker. He was trying to be quiet but Kazuki woke and sat up, blinking at him.

“Go back to sleep,” Haru whispered. “I’m just looking for something.”

“Look for it in the morning,” Kazuki suggested. “The others will hear, and then Kiba-san or To-chan will hear them.”

Haru knew Ka-chan was right. He went back under the covers, put on his goggles and activated the interface. He could create a virtual tablet. He didn’t remember the tablet’s exact specifications, but he could make informed guesses.

Within a short time he had something that would do. He took a deep breath, introduced the last version of the quiggles programme that he had created six standards ago, accelerated time and watched.

A few real-time seconds later there was only one quiggle left. He reset the programme and ran it again with the same result.

 

He slowed virtual time and ran it again. The quiggle that survived was the first quiggle to programme itself to destroy other quiggles; which was predictable but disappointing.

Haru couldn’t imagine his younger self caring what happened to such a quiggle.

He closed the programme, took off his goggles and turned off his interface.

 

He woke to Ka-chan shaking him. He could hear Kiba-san just outside their bay. If Kiba-san caught him with the goggles and interface in bed with him, he would be in trouble. Luckily Kazuki was thinking the same thing; the goggles and interface were on his desk before Kiba-san entered.

“Haru-chan,” he growled. “Everyone else is either at breakfast or finished eating.”

“I am moving,” Haru replied, already on his way into the bathroom.

 

There wasn’t time to look for the broken tablet. In truth, Haru wasn’t sure he wanted to any more. Had Sai started off as a homicidal quiggle? Or would that be quigglicidal?

Haru sighed. Quigglicidal might be a funny word but his situation wasn’t. Even thinking that he might have created Sai made him feel sick. He remembered how he had felt the day before, when he had been persuading Sai not to change any programmes outside the array. It would have been ten times worse if he was responsible for Sai’s existence.

He changed his mind again and again throughout the day but, in the end, he decided he had to know. After the evemeal he turned down Ran’s invitation to hang out and dug through his locker. There, in his keepsakes box, under his plushie, was the broken tablet.

 

He cleared his desk and found his magnifying glasses; hopefully he would not need a micromanipulator.

 

It was fiddly but finally he had the data crystal slivers from the tablet linked to a simple stand-alone processor and a working interface.

 

One of the slivers contained the quiggles programmes that Haru had backed up. Alongside them were data files. A quick check confirmed that each file was the code for a single quiggle that had been generated by running Haru’s final version of the programme.

There were hundreds of them, labelled quiggle1 through to quiggle413

Only once such data file didn’t have a number.

Instead it had a name.



 



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