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 GreenEyedCat, Kyle, richon, Prism0467, disembodiedvoiceofthedying, ShadyDarling, angelj232000, cynaga, sadie237, telynaayuri, YamanashiOchinashiIminashi and Fluister who left a review after chapter seven was posted. As I have said before, it is feedback from readers that keep me writing this story.



Real

Chapter eight: Stocktaking



Haru stared at the name at the top of the list of quiggles. ‘Nakama’ meant partner in the old language. He really hoped he had chosen it because this quiggle was less quigglicidal.

 

He needed to investigate it and the other quiggles. He thought about transferring them to another device but decided not to. Even if there was only the tiniest possibility that these quiggles could change into something like Sai, he ought to be careful where they ended up.

Instead he attached a larger processor to the stand-alone system he had built.

 

Then he introduced all four hundred and fourteen quiggles into an empty quiggle environment.

A third died within the first millisecond. Within a hundredth of a second there was one left and it wasn’t Nakama. Haru reviewed the carnage in hundred microsecond jumps; Nakama had been one of the first to go.

He tried again. This time he introduced Nakama and quiggles 1 through 11.

This time the competition for resources was less intense, which slowed the killing. Nakama had died eighth. Reviewing the action, Haru could see what made Nakama different. He did not attack unless another quiggle attacked him first.

Haru sighed; he was already thinking of the Nakama quiggle as him rather than it.

 

Kazuki arrived before he could decide what to do next. He twitched his whiskers at Haru and shot into the shower. Haru shut down the device he had made, put it into his lockbox and started getting ready for bed.

Tonight Papa was in charge. They gathered in the shared area in their pyjamas, snuggled down on the couch or the floor cushions and listened to Papa singing one of their favourite spacer ballads; how Izuna Uchiha and the Voice in His Ear triumphed over Izuna’s brother Madara.

Haru wondered if songs would ever be written about any of them, like there were about Papa and To-chan.

It was nice not to be worrying about Sai. Ka-chan was grooming him and purring, which made him sleepy.

The last thing he remembered was Papa scooping him up and carrying him to his bunk.

 

Next morning he woke up thinking about Nakama and Sai. Every spare moment his mind went back to it; in the shower, as he dressed, during breakfast, through training with Kakashi-san and while he was meant to be studying.

Nakama was a tiny, simple little programme while Sai was huge and could think. Surely Nakama couldn’t have grown into Sai?

Also Nakama was on his tablet while Sai was in Shi-chan’s array. The data crystal array didn’t have wireless access. The younger Haru would have had to physically connect his tablet to the array.

On the other hand, transferring the Nakama quiggle would have only taken a moment.

Haru sighed; he wished he could remember what he had done when he was three. Even if he could work out when Shi-chan’s array had started to go wrong it would help.

“Haru-chan?”

Haru almost jumped out of his skin. He pulled himself together. “Yes, Iruka-sensei?”

“Your Papa would like to speak with you in his office.”

Haru swallowed. Unscheduled visits to Papa’s office were usually bad news.

 

By the time he arrived, Haru had convinced himself that Shi-chan had found the data connection to the abandoned array.

In a way, it was a relief.

He pushed the announcer and the door slid open.

“Come in,” Papa called. He didn’t sound cross.

Haru went in. To-chan was there; Haru had thought he was with the little ones in the other part of the playroom.

It didn’t feel like a telling-off. It was more like the sex-talk.

Was there stuff about sex they hadn’t told him? Haru’s mind boggled.

 

He sat next to To-chan and opposite Papa.

To-chan smiled at him reassuringly.

“Darrent-san has contacted us,” Papa began.

Haru’s gut clenched. Had Klenn-san told them that it had been his idea to study Tronnies?

“He wants to see you regularly,” Papa continued. “Like lessons.”

 

Haru just stared. Papa and To-chan were mentioning it to him. That meant they were considering it.

“You would let me?” he asked.

“Perhaps. You would want to see Darrent-san more often?” Papa checked.

“Yes, please,” Haru replied. His mind was racing. Why would Papa and To-chan allow it? It didn’t make sense.

Not unless it was now or never.

“Is Klenn-san dying?” he asked.

“I said he would guess,” To-chan complained. His fingers were stroking Haru’s hair. “Did you know already, sweetie?”

Haru was thinking about Shi-chan. Shi-chan would miss Klenn-san a lot. “I knew he was very old. Does Shi-chan know?”

“Yes, Shi-chan has known for a while,” To-chan assured him.

 

Papa was frowning. “This isn’t an easy decision for us, Haru-chan,” he admitted.

“Ha-chan knows that,” To-chan suggested. “Don’t you?”

To-chan was giving him an opening to persuade Papa so Haru went for it. “I understand. Klenn-san is not Uchiha. At most he is an ally of Uchiha. He has lived a long time, knows loads and he’s as clever as Shi-chan. He is one of the most powerful individuals in known space. He likes to play games with people. Often he isn’t nice.

“But he’s a typed-five genius and I have typed-five traits. He’s probably the only typed-five Ill ever meet because the others are either controlled by Centre or hiding from Centre. I could find out a lot about my potential from him.

“Hoshi thinks he cares about me, like he cares about Shi-chan, so I don’t think he’ll be mean to me.

“I would like a chance to learn from Klenn-san before he dies.”

Haru watched Papa. Papa was impressed, he could tell, but had it worked?

Papa sighed. “Very well, we will try a session and see how it goes.”

 

Haru skipped back to the playroom. Lessons with Klenn-san would be awesome. They could talk about mathematics and patterns. Klenn-san had told him about artificial intelligence and agreed to help him find out about Tronnies.

Maybe he could tell Klenn-san about the quiggles and, if that went well, even about Sai.

 

He didn’t expect to find Shi-chan and Iruka-sensei waiting for him. He slowed down, made wary by the way they were looking at him.

“What did your Papa decide?” Iruka-sensei asked.

“I can have a tryout with Klenn-san,” Haru told them.

Shi-chan smiled but Iruka-sensei didn’t; Haru realised that Iruka-sensei would have preferred it if Papa had said no.

Was it his imagination, or was Shi-chan’s smile a bit sad? Haru went to him and hugged him. “I’m sorry about Klenn-san,” he murmured.

Shi-chan squeezed him briefly in return. “I’ve had time to get used to the idea. Hopefully Klenn will extract another couple of standards from Lady Luck. When’s the tryout?”

Haru didn’t know.

“Tomorrow was suggested,” Iruka-sensei admitted. “During your morning personal study slot.”

“Klenn has sent a study module for you,” Shi-chan added. “Perhaps you should look through it.”

 

Haru hoped that it was the stuff about Tronnies. He found somewhere quiet to work and opened the top level. The module was in three parts. One was about automated and self-programming systems. Another was the history of advanced electronic systems. The third was a philosophical perspective on non-human intelligence.

The first activity opened automatically. It was a lecture given by a man who didn’t look anything like Klenn-san but reminded Haru of him anyway. Haru wondered if it was because they were both Centralites.

The man was saying that it was wrong to make almost-humans who weren’t human. He included hybrids amongst the almost-humans, which annoyed Haru. He also talked about Tronnies, only he didn’t call them Tronnies.

Then he went on to artificial intelligence. According to the man, artificial intelligence was even worse than hybrids or Tronnies. Hybrids had mostly human genomes. Tronnies had been human before they became Tronnies. Artificial intelligence was the worst because there was no human part to it.

Haru thought the man was talking rubbish. He listened to the end, because that was what you did, and then turned his attention to the programming part and looked for something new.

 

He was deep into comparing different feedback loops for automated systems when there was a touch on his shoulder; it was Ka-chan reminding him that it was time for their midmeal.

 

The afternoon was five-a-side kickball in the gym followed by duties.

 

Izumo-san was stocktaking when Haru arrived at the workshop, which both was and wasn’t a surprise. Stocktaking was happening throughout the household but Izumo-san had not mentioned it yesterday or the days before that; Haru had begun to wonder if he was going to do it.

He showed Haru his system.

“You see the handwritten numbers?” he asked.

Haru nodded. In Izumo-san’s workshop everything had its place and written on each place was a number in blue or red ink.

“That’s the current count,” Izumo-san told him. “It’s written in special blue ink that turns red after thirty days. When I see a red number, I check and update it. When stocktaking arrives, I update any red numbers and input all the blue ones. It takes, at most, one afternoon.” He waved a hand to indicate the entire workshop. “Imagine trying to count everything all at once. It would never work.”

Haru was impressed. No one else had such a sensible system, not even Haku-san. When stocktaking came around, which was twice a standard; everyone stopped doing anything useful and started counting. It took ages.

Izumo-san pointed. “There are a few red numbers on drawers over there. Take this pen, count the contents and update the numbers. When you’ve done that we’ll input them.”

 

It was easy. Haru counted while Izumo-san carried on putting the blue numbers from around the shop into a tablet. They finished up with the cabinet Haru had checked, updated the main database and displayed the results.

Almost all the numbers tallied. Izumo-san tutted about the few that didn’t and grumbled about Kotetsu-san not updating the totals when he took things.

 

Ran wasn’t back from his duty in the infirmary in time for the children’s evemeal. Haru was disappointed; Ran would be eating with the adults when they usually hung out together.

Haru was thinking about telling Dan-san about Izumo-san’s system when Kiba-san asked Ryuu what was wrong.

Ryuu’s ears were slightly back and he was pushing the food around his plate rather than eating it. He muttered something about not meaning to make a mistake.

Haru listened as Kiba-san persuaded Ryuu to tell them what was wrong. Ryuu’s current duty was in the quartermaster’s office and he had been helping with the stocktaking. He had been fine checking cupboards and counting stuff but then he had entered all the numbers wrongly into the records and Tayuya-san had shouted at him.

Haru wouldn’t like to be Tayuya when Kiba-san ‘had a word’ about shouting at Ryuu for getting something wrong.

 

Thinking about it, Haru wished he was on duty in the quartermaster’s office, even if Tayuya-san yelled at him. It took a lot of kit to build a new data crystal array; if he could get into the purchase records he would be able to find out when Shi-chan had started to build the replacement array. That would tell him when the array that Sai was in was abandoned.

If it was before he had created Nakama it would mean that Nakama wasn’t Sai.

“Maybe Tayuya-san isn’t very good at showing you what to do,” Iruka-sensei suggested to Ryuu. “Perhaps Hikaru-chan could go with you and show you.”

Haru wished it could be him. Five minutes in the records would be enough.

“Hi-chan has duty with Inari-san,” Ry-chan whispered. “They’re doing ship’s maintenance.”

Everyone knew how much Hikaru liked being with Inari-san. Inari often led missions, so they didn’t get as much time together as Hi-chan would like.

“I’ll do it,” Hikaru insisted. “Inari-san will understand.”

“I could do it,” Haru heard himself say. Everyone’s eyes went to him and he found himself babbling. “Izumo-san won’t mind. I’ll make up the time. Hi-chan doesn’t get to do stuff with Inari-san very often. And I’m good at data stuff. I know I can explain it.”

Everyone smiled at him, even Hi-chan, which made Haru feel guilty; he wasn’t doing it to be nice.

“That is very kind of you, Haru-chan.” Iruka-sensei said, looking at Kiba-san.

“Very well,” Kiba-san decided. “You must find Izumo-san this evening or first thing tomorrow, Ha-chan. I shall take you and Ry-chan to see Tayuya-san tomorrow afternoon.”

Haru decided he would find Izumo-san as soon as he finished eating; he would want to concentrate on his meeting with Klenn-san in the morning.

 

Haru had thought that Klenn-san would come to the playroom but he didn’t. Shi-chan fetched him and took him to one of the larger meeting rooms. He and Klenn-san were up one end with a table and chairs. At the other end was a low table, two armchairs and a chess set. Neji-san was already sitting in one of the chairs, arranging the chess pieces.

He and Garner-san were going to be in the room the whole time.

Haru wondered if every session would be like that, or if it was because this was a tryout.

“I’m never allowed to be on my own with Klenn either,” Shi-chan whispered.

Haru hadn’t known that.

 

Then Klenn-san and Garner-san arrived, accompanied by Papa and To-chan. Haru made sure he was very polite, so that Papa would be proud of him.

It seemed ages but finally he and Klenn-san were sitting at the table, Garner-san and Neji-san had started their game, everyone else had left and the lesson began.

Only it wasn’t like a lesson. Instead they talked while Klenn-san used the interface and projector to display stuff from the study module he had sent the day before.

Weirdly, the stuff from the study module looked different when Klenn-san was using it. He would take bits from different places, put them together and suddenly it became an interesting explanation rather than disconnected facts.

Next Haru noticed that there was a difference between what they were saying and what they were viewing. They were talking about automated systems but looking at the code for autonomous, even self-programming, systems.

He risked a sideways look.

Klenn-san winked at him.

Haru’s heart beat a little faster. If Papa found out that would be the end of the lessons. On the other hand, this was how he could find out stuff that Shi-chan wasn’t allowed to tell him.

 

Near the end of the lesson, Klenn-san turned off the projector and leaned back in his chair.

“What did you think of the introductory lecture?” he asked.

“Not much,” Haru admitted. “I know the lecturer is wrong about hybrids, so it was hard to take him seriously about the rest.”

“I am sure he doesn’t believe half of what he said,” Klenn-san pointed out. “He wants to keep his job at the university, so he has to be careful. There is a crime in Centre called ‘incitement to offend’. If he was caught saying anything positive about genetic engineering, or electronic brains, or artificial intelligence, he could be arrested.”

Haru wanted to ask about artificial intelligence but he did not want Neji-san hearing him ask. He would do what Klenn-san did; hide the real stuff among distractions. “There’s lot of genetic engineering beyond Centre,” he observed.

“Yes and a few thousand standards ago the Central Civil Service was still trying to stamp it out. Civil Servants used to hunt down genetic engineers. Now there are too many.” Klenn-san lifted an eyebrow, confirming that he understood that the question was about more than genetic engineering. “Who knows, perhaps the same thing might happen about electronic brains and artificial intelligence. What do you think, Neji-san?”

Neji-san answered immediately, confirming how closely he had been listening. “I think we have enough problems with the humans who feel alienated from the rest of humanity, without creating intelligence, self-aware individuals who are truly alien. I also think that Centre should stick to its own territory. The days when Centre controlled known space are long gone.”

Haru wondered why that was so. Had known space got too big? Was Centre weaker than it had been in the past?

“Never underestimate the length of Centre’s reach,” Klenn-san warned. “Just be thankful that current political thinking in Centre is isolationist.”

Haru decided not to ask; he could look up ‘isolationist’ later. At the moment, he would learn more by listening.

“I bow to your greater knowledge of the subject as a citizen of Centre,” Neji-san replied.

“Something that is a by-product of circumstance rather than an indication of loyalty, as you well know, Neji-san. You of all people should understand that.”

To Haru’s surprise, Neji-san flushed slightly. “I apologise if I gave offence, Darrent-san.”

“And I if took some where none existed, Neji-san.” Klenn-san stood up. “I believe our time is up, Haru-chan. I do hope Uchiha-sama agrees to future sessions.”

Haru stood and bowed. “It was an honour, Klenn-san. Thank you.” He straightened and smiled. “More sessions would be awesome.”

“Indeed. Awesome,” Klenn-san acknowledged.

 

On the way back to the playroom, Haru went over the session in his mind. Klenn-san had been sneaky. He had not brought anything or requested access to the data streams. Instead he had sent the material in advance, broken up and buried in different parts of the study module so that they would be missed by someone checking the contents.

And Haru was pretty sure that Klenn-san’s confrontation with Neji-san had been planned. Haru knew how Neji-san worked. He observed people’s behaviour closely and then integrated the many tiny clues he had managed to collect.

Klenn-san had deliberately broken Neji-san’s concentration.

 

Once personal study was over, they had training with Kakashi-san followed by their midmeal. Then it was time for him and Kiba-san to accompany Ryuu to see Tayuya-san.

Haru had to jog to keep up on their way to the quartermaster’s office; Kiba-san was definitely annoyed.

 

Haru felt sorry for Tayuya. She didn’t like being quartermaster but she didn’t complain and she did a good job. That meant she almost always ended up doing it unless she was away on a mission.

The look on her face when they arrived suggested that she knew what was coming.

“Kiba-san,” she acknowledged with a bow. “Ryuu-chan, Haru-chan.”

“Tayuya-san,” Kiba-san replied. “Iruka-san suggested that one of the other children showed Ry-chan how to use the records system, since you were struggling to do so.”

Haru was impressed. Mentioning Iruka-sensei was clever; Tayuya would be more likely to listen.

Tayuya-san capitulated immediately. “That’s a good idea,” she agreed. She gave a small bow to Ryuu. “I apologise for being short-tempered, Ryuu-chan. You did not deserve to be told off like that.”

Ry-chan bowed in return. “I am sorry that I got it wrong, Tayuya-san. I didn’t mean to.”

“I know you didn’t, Ryuu-chan. Hopefully Haru-chan will be a better teacher than I managed to be.”

 

Haru had come up with a way of showing Ryuu how important the records were while finding out what he needed to know.

“Say Kotetsu-san comes to you and says he’s going to need five hundred of these,” he began, showing Ryuu one the clips used to hold data crystals.

Ryuu’s ears pricked up. “Is it gold?” he asked.

“Yes, gold is the best electrical conductor. But that means they may be expensive. We have to get the best price.”

Ryuu nodded; of all of them he had the best grasp of credit.

“First we call up the stock. Find the item and press the button.”

Ryuu did as Haru indicated. “Three hundred and sixty eight,” he read off the screen.

“So how many do you think we should order?” Haru asked.

Ryuu considered. “More than one hundred and thirty two,” he decided. “So there are some left after Kotetsu-san uses his five hundred. Can we see how many we usually keep?”

Haru could have hugged him.

 

They called up the stock profile and there it was; a huge spike peaking at three and a half thousand. It had to correspond to when Shi-chan was building the replacement array.

It was a div after he had created Nakama.



 



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