The place is dirty with grease and littered with rusty, outdated parts. The scrap yard is overflowing inside the wobbly hut that dares to call itself a repair shop. It doesn't inspire trust, especially for one used to clean, smooth whiteness and diligent attendants with shining white teeth and a shinier suit.
The man who trudges out manages to inspire more distrust than his whole property does. He's dressed in baggy, glaring orange pants and a tight net shirt that wouldn't look out of place on a Silversnow druggie, and he's not even equipped with a datajack -- his muscled neck is only marred by a smudge of dirt, no cybernetic port anywhere in sight. And on top of that, he's a goddamn furry.
Sasuke, though, doesn't have a choice -- because the smiling, clean vendors only have the latest models, and don't have a clue how to help him.
"Yeah?" the furry drawls out, coming to a stop a few feet away, thick tail floating negligently behind him, hands in his pockets negligently, golden, triangular ears lazily tracking the sounds a stray cat is making as it hunts a rat through a crumbling hovercar. If that's how he greets clients, Sasuke understands why his yard looks like a field of garbage.
His blue eyes have cat-slit pupils. Sasuke wonders where he got the money to pay for that kind of alteration -- eye surgery is a lot more expensive than adding ears on, unless one doesn't mind ending up blind for the sake of coolness.
Sasuke scowls. The guy's rude, too. "I was told you might have Uchiha parts."
"Huh, maybe I do. What d'you need that for? Research? Museum?"
Sasuke's fists clench, and then his left hand spasms and he can feel his arm seize up for a few seconds. A warning message is flashing in the corner of his eye. Fuck. "Personal use," he sneers. "So? Will a few creds jar your memory, or did you miss a critical update?"
The furry chuckles at the use of metalhead slang, and smirks, baring disturbingly pointy canines. "Personal use. Right. Whatcha gonna do with it, tech-boy, build it a shrine? Masturbate to its lost glory? You geeks are all the same."
Sasuke really regrets the fact that giving that dick a good electrical shock will probably fry his own circuits. Besides, his accumulators are too damaged to let him dredge up much power. It wouldn't do to have to be carried back to his hotel because his limbs stopped working.
"I need them," he hisses, "to repair my fucking arm."
His censor flashes yellow at him in the corner of his eye, but he deactivates the subprogram with an angry mental slap. He's been discharged. He isn't property of the Konoha police anymore. He's free. He doesn't need to stay polite with the public.
Furry-boy's eyes narrow, his tail stilling, and for a second he almost looks smart enough to be that cyber tech they directed Sasuke to, but he forgets the flash of wary expectance the second the man pokes him in the shoulder.
He has claws. Sasuke had to unscrew plates to get at the wiring, to keep from frying anymore circuits. Putting his claws in the middle of the disconnected wires gets the blond furry a mild shock; what it gets Sasuke is eleven long seconds of total lockdown as his body frantically reroutes power to keep from overloading.
"Whoops, sorry," the moron quips as he ruffles his blond hair in what looks like a token effort at sheepishness. "But... Fuck. I thought there were no more models like you. Didn't they stop making you guys after that one went berserk?"
Sasuke grits his teeth. "They did. I am the last functioning Uchiha unit, and I require replacement parts, which they are not manufacturing anymore for obvious reasons. You will find me some or I will break your face for poking your fingers in my circuits. Roger?"
The furry is looking amused. Sasuke wonders if the idiot even knows how many ways he could kill him, and slaps down yet another warning flash. Unjustified use of lethal force against civilian yadda yadda -- he's not a cop anymore. He can unjustify anything he wants. Dumb subroutines. He hates that auto-restore feature.
"Man, they didn't bother with the politeness pack, did they?" Before Sasuke can skewer him on his elbow blade, the blond continues. "I tell you what... I have a few spares lying around. I'll have to salvage a bit since I doubt I have a complete hand-arm-shoulder section, so that might take time..."
"Name your price." You fucking bastard.
"Nah, this is a challenge, and I'm bored. I won't even charge you." His eyes gleam, and Sasuke's alert subroutine starts whispering in the back of his mind. "So long as you let me get a good long look at what an Uchiha unit is supposed to be like when functioning."
Sasuke turns around and walks off.
He only gets a few meters away before the furry follows, jogging to stand behind him and the exit. "Hey, hey, What's the matter? You shy or what? Don't tell me no one's ever seen you naked." The blond leers, ears flicking forward. Sasuke briefly thinks that it must be a while since he had them grafted on -- that kind of muscle control on animal implants is something that only comes with years of practice.
"You are not authorized to view --" Sasuke shakes his head briefly, beating down the automatic response -- fuck, fuck, FUCK these subroutines. "My innards," he says instead, drawling contemptuously, "are classified. No deal."
The blond watches him in silence for a few seconds, then smirks. His fangs must be unpractical; humans have no need for such prominent canines. Sasuke bets he drools in his sleep and bites his tongue a lot.
"If you let me tinker around with them -- I promise to put everything back exactly the way I found it -- I'll arrange to exorcise the ghost programming."
Sasuke stares at him. How -- how? How did he guess -- could he really -- FUCK! His blades rip through his clothes, springing from his elbow and arm as he switches into combat mode without meaning to. "That statement is a violation of the Prohibition Against Disruption of the Internal Processes of a Law Enforcement Unit." God, he doesn't want to arrest the blond -- " Under the mandates of subclause b, I am fully authorized to contain you and bring you into the proper law officials" -- he's the only guy Sasuke ever found who looked as if he might know of a way to help -- "If you resist I am authorized under subclause 4c to use lethal force." -- but even now, even when he's supposedly free, his self still gets put away like a bothersome piece of furniture whenever the army subroutines are tripped. And he knows how long hackers caught committing a felony survive in prison.
His damaged arm twitches and a few sparks fly off. It upsets his balance just long enough that he manages to pause -- though he knows it won't be long enough to let the furry run...
Sasuke stares at the dirty skylight, puzzled. There's rust on the edge of the panels making up the ceiling. He tries to sit up, and he can't. Did he lose so much power he was put on standby mode ? He wouldn't awaken before he has regained enough for simple movement. Unless, of course, that too was faulty.
A widely grinning face appears in his line of vision. His hand stays at his side, even despite how badly he wants to reach out and strangle the son of a bitch. His hand stays at his side, and his legs refuse to move -- in fact, he can't move anything but his face.
"I am going to kill you."
The moron is laughing so hard he has to lean on... whatever it is Sasuke is lying down on.
"I was kidding, Jesus. Lighten up. So I've started cleaning up the superficial programming stuff, but I didn't want to reach too deep without your consent, so I just froze them for a little while. You better not reboot anything before we're done negotiating, or we'll be fucked in a not-fun way."
Sasuke glares as the guy walks around in the room doing god knows what, and wonders why the hell he would bother putting himself at risk that way. Maybe he's honestly that bored -- maybe he's honestly that crazy for all things mechanical, if risking his life seems like an acceptable tradeoff for a look at Sasuke's circuits.
"And if you can't feel your left arm, it's normal," the blond adds with a wide grin. Sasuke stares at the idiot as he waves Sasuke's arm at him from the other end of the room. "Man, what did you do with it? It's a wonder you didn't explode. It looks like you grabbed a high-voltage wire. Everything inside is melted. Doubt I can even salvage the framework."
Sasuke glares more. He doesn't know what to feel. On one hand he knows faulty parts have to be changed. On the other hand, he lacks a part of his body. There's a big gap in his perceptions where feedback from his arm should be, and it's not. It's unsettling.
"So, since you're unable to move, let's talk payment a bit more."
Sasuke is kind of glad Uchiha minds are unhackable. The superficial area isn't where he keeps his bank codes and other stuff, and it's the only one any outsiders can reach. He's pretty sure if the blond could have looted him and left him to rust in a corner of his yard, he would have. Most hackers, weirdly, don't really consider AIs to be real people. Contrary to normal people who only see the surface, that is, other people looking and behaving like humans, hackers know exactly what kind of programs imitate Life inside their heads. For them AIs are pseudolife only. Sasuke would be terminated, not murdered. It's not a big fucking difference from his point of view.
"For changing your arm, I want permission to see your body, inside and out. I'll need to see a good part of it anyway, when I recalibrate and stuff."
Sasuke is glad he can't shudder. Being seen naked is bad, but being seen without his panels, with his wiring and motors and joints exposed? It would be way worse.
But it's that or going armless. "... fine," he growls, and dearly regrets his blades.
"You didn't tell me what you did with your arm."
"No, I didn't." Sasuke is trying to keep track of the blond's movements. He's walking around and moving stuff, but Sasuke can't turn his head to watch him.
"Oh, come on, don't be an ass. I need to know if it was external or not -- and there's some really weird circuitry here, I have to know if I should keep it or change it for better insulated stuff."
Sasuke grits his teeth. The guy already knows enough classified stuff to justify his death. What's one more time?
"It was internal. High-voltage jolt. I was supposed to use it twice a day maximum. I used it three times. My arm overloaded. Enough info?" he grits out. The Chidori is one of the most secret weapons of the Uchihas. No one should see it and live. But then, he thinks to appease absent subroutines, the idiot hasn't seen it yet. Just heard about it. There's a difference. It's subtle, but it's here. He hopes it will be enough.
"What kinda voltage?"
"You don't need to know."
"I can guess anyway," the furry replies with a weird tone in his voice. "To make that kind of metal alloy melt... Fuck, that's some serious firepower." He sighs like a schoolgirl holding her crush's letter jacket, and Sasuke cringes inwardly. If that bastard does anything inappropriate, Sasuke will stuff his stupid blond furry tail up his ass.
And to think he had the gall to call him a geek earlier.
"I've isolated the damaged circuits so they won't cause you trouble. If you think you can manage the stabilizing program I used on these pesky subroutines on your own, I can reconnect you now. I'm finished with taking out the bad stuff anyway. Just promise you won't touch anything."
Sasuke's upper lip curls up in disgust. "I don't want to touch anything."
The blond snickers as he types a few commands on a handheld datapad. "It's in the folder named narutorulz. Just keep it running with at least twenty-seven percent priority, or else your subroutines will swarm it."
"I suppose Naruto is you," Sasuke grunts as he takes control of his body again. Toes wriggling, check. Temperature gauges, check -- and fuck, but that metal slab he's lying on is freezing. Disturbing lack of feedback from his arm, check. Everything seems as okay as it's supposed to be, which isn't that okay -- but at least it isn't worse.
"Yup. Uzumaki Naruto. I don't suppose your name is actually prettybot," the idiot adds with an attempt at a leer that would be more disturbing and less annoying if he wasn't trying not to snicker.
Uchiha android, Genin model, specializations : Stealth, Assassination, number seven. UG-7-SA. "Uchiha Sasuke."
The smile on the moron's face is weirdly worrying. "So. Show me your stuff."
"Show me you have the parts," Sasuke snaps back as he sits up cautiously.
Naruto laughs and waggles his eyebrows. "Oh, I have them. Seriously, what's telling me that you won't try to knock me out and run off with them?"
"If I could install them myself, I would."
The blond grins, fangs bared. "Well at least you're honest. I like that."
He disappears through a door that Sasuke assumed was just a particularly badly assembled part of the wall. There are noises of cupboards opening and heavy stuff shuffled around, then the fox-guy reappears, carrying -- is that Tupperware? God.
"Here. Three left arms, two right, a left foot and a right knee. And a few fingers, and wires and stuff."
Sasuke doesn't ask how he came into possession of these, when all Uchiha units are supposed to be destroyed entirely upon termination. The reply would undoubtedly push the capabilities of the little program.
"I had a spine too, but I lost it gambling -- and ain't that an interesting story all on its own," the blond adds, mumbling.
Sasuke scowls, and tries not to wonder if he knew the unit in question. "It would be useless anyway; those parts are not interchangeable."
"Ah. Parts like what?"
"The chest, the head, the spine."
"Mm, must be where the central units are located. Okay, so I showed you my stuff. Now show me yours," the blond snickers.
Sasuke sneers. So childish, to still laugh at such crude innuendo. He gets on his feet -- and his shirt slides off his empty arm socket. Apparently it had been draped over his chest for modesty's sake, a courtesy that takes him by surprise coming from that tactless prick, not that he thinks for one second that Naruto nobly refused to peek while he could. Refusing to wonder about it, Sasuke let the shirt slide off his other arm, catching it and flinging it on the metal worktop.
Then he activates the hardening of the syntheskin over his upper body. The pseudocells solidify and lock together, kept in carefully interlocked plates by the low electrical current he's emitting. The color shifts from pale flesh to dull metal gray, the alloy molding itself to the contours of what's underneath. It's not perfect; there are some places where he can't reroute power because they're too close to damaged areas. But it's good enough for show-and-tell anyway.
Naruto doesn't say anything for a few long seconds, which surprises Sasuke. He arches an eyebrow, and stares until the blond shakes his head and grins.
"Whoa. Neat. How does it work -- electrical charge, right?"
Sasuke grunts. If he knows, why does he ask?
"Can I touch?"
"I would think you didn't feel it when in that ... state...?"
Sasuke decides that answering his infernal curiosity may actually keep him quiet. He can always try. "I don't. I feel pressure over five kilograms per square centimeter, that's all." Meaning I could go through you and barely notice, he thinks at the guy, but of course the subtext goes totally ignored.
"So why?" the blond retorts, almost bouncing on the balls of his feet. His tail is waving, fucking waving. Sasuke wants to kick him.
"I don't want you to," he snaps, aggravated.
"Oh, come on, I touched you when you were in... skin shift, is it?"
"And I didn't want you to, then, either."
"Ah, but it felt nice, almost like human skin."
Almost? Sasuke thinks. The illusion is supposed to be perfect. Before he can ask, though, the idiot starts badgering him again.
"Come on, I just want to know. I've never seen an alloy like this before. What is it?"
"Neat name," Naruto replies sarcastically. "But seriously. Is it slick? Slightly scratchy? Does it feel strange from being skin-like part of the time? What temperature?"
Sasuke answers out of pure self-defense -- he's starting to get lost under the onslaught of questions. "... A few degrees above room temperature right now. You might feel a slight tingle from the charge.
"... Neeeaaat. Can I touch?"
"I told you so you wouldn't have to!" Sasuke snaps, annoyed.
"Yeah, but I'm a tactile kinda guy. Things never feel real to me until I can get my hands on them."
Sasuke gives him a dark glare. "Enough. Repair that arm now." He leans over the metal table to pick up his shirt again. He adjusted to the lack of arm already, gyros compensating automatically, but he still feels out of balance. It's unnerving. He doesn't like being unnerved. If the irritating furry bothers him again, he's going to shove him through a wall.
Not that the rusty metal sheets that make up the shack's walls would resist enough to make it that much of a threat.
He stays silent for a few minutes, watching as the blond starts assembling parts, checking if they fit together.
"How long is it going to take you?"
Naruto doesn't look up. "Dunno, but at least a few days."
"Then I'm going to come back tomorrow."
"Nope. You're staying here. I want to be able to ask questions or take measurements if I need them. Besides, if you lose control I'd rather have you where I can keep an eye on you, because I'll never see you coming otherwise. I'd rather have some advance warning in case I need to subdue you."
Sasuke's upper lip curls. So it wasn't an accident earlier. "How did you do that anyway?"
Naruto grins. "Classified," he sing-songs, his finger dancing along the little melody. Sasuke growls in annoyance. "Not gonna tell you. If you figure out a way around it, I'm gonna be in deep shit."
That's a good point, so Sasuke resigns himself to never know.
"You can sit on one of the work benches. Just make sure the piles of stuff you move stay in piles, or I'll never find them again."
Sasuke wonders if the idiot is trying to pretend that this mess is actually an organized mess. A few of the stacks look like they've fallen onto each other at some point and no one bothered to right them, so he seriously doubts that is the case.
"Unnecessary." He locks his knees and stands, perfectly balanced. He wants to cross his arms, but at the moment it's not possible. It only irritates him more.
He closes his eyes, and starts examining the idiot's program more closely.
It's... interestingly innovative, but also quite clumsy and blatant. Sasuke spends a good half-hour copying it, then modifying bits and pieces of his copy and running simulation tests. He's not about to use one of his new modifications instead of the old program, though -- can't risk it right now -- but he saves them anyway. He's not much for programming, but being an android, he kind of doesn't have a choice; that's something he has to know how to do. Besides it will keep him from being too bored.
When he opens his eyes, it's to realize that the blond furry is watching him, scratching absently at his tattooed cheeks.
"Who did your aesthetical specs anyway? You've got one of the prettiest faces I've ever seen on a bot."
Sasuke blinks, and catches himself searching through his database before he even realizes it.
"... I... don't know. Shut up. Shouldn't you concentrate on what you're doing?" The idiot is soldiering together a few pieces. They are not attached to Sasuke, and yet he still winces. It will be his arm at some point; he'd rather not have it crooked.
"It's mostly mindless stuff right now. I'd listen to my music usually, but you're here, so... Talk to me!"
"You're already talking. So just keep going. Just find something more interesting."
"Come on. Or else I'll call you prettybot all the time."
Sasuke's eyes land on a visibly ancient computer part, and he reaches out to touch it casually. "Is that thing frail?"
"AHH!" Naruto jumps out of his seat and tears the component away, putting it down with exaggerated care on the bench at his side. "Think I'll call you bitchybot instead."
"No. Nahnahnah, you can't make me."
Sasuke reaches for another obviously frail component. Naruto glares, ears flattening back on his head.
"Hey, d'you want me to make your arm or not?"
"Yes, which is why I want you to stop chatting."
The blond glowers at him. "Chatting doesn't prevent me from doing a good job. So consider it part of your payment or something. It's not as if I was making you cough up your creds."
Sasuke would rather cough up his creds than talk of himself. Because the first thing everyone wants to know when they learn what he is, is ask how he managed to survive the massacre.
"... Fine," he agrees reluctantly, and braces himself.
"So, you got a girlfriend?"
Sasuke blinks. That wasn't what he was expecting. "No."
"Interested in either? Or are you AIphiliac only?"
" no. To both questions," Sasuke adds before Naruto can ask.
"Oh, abstinent then?"
"...Yes." More like asexual, really, but that's no one's business but his own. He identifies with the male gender because of his personality more than because of his aspect -- if he was in a girl-type body it wouldn't change who he is. He would still be a he -- psychological gender doesn't involve sexual identity at all.
Besides, sexual organs don't belong on a police bot. He could have them installed now that he's a civilian, but he never really found the time to bother with such inconsequential things.
"... Do you like Mika or Lily better?"
"Fighting Bimbos -- the show with all the babes rolling around in the mud -- okay, you don't watch that. You should, though; it's funny as hell."
Sasuke grimaces. He bets the guy doesn't watch it because it's funny.
"...They have all these gladiator shows..."
"They're fake," Sasuke snaps back, annoyed.
"The fights. I could beat them all. Weaklings don't interest me."
Naruto laughs. "Hey, is there anyone you can't take down? You're an Army release."
"Even without my weapons, I'd win. They're pathetic. I've met better fighters in the slums--" Sasuke realizes that he's relaxing, talking, and scowls, falling silent suddenly.
"Heh. Yeah, you prolly have, at that." The furry watches him, thoughtful, then grins. "Anyone ever came close to winning?"
"Two on one, yes."
"Whoa. Still good."
"...They weren't even augmented," Sasuke admits. Because they were strong, and he had to kill them in the end. He... regrets. They were worthy opponents.
Naruto whistles, amazed. Sasuke could be annoyed, but he figures they'd take that as a mark of respect, disrespectful as it sounds on the surface.
There is no more conversation for a few minutes after that, for which Sasuke is grateful.
"So. Is there a chance the guy will come after you again?"
Sasuke stares. What the hell is the idiot talking about now?
There's no hint on the blond's face, seeing as he's carefully staring at the wire he's soldiering in place. "Serious firepower here."
"... your point?"
"Someone took that serious firepower twice. And it was so not enough that you risked exploding to make sure the guy stayed down. So will he be coming after you again, or is there no need to sleep with my hand on a shotgun?"
"A shotgun would be useless anyway," Sasuke mutters back.
Naruto gives him a disturbed look. "... I... have the vague feeling this means he's not dead yet."
Sasuke hesitates, then figures he's said a lot already. It won't make that big a difference. "... No. He's not. But he shouldn't be coming after you. Just stay out of the way."
"I'm not letting a murder be committed on my turf, prettybot. If that guy comes after you, I'm helping and that's it."
... Murder? But -- he's an android. Naruto's not supposed to care.
"There's no letting about it. I doubt he'll come after me, but if he does, you are to stay out of the way. I'll arrange to lead him elsewhere--"
"No, you won't!"
"Yes, I fucking will. This isn't your business. This isn't anyone's business but my own."
The fox-furry watches him, one ear turned toward him, the other flipped down on the side. "... Huh. You sure he'll have scruples whacking random onlookers?"
Sasuke snorts. "Oh, he won't have any if they get in his way, but I'm usually the one who comes after him, not the other way around. And I won't attack him anywhere near people, so you're safe."
Naruto freezes and stares at him, frowning. "You're the one going after him?"
"You know, I'm not sure I want to help you kill a man just for the fun of it."
Sasuke twitches. Naruto's getting the wrong idea -- but Sasuke doesn't want to tell him the story, not even if it will cost him his arm.
"... Is he, like, a menace for society?"
Sasuke hesitates. He wants to say yes, but Naruto deserves a more complete, more complicated answer. "Maybe. He was, at some point."
"... no. He should be," he admits, forcing himself, "but no."
"So you're doing that because you were a cop?"
"No. I have to do it."
"You... have to. But it's not for justice." The furry frowns again.
Sasuke shakes his head. "I have to, that's all."
"... Because of your programming? Or --"
Sasuke hesitates again. Ah, what the fuck. He already said too much. "... no. No, not because of my programming. Just because of me."
"Revenge? That's a very..." The furry looks at him for a long while, then smiles awkwardly. "Very human path to take." He sits in silence for a few minutes, and Sasuke waits, trying not to show how tense he is.
"I suppose... you won't tell me."
"Then I have to trust that it was for a good reason. So... I'm trusting you. But if you use that arm to kill an innocent, I'm coming after you to take it back -- and I don't fucking care if I have to take your head off too."
The threat sounds rather empty -- flesh against metal, it's a no-brainer. Somehow, though, Sasuke doesn't feel like smirking in reply. Not only because Naruto sounds perfectly serious. Because... heh.
He nods solemnly, accepting the promise. Naruto watches him a few seconds longer, then nods back, and went back to his repairs.
The shop stays silent for a few long minutes, and then the furry starts whistling showtunes. Sasuke holds on for a whole hour and seventeen minutes before starting to search desperately for an acceptable subject of small talk -- anything that will make him stop that infernal whistling.