Crossed Wires

Logically the previous chapter and the next should be happening one right after the other, but I've got this Neji chapter written and no Sasuke chapters left. So here it is.
Let's play "spot the cameos". :D

Chapter 6: Neji

"Come on! Just give her a message!"

Neji frowns and turns away from the handcuffed furry, irritated. "I can already have you charged with trespassing and theft; would you like stalking and harassment on top of that?"

"What? I didn't steal anything this time! Come on, just give her my email, I'm not asking--"

"... This time?" Neji interrupts him, and scowls at the security guard who's standing beside the seated intruder.

The guard shrugs helplessly. "My apologies, Mr. Neji -- miss Hinata told us to let him go..."

Neji takes the time to mentally swear at his original's daughter, and then a moment longer to count to ten. She just had to supervise the security for the five days it took to heal Neji's shoulder -- she didn't even have to give orders, just to let them do their job and transmit the big stuff to her father -- and she can't even do that much?

"Let a thief go," he repeats, tone flat.

"Hey, I'm not a thief, I was just looking for spare parts. I mean, you threw them away, it wasn't as if you were gonna use 'em."

"Do the words 'industrial espionage' mean anything to you?" Neji inquires smoothly.

The young man shrugs, looking away briefly -- meaning he knows, but unless he's caught, he doesn't care.

He has weird slit pupils, irises so pale they seem invisible; ridiculously strange and way too attention-grabbing, but not as much as the white dog ears flopping on the sides of his head, and the thick, red gang tattoos on his face. His hair is messy, his clothes scruffy and baggy enough to hide half his weight in contraband, and he doesn't look that clean either. Furry trash.

"I wasn't spying anything. I just wanna talk with the girl. Hinata, you say? Just give her my email, come on, it's not that hard!"

Neji shakes his head, bemused. "You have serious balls, coming here -- do you even realize that she is President Hyuuga's daughter?"

The furry blinks, briefly taken aback. "Whoa, seriously? She's hella nice for an upper-cruster. I thought she was a secretary or something."

Neji takes his shades off, slowly, and gives the street rat a long look. The intruder wilts at the sight of Neji's pale, un-amused eyes; Neji turns back to the guard. "Drop him at the police station. Vagrancy, public disturbance. If he comes back onto Hyuuga property, you have permission to use the tazers."

"Hey! Come on, just tell her--"

Neji cuts off his protest with a sharp hand gesture. "What she is, is out of your league. Be thankful that I will not be informing President Hyuuga that he should press charges against you for stalking his daughter." Not that the police is much more than a farce around here, but no one bribes his way out of a Hyuuga's formal complaint.

And he's been wasting too much time on this trash.

"Get that out of here."

He turns away and walks out, not waiting for an answer, and stalks back toward the surveillance room. He'll lock himself in; hopefully no one will come and disturb him. If the manager wasn't watching over a car accident obstructing one of the Hyuuga estate's exits, Neji would have let him let deal with the street rat. In any case, he's not going to move again for anything short of an assault on the inner walls.

He places his hand on the scanner, moves forward as the door sweeps open... and pauses, one step inside the surveillance room, frowning. Did he dream, or was there a lag --


"Good evening."

Adrenaline floods him. "You again," he replies softly, palms tingling, and tries to guess if he could grab the blade and send a sufficiently strong charge into the assassin's circuits before he opens his throat.

Probably not; Neji steps forward obediently when the assassin nods toward the empty chair in front of the screens.

"Are you going to finish the job, this time?" he scoffs as he sits down.

The assassin doesn't answer. The door closes smoothly behind their backs, and beeps as it locks. Neji's teeth clench, and he slowly takes his glasses off, dropping them on the edge of the switchboard. The assassin doesn't react; Neji feels like swearing. He must have deactivated the alarm, or he wouldn't let Neji reach toward it.

"Log into the computer."

"If I say no, I die?"

"No. You lose a leg."

"Severing the artery will kill me in under two minutes," Neji replies cynically.

The tip of the blade is at his neck again; and he can feel it warming up.

"Not if I cauterize it."

... Alright, he isn't fond of the idea. Especially if his nerves are damaged too close to the hip; then he would have to have his whole lower body from the hips down taken out for cybernetization. But that's assuming he lives very long past the loss of his leg.

"I'll pass out."

"No one will notice that you're missing for several hours," the assassin counters softly.

Definitely not an A.I., despite the total-cyborg look; they can do subtle threats, but they're not much for this almost-gentle, scary-as-hell tone. Human, then; presumably an actual "he".

Without another word, Neji turns to face the computer, jacks himself in. The command port was fitted with an illegal dual plug; he gives it a wary look, though it seems of good quality. He doesn't really feel like frying his implant, he has spent enough time on an operation table in his life as it is.

The assassin leans over Neji's shoulder, blade against his neck, and plugs himself in the other port. Neji twitches; for a moment he feels like an echo, and then the ghost disappears entirely from his feedback.

Huh. Assassin, spy and hacker. Not bad for one man.

"Log into your account."

Neji obeys, acutely aware of the weight of that arm around his collarbone. A slow, regular breath makes the bangs on the left side of his face move. He wants to reach out, tuck that lock of hair away, and then grab the assassin's face and fry him good; but he wouldn't have the time to pull his own plug free.

Neji stares absently at the screen, even though it doesn't tell him much more than what he's downloading to his interface chip, and follows the quiet directions that the assassin is giving him.

It doesn't really make sense. He's researching -- Hyuuga Corporation personnel? Faces after faces flash on the screen; credentials and seniority are only given a quick glance. Several times, Neji is asked to blow up the image, find another angle of view, pull up old security footage -- eventually they're all dismissed. Eventually Neji notices that most of them share something of the same bone structure. So the assassin is after someone specifically... well, he did say it was personal.

"Hm. How do you access the top secret projects?"

Neji scoffs. "I don't have the clearance. Besides if you try to access them from here, the whole compound will enter total lockdown in under two minutes."

There is silence for a minute behind him; Neji waits, still and quiet. And then a face flashes on the screen. Thirty-something, relatively handsome Asian male with high cheekbones. Yellow eyes. Neji didn't find that one on his computer; probably the assassin uploaded it to the computer.

"Know him?"


Another face. Similar type -- related? -- though different enough to be clearly recognizable as another person entirely... Still the yellow eyes, though.


Another; a woman this time. Yellow -- more of a pale gold, really; cat-slit pupils?


White bleached hair, green eyes. Somewhat androgynous; now this is someone else entirely.


Bristly black hair in a high ponytail, narrow black eyes, smirk. The kind of smirk that's asking for a punch in the teeth. Or the throat.

Not that he would ever punch a Hyuuga Corporation employee. Despite how good it would feel. Of course.


A warm trail wets the collar of his shirt.

"Don't lie."

Neji goes still, finally noticing the blade nicking him. It's so sharp, he didn't even feel it.


Neji doesn't play stupid. "One of the lab assistants; I never caught his name. He left about a year and a half ago." On a stretcher; Neji still doesn't regret it, though he's not about to send the assassin after that guy either.

There's a pause; Neji wonders if the date has any significance. "Which of the professors was he assisting?"

"I don't know. I don't have that clearance."

"Who has it?"

Neji grits his teeth. "I don't know."


"Hyuuga Hiashi?" he hazards, sneering.

Wordlessly, the assassin presses a small plastic vial to Neji's collarbone, just under the cut. Neji jerks, reaches up to grab his wrist. He gets in a small shock before the assassin's other arm -- the one with the blade at the end -- tightens around his throat, choking him, forcing him to bend back over the chair.

"Don't make me break your neck. I can use your cut-off hand just as easily. It will have your imprints."

"Won't give th'codes," Neji wheezes, and struggles weakly, wondering why his bolt didn't have more effect. He didn't even feel any shock in feedback through the computer.

"You do not have the ones I want, unless you lied."

The room is turning black. Neji struggles to do something -- his port! He tries to send an email, an alert, anything -- he runs into a firewall. Then there's a brief shower of static, and emptiness. The end of the severed cable bumps softly against his arm. He's going to have a hell of a migraine, if he doesn't suffocate to death. He slumps, more than halfway to passing out; the assassin retracts his blade, holding Neji up against the back of the chair by his wrist, still against Neji's neck.

When the assassin pulls the vial of blood away to seal and pocket it, Neji lets his hand fall limply under the armrest; and then he grabs his thigh just over the knee, thumb and forefinger pressed just over the kneecap, and lets loose the electrical shock he's been gathering for the past two minutes.

His head is wrenched back so hard, the chair topples; he's half-suffocated as it is and can't catch himself. His head raps sharply against the thinly padded edge of the seat. He rolls under the desk, kicking the chair hard at the assassin's legs, and fights not to throw up.

The assassin turns to the side to protect the leg that Neji hit; just a little; just enough. Neji is smirking, teeth bared, as he directs another hit at the computer tower -- SNICK, he freezes in mid-lunge; blood splatters the floor, the black blade sprouting between his fingertips. He slams his other hand up into the metal desk, palm open -- a foot scythes through his hiding space, slams into his shoulder; it's like getting hit by a speeding bowling ball. He spins -- crashes on his front.

Stillness. Pain.

Broken shoulder -- arm or collarbone? He can't tell. He doesn't move. He breathes; it hurts. It's dark; he thinks that maybe he's passing out, and then notices that it's because at least half the surveillance screens are fried. The computer is restarting; the charge Neji sent through the metal table was too weak to get past its surge protectors, but the assassin has lost the passwords -- and maybe someone will notice. Maybe the uploaded files are still there. Maybe...

The assassin crouches at his side; one of his legs is stiff, still seizing. Neji chuckles; his throat protests, but he doesn't care.

"You are quite resourceful."

"Not st'pid either," Neji wheezes out. "... 'm not dead yet. Whadd'you want?"

There is silence for a few minutes; Neji spends them flexing his fingers slowly to try to get some feeling back inside them, while trying to ignore the feelings he gets from the rest of his body.

"Find the passwords for me."

Neji blinks slowly, incredulous, and then chokes on a laugh.

"Or? You'll kill me?"

"If I must." The assassin's fingers brush against his neck, strangely gentle; he removes the severed plug from Neji's datajack so deftly that he barely feels it. "I will kill you all."

Neji's laughter dies in his throat. He's serious. He's not even -- not even threatening. It's... a fact.

"... Why... do you think I care?"

"Why didn't you have the intruder charged for industrial espionage, stalking and theft?"

Neji blinks fuzzily. The hell has that to do with anything. "Gave him one warning. Just one. 'm not a pushover."

"No, you can be quite ruthless, can't you."

Neji blinks again, trying to clear his vision. Is the assassin smiling? ... oh, right, armored face. Won't show.

"You can be quite ruthless, but there are limits you won't cross without reason, and you are still somewhat fair."

There's a pause; Neji attempts to push himself on the side, but with his shoulder screaming at him whenever he tries to use it, it isn't easy.

"I," breathes the assassin, "am not fair. And I have no limits."

Neji grits his teeth and rolls on his side; fuck his shoulder. "Bullshit. You aren't torturing me."

"Merely because there's no time right now. It will be more efficient to convince you to collaborate, than to kidnap you later. You would be harder to convince, I might as well abduct someone else."

Neji sneers into the black, chiseled mask that is his face. "You're not convincing me. Maybe you should kill me and leave, before they investigate."

"I still have twelve minutes."

"You're wasting one of them and not convincing me."

The red eyes narrow. "Give me the men I showed you, and everyone else will live."

"You're going to kill them, and you want me to sell them to you?"

"Maybe. They're not working here anymore; you owe them no loyalty."

"Human decency is rather weird like that."

"Can Hinata fight like you?"

Neji pauses, briefly, then gives him a vicious smirk, with all his teeth. "Go ahead."

The assassin tilts his head, considering him thoughtfully. Neji feels smug -- all of three seconds.

"Can the maids fight like you? The cooks. The janitors. The lab assistants. The secretaries."

"... You're not going to track them down one by one."

"I have their records now," the assassin replies simply.

Neji swears, fist clenched. "You're not going to track them! Our hitmen will get you before you get that far."

The assassin tilts his head thoughtfully again, a surprisingly catlike gesture -- almost innocently predatory. "...No. They won't."

Neji swears again, between his clenched teeth. His chest hurts, his shoulder might be broken, he has mild whiplash and his hand is bleeding, and no one is coming. Fuck.

"Find their files for me."

"Why do you want them!" Neji snarls back, incensed by the uncomfortable awareness that he's going to bow to his blackmail.

"Why do you read as Hyuuga Hiashi?" the assassin counters, a whisper in his ear.

Neji kicks off the wall, slashing his wounded hand at the assassin's ankles; electricity crackles between his fingers, numbing him down to the elbow. He misses, of course; the assassin lands in a crouch just out of reach. Neji doesn't pull his hand back fast enough; a kick glances off it. Tiny blood drops land in a gracious arc from there to the wall. And now he has broken fingers.

The assassin straightens up, a statue of black metal, looking down at him with his red, spinning eyes. "Until next time."

And two seconds later Neji is left on the floor, half-curled up under a desk. His throat is starting to swell, the back of his head hurt just a tiny bit more than his migraine, and as for his body, the only thing that dulls the bruises all over is the scream of his collarbone. To top it off, he's been using the bioelectrical implants so hard that he can't feel his hands; and now, in the silence, he's starting to hear the phantom whistling of the brutally cut connection.

Well, that was a pretty clear 'Let's not sour our association with unpleasant questions, shall we.'

And here he was glad when he got to keep the goddamn scar.

He's alive. Again. Mostly. He crawls to the desk, and hits the alarm button, he isn't sure how -- and only when it starts to howl does he remember not reaching for it because the assassin surely wouldn't let him, not if it still worked; and since he let Neji reach for it, it meant -- son of a bitch bluffed him.

He slumps on his back, breathless and dizzy and very aware that he's about to throw up, and then he starts to laugh.

He's alive. And next time, he's not going to go down so easily.