Steel forged souls
Eh, title is a work in progress, as is ficcage cause this is mostly a collection of drabbles in order and in the same base timeline that I spammed Zack with after she threw a bunny at me. FYI, Iruka is my *favorite* character.
Iruka sighed and knuckled his back a bit before raising his voice to be heard. "SHUT UP!" Almost all the juunin listened.
"Alright, so Sound has hooked up with Rock and are trying to gain favor with Shin-ra. Sand has a jinchuuriki, the Third is dead, and you've all had your asses kicked. It's going to get worse before it gets better." He turned a dark eye over the gathered elites and wished for the thousandth time he wasn't so organized and careful in his job that he ended up dealing with half psychotic ninja masters.
"Asuma, Kurenai, Raido; you three are being sent after the healer Tsunade, don't come back to the village without her. Kakashi, Genma, Anko; you're to retrieve the kyuubi vessel. Bring his family if you have to. If they won't come or relinquish claim, make sure he can't fall to Orochi. Ever." They'd already lost Sasuke and half the Hyuuga clan. The other families were still weak, the school at half capacity after the wars and demon attack twelve years ago.
Looking out over the sea of angry and carefully blank faces, the chuunin wondered which of the brave souls facing him would be the next to crack. Who else was waiting to go traitor like Mizuki and Kabuto? Who was going to run like Sasuke?
"Gai, you get the best job of all. Go to Wutai and re-establish relations. They may be a small hidden village, but they have the best mako users. We're going to need them."
Zack blinked as he walked into Seph's office. The usually unflappable General was showing more white around the eyes than the SOLDIER had ever seen, and his fingers were twitching just a little, like he very much wanted his sword.
"I can't *give* you my men or their families, regardless of whatever prior 'trademark claim and infringement policies' have been violated."
Uhoh, so that was why Sephy looked two seconds from loosing his ever so careful shit. What in the word was Scarlet on about now?
"Hey boss! Aeris gave me strict orders to deliver these to you, are you busy?" Zack plastered on a friendly grin and muscled his way through the door, only seeming to notice the other person present after Seph's hair-trigger was occupied with a basket of fresh muffins. "Oh, sorry about that..."
It wasn't Scarlet. Lounging against the wall, hidden from veiw by door, window and security camera was a dark dressed figure in silver armor, a red swirling tattoo high on the left bicep. ANBU. Ninja. Silverhaired and wearing a dog mask.
Iruka had set up everything as best he could. He'd arranged things for the new Hokage who would need an insane amount of classified materials to catch up quickly, he'd found a replacement teacher to cover his classes and assigned Shino to the Acadamy on longterm loan. He'd covered all the tracks he could, set up the classified mission under the mostly obsolete Hunter-nin system, amd harangued the council into letting him take the juunin exam without a recomendation.
He'd readied the village for war as descretely and quickly as possible and made it look like a contingency set up by Sandime because the Third's contingency had basically boiled down to 'leave it to Iruka'. The teacher was a bit upset that being the Hokage's favorite intervillage spy and go opponent was enough to land him the nominal position of defacto ruler.
He'd passed the juunin exam and immediately bullied Ibiki into re-opening the Hunter-nin division. Officially, Konoha's hunters were simply inactive since the Uchiha massacre. Officially, they'd all been slaughtered trying to erase Itachi. They'd been the best Konoha had to offer after the war, minus a few ANBU who weren't crazy enough to join.
Iruka had never wanted to be juunin. He'd never wanted to go beyond being a decent Acadamy teacher and desk ninja. He'd been happy being a shinobi of average strength and intelligence with no bloodline abilities or reputation beyond being a youthful prankster.
He was all they had, and while he taught his children to follow their dreams and become fine ninja loyal to family and friends, he was an old school shinobi, bound by honor and blood to the village his parents had died protecting. He wasn't the strongest, fastest or best of anything. He had eight months to train and re-learn all the lessons his old instructors had tried pounding into his scull long ago.
Iruka never wanted to be anything but a teacher. He wasn't a genius or a prodigy or the heir to a clan legendary that he had to go beyond chuunin rank. He wasn't insane which was a common enough trait in higher ninja that it was almost a pre-requisit. But he was all they had, and he had a duty to the lives that passed through his hands. He'd turn them into ninja, even if it killed them.
Itachi was still at large, but Sasuke was the one Iruka was hunting. His almost-son and the newest traitor to leave Konoha alive. The village was too weak to allow another weapon to fall into Sounds hands. Iruka had never wanted to be the one killing his villages hope.
He'd set everything up as well as he could. The village would survive without the Sharingan, and without him. Beacuse he probably wouldn't survive killing the Uchiha heir. But there was no one else.
Sephiroth didn't like ninja. They reminded him of Wutai and war and other unpleasantness. However, Cloud was Zack's friend and Cloud's cousin was a ninja and Zack needed Sephiroth's support for Cloud's cousin, so Cloud had the full weight of the ShinRa Army behind him.
Zack hadn't asked. He didn't have to and his honor wouldn't have let him so Sephiroth had simply made the point moot. The decision still bore consequences. Hojo would make his own play for the child, Shinra would make an effort to get at the hidden villages and Heiddigger would own another peice of his soul.
All in all it was worth it. Anything was worth the look of peace and gratitude in Zack's eyes.
Hojo was always upset when someone thought of something before he did. He was the genius after all, and Scarlet's backdoor dealings with Hidden Sound (a stupider name he couldn't think of at the moment) for new weaponry ranked right up there with things he should have thought of first.
Orochimaru struck Hojo as a kindered soul, and any soul like his was a very real threat to his position. He should have dealt with the pedophile first.
The boy who looked remarkably like a younger version of Sephiroth's SOLDIER toy was a pleasant surprise. The scientist made a note to examine this 'sharunigan' personally, but wasn't given a chance. The worst thing about ninja (beyond their pathological paranioa of all things scientific) was their terrible timing.
The hunter was no match for Uchiha Sasuke or one of the Sanin let alone both and he had no real hope of out thinking a pair of prodigies. That left the one thing most ninja hated relying on; luck. Knowing his targets and their history, it was easy to set up a favorable situation and wait for a lucky break to either capture of kill the child.
Orochimaru had enemies all over, letting the knowledge leak that the snake was inordantly vulnerable, arms useless and power curbed viciously roused old grudges and the brave stupid who thought to make names for themselves. Making sure specific details fell into ears that led back to the Akatsuki ensured one psychotic and possesive older brother would be in the Midgar area at the same time a special retrieval team of Konoha's finest were present for the Kyuubi vessel.
The last peice lay in the Silver General, who had to be summoned home early from a mission in Niebelheim, barely a day after setting out for the mountain town. ShinRa wanted his finest warrior around when threats of Wutai rebellion managed to bypass his Turks and nail themselves to his desk with a huge shuriken.
The hunter sat in his chosen cafe, chakra suppressed to almost nothing, feild makeup in place of easily discovered henge, weaponless and smiling into the sunset. Four ninja, three army squads and countless innocent civilians passed him by as he sipped poor grade oolong. It had been far too long since he had taken a feild mission. If he survived this, he might try out for ANBU, it had to be safer and more relaxing than his last job.