Year One: Karin, Mission Assignment Desk
Karin had been granted amnesty under Project Bookmark (whose stated goals were “to exploit former Sound personnel for Konoha's military use and to deny these resources to the other hidden villages,” or in other words, “Naruto had an irrational soft spot towards Sasuke and managed to convince everyone else that letting the Sound remnants into Konoha was a good idea”), which meant that eventually, the powers that be had to release Karin from the kind ministrations of torture-master Ibiki and transition her from brain-container-to-extract-secrets-out-from and into a happy and productive ninja of Konoha.
This meant a trip to the career counselor.
“So what are you interested in doing?” asked the ninja on duty.
She thought about telling him that she was a chakra sensor and a healer, on top of being a good fighter, but then thought about years of missions with loud mouthed youngsters trailing her around to “assist” her. Instead, she decided to say, “Medical research.” At least then she'd be able to have an intelligent discussion with the spies without wanting to murder them in their sleep.
They stuck her under the supervision of Sakura, newly minted as a Jounin, to work on regenerating lost limbs.
Year Two: Ino, Sakura's apartment
Earlier that day, Sakura had made the trek from the hospital over to the Intelligence Division to bother Ino during her precious lunch break. (Ino used the word “trek”, because as of late, when one wanted her, it seemed to take a day for Sakura to make her way out from the hospital.) “Ino-pig, feel like laying off looking at the mirror tonight and coming over to my place? I need to talk to you about something,” she had said. The insults meant that she was asking for a favor, which was convenient because Ino needed someone to babysit her Genin team for a couple of days.
At the apartment, Sakura swept for hidden listeners, and then she and Karin dove into presenting their idea. “We think we can introduce foreign bloodlines into our ninjas without the other villages realizing what we’re doing and without giving them any proof that it was stolen at all,” said Sakura.
“It's an extension off of one of Orochimaru's old experiments, but instead of introducing DNA into the cells of existing ninjas, we put it in egg cells before fertilization so that the changes go in the germ line cells too,” continued Karin.
“That way, when those ninja grow up, they'll be able to pass on the traits to their children, and we can establish essentially whatever bloodlines we want,” finished Sakura.
Ino was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the possibilities. This was just the sort of disruptive technology that could make Konoha into the ninja world's superpower – if they could really pull it off. Ino didn't ask whose idea it was. She really didn't want to know. Either the idea was Karin's, and thus might somehow be a Sound trap, or the idea was Sakura's, and Sakura had grown into the kind of person who could consider human experimentation so eagerly. Worst of all, it could be both of their ideas, born out of a friendship closer than she currently shared with Sakura.
Ino hadn't missed the easy way they alternated talking, as if they had thought about this so long that they were of one mind. She was grateful to Karin for being the rival Sakura needed when she and Sakura grew farther apart. Their specialties were too different for their rivalry to flourish, and though Ino had tried for a while to follow Sakura into medicine, she was much more drawn to Intelligence and its world of assassinations and picking the brains of captives. Sakura needed a rival, the way Naruto and Sasuke needed each other to challenge the other on to higher heights. It was just the way team 7 seemed to work (just as team 10 had been strongest when relying on each other) and Ino was glad that Karin was there to fulfill that role.
“Okay,” Ino said instead when they had finished, “What do you need my help with?
Year Three: Sakura, Iwa General Hospital
Sakura walked into the hospital room and stood next to the seemingly empty bed. She heard the slight rustling of the sheets and felt the surprisingly strong bundle of chakra resting on it. Sakura shared a smile with the couple seated along the wall and said in a cheery, fake-surprised voice, “Oh my! I must be in the wrong room. Where ever did my patient go?”
The little girl in the bed started giggling (thus releasing the breath she held), and appeared, no longer blending into the bed.
“Got you!” said the girl.
“Wow! That's a pretty powerful jutsu you have there,” said Sakura.
The girl's mom smiled fondly at her daughter. “She's such a talented girl. She's shown much more aptitude with our family trait than I did when I was her age, even with her limitations. We'd be so grateful if you could fix her heart so that she could run around with all her friends.”
“Of course. I'll do my best,” replied Sakura. She prepared a needle and blood vial, and then said to the girl, “You're going to be a strong ninja, right? Now this is going to pinch a little, but I bet it'll be nothing to you.”
The girl nodded solemnly, and Sakura drew a vial of her blood. As expected, though the girl bit her lip, she didn’t make a sound.
Later that day, Sakura divided up the contents of her blood vials in three parts. One part for testing, one for sealing in a scroll to send to Karin with the next courier, and one to keep for storage in another scroll, just in case. Tenten had designed the scrolling technique just for her and had even included an ingenious way to regulate the temperature of her vials, which allowed her to store hundreds and hundreds of them. This was important, because her months in Earth Country had been quite profitable.
Year Four: Karin, Research Tower
When Sakura was away on one of her sample gathering trips, Karin's routine was divided into light periods where she tested out different methods of transforming cells and heavy periods where she extracted DNA for sequencing from hundreds of blood samples. Sakura tended to send her the scrolled samples at irregular intervals depending on her patient load, which was an irritating interruption of Karin's orderly schedule. Even though Sakura claimed that the scrolls were good enough to preserve the cells indefinitely, in Karin's experience, the sooner processed the better.
The DNA sequencer machine was her baby. It had taken quite a bit of doing to procure it, but she'd been adamant about its necessity. Luckily for Karin, the political power in the elemental countries started shifting away from the noble class and towards the businessmen, who were both less comfortable with violence but more willing to pursue underhanded techniques to gain an advantage. It was only a matter of time before a biotech company hired ninjas to wreck the facilities of one of their competitors. Ino had managed to get placed on that mission and had hidden away one of the top of the line sequencers for import into Konoha.
Early on, the three of them had to decide whether to replace the whole DNA or only insert the specific genes needed into the cell. Certainly, it was much easier to just swap out the entire genome. Orochimaru would have done it. He took shortcuts and ignored morality and this kind of narrow focus on the end result beyond all else was part of how he managed to make breakthroughs in so many different areas. Ino favored inserting only the relevant genes (of course, she wasn't the one that had to isolate them) to give Konoha deniability when other villages found out. Who could prove that it wasn't simply a long buried recessive gene if the child otherwise looked like the parents?
Karin didn't care about the politics but did like the idea of achieving something her predecessor couldn't.
Year Five: Ino, Konoha Intelligence Division
Ino called Shiho into her office. “I have an assignment for you. I don't have to tell you that it needs to remain confidential, I trust,” said Ino.
Shiho assured her repeatedly that she was well experienced with keeping all her work private and encrypted against any possible security leaks. Although Shiho wasn't the most experienced member of the Konoha Cryptanalysis Squad, she was more talented than most of the more senior members when it came to writing programs on those newfangled computers. Perhaps more importantly, she was eager enough to please that she wouldn't poke around to find out why Ino was asking her directly instead of passing the request down through her squad leader.
Ino gave her a scroll instructing her to write a program that would align large sequences of text for similarities and identify what parts were different between the two. She had phrased things in such a way that it should seem like a way to look for encoded messages in texts – a sensible sounding request from someone who worked in Intelligence – as opposed to a way to align large numbers of genomes and scan for genes unique to the members of bloodline clans.
Year Six: Sakura, Ino's apartment
Sakura slipped into Ino's apartment through the window. “Tell me we're doing the right thing,” she demanded of Ino.
“Right thing about what?” Ino asked
“You know, our big project. I mean, I pretend that I'm trying to perform this gesture of friendship between Konoha and the rest of the world, but while I'm curing people, I'm also secretly stealing their DNA to send back here. I'm basically swindling them out of their most precious family heirlooms. Have I just spent too much time with Karin?” asked Sakura.
Ino replied, “We're not doing the right thing. We are however doing the least wrong thing. You know what the alternatives are? It's kidnapping and brainwashing children from other countries, it's desecrating the dead, and it's abducting and violating ninjas of childbearing age. That's the old fashioned way that we're competing against. You need to get out of the hospital bubble and have dinner with Hinata and Sasuke sometime and get them talking about this subject.”
Sakura sighed. “I suppose you're right,” she said.
Ino looked at her seriously and said, “You need to decide if you're absolutely sure about doing this. If you aren't, we need to stop the project now. Do you really think that Naruto ever reads any of the reports Karin writes him? He's not an administrator, and he certainly doesn't have the training or patience to wade through technicalese. All he knows about the project is that you're in charge of it, and he trusts you.”
Year Seven: Karin, Jungle near Waterfall Village
Karin sat motionless in a tree for over an hour. The sweat rolled down her face and neck and refused to evaporate given how muggy and humid the tropical air was. She amused herself by sending out small chakra pulses to stun the little swarming insects that buzzed around her ears, but avoiding bites was mostly a lost cause.
Karin much preferred kill over capture missions. It was far easier to off a target than to listen to one screech. The situation didn't improve much when the targets were monkeys instead of humans, because even though you didn't have to listen to what the monkeys said, they were more likely to fling feces than humans were.
After carefully choosing her targets, she fired off two successive sleep darts. Two monkeys slumped down against the branches while the rest of the group scattered. They were females of fertile age, though she could only hope that their eggs would be healthy. That would be easy enough to determine back in the lab and if they were not, it cost little more than a few days aggravation. She hoped even more that the protocols they developed in these monkey eggs would work in human ones. This was the risky assumption, since they dared not work with human egg cells yet, and if humans proved too different from their primate cousins, it could cost them years of work.
It was a legacy of Orochumaru's human experimentation (and the lesser atrocities of such people as Danzo) that now experiments done with village resources (monetary or otherwise) without therapeutic intent on humans had to be approved by the Hokage and the council of clan heads. Part of Karin wanted to laugh when she learned about the rule. It was a way for the village to distance itself from the unsavory necessities of ninja life while not interfering a whit with an unscrupulous individual who used his clan's own resources.
Karin argued to Sakura that the egg cells weren't people yet, but Sakura had been unwilling to delve into that gray area. She'd been acting more and more uncomfortable as their project progressed further along, so Karin didn't feel like pushing the point. Besides, Sakura was the medical program director now and thus literally her boss, so for now, they experimented in mice, dogs, and monkeys.
Karin carefully loaded the two monkeys into the sling on her back and set off back toward Konoha. It would be a long couple of days to journey back. This certainly wasn't the way she wanted to spend her vacation time, but sometimes such sacrifices were necessary.
Year Eight: Ino, on the way to the Hokage Tower
Ino waved at Hinata and Shino as she passed them in the street, though they seemed somewhat deep in conversation and didn’t notice her. She had much better luck with Hana, and they chattered about her new prize litter of puppies all the way to the Hokage tower, where they split up for mutual preparation for the council meeting.
Ino was nervous. She had long been on the village council in the seat designated to the Yamanaka clan in Konoha’s founding treaties, but she’d never spearheaded an initiative that was hers and had nothing to do with her position as her clan’s representative. Sakura and Karin could speak about the science of their project, but it was her job to convince the council about the politics of the idea.
In her younger days, she used to see the village council as an impersonal and distant organization, composed of stuffy and out-of-touch old people. So when she thought they made the wrong decisions, it wasn’t difficult to understand. Now, that same council was made up of her dear friends, and the issues set before them were much more complicated than they had seemed as a child.
For too long the ninja world had been ruled by those fortunate enough to be born with a particularly blessed genetic hand. Perhaps Ino had no right to critique the system, being born to one of those same ninja clans that had the preponderance of political power, but there was something deeply unfair with how much of an advantage bloodlines could create.
Of course, when she backed up Sakura and Karin's research proposal to the council of the clan heads, she wouldn't phrase it like that. She'd say instead that it was a way to get back the other villages for all those years of kidnapping attempts and desecration of bodies for empowered organs.
Ninja clans had long memories, the current peace and appearance of goodwill in the world notwithstanding. She didn't foresee any trouble getting it passed. Whether it would return to stab her in the back would be yet to be seen.
Year Nine: Sakura, Konoha Hospital
Sakura went over the couple's profile in her head. They were both born and raised in Konoha with no indications of any disloyalty and had service records only outstanding in their mediocrity. The couple had tried to become pregnant for several years, but a fallopian tube defect in the otherwise healthy woman rendered her virtually infertile.
Sakura sat down next to the couple and, after some friendly introductions, said “I want to offer you a chance to take part in a research study we're running. You've applied for in-vitro fertilization before, if I recall correctly.”
The husband nodded and said, “Our applications had always been denied. The hospital always said that Konoha's policy was only to fund IVF in couples where at least one carried genetic traits deemed to be of 'special interest' and we never qualified.”
“That's correct. Even though IVF has been around for decades, it has always been too expensive a procedure for the village to fund for everyone. However, we've had our research division working on a loophole to assist childless couples like yourself, if you're interested. I have to warn you, that before I can even discuss the research study, you need to understand that discussion of this study with anyone outside of those running the study and the Hokage is strictly prohibited, and probably will be for years to come. That means that even if a child is born, you can't tell any of your family members about this study,” said Sakura.
The couple assured her that they were willing to do anything if it meant they could have a child. When she saw the eagerness in their eyes, Sakura felt guilty for taking advantage of their desperation. It was one thing to use foreign ninja for her own agenda but another thing to use members of her own village. “It's a win-win situation for everyone,” she told herself and tried to believe it.
Year Ten: Konoha Village
A village's wealth was largely in its genes. Buildings could and would be destroyed, individuals died young with distressing regularity, and money was fleeting, but genes would be passed on from generation to generation.
Choosing the first bloodline to experiment on was a tricky task. They needed a single gene trait that could be easily checked for soon after birth, so they settled on the Storm Release bloodline limit. It had the additional benefit of being a Lightning Country bloodline, which helped gain them the support of the Hyuuga clan who had never really forgiven them for the attempted kidnapping of Hinata all those years before.
The three babies born from that study were healthy and normal seeming, and upon genotyping, all seemed to contain the Storm Release trait. Although it was far too early to see whether they could make use of their bloodline, their dual chakra affinities for lightning and water made it likely that the experiment worked.
There was no way of knowing whether future generations would view them as heroes or as villains. The entire field of genetic manipulation was tainted with Orochimaru's crimes. Orochimaru's notes on introducing the First's bloodline into Yamato, the starting point of their research, had been a horrifying read, and all three of them had read his notes from cover to cover until it invaded their dreams. The monstrous thing about it wasn't even that only one out of the sixty children survived. It was that he could conduct such an experiment when as far as he knew, in all likelihood none of the children would survive at all.
It was peace time for now, but it was never too soon to prepare for the next war. Until they could be sure that another war wouldn't come, they would stand by their work and let history judge them as it may.