Chapter 1 - Thinking Too Hard
Wake up. Get ready for school. Breakfast. Grab bag, out the door, to the subway station - seven minute walk from home, leaving by 7:38 to catch the 7:47 train, or by 7:54 for the 8:03 in an emergency. Ride twelve stops into the city, disembark eighteen minutes later, eight minute walk to the school gate, or five cutting through the alleyways and running; only in an emergency, though. Get to school at 8:13, 8:26 at the latest, plenty of time before an 8:30 start. After two years of practice, it’s pretty much routine at this point.
Hop out of the train, head down the steps to Main Street. Today was one of those emergencies, but normally that wouldn’t be a problem; sleeping in a bit isn’t usually a crime, especially not if there’s a plan in place to deal with it. What is a crime, though, is robbery, felony assault, and use of quirk to disrupt the peace.
There’s a lot more people in the city square than usual.
There’s definitely a lot more giant shark men terrorizing the city than usual.
It can’t be helped. An attack in the center of town? That’ll definitely make the news, and this close to the train station, public transport is going to grind to a halt until this is dealt with. A perfect excuse to stay and watch to the end.
The notebook, worn heavy with lead etchings, is the thirteenth of its kind. Its margins are filled to the brim, the notes inside cataloging only the last few months of a long career of observation. Most of the pages are individual profiles, cataloging up and coming professionals; some are summaries, geographic patterns, strengths and weaknesses; a few, tucked at the back, are theories and gushes penciled by a thoroughly devoted fan. And right now, another blank page is being converted into notes on the scene unfolding that morning.
“You some kind of fanboy, kid?”
They didn’t know. They couldn’t have known.
Didn’t stop it from hurting.
Focus. Back on the scene. Kamui’s a good hero. Obvious weaknesses, but here he’s perfect. Typically, against villains with gigantification, heroes have the advantage of stealth, but it’s hard to leverage that into an actual fight. Here, though, the growing quirk means that not only can he compete on equal footing, but he can do so without compromising that advantage. Best of all, damage to property is likely to be fairly minimal if there’s only one gia--
Two giant people.
Stealing credit is typically frowned upon, but there’s no doubt it gets results. Mt. Lady, she said? It’s definitely worth writing that one down; first impressions are everything, and this one comes in spectacular fashion. A few cursory notes, mostly copied from the page before, before looking up and seeing the crowd beginning to dissipate as the scene calms down.
There will be time for such things later. For now, school.
Sticking to the main roads, but definitely running. More plausible to be late and exhausted than nonchalant. It’s probably hit the news online already, but better to be safe than sorry.
Watch. Time. 8:38. Panic. Calm. It’ll be alright.
Front gate. Main door. Turn left. Second on the right. Brace for impact.
“And what, young man, is the reason for your lateness this morning?”
She hated school days.
It wasn’t her fault. Not really. Not this.
Let’s back up.
It’s an evocative word, isn’t it? Conjuring up images of comic book heroes, using unimaginable abilities to defeat evil villains, protecting citizens from terror. And certainly, when there exists power, there are those who seek to use it for the benefit of society, and those who threaten to abuse it. But what the old comics (and she had read many of them) failed to predict was what would happen to everyone else.
A bit further back.
And a bit to the west.
Keikei City, PRC. At the sight of what was once a hospital, now a memorial. She’d heard this story what must have been a hundred times before. There had been no signs during the pregnancy of anything unusual, but complications arose during childbirth. Suddenly, a routine procedure turned into a medical marvel, then a harbinger.
“Bioluminescence: Ability to emit light from body. Certain manifestations allow the user to vary the presence and amount of light emitted, while others are fixed at a constant brightness; no known cases of color variance have been observed. Has potential in rescue situations, but imparts little strength in combat; distinguishing the limitations of a particular user is important before planning counterattacks, as combating the former is much more difficult than the latter.”
Volume One, Page One. This nameless child wasn’t exactly a superhero, but it made the most sense from her to start from the very beginning and work forward. And so she did; just below this paragraph, underneath a pile of marginal cross-references, follows every known superhero from before her time - a great deal had been lost or was only fragments, but she had put in her research. This first notebook covered the entirety of the history of superpowers, from that first baby to the year she was born, as best as she could figure out. It may have had an odd focus, written in the shaky hand of a nine year old, but to her it was a masterpiece.
And from then on: more of a catalog than research, but with equivalent rigor. News reports would be carefully copied down and analyzed, maps would be drawn, and when pages from each journal were lined up and read in series, they formed an elegant picture of a career in motion. She undoubtedly had her own personal favorites, but for her this project was vital research; someone reading any single page, though, would be convinced that this must be her favorite hero. Everything was cataloged: wins, losses, powers, weaknesses, who and when and where and why. It had to be.
“Super Strength: As the name implies, a superhuman level of physical strength, though the level varies from user to user. One of the most common quirks, it has obvious utility in combat situations, though its relative predictability makes it easy to counter in many situations. Less obvious is its potential in non-combat situations: in these cases, predictability can serve as a benefit, ensuring reliable rescues compared to heroes with more powerful but more volatile quirks.
“Because this quirk augments normal abilities, rather than creating new ones, it can often be discovered at a relatively late age, including in some who were thought to be Quirkless.”
Sometimes, it was hard not to cry.
Fortunately, as she’d expected, her professor had in fact seen that news broadcast before school started; a few gasps of “Train…… villain…… rush………” was all she needed to explain herself, and he let her off with an understanding nod.
“Anyway, where was I…” he mumbled as she found her way to her desk, dropping her bag next to her and almost collapsing into her chair. “Right. I know the school year is only just beginning, but it’s time we start adjusting ourselves to the future.”
The future. She wondered about this for a moment. How many of her junior high classmates would follow her even as far as high school? She pictured, for a moment, herself as a professional hero, arriving at the scene of a crime to find one of those familiar faces look up at her with no recognition. How strange, she thought, that I know so many people who’ve never met me.
“…entering your third year now,” continued his drone from the front of the class, “so it’s time you start thinking about the responsibility…”
What would my hero name be? she wondered. She wasn’t sure if she was fantasizing or predicting at this point, but either way she was dedicated. Costume? Maybe the finer details weren’t important, but sometimes when the bigger picture seemed impossible to grasp, the details were a small comfort that helped pull her through. Like this one: maybe once she graduated, she’d be able to start over.
“…in choosing your high school for next year.”
Suddenly, a flash of realization. She looked behind and to the right, and saw a blinding grin shine out from the boy in the far back with the spiky blond hair.
“I presume all of you want to become heroes!”
Sometimes, though, the details are what separate a building weathering the storm from one which collapses when the wind hits at just the right angle.
“Katsuki, you’re intending to apply to UA High, is that correct?”
And right now, Izuku Midoriya wanted nothing more than for the rubble of her hopes to somehow, magically, repair itself.
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