Just about everyone could tell you exactly where they were that day. The exact time, what they were doing, how they felt, what the sky looked like from where they were standing. It's the nature of national disaster, something that so radically changes the face of a society and pushes history down a path it will never be able to turn back from. It is impossible to forget.
For the little guy, for him and his family, they were far too close to the epicentre for comfort. At the time they had been going on a school picnic before the sky turned black, before all they could feel was raw, primal fear. But if you saw the battle that they did, survived what they did, you'd remember that day better than any other. Remembering bad things that happen to you is your mind's way of protecting itself, trying to keep itself from living through that trauma ever again.
And if you're a kid? Just a little, innocent child who'd never once seen the uglier sides of life? That staying power doubles, and the memories change you. Your nightmares revolve around them, your convictions shape around them, your resolve is tainted by them. They change you.
When the memory begins, the first thing he remembers, whoever he recounts the story to, was sitting on the swings alone. Other children were running about and playing, using their Quirks -super powers inherited from birth- to have a rather energetic round of tag.
The poor thing, alone on the swings, didn't have a Quirk. He was a freak of nature, along with twenty percent of the population who was born like that. And the others knew.
The others wouldn't let him forget.
"Why does Bakugo always get to be the hero?" one child whined, crossing his arms.
The short and fiery Katsuki Bakugo, his palms crackling with small explosions, just cackled. "Because if any of us is going to become the next All Might..." He pointed toward a screen that loomed over the park, some distance away. At that exact moment, it was broadcasting an interview with the man Bakugo had just mentioned. "It's gonna be me!"
Sighing, the other boy just went quiet, but another one piped up in his place. "Why is he called the 'Symbol of Peace' anyways?"
Bakugo rolled his eyes. "Are you stupid or something? It's because he's so awesome that criminals are afraid to be bad, even when he's not around!" Bakugo flashed a wicked grin, cackling under his breath. "Because of that, we don't have a bunch of stupid villains running around making the world a warzone! He's so strong he doesn't even have to throw a punch to keep evil in it's place!"
Scratching the side of his head, that same boy gulped. "So... what do you think will happen if he dies?" Bakugo looked at him like his brain had just fallen out of his head. "Wouldn't more villains show up and make the world... scarier?"
At this, Bakugo just laughed hysterically. "Wow... you're even dumber than you look! Something like that will never happen, stupid!"
Fate can always be tempted. It finds it very hard to resist temptations like those.
In that moment, as far as the child alone on the swings was concerned, Bakugo was absolutely right. All Might really was that powerful, and there was nothing that would ever change that. No villain or other force on earth would ever be strong enough to kill or even hurt him.
But that wasn't what was on his mind.
Some distance away he watched as his mum and dad seemed to be arguing, quietly. They were avoiding making a scene, but nonetheless were not able to avoid airing their dirty laundry in public. Not that he knew, he was still too young to know that. To him, they just looked upset, perhaps at each other. His mother's face was quivering, trying not to let tears out, and his father wasn't even looking at her. Not that he could remember his father's face, even now.
Looking back he knew this was the end of their relationship. Everything had changed in so many ways after that day, and that was just one of them. It wasn't the thing that everyone would remember, though. That came now.
The world erupted with explosions.
A pair of bodies had crashed into each other, then hit the ground near the school so hard they left a crater in the road. Hurricane-force winds sent almost everyone flying as people ran screaming. The boy was thrown off the swing, and as he pulled himself up from the dirt, grabbing at the frame of the swing to steady himself, the bodies pulled themselves from the ground and started throwing punches at each other.
This was no sloppy spur-of-the-moment brawl; this was something else, a rapid and calculated exchange of blows. Their fists struck each other with such ferocity and so regularly that the wind-force created from the impacts shook the buildings around them, smashed the glass in windows. Civilians and children fled the scene as quickly as they could, leaving the little kid behind.
Grasping onto the swing even tighter, the little guy's eyes went wide. "A-All Might!?"
The Symbol of Peace didn't hear him, and why would he; he was far too busy fighting for his life. A decisive strike sent the villain flying right past the kid, crashing through a building in a blast of rebar and fire, and All Might followed in a blur. From what the kid could see, the villain was dazed and All Might had his senses completely in hand.
Taking advantage of this, All Might grabbed his enemy and started using him as a battering ram against the ruined building around them. Tossing him around like a rag-doll, he threw the villain through girders and walls, as if trying to hit him with everything he could find.
What terrified the boy in that moment was how oblivious All Might was to the devastation that he himself was causing. So focused was the Symbol of Peace on the fight before him that the office building they had crashed into toppled to the ground, rubble flying around them in a rain of devastation. All Might never lost track like this against villains; he was fighting like a wounded animal trapped in a corner, ferocious and scared and hell-bent on the outcome.
Hurling his fist into his opponent's mask, he saw the translucent metal dent and crack. His attention flickered for a second and his punishment was a heavy smack to the head, from his enemy smashing a rock into his skull, blood flowing from the wound above his eye. In retaliation, All Might ripped a whole emergency stairwell from the rubble and slammed it into his enemy's head from above; crushing him down like one might crush rocks with a sledgehammer. As the dust settled it appeared he'd driven his opponent into the earth as though he were an over-sized nail.
For a few moments all seemed quiet...
Ripping his way upwards, freeing himself from the earth, the villain uppercutted All Might's chin. Sending him flying through some nearby wreckage, he saw his chance. Flying forward, fingers ready to deliver a lethal jab, he summoned one of his many quirks. Thrusting his hand forward his fingers stabbed straight into All Might's ribs.
Reflexively, the hero recoiled from the injury, grabbing the wrist of his enemy. Spinning around mid-air he smashed the Masked Villain through the wreckage below them. Preparing to strike his opponent with another earth shattering blow All Might suddenly felt a searing pain. As his muscles contracted from the pain his hand clutched at his left ribs.
Something was wrong. This injury wasn't a simple puncture. He crashed into the wreckage above his nemesis. All Might, shakily, rose to his knees. Pulling his shirt up he saw his very flesh rotting away. Spewing blood from his lips he suddenly realized what had happened.
"So you stole another-" All Might was interrupted by a fist carving its way through the debris beneath him. As he was punched clean under the jaw he somersaulted back into the street. His injured ribs kept him off balance and he crumpled to the ground in a heap of muscle.
The villain leapt into the road after him some thirty feet away, part of his mask obliterated by All Might's onslaught; through the cracks in the mask, one glowing red eye shone with terrifying intensity. Blood, steaming on the metal, flowed from his wounded face. All Might saw the end result of his last victory against this man. His eyelid and the skin around his eye was gone, torn asunder by the punch that ended their last bout. As the hero's eyes widened and his smile vanished, he realized the reason behind this blind fury: his archenemy had decided the intensity of their rivalry had gone beyond.
"I told you, All Might. This is the end."
No matter what, at least one of them was dying today.
Groaning from the pain, All Might rose to his feet. He hated to admit it but that looked to be the way this fight was headed. He could feel the effects of the newest quirk inside his body, his organs were rotting as he faced the personification of evil.
"And I told you, you will be stopped. Because I am here."
"Not this time. I will kill you today."
"You may try..." his voice was weak, "but if that's the case," he returned to his combat stance, ready to strike back or defend himself, "then I'm afraid I can't hold back."
"Good," and his nemesis fell into his own combat stance, "let this be our final battle, All Might. Put everything you have into it, because I..." his eye narrowed, his blood-lust was unmistakable, "will enjoy your demise."
All Might's smile returned. "And how many times have I heard that before?"
In the blink of an eye they were striking at each other again. Flying about in the air, devastating what remained of the buildings around them, they tore their knuckles into each other's flesh. Blasts of wind pressure, raging outward from them in all directions, sent rubble flying further into the city. Buildings were leveled, entire city blocks were reduced to shambling husks. It was like three tornadoes had hit this part of the sprawling metropolis simultaneously.
From the frame of the swing, huddled to the ground and covering his head with the arm not clinging on for dear life to the swing frame, the child saw everything. Quivering, quaking, he just wanted this to end. All Might had to just win already! He had to beat the bad guy and make everything safe again!
Unfortunately, it was beginning to become clear that All Might was losing. Taking a deep breath he formulated a desperate plan. This either ended in his victory or the entire world would suffer the consequences of his defeat. Landing on the ground, he stared right up at his enemy. He was soaring down like a homing missile, hand ready to jab at his already injured side.
All Might merely smiled. He knew he was going to go for that. Forcing all of his power several times over into his right arm, his left hanging there like a broken wing, he braced himself.
His enemy struck true, driving his hand clean through All Might's ribs. Blood spattered across the ground, pouring down All Might's side, as his organs and flesh rotted like rancid meat in the sun. The internal damage had been more than fatal. A sickeningly gleeful smile spread across the ruined face of the villain.
Or had he?
Shattering those dreams in an instant, All Might retaliated as never before.
"United..." he choked, blood spouting from his mouth, "States of..." his voice raised in volume, "SMASH!"
Shouting at the volume of an erupting volcano he swung his fist into the air, bringing it down straight onto his nemesis's head. Unleashing the entirety of his quirk's collective power he blew a crater into the ground beneath them so deep that the sewer pipes beneath burst into an explosion of water amidst the fire. The force of the punch sent the air rocketing away and ignited it. Flames engulfed the area around them in a bubble.
Then, as the laws of physics slowly realized what had happened, the air rebounded, collapsing back in on itself a second shockwave was created. Emanating outwards, like the force of an atomic bomb, the remaining rubble was erased from the ruined city around them.
The boy leapt to his feet, daring to step forward when the wind finally subsided. "ALL MIGHT!" he screamed.
As the dust settled, the child saw All Might lying inert upon the rubble. Charging forward, the little guy starting shaking his motionless form. Even as he desperately tried to wake him, screaming his name and begging him to wake up, reality had slowly started to sink in. The body he was touching... was growing colder by the second.
All Might... was dead.
A hand grabbed the child's shoulder, spinning the crying boy around. Eyes wide with terror, the boy saw a single, bloodied, glowing, red eye staring into his. The villain was alive... and he was touching him! He was going to die!
The child opened his mouth to scream, only for the villain to jam his hand inside. Blood poured into the child's mouth, and he started screaming through his nose. That is, until the villain pinched his nose shut and waited. The kid couldn't breathe... he couldn't breathe! The villain's body was... trembling, the light in his eyes flickering. He was... weak, possibly dying, but that didn't change the fact he couldn't breathe!
His hands clawed at the villain's, trying to make him let go, but he never did. "Dr..." the villain's voice was faint, barely even audible over the wheezing of his own breath. "Drink... and I... let go..."
Never in his life would the little one forget the vile, slimy feeling of the fluid oozing down his gullet. The flavor, the horrid need to wretch that followed, but he did as he was told.
Even with so little of his face visible, the villain smiled as he collapsed. While the child gasped, his body heaving as he was finally able to breathe again, he wheezed out one word. "Name?"
The child, despite his trembling knees, despite his overwhelming fear, answered. "I- Izuku M-Midoriya..."
Still smiling despite his pain, the villain nodded."Do... you have a quirk?"
Feeling like the smallest creature on earth, he shook his head. "No..."
Then, in an almost friendly way, the villain chuckled. "Well... it's... your... world now..." As he gently spoke, Izuku felt his fear fading, watching the light fade from his eye. "Use... your power well..." Then his eye closed, and he went as still as All Might.
He was dead too...
Completely unsure what he'd meant, Izuku just stared at the lifeless body, completely at a loss for words. Then, on instinct, he started wandering away from the scene. Somewhere far away, he heard his mother screaming out his name, then his wandering turned to sprinting. His father was nowhere to be found, and would later be counted among the dead, but he had his mom.
Amidst the spiraling chaos the world was about to become, in the years that followed, she'd be among the few good things she had. Sadly, she would claim the same about him, for the boy who questioned Bakugo was right. Without All Might, his powerful presence keeping villains scared, the world would soon see just how many people were willing to turn to crime to get what they so desired, and just how far Heroes could fall.
The world was headed into darkness now. But in that moment, crouched over the body of his fallen idol and choking back the bile that was coming from the taste of the villain's blood, eight year old Izuku Midoriya had no idea of the part he would play in the future of this world as it lay in darkness.
In the future, they would remember this day.
They would call it Incident Zero.
A/N: If you have a sense of deja vu reading this, you wouldn't be mistaken.
I have inherited this story from Black D0g, who began what looked like a superb masterpiece and passed it to another author. Consider him the All Might, and me the Midoriya. I just couldn't let this die when it had such a good premise and style to it.
I will be uploading this slowly, as I have a number of amends I want to make and a few things to brainstorm re progression. I have a roadmap which I am filling in in different ways, changing some characters' roles and prominence, and deliberating over two endings. It won't be weekly updates, and I'm working on other stuff, but this will be ticking over whenever I get chance.
I hope you enjoy this first chapter and are as excited for what's to come as I am. As always, reviews and favourites and PMs are always appreciated- just don't flame, yo.
Until next time, ya boy, out.