Even got this one out ahead of schedule, woo.
All Might rubbed at the back of his head, shuffling away slightly.
"Well, I'll leave the two of you-"
"Ah!" Nedzu exclaimed, cutting the man off, "Actually, I would like you to come along, All Might. You may be able to help us with this."
All Might blinked and shrugged.
"Well, alright. But I'm not really experienced in undercover work…"
"Not to worry, not to worry. Come along, to my office. Much more comfortable there."
Izuku and All Might exchanged glances as they trailed along behind Nedzu, each equally baffled. The Principal, for his part, seemed to be in excellent spirits- he hummed as he walked and there was a definite bounce in his step. Izuku wasn't an expert on the Principal, but he had a sneaking suspicion that something that Nedzu was this pleased about was almost certain to be life-threatening. He briefly wondered if he should revisit the Venom idea. Maybe he could whip up a small amount and alter his prosthetic to contain an injector? Just enough for a couple of blows, in the event he really needed to cut and run. Just in case.
"Here we are," Nedzu unnecessarily announced as they reached his office, strolling in and hopping up onto his chair. Izuku and All Might cautiously sat down opposite him and Izuku was amused to note that All Might looked a little intimidated. Nedzu folded his paws together.
"Now then," he said, "All Might. Some context may be in order. The OMC- the Oppressed Meta Command- are almost certainly being backed by a hidden Meta Liberation Army or Neo-Meta Liberation Army."
All Might nearly suffocated next to Izuku, spluttering and coughing, and Izuku looked at him with alarm. Nedzu tilted his head, waiting until All Might had finished with his coughing fit before continuing.
"Hardly a gentle way to break the news, I know, but I suspect it to be true. Mr Midoriya's successful infiltration of the OMC has been quite interesting to observe, given that they are quite free in their conversations. They've been largely kept in the dark, of course, but the connections are there for someone who can see them."
Nedzu smiled slyly at that- or at least, he bared his fangs in a manner that Izuku chose to interpret as a sly smile- and Izuku guessed that very few people without the benefit of Nedzu's Quirk would be able to see the connections.
"Proof, of course, is lacking," the Principal continued, "But I am certain it will come up in time. Now, the reason I've asked you two here. Mr Midoriya, the OMC is meeting with a backer- there were no names of individuals or companies given, but that there is to be a meeting was clear. Just so you aren't surprised when one of them reaches out to you. I suspect that there is a very specific reason for this meeting."
Izuku waited patiently, with All Might mimicking him. Nedzu seemed amused.
"Have you heard of the Shie Hassaikai?"
"The Eight Precepts of Death?"
"They're a yakuza group," All Might interrupted quietly, "And they were a fairly strong one, who pretend to have a code of honour and conduct that makes them better than other criminals. They were mostly driven underground like the rest."
"Indeed," Nedzu said, "The Eight Precepts were driven underground by our friend All Might here. Now, they are currently one of the more powerful yakuza groups remaining- for what that's worth, given the parlous state of the yakuza- and my information indicates that they are led by a man calling himself Overhaul."
"I've heard of Overhaul," Izuku said, looking up, "The OMC members have mentioned him quite a lot recently."
Nedzu's smile wasn't a pleasant thing to behold.
"Yes," he practically purred, "Yes, they have. It's been quite fascinating, because Overhaul has not made many waves for himself. Why would the OMC know of him? Why would they be discussing him? Why…because their backers are manipulating them, of course. Cannon fodder is much more willing when they think they're doing it themselves."
Seeing the way Nedzu spoke, Izuku felt a shudder of almost religious dread go up his spine- and it wasn't the first time. It was truly fortunate that Nedzu had concluded that he could amuse himself better as a Hero than as a villain, he thought.
"Unfortunately, my sources are somewhat lacking when it comes to Overhaul," Nedzu admitted, "But I believe that Sir Nighteye is currently conducting an investigation into the Eight Precepts. If you would be willing, All Might, perhaps you could contact him. Pooling resources is only sensible, of course."
All Might grimaced- Izuku saw it from the corner of his eye- but he nodded.
"Of course," he said, "Although Nighteye might not be inclined to help."
Nedzu waved a paw.
"I'm sure he'll see sense eventually."
Well, presumably. But Izuku had a considerably more pressing question.
"Sir," he said, "Why would the OMC's backers want to act against Overhaul? Surely working with him would make more sense?"
Nedzu pressed his paws together, claws clicking slightly, and looked up for a moment before tilting his head back down to gaze at Izuku.
"Allow me to explain my thoughts," Nedzu said, "In large part, the first defeat of the MLA was due to wavering public support. If they are to return from hiding and succeed this time, they must gain the support of the people. And what better way than to let the League of Villains throw society into chaos before they emerge, defeating the League and appearing as saviours? But to ensure they defeat the League…a healthy supply of Trigger would certainly help, don't you think?"
Trigger. A drug, Izuku knew, which enhanced Quirks. Mostly, at least- he was fairly sure that there was a much weaker variant that could be prescribed for baldness and erectile dysfunction. Izuku had no idea how Quirks related to baldness and erectile dysfunction, but it was presumably to do with the biology defying nature of Quirks. Being Quirkless himself, Izuku hadn't done that much research into it- he'd have to try and look it up, perhaps. If it turned out that Trigger caused Quirkless people to spontaneously combust he'd have to be a lot more careful to avoid it.
"The Eight Precepts sell Trigger, then?" All Might asked, leaning forwards with a serious look on his face. Nedzu nodded.
"Yes, yes they do. Which is odd enough, given that one of the things reasonably well known about Overhaul is his anti-Quirk attitude. That alone makes me suspect that any MLA successor organisation would find Overhaul an unlikely ally."
"Sir," Izuku said, "Do you know how Trigger works? If Overhaul hates Quirks, maybe he's selling Trigger to try and find side-effects?"
Nedzu tapped a paw on his desk.
"Hmm- because any drug that made Quirks weaker could use the same chemical process as Trigger? Hmm, yes. A possible assumption- and devious too. It might also be that Overhaul wishes to sell Trigger and increase the number of villain incidents, creating paranoia over strong Quirks, although if he remains in the shadows that is unlikely to prove easy to leverage. Still, I suspect that the MLA- I think we can fairly safely assign the OMC backer organisation that label by now- are positioning themselves to confront Overhaul and the Eight Precepts, as they most likely have done to many other organisations. I will require more research to be certain. But if they intend to destroy Overhaul they must first draw him out. And what better way than a small, inexperienced band of fanatics?"
All Might pinched the brow of his nose and Nedzu brought his paws together, interlacing them under his chin.
"At least, that's what I would do. Perhaps they just want to make contact with Overhaul and need someone relatively expendable to do it, but I don't think the MLA want to tolerate other powers in their area."
Nedzu looked thoughtfully at All Might, and some sort of silent communication seemed to pass between them.
"I'll try to talk Sir into sharing information with us," he said, standing and walking out. Izuku was tempted to follow, but Nedzu had turned that keen, penetrating gaze on him and he was pinned in his seat. He wasn't…afraid, exactly…but those dark, fathomless eyes somehow pinned him in place.
Izuku consciously suppressed an urge to reach for a gun that he didn't have and Nedzu smiled, far too knowingly for Izuku's taste. Bruce would have hated Nedzu, he thought. Either that or they'd have gotten on far, far too well.
"Of course, that asks the question of what they would do with the League of Villains, doesn't it? Perhaps they might be planning to set the League of Villains and the Eight Precepts against one another?"
"Or they could try to absorb the League of Villains, sir," Izuku ventured, "And use their notoriety to their advantage."
Nedzu smiled, humming.
"Possible, of course, very possible. Would you do that?"
Izuku drew in a breath, holding it as he thought. His fingers flexed, almost unconsciously- the time delay in his prosthetic was almost gone.
"No," he said, the word soft as it came out with his exhale, "I wouldn't."
Nedzu smiled, obviously waiting for Izuku to elaborate, so Izuku obliged him.
"The League gained some notoriety with the attack at Hosu and at the USJ, but that's all. They don't seem to have a plan other than destruction. They hate heroes and want to tear down the system, but it doesn't seem like they have any other ideology. The MLA want to become the system, Destro's works were very clear on that. At best the League would be a disposable force for the MLA, and they're too easy to build propaganda against."
"A delicate balancing act, I agree," Nedzu said, "Propping up the League…letting them grow strong enough to destabilise this society of ours while not letting them become so strong that the MLA cannot defeat them. And of course there is the wildcard…All For One. Two hundred years of scheming and planning. Such an opponent. What is he planning? What use does he have for the League? It's…thrilling."
The Riddler, Izuku idly characterised. Nygma would get along with Nedzu famously, he was almost certain.
"I don't know if I'd call it thrilling, sir," Izuku admitted and Nedzu shuffled in an approximation of a shrug.
"Hmm, I suppose. But the challenge…ah. I let my enthusiasm get away from me. There's a lot of work to do, unfortunately. The Eight Precepts…they're supposed to be under close police surveillance, being a potential villain organisation, but there's no real relying on that. All For One has had two hundred years to dig his fingers into the government, I doubt All Might tore it all up. And the MLA…they've hidden for so long. I'm wary of reaching out to many other Heroes, since…"
Izuku followed the train of thought and felt his eyes widen. He spoke in a near-whisper, lowering his voice without thinking.
"Sir, you- you think that the MLA have infiltrated Heroes?"
Nedzu glanced at him, his gaze cool and thoughtful before he smiled.
"Well," he said, "Heroes are…a paramilitary arm, are they not? Many Quirks are weak, to be certain, but some are far more powerful than most weapons the military could bring to bear, and so much less likely to cause collateral damage. Endeavour or All Might, or even someone like Kamui Woods, they could wreak havoc at a moment's notice. If the MLA intended to rise up, it would be Heroes who would be drafted to stop them. What better way to deal with that than to corrupt the Heroes first?"
There was something about Nedzu's expression- something about the glint in his eyes, because his facial expression gave nothing away- that made Izuku think that this wasn't a theory. Still he decided- perhaps wisely- not to pry. What was the saying- two men can keep a secret, if one of them is dead? Yes, better to not ask. Not until he needed to know. Nedzu folded his paws together again and Izuku bit his lip, thinking back to something the Principal had said.
"Sir," he said, "You talked about All For One. Did you know about him earlier, or…"
"Ah," Nedzu said, "No, I did not. All Might was very honest about his search for a successor when he interviewed for his teaching position, and the reason why he needs a successor. I admit I'm relieved: I like a challenge, but if I had to wait until All Might's death to find out about All For One it might be too much of a challenge. A very dangerous man."
Nedzu continued to fix his intense gaze upon Izuku, almost as though dissecting him, peering into his heart and his soul. Izuku bit his lip and Nedzu nodded, almost to himself.
So," he said, "You refused to take One For All?"
Izuku blinked, thrown by the sudden change of conversation.
"I did wonder," Nedzu said, "A Quirk that powerful isn't something to be passed up easily. But I suppose it's not a Quirk suited to an Underground Hero. It would be a waste to lose your talents in that arena, regardless of how fine a successor you could prove. And-"
Izuku said nothing, recognising that Nedzu was mostly musing to himself. The Principal blinked, eyes narrowing as he cut himself off before he hummed thoughtfully. Izuku had the impression that he was about a ask a question, but Nedzu seemed to think better of it, just nodding.
"Unfortunate," he said, "That you have drawn the attention of Tomura Shigaraki regardless. But I'm sure that you will prove to be as fine a Hero without One For All as with it. Now, I'm sure you don't want to keep Eraserhead waiting, do you?"
Izuku shook his head, already wondering what Nedzu wanted to ask. Something about One For All, maybe, or why Izuku had refused it? Not, he supposed, that it mattered.
"No, sir," he said instead, "You're right, I'd better not keep Mr Aizawa waiting."
And maybe he'd even get to check on how Shinsou was feeling, because Izuku really didn't need another person developing some sort of grudge against him.
The lights of the cars passing by shifted uneasily on the ceiling as Izuku tried futilely to sleep. He'd tried a couple of methods, but…too many thoughts, swirling around his head. He'd kept them at bay all day by staying busy- Aizawa had been teaching Shinsou the basics of the capture scarf, and Izuku had been more or less willing to play the guinea pig. Maybe it would help with Shinsou's lingering resentment- Izuku suspected it was a sort of envy. Not really Izuku's problem yet, but there was no need to risk it getting out of control. But now that he was alone, stuck with just his thoughts, he had to wonder.
"Why would the League of Villains even bother attacking Heroes?" he whispered to himself, giving voice to the thought that had been gnawing at his mind since he'd half-heartedly considered it just half a day ago. Another time he might have agreed that it was probably a publicity stunt of some sort. Attack the USJ, kill a few students, kill All Might. A way of making a grand entrance. But now that he knew All For One existed…surely All For One would have known that the Nomu would be incapable of defeating All Might? And the attack itself had been poorly executed. Too many variables, with twenty students and two other Pro-Heroes. It would have been better, maybe, to try to lure All Might out while he was in the field. Have the Nomu attack some other Heroes to draw All Might in, have Shigaraki pretend to be a victim and then, when All Might 'rescued' him, a quick grab, two hands to the face and the neck and the Number One Hero would be turned to dust and flakes of ash, Kurogiri providing an easy escape. But no. Instead Shigaraki had risked it all on being able to wipe out class 1-A as well as All Might.
"If it had worked," Izuku mused under his breath, "It would have broken faith in UA as well. But the risk…the gamble didn't pay off. That doesn't sound like something a two-hundred year old criminal mastermind would pull."
Izuku closed his eyes for a few breaths, sleep still refusing to come. Too many thoughts, too much wondering.
"What's his endgame?" he murmured. If All For One wanted All Might out of the way, why not just wait? All For One must know that All Might had been mortally wounded during their battle, and even if he hadn't been All Might was growing old. In his fifties, at least, he couldn't be a Hero forever. He'd get slower, weaker, his reactions worse. He'd become increasingly vulnerable, so why rush? Well, maybe All For One had wanted to rebuild his position. Being beaten by All Might had forced him underground, so now he wanted to make a statement, regain the fear and respect that made him ruler of the underworld.
"But why attack Heroes?" Izuku asked himself, "Why not do what Jason did?"
When Jason had decided it was time to make his move and take over a sizeable portion of the Gotham underground, of course, he hadn't gone out and tried to fight all of the Teen Titans at once. Admittedly the Teen Titans were probably a more dangerous group than Class 1-A- the Teen Titans had almost as high a proportion of heavy hitters as the Justice League main line, what with Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Superboy- but the point still stood. Why go after Heroes and draw the attention of every law enforcement agency around when you could go after the criminals? Izuku refused to believe that Shigaraki and Kurogiri couldn't make a few examples, apply a bit of pressure and have All For One back on top in short order. So scratch that as a goal. Next.
"All Might barely survived their battle," Izuku mused, "And he was the one who walked away. So…the Nomu had that regeneration, but how good was it? Could it have healed All For One? If it couldn't have…"
If it couldn't have, maybe All For One was looking for a successor. In Jason's experience people like that weren't especially concerned with leaving a legacy behind, but maybe All For One was more mafia than Gotham rogue. In that case the League of Villains making a name for themselves became vital, in order to secure a position of strength and respect before All For One couldn't back them anymore, assuming he could even back them now.
"So work it back," Izuku said, folding his hands behind his head. He shivered slightly at the coolness of his prosthetic, but didn't move it away. It would warm up quickly enough.
"Shigaraki met with Stain, and it didn't go well. He wants to tear down Hero society, and to do that he'll need a lot of forces. Strong ones, too, not useless thugs like the USJ. He tried to recruit Stain and Stain turned him down. And then he went to Hosu…"
And then Shigaraki had gone to Hosu, where Stain was hunting, and attacked in the open. Whether to lure out Stain or to just show him up, it was clear that Shigaraki had been making a statement to Stain, not to Heroes. So he didn't have much self-control, that was obvious. But if he'd seen how much damage he could cause, and with the press talking so much about it…
"He'll try to recruit more people, still," Izuku grimly concluded.
Well, there were plenty of villains around. Plenty who could cause a lot of damage too. Even setting aside the Nomu and Shigaraki there'd been that guy not too long ago, the one who'd killed a couple of Heroes. Izuku couldn't quite remember his name, though he remembered his Quirk. Shaky video footage of the villain, all exposed muscle and gleaming white teeth and violent, savage intent. Would Shigaraki be capable of keeping someone like that in line- and did it even matter? Unleash that guy- Muscular, that was his name- onto some small or even medium size Hero Agency and most of them would probably die before someone up to the task got there.
"Of course, you could leave him to it," Izuku murmured, "Let him be the distraction. He likes fighting, likes killing, and not every Villain goes to Tartarus. Let him loose near to a prison, some of the guards will probably go to try and deal with him. That's when you launch your attack, break out as many people as possible. Recruit the best and let the rest run wild, and then the fear of it happening again will lock down law enforcement as they protect the other prisons."
Assuming that Shigaraki was sane enough to think that far ahead. Izuku didn't think he was stupid, but he seemed…impulsive. The wound in his shoulder had only been a few hours old when Izuku had fought him, implying that- what? That he'd been injured by Stain and then immediately gone out to try and lure Stain into a fight? Reckless. Very reckless, and Izuku wasn't sure that Shigaraki could have survived Stain in a one on one fight. Even with the Nomu present it might have been close- Stain's Quirk was deceptively strong.
Almost unconsciously his thoughts drifted back to Muscular. It was one of the things Bruce had done, one of the things he'd passed on to all of his Robins: pick a villain and try to work them out. Find a way to bring them down. Consider their strengths and their weaknesses. It had been a way for Bruce to keep his mind sharp- and, Izuku suspected, to stave off boredom during board meetings and social gatherings. So. Muscular. What was his strength?
"His Quirk affects his muscles," Izuku mumbled, "They're larger? No…he can produce more muscle. Elevated pain threshold, because the muscle is exposed. Possibly doesn't feel pain at all. And is his strength augmented all the time, or is it just the extra bulk? If he didn't increase his mass, would he still be stronger than average?"
It was probably possible, in a world with Quirks. And when you were someone like Bruce- or, more importantly, like Izuku- it paid to think the worst. Plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised. Within reason, of course. If every plan attempted to take into account the chance that All For One would turn up in the prime of his life and with murder aforethought then Izuku would never get anything done.
So, Muscular. Izuku was tempted to say treat him like Bane, but he recognised that it could be a mistake. Bane, for all his massive size and skill, wasn't immune to pain. And Bane's greatest strength was his mind, by far. Bane had broken Batman not because he was stronger or because he was more skilled, but because he had manipulated the release of villains in a constant trickle, forced Batman to chase them all down, waited for Bruce to exhaust himself. He'd planned carefully but not too precisely and then seized his moment when it came. Really, it had been a masterclass in defeating a nominally superior opponent. Izuku could respect that. After all, it was the same strategy that the Bats had employed to such great effect. Chip away at your opponent, exploit their weaknesses, break them. Sometimes Jason had dreamed of his family taking that last step. Walking into the dark, instead of into the night. On his bad nights it had been a daydream, a hope.
When he was in his right mind it had been more like a nightmare.
Izuku shook off the thought with a grimace, lips twisting. He rested his forearm across his eyes, blocking out even the faint light that crept through his eyelids, and thought of Muscular. How did you bring down such a monster? Gas, was the first thought. He couldn't armour his throat- presumably- so flood the area and tranquilise him. Of course, gas was never certain. It took time to work, and the larger Muscular grew the more tranquilisers it would take. A race against time and biology, same for darts. And then the inevitable follow-up: how bulletproof was Muscular? Jason had killed Bane by taking the leg and then putting four high-impact bullets into his chest, but was Bane, even juiced on Venom, an equal to Muscular?
A moot point, perhaps. Izuku didn't have any of the high-impact tungsten-titanium bullets that Jason had used when he'd been hunting small game, never mind the Anti-Meta rounds that he'd brought out when he needed some big guns. So…tasers? If biology was in effect, then it was possible that the convulsions Muscular would suffer from a strong enough electric shock would cause his own massive musculature to pulverise his bones. Very nasty way to go, in Izuku's professional opinion, but effective. Assuming it worked.
Izuku tentatively put it in the 'maybe' folder, for now.
"Tranquilisers are probably out," he muttered, "Normal bullets and tasers need more information. The foam would maybe hold him, depending on how strong he is. He doesn't have to be stronger than the foam, just stronger than whatever it's attached to. I should look into a way to put more of it on someone in a short time."
Izuku briefly considered that the older version of the foam was impossible to breathe through and if it was, say, applied to the face, anyone not strong enough to tear it off- or tear their skin off- would suffocate in fairly short order. He was pretty sure that that was…a little too far, so he mentally put it in the 'maybe' folder for the moment. He should probably talk to Mei about getting something that allowed a bit more firepower, but that would come with the trade of slowing him down. Everything had a price, he ruefully considered. And, worse, all of this was assuming that he knew Muscular was present. If he just ran into Muscular on a patrol, what then? Two choices. Run and find someone who could actually deal with Muscular or stay and die trying to stop him.
Izuku liked to think that he wasn't afraid to die, exactly. But…well, being willing to give his life if absolutely necessary wasn't the same as being willing to just jump into the fire and die pointlessly. And if he came upon Muscular without the proper equipment and preparation, die pointlessly was what he'd do.
Izuku…wasn't willing to die pointlessly. What if Muscular was on a rampage, attacking civilians? That was the next question, wasn't it? Well…even if Izuku slowed him a little, would many of them escape? Back in Gotham civilians knew full well not to get involved in super-powered shit. Here, they…they stood around and watched, half the time. They had to be carefully evacuated. They were too used to the Hero winning easily, too used to it being an interesting sideshow.
Izuku wasn't ready to die for people too stupid or too careless to keep themselves alive. It wasn't heroic of him, maybe, it might not be in line with the ideals that UA espoused, but... Izuku's lips twisted in a sarcastic expression. But that wasn't quite true, was it? He'd flung himself between Mina and Shigaraki without a second thought, and he'd do it again. So, said that small, self-loathing part of him, that's how it is. You'll die, but only for someone you like. How very heroic of you.
Izuku pressed his arm more firmly over his eyes and tried to ignore it. There was no use in trying to argue with your doubts, he knew. They were far too well entrenched to be persuaded.
Apparently Izuku wasn't the only one to have had an eventful internship. Admittedly Kirishima's tales of picking up the aftermath of the Nomu attack was more comedy than drama and Mina had mostly scared a couple of petty thieves, but Tsuyu had a good story about smugglers. Action on the high seas, Izuku thought, listening intently as Tsuyu told her story. When she was done the silence only lasted for a few seconds before Mina cleared her throat and leaned forwards. They turned to her and she frowned, her expression wrinkling.
"There was," she started, an unusual hesitancy in the normally forward girl, "There was this guy. A villain, although he was just robbing shops so really he was just a petty criminal. But you know what things are like. So they called him a villain, right, and sent us- Shine Dancer and me- after him. I guess it was a sort of easy thing for a student, to ease me into actual heroism."
Somehow, Izuku didn't think that this was going to be a feel-good story. Mina shook her head, looking down towards her interlocked fingers.
"We walked around for a while, tracking his patterns, and found him robbing another shop. He didn't put up much of a fight. He was almost pleased to be arrested. He said…he said that he was glad to have somewhere to actually stay."
Mina looked up at them with her frown still in place, her expression uneasy.
"His Quirk was called Scissor-Hands. It was, y'know, pretty much what it sounds like. He had scissors instead of hands. Or shears, I guess, since they were that large, but it was- y'know."
A handicap, Izuku thought. Really, there were a lot of Quirks that weren't exactly amazing. Even one of Bakugo's minions, the one with the wings, hadn't gotten any use out of his Quirk. His bones had been solid, so he'd weighed too much to fly even if he hadn't been overweight. All his Quirk did was make it harder for him to fit through narrow spaces. But it wasn't quite as extreme as Mina's example.
"I spoke to the guy afterwards," Mina continued, "I just wanted to know why he was stealing. He told me- eh. He said to me, 'what choice do I have?'. He said he'd failed his exam to get into a Hero school, so he couldn't go Pro, and nowhere really wants someone who's basically got only two fingers, and those don't bend. Sure, he has some skills- but anything his Quirk lets him do, someone with a different Quirk can do with just a pair of actual scissors. It was a bit of a shock, really."
They sat quietly for a few heartbeats before Izuku cleared his throat.
"Did anybody…do anything for him? Or is he just going to go to prison for a few months and then end up back on the streets, stealing again?"
Just like Gotham, he thought sourly. Petty crime, because people didn't have any choice, and no matter how much money Bruce poured into education and rebuilding projects there was always some supervillain to destroy portions of the city or some fat, slimy politician sucking up all the funds and belching out a pathetic facsimile of the original plan. Even the memory made a pulse of fury throb in his chest and claw at his throat, but he swallowed it down. Mina shook her head.
"Shine Dancer said that there are programs in the area, she sponsors some of them. Hopefully he'll find one and find honest work. If not…"
"You can't stop crime," Izuku muttered, shrugging, "Not without creating a utopia."
And it went almost without saying that this world, though hardly a hellscape, was a long way from a utopia.
Mina shook her head again.
"It just- it just sucked, you know? I know that he chose to be a criminal instead of anything else, but his Quirk wasn't his fault. It wasn't anybody's fault. He just sort of fell into it, and then once he was a villain he couldn't go anywhere else."
Trapped, Izuku thought. Trapped in a hell of his own making, but trapped nonetheless. And desperate, probably, for anything that would let him lead a normal life. And- and now Izuku could see how All For One had established such a lasting and powerful criminal empire. With his power, how easy it would be to take a Quirk that was detrimental and replace it with one that was, well, more palatable. And the Quirkless? An offer easily made and probably gratefully accepted in many cases, loyalty bought with just a little effort. And if All For One pushed too hard and the gratitude was no longer enough, then there was plenty of threat to keep them in place. What was given could be just as freely taken away and Izuku tucked that thought away, pressed it down to somewhere deep in his heart where an ember of hatred for All For One was slowly, steadily taking root. No need to think on it too hard, not yet, but better to not forget it.
"But!" Mina said, clapping her hands and putting some cheer back into her voice, "If I was going to give up being a Hero just because I saw something I didn't like, I wouldn't be a good Hero to begin with, right? So how did your internship go, Midori?"
Oh. Yeah. Izuku had wondered if they'd end up asking him. He'd checked with Aizawa before- it wasn't a secret that he'd ended up fighting with Stain and Shigaraki, UA would just prefer that it didn't get leaked to the press before Nedzu had managed to properly spin it. Given the speed with which the Principal could work, Izuku didn't doubt that that press release would be coming out very soon. Until then- well, he doubted that Kiri, Mina or Tsuyu were going to run to the nearest news station.
"Well, Mr Aizawa recruited me to help him train Shinsou, since he thinks that Shinsou would make a good Hero," he started. Mina leaned abruptly forwards, getting into his personal space without a heartbeat of pause.
"Wait. Wait wait wait," she said, one pink-skinned finger hovering just in front of his face, near to the bridge of his nose- Izuku almost went cross-eyed trying to keep track of it.
"Wait?" he asked. Mina nodded.
"Wait," she confirmed, "Mr Aizawa took you on so that you could help train Shinsou?'
"Uh…yes?" he tried, a little weakly. Mina gave him a look that suggested he was being unspeakably stupid.
"Are you kidding me?" she demanded, sounding suddenly frustrated, "You don't think that's messed up? He takes you on, just to help him get some guy who didn't pass the Entrance Exam into shape? He hasn't trained any of our class, but he has time to help out Shinsou?"
Oh. Oh. Izuku had been- yes, he'd thought that it was unfair. But Shinsou was- Aizawa wasn't wrong. Shinsou had potential, and it wasn't going to come out on its own. Izuku could look after himself, so-
"Nope," Mina announced, "I don't want to hear it. I don't care that you can look after yourself better than Shinsou can, Aizawa's our teacher and it's bullshit that he's teaching someone else and not us!"
"I didn't say anything," Izuku pointed out, bemused, and Mina scowled at him.
"I could practically see you thinking it, Midori. But fine. Aizawa took on a new student and wanted you to help teach him. Did you do any actual work with him other than that?"
"I did do some," Izuku said, still mild, "Some of it was theoretical, but I also went on patrol."
Mina narrowed her eyes at him.
Kirishima choked on his drink, coughing to clear his throat. Once he managed to avoid suffocation he leaned across, his expression concerned.
"Hosu? Where Stain and Shigaraki were?"
Izuku briefly wondered if he should actually tell them the rest but decided that it probably couldn't hurt too much.
"It was on the day, actually. I sort of…ran into both of them."
"You what?" Mina demanded, leaning over to him again. Her fingers twitched like she'd like to grab him by the shoulders and shake him until some sense came back, but he managed to forestall her by leaning away, just out of range. There was still a risk that she'd leap over the table, but the canteen was just about full, that should prevent any drastic actions. Izuku nevertheless kept an eye on her as he continued.
"I'd spoken to Mr Aizawa about Iida," he explained, and Mina suddenly sat back, her gaze intent on him, "And he agreed that it was suspicious. We went to Hosu so that I could get a taste of patrolling, but also so that I could talk to Iida. Mr Aizawa thought it would be a better idea, I guess, for a classmate to talk to him."
Not like Aizawa had been wrong there, Izuku reflected. Ignoring the whole Quirkless thing that had pushed his buttons, Iida had been angrily defiant. If an authority figure had spoken to him he probably would have stiffly agreed to everything they said and then gone after Stain the instant he could. Being actually confronted by a peer had made him actually think. That said, Izuku wasn't sure he'd give Iida the benefit of the doubt later on. He was still at risk of losing his head and going after Stain, as far as Izuku was concerned. Better to keep an eye on him, maybe.
"Did it work?" Mina asked, "I know that Ochaco was worried about him, but I didn't get to ask her about it. He was going after Stain, wasn't he?"
"Yeah," he said, the words coming out with a sigh, "He was. I managed to talk him out of it. Good thing, too, because Stain would have murdered him."
"You fought Stain," Tsuyu said, her large eyes unblinking. Izuku nodded.
"Mr Aizawa and I talked to Iida and Manual and set out on our patrol. We saw the Nomu in the distance, and Mr Aizawa left me on a roof while he investigated. Didn't really think that there'd be a flying Nomu that would snatch me up and drop me in front of Shigaraki."
"Really, Stain probably saved my life. Don't think I'd fancy my chances against Shigaraki and a Nomu at the same time."
Izuku looked up, smiling faintly.
"Luckily, it looks like Stain and Shigaraki don't get on. Between the two of them trying to kill each other as well as me I managed to stay alive long enough for Mr Aizawa to get there. Shigaraki had left already and Stain left once Mr Aizawa got there, so…well. It was fairly exciting, I guess."
"Exciting, ribbit. That's one way to put it."
Kirishima was shaking his head.
"Man, I enjoyed working with Fourth Kind, but- you guys really had some interesting internships, huh?"
Izuku leaned back, shaking his head.
"A bit too interesting, for me," he said, "If I can get a month or two of nice, boring schoolwork I'll be doing just fine."
Mina grinned at him.
"You really think that'll happen, Midori?"
Izuku thought about Nedzu, about the MLA, about the OMC and Stain and Eight Precepts and sighed.
"No," he admitted, "But I can always dream."
The contact they were meeting was someone Usami didn't know. He was hiding it well, but Izuku could tell that he was nervous.
"He's nervous," Nedzu said in his ear, the transmitter once again hidden as a flesh-tone patch behind the fake spectacles, "Probably because he wants to make a good impression. He seemed to expect Chitose, but not this contact? Maybe this contact is known to be less pleasant than Chitose, who can tell. It's a little odd that you're meeting at a safehouse, though. Either your contact is supremely confident in his ability to avoid being tailed or he simply doesn't care about possibly revealing your location."
It was a nice safehouse, too. A small house on a suburban street, just dilapidated enough on the outside that it was unremarkable. From what Usami had said the three founders of the OMC had bought it together- it had been going cheap after a villain attack nearby- and fixed it up. They'd thought about selling it if the whole OMC thing hadn't gotten off the ground, Bennet had confided to Izuku. It had seemed very strange, then, that maybe the three of them would have become a small firm of property people. Hell, it seemed strange now- but that wasn't the point. The point was that the small, two storey house was pleasantly furnished and decorated and it would be a real shame if they had to burn it just because some MLA goon thought he was too good to meet in a restaurant or a park.
Izuku continued to ignore the fact that the safehouse was burned anyway, since he was here and the Heroes knew about it. Then again, Heroes were a lot less likely to blow the place up with every member of the OMC inside it. No matter how effective that might be at getting rid of the OMC and maybe even pushing the MLA to act against other villain groups. Murder and framing, just what was needed to ensure a relatively easy takeover of a city's criminal underworld. Although it might be deceptively tough to get all of the OMC members. Usami, Oyama and Bennet were the core members, the founders and key people, but there were maybe twenty others who agreed enough that they could be called cell members. They very rarely met at the same time, demonstrating at least a basic grasp of data security, so taking them all at once could be tricky. That sort of unified police operation took a lot of planning and coordination, regardless of how well trained law enforcement were.
"So who even is this guy," Oyama asked, sprawled on a sofa, "Who's coming here? It ain't Chitose, right?"
"Miss Chitose," Usami said, "Is a busy lady. They're sending someone else, but try to treat him with respect. Our backers can be generous, but we're not the only ones they're in contact with."
Usami knew more than he was letting on, Izuku knew. He was almost tempted to see if he could grab the man off the street, take him to a nice secluded place and beat the answers out of him. It was what Jason would do. Bruce would consider it, almost certainly. But for the moment…for the moment Izuku would wait. You caught more flies with honey, after all.
"I hope they're nice," Bennet said cheerfully, wandering through with a cup tucked in her hands. A thin trail of steam wisped towards her nose and she sniffed appreciatively. The knock on the door startled her, Izuku saw: she lurched slightly, the coffee pressed more closely to her chest, and there was a moment of worry in her expression. She was hard to read, being partly crocodilian, but Izuku knew Tsuyu. He could tell she'd been alarmed.
But why? They knew that someone was coming at around this time, and she wasn't a jumpy person. Why would she be nervous? Izuku glanced away, watching from the corner of his eye as she sipped her drink. When the cup came down from covering most of her expression the smile was back, but now it looked…fake. Izuku…wondered. Usami went to answer the door, peeking through a peephole before opening it and Izuku shifted on his chair, trying to look insignificant while still getting a good look. Bennet's concerns could wait- there was an MLA member right outside.
Their contact- at least Izuku assumed he was their contact- had a broad smile full of glinting white teeth and carefully raked blond hair. Open shirt collar, olive tanned skin, the welcoming attitude- if Izuku had seen him in some sunny city he'd probably have characterised the man as a surfer bro.
He distrusted him immediately.
The man tilted his sunglasses down and looked at them, eyebrows raised. Something about him- some part of Izuku thought 'mafia'. Organised crime, at the very least. Enforcer, not a boss. Made sense to send someone like that to contact them, Izuku supposed.
"Joshua Nash," the man said, one hand gesturing at himself, "Nice to meet you."
American, Izuku thought, given the accent and his appearance. Similar to Bennet, although America was a big place and Nash looked more Hispanic than the pale Bennet. In Izuku's peripheral vision Oyama shifted, his lounging movement disguising the hand held out to his cup, a stream of water sliding up his fingers and into his sleeve. Oyama had shown them, more than once, while showing off- his hydrokinesis was almost embarrassingly limited, a few hundred millilitres at most, but that could be enough. He could harden and direct the water just enough that he could pierce skin, so flinging it could be a fair distraction. Oyama preferred to wrap the water around his knuckles like a makeshift set of brass knuckles, but given that it was still, well, water Izuku felt that a set of actual brass knuckles would be a better option.
Then again, brass knuckles didn't use a Quirk. They were just so common, or something. Perfectly in line with Quirk supremacist ideology, of course: why use time-tested technology when a Quirk could do the same thing much worse but slightly faster?
That said, Izuku was being unfair. It wasn't just Quirk ideology, it was any sort of fanatics. After all, if they were in the business of using their brains they wouldn't be fanatics to begin with, would they? Izuku stayed where he was as Usami invited Nash in, his manner friendly and almost paternal. There was something about Usami that Izuku didn't like- he knew too much. He'd treated Chitose, Izuku remembered, like she was a goddess made flesh, like a cultist. He…revered her in a way that made Izuku's skin crawl, like she'd bewitched him. He was the driving force behind the OMC, Izuku had decided, the one to bring them together. Oyama was too brash, too reckless: left to his own devices he'd be casually discriminatory, maybe if he'd had more than a few drinks and had a few buddies to back him up he'd shout slurs, a bit of gang violence in the streets, but he wasn't a revolutionary by nature. And Bennet- there was something off there, as Izuku had already noted. An almost desperation to put down Quirkless people. If Izuku didn't know better he'd say that she might be undercover as well, but Nedzu was far too canny to allow that. Having undercover operatives who didn't know one another working closely together was a recipe for disaster, no-one wanted their cover to be blown by an unexpected sting operation.
"So you're Usami? It's nice to meet you at last, Miss Chitose has nothing but good to say about you," Nash said. His voice was drawling and confident, his smile conspiratorial, his hand-shake no doubt firm and swift. A con-man at heart, working his magic on the OMC. Usami invited him in, made the introductions. Izuku watched as Nash bowed theatrically over Bennet's hand, coaxing a blush from her, how he spoke familiarly to Oyama before he turned towards Izuku. His blue eyes, briefly revealed behind his sunglasses, shone with sincerity and sympathy as he shook Izuku's hand.
"You're the UA kid, right?" he asked. Izuku nodded, summoning his acting skills to pretend properly- nervous but trying to hide it, just a little arrogant, more than a little nervous.
"Yessir," he said, trying for a smile. Nash grinned at him before turning his wrist, just enough that Izuku was forced to go with it. The motion exposed the top of his hand and Nash reached over with his other hand, a finger tapping delicately at the top of Izuku's hand.
"Really is prosthetic, huh?" he said. Izuku was too good at this to tense, but he immediately started looking for weak points in earnest. The man was well built but both his hands were occupied with Izuku's one, so that was a vulnerability. Break his nose with a palm strike, hopefully get the sunglasses too, blind him. Use the prosthetic as a weapon: it was harder than flesh, like wearing a gauntlet, strike at the face again. Cripple him quickly. Grab the glass from the table, smash it, take Oyama next. Bennet should hesitate, go for the window, break it with a chair and take off running, cover blown but safe. Nash frowned and Izuku readied himself for action.
"It's a real shame," Nash said, "If only there was better funding for Quirks, if people were properly examined and tested, you could've avoided this."
He sounded sympathetic- actually, Izuku believed that he was. Yes, the man was talking about testing kids for their power levels, which was probably a step above what already went on, but he might really believe what he was saying. Another problem with fanatics: sometimes their inner humanity still showed through.
Nash released Izuku and turned away, back to the OMC members, and Izuku let out a silent breath of relief. No mayhem, at least not for the moment.
"It is unfortunate," he said, "That we can be blessed with Quirks too strong for us. It's almost divine, in its irony, but we must simply overcome. Yes?"
"Yes," Usami agreed, his eyes gleaming with fanaticism. Nash nodded.
"Yeah. The world's changing, boys and girls, and we've gotta make sure we change right along with it."
Oyama stirred- Izuku saw a thin trail of water slide back into the glass near his hand as he moved past it.
Nash grinned, confident and broad.
"Changing. Let's face it, we've been living easy lives because of All Might. He came out of nowhere and he just wiped half the villain groups off the map. Crime rates dropped, destruction became less common, everything got better, it's all there in the stats. But All Might isn't immortal, is he?"
Izuku focused, suddenly wondering if he'd have to do something to keep Nash quiet. It wouldn't be easy- he wasn't equipped for it. Izuku wondered if maybe he should start to branch out in terms of skills. Yes he was plenty capable in hand to hand, and the gun-fighting style he'd remembered from Jason worked well, but he didn't always have his guns. Maybe some sort of Escrima stick fighting? He only remembered the very basic parts of it, but collapsible batons were much easier to conceal than knives or guns and they'd always seemed to work out for Dick. He'd need to find someone to teach him, but maybe he could ask Yaoyorozu.
"All Might's always had a bunch of weirdo fans," Nash said, "They keep track of him all the time. Practically a miracle that he's managed to keep his identity hidden, but that's not what's important. What's important is that he's getting older. He's been in the business for nearly thirty years and he's appearing less and less often. What do you think that's gonna mean for villain groups?"
"They're going to be coming out of hiding?" Usami said, "What about the other Heroes? Endeavour, Best Jeanist, the other top ten?"
"Ah, come on. You think they can replace All Might? Sure, Endeavour's got power, but he's not All Might. Just look at those Nomu the League of Villains sent out. The one that went to the USJ went up against All Might, right, and nobody died. Couple of people got hurt, but no deaths. The three in Hosu the other night went up against a whole bunch of Heroes, and how many people died? At least half a dozen Heroes. And Stain, you think he'd still be around if All Might was in his prime? Nah, All Might's time is nearly over. And once that happens all the bad guys are going to come out to play."
"So what are we going to do about it?" Usami asked, "We can't just sit by and watch."
Nash pushed his sunglasses up, hiding his eyes again. Izuku noticed a faint sheen on his fingernails, almost metallic, and wasn't too surprised when Nedzu spoke in his ear.
"Joshua Nash. Freelance journalist, apparently. Mostly covers sporting events. His association with Chitose is distant, but it's there. Quirk…ah, Quirk is called Altered Hair. He can convert the keratin in his nails and hair into anything he's eaten recently and has a small degree of shapeshifting ability, also. Despite the name I suspect he gets more use out of his fingernails, consuming metals and using them as weapons."
Not the most powerful Quirk Izuku had ever heard of. Again, actual weapons would be a lot more effective than the Quirk itself- but if Nash wanted to handicap himself then he was quite welcome. Izuku would more than happily take a fight that was tilted in his favour, for once.
"Oh, we're gonna do something about it. We've had a lot of thoughts about this, you know," Nash said, "And we've decided that if the Heroes can't handle it themselves then we're going to have to. But we can't just come out and do it, you know? There are plenty of people who've got all the spirit in the world but just don't have strong enough Quirks. If we want to really make a difference, we've got to do something about that. And luckily there's something we can do."
"You're talking about Trigger," Bennet said suddenly, "Aren't you? The drug?"
"You know much about it?"
Bennet nodded tightly.
"It was a big thing where I lived, in America. A lot of people were using it, even though it's supposed to be prohibited."
"Ah, I guessed you were a fellow American! Pretty different over here, ain't it? But yeah, Trigger- usually called Boost over in the States- is a bit more common. It's still heavily restricted, but a few of the old drug-running gangs got into it early so it's harder to root out. Higher quality too- the boost lasts a lot longer. Still, the people I work for want to get hold of some. Thing is, if we could get ahold of some, we could do some work on it, try to make it better. But we can't go out and find it ourselves. We need some people who're- well, a bit more savvy, you know?"
A bit more expendable more like, Izuku thought. Still, this was pretty much what he wanted. Actual criminal activity, even if the connection to Chitose and the presumed MLA was tenuous.
"So," Nash continued, "Have you ever heard of Overhaul?"
Oyama, who had returned to almost lounging on the sofa, waved a hand in the air.
"Yeah, he's a mob boss. Hates Quirks, doesn't he? We really gonna work with someone like that?"
There was a flicker of irritation in his voice, something edging towards anger. Nash shrugged.
"For the moment? Yeah, yeah we are. Overhaul and the Shie Hassikai might be anti-Quirk, but they're well involved in the Trigger trade. Regardless of what he thinks, we- or you, I should say- need to get in contact with him and get our hands on some of his Trigger."
There was something in Nash's voice, an edge of bitterness, that made Izuku think he wasn't happy about it either. The man tucked his hands in his pockets, looking at them over the rim of his sunglasses.
"I ain't gonna lie to you, boys and girls, this could be dangerous. Overhaul ain't a man to mess around with. But right now we need something he has, and he's the type of man who keeps his agreements and won't go running to Heroes or the police. Once we've gotten what we need- well, maybe we'll reconsider. But for now, you need to contact him and set up a meeting. Y'all up for that?"
"Funny that he talks about being reported to the Heroes," Nedzu mused, "I'm definitely certain, now, that at least some of the Agencies have been infiltrated by pro-MLA elements. This might be our chance to draw them out, using Overhaul against them."
Izuku felt sweat bead at the back of his neck at the very thought. That was the sort of thing that usually ended with the undercover agent at the bottom of a river in a pair of concrete shoes, and Izuku wasn't keen to try out a long swim.
"Can you give us a few minutes to talk it over?" Usami asked, when nobody replied to Nash's question. Nash shrugged.
"Sure," he said, seemingly unbothered, and wandered over to the window. Usami, Bennet and Oyama moved over to Izuku, huddling close together and lowering their voices. Nash started to whistle to himself- Izuku couldn't tell if he was being intentionally obnoxious or not.
"Do we really wanna do this?" Oyama whispered, "I thought we'd be out on the streets, not working with a bunch of criminals."
"I know," Usami agreed, "But we need this. Nash is right, if we just leave this Overhaul could end up working with anyone. We need some of the Trigger so that we can know how to deal with it, and we're the only ones who can do this."
"We don't know we're the only ones," Bennet said, although she didn't sound certain. Usami frowned for a moment but his expression quickly smoothed out, back into the almost paternal look that he normally wore.
"We're the first ones he came to, then," he argued, "And if we want to be respected, if we want to be a real part of what's going to come, we need to do some of the grunt work. I know I'm in. You've all trusted me to go this far- won't you trust me again?"
Izuku watched as Oyama scowled, Bennet biting her lip.
"I'll trust you," he said, so softly that it was almost a whisper, his voice trembling just a little. Nedzu sighed in his ear, almost dreamily.
"Ah, very artful. Pushing them the way you want them to go. Well done, Mr Midoriya."
Oyama clicked his tongue before nodding and Bennet gave Izuku a worried look before voicing soft agreement.
"Alright. We're with you."
Usami stood up, clearing his throat. Nash stopped his whistling and looked over, raising an eyebrow.
"So? You in?"
"We're in," Usami said, nodding firmly, and Nash grinned.
"Chitose told me you wouldn't let me down. So, I'll give you his contact information, and you can set it all up from there. You all good with that?"
Usami glanced at the rest of them before nodding, his jaw set resolutely.
"I'll have to be sure to contact Sir Nighteye myself," Nedzu idly commented, "Don't want him getting the wrong idea about you."
This was getting far too complicated for Izuku's liking, he thought. Maybe he should look into concealed weaponry in earnest- at least Hatsume was back.
Izuku started to regret his optimism the moment he stepped into the Support Lab. Mostly it was because something exploded the instant he stepped through the door, but also because Power Loader was currently slumped over a table, twitching faintly. Izuku gave him a worried look, but couldn't spare the time to take his attention away from Hatsume.
"Greeny!" Hatsume barked, "You're late!"
"Late?" he asked, shuffling around a table. Hatsume pointed at him.
"It's been like three days since we came back from internships," she explained, "I expected you in here right away!"
"Yeah, whatever. Anyway, now that you're here. The concussive shuriken you wanted."
"Yes?" Izuku asked. He glanced at Power Loader as he passed the man, just to make sure that the Hero wasn't bleeding out or anything, but he just seemed exhausted. Hatsume planted her fists on her hips and shook her head.
"They're not gonna work. Well, not like normal shuriken. Best I could do is impact explosive, but they could go off whenever."
Izuku grimaced at that. Yeah, he didn't exactly want a dozen concussion shuriken to go off in his pocket because someone got a lucky shot in. How had Bruce managed- oh. Right. Bruce's Batarangs had folded out before they'd become armed.
"Can we make them bigger? Have some kind of arming system in them?"
"Probably, yeah, but they'll be heavier. I don't get why you can't just use normal shuriken. That guy in your class has a rocket launcher on each arm, I don't see why shuriken are different."
"It's because they're only weapons," Power Loader said, his voice slightly muffled from his slumped position, "Bakugo's grenade gauntlets can be used to clear blockages, too."
Hatsume looked at Power Loader, blinking.
"Really? But he's, like…"
"Really," Power Loader said, sounding like he didn't want to continue the conversation. Hatsume shook her head.
"I mean, the gauntlets aren't great anyway. Too big, I could do better. But sure, we can do a sort of arming system. Accidentally pressing the button could still be a problem, right?"
Izuku shook his head.
"What about an in-flight arming system?" he proposed, "They arm after they've been in flight for five seconds, or however long."
"Yeah. Yeah, maybe. Anyway! I've gotten us some buyers for the Hatsume-Midoriya Adaptive Gel, they were pretty interested so that should go well. Get our names out there, you know? But you usually come here when you want something, Greeny, so spit it out."
Izuku nodded, gesturing broadly.
"Yes, I wanted a baton? Something I can hide away, for any time I need to look unarmed."
Hatsume snapped her fingers.
"Collapsible baton. Easy. How many?"
"Uh, three? Two to carry and one spare?"
Hatsume nodded enthusiastically, her goggles falling down- they were different to usual, he noticed. More advanced.
"Extra features- tasers? Flashbang tips? Sword conversion, grappling hook addition, anything like that?" Hatsume demanded. Izuku hastily shook his head, more than aware that if he left her too it he'd get something he could barely carry.
"No, no, just a normal baton."
"Boring! But alright," Hatsume said, turning away and rummaging through a pile of what looked like scrap, "I have something less boring for you!"
Izuku shuffled in place, eyeing Power Loader and wondering if he could take cover behind the man. Hatsume let out a cry of triumph and Izuku barely repressed his flinch reflex, limiting it to a single step back.
"I've been working on your plans for your guns," she continued, "And I'm pretty sure that I can have you a modular sniper built by next month. How did the guns work?"
"Oh," Izuku said, "Great. They worked great, really stood up to St- uh, field testing. They worked really well in field testing."
Hatsume stopped searching long enough to turn and eye Izuku with a very, very shrewd look. Izuku somehow managed not to shrivel under that gimlet stare. Bruce had given worse to Jason, he told himself, small comfort as that might be. Hatsume stood up from her rummaging and walked closer, her goggles zooming in almost automatically. Izuku noticed that she had a skeletal framework of a helmet in her hand but preferred to keep his eyes on her face.
"So you got into some trouble," Hatsume said, closing the distance and studying him as though checking for injuries, "But the guns worked?
Izuku nodded quickly.
"Yeah, they worked really well. You said something about a sniper rifle?"
Hatsume nodded sharply.
"Yeah. Yeah. You know how to shoot one of them?"
Well, Jason had. Izuku…would need training.
"I know the basics," he admitted, "But I'll need some changes to my helmet, I can't look down a scope with it on. It doesn't matter with my pistols, but it would with a rifle. Do you still have that- holographic sight drone? Could you adapt it to my helmet?"
Hatsume scratched her chin, still a little too close for Izuku's liking.
"Eh. Probably. I'll just build you a new one. You want it integrated into the helmet, or as an add-on?"
"Add-on, please. If that doesn't work as well as I hope, maybe we can build a modular helmet, so I can take the top half off to aim. But there was something else I want to ask you about?"
Hatsume tilted her head, the way her goggles magnified her eyes making her look far too knowing.
"Oh?" she said, a flicker of interest in her voice. Izuku swallowed, told himself that it was for the greater good.
"The guns worked well," he said, "But they didn't have the punch to stop- well, something with super-strength. I thinking I might need to…upgrade, in firepower."
Mei grinned, slow and broad, and Izuku's leg twitched as he suppressed his instinctive full-body shudder.
"Go on?" she said, leaning even closer. Izuku instinctively leaned back just a little.
"You- when I first got my prosthetic, you were talking about adding something to it. Something that had a bit more firepower. I don't think I want it in my prosthetic, but if you could build something modular that I can carry-"
Mei started to cackle, but Izuku manfully persevered, making it through his sentence to finish it.
"I'd like you to build me a grenade launcher."
Question for the chapter- which Batman villain would you compare All For One to? I'm thinking probably Ra'as al-Ghul, but the whole planning thing also feels like first appearance Bane to me. Really the Kamino arc was pretty good by All For One. If Bakugo was turned, great. If he wasn't, plan B was to kill All Might, breaking faith in the Hero system, and when that didn't work he damaged faith in Heroes anyway. Pretty well planned, imo.
Also- Trigger. Apart from the obvious question of how does it temporarily effect DNA that I doubt will ever be properly answered, I'm now wondering how it would affect Heroes. I mean some are easy, but take Mirio. Is he going to become extra invulnerable? Would he be able to phase items with him? What about Aizawa, would Erasure have a permanent effect on people? I mean I'm hoping the question never comes up, but it's an interesting thought exercise.
Unfortunately I can't be sure if there'll be an October update- I've got to get back to Empress, since it's been months since that updated. However, I'm definitely going to aim for an anniversary update on the 7th of November, so watch out for that. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed, reviews are appreciated and, as always, I'll see you in the next chapter.