A.N. (9/3/22) - Multiple perspectives in this chapter.
Chapter 37 - Let Panic Run Amok
To Kai Chisaki, otherwise known as Overhaul, the current situation was one that he found tiresome.
Due to a few important matters, he had been unable to lead his organization with the level of firm control that he desired over the past few days. His experiments based on the gathered materials that he acquired recently had led to him secluding himself in an isolated area outside the city to perform several tests that would have drawn attention had he conducted them in his usual room back at headquarters. As a consequence of this decision, it had taken him too long to discover what had happened back at the compound by the time he returned from his outing. His fury at learning of his subordinates' failures had reached a new peak, resulting in him taking the lives of several people until his emotions cooled.
Precisely because of these series of problems caused by their inadequacy, he was forced to come up with several countermeasures to distract the heroes while focussing his efforts on reclaiming his lost assets. Both the girl and the boy were integral to his current plans to restore power to the Shie Hassaikai. The longer they remained out of his grasp, the harder it would be to continue with his research.
The boy himself was an unexpected boon when Overhaul first learned about him. His quirk was something that was kept hidden from the general public, but he was made aware of the potential of his quirk when he negotiated business deals with one of his customers for his recent Trigger sales. Establishing a relationship with cultists and terrorists was not something he foresaw as something he would be doing, but the funds they provided in exchange for his services were greatly appreciated.
It was with their aid that he was able to accomplish his latest stunt. On the surface, the mist covering the city seemed harmless enough. But gradual exposure to the chemicals mixed into the air would lead to gradual changes in a person's quirk, causing them to lose control and act out. It was slightly different from Trigger since there wouldn't be an increase in quirk strength, but simply the inability to keep their abilities under control.
Of course, this wasn't the only thing he had done.
Two individuals arrived a few minutes later. They examined their surroundings for a moment and realized that he was the only one waiting for them. Sighing, he cleared his throat and spoke once it was apparent that they were waiting for him to respond.
"Did you complete your objective?"
"We attacked the prison while the heroes were busy raiding your old headquarters," Beros replied. "We managed to free dozens of villains and release them onto the streets. Serial killers, rapists, gangsters, anybody we could to cause chaos. None of them are aware of the fumes that will make them lose control of themselves, but this should allow you and your men to take care of things and help transport the rest of your products out of the city."
He detested the fact that he was forced to rely on common criminals to help aid him in his escape. But he had drawn too much attention from the heroes to continue his operations here. Later today, Humarise was going to claim credit for this incident. And with the attention gathered on them, he'll try to remain out of the limelight long enough to develop a more refined version of the serum that has been in the works since acquiring Eri.
At first, he thought that he managed to do so when he used some of the boy's blood to stabilize her quirk. But instead, the boy's quirk had mutated her own into something new. Testing and examining the resulting mixture had led to disastrous results when he forced several of his men to try it. It was basically a type of poison that killed whoever ingested the product. Utterly worthless and impractical considering the amount of time and effort it took to create it.
He left it alone back at the compound, but he cleared out everything else that was worthwhile to keep. Despite his early failures, his experiments with the boy's quirk had netted several benefits. Humarise's theory on his quirk holding the cure to the Paranormal Singularity Theory had not been unfounded. Using one of the drugs produced by Eri's quirk, he tested it on one of his henchmen and managed to destroy his quirk. Only for him to restore it using another drug produced by the samples gathered from the boy.
Not only had the quirk been restored, but he received feedback from the test subject that his quirk was working far better than it had previously. The drug created by the boy's blood did not merely act as an antidote to Eri's blood but managed to somehow improve his subordinate's quirk beyond anything he thought possible, even if he did suffer from a few side effects such as temporary auditory hallucinations for a while.
Unfortunately, the effect was only temporary until the same symptoms of the poison that he created before manifested. But if he could somehow perfect it, maybe it would help him enhance his quirk to aid him in further experiments. He still needed to find a way to improve the process of refining Eri's blood to create the quirk-destroying drugs, and having his quirk enhanced could mean the difference in months of research time.
"Regarding the other issue, how has your progress been on that front?"
"We managed to track down the people that helped your daughter and the boy escape." Beros held up a device showing a layout with two red dots in the middle. "It appears that it was some of our own men who helped aid those two in their escape. Measures have been taken so that they wouldn't be able to hide from us, and this will help lead you to them if you wish to reacquire the children. That is if they are still with them at this point."
"Hmph." Next to her, Sidero crossed his arms in displeasure. "Why are we even letting this guy know where they are? It's his fault that he screwed up and let the two brats escape. The two of us should retrieve them while the heroes are smacking around."
Sidero raised a brow at Overhaul's response. "Excuse me?"
"Both of you had your chances to take the boy in with disappointing results. If the heroes catch wind of your plans on capturing him again, they may try to hide him somewhere where nobody will be able to reach him again. Rather, I believe that it would be best if I took care of this myself."
"Now you listen here," Sidero began. He took a menacing step forward. "I don't think you understand what we're trying to tell you. Just because we're working together, that doesn't mean that you can just order us to do whatever you want. Our interests only align because we want the boy, and if you haven't insisted on keeping him under your watch to mess with his quirk, we would have already had him in Otheon by now."
"What do you want then?"
"You're the guy in charge of making more of that Trigger stuff we need. So just go back to your room and do your job while the big boys take care of things." Sidero took on a condescending look. "Besides, we're already planning to take the heat for this mess you caused. Do you think it's wise to annoy us when we're the ones who are going to take the blame for the chaos in the city? You wouldn't like it if we washed our hands of you guys instead, right?"
"Is that a threat?"
"You may own the muscle in this town, but we're the ones providing your funding. Have fun trying to escape with your organization intact if you don't help us."
Overhaul was silent for a moment. "Beros, do you agree with this man?"
"Not at all." From the tone of her voice, he believed her. "His words are as much of a surprise to me as they are to you. I'm wondering, Sidero, if these words are actually your own. You wouldn't happen to have received certain orders from someone else while I haven't been paying attention, have you?"
Sidero gave a smug grin. "Flect Turn isn't the only one in charge. Some of us are wondering why we have to reveal ourselves this early when the rest of the Trigger bombs haven't been developed yet. Bad enough that a few of our top scientists managed to run off to Japan of all places, but now some lowly criminal is telling us to clean up after their messes."
"And if I were to contact our leader and have him convince you otherwise?"
"Then I'd tell him to shove it. If he's too much of a pansy to tell me off in person, why should I bother to listen to him?"
The two of them glared at each other, and Overhaul was able to gain a hint at the inner dynamics of their organization. It seems that there was some internal conflict within their cult brewing under the surface.
"I see…" Overhaul's eyes narrowed. "Beros, do you still need his services? It seems that some of the fumes have gone to his head, causing some cognitive impairment in his mind. I doubt he'll be able to meaningfully contribute to our operations in his current state."
She quickly caught the hint. "It's too bad, but I must request that you help put him down. It wouldn't look good on us if he messes up again and lets himself get caught by the heroes."
"What are you two fools yammering on about?"
The sound of a sickening squelch rang through the air as a concrete pillar stabbed through Sidero. There was no time for him to react. Overhaul managed to use his quirk to attack him from his back, causing the pointed end of the pillar to erupt from his chest. Mouth gaping, his body slumped over several seconds later.
"This won't sour any relations with your people, will it?"
Beros rolled her eyes. "He died tragically for humanity's salvation fighting a hero stronger than him. That's the story I'll be telling them when I get back home."
"I'll be returning with the rest of the Trigger. You can handle capturing the children at your discretion. As long as you eventually deliver the boy to us, I don't care whether you take your time or not."
"Your goals align with our own. We will continue to support your efforts into creating a drug that erases people's quirks. While ideally, we would have the entirety of humanity be cured of this affliction, we wouldn't mind if you control the market and work with us to conduct mass forcible sterilization procedures instead. As long as those with more dangerous quirks are taken care of, humanity may live to see a brighter future."
He sneered at the hypocrisy of her words. She was under the belief that humanity was heading towards its doom due to the ever-growing destructive potential of new quirks, but was completely fine with the idea of letting a few keep theirs as long as it helped them better control others. The fact that the leader of their organization was someone with a quirk didn't help her argument, but why did that matter to him? It was his job to simply supply them with drugs, and Overhaul wasn't ashamed of taking advantage of their ideology to put himself in a favorable position in their organization. It was in their best interests that he was in their good books since he provided them with too many benefits to afford to lose.
"Fine by me." He grabbed the tracking device Beros handed over. "Then I believe that this is where we part ways. As for me, it seems that I have a disobedient daughter I have to discipline."
By the time the day was over, he was going to have the two children under his control once more.
A burst of wind exploded as All Might sent another punch forward, causing the area before him to clear up.
This wasn't the first time he had done so. For the past dozen minutes, he had been traveling to various parts of the city to help as much as possible. Blowing away the steam making people's quirks act up, saving people from car accidents and stampedes, subduing those who lost control of themselves without harming them, and sealing up any leaks where the gas was being outputted.
The entire city was in a panic. Nobody but the heroes knew what was going on, and not even All Might knew all of the answers. He figured that this had something to do with the Shie Hassaikai, but this latest stunt of theirs was too attention-grabbing compared to their previous actions.
Descending to the ground, he moved to hide behind a building before letting his smile fade away in exchange for a pained look. Like everybody else, he had also been affected by the gas during the initial outbreak of steam coming out of manhole covers and fire hydrants. It was hard to explain, but it felt like his entire body was rumbling uncomfortably. As if the energy contained inside of him was agitated, and it needed to be let loose. And considering what his quirk was capable of when used without regard for holding back, that was a terrifying thought.
For some reason though, he felt something within him trying to resist the effects of the gas. Every now and then, he noticed part of his body glow a dim golden hue followed by a sense of relief as he slightly recovered. It was only a temporary measure at best, but that allowed him to keep acting even as other heroes struggled to work around the effects of the gas.
His communicator activated as somebody spoke into his ear. "This is Ingenium speaking, requesting backup in the northern part of the city. Dozens of villains are attacking the plaza, and all of them have been affected by the gas. I'm trying to help the civilians flee, but somebody needs to take these guys out!"
He pressed a button. "This is All Might, I'm on my way."
This was no time to relax. He couldn't allow the people's faith in heroes to fall, and that meant that he needed to take action to solve the problem. The faster he subdued the villains, the more time he had to seal more leaks outputting the gas.
But right as he made to move, he felt something lurch in his stomach. An unknown instinct called out to him at that moment, and he realized that the faint golden hue helping him recover had flickered for a second before returning to normal.
He was overcome with a sense of foreboding as he departed to help Ingenium. Something was telling him that things were about to get worse soon. But until he cleaned up this mess, there was nothing he could do about it.
Eddie frowned as he took another look at the readings he was getting.
"Hm?" He pressed a few keys on the keyboard. "What's with this spike in activity? Something's happening, but what caused it?"
Eri was taking a nap at the moment. Several electrodes were stuck to her face as he monitored her physical state while the monitor next to him displayed data such as her blood pressure and body temperature. Occasionally, he noted down the rare instances where her body glowed a dim golden hue before fading away seconds later.
"It looks like the area is limited to the sections of her body that have been modified to accept Hatsu's quirk." He took a few seconds to conduct another scan. "Right, there it is. It appears that his quirk is active for some reason."
Pulling up the data he had on the boy's quirk, he ran a simulation to output a waveform of his energy readings to display a side-by-side comparison. The results showed near identical waveforms while confusing him to no end. It should have been impossible to have such similar readings with how dissimilar Eri was from Hatsu. Both the 'container' and the 'components' were too different to display the same results.
"Could it be something like a connection between the two individuals?"
He had heard theories of people who received organ transplants receiving memories or influences from the donor. With how little they knew about Hatsu's quirk, it wasn't outside the realm of possibility for there to be some unknown synchronization effect between those who were influenced by him.
Months of research into the boy's quirk couldn't tell him whether he was right or not. All he could conclude at the moment was that something was causing her quirk to act up, and the likely reason was because of something on Hatsu's end.
Footsteps echoed before the door slammed open. "⟨Bad news! We need to get out of here!⟩"
"⟨What?⟩" Eddie blinked in surprise. "⟨Why? What's going on Alan?⟩"
"⟨It's all over the news!⟩" Alan had a panicked look on his face. "⟨The city is covered in gas causing everyone to lose control of their quirks. You realize what this means, right?⟩"
He did, and his face paled in realization. "⟨You think it's them?⟩"
"⟨They're here. We have to leave the city before they find us.⟩"
"⟨A-Alright.⟩" He gestured towards Eri. "⟨B-But we can't just leave her here. We have to take her somewhere safe first.⟩"
Alan looked frustrated. "⟨Fine, we'll drop her off with the heroes before we go. Do you have the data needed to cure her ready?⟩"
"⟨Yes.⟩" Eddie grabbed a laptop and unplugged the cable attached to it. "⟨Everything important should be stored in here. I can pass this over to the heroes so they can get her to someone for help.⟩"
"⟨I'll prepare the car. You help the girl move in the meanwhile.⟩"
As he ran off, Eddie turned to look back at the sleeping form of Eri with a worried expression. He thought about his own kids, and how Eri looked to be the same ages as his youngest children. Even if he wanted to help her, there was little left he could do for her at this point. The best way he could assist her recovery was to send her to someone more qualified to help.
He prayed for her to find happiness before he started to pack up.
(Things have derailed beyond our expectations.)
(However, the first step is complete.)
(You finally acquired the refined sample.)
(Right now, it is merely an elixir of untapped potential.)
(Our goal is almost within sight, but you have to decide.)
(The situation outside is partially our fault.)
(I feel your guilt and know that you wish to help.)
(But know that there will be consequences.)
(Choosing to act will mean you will have to forfeit your plans.)
(Without the refined sample, defeating him will be much harder.)
(Thus, it is up to you to decide.)
(Craft the silver bullet to destroy the enemy.)
(Or give it all up to save a single girl.)
(No matter your choice, do not lose sight of yourself.)
(Heed my words of warning.)
(The end is near for you and me.)
The next second, my eyes opened and I made my decision.
"Really, there's no way this will turn out well." I sat up and gave out a heavy sigh. "Alright, random voice in my head. I don't know who you are, but I think you already know what my answer is going to be."
Maybe I knew it from the start. The moment I took her into my arms, I knew that I was going to protect Eri to the very end. Whatever complicated feelings I had about the matter, that was something I wasn't going to change my mind on.
Looking around, I realized that I was inside an ambulance again. The fact that I had been kidnapped the last time I was in one bothered me for a second, but I shook myself out of my thoughts and tried to take in the situation. The back doors were open, and I realized that I was still at the Shie Hassaikai compound. Somebody must have moved me here when they realized I was unconscious.
I didn't know how bad things were at the moment. For some reason, I was alone again even though I knew that Sir Nighteye or Eraserhead wanted me to remain within their sights. For some reason, I felt that something was wrong with my body. As if every cell inside of me was energized, almost as if they were on the brink of exploding. It took me a second, but I quickly realized what was going on.
It was the gas. There was no other explanation as to why my quirk was acting up. Something about it was causing a reaction to activate the energy contained within my body.
Stepping outside the ambulance, I immediately encountered somebody I knew.
"Hatsu?" Shinsou stared at me. "You're alright!"
I blinked. "Were you keeping watch over me?"
"Yeah." He nodded. "I was one of the rare few who haven't been hit by the gas. Everybody else is having trouble trying to get their quirks back under control." His face fell. "Some of them are really bad. A few of them are in loads of pain from not being able to turn their quirks off. Eraserhead told me to keep an eye on you before he went off trying to help others deactivate their quirks."
I understood why that would be a problem. Using a quirk was similar to using your muscles, where overuse could lead to damaging them. I didn't know how many heroes were hit during the first attack, but I knew that Eraserhead and Sir Nighteye were definitely affected. For a moment, I worried about them before I realized that there was nothing I could do.
"Do you have my stuff?"
Shinsou gestured to my left, where the case with the samples I acquired earlier remained. I quickly picked it up and contemplated my next move. Assuming the other heroes were busy with whatever this whole mess is about, I doubt that Eri was a big priority at the moment. The whole point behind me coming here was to find something that could help her recover. Now that I completed my objective, there was only one thing I had left to do.
"Hey, are you busy?"
"No?" Shinsou gave me a wary look. "Why? Are you planning on doing something stupid?"
"That's on par with my usual decisions." I gestured toward the ambulance. "But this is different. There's a young girl who is in trouble, and I have something that might be able to help her. Everyone else is busy with the current situation, so I'm thinking of delivering the materials myself. I could use someone to back me up in case something bad happens."
"The Shie Hassaikai are after her," I replied. "And they'll do anything to get her back into their hands. But so far, I don't think they know where she is at the moment. I can call the guys hiding her and have them try to do something to help her recover."
"I'm supposed to watch you until the heroes return…"
"Please, this is important."
He was silent for a moment. But even if he tried to stop me, I knew that I would have tried to go off without him anyway. Some instinct of mine was telling me that I had to go to where Eri was. It was almost like a premonition, and I wondered for a moment if this had something to do with my quirk.
"Alright." Shinsou nodded. "You're planning on driving, right? Guess you won't listen if I tell you that we're gonna get into so much trouble for stealing an ambulance."
"Hopefully, the heroes have bigger things to worry about."
Both of them set off together, moving to the front of the vehicle before I messed around with the steering column. Shinsou didn't even bother asking how I knew how to hotwire a car, and the engine started a moment later.
"Alright, buckle up."
The next second, the ambulance drove away with nobody around to stop them.
In exchange for school taking up more of my time than usual, I present to you this slightly longer chapter. The next one will probably come out in about a week or so since I only have time to work on this during the weekends now.
I'm planning on finishing this soon in a couple of chapters. For those of you who've figured it out by now, expect the big moment to come somewhere near the Chapter 40 mark. That's my goal for the finale of this story arc.