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wondering when i'm coming back

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The sight of an android at the front desk to your agency the following Monday is not a pleasant one; your gut sinks at the implications, and you approach the machine warily in the otherwise empty lobby.

“Okay. Where’s Akumaru.”

“Akumaru is experiencing morning sickness, and is therefore unable to attend work today. I am covering her duties until she is due to return, at which point in time I will resign from this position and resume my duties in the main office.”

“Duties in the-- oh no.” You groan and rush to the elevator, pacing anxiously as you wait for the lift to arrive and take you up to work. You do your best to mentally prepare yourself for the sight that’s bound to greet you, but a simmering disappointment and anger prevent you from being able to reason with yourself, until you take a deep breath.

Remember, don’t feel anything. It’s too much of a distraction. It interferes with your own work. Leave the feelings to others.

It’s difficult to remain stoic once the elevator doors open, and you are greeted by exactly what you had feared, but you manage to numb your emotions to the point of completely lacking any reaction at all. So moving forwards, you maneuver through several androids, each acting out a different duty normally assigned to your coworkers, from brewing tea, to sorting papers, to cleaning workstations. This doesn’t leave your acquaintances without work, of course; being a hero agency, there’s always phone calls to take and orders to give and reports to write, but there’s more hustle and bustle with the new workforce in action.

At the other end of the office, The Boss, Ayane, and Ichiro stand, gazing upon the new workforce with beaming expressions. Upon spotting you, however, Ichiro rushes up to you excitedly, gesturing grandly to the office now behind you.

“Well? What do you think? Like a well oiled machine.”

“Ichiro has informed us,” The Boss explains, “he would like to further perfect his creations before they’re officially ready for field use, so for now, they’re serving their purpose and proving themselves here in the office with more menial tasks. I must say, we haven’t been this efficient since the Khaos Crisis. Not a single call has gone unanswered, and heroes are working nonstop to keep people safe, now that they consistently have clear directions on where they ought to next focus their efforts.”

You quirk an eyebrow, and look around once again. “Is that so?” It certainly hadn’t been the outcome you’d expected, nor had you expected Ichiro to find a compromise in your current distrust of the robots while still utilizing them with their current capabilities, but it wasn’t an unwelcome one, now that you better understood the details of their usage. You then turn your attention back to Ichiro. “Well then, what are your future plans?”

Definitely a lot more training with the hero bots, as well as tweaking their thought processes to fall more in line with traditional hero rationality. I’m not sure when I’ll be fully confident in a public release, but I want to hurry as quickly as possible. Heroes keep people safe, but heroes can’t always keep each other safe, you know? Easing the burden on both sides of the coin, civilian and hero, will be paramount to bringing about a brighter and more peaceful future.”

Impressed by Ichiro’s mature train of thought, you smile and ruffle his hair. “I like that plan,” you concede.

“Well!” Ayane claps her hands together briskly. “We’ve still got our own purposes to serve! I’m getting back to work; I’m helping Ichiro make android chassisies alongside my regular armor load, so there’s no time to lose!”

“And I need to report about the bot’s progress to the government. They’ve taken quite an interest in Ichiro’s Quirk and plans since the kidnapping event a week ago. They’ll absolutely love to hear about this.”

Ayane and The Boss parted with a bow, each heading to their respective destinations. Before you could leave to head to your own office, a hand grabbed at your wrist, halting your progress.

“Ah, Comet? Could I have a moment to speak with you alone?” Ichiro blinked up at you kindly.

“Uh, sure, come into my office with me.”

Once you’re within the safe confines of your office, door closed and Ichiro seated, you head to the other side of your desk, taking your own seat as you wait for Ichiro to speak his mind. “So, what’s up?”

“Well, in order to further train my bots, of course I need blood samples of various Quirks, in corder to give them the power to actually perform the duties of a hero. The only problem is… well, Modi-Mutation has been spreading… well, rumors.”

You nod, and gesture for him to continue.

“So, understandably, the heroes of this agency are… reluctant… to lend their power They tell me they’ll think about it, but until I get a blood sample, I can’t train my bots. You were there with me out on the field, you saw their potential! You-- could you-- would you mind donating another blood sample? Without Quirk power, I can’t work on making the androids better in a controlled environment, one that won’t introduce any unplanned contingencies--”

You cut off the boy with a clearing of your throat, clasping your hands together before you. The eager anticipation in his eyes tugs terribly at your heartstrings, but you once again take on a persona of indifference. The idea of a future where human heroes are rendered obsolete once again seizes your mind, along with Endeavor’s cold advice. Not to mention, the unpredictable way in which Ichiro’s creations behaved when given that kind of power. While his logic was sound, you knew the potential danger of it all, and it was part selfishness and part mere conscience that lead you to your reply.

“Ichiro, I understand where you’re coming from, and you’re right. I was there with you that day.” You sigh, and pinch the bridge of your nose, the one thing you were truly dreading finally becoming relevant once again. “But I also saw their potential to go rogue, their determination and willpower a catalyst to sheer deviation from the rules and laws we have in place, in order to do what they think is right, but in reality causes more problems. I support the pursuit of science and discovery, please don’t misunderstand me, it’s just… I can’t have my Quirk associated with these machines until they’re stable and sound.”

“Wh-- C-Comet, I’m on the verge-- I’m so close , I just need one Quirk to work with, just one! The bot would never leave the training arena until--”

“Ichiro, until I can place my faith entirely in your creations, I can’t take the risk of being the catalyst that creates a rogue machine that really hurts someone. I need you to stop and think about the long term repercussions about what would happen if one of your bots incorrectly assessed a situation and then someone’s blood is on your hands.”

“You’re being dramatic!” the boy cried out. “Sure, they’re flawed, but they’re not murderers, Comet!”

“But how long until they think a fellow hero is more threat than ally and someone gets hurt?!”

“Comet, that won’t--”

“Ichiro, I’m sorry.” You let finalization drip into your voice. “I can’t be a part of this.”

But Ichiro is far from finished. “The-- the benefits far outweigh the risks, I-- think of all the lives we could prevent from being put in danger to begin with--”

“And sacrificing the souls of your androids? Ichiro, they may not be human, but by applying the rules of logic, by definition, they’re alive and sapient .”

“Of course I know that! Don’t you think I would know my own creations? Please, understand that I know exactly what I’m doing-- they know what they’re doing, what they’re meant to do--”

None of us know what we’re meant to do!”

Finally, silence falls. You didn’t realize you had risen from your seat until you felt yourself lowering back down. Ichiro stared, equal parts glaring and submissive.

“Ichiro… it’s not our place… to determine what others should do with themselves. I’m not telling you to stop making your androids. I’m not telling you that it’s wrong. But with the combination of a machine that cannot feel pain, and doesn’t understand emotion, and you give that machine a soul… the line between where we stand between us and them is blurred. We can’t treat them as, as things, or product.”

“That isn’t my intention.”

“But that’s the example you are setting.”

Ichiro motions to speak, but falls short. You lean forward purposefully.

“Ichiro. If you’re going to be a leader… if you’re going to play a deity’s game… you have to be conscious of what sort of message you’re conveying with how you treat the things you make, physical or otherwise. With a Quirk and an intention like yours… people will follow your example. They are your creations, and the rest of the world will follow suit. Which is why I have to set an example of my own, by refusing you. Do you understand?”

Ichiro deflates across from you. Just as he opens his mouth to reply, the emergency phone to your right begins to ring. There’s never a moment to lose; you pick up the device, answering immediately.

“Shooting Star Heroine Comet, location and nature of emergency.”

“Ah-- W-We’re in Chuo-ku Ward! I-It’s a terrorist attack! T-There are three villains I can count leading the fray, um, they keep saying-- they’re calling for the release of all incarcerated villains in Chiba or-- or they-- we-we’re at the National History Museum--!”

“Sir, take a deep breath. Is there anything else you think I should know before I come to you?”

“One of them has some sort of paralysis Quirk, and one has a Quirk that raises a forcefield. I-- I don’t know about the third one. They’re threatening to destroy the entire ward!”

Though a surge of panic threatens to rush through you, you swallow the emotion back down. “That won’t happen. I’ll be there shortly.” You hang up the phone and stand, shuffling on your coat. “Ichiro, I have to go. There’s a terrorist attack in Chuo-ku Ward.”

When the boy is silent in response to your explanation, you stop briefly to address him just one more time.

“Ichiro… the future is brighter with you in it. But you’re also treading a path no one has taken before. You need to think twice as hard about everything you’re going to do. Even if you are deathly sure of what you need to do, doubt it. See it through another set of eyes. You’re going to change the world . Please… if you’re going to leave a legacy behind, don’t make hasty decisions you’ll regret.”

Ichiro still does not look back to you. With a final sigh, you close the door to your office, leaving the boy with your plea in the darkness.

 


 

“Do we have any eyes inside the building, home base?”

“Not inside, but you should be able to rendezvous with Radar on top of the museum. He’s been scouring the interior for details on the situation. I’ll have his agency inform him you’re coming.”

Ah, good old Radar. You nod to the coworker on the other end of your comms, even though he can’t see the action, and you alter your flight course to meet him there. He’s not the only hero present, and you land alongside him, as well as Tengu and a third hero you do not recognize.

“Ah, here’s our Shooting Star,” Tengu beams, eyes crinkling in his smile at the sight of you. “Radar, if you would care to fill her in on what we know so far?”

“Right. Three main villains, accompanied by some lesser Quirk grunts, four of them. Eleven hostages, youngest being six, oldest being seventy five. One is wheelchair bound. Tengu can shuffle out most of the hostages if we provide a distraction, but it will be up to you, me, and Psionic Entropy to handle the villains.”

“I can project into the fourth dimension and disrupt the enemy’s organization,” the third member explained. He was already in a seated position of which he could begin to meditate, which was what likely enabled him to use his powers. “There is a skylight to the right of us through which you can enter the building, but from then it’s a gamble of how long I’ll be able to keep the villains occupied for you to retrieve the hostages.”

“We won’t delay,” you assure him. “Are any of them armed? Guns, swords, anything with immediate lethal capacity?”

“Unfortunately, my Quirk won’t let me determine that much about a person,” Radar lamented. “And the only area where we could get a direct view into the building would give away that we are here.”

“Then I should be the first in,” you reply, “since I have a shield I can utilize as defense. I can help Psionic Entropy with handling the villains, while you and Tengu retrieve the hostages.”

Tengu jumps in to the plan. “We’ll want to land between the hostages and the villains, if possible, or at least get between them as soon as we can. That way, we can defend them from attack should the villains decide to get trigger-happy. But Comet, are you sure you want to go first? My wings may not be bulletproof, but I can provide a wider range of cover while you and the others handle the hostages.”

“No, my Quirk is more fitted for defending you all. I can stun them upon our initial entry, then provide as much cover as possible for a hasty retreat.”

At this point, Psionic Entropy raised his hand for silence. “This is all fine and well, but there is the issue of not knowing the Quirk of the third main villain. This could quickly bring our plans to a gruesome halt. We understand one has either a paralysis Quirk, while the other can create a shield of his own. Therefore, I believe it will be our second most priority to eliminate the third villain before he has a chance to utilize his Quirk in any capacity. I’ll do my best to make that my goal once the hostages have been escorted to safety, but everyone will need to act quickly.”

The remaining three of you nod in agreement before standing, leaving Psionic Entropy to prepare.

“Then the plan’s made,” Radar responded. “Comet, we’ll follow your lead.”

With a final nod, you do as Radar states, forging the way ahead to the skylight to the right. The mechanism keeping it locked is electronic, but fortunately, Radar possesses just the tools to handle the situation without setting off any alarms. You and Tengu open the hatch together, ears keen for any telltale squeaking that could give away your position, and acting accordingly to each to make the process as smooth as possible. Due to Tengu’s wingspan, the process takes longer than it would have if it had just been you and Radar’s more streamlined human forms, but soon enough the way is opened for the three of you. From your current position, the villains and their hostages are off to your left, in the centermost room of the building; a direct drop in is not feasible. However, directly beneath you, a flaming figure begins to take shape, and you recognize it as Psionic Entropy’s avatar. The faceless being looks up at you to nod once briefly, before darting into the next room, which you take as your cue to enter as well. One by one, first you, then Tengu, then Radar drop down, and you yourself hasten you entry through the power of your Quirk.

There’s only a brief moment for you to assess the situation; the villains are to your left, the civilians to your right. Psionic Entropy has just made his entry, but one of the villains has already spotted you. There are other figures, just as Radar had warned, but there’s no time to evaluate their threat level. You and Tengu rush to the huddled hostages together, with you throwing up an ice barrier between them and the villains, and Tengu spreading out his wings to cover what space you cannot.

“Alright, party’s over, kids,” Tengu urged hastily, though attempting to keep the tone light with some minor playfulness, “let’s get you all home before your parents find out what you’ve gotten yourselves into.”

Just as Tengu gets everyone to start moving, the responding attacks to your shield begin; while the villains have thrown up their own barrier, Psionic Entropy is still within its barriers, but the villain’s hired goons are attempting to regain control of the situation. Two of the grunts move to block the door through which the civilians and Tengu were attempting to escape, and the other two are charging into your barrier, whittling it down. Radar steps in to help Tengu with the goons at the door, but that leaves you on your own.

I can manage , you tell yourself matter-of-factly, focusing on your energy and the situation at hand, instead of the trepidation and doubt threatening to overcome you. You take a deep breath, before pushing the power of your Quirk outwards. The blast sends them stumbling, but the next time you attempt it, they are sprawling across the tile floor, heads hitting against the barrier the main three villains have set up. Above them is the third villain, whose Quirk is unknown, but he makes eye contact with you, brilliant violet and crimson sending chills down your spine. He wears a mask over his mouth and utters not a word, but grunts down at the goons, before returning his attention to battling Psionic Entropy alongside his companions. It’s clear the hero is beginning to lose the battle, the flames of his avatar diminishing, but he’s accomplishing his task in keeping them distracted while you hurry the hostages to safety.

Speaking of which, Radar has managed to incapacitate one goon, while Tengu tangles with another, and the civilians take this opportunity to begin filing out the main doors. However, one of the goons, an androgynous figure with flaps of skin akin to a wingsuit, begins to widen her entire form, attempting to encase some of the fleeing hostages. You break your shield to fire a cosmic blast to stop her, and Radar in turn moves to tackle her. However, with your defenses down, a bullet pierces your right shoulder before you can stop the fourth goon, and your emotions leak through, like someone is squeezing a bag of water with a hole in it.

Oh God, I’m afraid, I’ve been struck, I’m failing-- they’re looking at me, they see me injured, I’m weak, I’m failing-- they need me to be strong, I can’t let them know I’m hurt--

And just as quickly as it had seeped through, you suck it back up, and grab the offending goon by the arm, twisting his wrist and causing him to drop his gun.

No emotion .

You spin him around with the strength of your Quirk, and send him flying into the winged goon, and the two crash into a wall. Radar swoops in to finish the job with the one who had shot you, and Tengu finishes with the final one.

Then, behind you, there’s the sound of a cry of pain-- and when you turn around to look, Psionic Entropy’s avatar fades away, and the shield around the villains drops as they prepare to make a hasty escape.

“Guys, the terrorists!” you cry out, and Tengu rushes past you in a flurry of wind and feathers, but is halted by a force field erected in his way. You and Radar hurry on, and Tengu rejoins the chase once regaining his senses.

The third villain, whose Quirk is still as of yet unknown, glances over his shoulder, mask still over his mouth. Once he and his accomplices are around the corner, his eyes crinkle in a smile, and he snaps his fingers. Instantly, the supports and ceiling above you crack and shatter, and only Radar manages to jump through, while you hastily through up a barrier and pull in Tengu close, defending him from the collapsing roof. The entire center area of the museum crumbles around you, but as the weight begins to grow, Tengu pulls you close to him with a feathered hand around your waist.

“Can you widen the barrier for my wings? I’ll get us out of here!” he promises, amber eyes shining with purpose in the blue light of your Quirk. Wordlessly, you comply, spreading your arms to extend the shield above you, until Tengu can spread his wings to their full length. With a brief crouch and a leap, Tengu pulls you up into the sky, your shield sloughing off the falling roof as the two of you rise. Glass shatters around you as you burst through the final barrier, and for a moment, you are blinded by the sun. But in the same moment, a dark shadow soars past, cape fluttering wildly behind them as they hurry in the direction Radar and the other villains had gone.

“All Might?!” Tengu exclaims at the sight, his bird eyes seeing the shape immediately for what it was. “Well… I guess a collapsing building will bring the big guns running, huh?” He looks over at you and smirks and shrugs, flying in place while still holding you firm against his side. “Let’s get down there and see if we can’t finish this, right?”

“Right.” You allow Tengu to take the both of you back down to the fight, saving the energy of your Quirk. Radar, All Might, and Psionic Entropy have all gathered together, and the Number One Hero lurches for the group, but is stopped by the forcefield of one of the villains. When he tries to break through and the barrier holds firm, another reaches out and casually reaches for All Might, but he spots this, and leaps back and away before he can be touched.

“Careful!” Psionic Entropy warned. “That one has some sort of paralysis Quirk. You’ll be frozen in place!”

“You saw what we did to the museum!” the villain in question barked out, pointing to the heavily damaged building behind them. “Let our people go free from your damn prison, or we’ll do far worse!”

In warning, the third villain raised his hand, fingers prepped to snap yet again. All heroes froze in place at the motion, assessing what could possibly be done about it, if anything at all. All Might, in particular, grit his teeth, clenching his fists at his sides.

And, for that one moment, everything stops. But it is just one moment.

 In what appears to be a split-second decision, without any prior thought, Psionic Entropy closes his eyes, and a blast of fire rocks the interior of the force field, which promptly breaks apart, and sends the villains within flying out. There’s no time to plot a course of action in the chaos; time seems to slow as you observe all of the figures around you; the villains, flying through the air, All Might, already jumping to action towards the snapping villain, Psionic Entropy collapsing to the ground from exertion, Tengu throwing a wing in front of you to protect you from the oncoming rubble, and Radar rushing to catch the force field villain. And so, two of the villains are caught; Radar pins one to the ground, and All Might catches the other by the wrist, holding his hands tightly to prevent him from doing anything.

When Tengu’s wing retracts, the third villain-- the one with the paralysis Quirk-- is not in front of you. You turn to Radar, but in passing your sight over the Symbol of Peace, you see him. A hand on the hero’s shoulder, and the villain then reaching up and tearing the mask off of his companion’s face. All Might is not frozen, but his movements are dramatically slowed, and the panic in his eyes is palpable as the prisoner in his arms smiles, and then opens his mouth…

And shrieks.

The world explodes.