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Zero Ignition

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A buzz of their cell phone signals the beginning of a new day. They pocket it and look down on the glittering scape of Academy City. Hundreds of metres below them, the movement of people rushing home to catch some sleep before the dawn of a new day are mere tiny dots on a piece of paper. Above them, the dark of the night sky is almost invisible, almost as if it were set ablaze by the world under it. A deep sigh escapes their mouth.

“I must do this,” they mutter. “I must do this,” they repeat, slightly louder, and step off the building they stood on. The wind rushes past them, sending long locks of white hair into a frenzy. Bouts of heat and cold air mix and only seconds later, they land softly on their feet.

“Hi there, Accelerator. How are you doing?” they smile up in the face of the first ranked Level 5. “It’s kind of chilly tonight, don’t you think?”

“You’re wearing too little, blame yourself,” Accelerator retorts. After a blink, his red eyes seem to glow in the unlit alley. “Don’t tell me, you’re replacing those things today?”

“No.”

“Well, fuck that.”

Accelerator clicks his tongue and sets off down the alley. His steps are steady, even before the person behind pulls out their phone and turns on the flashlight. They soon take off in a run after Accelerator, slowing down to match his steps when they catch up to him.

“You don’t have to do this.”

“You say that every time.”

“I do,” they say agreeably. “Also, that’s dog shit you’re about to step on. Does your Reflection work against that too?”

Accelerator does a half skip at the last moment, over the excrement and answers, “Maybe.”

“Maybe,” they repeat in a scoffing tone. The excrement bursts into flame that withers into nothing but a burn mark on the concrete. “Yeah right.”

Their footsteps echo against the walls of the alley. After a set of complicated twists and turns, they finally slow to a stop.

A perfect copy of the third ranked Level 5 stands at the end of the alley, pulling down her goggles, “It is now 00:06. The 10003th experiment will now begin—”

It takes all of five minutes before the clone’s body is packed away in a bag and the blood is clean from the walls and the other clones disappear into the dark. Accelerator walks away and they follow.

“You didn’t have to do that,” they say, a sad tone seeping through the carefully controlled flat voice.

Accelerator hums, “You could’ve stopped me.”

“Perhaps,” they say noncommittally.

“Perhaps my ass, you could’ve done it without trying. You always—”

“I know, but my role—”

“Is simply an observer.”

When they finally walk out onto the main streets again, the person stops behind Accelerator and spins a strand of white hair around their finger, “That’s right. I’ll see you at the next experiment.”

Turning opposite ways, they leave behind the nightmarish experiment sites and head for the comforts of their homes. Yet, both well know that there is no comfort to be found in what they call home.