It was all finally coming together.
After years of planning, years of selling his soul, it was ready. There was almost nothing left of the boy that had started out on this journey. Only seventeen years old and he could already pass for a much older man. Using this specific power tended to drain the user of vitality, of mortality. He’d most likely die young, but he was certain he wouldn’t be going alone.
He smiled wickedly at the thought.
Running a hand through his hair, the boy did a manual check of every system. Security and data-logging took up most of the RAM his towers could handle, but they would be the most useful when the show began. Even though it was beginning to become evident that the hero was getting weaker with each passing month since the battle so long ago, there was a slight margin for failure. The boy muttered to himself, time passing quickly as each level of the building was swept through by teams of bots that he had programmed himself to take care of anything he could think of.
He was alone, of course. Ever since the old man had taken ill right after that same fateful battle, the boy had been left to his own devious devices. Every now and then he would receive a comm from the old man, with the same veiled threats and shadowy praises the boy had become used to, had become groomed to adore when given. It was all a show, the boy had decided. Everyone was an actor, but he had managed to get a backstage glimpse. Behind the curtains and the lights and the beautifully orchestrated maneuvers played out by heroes, they had brilliantly convinced the whole world that their play was reality. Once the old man had brought the boy behind the scenes, the boy had never quite felt an attachment to what he used to be. He shook himself of the memories that came with that particular thought.
With a final flourish across the keyboard, the systematic check was complete. Every area was green and ready for action. The stagehands were primed, the costumes were meticulously crafted, and of course, the stage manager was ready as ever.
Midoriya Izuku grinned and flipped the switch.
This was the best night of Izuku’s life.
The show had gone off with a bang, bringing down every asset to that wretch he had planned for. Over the past few hours, he had watched from his room every movement. From the police allies, to his own friends and family, each member of All Might’s inner circle was taken down. Six screens took up the whole wall, showing each beautiful, horrid detail of how Izuku’s bots were so talented. There was no sound coming, but the room was filled with the scratching of a pencil taking down meticulous notes as each fight continued on.
Unfortunately, his bots proved too successful. Each fight lasted no more than twenty minutes, which would hardly make any sense for an intermission to be had. It was a horrible show. Izuku grimaced as yet another ally was taken down as easily as he brought another handful of popcorn to his face. All Might should consider getting stronger friends…
And then it happened. A flash of gold and blue lit up the screen at the school. Izuku rolled his eyes at the hero’s predictability. Children were considered such commodities, especially super ones. Sending as many bots as he had to the school had been maybe slightly overkill, but he was a sucker for spectacle. And it had been glorious to see so many of his would-be peers get shattered so easily. He quietly considered if he would have been friends with any of these faces had he just been given what he wanted.
The flash happened again, farther away now on the screen. It took about five minutes for the bots at the school to be somewhat incapacitated. They worked a little, of course, but the fool didn’t have the brains to understand those mechanics. Izuku sighed as another wave of ice encased some of his precious bots. Taking furious notes, he decided that next time he’d have to implement some kind of heating element to prevent this kind of tampering.
Finally, the screen flashed again and there he was. The big guy himself. All Might’s face took up most of the screen as he lowered himself to the cambot that Izuku had sent to each site of battle. He looked...Angry? Frustrated? It was a look that Izuku hadn’t seen in a very long time on any feeds or photos. Was the Symbol of Peace so shaken after a few small bot attacks?
The hero looked like he was talking at the screen and Izuku shook his head. Flexing his fingers, he quickly typed out the message that he’d planned would result in the biggest finale he could have hoped for.
All Might. 510 Broad Street, Floor 16. Your friend, Deku.
The message went through and he saw All Might pause to read it. Then he drew back his fist and the feed went dead.
Izuku leaned back in his chair, his fingertips pressed together in front of his face. There was no longer a chance to back out. All that pain the old man had made him go through was all for this shot. His body was about completely broken, but Izuku knew it would hold up for this. It would have to. All of this had led to this one moment.
All for One.
All Might trudged up the final flight of stairs. Fifteen floors. Fifteen floors of traps and more of those damn bots. He had been able to phase out a little on his way over to 510 Broad Street, but it had taken him almost thirty minutes to make it to the sixteenth floor. His side burned.
He pulled open the sixteenth floor entrance and raised his arms up, preparing himself for any kind of explosion or gas or bullets to come at him. Instead, it was quiet. He heard something humming, machine-like. He lowered his arms. The entire floor was open, with columns sticking out severals yards apart from each other. Against the back wall was a mess of cables and screens stacked onto each other. An empty chair placed before them, slowly spinning.
“Where are you?”
Izuku was hidden behind a secret mirror on his desk. Magicians used this same trick to make audiences believe objects could fly. It was uncomfortable and hot, but an artist must make sacrifices for the sake of the performance. He had so many tricks set up in this room that he had been saving for years. Thousands of times he had had the old man watch and critique. He had bared his entire soul to him in exchange for this opportunity. It had almost been a full year since the old man had given him the role of a lifetime. Even the man before him hadn’t had enough strength to inherit the impossible talent. No, that idiot had wasted his efforts on an ensemble with no chemistry. One poor casting choice, and the old man had almost perished. Thank goodness Izuku was an excellent understudy. So good and so prepared that he had managed to become a man that rivaled his own former hero. Izuku was more than All Might could ever be, would ever be.
All Might cautiously made his way in. The chair was still spinning, and he had to keep himself from gagging at the sickly sweet smell of rot that permeated throughout. Something had gone bad in here.
Izuku was barely holding onto his patience. If the fool stepped just another foot to the right, he’d set off such a fun little trick that would, possibly, send his head rolling. Although his reflexes might keep him from fully being decapitated. Then again if Izuku managed to fix the timing code on his tablet, then he’d be able to have a little more fun. Oh! But what if he’s already accounting for something like that to happen? Heroes on edge tend to react faster and with more aggression. Yes, if he started to fiddle with this program--
All Might paused.
Was I muttering again? Could he have heard me from behind all this insolation? Has anyone ever documented All Might’s auditory processing capability? He couldn’t have heard that. He must have heard a toy going off on another floor. Maybe it was a hard drive whirring. There is that one bot that--
A fist smashed through right next to Izuku’s head. Grabbing onto his hoodie, All Might lifted the boy with the same feeling as if he had found a rat.
All Might felt his anger melt into confusion when he realized who he had caught. A boy?
Without a word, the boy reached up and All Might was suddenly thrown across the room by a gust of wind. He tried to bounce back up, but he could already feel the heat of power being lost.
“Do you remember me?”
The voice that came from the boy made him recoil. It was young and sickly, like a child who had screamed himself hoarse. All Might struggled to stand up. His whole left side was now on fire, and he could feel himself growing weaker, growing smaller. He barely could focus on the boy’s face as he finally managed to find his footing.
Izuku grew annoyed at the hero’s sluggish pace. He rose to meet the hero’s face, standing on nothing but air. When a look of confusion still crossed the hero’s face, he sighed. With a roll of the neck, Izuku forced the hateful little growths he was blessed with to grow through his hoodie. Slowly, painfully leisurely, the hero began to realize. He studied All Might’s face as he started to connect each powerful little dot Izuku had revealed.
“Did you hear me? I said, do you remember me, All Might?”
Izuku cocked his head to the side, smiling at the hero’s growing horror.
“You’re...that boy. The one from that alley attack.”
Izuku grinned widely. “What else? What else do you remember about me?”
All Might took a step back.
“Do you remember what happened after that little incident? What you said to little Midoriya Izuku? What powerful words of encouragement you gave to a boy who needed his hero?”
Silence and memories fill the space between them.
“I asked if a Quirkless nobody like me could ever make it as a hero. I asked with every last bit of hope I still had at that point. For my entire life up to that point, I had only dreamed of becoming a hero, a hero like you.”
All Might grimaced.
“You answered me. You said in a small, pitiful, weak way that it was impossible. That i would be better suited finding a future in some other dream. Whether you did it out of exhaustion, out of frustration, or out of desperation to keep me from doing any more heroic acts, it worked. You handled me pretty easily.”
“I never meant it like that. I only meant--”
“What, All Might? Come on. Reveal your inner thoughts. Release that righteous monologue I’m sure you have ready. I’m dying to see this.”
All Might wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. He had fought plenty of villains over the years. He had talked down many would-be vigilantes from throwing their lives away on dangerous acts of heroism. The conversation this boy was talking about happened right around the time that he had had his fight with his most notorious adversary. He had been tired, he had felt drained and powerless. After dragging the boy and his friend from the clutches of a particular nasty character, All Might had been irritated with the boy. Pulling grown vigilantes from precarious situations was one thing, but a child thinking he could do the same? Had All Might been a little more patient, a little kinder, he would have applauded the boy for his bravery. He would have done everything he could have to make the boy feel like a true hero.
But that’s not how it happened.
“I hurt you, Midoriya Izuku.”
“Oh no, you do not have the honor of calling me that anymore, All Might . The name is Deku.”
The hero scoffed and Izuku’s eyes narrowed. He raised a hand to All Might and the hero once again flew across the room right into a steel beam. “I’m glad you can still find humor in this situation because what I’m about to tell you is downright hilarious.”
All Might raised his head.
“I can’t help but thank you for what you said to me. It started me down a precarious path at first, I’ll admit. Dropping out of high school, taking on any odd job a Quirkless nobody like me could manage to find. My own mother even kicked me out of the house when I was fifteen.
“You see, I started to make a name for myself, a stage name, if you will. Midoriya Izuku could never make it anywhere, but Deku started to make some interesting friends a few years ago. He made friends with someone so very special.”
All Might breathed in sharply.
“A shell of a man found me. He had already had his own encounter with you, twice in such a short amount of time. He told me his side of things. Told me about a certain failure of a boy without a soul who managed to do a lot of damage before he ultimately failed. I believe you knew him, actually. Had really good hand-eye coordination.
“I told him my story. I showed him my ideas. He said that I had a spark.” Izuku was smiling again. “It took him two months before I finally wore him down. He handed over everything so easily. It was such a shame I had to kill him. I never really saw myself assisting in any kind of direction.”
“Midoriya, my boy, please, just stop the attacks. I was wrong to treat you that way--”
“See? Now you respect me. Because I’m a threat.” Izuku laughed. “It’s my time to shine, All Might. It’s time for a new take on this world. A change of direction in how people view this scene.”
The boy snapped his fingers and dozens of bots came out of the pillars, from the walls. They quickly surrounded All Might, shrunken and shaking.
Izuku turned his back on the hero and walked to his desk.
He could feel the energy rising. With every breath, he knew he was finally settling into this role, after months of rehearsing. After years of longing. The anticipation of the audience was building. He could feel it in the heat of the night, could hear the symphonious sirens outside. A suitable orchestra that announced his entrance.
At his desk, Izuku typed out several commands. He ignored the quiet sobbing pleas from behind him. The screens flashed all at once and then they went blank. Midoriya Izuku waited patiently as his program made its way to every screen across the nation. Then there was a chord. Izuku hummed as the music began to swell. Opening night always had the best reactions. Usually. An actor could dream.
And then the screens flashed again. Lights up. Curtains up.
The time of this hero’s world was up.