Izuku walked into class the next morning with all the social media apps culled from his phone and belly full of dread.
As predicted, the room went silent as he slunk in trying to hide in Kacchan’s shadow.
Fortunately Aizawa-sensei dragged himself in shortly after Izuku did so no one had time to work up to any questions, which Izuku realized had been his teacher’s goal the whole time.
Izuku’s relief, however, was short-lived.
“Normally we’d be picking talking about the upcoming Sports Festival today, but since it’s suddenly relevant…” He announced once roll call and announcements were over, “...we’re going to be doing a special class on managing social media and the press as a public figure instead. Midnight is taking over.” He pulled his sleeping bag out of the podium and lurched into a corner. “Don’t wake me up unless something is on fire.” He told them before zipping in and immediately falling asleep.
It must have been a rough night on patrol. He seemed to actually be asleep rather than just faking it like he usually did.
Izuku couldn’t look at their sub when she strutted in and introduced herself. Normally he had a decent tolerance for people with their body parts on display, especially if they were like Midnight-sensei and actually pretty covered up, but he’d woken up to all his message accounts full to capacity that morning then he’d made the mistake of reading some of them.
Most, nearly all, were along the lines of ‘IS ALL MIGHT REALLY YOUR DAD?’ but some…
“All right, my darling youths, we’re gonna start by ripping off a bandaid. Going by all your gleaming little faces, I’m going to assume you’ve seen the video clip about your classmate that went viral last night and are full of questions. We are going to talk about that very briefly.” Midnight announced. “Afterwards, the subject is gonna be deader than dead. You get my drift?” Her megawatt smile got a little extra toothy. “I’m going to give Midoriya-kun the opportunity to answer some questions about what’s been happening since last night -if he wants to- because this is a valuable learning opportunity even if you don’t know it yet. If he doesn’t want to answer a question then the question doesn’t get answered and you all are going to find a way to be okay with that.”
She paused and looked over the classroom. “Real talk, kiddos: every single one of you is probably going to be the subject of a media frenzy one day. Almost every graduate of UA gets their fifteen minutes of either fame or infamy. It’s going to be hard and uncomfortable. You’re going to feel like you’re under a microscope. So keep that in mind when you formulate your questions.” She turned to Izuku. “Are you okay with answering questions?”
“Haaaa….” Izuku wheezed and looked around the classroom. They didn’t look mad or mean. He had experience with what that looked like. Well, Mineta looked kinda mad, but he had a weird feud going on with All Might so maybe he should have expected that. They just looked intensely curious except for Asui and Todoroki, who defaulted to chill even when the chips were down. “...I guess?”
“That’s great.” Midnight looked like she wanted to pet his head. “Tap out if you need to. I’ll start. Describe, in as much or as little detail as you like, your experience after that video clip went viral.”
“Um, I…” Izuku took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders, and told his anxiety to go sit in the corner the way he usually had to for meditation practice. “...it all happened really quick. I started getting messages from people I knew from middle school within a couple of hours. Someone told me to make all my social media accounts private, but I wasn’t fast enough and strangers -friends of friends, I guess- still got through the privacy algorithms.” He turned red and covered his face. “I, um, had to take nearly all the apps off my phone. Most of the messages were just people asking if I was me, but others…” He trailed off, sounding strangled. His nerves failed and he buried his head in his arms, trying to find the words.
“It was pictures of people’s junk.” Kacchan answered for him, still simmering with fury over it. They were some of the last messages he’d gotten. Miss liberty had figured out it was because around four AM that morning someone from his middle school gym class had shared a picture of him wiping his face with the hem of his shirt and apparently his stomach was exciting for some reason because his face was barely in it. “With a side of creepy offers to hook up.”
Midnight grimaced. “I’m sorry to hear that.” She said and turned to the class. “That’s the first thing you little ones need to know about the public. Nine tenths of your interactions will be normal and boring. That last tenth is where the freaks hide out. Normally you first years don’t have to worry about this kind of thing unless you catch a lot of attention during your first Sports Festival. Once you do start building a fandom and getting attention, you’re going to watch to start looking into a professional social media management service. They proof and post your statuses for you. That may sound like something you can handle yourself, my little kittens, but the real value is having someone else comb through your DMs to filter out unsolicited sexual messages and monitor anti-fan activity. It’s great, they send you little digest emails of the good stuff and set you up with dummy accounts so you can still browse your feed in anonymity. Once you’re graduated your agency will take care of that stuff.”
Yaomomo held up her hand slightly ahead of everyone else and Midnight pointed to her. “Midoriya-kun, are you allowed to talk about whether the video is true or not?”
Izuku could have kissed her except he seemed to be super duper monogamous bordering on sex averse with one lone Kacchan-shaped exception. That wasn’t something he’d expected to learn about himself. “Not really.” He admitted. “There’s gonna be a press conference eventually.”
“Ok.” She said, “One more question, how secret is your other parent? The guy who was following our bus.”
Izuku shrugged. “We’re not going to bring him up because it's make his job hard, but he’s not a secret. I finally got to talk to him the other day. It turns out he’s part of a government anti-terrorism task force and got a last minute tip about the USJ. The other times he showed up it was because he was worried about copycat offenders, but his department couldn’t spare the man hours so he was doing it in his spare time. He didn’t mean to scare anyone.”
That was kind of a lie. Hisashi-san had been following him around before that, but the USJ thing was true. Izuku was glad to know that his biological father didn’t actually drive around with an M24 in the back of his car all the time.
He was pretty sure Hisashi-san didn’t do that.
Kaminari’s hand shot up. “Is the green haired lady your mom?” He blurted out and Jiro leaned over to nail him in the back of the head with one of her ear jacks.
“He literally just said there’s gonna be a press conference.” She told him. Her parents were notable musicians so Izuku supposed that if there was anyone who knew keeping your mouth shut because of family stuff then it would be her. “That means he can’t talk about it.”
“About the video!” Kaminari defended himself. “This is different.”
“Um, it’ll be about that too.” Izuku wanted to throw him a bone so he gave up what he could.. “...if that helps any.”
“Oh, man!” Kaminari grinned. “If she is then my moms want to know if she has an official fan page because they’re gonna sign up.”
“Probably not. Sounds like she used to be one of those government heroes.” Jiro observed drolly. “Where else are you going to hook up with someone on a domestic terrorism task force?”
Izuku would have been surprised that she’d made that connection, but he’d found out that ‘domestic terrorism’ was what they called anything that sat in the uneasy space in between ‘the Pro Heroes can handle it’ and ‘call out the military.’ It covered a lot of territory and the task force members were all people like Hisashi-san; i.e. super competent, but also total weirdos.
“Reign it in, kittens.” Midnight clapped her hands. “Question time is now over. If I catch anyone bothering Midoriya about it afterwards then I’m going to hand you over to Eraserhead. It’s been a while since he’s made anyone puke from running suicides and I’m sure he’s looking forward to the opportunity to correct that. Now, you may have heard me mention ‘anti-fan’ activity…”
Izuku sunk into his seat with relief as the lecture moved on. Most of what Midnight-sensei had to talk about was stuff that Toshinori-san’s crisis-specialist had talked to him about the night before. She’d told him to delete his social media apps and not to look at his messages before they assigned him his own manager, but he hadn’t listened so he only had himself to blame.
Aizawa-sensei got up around the time Midnight-sensei was winding down and took over to explain some of the things that would be going on in the wings during the Sports Festival.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about the event. Izuku was looking forward to competing and seeing Miro-senpai in his second year events, but everything was going to change after that. His mom and… and his dad would be going public. He was going to end up in a spotlight he suspected he wasn’t quite ready for.
He felt a little nudge then, so faint it almost didn’t register. Izuku looked at Kacchan with his eyebrows all the way up. That was new!
Kacchan glanced over his shoulder and poked him again through their connection.
...that was right. He wouldn’t be by himself, would he?
Izuku sent happiness back through the bond and Kacchan’s ears went red before he faced himself forward again with a jerk and red-tipped ears.
Inko reviewed the resume in front of her. Unlike the other applicants, she was holding this appointment in her craft room. The resume was perfectly acceptable -boiler plate, even, as she understood such things- save for one thing.
“D5.” She said, gently. “I would love to have you as part of my management team.” She hadn’t expected to have a ‘team’, but it seemed that Izuku’s wranglers would be folded under her umbrella until he was of age or had his own license so it was hardly ‘her’ team at all, which was the only reason she was comfortable with the hiring budget outline Toshinori had casually dropped into her email earlier that week. “You didn’t have to go through the entire application process though. You could have just asked.”
“This is how it is done by the locals, mum.” D5 replied. “The T3s may prefer to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but I like to keep things orderly.”
Ah, yes, the T3s. She hadn’t realized they’d all but moved in until things started mysteriously fixing themselves around the penthouse before she or Toshinori could get to them. She found them totally not hiding in Basil’s corner of the third level. Liberty was in cahoots with the two brats and let them in and out as they liked because they claimed to be Inko’s ‘property.’
She’d have been more disturbed by that claim, except utility droids as old and complex as the T3s were only ever someone’s ‘property’ if it helped them get away with something. The high level of intelligence and problem solving necessary for them to do their jobs had the side effect of making them chaotic little shits at the best of times. The T3s were good at heart, but they mostly did what they wanted. Inko had no legal ownership of them. AI had full civil rights in Japan, but Liberty had only needed the excuse. She too mostly did what she wanted.
“I was expecting you to move in with them.” Inko admitted. She had been a little disappointed when it hadn’t. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed the company of her old crewmates. They were from a time when she’d still actively avoided attachment, but she seemed to have gotten attached anyway.
Toshinori hadn’t been quite so pleased with the T3s sneaking in, but he also loved having the droids around so he had only lectured them a little bit while they feigned sad, contrite beeps; the synthetic equivalent of crocodile tears considering the fact that they’d do it again if they had to.
“Well, to be honest, mum.” D5 sighed. “I was enjoying independence and my employment with the Director, but he gave me a hint recently that he is going to attempt to retire again and this time he expects to be successful.”
“Oh?” Inko blinked. “He tried before?”
“This will be the fourth attempt. He is somewhat overcommitted and looking to step back from a few of his projects.” D5 tilted its shiny metal head in acknowledgement. “The problem is that he’s an extremely popular leader. He was intercepted during previous retirements and restored to office. I think he was proud enough of their efforts to stay a little longer, but this time he is quite determined and given the candidates for his replacement, I’ve elected to leave the program.”
“Well, then.” Ink folded her hands in her lap. “Let’s discuss salary requirements.”
Droids didn’t have quite the same needs as human staff. Money was helpful, but his current apartment was on the Y.U.R.E.I. campus so he needed help finding a new place. AI needed more cosigners and deposits than a flesh and blood person though. They were hashing that out and Liberty was apparently snitching to Toshinori because he stuck his head in the door to interject, “Would one of the guest suites work for you?”
“Oh, sir, no. I wouldn’t dream of…” D5 started to object.
“The circuit breaker on that level may need to be upgraded to handle an additional provisioning station.” Liberty interjected. “The T3s report ready to start work.”
“Could you get a project outline from them before they start cutting into the walls?” Toshinori asked. “Thank you, Libby. There anything else I can help with?” He looked back and forth between them. “No? I’ll get back to my grading then.”
“If you stayed in one of the guest suites then you could see Izuku and Liberty more often.” Inko offered in the most esoteric Corsucanti dialect she knew just in case Liberty had picked up enough Basic to eavesdrop on them.
“Oh, well, that is very compelling.” D5 demurred. “I do miss being around civilized people. The Director is an excellent employer, but even he has his moments. I much prefer it here.”
“I’m glad to have you back, old friend.” She patted him on the shoulder.
“I am glad to be back, mum.” It agreed. “You seem much happier than before. I am happy to see it.”
“I am.” Inko had known it, sort of, but hadn’t really internalized it. She was happy despite the risks she was taking, tying herself to a prominent public figure. Izuku was old enough that she had less to worry about from Temple recruiters, assuming they ever came to Earth again.
Her instinct to hide and stay hidden had been easing in recent years. By the time Toshinori came into her life it was mostly a habit, but not entirely. Now, though, she was starting to wonder if that instinct had been her own or if it had been guidance from the Force. It didn’t always come as a blinding vision. The Force could be subtle.
She was still chewing over that thought after she’d sent D5 on his way to give notice and arrange to have his things moved.
Her phone rang about an hour later with a number she didn’t recognize, but she did recognize the voice on the other end when she picked it up.
“I see you’ve poached my secretary.” Nedzu greeted her in Basic, sounding pleased about it rather than upset.
“Is it poaching if you herded it in my direction?” She asked, somehow not surprised that Nedzu was the elusive Director. They had a similar tone even though she’d only ever spoken to him through the medium of Hisashi. It would explain why she’d been treated so well when she first arrived if a fellow non-native was in charge of Japan’s abnormal emergency response unit.
“Perhaps not.” He allowed. “I’m glad to formally make your acquaintance, Master In’Ko. I understand you’ll be taking over D5-N6’s living arrangements?”
“Toshinori-san has offered it one of the guest suites and the other droids are keen to have it back in their collective.” She considered her next question carefully. “In your opinion are the 4E and 5F happy where they are?”
The surgical droids were designed to be very codependent, but only with each other. Still, she hadn’t expected them to be happy to see her. She hadn’t expected the T3s to happily move themselves in with her either, but they had and made it pretty clear that they weren’t leaving unless she did.
“They’ve been installed at the UA campus, as a matter of fact.” Nedzu chortled. “Kobayashi passed on your suggestion to integrate them with a surgeon and our resident doctor is getting to the point where her fine motor skills aren’t what they used to be so the timing was good. The T3s hooked up a monitor to translate for them before decamping to your place. They’re quite happy now, but would appreciate a visit from you every so often.”
“Of course.” Inko agreed, a bit startled. The surgical assistants had never once requested her presence, but… it had been a long time, hadn’t it? “I’m happy to make some time. Thank you for looking after them.”
“It was my pleasure. I was happy to have the company.” Nedzu’s tone turned slightly wistful. “My homeworld designs and exports droid brains so we all live hand-in-paw with synthetics. It was good to have a reminder of home for a while.”
“Where is home?” She still couldn’t quite place his species.
“Nowhere you’ve ever heard of, I’m afraid.” Nedzu replied. “A client state of the Bothans. We look enough like one of their phenotypes that we’re usually lumped in with them by other species. I’ve been in political exile longer than even you have been alive. Now, going by your accent I would say you’ve spent a great deal of time in the Jedi enclave on Dantooine. I was always curious to know if you were one of the Revanchists.”
Inko had never sensed any hostility from Nedzu so this probably wasn’t a trap. To be honest, the so-called Revanchists had been more popular in the Republic than the Jedi order when she left Republic space. “Yes and no.” She admitted. It was one of those seemingly minor distinctions that didn’t matter to outsiders, but made a big difference to the people involved. “I defected later. I was a member of the Jedi Council and spent a bit longer trying to persuade the other Masters to commit to some form of aid for the Republic forces. I did serve in the Republic military, but never directly under Jedi Revan.”
The Revanchists -those Jedi who had left the order in open solidarity with Jedi Revan to fight in the Mandalorian war- were a tight knit group and didn’t serve in the support fleets. They were deployed with infantry and the gunship armada. Some served in military command under Revan, who was named the Lord High Commander of the Republic forces.
She and the Revanchists never quite got along although they had similar goals and ideals, but they thought she was reporting back to the Council and she found the Revanchists had become a cult of personality during an alarmingly short period of time on top of already being young and reckless. Revan himself was alright, she supposed. She didn’t much care for his melodrama and the mask he wore was a constant unhappy reminder of the atrocities they’d both witnessed on Cathar considering he’d taken it off the body of the Mandalorian objector they’d found at the mass grave site there, but he was a brilliant strategist and military commander.
Inko had command of the Nike and then later a medical support fleet during the battle of Malachor V --not that the Mass Shadow Generator that the Republic deployed there had left behind many lives to save. Just a broken group of planetoids where there’d once been a planet all loosely held together by strange gravitational eddies and surrounded by the wreckage of ships -both Mandalorian and Republic- in numbers beyond counting, crewed only by the dead.
Her fleet had been ordered to hang back by High Command. Hospital ships were high priority targets, but Inko was never sure how much truth was in that justification and never thought to look into the minds of her former compatriots to check. Even that distance wasn’t enough to cushion the horror of millions of simultaneous deaths. Inko wasn’t affected like some of the others who were closer and more involved in the action, but she still carried the weight of that battle with her and perhaps always would.
“I see.” Nedzu hummed to himself. “I see.” He was thoughtfully quiet for a moment longer. “Akatani tells me you’re looking for a counselor.”
“I’ve had… issues recently.” Inko admitted. “I expect you saw it during the USJ incident.”
“The psychogenic tremors.” Nedzu agreed. “Post Traumatic Stress passes over no one. Then you know that this isn’t the last time you’ll be in a triggering environment, given your son’s future career and the decisions you’ve made in regard to your fiance.”
“I’ve accepted it.” Inko wondered where this line of questioning was going.
“Do you have some time this afternoon?” Nedzu’s tone shifted to a cheery upbeat note. “I’d like to introduce you to someone.”
The place Nedzu directed her to was in fact on the UA campus and curiosity drove her to go. Classes were in session, but she came in through the visitor’s entrance and did not end up seeing many students.
To her surprise, when she found the office number Nedzu provided her with, a Bothan answered the door; a big, big canid. Most Bothans she’d known were under five feet tall, but this guy was six and a half easily. At first she thought he must have been a human with a mutagenic quirk, but he greeted her in growling, heavily accented Basic.
“Master In’Ko, welcome.” He stood aside to wave her inside. “The principal isn’t here yet, but please have a seat. His words were mostly understandable, but he periodically had to growl or huff a bit in between words like he was stretching out a cramp in his mouth. The noises sounded suspiciously like the vocalizations that made up Shyriiwook.
Bothans could apparently interbreed with other mammalian species. She wondered if she could possibly be looking at a Bothan/Wookie hybrid. He had the height and frame of a Wookie, but the longer snout, sleeker fur, mane, and pointed ears typical of a Bothan.
She glanced at the nameplate on the door. It read: Hound Dog, Lifestyle Guidance Counselor. “Thank you.”
“I think I’m the one who owes you thanks.” Hound Dog said as he settled himself in one of the soft chairs that took up the lion’s share of the space in the room. There were bookshelves and a small workstation, but it was clear that the room had been designed for conversation instead of paperwork. Hound Dog peeled back one of his sleeves to reveal a gnarly patch of scar tissue under one bicep. “Battle of Dxun. The medics afterwards said that if anyone else had been working on me then I’d have lost the arm.”
“I…” Her face flamed with embarrassment. “...forgive me, I don’t recognize you.”
“Why would you?” He asked. “It was war. The reserve encampment was overwhelmed with casualties and someone started shelling us about halfway through the procedure. No time for bedside manners; just the next task.”
The door opened again to admit Nedzu and a little robot with a tea service. “Good, good. You two are getting acquainted!’ He got them all set up with a cup, which Inko was dearly grateful for. “Now, Master In’Ko, I think you may have guessed why I invited you here. Inui-kun specializes in cognitive behavior therapy. He is also, as a fellow veteran, uniquely qualified to act as a counselor if you’re interested in working with him.”
“How did you end up here?” Inko looked between the two of them. “The astrogation charts I used to find this planet were gathering dust in the back of the Temple archives. I never found another set.”
“Ah, that would be my fault.” Nedzu admitted with an embarrassed little cough. “I mapped hyperspace lanes when I was a young thing and happened to locate this world. I was fascinated by it; a thriving, high technology society that had only just barely achieved spaceflight! And they were humans!”
“Earth was probably a lost Seperatist colony.” Inko understood his feelings, but was reluctant to get excited about it. Lost colonies such as Earth rarely had happy origins. Humans were one of the most common species in the known galaxy. They were everywhere, but seemed to come from nowhere. There were plenty of old human societies, but archeologists could find no evidence that they’d actually evolved on any of those settled worlds. They just sort of showed up in the fossil record one day, more or less in their final evolutionary form. Those worlds had been settled for tens of thousands of years though. Earth’s historical record only covered the last five thousand years or so.
The Republic wasn’t universally beloved by its inhabitants and sometimes unhappy groups of people would club together for a colony kit and shoot themselves out into the unknown regions. Usually they died, but sometimes their descendants would crop up generations later and they didn’t always know that their origins weren’t terrestrial.
“I thought so as well!” Nedzu agreed. “I still wanted to study it, but…” There he sighed unhappily. “...my homeworld is full of hyper-ambitious and very intelligent schemers. I was embroiled in a losing fight with a rival clan that meant I needed to leave my home --and known space just for good measure.”
“Our families go back.” Inui-san added. “He left word and coordinates with my mother in case any of us ever needed to leave as well. My family died during or shortly before the wars and Nedzu was all I had left so I came looking and ended up settling here.”
“How did you end up in charge of Y.U.R.E.I.?” Inko was a little stuck on that point. She appreciated the way he’d apparently shielded her and made a path for her to integrate into Earth society, but she was surprised that the Japanese government had handed control of such an independent agency to an extraterrestrial. Did they not know what he was?
“Ah.” Nedzu cleared his throat. “That’s a bit of a story. I am technically not the Director, but I have been acting his stead for many years. My welcome to this world was slightly less warm than yours. Y.U.R.E.I. was very different in those days and I crash landed in an escape pod when my ship experienced a malfunction in low Earth orbit. I hadn’t intended to land on the surface just yet. I was doing reconnaissance, looking for the best place to insert myself.” His thoughts took a dark turn and Inko got the impression of a laboratory, knives, injections, a clinical voice describing something for a recording, and a nasty little man with nasty little eyes. “I was captured and held for experimentation for a time. Eventually I got loose.” He smiled and for a second Inko could taste blood in the back of her throat; a little echo, perhaps, of what had happened to the original Director before Nedzu stepped into his shoes. “I hope I can trust your discretion.”
Given what she’d gleaned from his memories with just a casual skim, Inko had no issue with what he’d done. If you took a sentient person captive and abused them then you deserved what you got once they were loose no matter what your reasons were.
“You have nothing to fear from me.” She promised.
“Glad to hear it.” Inui-san rumbled. “I don’t normally see patients outside the student body, but I’m happy to make an exception for you. We have a lot of options. I know you’re keeping your head down right now. Earth’s spaceflight tech is a joke, but their comm network smokes anything they have in the core systems short of the quantum entanglement holoprojectors. We can hold sessions over the phone or do video calls.”
Inko left campus with an appointment in her calendar and her head spinning.
She’d known other people of the galaxy washed up on Earth sometimes, but the last one she’d met had been Dr. Mercury. That encounter had ended on a very different note.
Izuku and Katsuki-kun were hanging out in the living room when she got home. They were technically doing homework, but their books were abandoned on the table and Izuku was paying on the couch with his head pillowed on Katsuki’s thigh. Katsuki had one hand resting on Izuku’s face, covering his eyes.
“How bad was it?” She asked after ascertaining that her son was passed out in an anxiety nap.
“Eh.” Katsuki shrugged one shoulder. “They were gonna mob him, but the teachers stomped the brakes hard before they could. They had Izu answer some questions, but the class rep kept anyone from asking too much. He’s fine. It was just a lot today. They announced the Sports festival and we all got cornered by some extras from the Gen Ed classes.”
“Thank you for looking after him, dear.” She dropped a kiss on the crown of his head and enjoyed the way he turtled up like he hated it, but secretly soaked it up. “Do we have you for dinner?”
“Yeah. Yagi wants to do some balance practice and Ma said it was okay.” He glanced her over. “You okay?”
Oh dear. She must look very unsettled if Katsuki-kun was picking up on it. “I finally found a good counselor.. and… well.”
“Now you gotta go.” Katsuki looked away. “It ain’t so bad.”
He was trying to make her feel better. Inko smiled and patted his shoulder. “Thank you. I’ll remember that.”
Inko let herself into the craftroom and went to consider the dressmakers’ mannequin she’d set up in the middle of the room, which held up her costume.
Not long now.