Before we get started, quick shout-out to Kimichan over at kimichan_art on Twitter for the cover art. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.
Izuku knew that Kacchan would burn one of his hero journals that day. That was why he copied the most recent one, filled out just enough pages for Kacchan to flip through, snort in disgust, and blow it to pieces in front of him. Izuku knew how to show just enough despair to sell the act, and he knew that Kacchan and his other friends would watch him fish the charred book out of the school's koi pond.
Izuku also knew not to take his usual way home, instead taking a detour through the busier part of town around the quiet underpass he liked. Part of him wanted to linger and observe, to see why he wasn't taking that route today, but he didn't want to be late.
Izuku knew that trying to tell anyone that he, Izuku Midoriya, had a Quirk, and that Quirk was the ability to see his own future up to and including his death, would only result in a painful migraine that threatened to blot out everything he could see. Living with the taunts and harassment wasn't nearly so bad when he could see it all coming, like bracing before getting punched in the face. It wasn't a future he could see, but a gut feeling, a pit of dread in his stomach that kept him from even telling his mother about his ability. There was only one future for him, and it hadn't changed since he first saw it the morning after he was diagnosed Quirkless, though he had tried to fight it when he was younger.
Izuku knew that, at 4:05 PM, shortly after class that Friday, a villain with a slime Quirk would ambush Kacchan in an alleyway near his favorite arcade. Izuku knew that he would arrive just in time to shove Kacchan aside. Izuku knew that he would be smothered to death as the villain stole his body. He knew that the morning before walking to school that day would be the last time he told his mother he loved her. He knew he would never live to be a hero, but at least he could die a hero.
And after that point, Izuku only saw darkness.
So, when Izuku was seconds away from his self-appointed death, vision blurring, brain screaming from lack of oxygen, the acrid taste of the villain burning his mouth, ribs groaning under the internal pressure of the villain shoving itself inside of him, he was surprised when a precise, well-placed punch to the gut made him spew up gallons of slime villain. Izuku took sweet, delicious gulps of air, and looked up hazily at his savior.
All Might. Tall, gleaming, in the flesh, perfectly silhouetted by the setting sun, the Symbol of Peace himself, All Might. Tears ran down Izuku's cheeks at the sight of him.
"Are you alright, young man?" his hero asked.
Izuku tried to speak, but all that came out of his mouth was a rasping wheeze. All Might's smile faltered a touch, a movement so imperceptible that only years of observing the man's every public movement gave Izuku the ability to see it.
"Don't worry, take deep breaths. You're safe now." All Might waved over paramedics in white uniforms. "These fine people will take care of you."
As the paramedics helped him onto a stretcher, Izuku reached out, grazing the fabric on All Might's arm. He tried calling his name, but he could only cough.
"What is it, young man?" All Might's eyes went to the charred, soggy book poking out from his bag. "Oh, of course. I have a pen on me somewhere."
The ink ran a little bit on the damp page, but Izuku didn't care. He had All Might's signature. Distracted as he was, Izuku missed his chance to ask his hero how he changed the future as the doors of the ambulance slammed shut.
An oxygen mask was strapped over Izuku's face. As his heartrate ebbed and his breathing slowed, he felt a new future creep into his consciousness, filling the void he had sensed earlier. He saw a kindly doctor run x-rays and MRIs, scanning his lungs and intestinal tract for signs of internal bleeding, verifying that his ribs weren't broken, checking for signs of dead brain tissue. He saw his mom, tears pouring down her face and snot dripping from her nose, sobbing into his shirt as she thanked god and All Might for saving her son. He saw that Kacchan wouldn't be there. He saw that he'd be released from the hospital that night, and they'd get katsudon, even though his mom would grimace as she emptied out her wallet.
To his relief, the night went exactly as predicted. Comfortably full, and still a bit sore from the attack, Izuku sat in bed as the new future trickled into his brain. He laughed as the brilliance of the universe's cosmic joke, played at his expense, came into focus in his mind. He wasn't mad. A single day as a U.A. hero course student was worth the admission price of aching muscles and popped blisters.
He saw himself cleaning a beach, bones popping and muscles burning as he pulled a refrigerator up a set of stairs, running with a tire under each arm, breaking apart a rusted oven with swings of a sledgehammer, loading and unloading garbage into a pickup truck, looking out at a sunrise over the shimmering water, gorgeous white sand exposed out from under the mountain of trash, newfound muscles stretching as the wind caressed them.
By the end of that summer, he had calloused hands, a clean beach, and killer six-pack abs.
He knew what those muscles were for. He had applied to U.A., thinking at the time he'd never live to see the front doors, that his pre-death application was the closest he could hope to becoming a hero. Seeing them was just as impressive the second time. The written test eclipsed anything he had ever seen in middle school, but he knew how to answer for a passing score. He never thought he would get to hear Present Mic in person. Despite knowing every detail of the entrance exam, he drank in every word of the pro hero's explanation, blissfully unfiltered by the limitations of audio equipment.
He knew he would ordinarily never stand a chance against other heroes-to-be in a free-for-all against killer robots, but his Quirk showed him the improbable path forward. He ordered pruning shears, a delicate piece of cutting equipment just long and thin enough to slip past the robots' outer armor. He made a makeshift riot shield from an old Lexan guard on the beach, just heavy enough to block the robots' rubber bullets.
When the entrants gathered outside battle center B, Izuku sprinted for the doors and threw them open while everyone else was milling about. He heard shouts of "Hey, that's cheating!" as he left them behind, but from the observation tower, Present Mic shouted back, "Cheating? There's no starting signal for hero work, you just get to it! Now move!"
Between the head start and the jostling at the doors, Izuku had plenty of time to run ahead. He saw which path to take to run into the most robots, where and when to hold up his shield, and how to angle his pruning shears to slip past the armor and snip their main power cable like a bomb defusal squad. The other applicants quickly overtook him, but even then, he found more points taking out robots they hadn't noticed or hadn't quite finished off.
By the time the zero-pointer arrived, Izuku had thirty-two points. He knew that it wouldn't be enough on its own. With a girl trapped under rubble within twenty feet of him, Izuku knew that all he had to do was dig her out and drag her to safety to get another fifty-six rescue points.
He knew that his mother would grasp him with shaking arms and cry tears of joy into his shoulder when he told her he had made it. He knew Kacchan would be livid to the point of exploding like a foul-mouthed firecracker that Quirkless, pathetic Deku dared to score higher than him. He knew the other students, hero course and general studies alike, would give him disapproving looks, whisper about how he cheated, and even continue the same harassment he had endured in middle school, albeit constrained by the teachers' vigilance and low tolerance for bullying. They would gloat about how quickly he had fallen.
What Izuku didn't know was the faculty's reactions as they watched his progress through the battle center. Settled into theater seating, with a couple dozen screens arranged in front of them, the principal and six members of the faculty watched the entrance exam unfold from every possible perspective. Each teacher had a remote and their own screen, allowing them to rewind and rewatch video feed from different cameras. Battle arena B drew the attention of many teachers, in no small part because Nezu had spread word that the one Quirkless applicant would be competing there.
"Why did you allow his requests?" Shota asked as he watched Izuku pull the pruning shears out of his pants.
Cememtoss squinted at the screen and asked, "Is that a piece of plastic he's holding?"
Nezu smiled and brought out Izuku's requisition forms. "Izuku requested that he be allowed to bring a pair of pruning shears and a homemade riot shield. His request was approved, since he claimed his Quirk required them to properly fight."
"But he doesn't have a Quirk," Ectoplasm pointed out.
"Which is what makes it so clever. I can't prove his Quirk doesn't require those items to begin with if I can't prove what his Quirk does."
Shota scowled. "That's just a loophole and you know it."
Nezu gave the teacher a shit-eating hamster-dog-bear grin. "I suppose it is."
"I was curious."
Shota waited, but Nezu said nothing else. "That's it?"
"He asked for the exact two items I would've asked for, being in his shoes and knowing exactly what the test would be. Of course I'm curious."
"What does that mean?"
"I have a feeling we're about to find out."
They watched as Izuku bolted for the doors and raced towards the nearest robot. Izuku held the plastic guard in front of him, deflecting the rubber bullets upward. The pruning shears darted forward, sliding through a chink in the two-pointer's armor and snipping a single wire.
As Izuku's point tally hit the double digits, Shota leaned forward, entranced by the skill, or lack thereof, on display. The boy's toned body suggested arduous exercise, and his movements allowed him to dodge every attack, but there was a lack of grace to his steps, an imbalance, struggling to keep his footing during one lunge, nearly falling over when he made a sharp turn, that screamed of inexperience.
Shota wasn't the only hero glued to Izuku's screen. The other pro heroes let out startled comments as the Quirkless nobody passed most of his peers with a gardening tool and a miniature plastic door.
"I wonder who trained him," Midnight muttered. "He's good."
"I don't know," Vlad King said, "There's something weird about how he's fighting. I can't put my finger on it."
All Might leaned closer and said, "I feel like I've seen him somewhere."
"Well Nezu," Shota asked, "What do you think?"
The principal hummed tunelessly and took a sip of tea. "I'm stumped."
The other teachers turned towards him in surprise. "You? Stumped?" Shota asked.
"He isn't taking the optimal path. Theoretically, had he gone east instead of west, he could have had forty-five points by now. Then again, the zero-pointer's west as well." Nezu chuckled and pressed the red button. "I wonder if he knows about the rescue points."
Shota watched Izuku carefully. There was no surprise in the kid's face, no startled jump, not even a reflexive flinch as the zero-pointer demolished a four-story building with its fist. A girl, Ochako, if he remembered right, was trapped under falling rubble. Izuku had been running towards her before the first brick even hit the ground, and he didn't even change course as he ran up to her and dug her out.
"Wow, he didn't even hesitate," Cementoss whispered.
"That kid's got my ten," Vlad King said as he raised his point card. Midnight, Ectoplasm, and Cementoss followed suit. Shota hesitated, his hand on one of the lower numbers, looking between his coworkers and the boy on screen.
"Something the matter?" Nezu asked.
Before Shota could answer, All Might said, "I don't know. My gut's telling me there's something not quite right about Izuku, like there's something missing."
"Really?" Blood King asked. "He stopped hunting robots to help her out. I think that's exactly what we're looking for."
"I think it's his expression. I don't know, I guess it's just a feeling." All Might sighed and put a ten in the air. Shota looked down at his selection of numbers. Trusting his own gut, he held up a six.
Cementoss laughed. "Harsh as ever, Shota?"
"I have a gut feeling as well, and unlike All Might, I trust it over the opinions of others." All Might looked abashed, but he didn't lower his number.
"Well, that still leaves him with fifty-six rescue points," Nezu said. "With that alone, he'd pass with flying colors, but combined with the villain points, well, looks like he's at the top of the class. Ironic, don't you think?"
Midnight shook her head. "That kid's something else. Quirkless, unremarkable school record, and he beat everyone else by a mile? Seems like he was too prepared."
"Even if he knew what would be on the test," Ectoplasm pointed out, "The fact remains that he was still able to defeat the villains without taking a scratch, and he went out of his way to save another student. He earned his spot."
Mutters of agreement went across the room. After they had finished grading the other students, the faculty filed out of the observation room, either heading home or getting work done. As Nezu went back to his office, Shota trailed after him.
"He knew about the rescue points," Shota said when they were alone.
"Certainly," Nezu cheerfully replied. "I'm curious to see how he'll do in your class."
"You're letting me have him?"
"Of course. He'll benefit more from having you teach him, given his disadvantage."
Shota scowled. "And if I think he doesn't have what it takes?"
Nezu paused. "Send him to Gen Ed. I'd like to keep an eye on him."
"Still haven't figured out how he did it?"
"I only have theories as this point. I'll need your help in narrowing it down."
They reached Nezu's office. The principal opened the door for Shota. He reluctantly accepted a cup of black tea and settled into the chair opposite Nezu.
"I think Izuku has a Quirk."
Shota stopped with the cup of tea halfway to his mouth. "How is he not registered?"
"He was diagnosed as Quirkless at the age of four. Doctors found the extra toe joint. It's a generally accepted sign of Quirklessness, but it's mostly just a myth." Nezu had a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he said, "The real question is why he hasn't told anyone about it."
"It's an advantage. Nobody can counter a Quirk if they don't know what it is."
Nezu shook his head. "Quirkless kids in his age group stick out. Sad as it is, they're common targets for bullying and harassment, and depending on the school system, the teachers may overlook or even encourage that behavior."
Shota's grip tightened on his cup. The mere mention of bullying made his blood boil, even years after his own troubled school life. "Did Izuku go to such a school?"
"Unfortunately, which brings me to my point. Exactly how much did Izuku value the secrecy of his Quirk that he was willing to endure years of harassment, to the point of physical violence, death threats, vandalism, verbal harassment, and whatever else the minds of children can conceive? Either someone – or something – told him to keep his Quirk a secret, or he thought no one would believe him even if he said anything, which I'm afraid is all too likely given the doctor's diagnosis."
Shota let out a deep breath. "So, what do you think Izuku's Quirk is?"
"Some form of precognition, like Nighteye."
Shota felt the realization settle into place, like finding a corner piece of a jigsaw puzzle and seeing how everything else fit together. "That's how he was able to dodge and block everything."
Nezu smiled at him from behind his cup of tea. "Fits nicely, doesn't it?"
"When should we confront him about it?"
"That's the problem." Nezu finished his cup and stared mournfully at the dregs. "If we do decide to confront him about it, he will know well in advance, and he will either come up with a defense to prevent us from learning anything, or avoid the confrontation entirely, much like how he could avoid and disarm every robot the test threw at him."
"Then we can't give him time to dodge."
"I'm afraid he has all the time he needs." Nezu took a stack of papers out from his desk drawer. "He sent in the request for the pruning shears and riot shield three weeks ago. If he knew he'd need them so far in advance, he likely knows and is already prepared for whatever we would do. Going off when he bought the shears, we can extend his range of precognition to five weeks. I have a feeling it may be even longer than that."
Shota felt his hackles rise. "Five weeks? Nighteye doesn't go farther than a couple days."
"He can, but the visions lose clarity. Whether or not Izuku's purely hypothetical Quirk has the same limitation remains to be seen."
The emphasis on the hypothetical nature of Izuku's Quirk reined in Shota's excitement. "We still need to prove he has the Quirk."
"Correct. All we have is guesswork. I've thought of several other explanations for how Izuku could have performed so well. The precognitive Quirk is just the simplest."
"Then what should we do?"
"Erase his Quirk and see what happens."
Shota considered the plan as he drank some tea. It had bite to it, but compared to his favored quadruple espresso, it may as well be warm milk.
"Won't he see that coming as well?"
"Probably, but it's as good a first step as any. As long as we don't directly confront him, I don't think he'll slip away."
Shota raised an eyebrow. "You think he could escape your surveillance system?"
"If his precognition is as powerful as I think it might be, probably. He threaded the needle perfectly on the entrance exam and achieved the highest possible score. In all probability, with his Quirk, he could predict his way out of any net I could weave."
"You think he's dangerous?"
Nezu beamed at him. "All our students are dangerous, Mr. Aizawa. It's our job to make sure they don't endanger innocent lives." He glanced at his watch and said, "I have some reports to send out. Have a good night."
Shota set his empty cup on the table and drew his capture scarf around his face. "Keep a spot in Gen Ed open. I'm expelling one during orientation."
Once the door was shut, Nezu brought out more files on Izuku, medical records since his birth, report cards and teachers' notes, the Midoriya family's tax forms and spending history, everything that could feed into his High Spec. As each fact fit into the predictive model he had constructed in his mind, he felt Izuku's Quirk take shape in the logical void the model diverted around, like an object hidden just below the river's surface that split the current. He suspected it was a boulder, but it could've been a log, or a sunken boat, and without dredging up the foreign object, he would never know for sure what it would be. The mystery of it gave him an intoxicating thrill.
As Nezu perused Izuku Midoriya's life history, he wondered what had brought the boy to the alleyway by a popular arcade at 4:05 PM one Friday afternoon.
A/N: This story came out of left field for me. I've been working on a couple other projects, not really making progress on either, and floundering with a bit of writer's block. One evening, as I'm clicking on random Youtube videos and wondering why I'm letting my life slip through my fingers, I had this little gem of an idea. An hour later, I had most of this chapter written. A day later, and it's done.
I've been considering getting into the MHA fandom for a while now, and I even have a few different story ideas waiting in the wings. This one skipped the line, kicked the bouncer in the balls, and waltzed straight up to the bartender.
Let me know what you think. Praise and constructive criticism alike are always appreciated.