Sorry… I said I was leaving the Mai HiME section forever… but it just lures me back so badly! I was toying with some story ideas while reading comics (never a good thing to do…) and this sort of formed. I hope you enjoy, R&R and all that.
(Don't own Mai-HiME, btw)
I was once told that humanity will always need heroes- without them, there is no hope, no safety net, no outstanding symbol of justice for the people to hold on to and keep close.
Though I live in a large city- Fuuka, to be exact- I had honestly not paid much attention to our heroes. I suppose I grew up as part of the conceited generation, dependant on these peacekeepers, unlike my parents; they didn't have masked men and women vigilantes. They had policemen. Policemen who did not have the knowledge or skills to deal with the rising waves of public-orientated villains, who had the idea to come out to humanity sooner than Heroes. No, they decided, something had to be done to stop the chaos caused by these monstrous antagonists- it was time for Heroity to bare themselves openly to the rest of the world.
Sure, there was chaos. I've read the old newspapers, seen the documentaries, and even listened to my parents' stories about what it was like to suddenly have heroes on the streets, living in the public eye. There was a fair amount of panic and prejudice- should these people have the right to vote? Should they be able to hold influential positions within the government? Were they dangerous?
Of course, that last question was obvious. Anyone with abilities beyond the norm is dangerous if they set these skills to dangerous things. That is the mentality of villains, though, not Heroes.
Speaking of Heroity, soon it came to transpire that the number of them must rise to compete with their foes, the villains, and to do this, they had to recruit. Millions became excited and scared in equal parts- would they be the next hero in their city? Nobody knew how the selection process worked, but quickly some criteria were deduced: you had to be physically fit, intelligent and gifted to start off with. Then, they'd take you to their headquarters and put you on trial, to see how you'd do. If- and that is a big if, mind- you were indeed suited to the job, then you got a visit from Nagi Dái Artai, also known as Odin, giver of life, pillar of strength, etc, etc, ad nauseam. He was a young man and widely regarded amongst both humans and Heroes for his birthpower- to transform humans into heroes. He was the real authority figure amongst heroes, because without him… you weren't one. Usually, anyway.
Enough of the history lesson- though we have had a rather interesting history. This particular story begins on a dark August evening with a drunken college girl and a crowbar.
Nao usually left our window open- I mean, so did most people. Who would dare burgle anyone, especially at night, when you lived in our neighbourhood? Which, by the way, is in the catchment area of… go on. Guess. Oh, alright- just last week, Nao and me moved into an apartment in a district served by Diana.
You wouldn't have thought it, but I've seen one of her mirrors about. Patrolling the streets, they hover around, watching everyone. I'd think it was creepy, but Diana is one of the most benevolent heroes you've ever seen. She's a bit older than me, and mousy, with kind eyes and a soft voice, but when she gets passionate, she's like wildfire- like at Senator Wáng's press conference a few weeks back after the big gang bust. Damn, she is cool.
Anyway, the window- yes, we usually keep our windows unlocked, and Nao knew I was going out tonight, drinking. I had to celebrate something. It was my birthday.
Grumbling, I stopped trying to get in that way and looked around for a house key. I didn't have mine on me, having left it on the kitchen table, nor did we keep any under flowerpots like middle-class families with houses big enough to create a sort of 'find-the-key' treasure hunt for their newly-responsible tweenaged offspring who come back twenty minutes late from gym.
I sighed, not finding anything. Nao slept with her mp3 player in, so she wouldn't hear me shouting. I was a bit drunk, too.
I heard a faint buzzing by my ear and moved by instinct to slap the bug away, even if it was a bit chilly for them till to be out. Instead of meeting air and/or bug, my hand met chilly metal and glass. Whirling around, I saw my own reflection staring back at me. Oh gods- it was a mirror! One of Diana's mirrors!
"Uh, I just forgot my key, my roommate is asleep…" I mumbled, making excuses for myself. I did not want to be on the receiving end of Diana's wroth. "So I'm trying to get back in."
The mirror nodded at me and sped off, and I briefly wondered if it had actually nodded, because you know, it was a mirror, and they don't usually nod. Often, anyways. Worry settled in the pit of my stomach as I wondered if I was in trouble? Did the mirror think I had lied?
Twenty minutes later, I had a crowbar and was just about to start jimmying open the window when the buzzing sound joined me again. I looked at him (I had decided the mirror was a he) quizzically. "I still haven't managed to get in."
"Why are you telling that to a mirror?" A voice said out of the gloom and I looked up to see the fuzzy outline of a woman on the pavement.
"Uh," I scratched my head dumbly. "It might be 'cause I'm drunk?"
I felt her eyebrow rise mockingly. I damn felt it, she was that contemptuous. I scowled through the gloom- my patent death-glare- but the figure was gone, now reappeared behind me setting a shadow over my window. An expertly landed kick in the shin sent me reeling, thudding down onto the concrete painfully. I cried out, but found another swift kick in the kidneys silenced me. "Obviously, there is a different reason you're outside a house at two o'clock with a crowbar."
"No!" I tired to explain myself. "Seriously, I need to get back inside. I live here."
She snorted. "You won't believe how many times I've heard that."
She obviously didn't believe me and I felt handcuffs around my wrists. "Shit! I didn't do anything! Let me go!"
"Yes, yes, and I'm the Queen of England." Diana rolled her eyes and forced me up, weirdly strong for such a skinny woman. "Tell it to the Chief."
The police? No. My eyes widened. I'm never in trouble with anyone, let alone the actual police. Bad girl image, but that was as far as I went with it- well, yes, I was a bit of a truant in my later years at high school too, but I've never broken the law. Speeding, I suppose, but not my fault. Having a motorbike is just too intoxicating.
At least I had time to get a good, close look at Diana. Neatly-ponytailed light brown hair under a dark-green mask. It would have been masquerade-like, but it was too practical. Twin contact lenses sparkled on her eyes, and her mouth was quirked in an amused half-grin. She was quite plain, if you looked at her with scrutiny, but nevertheless she was a part of heroity, and thus venerable. Not that I'm a worshipper/groupie or anything, I just totally understand the allure of this lifestyle.
This would be better if she was not dragging me to the police for trying to break into my own home, but it was still cool to meet a hero in the flesh.
Of course, Diana didn't have a car or anything human like that- one of her myriad of mirrors that flanked her at all times elongated and flattened into a platform big enough for the both of us to sit/stand on. She pushed me up onto it and then got on herself, silently guiding the hover-mirror up and over the streets. Oh my god! It was amazing- like flying. I had to grip onto the edges to stop myself falling to my untimely death. We whizzed past the traffic at the city centre (how there even is traffic at 2 a.m., I'll never quite work out) and landed in about four minutes at the massive while building that is Fuuka Police HQ. Since the villain threat had worsened, more money was being poured into defense and the constabulary had received a very nice new building, complete with on-site detention facilities and several connected hero specialists to help them with the more unruly criminals.
Diana escorted me quite courteously (though I myself had not forgotten that kidney shot) into the main atrium and nodded at the three women at the front desk. Many heads turned to look at her and I felt animosity hot on my back. Honestly, I hadn't actually done anything wrong!
"Diana." Deputy Wáng greeted her as we entered the Special Forces wing that deals with the more supernatural of Fuuka's lawbreakers. Tate Wáng was Senator Sergei Wáng's son- a rising star in the police force due to his quick-thinking and in-depth political knowhow. I disliked him, because we had gone to middle school together- he was three years older than me, but had always picked on me when I was younger. How he was all big and important, he had all the more reason to.
"I've got you a burglar." Diana told him nonchalantly, offering me up like a slab of meat in a butcher's shop. Tate looked at me, surprise starting to manifest on his face.
"Natsuki?" He asked me.
"Tate." I replied, almost growling at him. "I am not a burglar."
"Well, I've never seen you in the neighbourhood before and you were trying to jimmy open somebody's window with a crowbar." Diana pointed out slyly.
"That's because I just moved into your catchment area! Me and my roommate Nao Zhang- wait, you might have her under Juliet- but anyway, don't arrest me because I didn't do anything!"
"Whoa!" He replied, startled at my outburst. I'm sorry, but I did not plan on going to prison for a crime I didn't commit just as I'm about to finish college. No way. "Calm yourself down, Natsuki, and I'm sure we'll have this sorted out in time for you to collapse before sunrise."
Ah, Tate, always beautifully respectful. He ushered us over to his private office, motioning for me to take a seat. Diana stayed a while to give a description, but had to leave, presumably to save more windows from being irrevocably damaged due to drunken young adults trying to get home. Job, sweet job. Bitter? Me? Never.
"Well, it's a surprise to see you here." Tate started the conversation, rebooting his computer and shuffling some dastardly paperwork around. His in-tray seemed to be writhing and growing even as I looked at it, whereas the out-tray was sparse like a rationer's cupboard.
"I'd say likewise, but I knew you became a police officer."
"Tch. Famous am I?"
He frowned and then tapped away at the computer for a while. "Well, it does appear as though Diana has made a mistake. You and Miss Zhang are actually renting that apartment. Wait, Zhang? You're living with Nao?"
I grinned. He looked shocked. "Yes. Does it surprise you?"
"You two didn't get along well when I knew you. Catfighting."
"Tate, you were fifteen, I was thirteen. It's been a while to mature, hmm?"
He blushed and made a nasty face like the kid I knew he was. "I know. It's just odd, seeing the faces of my past in my present."
"Speaking of," I remembered. "How's Mai?"
He looked very disappointed all of a sudden and I felt I'd hit a sore point. "Ah, well, that didn't work out. She couldn't make time for me, and my job was just taking off- we didn't have the commitment to make it work."
Wow, they dated for, like, six years. Weird to think that Mai would break up with him. Then again, she'd opted out of going to college to pursue culinary excellence instead. The same for Tate, though he'd gone to police training, of course.
"So, what are you studying?" He asked, as if following my train of thought. Once, in my teens, I was known as the 'ice princess'- cold and steely and generally depressing. I got out of that phase, but I still come off a bit prickly on a bad day. Hormones have not stopped working their havoc on me, even now that I'm legal.
"Uh, I'm majoring in History, with a minor in Literature. My finals are coming up."
"I never pinned you as the essay type." He mused, looking curiously at a mug of coffee on his desk that he hadn't drank. "But then again, we all change."
"Indeed." I started getting fidgety. "Can I leave now?"
"Sure, just let me do this paperwork of a mistaken charge and you can sign it." He rummaged in his draws for the sheet. Finding it slightly crumpled, he filled it out with years of experience. "I do more paperwork that policing, I swear." It does feel like that sometimes. When I was applying for colleges, I had to fill out so many forms that I thought my hand would just die of boredom and drop off my wrist. "Sign here."
"Ah, could you undo these cuffs?" I realized I was still bound. He looked stricken. "Um, why do you look like you've forgotten to do your homework before a big test?"
"I don't have the key for those- they're Diana's special ones. Made for canceling powers and magic. She's the only one with the key."
So around three hours later, I was at a bustop downtown with Tate getting odd looks. Looking at these people, you'd have thought they'd never seen a policeman and a woman in cuffs waiting for a bus before. Humanity these days, eh?
"Shame there isn't a giant flying mirror to take me home as well," I mused bitterly as the chill caused goosebumps to rise on my upper arms. Tate merely scowled. He didn't look like he was enjoying it much either. "So, you're with Spefo?" (For the uninformed, Spefo is a daringly linguistical twist on a shortening of the Special Forces Unit of the Fuuka Police.)
"Yes," he said a bit proudly. "Promoted last year- it's so damn interesting, but I can see why some people transfer out. It's understaffed and overstressed as it is, with all of the villains up to their shenanigans."
Oh my god. Did a twenty-four year old just say that villains were up to 'shenanigans'? That's like saying that sea monkeys are only slightly dull. A complete understatement. 'Tate, you're dealing with people who would rip your head off with a thought or a wiggle of their pinky finger, not a group of High Schoolers egging cars."
He shrugged. "We have to try. Heroity may be there most of the time, but they don't pick up their pieces. You saw Diana just now- dropped you off and left again. It does feel like we move closer to being a completely administrative body every day."
Was that regret in his voice? Wow, he had changed. Still, it doesn't change that these handcuffs won't come off unless we find that blasted mirror-hero. Or should I say heroine? When we talk about heroes as a group and race, they're always just heroity to our humanity, but if we have women and men, then they must have heroes and heroines, surely. I mean, Diana is definitely female. Biologically, heroes are a subtly different species than us, but they still appear mostly human. Is that for our benefit? If it weren't taboo to do so, would Diana perhaps look like a lizard-monster? I've stumbled across quite a random chain of thought.
"Tate, can heroes and humans interbreed?" I asked suddenly. He turned and blushed again, looking around. Most of the 5 a.m. commuters were nonexistent, so we had the place to ourselves.
"Yes," he replied. "Yes, they can, and the offspring will inherit the 'hero' gene from the parent on a dominant allele- but a hero usually has the Hh gene, where the big H is the hero gene. So if they make a child with a human, there's a 50:50 chance that the offspring will be one also."
"Do you have to learn about that kind of thing for your job?"
"It does come up. For instance, hero children tend to… well, think of your average destructive toddler, then imagine then breathing fire."
I almost laughed at that. Fire-breathing babies may seem ridiculous, but such things do happen. Ah, the bus has finally arrived. Only took you half an hour, mate. It's freezing- or is that just me? Tate paid my fare and we boarded, sitting near the front. The bus driver leered at my cuffs and then at Tate in his uniform and gave me a look saying 'you've been a very bad little girl, haven't you?' Damn humans, always quick to judge, we are.
The bus takes the roundabout route back to the park near my flat, so we had to wait pretty much the whole ride. Tate didn't make conversation, only yawning and checking his phone occasionally. We didn't see Diana, and I had the increasingly dreadful feeling that I was going to have to wear these handcuffs for even longer. They were chaffing
something horrible and my wrists were raw. Well, I thought, irritated- this is the godly retribution you get for trying to break into your home.
"Last stop!" the driver shouted, painfully loud against my ears. He should watch his decibels. Tate and I got off and he walked me back to the flat, pulling out his police-grade lock-picker. Our door, being like any other door, yielded to the techy device in a matter of seconds.
Inside smelled of deodorant and pizza- Nao and I are both notorious slobs, though I'm slightly better- I at least organize my underwear collection. I welcomed Tate in for a quick drink but he declined, saying his next shift was starting in three hours and he wanted a nap. I thanked him, actually quite, well, thankful. He'd been helpful and informative. I suppose people really can grow up.
Yawning, I stumbled back to my bedroom- opposite Nao's- leaving a trail of clothes in my wake. I couldn't really do anything about my top half, but at least I was reduced to a pair of pyjama trousers that weren't dusty. I looked at the clock, feeling slightly mournful, and wished myself a happy 22nd birthday before falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.