Chapter 10: Loose Screws
"No..." Hiro dropped to his knees and started digging. "No, no, not again! Baymax, help me!"
Baymax leaned over and removed the largest bits of rubble. It took a moment before Tadashi’s limp body had been fully uncovered.
Hiro froze in place, shoulders tense. "B-Baymax? Is h-he..." He couldn't complete the question. He didn't know how. It was hard to keep the doubt from his mind.
Tadashi was covered in a fine layer of dust and grit, lying in a small, elliptical crater and his armour badly damaged from taking the brunt of the trauma. The colour had been scratched off in swathes around his chest and shins, leaving behind dull silvers of dirty metal. A wide dent decorated his right pec but thankfully, it didn’t look too deep. His head had landed facing his left, allowing a small crack to form at the bottom-right of his visor, just above his jawline. Hiro could not see the other side of his brother’s face; he shouldn’t move Tadashi’s head for fear of doing further damage, and a small part of him didn’t want to confirm his fears.
"He is alive." Baymax pointed. "Look."
Hiro looked, barely breathing. The rise and fall of his brother's chest was slight, but it was there. Hiro listened intently. “D-Dashi? You there?” He couldn't hear anything. His head felt... empty.
It was like… like the first time he’d stayed home alone when he was sick with a horrible cold, between the end of grade school and the beginning of high school. He was so scared. He had been afraid of seriously messing up, of getting hurt, of something breaking, that he’d just hidden beneath his sheets – with Mochi, no less – until he heard the voices of his aunt and brother downstairs. He had been in such a rush to go and see them that he’d actually tripped the last few steps. Of course, being the brave, stubborn, valiant eight-year-old that he was, he immediately burst into tears. He hoped that Tadashi just thought it was because he’d injured himself, if that wasn’t evident by the What were you thinking Hiro, What if you were higher up, You need to be more careful! lecture that had ensued. Tadashi’s concerns were only making Hiro feel worse. Every fret and warning wore away at young Hiro, making him imagine those scenarios with the vivacity of a bright young mind. Eventually, Tadashi had caught on that his anguish was doing the exact opposite of helping, and suddenly opted to just hug the tears away instead, because children shouldn’t be yelled at while they’re crying in pain. They need someone there to tell them It’s just a scratch, it’s just a bruise, it’ll be okay.
But this time was different. There was no reassuring presence, like a strong hand on his shoulder. There was no warm hum, similar to having an ear on a loved one’s chest as they spoke; only pressing darkness. "Dashi?" he whispered, both out loud and inside.
No response. Hiro’s chest tightened. He couldn’t take this. He was back to square one, back in that hospital room, waiting for the If that he couldn’t ascertain. Except now there were no nurses, no doctors, no machines to help turn that If in their favour. Tadashi was alone, and so was Hiro.
Baymax bowed over to Hiro’s left, trying to get his attention. "Hiro, your blood pressure is: elevated, and you are beginning to: hyperventilate. This indicates that you are: panicking."
He was snapped back to the present by his friends' cries of fear. They needed help. Tadashi is alive. He could come back. Hiro climbed shakily on to Baymax's back, letting the magnets slide into place. They were the only thing keeping him together. "Let's go."
"Back into the fire!" A body flew into Fred, knocking him off his feet and sliding them both beneath the rest of the team. Krei raised a fist, creating an enormous stamp of Microbots. They watched helplessly as he brought it down.
The stamp hesitated mid-punch, throwing Krei off. He flinched away as something barely avoided his head.
Baymax circled back around, aiming directly for the masked man. Krei threw up narrow pikes, getting sloppier as the duo approached, and finally landed a solid punch on his attacker. Hiro was knocked off of Baymax and went crashing into his opponent. They tumbled down a flight of stairs and landed in a heap on the floor. Microbots fell like metallic rain on the team.
Hiro groaned and pushed himself up, spotting the mask that had been displaced in the scuffle. He snatched it up, stood and flipped up his visor. "It's over, Krei." He stated boldly. He watched as Krei painfully stood, grunting as he did. He turned to face Hiro.
It wasn't Krei.
"Pr-Professor Callaghan?" Hiro's voice caught. No, no, no no no no! This isn't right! "The explosion.” Hiro stuttered. “Y-You died."
"No. I had your Microbots." Callaghan sneered.
"But... T-Tadashi." Hiro grasped at his helmet. "I can't... I can't hear him..."
Callaghan gave Hiro an uncertain look. Hiro continued. "He... he would’ve died. He almost did."
"Give me the mask, Hiro." Their ex-professor held out his hand.
Hiro backed away. "He went in there to save you." he said through gritted teeth.
"That was his mistake!" Callaghan yelled.
Hiro couldn't believe what he was hearing. Professor Robert Callaghan, Tadashi's mentor and idol, hadn't thought twice about letting him die. "No."
"What?" Robert was infuriated.
"It wasn't his mistake." Hiro's eyes were dead. "It was yours."
Baymax landed behind him. Robert glanced at the intimidating armour.
"Baymax, destroy." Hiro was becoming tense, so much so that his shoulders swayed with each breath.
Callaghan shivered in fear, shoulders taut as he staggered back half a step.
"My programming prevents me from injuring a human being." The statement allowed Callaghan to relax for a brief second.
"Not anymore." Hiro sat himself on the floor, legs crossed. The boy went limp.
Baymax spoke. "Hiro, this is not what-" his voice was cut off.
Robert was flabbergasted. What is he-
"No!" Honey yelled.
"Hiro, stop!" Fred pleaded.
The robot - that Callaghan’s student had named Baymax - seized up, apertures closing in its lenses. They opened again, glowing red. It spoke, its voice garbled almost beyond recognition.
A gigantic gauntlet flew at Robert’s face. He barely managed to jump out of the way.
GoGo skated down the stair railing, pulling off the bot's next attack. "No! Stop, Hiro!" He threw her into a wall.
He retrieved the second fist and stomped after the target, who tripped and rolled in his attempts to escape. Hiro-max shouldered his way through obstacles, crumbling several pillars in the process. Callaghan scrambled away on his back, eyes wide as a fist aimed directly at his head. A blue suit intervened.
The bot struggled against the hindrance, arguing with the comrade. "No, stop!" it growled. "He's getting away!" He plucked off the blue suit and threw it away. It landed against a wall in a heap.
Callaghan picked up the mask from Hiro's slouched form. He put it on and summoned the Microbots to pull him and his tech to safety.
The team moved to restrain the corrupt bot as it fought to achieve its directive. "Hiro!"
Callaghan turned away from the group, boarding his only means of escape. Hiro-max raised a rocket fist and followed the rising target until two words flashed in the corner of his vision. Locked On.
The fist deactivated as Hiro landed roughly a foot away from his seat, crumpled on the floor. He groaned and held his head where the blow had connected.
Baymax blinked and looked down at the team, lowering his raised arm. Honey stood over Hiro, holding a thick segment of pipe. She was panting heavily.
"My healthcare protocol has been violated." Baymax moved to assist Fred. "I regret any distress I may have caused." He turned to his patient who marched over, seething.
"How could you do that? I had him!" he yelled at Honey.
Wasabi came to her defence, holding up a large hand between them. "What you just did, we never signed up for."
GoGo was furious. "We said we'd catch the guy. That's it."
Hiro spun angrily to face them. "I never should've let you help me!" He turned back to the bot. "Baymax, find Callaghan."
The protector's head tilted skywards and a cyan grid shorted out on his visor. "My enhanced scanner has been damaged." He said, speakers almost tinged with regret.
Hiro grunted in disgust, attaching to Baymax's magnets. "Wings!" The voice-activated command made the wings snap to attention, like a dismissive salute.
Fred panicked. "Hiro this wasn't part of the plan!"
"Fly!" Hiro ordered.
He ignored their calls as they flew away from the island. They didn't see his tears that were threatening to escape.
They entered the garage. Baymax watched as his patient grabbed a stepladder, climbed it and yanked off his enhanced scanner, using it to shove an item off of his desk. Hiro plugged it into the computer and tapped away at the keys, glancing over at the helmet. Baymax sensed the anomaly in Hiro’s parietal lobe when the scanner reacted.
Baymax felt the need to inform him. "Your blood pressure is: elevated. You appear to be: distressed."
"I'm fine." He disconnected the wires and shoved the helmet back on to the plush head. "There, i-is it working?"
The bot ran a quick diagnostic. "My sensor is: operational."
"Good.” Hiro reached up to Baymax’s access port. “Then let's get-" Tap. The port remained closed.
Tap. Hiro held his finger down for an extra second but nothing happened.
Tap, tap tap tap tap. Hiro was becoming agitated.
Baymax lowered his head in question. "Are you going to remove my: healthcare chip?"
"Yes." Tap tap. "Open." Hiro tried using two fingers, almost burrowing into the armour with the instinctual logic of, If it doesn’t work, use more force. He was too drained from the fight to use his powers against Baymax again. Tap tap tap tap.
"My purpose is to heal the sick and injured." Baymax pointed out.
Hiro tried using both hands to pry the small doors apart, to no avail. "Baymax, open your access port." Tap tap.
"Do you want me to terminate Professor Callaghan?"
Tap tap. Hiro pounded his fist on the armour in frustration. "Just. Open." Hiro pulled the cherry-red chest plate away. It hissed as it depressurised and he tossed it aside, quickly returning to fiddle with the slit. Tap tap, twist twist.
"Will terminating Professor Callaghan improve your emotional state?"
Hiro stopped mid-assault. The question had caught him off-guard. "Yes, n-n-no, I don't know! Open your access-"
"Is this what Tadashi wanted?"
Hiro pulled at the circular port, the strong vinyl fighting him the whole time. "It doesn't matter!"
"Tadashi programmed me to aid in-"
"Tadashi's gone!" Hiro pounded on the white belly in front of him and light bulb blew out instantaneously. His forehead slid down the smooth, cool material, tickling him with the faint resulting static. "I-I can't hear him. Tadashi's... gone." He swallowed thickly.
"Tadashi is here." Baymax chimed.
"No. He's not here."
"Tadashi is here."
Hiro heard a hum. He raised his eyes as Baymax's chest lit up.
"This is Tadashi Hamada, and this is the first test of my robotics project." His eyes were alight with excitement.
"Hello, I am Baymax, -zzzzzzt!"
"Stop stop stop stop stop stop!" His arms flailed wildly and the image froze on his scared face.
Hiro took a breath. Tadashi…
"The seventh test, of my robotics project." His eyebrows pulled together in worry; his hopes weren't as high. His concern lifted for a moment as the project spoke again.
"Hello, I am Bay-"
Zchwer! Zchwer! Zchwer! Giant puffy arms beat at him relentlessly, the right detaching and flying around the room. He ducked and stared after it until the left continued to fight him.
"W-Wait, stop, stop scan, sto-!" He froze mid-panic.
Non-threatening? Huggable? Hiro laughed through a dry sob, the lower half of his eyesight turning blurry.
Tadashi Hamada again, and this is the thirty-third test of my robotics project." There were deep bags beneath his eyes, and his hair hung sadly under his cap. He ducked as sparks flew and the lab blacked out.
A flashlight clicked on, shining into the camera. It moved aside, revealing his face. He eyed the camera warily and sighed, gaze lifting to look directly into the lens. "I'm not giving up on you. You don't understand this yet, but people need you. So let's get back to work." He ended his little pep-talk with a determined smile and reached up to end the test.
Beep. The video halted
Hiro looked down in contemplation. He didn’t give up. The idiot.
"This is, uh, Tadashi Hamada, and this is the eighty-fourth... test." He rubbed the back of his neck and exhaled loudly. He inserted the chip. "Whaddya say, Big Guy?"
"Hello, I am Baymax, your personal, healthcare companion."
His eyes grew huge. "It works." he whispered. "IT WORKS! Oh, this is amazing! You-you work!" He smooched the camera. "I knew it! I knew it, I knew it, I kneeew iiit! Oh, you work, I can't believe-I ca-okay. Alright, big moment here. Scan me." He held his arms out by his hips, shoulders heaving with every breath.
"Your neurotransmitter levels are: elevated. This indicates that you are: happy." said the young Baymax.
"I am, I really am. Oh, man. Wait till my brother sees you. You're gonna help so many people, buddy. So many. And that's all for now. I am satisfied with my care."
The video ended on his relieved face.
Hiro hesitantly placed his hand on the warm image, then sniffed and brushed away a tear as it faded. He looked up at his carer. "Thankyou Baymax."
The robot blinked.
"I'm so sorry. I guess I'm not like my brother." Hiro dropped his head solemnly, unable to hold his own against the unwavering stare. A few tears weaved silently down his cheeks.
Footsteps approached from behind him and a feminine voice spoke. "Hiro."
He turned to face the team; minus one Hamada. "Guys, I, uh, I-"
GoGo embraced him, holding him close. He relaxed into the hug and her head rested on his. "We're going to catch Callaghan."
"And this time, we'll do it right."
Hiro’s breathing hitched. He was okay. “You're okay.”
"I sure am, bonehead."
Hiro bolted for the door and wrapped his arms around the black suit. Tadashi stumbled back and chuckled, ruffling his baby brother's thick hair.
"Tada-dashi. I-I thought... when Callaghan..." Hiro shuddered into the armour.
"Hey, hey. It's alright." He hugged the head holding that big brain of his. "It's okay. I can't say I would've done any different. Besides," he pulled back from the embrace, eyes sparkling. "a fire couldn't stop me. You thought a little concrete would?" He laid both hands on Hiro's shoulders, looking into his doe eyes. "I'm not leaving you like that again. Not for anything. We all came back. That's the only thing that matters." He hugged Hiro’s small frame tightly, smiling sadly with each silenced body-wracking, sob. It took everything he had not to break down too but Tadashi had experience. He had done this before, countless times.
It took less than a minute for Hiro to calm down when he remembered that the team were still there. As if he could read thoughts, Wasabi decided to lighten the mood, for the little guy’s sake. "Hey, but maybe don't leave your team stranded on a spooky island next time." he joked.
Hiro turned to him, eyes wide and face-palming. "Oh man-" he peeked out from behind his fingers in silent apology.
"Nah it's cool.” Fred admitted. “Heathcliff picked us up in the family chopper."
Honey Lemon produced a flash drive from a pocket. "Hiro, we found something you should see."
He plugged the USB into his sleeping computer and downloaded a file. It opened up immediately; another video.
"You almost got us all killed."
"HEY! YOU DID THIS! YOU KNEW IT WASN'T READY!" Callaghan struggled against his reflexive restrainers.
"Callaghan? He was there?" Hiro covered his mouth in disbelief.
"He was such a good man." Honey commented. "What happened?"
"I don't know. But the answer's here somewhere." Hiro minimised the window, revealing eight more black feeds. He rewound the videos again and like last time, the cameras reanimated to their final moments.
"Wait, wait, stop." Honey pointed at the top-left screen. "There he is."
Hiro maximised the image and resumed it. "With the pilot..." A thought struck him. "Hang on." He fast-forwarded the video, finding the moment he wanted.
"We've invited all these people." reasoned Abigail.
He rewound for a second more and paused. A small rectangle was highlighted on the pilot's helmet. Zoom and enhance. He'd always wanted to say that. The image came into focus, revealing a familiar name printed in bold lettering. "The pilot was Callaghan's daughter."
Tadashi finished the thought. "Callaghan blames Krei."
"This is a revenge story." Fred exclaimed.
"So what are we waiting for?" Hiro picked up his own helmet.
Tadashi stood in front of Hiro, effectively stopping him. "Callaghan's next move. We need a break, Hiro, and we’re still recovering. It would do us all some good to wait it out."
Hiro hesitated, then nodded and put his helmet down. "Y-You're right. Obviously." Classic Tadashi. Always thinking of others first.
The elder Hamada turned to the group. "Keep an eye out for anything that would bait Callaghan. We could capture him before something major happens. I'm not sure if he has suspicions about Hiro's abilities, after what he saw, but we can't be certain. The best we can do for now is lay low."
The team agreed and turned to leave. Fred swivelled back, eyes almost as wide as his suit’s yellow orbs. "Wait, wait, bait?” his eyes unfocused slightly and he chuckled. “That rhymed.”
Hiro didn’t have time for this. “Fred.” He called sternly.
Fred started and concentrated once more. “Right, sorry. I just remembered something. Krei Tech's opening up a new building, tomorrow afternoon. If I've learnt anything from comics, it's that villains always wait until a big, publicised event to attack." Fred glanced around suspiciously, as if there were spies in the shadows. "My bet is that Callaghan will go after Krei then. Your thoughts, geniuses?"
Wasabi blanched but recovered quickly. "Who knew superhero rules would apply to us?"
Tadashi patted Fred on the back. "Good thinking there. We'll meet up at Fred's tomorrow. We will catch Callaghan. And we will win."GoGo and the group nodded and left.