Chapter 13: Everything is Alright
Callaghan had forced Baymax still, holding them upside down in a swath of Microbots. Baymax's arms were tied to his sides.
"This ends now!" Callaghan thrust his arms at the pair.
He tried again, and again. Still nothing.
Hiro leaned forward smugly. "Looks like you're out of Microbots."
"Huh?" Callaghan looked down. Indeed, the only ones left were around his feet and the two in front of him. He looked back up.
"Baymax." Hiro commanded.
The bot burst out of the Professor's synthetic hold and rushed at him, fist out.
Callaghan seized up in panic, but the impact never came. He looked up.
The fist was all he could see.
He panted heavily in relief. They had spared him. They had no reason to, yet they did.
Hiro looked over Baymax’s shoulder at him. "Our programming prevents us from injuring a human being. But,” He politely asked Baymax to destroy the mask. “We'll take that." It crumbled between gloved, plush fingers.
The Microbots went limp all round, and Callaghan flew up, kicking at the air. With less than a moment to spare, strong arms caught him and brought him down.
The portal plummeted without support, landing with a powerful, crushing impact. Smoke billowed away from the site like a tsunami.
Callaghan was dropped roughly on the ground, where he lay for a minute while his heartbeat slowed.
Baymax landed gently, as he had before the fight, and Hiro leaped to the ground, ready for action.
The portal sucked in some of the nearby fog, clearing the air around them. Hiro and Baymax turned to face it.
"It's still on! We have to shut it down!" Tadashi yelled.
Krei had been brought down by Honey. "We can't! The containment field is failing, the portal's gonna tear itself apart!"
Tadashi faced the group. "We need to get out of here, now!" He brought out his board and flew up for a better view, trying to find an exit. When he looked back he saw that the adults had bolted, but Hiro and Baymax remained. Tadashi went back to them.
"Hiro! You need to move!"
His brother stared fixedly at the portal.
"Hiro!" The adults had halted, staring oddly at the pair.
Tadashi heard a hum. It was faint at first, but it built up volume until it drowned out the noise of the portal. Then he realised. It was the portal. This is what Hiro was hearing.
The tune was so sweet; it was cold, quiet and seductive, beckoning him closer. A hand grabbed his shoulder, shaking him out of his trance.
"Tadashi!" Honey yelled. "What're you doing?"
He was the closest to the portal, only being held back by Baymax. He hovered away.
Baymax pointed at the portal. "My sensor is detecting signs of life."
"What?" Tadashi asked.
"Coming from: there. The life signs are female. She appears to be in: hypersleep."
"Callaghan's daughter. She's still alive." The elder Hamada breathed.
Callaghan turned to the portal. "Abigail..."
Hiro climbed steadily onto Baymax. "Let's go get her."
Tadashi reached out, gripping his brother's elbow. "Hiro, no!"
“I can hold it back. I can hold it back long enough to get her.” Hiro argued as he fixed his magnets into place, still not facing his brother.
“Hiro, Rule 0.”
“You promised never to leave me again. I didn't.” He gave a few small tugs to ensure he was locked on, and Tadashi’s hand fell away in disbelief.
Krei tried to persuade the boy not to go. "The portal is destabilising. You'll never make it!"
Hiro turned his head to face the group. They gasped.
His irises had turned an electric blue, a shocking contrast to the dark hair that fell over them.
"She's alive in there. Someone has to help." With one last magnet-check, he leaned over Baymax’s wide shoulder. "What do you say, buddy?"
Baymax turned his head to face his primary patient. "Flying makes me a better healthcare companion."
He shot off the ground and high up, over the smoke, then back down. His thrusters activated again and they glided into the portal.
Hiro's eyes adjusted to the atmosphere within the portal. Woah.
The world inside looked like flower petals and cotton candy had been smashed together. Colourful clouds swirled around each other. Hiro swore he could see faces in them. “You seeing this, Tadashi?”
Screeching filled his ears. Tadashi deactivated his hoverboard and dropped to his knees, clutching at his head.
“You seeing this, Tadashi?” Hiro's voice bounced around in his head, clearer than the frantic yells of his friends.
“Hiro, cut the link. It-“ he gasped in pain. “It hurts.” Colours blossomed behind his eyes. “It's amazing, I know. But I can't take it. It's too loud.” He curled in on himself, knocking off his helmet and hands running through his hair. He whimpered.
"Dude, what's happening?"
Hiro's breathing hitched. He was hurting Tadashi.
“I'm sorry! I'll stop! I'm holding on to the magnetic containment field, but I don't know how well I've got it. If it comes to it... leave without me, okay?”
Tadashi could hear tears in his brother's voice. “Hiro-“
His heart ripped in two. He needed to be there for his brother, but it hurt too much. The least he could do was protect the rest of them.
“Good.” Hiro's voice began to fade, and the pain went with it. “I'm blocking it now. See you on the other side.” He joked mirthlessly.
And just like that, Tadashi was alone.
He sucked in a breath. So that's how Hiro felt before...
His eyes widened, throbbing painfully from his sensory assault, but he could see again. His breathing was uneven and ragged.
“Hiro?” His call was a whisper. There was no response. He shuddered.
"Tadashi, you okay man?" Fred was crouched beside him.
"Dashi, what happened?"
He was on the ground, lying on his right side. His helmet was off and he had his left hand through his hair. He gripped his scalp tighter as his head throbbed again and with agonising slowness, uncurled from his position and sat up.
He glanced at the group. His friends - and even Krei - were looking down at him in concern.
Callaghan could only stare at what Tadashi held. "A bandana?"
Tadashi looked at his hand. He was grasping Wasabi's bandana in a death-grip. Oops.
Callaghan and Krei weren't supposed to find out. But they'd seen Hiro. They were smart men, and they knew there was something off. There was no use in hiding anything.
Tadashi stood with the help of Fred. "Hiro... Hiro told us to leave if the portal went too far. He b-blocked the link. I-I can't hear him." He was shivering.
GoGo observed Tadashi’s behaviour for a moment, then clicked her tongue resolutely. "Withdrawal." It was more of a statement than a question.
Tadashi twitched at her voice but nodded fervently. "S-Something l-like that."
GoGo nodded and turned to the rest of the team. "We need to keep him distracted until Hiro comes back.” Tadashi was glad to recognise that she had so much faith in his brother.
GoGo started barking orders. “Fred, keep him warm. Honey, you got anything in there that's scented? We're gonna need it. Wasabi, gather rubble. Large pieces, the biggest you can carry." She turned to the elder men. "Krei, with Fred. Callaghan, with Wasabi." She eyed Callaghan. "If you put one toe out of line, don't expect to remember your birthday tomorrow." she hissed.
Callaghan gulped and watched the short student warily. He admired that she had the gall to talk to him like that, even though he had attempted to kill them. Many times. He hurried after Wasabi.
GoGo stayed with Tadashi and hugged him tight, guiding him to a fallen concrete pillar which they used as a seat. It helped with the shuddering, a little.
"Careful, there's Krei Tech debris everywhere." Hiro warned. He shivered at the emptiness in his head, suddenly realising how cold this portal space was.
Baymax weaved through bits of rubble and glass, Hiro leaning into the moves. They came across a large section of window. "Look out!"
Hiro jumped onto the curved glass and ran along it, keeping Baymax in sight. He managed to jump through a hole in the glass and was caught by the nursebot.
Baymax held him close. "I have located the patient." He turned his head up and Hiro followed his gaze. He spotted the same pod from the surveillance footage.
"Hurry!" He climbed back onto the magnets and Baymax rocketed towards it. The bot's legs curved around as they approached, absorbing their momentum. Baymax caught the pod.
Hiro swiped frost off of the glass and peered inside. He found Callaghan's daughter, and saw faint breaths condensate on the glass of her helmet. "Come on buddy, let's get her home."
Baymax maneuvered the pod so that it faced the portal and activated his thrusters.
"I'll guide you out of here. Let's go!" Hiro proffered as they sped towards debris. "Veer right! Okay, to the left! Hard right! Up and over!" Baymax complied, not missing a beat.
"Okay level off. Easy..." They glided through another broken section of glass, making a beeline for the exit. "Woohoo! Nice flying!"
Hiro's still-blue eyes stared hopefully at the portal. They were going to make it. He turned back and grinned at Baymax. "Almost there!" He didn't see the chunk of concrete that drifted towards them.
Baymax twisted the pod so that it and Hiro were shielded by him. The concrete smashed into him, destroying the majority of his armour. He slowly floated away.
Hiro looked about in panic as he felt the tight embrace shift away from him. "Baymax!"
The robot blinked at his predicament.
Wasabi leaned over a heavy piece of rubble that was serving as a blockade; too heavy to be moved at this distance and large enough to protect him from the vacuum. The portal was eating away at parts of itself. Come on, Hiro.
He turned back to his work and carefully observed his old professor. They wouldn't be in this situation if it wasn't for him. They could all be in their labs, working on a project, or having lunch in the cafeteria. They could be living normal lives but instead here they were, collecting rubble to distract their friend who was panicking from not being able to hear his brother's thoughts. He chuckled darkly to himself. What is wrong with us?
"Let's head back." He said, satisfied with what they'd compiled. A small fire was set in the middle of the group where they rested near the entrance to what was the courtyard. Honey had managed to spear one of her bombs and stick it over the flames, releasing a delicate wisp of pink smoke. GoGo had an arm around Tadashi and held him tight. His legs were bouncing rapidly while they sat on a relatively stable piece on debris. He stared into the fire and bit his bottom lip.
"Hey." Wasabi greeted. His friends nodded at him but Tadashi kept his gaze fixed on the blaze. GoGo waved him over.
Wasabi looked over at Krei, who stood to the side and watched in concern and fear. He turned back to GoGo. "Are you sure about this?" he hissed. "If Krei doesn't suspect anything, he sure as heck will after this."
GoGo sighed, twisting around to face Krei. "He already saw Hiro, and how Tadashi reacted when the little guy went after Abigail.” she whispered. “The best we can do is hope he doesn't snitch on them."
She turned back to her friends, facing Tadashi. "Tadashi? Hey, we got some stuff for you to mess around with. You're gonna hurt your eyes if you keep staring into the fire."
Tadashi nodded. "Thanks buddy." Without breaking his gaze, he lifted the stones and rubble out of Wasabi's hands and they drifted towards him. Callaghan fumbled when his own burden was suddenly lifted. Tadashi cupped his hand and fluttered his fingers, making the objects spin around each other. It looked pretty complicated, almost like a miniature solar system; smaller rocks orbiting larger ones.
Wasabi smiled at the look on Krei's face, realising that's probably what they had looked like the first time Tadashi had shown them. Krei looked around at the team, sizing up their reactions. Callaghan had a more stoic expression on, but his gentle blue eyes were wide in wonder.
Wasabi gave them a look that caught their attention. The men turned to him for an explanation, but he held up his hand. "Don't ask."
"Baymax!" Hiro stood on the pod and reached an arm out.
The robot leaned forward and was pushed to Hiro by a small kick from his boots. "My thrusters are: inoperable."
"Just, grab hold!"
Baymax coasted over to the boy and gripped a gloved hand. Hiro pulled him down so they could both hold on to the pod. He glanced over his shoulder at their exit.
"There is still a way I can get you both to safety."
Hiro turned back in confusion, watching the robot's movements. He gasped when he noticed what the bot was trying to do.
"I cannot deactivate until you say: you are satisfied with your care." Baymax instructed gently, fixing his remaining rocket fist in place.
"No, nononono, wait, wh-what about you?" Hiro began to panic, his mind working too fast for his mouth to keep up.
"You are my patient."
"Your health is my only concern."
"Stop! I can get us both out of here, I can use the thrusters on the pod-"
"Not in your condition. You are damaging yourself by containing the portal." Even as Baymax said this, a thin trickle of blood was slowly making its way down Hiro’s sinus.
"I'm gonna figure out-"
"Are you satisfied with your care?"
"No! There's gotta be another way, I'm not gonna leave you here! I'll think of something-"
"There is no time. Are you satisfied with your care?" Baymax questioned softly.
"Please, no..." Hiro sobbed. "I ca-an't lose you too."
"Hiro." If a robot had facial expressions, Baymax would look most sincere. "I will always be with you."
Tears escaped. Hiro clasped on to the bot's non-existent neck, sobbing loudly. A single plush arm embraced him in return.
Baymax had become like family to him, like another brother. He cared deeply for him, and Baymax cared for Hiro as more than a patient. They had become companions in the short few days they'd known each other. Hiro couldn't... he didn't want to... lose...
He pulled back from the hug, sniffling. His voice was thick as he said the fatal statement.
"I am satisfied with my care."
Baymax blinked and nodded in confirmation. He leaned away as he released the rocket fist.
Hiro, jolted by his inertia, could only watch as Baymax was propelled away by the force of the blast that freed his patients. Hiro lost sight of Baymax after a few seconds, the wrecked body of his friend consumed by tears and the portal’s glaring entrance.
Wasabi glanced over his shoulder as the portal started glowing red-hot. Honey followed his gaze.
They're not gonna make it.
They're gonna make it.
Tadashi stiffened beside GoGo, back straightening and breath hitching. The stones dropped. A warm, small smile graced his face. They're gonna make it.
An object burst forth from the portal and crashed heavily to the ground. The portal’s surface turned a sickly purple and promptly exploded. The team crouched lower behind their makeshift shield but Tadashi vaulted it and ran at the projectile as it slid to a stop.
A slumped figure sagged off the pod, landing on unresponsive legs. He collapsed to the ground, shuddering. He was breathing heavily. The fist shut down.
"Hiro!" Wasabi yelled.
"Yeah they made it!" Fred exclaimed.
Tadashi flowed to a stop, dropping to his knees at his brother's side. "Hiro?"
Shivering, Hiro lazily turned his head up. The last of the blue faded away, revealing soft brown.
Tadashi pulled of Hiro's helmet, allowing him to breathe a little easier. He helped Hiro into a semi-standing position as the rest of the group approached.
Wasabi's face fell, sadness replacing joy. "Baymax?"
Hiro shook his head. The team slowed to a walk.
Honey looked alarmed. "Hiro, are you okay?"
Tadashi hadn't taken his eyes off of his little brother, and had noticed a steady trickle of blood from Hiro's nose. Hiro smudged it away, still panting, and nodded. He wiped at his cheeks too.
"B-Baymax used his... I c-couldn't get the pod to work a-at the same time..." He wiped at his face again, standing up a little straighter and looking around. "Where're Callaghan and Krei?"
"Over here." GoGo walked up, dragging the older men by their ears. Tadashi inwardly chuckled at the resemblance with his aunt when she let go.
Hiro eyed the pair before turning more fully to face Robert. He placed his left arm - the one not currently around Tadashi's shoulders - on the side of the pod and his eyes flashed blue for a brief instant. The domed glass, covered in frost, hissed and opened at his command. The pilot was still unconscious inside.
The ex-professor's breath caught. "Abigail..."
"Take a good, long look at her, Callaghan,” Hiro advised, “'cause I have a feeling you won't be here when she wakes up."
Tadashi was concerned about the coldness in his brother's voice. It didn't belong to a fourteen-year-old.
As Hiro finished speaking, sirens could be heard in the distance. Hiro faced Krei.
"If you wouldn't mind, we'd prefer that you don't tell anyone what you've seen. It would make it easier for everyone, don't you think?" Some of the boyishness was back in him, trying to sound a little nicer to an almost-innocent victim.
Krei glanced around at the group, each member returning looks of worry and fear. He turned back to the Hamadas and the deed the youngest had done for a man who had almost killed them on multiple occasions. He pulled a genuine smile.
"I think we can come to an agreement."
They all visibly relaxed and the brothers nodded tiredly back at him. Tadashi laid out the terms. "No press, no interviews, no identification. We remain hidden, you don't tell anyone who any of us are. A group of colourfully-dressed individuals saved the three of you from a disaster, that's it." He held out his right hand. "Deal?"
Krei didn't hesitate to shake. He gripped Tadashi's hand firmly and looked into his eyes. They were honest and true. "I will work to the best of my ability to keep you guys under the radar. If anything is reported, you can be sure it wasn't me. Besides," his eyes flickered between the two brothers. "I wouldn't want to get on your bad side."
Hiro stood on his own and shook the businessman's hand too. "Thank you, Mr Krei. We appreciate your efforts." He turned his back and received his helmet from Tadashi, who had donned his own. "Sorry about the building, and all."
Krei chuckled. "Don't worry about it. I'm sure you did your best. That's all I need to know."
The team nodded in gratitude before activating the tints in their visors. Honey threw a jelly bomb at Callaghan's feet, immobilising him. "Sorry, Professor." she said apologetically. She threw another at the base of the building and bounced away. Fred followed shortly after, trailed by Wasabi. GoGo raced up the curve of some detached segment of wall and soared across to the roof.
Tadashi kicked his hoverboard into gear, helping Hiro onto it. Hiro twisted his neck around to speak one last time. "I'll see you guys in the news."
The two flew away as police and paramedics rushed into the wreckage.
Someone was talking to her.
"Miss, can you hear me? What is your name?"
Her throat hurt. Why didn't they know her name?
"A-Abigail... Callaghan." Her eyes fluttered open. She was moving, or being moved, on a stretcher. A woman walked alongside her, looking into her eyes with concern.
"Okay, Abigail. You are gonna be fine, we're taking you to the hospital."
The hospital? Why...
A light shone into her eyes. She blinked at the harsh brightness. The medics lifted her into an ambulance and one took a seat beside her.
Before the doors shut, she caught a glimpse of colourful dots atop a grey building.
She blinked some more and the dots vanished.
Just an afterimage.