Chapter 2: Copyright
The trip home was mostly silent, neither of them needing to voice their relief.
He was awake. He would be okay.
Cass switched on her car radio and focused on the road.
A professional, feminine voice spoke clearly. “In leading news, a disturbing three-point-nine earthquake shook the city of San Fransokyo tonight. Seismologists are unsure as to what may have caused the shock but, as it packed half the force of the Nineteen-oh-Six, we can be sure that they’ll look into it. Fortunately no deaths have been reported, however many homes will be due for an early spring-cleanout.”
"You gonna call your friends? They'll want to know, you know." Cass stated.
"Yeah, I know." he thought about the next week - it was sure to be hectic. "I'll call tomorrow." He leaned his elbow on the armrest on the passenger-side door, resting his jaw in his palm. He stared out the window as the streetlamps flashed by, looking at everything but seeing nothing. A couple more minutes passed in radio silence.
"My cooking isn't that bad, is it?" His aunt sounded worried.
"What? No. You run a cafe. Your cooking's great." Hiro gave a closed-lip smile, still looking through the glass. Despite the sleep he had snagged at the hospital, he started drifting off, snoring softly. It had been one of those days.
Cass glanced over at her nephew. He'd been through a lot today. She vowed to try and carry him upstairs when they got home, although he wasn't as light as he used to be. Sometimes she wondered how Tadashi managed to swing his brother around like a pillow.
To be young... she thought.
She stopped at the intersection as the lights turned red. A thundering buzz sounded from behind her.
Hiro's snoring stopped, and he shifted into a more upright position, blinking the sleep away.
At least he can walk to bed himself now. She was relieved; not that she didn't want to carry him, but she was bound to hit his head on something or other.
The lights turned green and the cyclist zoomed by, not slowing even though he had been driving into the red. Cass accelerated, but didn't see what Hiro saw.
A truck blared its horn as it approached from the right. Hiro seized up. The headlights were blinding, so he squeezed his eyes shut. They wouldn't get through in time, he knew.
Tires squealed as Hiro braced for the impact that never came. He opened one eye, then the other.
"What is wrong with you? Knucklehead!" Aunt Cass honked the horn at the truck they had long since passed.
Hiro let out his pent-up breath. That was too close. They had almost ended up in the hospital the day Tadashi woke up. Oh, coincidence, he chided. Not today.
"Nice driving there, Aunt Cass. I didn't know you could drag race."
"It wasn't me, that idiot went through the red! Honestly, they'll throw a licence at anyone with limbs these days! Back when I was a kid, we actually took courses." she huffed. Hiro could tell she was happy they had made it out alive.
The rest of the drive was spent with Cass rambling in the background about "Back in her day," and "The troubles facing society," and "Teenagers". By the time they'd pulled up to their home, she was seething about how much prices on… well, everything!... had increased since before Hiro was born. She fumbled for her house key and sighed in frustration.
"Where was I going with this? I had a point."
Hiro shrugged and shook his head, thankful that they were home at last. His aunt, taking the silence at some kind of answer, whirled back and shoved the door open, flicking the light switch as she passed.
"What do you want for dinner?" she called around a mouthful of cupcake.
Hiro trudged up the stairs. "I'm not hungry. Goodnight, Aunt Cass."
"Okay sweetie. You going to the college tomorrow?"
"Yeah, maybe. I don't know."
Hiro entered his and Tadashi's shared room, kicking off his shoes near his desk. He spotted one particularly pudgy, colourful furball curled up on his pillow. "Come on Mochi. Out."
Mochi glared at him, looking very upset to be woken in the middle of his nap. His eyes switched to sheer terror as the younger boy threw himself on the bed, nearly crushing Mochi. The cat scrambled away from the incoming projectile. He was faster than he looked.
Hiro stuck the landing - which meant he landed square on his back without pulling any muscles - and stared at the ceiling. It had been a long day, and he just wanted Tadashi to come home.
He didn't go to SFIT the next day. He decided to wait the week out and go back when his brother was ready. The hospital had called and informed them that Tadashi seemed in perfect health and was clear to be discharged by nightfall. Hiro was ecstatic at the news.
An hour later Hiro’s phone buzzed. 1 New Message: Nerd Herd. Hiro opened the text and chuckled quietly; he didn’t need to call their friends anymore.
In the group chat, Tadashi had sent a bedhead selfie with a caption of, Hiro, where’re my donuts? L. A single thin tube still trailed into his nose but Tadashi had overcome it with one serious-looking puppy dog pout.
Hiro quickly tapped in a reply. *mouth full* What donuts? An innocent-looking emoji completed the thought. He stared at his phone for a moment and was about to drop it when he saw the torrent of text bubbles.
Honey Lemon: Omigosh omigosh omigosh! :O
Fredzilla: It’s… ALIVE!
Probably OCD: We were getting worried, man. Welcome back. J
Bonehead: ‘Wow Tadashi, glad you’re not dead and all.’ Thanks GoGo.
Hothead: Couldn’t’ve said it better myself.
Bonehead: You didn’t.
Honey Lemon: GoGo, behave. :/
Me: Hello to you too.
Honey Lemon: Hiro Hamada why didt you tell us?!
Honey Lemon: *Didn’t
Me: He beat me to it L
Bonehead: Yes, blame the comatose guy for telling them first. Well done.
Me: And perfectly executed too. 5 café points?
Bonehead: You win this round… =.=
Me: Yes! Well I got what I came for. I’ll leave you guys to your sap.
Grinning in his small victory, Hiro turned off the alerts for the group chat and tossed his phone onto his desk. It continued to light up every time he received a message but at least now it wouldn’t crawl away.
He sighed and spun in his chair, wondering how to spend his day. He eyed Megabot. Maybe he could do some more upgrades. He snatched up the battle-bot and went to search for his tools. The leg segment detached and thumped heavily on his foot.
"Ow! Aah-ssss. E-hah-hah. Ow." He stumbled back to sit on his bed, clutching his injured foot.
A quiet beeping sounded thrice before a soft inflating noise could be heard from the same spot. Hiro twisted around and witnessed the marshmallow-bodied bot try to navigate around the tight space. The robot waddled up to him and raised a giant balloon hand in greeting.
"Hello. I am Baymax, your personal, healthcare companion."
"Uh, hey, uuh, Ba-Baymax. I didn't know you were still ...active." Hiro stated.
"I heard a sound of distress." The robot blinked smoothly. "What seems to be the trouble?"
"Oh, I just stubbed my toe a little. I'm fine." He tried to shrug it off.
A screen lit up on Baymax's torso, displaying emoticons in different stages of distress. "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?"
"Uh, a zero?" He moved to get up off the bed. "I'm okay, really. Thanks, y-you can shrink now." Hiro shooed the bot.
Baymax didn't seem to notice. He bent over and pointed his finger. "Does it hurt when I: touch it?"
Hiro was the one to back away from the gentle giant. "Th-that's okay. N-no touching. I'm fi-agh!" Just his luck, he tripped over his toolbox, getting wedged between his desk and bed. He tugged his hand out from under him, catching his breath. "Ow."
Baymax moved closer and leaned forward, looking more directly at Hiro. "You have fallen." he declared.
"Ya think?" his voice was strained but he still managed to infuse the remark with sarcasm. Too bad robots didn't understand the concept. He reached up and aimed for a high shelf to pull himself up. The universe laughed in his face as the shelf snapped loose. Multiple objects - old toys, battle-bot trophies and figurines - tumbled down on to his head. He grunted as each item made contact.
Baymax finally got to voice his programmed concern. "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?"
Hiro raised his eyebrows. "Zero." he replied bluntly.
"It is alright to cry." Baymax scooped him up in plush arms.
"No, no no no no, no!" Hiro struggled futilely.
"Crying is a natural response to pain."
"I'm not crying." He fumbled out of Baymax's hold.
"I will scan you for injuries."
Hiro pointed aggressively. "Don't scan me."
He was exasperated. "Unbelievable." He half-listened to Baymax's medical mish-mosh. He caught on to the last part.
"Diagnosis:" The bot raised his finger. "Puberty."
"Woah, what?!" Hiro stalked around the bot and pulled out the red travel case. "Okay," he cough-chuckled awkwardly. "Time to shrink now."
Baymax listed the changes that came with puberty as Hiro attempted to shove him back in his charging station.
"I cannot deactivate until you say: you are satisfied with your care."
"Fine. I am satisfied with my-woah!" He flopped away from Baymax, landing flat on his face. He gave a petulant sigh with a frown clear on his brow. Something twitched under his bed. "Huh?"
He pulled it out slowly, finding the jacket he had worn the night of the fire. The pocket twitched sporadically, so he extracted the object. "My Microbot? This doesn't make any sense."
"Puberty can often be a confusing time for a young adolescent flowering into manhood."
"No... the thing's attracted to the other Microbots but that's impossible. They were destroyed in the fire." He shrugged it off. "Dumb thing's broken." He placed the tiny robot in a plastic petri dish. It relentlessly dinked against the edges as it tried to escape. Hiro shook the confusion out of his head and got back to working on Megabot.
In one smooth motion, Baymax picked up the dish. "Your tiny robot is trying to go somewhere."
"Oh yeah?." Hiro paid him no mind. "Why don't you find out where it's trying to go?"
"Will that stabilise your pubescent mood swings?"
"Uh-huh. Aaabsolutely." He tinkered with a loose joint.
The door to the cafe dinged closed. "Baymax?" Hiro ran to the window and watched as the nursebot made its way heedlessly through oncoming traffic.
"Baymax!" He grabbed his shoes and jacket and prepared for the chase. Tadashi's gonna kill me.
After a brief conversation - and last hug - with his aunt, Hiro bolted after his brother's project. Oh man, oh man.
Although the bot was obviously not made for running, he had the same convenient timing as his creator. He happened to catch every trolley and space in the crowd to steadily follow the Microbot's directions, and Hiro was left to stumble into walls and people.
"Baymax, get back here!" He finally came to a stop in front of an ancient warehouse.
"I have found where your tiny robot wants to go."
"I told you, it's broken! It's not trying to go-huh?" Hiro began but stopped when he saw the Microbot endlessly rolling towards the building, still trapped in the dish. He took a better look at the wreck. "Locked."
"There is a window." Hiro followed Baymax's gaze. Right above them was a half-open panel; their only entrance.
After much shuffling and precaution - mostly on Baymax's behalf - the pair made it inside. Hiro allowed Baymax to re-inflate while he followed the humming of electronics. He couldn't comprehend what he saw.
"My Microbots?" He eyed the almost-full drum as he ran a handful through his fingers. He looked up and discovered so many more full drums. "Someone's making more." He spotted a pinboard laden with intricate designs and string-paths. A simple image of a red bird within a circle stuck out.
"Hiro?" Baymax had appeared behind him.
"Aaah! You gave me, a heart attack!" Hiro was breathing hard.
"My hands are equipped with defibrillators." The nursebot rubbed his palms together and held them out towards Hiro. "Clear."
"Stop, stop stop stop! It's just an expression!"
Dink dink dink dinkdink dink dink dink dink dinkdink.
The lone Microbot in Hiro's pocket rattled relentlessly against the plastic. Hiro picked out the dish and watched in confusion.
The sound of rattling plastic increased in volume behind him. Baymax found the source. "Oh, no."
"I am not fast."
"Yeah no kidding!"
Hiro was desperately trying to push Baymax through the open window they had entered through, but there was no time for the balloon bot to deflate. The Microbots rushed at him. The masked man passively watched, arm raised. Hiro backed up and threw all his force into pushing Baymax with his back. He was helpless against the robotic swarm as it spiked towards him.
The swarm hesitated. It was all he needed. With a final shove Hiro flipped through the panel, swiftly gripping Baymax's legs. The bots continued their attack with an unimpeded force; enough to push the buoyous body out. They fell.
Come on! Hiro thought. He didn't want to end his day as a stain on the ground. He felt big arms wrap around him.
He bounced away from Baymax. What? He turned and found the robot deflating on the ground. His vinyl had been punctured. He picked Baymax up. "Come on, let's get out of here! Hurry!"
He ran, pulling Baymax behind him.
"So Mr Kabuki was using ESP to attack you and Balloon Man?"
"Iiii am healthcare! Personal Bay-max!"
"I will scan you now - scan complete!" Plop. "H-h-healthcare."
"Okay, if my aunt asks, we were at school, all day. Got it?"
"We jumped out a window!"
"No! Q-Quiet! Sshhh!"
"Sssh we jumped out a weeendow!"
"You can't say things like that around Aunt Cass! Sshh!"
"I can't wait to hear all about it! Oh and I’m heating up some wings for you."
"Would you be quiet?!"
"Yeah wiiings! Wreeewww!"
Mochi flew up the stairs after Baymax had stumbled in and slid down against a wall.
He watched as the cat settled in Baymax's arms.
"Haaaairy Baby! Hair-ree Bayybieeee."
Hiro joined them upstairs. "Alright, c'mon."
"Healthcare-e, per-personal Baymax."
"One foot in front of the other." Hiro helped Baymax into his charging station.
Miss. Miss. Step. Beep. Baymax slowly re-inflated.
Hiro collapsed onto his bed, twirling his Microbot between his fingers. "This doesn't make any sense."
Hiro sat up. "What?"
"Tadashi." Baymax said again.
Hiro leaned forward to get a better view of what Baymax had seen. He found Tadashi sitting on his own bed, watching with a mix of concern and amusement.