Chapter 6: Feel the Burn
Hiro invited the team to his garage the next day. "Arms up." He scanned the group and their forms were replicated on his favourite 3D modelling program. An image he had sketched up earlier that morning enlarged itself on the holographic monitor. "The neurotransmitter must be in his mask. We get the mask, and he can't control the bots. Game over."
He turned back to the monitor and began working vigorously on new designs. Baymax returned to his charging station, falling into sleep mode.
Tadashi watched over his shoulder. "I'm guessing this was your idea last night?" he smirked.
"Maybe. But not like this." The digital pen flourished across the blueprints, and Hiro's other hand twitched feverishly in front of him.
Tadashi raised his eyebrow as a suit the size of Baymax completed itself on screen. "Hiro, what are you doing?"
"Baymax said I needed to exercise this, get familiar with it. Besides, it's nothing I couldn't normally do. You should practice too."
"What if Aunt Cass catches us?"
"She won't, trust me. She's watching The Blob with Mochi. They're up to the part where it's seeping through the doors of the lab." Hiro turned to his brother, unfazed by his evident surprise. "And would you mind removing this?" Hiro plucked at his hood where the tracker was placed. "S'not like we need it anymore."
Tadashi stared at the invisible patch. He found it? He's that good already? Nothing but my phone should be able to detect it! "Sure. Hand it over."
Hiro shrugged off his jacket, flickering his eyes as he tugged the sleeves away. Six more miniature blueprint windows opened up on the screen and began taking measurements of the college students. Once it had finished, the mannequins stopped developing.
"What's up?" Tadashi asked, fingernails picking at the stitches.
"Nothing it's just..." Hiro trailed off. He turned around to face the students who were watching him avidly. They'd been caught staring.
Fred got back to his Reptillor comic and Wasabi fiddled with a Stanley knife. Hiro's eyes lit up. "Guys? We're gonna have to visit your nerd lab."
Luckily, no one was in the shared lab space; it was a Saturday, so people decided a little extra sleep wouldn't do any harm.
Tadashi used his spare key to let them in. Hiro glanced around at his friends' inventions.
The wheels on GoGo's electro-mag bike started spinning faster than ever, Wasabi's laser-induced plasma screen lit up, and the weight support in Honey's space - minus four-hundred pounds of tungsten carbide - activated, sparks flying at the raised base. Hiro walked confidently over to it, hair sticking up. "Grab your notes."
Tadashi grinned proudly at his brother's idea. “Sneaky little-”
Hiro turned towards him, pointing an accusing finger. "Hey. Not in front of the kids." he gestured to the team.
"Hey!" Wasabi complained.
"Dude, not cool." Tadashi whined. "458."
"Sorry." Hiro smiled sheepishly. "Still getting used to that."
GoGo ran her hands over the still spinning wheels, savouring the soft burn building on her palm. She loved it. "Hiro, let go.” Her eyes gleamed as she blew a pink bubble.
The wheels slowed down, and the other possessed electronics switched off. The team set about gathering any tools and papers they would need. Fred sat back in his chair and started rummaging around in his piece of organised chaos.
Tadashi turned to Hiro. "So, what now?"
"Just wait." Hiro strode over to Fred. "Can I borrow that?" he gestured to the sign board leaning against his chair.
"Sure, go ahead." Fred shrugged.
Hiro snatched it up and walked over to an open space in the lab. He dropped the sign flat on the floor and waved Tadashi over. "Stand there." He pointed at the sign once more.
"... Okay." he complied. He balanced himself on the middle of the sign, as if it were a skateboard.
"Great. Now lift it."
"Lift it." Hiro nodded.
Tadashi shifted his feet on the sign. He thought about its dimensions; thickness, weight, length and width. He could feel the sign tugging at his feet, but he stayed where he was.
Hiro rolled his eyes.
"Hey, I don't see you doing anything." Tadashi defended himself.
"That's 'cause I'm already set." A robotic hand behind Hiro waved.
"Stop showing off." He sent a flick at Hiro's forehead.
Thump. "Ow, dude!"
Tadashi smirked and focused again. This time he took his own weight into account. He felt himself rising on the board.
"Now you're getting it!" Hiro laughed.
Tadashi smiled past the strain. "Am I really that heavy?" He wobbled a bit, losing his balance. The board flipped over and shot to the ceiling. Tadashi landed on his face and the board grounded itself on his back. "Oof."
Pop. "Nice moves, freak." GoGo sorted through her box of discarded wheels, trying to find the sleekest model.
Hiro helped his brother up, then tilted his head deviously at GoGo with narrowed eyes and a manic grin. The wheel she held flew towards him. "Electro-magnetic field manipulation. Good to know." He shot the wheel back to the box. GoGo scowled in light irritation.
Tadashi dusted himself off as a sudden, tinkling impact made everyone wince. It was the sound of childhood terror. "Honey? You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just an old beaker." Her heels crunched over broken glass as she went to retrieve a broom.
Tadashi stopped her. "No need." He swept his hand through the air, feeling the smallest shards shiver on the floor. He made sweeping motions and the others listened as the glass gathered in a pile, tinkering along other shards as they climbed. He cupped his hand and the glass formed a small sphere, about the size of a tennis ball. He tossed it into a nearby bin.
Honey smiled brightly at him. "Thanks." She dashed over to her lab, packing stacks of petri dishes full of colourful powders into a box. "All ready!"
Wasabi compressed his project into retractable poles which he carried over to his own box of tools. It was multi-layered, with neat slots to fit attachments of different sizes. "Same here."
GoGo lugged her box full of old attempts of wheels, along with notes scribbled haphazardly on loose paper. "Hey, freak. Catch." she tossed the box towards Tadashi.
He called her bluff, letting the box fall. Before it hit the floor, the wheels slid out of the box and lined up neatly in the air. The box touched down.
"Hey, be nice." Hiro scolded. He settled the wheels gently into the box on top of the notes. Tadashi raised it, along with Honey's box, to shoulder height and headed towards the exit.
A door clicked. Tadashi panicked and dropped the boxes, catching them in his arms and staggering under the weight. He blew out his cheeks with the effort.
Hiro glared at the girl who had entered. "Hey, Sarah."
Sarah looked shocked to see them. "Oh, uh, hey guys. I didn't think you'd be here."
"What are you up to?" he asked.
“Tadashi wouldn't be here if it wasn't for luck. You practically sent him in there to die.”
Tadashi glanced over at his brother. “Shut up, Hiro. It's not her fault.” He was shocked at the bitterness that ran deep in his ‘voice’.
Hiro's eyes widened as he remembered they were linked. His lips tightened into a thin line.
Tadashi huffed and adjusted his grip on the boxes. “As if that'll help, genius.”
Sarah picked at her dark blue sweater. "Oh, you know, just checking in on my project. I'll see you around."
The group waved at her as she passed. The silent exchange had not gone unnoticed.
"What was that about?" Wasabi whispered.
"Don't worry." Tadashi assured.
"Nothing." Hiro mumbled.
"Well let's get going then!" Fred pumped his way past the group, holding a pile of comics under his arm.
Hiro took GoGo's box from Tadashi and they headed out.
Honey worried about what had passed between the brothers back at the lab as they waited for the trolley. They weren't talking to each other, but Hiro mostly made up for it by talking about the suits he had in mind. She thought Fred had picked up on it too, by the way he was staring at Tadashi. That is, until he spoke.
"I gotta agree with GoGo on this one." Fred sighed.
"What makes me so hard to agree with?" GoGo complained. When no one answered, she sighed too. "Agree with me on what, Fred?"
"Tadashi's nickname. Or, even better, his superhero name."
GoGo thought about the names she had called Tadashi over the years. She remembered the most recent. "What, you mean Freak?"
"Yeah. It's got a... well, it's got a zing to it."
"Freddie, that's kinda mean." Honey commented.
"No, it's fine." Tadashi persuaded. "I think it works, don't you? Congrats, Fred. You finally found one."
"Nah, man. It was all GoGo." Fred gestured to the short girl.
She smiled appreciatively. "Well now I need to find an offensive name for him again."
The trolley approached, and they picked up their loads to get on.
Hiro held his arms out. "Hold on."
An image showing the inside of the trolley flashed through Tadashi's head, along with Hiro's voice. You see that?
“Cameras.” The image went black. “Good thinking.”
Hiro lowered his arms. "Okay, we can go."
The group shuffled on to the near-empty trolley. Wasabi sat down, resting his box on his lap. "So, what was that about, Little Man?"
Hiro ignored the question momentarily. "How about these comics, Fred?" He picked one up and obscured his face. “Follow along.” He advised his brother.
Tadashi caught on, picking up a comic and nodding to the others. They followed.
"Why are we doing this?" whispered Wasabi.
“We can't have people recognising us.” Hiro said.
Tadashi nodded again and was about to relay the message when he saw their faces. They were all pale.
"I'm not the only one who heard that, am I?" Fred asked.
Honey shook her head.
Hiro’s spoke again. “Guys, it's just me. Calm down.”
“Hiro, they can hear you?” Tadashi exclaimed.
“I'm letting them.” Hiro replied. “They won't be quiet though, so it's kinda hard to concentrate.”
Tadashi looked back at his friends, who were all staring silently at Hiro. This was clearly uncomfortable for them. “Is this necessary?” He asked Hiro.
“For now. We shouldn’t leave them like this.”
Tadashi lowered his comic and shared a look with the group. "Calm down." he said simply.
“Let me see if this works.” He concentrated on the link he felt with Hiro, and tried to establish it with the others. “Can you hear me?”
They didn't respond. Hiro tried. “Were you able to hear Tadashi?”
"No." Honey replied. "How are you doing that?"
Hiro turned a page of his comic. “I don't know. It feels the same as when Tadashi and I talk, but it's a bit more difficult. Apparently you can't hear Tadashi. Let me try something. And think your answers, guys. I should be able to hear them.”
Tadashi felt an empty space billow open in his head. It swiftly filled with voices.
“Seven intrepid friends, led by Fred, their leader Fred.”
“I swear, I'll slap him if he doesn't stop humming...”
“What's Hiro doing?”
“Stretch gum, between teeth, exhale.” GoGo bit the bubble down. Pop.
Tadashi jumped at the sound. The group looked at him funny. He tried again. “Can you hear me?”
Honey squeaked and jumped too. "Ta-"
He held up a hand, tapping at his temple.
She understood. “Tadashi?” Her voice echoed amongst the other's whispers.
Honey kicked the legs of their friends and tapped Tadashi's leg twice when she had their attention. “Do it again”, she ordered.
“Can you hear me now?”
The whispers stopped.
“You're doing it too?” thought Wasabi.
Tadashi shook his head before realising the comic was still in front of it. “No, Hiro's done something. He doesn't know how he's letting us talk like this, but I have a theory –“
Hiro cut in. “You're all... humming. Like, back at Fred's, when you couldn't hear anything. The robot was making this faint humming sound. All your hums are really weak, but it's how I'm doing this.”
Tadashi took over. “As I said, I have a theory. People have immeasurable electrical currents passing around their bodies; it's how nerves send pain signals. My guess is that Hiro is tapping into these hums to allow a connection like this, similar to a radio station taking in and broadcasting signals along different frequencies.”
“Okay, thanks for that, but can we get back to the topic at hand? It's getting hard to keep this up.” Hiro accepted a tissue from Wasabi and held it to his nose. Crimson bloomed on the material.
Wasabi paused. “Why did I-“
“Later, dude. Let me talk.” Hiro flipped the tissue over. “We can't have people recognising us if we're going to go all the way with this superhero thing. If they find out who we are, we could all be in danger.”
Tadashi caught on to the thought. “Dangerous people will want to get their hands on Hiro and I. They'll most likely go through you to get us. We need this to stay a secret, alright?”
A collective nod passed through the group.
“I’ve gotta stop. We're here anyway.” The space closed in Tadashi's head, cutting off the whispers.
The trolley came to a stop a little ways off from the Lucky Cat. The students picked up their loads and stepped off.
The camera's sight flashed through Tadashi's head again. “Don't worry, I didn't break anything.” Hiro assured.