Chapter 7: That Darn Cat
The team set up in the garage, with Fred slumping lazily on a red recliner. Hiro described to them the designs he'd worked out for each suit and they got to work on miniaturised versions of their projects. Honey began experimenting with various chemical combinations, recording the results.
Hiro continued modifying the blueprints to personalise the suits as Tadashi watched the team. “What are we getting ourselves into?” he drew a hand down his face tiredly.
“I don't know Tadashi, but check this out.”
Tadashi leaned on the desk that Hiro was working at. Hiro gestured with a thumb at the screen, and a completed suit maximised from the top-right corner of the six blueprints.
"This is yours." Hiro explained. He adjusted the colour and it faded in. The suit was predominately black with red accents and extremely thick-soled boots. Hiro double-tapped his fingers on a plain section of the desk and Tadashi found out why. From underneath the boots, an extension in the shape of a slim surfboard unfolded with thrusters along the bottom surface. The modelled thrusters activated, bobbing the suit gently.
Tadashi was awestruck. "Hiro... this is-" he was interrupted by the buzz of a 3D printer whirring to life as Hiro rolled away from the desk. He helped Hiro remove each part that the printer spat out before it eagerly began on the next. He was left with an assortment of screws and metal plates lying on the ground.
Hiro turned to Tadashi, already working on the next suit. Without taking his eyes off the screen, he spoke. "I need you to put that together. Don't use your hands. It'll help with your precision handling, and you can get familiar with it, figure out how it works. I'll test it for you. Tell me when you're done."
A monitor beside the printer lit up with the surfboard's blueprints. Tadashi began his assignment.
The sun had almost set. Hiro had created the rest of the team's suits and incorporated their projects into it. He was currently showing Wasabi how to activate his plasma blades and where the safety lock was.
Tadashi removed his hat and ran a hand through his hair, looking down at the contraption. What was he doing? Wasn't there another screw?
Hiro took his silence as a sign. He excused himself and walked over. "You done?" He looked the machine over.
"I don't know, I think so." His head hurt from the smell of metal combined with the immense concentration required for the task. "There's nothing left to put on it."
Hiro nodded. The 3D printer came to life once more and he removed its completed contents. He snapped his fingers at the board and it folded up into two heavy, metal slats.
Tadashi’s eyes widened. “That's what it was reduced to? After all that?”
Hiro heard his brother's panic and grinned. He attached the slats onto the new items and tapped one with his finger. They extended into two knee-height black boots. "Put them on."
Tadashi complied, slipping easily into the shoes. They fit like... well, like they were made for him.
Hiro nudged one of the boots with his toe and Tadashi felt something reveal itself on the back. He twisted and found tiny kick-starter levers. He smiled.
Tadashi walked out of the garage, knowing the roof would be too low to try this indoors. He stood outside the door and, in one smooth move, pushed down a lever with his left foot, keeping his right foot in front of him.
He watched in amazement as a single thruster on each foot activated, hovering him slightly higher than the boots held him. The rest of the board extended fluidly from the soles and connected in the middle, the thrusters on his feet sliding out to the ends and revealing smaller thrusters along the middle. He rose even higher as each rocket added its force. Two of the small thrusters slid out from between his feet, moving to either side of the board and stabilising it.
The brothers shared a look. Hiro pumped his fist in victory. "It works! I knew it!"
Tadashi wobbled slightly on his board, thankful for the stabilisers. His friends watched in amazement and awe at what the brothers had achieved together.
That's when Cass decided to bring them drinks.
The back door to the house opened and Aunt Cass appeared, balancing a tray dangerously on one hand. "Hey, guys, you've been down here for a while now, so I thought you might want some-" she stopped when she saw Tadashi.
His balance wavered some more as he panicked. “She can't get involved in this too!”
“I'm turning it off.” Hiro warned.
"What are you doing, Tadashi?" Aunt Cass asked curiously.
"Uh, hey, Aunt Cass! Are those sodas?" His feet wobbled as the board split into two, retracting back into the boots. He touched down shakily. He walked over to his brother, leaning on his shoulder. Casually. Bad acting must've run in the family.
Their aunt didn't notice. "Yeah, I thought you could use something, working so hard down here all day. What're those on your feet?" she eyed the boots warily.
"Oh these? They're uh, a bit of extra credit stuff! You know, since I finished Baymax early and all, I thought I could work on something else. Hiro here's been helping with the kinks... and stuff." he finished lamely. "I was just testing them." It wasn't a complete lie.
Cass set down the tray. "How long've you been working on those?" She handed some drinks around.
"Uh, I started a couple days after Baymax was finished. Just something I'd been... tinkering with, before we got the next assignment."
Aunt Cass remained silent for a moment before she broke out in a face-splitting smile. "That's my boy! Never resting, you're gonna work yourself to death. I'm so proud of you." she wrapped him up in her small arms. "I just hope they don't end up like Mochi's old boots."
Tadashi hugged her gently back and laughed, moving to take the boots off.
He stumbled at her sudden weight. "Thanks for the drinks, Aunt Cass."
"No problem, sweetie." She picked up the tray and left.
The brothers relaxed.
"You guys are horrible liars, you know that?" GoGo said.
"Not if she bought it." Hiro shot back.
"No. She's just too gullible for her own good, Pipsqueak."
Hiro rolled his eyes at her. "Who're you calling Pipsqueak, Short Stack?"
Tadashi elbowed his brother. "Okay, break it up you two. Some people,” he sent a pointed look at a certain blonde, “might take that the wrong way." He grinned cheekily.
Hiro blushed, looking away quickly. "Then they would be stupid." came his childish reply.
Tadashi felt an emotion that wasn't his own. “No... no way...” he smiled inwardly, sending his glee to his brother.
“Tadashi, I swear on all that is Holy, if you tell anyone...”
“I wouldn't stress about it bro. Unless I need a bargaining chip...” he left the conversation with his own threat.
Hiro glared at him. His boots tightened around his feet. "Ow, dude!" He flicked Hiro on the back of his head. The boots loosened, and he slipped out of them, rubbing his feet.
"Leave it alone." Hiro ordered. Tadashi complied, with both the boots and their little exchange. Hiro clicked his fingers again and the boots folded up. At the same time the 3D printer got to work creating the rest of Tadashi's suit.
Tadashi turned back to the group. "Great work today guys. Take those over to Fred's and we'll meet up tomorrow for practice, okay?"
They nodded in agreement, packing up their suits and tech before heading off together. The Hamadas remained in their makeshift lab.
It was getting late, but Hiro continued to tap keenly at his keyboard. Tadashi was slumped on his armchair and drifting some tools around, swatting them away when they would float too close to his face. Aunt Cass had already come in and wished them a good night.
"You almost done?" Tadashi asked, inspecting an old-looking screw before tossing it back into the air.
"Almost. I'm just finishing off some coding for Baymax's sensor." Something sounded off in Hiro's voice, Tadashi noticed.
"You wanna talk about it?"
"About what?" Hiro asked innocently.
"Whatever's on your mind right now. I can hear it."
"We need to work on 458 some more. Maybe give it some sub-sections."
"No, not like that. Something's bugging you, and it's gonna bug me too if you don't tell me what it is." He reached out his hand and ruffled Hiro's hair from a few feet away.
Hiro absentmindedly moved to flick his hand away, before he realised it was just air. He turned to face Tadashi, who sat up straighter.
"Well, it's a lot of things. Just... so much has happened these past three days, and I don't know how this'll affect us. I mean, how long have we been able to do this? How are we able to do this?"
Tadashi thought about this for a moment. "How about we finish up here and talk upstairs?"
"Yeah. Okay." Hiro set the 3D printer to complete the last few segments of a suit and shut off the monitor, following his brother to their room.
Hiro dried his thick hair as Tadashi searched his drawers for clean clothes.
"Do you have any theories? About, how we are?" Hiro asked.
Tadashi pulled a white shirt over his head before answering. "Not really. There are things to consider, but no way of figuring out the truth."
"Come on, you should've learnt something about biology and whatnot when you were programming Baymax. Does anything stick out, any factors? Anything that would contribute to our abilities?" He drew out the word. It sounded so wrong, so unnatural. Hiro was a man of Science. None of this should be possible.
"Well, there's the basics. Maybe Mom and Dad passed down these genes. As you said; if there are words for it, then maybe it's happened in the past. Maybe we just have that rare gene."
"But how rare would it be if both Mom and Dad had it? For all we know, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people like us out there." Hiro flopped back onto his bed, staring at the ceiling.
"There's another explanation for how we can... do this." Tadashi stretched into his grey tracksuit pants and sat on the edge of his bed, sliding away the partition to better see his brother. "I'm sure you've heard of 'Evolution in Action'."
"Doesn't that take millions of years to create the slightest difference?"
"Yeah, but maybe it's catching up. Humans have made leaps and bounds in our development and technology. Who's to say that we can't evolve faster too?"
Hiro rolled onto his side, leaning on his elbow. "No offense, but that sounds like the plot for a terrible superhero series."
"It's only bad if you don't like it."
Tadashi thought for a moment, then decided that anything was possible at this stage. "Okay, so this kind of branches off from the whole 'evolving' tree, but maybe we've been able to unlock more of our brain's capacity. You've heard all those myths about what humans could do if we used more than ten percent of our brains, right?"
"That was disproven decades ago. Don't tell me you still believe in that?" Hiro rolled his eyes.
"No, of course I don't. I'm pulling at threads here. Besides from the whole genes and evolution, I've got nothing."
"Then there's the next question. How? How do we manipulate matter without having to touch it?" To emphasise his query, he held up his hand. Megabot flew over to stand on it and perform a few tricks, moving fluidly around as his wrist as his fingers twisted.
"Hiro, we do that all the time. How do you control Megabot?"
"With a remote, usually." His eyes lit up. "They wouldn't have rules about this in bot-fights, I bet."
"No, but you'd expose yourself in record time, genius." Tadashi sighed. "How do we use credit cards? How do we play videogames? My best guess right now is that somehow, you're linked into all that. You practically have the world in your hand."
Hiro's eyes widened at the realisation. He formed Megabot into its regular shape, allowing it to drop into his hand. "I guess you're right. But that still doesn't explain you." Hiro sat up on the side of his own bed. "You're not a technopath. How can you move things at will, without physically doing it yourself?"
Tadashi rubbed at his eyes. "That's where I'm lost. We both shouldn't be capable of this, but we are, somehow. I'm as clueless as you are; all I have are theories that we can't prove, not unless we're willing to become human guinea pigs."
The brothers stayed silent for a while before Hiro remembered something else. "And what about this? How does this work?”
Tadashi jumped at the sudden change in communication. "A little warning next time, if you don't mind."
"I'm serious, Tadashi. We have a semi-theory on how it works with the others, but I don't even need to try when it comes to you. It's as easy as breathing."
"That's what I'm worried about." Tadashi said. "If this 'link' is so simple to use, how do we protect each other?"
Hiro's brow knit together in concern. "What do you mean?"
"Hiro, if we're not careful, if someone... gets to us... what's to stop them from finding us both?" He lowered his voice to just above a whisper. "They would likely do unimaginable things to whoever they had until the other came running. They could torture us, and the pain would be so strong that it crippled the other. If that happened in public, they would easily find the other in no time." He finished.
"They would go through others to get to us." Hiro remembered his own warning from earlier.
Hiro looked heartbroken. "They already know... we've put them in danger. Tadashi, we're idiots!" A desk lamp flickered wildly.
"Hey, Hiro. We didn't have a choice. Wasabi would be dead, and... " he left Hiro to finish the thought.
“I would be too. I get that, but they wouldn't've found out if I'd stopped the Microbots from working for the masked man in the first place! I had the ability to just wave them away, but it takes us getting chased across the city and almost drowning for me to find out!"
"Hiro keep it down!" Tadashi hissed. Hiro was breathing heavily and shivering on his bed. "Neither of us knew until it happened. Let's just be happy we know now instead of finding out in a less pleasant way."
"You and I must have different meanings of pleasant, if yours is people nearly dying in front of us." Hiro's breath caught. "We could've saved Callaghan." he whispered.
Fortunately, Tadashi had come to the same conclusion earlier. "No, we couldn't have. I'm pretty sure the only way I made it out was by shielding myself during the explosion, and I didn't even know it at the time. You saw for yourself how that worked out."
He saw Hiro shudder, and an image flashed through his head: He was on the ground, burns all over, and Hiro sat there yelling for help. Tadashi’s breathing hitched and the vision ended.
"Sorry." was all Hiro could say.
"It's okay." Tadashi stood and sat himself down next to his brother. "All we need to do is learn to control this better. And we're not alone. We're gonna help so many people, Hiro. So many." Tadashi rubbed circles into his brother's back. "Callaghan's death won't be in vain. We're gonna catch this guy, with or without our powers."
Hiro relaxed under Tadashi's strong hand. "Yeah. You're right, obviously." They were silent for a moment longer.
"Thanks... f-for everything."
Tadashi smiled and wrapped his arm around Hiro. "No problem." He stood, patting his brother's back, before heading over to his own bed and sliding the partition shut. He pulled the sheets over him and closed his eyes, willing sleep to take him. He felt uneasy.
There was no reply, until, "N-Nevermind. Go to sleep."
Tadashi knew what Hiro wanted. He got up and dropped his pillow on the floor next to Hiro's bed, bringing a thick comforter with him. He settled into the new sleeping arrangement. The unease disappeared.