Chapter 9: What We Have To Lose
Tadashi was almost thrown off his board, stopping inches away from Hiro's face. Hiro scoffed in success. "That all you got?" He flicked his fingers to the right, sending Tadashi flying. Before he got too far, the thrusters kicked back in and he righted himself.
He glided towards the group, as mad as a cow on rollerblades. "Geezus, Hiro! What is wrong with you-" He cut himself off when he saw what his brother was doing.
Hiro held up his arms once again and summoned a sea of black. The rattle was deafening as the tech raced to meet his demands. "I was a little busy last night."
The bots encased his feet and raised him up to Tadashi. "Since our suits don't really do anything, I wanted us to have our own practice session. This newer version doesn’t need a neurotransmitter; They’re synced to match my frequency." A stream of bots covered Hiro’s torso and arms, picking the mask out of his grip as they raced towards his head. They made a hood around him so that only his face was exposed. The mask slid over his eyes.
"Combat training begins now." he announced. He pulled the mass away from Tadashi and began circling him. "Come on, Hamada. Let's see what you can do."
Tadashi gasped as he saw what Hiro had become. He'd created a replica of Yokai's body that had the legs fading into the Microbots. He looked down at the others, who stared back in shock. Tadashi understood the message.
“They need to be ready for anything.” Hiro clarified.
“You didn't need to scare them like that. Just look at them! They're helpless!” Tadashi glanced down at his friends in concern.
The space in his head opened and filled with scared whispers. “Lesson One:” Hiro pronounced. “Be ready for anything!” The space closed, leaving only Hiro and Tadashi. “I'll keep this as real as possible.”
Tadashi nodded and switched on his comms device. "You heard him guys! Let's go!" He swerved away as a wave of bots rushed him. The team jumped into action.
Honey's fingers raced across her purse and it spat out three colourful bombs which she tossed haphazardly at the base of the black tower. Gel raced up the pillar and dried just as quickly, covering the lower half with ease before slowing down.
Fred clawed his way up the tower, spitting fire as high as it would reach.
Wasabi jabbed his blades into the seething mass, ripping molten holes in the tough metal. Cracks grew in Honey's trap with each stab.
GoGo kept throwing discs at the pillar, knocking away a handful of Microbots with each hit. She stopped after a few attempts. The bots would fall for a second, then draw near to the bottom of the stack, causing others to rise up and take their place.
Tadashi kept trying to grab the mask as he whizzed past Hiro's head but he was shoved away every time by a black wall. Tadashi would have used his telekinesis, but with the constant distraction of avoiding Hiro’s attacks and the thin banner of Microbots holding the mask in place, he figured it would be easier and quicker to physically snatch it away.
The tower began to vibrate, shaking loose Fred's hold. He landed lightly at the base, bouncing a little. The Microbots continued to shake. Wasabi backed away as he realised what Hiro was doing. Tadashi slowed in the air, worrying for his friends.
Honey's trap exploded as spikes erupted from the glass-like material. The spikes emerged nowhere near the team. GoGo raced away from raining debris while Honey created a pink dome that she hid inside. Wasabi raised his arms, sheltering himself with his plasma blades. Fred was fine in his suit, only dodging the larger pieces of rubble. The spikes re-joined the tower.
Hiro looked down at the team. His fingers splayed out, trapping each member under a net of Microbots. They were completely restrained flat against the ground; Honey was gently removed from her bubble before joining her friends.
Hiro opened the space. “A good first attempt, but you need to think your attacks through a little better. Leave this last part to Tadashi.” The connection was severed and the Microbots went limp around them. They stood up shakily, brushing off stray glass and tech. The remaining Microbots joined the tower.
Four grounded members watched with apprehension as the brothers rose higher into the air.
“Be ready for anything? Are you stealing lines from old kung fu movies?” Tadashi jested.
“You'd be surprised how much of it matters in a real fight. It's only... a lot.” Hiro made a fist and twisted his body to pull a sharp right hook. Tadashi swung around it easily, bringing his knees up to his chest as what he assumed was a left kick swept under him. He reached out and aimed to steal the mask, but the Microbots held strong against the mental pull.
“You're no fun, Tadashi.” Hiro cupped his left hand with his palm facing out, swiftly catching onto Tadashi's hoverboard. He was trapped.
“Hiro, this is hardly fair.”
“I thought that was the point.” Tadashi was getting pulled closer to the black mass. A gap in the tower opened greedily to consume him.
Then he remembered how his boots were made.
He squeezed his eyes shut in concentration, finding the catch that connected him to the board. He found and pulled at it, wiggling it in different directions. He felt something click, and jumped away from the board. He fell.
He twisted himself so that he was parallel to the ground, creating as much wind resistance as possible. The backyard raced up to meet him. His friends yelled into their comms.
"Hiro catch him! What are you doing-" Wasabi screamed.
"Baymax isn't gonna be able to break this fall." Fred warned.
Honey slammed a jelly bomb to the ground. It swelled and enlarged, growing to a size big enough to hopefully absorb the impact, but its progress was slowing. Tadashi was rapidly approaching the opaque blue mass as she screamed in terror. The gang abruptly looked away.
No one heard the impact, and the following silence was deafening.
"I think I'm gonna be sick." Fred slurred.
"Me too, buddy." came an unexpected voice.
GoGo's eyes widened in amazement at what she saw. Tadashi rose up from behind the jelly, boardless. He seemed to be standing in midair. He held his helmet in the crook of his elbow, free hand balled and pressed to his mouth. He was extremely pale.
Once he had swallowed and some colour returned to his cheeks, he smiled. "You still think we're being unreasonable, Wasabi?"
A bodily thump sounded from the large student’s position but nobody moved. They were still gaping at their should-be-dead-twice-over friend.
Tadashi’s face scrunched in discomfort. "But you wouldn't believe the wedgie I'm getting right now."
“Didn't need to see that.” Hiro laughed. Relief was clear in his thoughts.
Tadashi shoved his helmet back on. "I'll be back in a bit." He turned around and flew off.
Wasabi came to a few minutes later.
Hiro watched in awe as his brother completed aerobic stunts, twisting his body and looping around. He grinned behind the mask. “I knew you could do it.” The Microbots bristled with pride. Weird, he thought. They shouldn’t be that sensitive-
Tadashi sent him gratitude. “Well, in this case,” he flew past and swiped off the mask. “Thanks for giving up on me!”
Hiro leaned back and let go of the Microbots, falling freely beside his brother. Tadashi panicked for a second before the lightweight bots fell away, revealing purple armour beneath. Hiro looked over at him and smiled, raising his arms while he plummeted headfirst. Baymax skilfully intercepted Hiro's descent and swept his form into a gentle arc before levelling out. The nursebot handed Hiro his helmet.
Hiro pulled his left hand off its magnet, signalling the hoverboard like a loyal dog. Tadashi pulled up and neatly set his boots back in place on the falling board, straightening his legs. The board complied, kicking into high gear as he raced off to join Hiro. “Alright,” Tadashi stated as he caught up. “I guess having superpowers has some perks.”
“You guess?” Hiro laughed. They were now skimming above countless houses, and the few people who occasionally looked up were left in shock and awe.
Tadashi flipped himself upside-down and pulled himself along, facing Hiro.
Hiro frowned in bewilderment. “What're you doing?”
Tadashi grinned childishly and tapped Hiro's shoulder. “You're it.” Before Hiro could hit him back, he flipped himself upright and shot away.
“Get back here! No fair!” He patted Baymax's shoulder. "Steady, Big Guy. Let's just take this slow." He adjusted his position, moving his knees onto the lower magnets and looked up. A giant cat statue turned their way. "Up, up, upupup! Thrust, thrust, THRUST!" They rocketed upwards. "Too much thrust, too much thrust, too much thrust!"
The thrusters shut off. They sailed gracefully over a tower of the Crimson Gate Bridge, and descended just as swiftly. "No, no, no, back on, back on, on, on, ON!" Fwoomp. Baymax was heading straight towards a truck. "Up, upupup!" Hiro struggled, trying to pull the bot up with his scrawny arms. They barely managed to miss the truck as they swerved up and over the sluggish traffic. They finally got a steep enough angle that they gently bounced off side of the opposite tower. Dink. They landed shakily on that tower of the bridge.
Tadashi appeared and hovered above him. "Aw, you afraid of heights?" he teased, making a puppy face.
"No!" Hiro defended, catching his breath. "It would be completely unreasonable to be afraid of moving through the air at high speeds and altitudes while narrowly avoiding certain death! Who would be afraid of that?" Unfortunately his voice cracked at ‘completely’, only adding embarrassment to the sarcastic quip.
Tadashi's eyes sparkled. "Not me, for one. How about you, Baymax?"
"I am a robot. I cannot be afraid." he blinked, confused as to why his creator didn't know this.
"That's what I thought." Tadashi waved, sending the pair off the edge of the tower.
"Oh no, nononono, Baymax!" Tadashi’s laughing chimed through Hiro’s head. Baymax’s thrusters switched on a second before impact with the water, making the younger boy’s stomach want to remind him what his lunch was made of.
Hiro was seething once he had regained his composure. “I'm so getting back at you for this!”
“You're gonna have to catch me first!” Tadashi sped ahead.
“Unbelievable.” Hiro and Baymax followed along the narrow ripple that was left in Tadashi’s wake, creating an overlapping wave that spread wider from the greater force that propelled the pair. Hiro twisted his neck around and watched the delayed formation of their streak; as broad at its beginning as the fading edges that trailed behind his brother, obliterating the thin boundaries and supplying its own vast funnel. He caught a glimpse of his reflection peeking over a thick, armoured shoulder before the ocean was abruptly overtaken by closely-packed buildings and small, pale-green lawns. Hiro was startled out of his lapse by a high-pitched whistle.
Tadashi had slowed and was gliding ahead and to Hiro’s right. “Hey, Bonehead. You’re still it.” He waved in a mock-salute and steered away.
“Not for long.” Baymax leaned into the chase, much to Hiro’s delight. They chased each other through the city, looping over monorail tracks and weaving through skyscrapers. Tadashi easily pulled evasive manoeuvers; disguising himself among a dark banner or behind a building, only to jump out and tag Hiro at a moment’s notice. Hiro soon grew frustrated at the repetition of the stunt, Tadashi finally relenting when Hiro threatened to control Baymax in the pursuit. The trio landed atop a koi fish turbine, relaxed, and watched the sun set.
The soft amber glow of the sky tinted Hiro’s eyes a dark bronze. "That was... that was..."
Hiro looked up at Baymax in surprise.
The nursebot performed a quick scan and blinked when he came to the same conclusion. "It is just an expression."
The brothers chuckled. Tadashi leaned over and tapped the bot's large leg. "Th-that's right, buddy."
Hiro sighed in contentment. "I am never taking the bus again."
Baymax turned to face Tadashi. "Your emotional state has improved. I can deactivate if you say: you are satisfied with your care."
He felt Hiro's alarm almost as if it were his own. "No, Baymax. That guy's still out there. We need to find him." Tadashi hated to admit it, but they still had a mission.
Hiro nodded his agreement and stood. "Baymax, fire up that supersensor."
Baymax stood and scanned the area. "Functionality improved. One-thousand percent increase in range." Beep. "I have found a match." He raised one giant armoured arm. "On that island."
Hiro faced the bot's directions, squinting slightly to distinguish the island in the growing fog. "Let's go."
"Killer view." GoGo commented. Honey glanced over at her in an understanding smile before returning her gaze to the city rushing by below them. Fred made a few flying poses, jostling the group with every shift.
"Yeah, if I wasn't terrified of heights, I'd probably love it. But I'm terrified of heights, so, I don't love it!" Wasabi held his death-grip tersely.
Tadashi smiled behind his visor as he flew alongside his new team. They approached the island and Hiro found an opening. "There. Baymax, take us in."
They circled around to a patch of open space, fenced off from the rest of the island. Fred touched down in excitement, having been dropped almost carelessly by Baymax. "Awesome! Our first landing together as a team!" He flipped his helmet up and waved the gang forward.
Wasabi lagged behind, eyes caught by a purposely bright sign. "Quarantine? Do you people know what quarantine means?"
Baymax raised a finger. "Quarantine: enforced isolation to prevent contamination that could lead to disease or in some cases, death." His voice simulation ended on a somewhat chipper note, not exactly helping in the tense atmosphere of their advance.
"Oh, there's a skull face on this one,” Wasabi articulated. “A skull face!" The group ignored him.
"Be ready." Hiro whispered. "He could be anywhere." They rounded a corner and neared a huge metal door.
Pop pop pop pop.
"Breathe fire! Breathe fire!"
Limbs waved in a flurry of colour before they realised they hadn’t been attacked. The smoke cleared.
"Brororororo?" It flapped away.
They watched it go, Fred's embarrassment covered by his mask. "That... was a bird."
"Well, at least we know our gear works." said Honey. Always the optimist.
Hiro turned and stepped forward, placing a hand on the door and concentrating. "I can't feel anything. I don't think it's connected. Tadashi?"
The elder Hamada took his brother's place. He closed his eyes to better picture what he felt. "There's a handle on the other side. A valve." He placed his right hand over where it was, bracing himself with his left. The fingers on his right hand slowly arched and twisted in a clockwise direction.
Metal squealed in protest as the latch painfully slid out. The heavy door swung open into a long, dimly lit hallway. Wasabi backed away. "Ladies first?"
"Seven intrepid friends, led by Fred, their leader Fred. Fred's Angels. Mh-m-m. Fred's Angels. Mh-m-m. Harnessing the power of the sun with the ancient, am-u-let they found in the attic. Mh-m-m. The amulet is green. Mh-m-m. It's probably an emerald. Mh-m-"
"Fred, I will laser hand you in the face."
"Guys! Shh." Hiro crept forward. "Any sign of him, Baymax?"
"This structure is interfering with my sensor." Baymax reported. His head swivelled in small increments but he could still not derive the suspect’s location.
Wasabi rolled his eyes in disbelief. "Perfect. The robot's broken."
Honey stopped, pulling on Tadashi's hand. "Uh, guys?" she said. "You might wanna see this." Tadashi paused and stepped over with her, sliding open the door with his unoccupied right arm.
The room beyond was mostly a huge open space, around two levels high. A mangled piece of technology sat in the centre.
"What do you think it is, Genius?" GoGo asked.
Hiro shook his head. "I'm not sure, but look." He pointed out a red bird that was painted on a large hunk of charred metal.
"Hiro." Honey turned their attention to what looked a control room. They snuck over, tensed for a fight. Baymax smoothly swung open the door.
The room was empty. A giant screen lit up the small space, displaying the same bird symbol with the colours switched; black on red. Hiro spotted the keyboard before him. He hit Return.
Confidental Information: Password Required. Hiro waved a hand across the screen, bringing up a wall of code but keeping the waiting textbox locked in the middle. A few symbols from the rapidly-changing wall were caught, highlighted and dragged into the textbox.
Access Granted. Green text flashed on the monitor. Beep. The screen split into nine smaller screens. The top-centre screen was frozen on an image of their suspect.
"Krei..." Hiro whispered. He swiped his right hand leftwards over the image, rewinding saved footage. The other black screens lit up one at a time.
"That's right." Krei's voice sounded when Hiro resumed the video. "We were asked to do the impossible, and that's what we did. We've re-invented the very concept of transportation. Friends, I present, Project: Silent Sparrow." He waved to a brand new version of what they'd found outside. The portal activated, filling its centre with a fiery blue surface.
"General, may I?" Krei held out his hand and the General gave him his hat. Krei promptly threw it through the portal. A scientist waiting in front of the second portal caught it and tossed it back.
Fred was taken aback. "Woah, magic hat!"
Krei caught the hat and dusted it off. "Teleportation: the transport of matter instantaneously through space." He handed the hat back to its owner and strolled confidently down the catwalk. "Not science-fiction anymore."
The group returned to the control room. "Now, we didn't spend billions of tax dollars to teleport hats. Ladies and gentlemen, you're here to witness history!" Krei switched on a microphone. "Ready to go for a ride, Abigail?"
The pilot - a brunette woman - was entering a test pod. "We've invited all these people. Might as well give 'em a show." The pod closed around her.
“T-minus thirty seconds to launch. Twenty-nine. Twenty-eight.”
"Castle is in position."
One of the scientists got Krei's attention. "Sir, we've picked up a slight irregularity in the magnetic containment field."
Krei furrowed his brow in concern. "Huh..."
The General spoke up. "Mr Krei, is there a problem?"
Krei turned back to the General. "No, no problem. It's well within the parameters. Let's move forward." He nodded at the scientist.
“Three. Two. One.”
Abigail breathed in slowly, a determined smile setting on her face. She was pushed back by the force of the launch. Her pod disappeared into the portal with a whisper. A moment passed in silence before an alarm blared.
"Field breach, abort! We've lost all contact with the pod!"
The second portal exploded.
"Oh no." Honey sighed.
More frantic scientists were shouting their reports.
"Let's break it off!"
"The pilot is gone!"
"The magnetic containment field's down!" A camera got sucked in to the rogue portal, cutting off its feed.
Krei and the General glanced about in fear as the control room shuddered. The General slammed his palms on the desk. "Krei, shut it down! Now!"
Krei inputted a command and pressed a button. The portal closed.
"I want this island sealed off, and-"
"The government shut down Krei's experiment." Hiro realised, blocking out the video as his thoughts continued to trouble him.
"And he's using your Microbots to steal his machine back." Honey confirmed.
"Krei's the guy in the mask." Tadashi finished. Movement caught the corner of his eye, and he found that part of the control room – directly on top of them – was covered in a large shadow.
Baymax looked back. "Oh, no." A giant slab of concrete flew towards them, swiftly trapping the team. Krei turned away, confident that they were dead.
The slab shifted as Baymax straightened up. Hiro's friends were coughing, but they seemed otherwise okay. "Baymax, get us out of here!"
A rocket fist slammed through the slab, smashing it to rubble, and returned to the robotic nurse.
"Go for the transmitter, behind his mask!" Hiro ordered.
Krei rolled his shoulders, looking annoyed. He sent a throng of Microbots at the team. Baymax acted quickly and shielded them with a small piece of debris. The bot was thrown back.
"Baymax!" Hiro clambered to the bot's side.
"Alright, what's the plan?" Wasabi asked the team when they had recovered.
Fred pulled down his hood. "It's Fred time." He jogged to the edge of the destroyed platform. "Super jump!" He soared through the air. "Gravity crush!" He spread his arms wide, only to be hit aside by a black pillar. "Oof, falling hard!"
Wasabi was panicking. "Seriously, what's the plan?"
"Get the mask!" GoGo ordered.
"Right behind ya!" said Honey Lemon.
Wasabi stared after them. "For real, what is the plan?!" He followed his friends into the fray.
"Baymax, you alright buddy?" Hiro helped up his brother's upgraded creation.
"I am still functional."
"Okay then, let's go help-" Hiro stopped dead in his tracks when he saw what lay before him.Where Baymax had landed was a cracked piece of concrete. Beneath it was a dented, black boot.