hello everyone! here is chapter five!
sorry for all the typos in the last chapter! i was using a terrible computer that didn't autocorrect ANYTHING and it was super annoying! don't worry though, I was able to get a computer for online summer school that's just like my old one, so hopefully the updates will come more quickly now!
I hope you enjoy this chapter! I'm working on building up suspense/tension/inner conflict/ethical dilemmas, we'll see how this goes! also, expect to see a little more romance in the next few chapters... :)
thanks everyone for reading this! I really appreciate it! please review if you have any feedback!
(in case you forgot)
By the time we can't hear the gunshots anymore, my arm is really starting to hurt from dragging Krei through the sky. He's not a big guy, but anyone would get tired of carrying a human for that long. I hope we can land soon.
"Let's start to head down," Meg decides. "We'll land a few blocks away from the café and then walk the rest of the way. For now, we should veer left so they don't know which direction we're going."
I angle my wings as requested, and we turn smoothly, getting closer and closer to the ground. We touch down approximately three blocks away from the café, and the landing is only a little bumpy. We're still getting the hang of these wings, I guess.
As we begin to walk back to the café, I hear the faint sound of heavy breathing. Meg and I glance at each other, and I whisper, "Invisible?"
"Yeah," she replies. "Krei, get behind our wings. Now."
Both of us press our buttons, and we go invisible. Krei huddles behind our wings, still shaking from our desperate flight to safety.
The sound of panting draws closer and closer, and I hardly dare to breathe as I realize I can now hear footsteps too. Whoever it is, they're getting close…really close…
"I can see you, you know," says a voice, and overwhelming relief swamps me. It's Momokase.
"You should perhaps work on your stealth skills," she tells Krei. "You will most definitely need them before this war is over.'
"It's not my fault," he says grumpily. "I had to move fast."
"And I applaud you. If I had any less training than I do, I most likely would not have noticed you."
"We should head back," I whisper. "Tadashi is probably getting worried."
Miraculously, we manage to make it back to the café without getting caught by any North Koreans. I come out of invisibility mode and tap the secret handshake on the garage door.
The door opens a crack, and I can see Tadashi's wide hazel eyes at the bottom of it. When he sees all of us, he opens the door and murmurs, "Come in! Hurry!"
Everyone scurries into the garage, and Tadashi closes the door. "You guys have the blueprints?"
Megan reaches into her pocket and pulls them out. "Yep. Everything went exactly as planned—well, almost. There were some unexpected detours. How 'bout we go upstairs and talk about this with everyone?"
We head inside and up to the living room, where everyone else is sitting on the couches and chairs or making toast—the second one is Fred.
"I wish we could get some yaki tacos," Fred complains as the toast pops up. "We used to have them all the time at Basemax. They were kinda like our signature food. But I bet the whole place is gone now—oh, hey, guys! You made it! Didja get the blueprints?"
"Yup," I tell him. "And a few other things. Maybe you guys should all come sit down."
Just then, I realize that Honey is sitting on the couch, her sleeve pinned over the stump of her arm. She looks rather pale, but not that bad considering she just blew off her own prosthetic.
"Hey, Honey," I say, flopping down onto the other end of the couch. "How's your, um…arm? Or lack thereof?"
Honey laughs. "It's okay. I woke up right after you guys left. Hiro, I know it's a lot to ask, but do you think you could make me another prosthetic? I really liked the other one—sorry I blew it up. I couldn't think of anything else to do."
"It's all good," I tell her. "You saved our lives. Don't worry, I could have it by tomorrow—it doesn't take that long to print."
Honey barely gets a "thank you" out before Megan calls, "Emergency resistance meeting! We need to have a discussion!"
Everyone snaps to attention, except Fred, who is still buttering his toast.
"Okay," Megan begins. "First order of business—we got the blueprints, you guys. Hiro can start building it soon, and we'll take down the North Koreans in no time!"
A very quiet cheer sounds from the rather sleepy resistance, and Meg rolls her eyes and continues. "But we also brought back a cryptic message and a potential new recruit. Mr. Krei, are you willing to join the resistance?"
Krei stares at her, apparently shocked.
"You don't really have a choice, you know," Meg adds.
The stare continues.
"You'll be killed if you go anywhere else," Megan informs him.
Meg sighs. "Let's just assume you're in, shall we?"
Krei finally finds his voice. "Okay, fine! I'll join the resistance! It can't be worse than where I've been lately, I guess."
"Where have you been?" Tadashi asks.
"In the subway tunnels," Krei replies. "After the battle, I ran down there with my assistant. We lived there for what, two weeks? I don't know how long it's been. Anyway, last night we decided to try and sneak back into KreiTech to get our patents and blueprints and such, so the North Koreans couldn't use them. But we were caught, and their leader—Jeong—she shot my assistant." His voice cracks. "She killed Judy."
Maybe Krei does think about people other than himself—that's the first time I've ever heard him use his assistant's name. A lump comes to my throat as I think of Judy—I didn't know her all that well, but she was always nice to me when I was Krei's intern, and she even let me in to hack into his computer once. I hope she didn't suffer too much.
"Anyway," Krei continues, clearing his throat, "the soldiers attacked me and tied me to my chair. Then these three came along—" He gestures to Meg, Momokase, and I. "They broke me out. So, um, thanks. But seriously, did you guys not know that the windows open?"
Megan shrugs. "I thought they might. But smashing through them was a lot faster. Not to mention cooler."
Krei opens his mouth indignantly, and Meg hastily continues. "Now that that's settled, we found a few Korean characters inscribed on a wall at KreiTech. I know, it could be anything, but I'd like to think it's a secret message. Does anyone have some kind of Korean keyboard so we can translate it?"
"I don't, but I can download one," I offer. "In the worst-case scenario, I could sneak back into SFIT and put it into my computer there—"
"Or you could show it to someone who actually speaks Korean," GoGo deadpans.
"Oh," I mumble sheepishly. "Yeah. Um—here it is." I pull out my phone and open the photos, then show GoGo the picture.
She studies it for a moment, her lips moving in a nearly inaudible whisper. Then she looks up and says, "This is the end."
"That got dark," Fred remarks. "But yeah, I'd say that accurately sums up our current situation."
"No, you bonehead, that's what it says. 'This is the end.' Where was this, you guys?" GoGo asks.
"In a giant room with stars all over the walls. The door said it was an observatory, but it's sometimes used for an amphitheater," I tell her. Across the room, I see Krei's eyes go wide. "Something wrong?" I ask him.
"I don't want them in my observatory," he mumbles. "It's kind of…my place."
"No one wants them there," I agree. "We'll get them out, I promise. What do you guys think the message could mean?"
"Maybe the secret to ending the war is in the room?" Tadashi asks. "Was there anything in there?"
Meg shakes her head. "All that's ever in there is a bunch of chairs and tables or, like, nothing at all. That room was completely empty when we went in it."
"That doesn't mean it's always empty," Callaghan says from the corner. "We should go back sometime, see if there are any secret compartments or places where something could be hidden."
"Or it could just be some pessimistic North Korean," Wasabi suggests. "That's the kind of message I'd write."
"You have no grit whatsoever," GoGo growls.
"I guess we'll figure it out later," Meg decides. "Thanks for helping us figure it out, GoGo. There's one more thing we saw that we should probably talk about, you guys. It might be a bit of a shock, so try not to freak out."
She takes a deep breath. "We saw Baymax. The North Koreans have made him into a battle robot, and he's just a bunch of scrap metal now, with glowing white eyes. He…he tried to kill us when he saw us in Krei's office. If we come up against him again, we might have to destroy him."
"And we don't have his chip," I realize. "It went with him to the North Koreans."
"I can just print a new one," Tadashi offers. "The programming should be saved on our computer. If we ever see him again, we can give him his chip back."
"And if we don't?" Honey asks, and everyone goes silent.
"Then we can't be Big Hero 6 anymore," I whisper. "There'd only be five of us."
"I can be number six," Megan volunteers. "I totally want to be a vigilante!"
"Might I remind you that being a vigilante is illegal?" President Cruz chimes in. "You are not allowed to engage in such activities, Megan. I won't permit it."
"But Dad, Hiro does it—"
"And it's a very dangerous job. I won't have you in that kind of position."
Meg huffs indignantly. "Well, we're all gonna have to be vigilantes if we're gonna stop this war, Mr. President."
"Yeah, I know. Meg, please don't call me Mr. President—oh, and the rest of you don't have to, either," President Cruz informs the room. "Just Chief Cruz is fine. I've never really gotten used to my title."
"Alright, chief," Fred says, putting a hand to his forehead in salute.
"Thanks for your announcement, Dad," Megan says. "Okay, gang, meeting adjourned. Krei, you can sleep on an air mattress or a sleeping bag—we might still have a few. If all else fails, it's gonna be a pillow and blanket on the floor. I hope we don't have too many more recruits—there aren't gonna be enough beds for all of them…"
Meg trails off into exhausted rambling, and I take that as my cue to drag myself up the stairs into bed.
I pull off my armor and throw it into a pile next to my bed, then curl up under the covers as thunder starts to sound outside. A storm is coming in—hopefully it'll clear any remaining smoke from the sky and clean the city up a little bit.
Rain starts to pound on the roof, and I begin to drift off. I wish sleep would make my problems go away. Unfortunately, that's not the case—only a lot of blood, sweat, and tears are going to end this war. Sleep isn't gonna cut it. But at least I can escape from WWIII for a little while.
I fall asleep quickly, and my brain takes me into a different world that I wish with all my heart was real.
The next morning dawns wet and rainy, with little rivulets of water running down the street. It's actually a really big storm—hopefully nothing floods, unless it's the North Koreans' base.
I sit up and run a hand through my hair, wincing at the slight ache in the back of my skull. I still get a headache if I move too fast—concussions take a while to heal, I guess. All the bruises and scratches are healing, though, so hopefully it won't be too long before I'm all better.
The clock on my nightstand reads 10:03 am, and Tadashi's bed, Megan's air mattress, and Chief Cruz's sleeping bag are all empty. Great—I slept in again. After pulling on my clothes, I traipse downstairs to the garage, stopping for a piece of toast on the way, and begin printing. It shouldn't take too long to make the prosthetic, and then I want to work on the bioink tattoos.
The prosthetic is done in only about an hour—I already had the designs saved, and all I need to add is a mechanism in the palm so it can create explosions without blowing itself up. Next up is the bioink—I'm gonna need to get skin samples from everyone.
Well, no one better to test it on than myself. I reach down to the first aid kit we keep in the garage—just in case—and pull out a cotton swab. Spraying saline solution on my arm, I swipe the Q-tip over the skin a few times and then place it into the printer, combining it with resin and pigment. As an afterthought, I add tiny electroreceptors—I want this to be able to be turned on and off. After that, I set the pattern for the probe to take across my skin and place the tip of it gently on my upper arm, then press start.
I hold my breath as the probe passes over my skin, bringing with it a sensation that's not exactly painful, more uncomfortable. It takes about two minutes for the printer to finish its work, and when it does, I remove my arm to see, thankfully, nothing yet. That's precisely the result I want—I want these tattoos to only be visible when the wearer chooses.
The last part of the project is the button. I carefully print a tiny, skin-toned neuroreceptor adhesive patch and add a small button of the same color, with more of the little electroreceptors inside. I really hope this works.
I reach up to the back of my neck and lift up my mop of messy jet-black hair, then carefully place the little button on my skin. Once it's secured, I press it.
The bioink tattoo lights up on my arm, illuminating the glowing purple phoenix. I stare at it in awe—that turned out way better than I thought it would. It looks just like the one on my breastplate, and it works exactly as I intended it to. When I press the button again, the light turns off and I can't tell there's anything there.
I hurriedly pull up everyone's data and print their receptor buttons, noting that I don't have scans of Tadashi, Megan, Chief Cruz, or Krei. I'll have to scan them fast so I can produce the correct colors of buttons—I don't want them to be super visible.
Once I'm ready, I call everyone downstairs and explain the procedure. "It doesn't hurt, I promise. It's not like getting a regular tattoo. It only takes a few minutes, and you can even turn it on and off. They look pretty cool, too, and I seriously think you should all get one. I'm just gonna have to take a quick skin sample and scan."
"Can we pick the color?" Fred asks excitedly. "That would be so cool!"
"Yeah, you can," I tell him, flashing my glowing tattoo at him. "What color?"
"Could you do, like, a yellow-orange-red gradient?" Fred says thoughtfully. "Like my fire?"
"I'll try," I promise. "Here, I'll just take a quick skin sample and put it in the printer."
I quickly swab Fred's arm and feed it into the printer, mix the components, and stick the little button onto his neck. His hair is definitely long enough to cover it, so I'm not worried. Finally, I guide the probe over Fred's skin and watch as it produces a perfect, fiery phoenix.
"Awesome!" Fred exclaims when I'm done, pressing his button over and over again. "That is so freaking cool!"
It takes about an hour to finish all the tattoos, and if I do say so myself, they look amazing. Tadashi has dark blue, Megan, red, GoGo, yellow, Honey, pink, Wasabi, green, Momokase, sky blue, Chief Cruz, light gray, Callaghan, turquoise, and Krei, white. To see how bright they are, I turn off all the lights, and we turn on the tattoos. The multicolored light fills the whole space, and it is honestly one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
"These are really cool, Hiro!" Megan says, examining the phoenix on her arm. "But I need to go stand guard."
I tilt my head and give her a quizzical look. Stand guard?
"I thought we should start posting a guard to watch the streets," Meg explains. "Since those North Koreans found us a few days ago. It might be good if we had someone out there, so they could alert us and we wouldn't be caught off guard. I've got the first watch, then Dad, then Callaghan."
"That's…actually really smart," I concede. "And I never would have thought of it, so—good job!"
"Thanks," Meg says, smiling. Then she turns away and heads up the stairs to go outside.
I flop down in my chair and roll across the room back to the printer, announcing, "I can start your armor now, guys. I'll start with the existing designs—don't worry, I'll upgrade them—and then get to work on new stuff. But I kind of need to work in complete privacy, so…um. If you could all leave."
Everyone stares at me, incredulous, for a moment.
"Please," I add as an afterthought.
Tadashi laughs. "Everyone out! Leave the genius to his work!"
By the time I finish upgrading Honey's armor to fit her new arm, Meg's watch is over, and Chief Cruz's has started. I'm deeply immersed in the design of GoGo's upgraded suit when a comm comes in from Chief Cruz on the earpieces I designed forever ago.
"Attention, resistance!" he barks. "I detect an approaching presence—no, wait, that's a deer."
"A deer?!" Tadashi's voice squeals from upstairs. "I love deers!"
"I think it's just deer, Tadashi," I correct, leaning back in my chair. "Cool. Anyway, I've gotta get back to my work, so if you guys could, like, only tell me if it's really important, that'd be great." I look back at the screen and add sharper edges to the throwing discs.
A few minutes later, Chief Cruz's voice crackles through the earpiece again. "I detect—never mind. That's a tree."
I sigh and drag a hand through my hair. Chief Cruz is awesome, but he must either not have very good vision or be unable to see anything in this downpour.
The comm link is silent for about half an hour, and then the chief's voice comes on the line again. "There! It's for sure people this time! There are three of them!"
"Are you sure?" I ask, rather annoyed by now.
"He's right!" Tadashi gasps. "They're coming this way!"
"Weapons!" Chief Cruz roars. "Mobilize!"
I leap out of my chair and sprint inside, then up the stairs to my room. I pull on my armor as fast as possible and hastily jerk my helmet over my head just as Chief Cruz's voice comes over the link again. "They don't look like North Koreans! They're all wearing different clothes!"
"I bet one's gonna turn out to be a captain and one is a commander," Megan grumbles as she comes up the stairs to put on her suit. "What do they look like, Dad?"
"I think I've seen them before," he replies. "But I can't remember who they are.
"Is one of them a woman and really terrifying? Radiates authority? Wants to kill us all?" I ask as we go down the stairs to the front door, fearing that perhaps Chasu Jeong has put on different clothes in order to ambush us.
"They're all women," Chief Cruz reports. "And yeah, one of them does look like that. But she's African American, not North Korean."
"Oh my gosh," I whisper as a thought strikes me. "Is it Professor Granville?"
"Oh, that's who that is!" Chief Cruz exclaims. "Yes, it is! Hang on, they're coming—" His voice changes to businesslike and commanding. "State your name and business."
"Karmi Chen, Grace Granville, Liv Amara," comes an authoritative, hated voice. "We're looking for the resistance. Is this it?"
"It is," Chief Cruz tells them as my eyes widen. "Come inside."
"Hide me!" I gasp desperately, diving behind the couch. "It's Karmi! My archnemesis!"
Meg ducks down beside me and whispers, "Is she your ex?"
"No!" I hiss. "She likes my alter ego, but she hates me in real life! She doesn't know I'm him and he's me!"
"That sounds…complicated," Meg says, sounding perplexed.
There's complete silence except for the footsteps of the three women as they walk inside, and I press my back against the couch, hoping against hope that Karmi won't realize who I am. That would be kind of awkward, not to mention potentially life-threatening. She really doesn't like me.
"Hey, I know this old shack," comes Karmi's voice, and my face flames bright red. "This is where Genius Boy lives."
"Well—" Honey's voice says. "Maybe he doesn't live here anymore."
"Is that not his brother?" Professor Granville asks sharply, and I can picture Tadashi shrinking away from her burning gaze.
"Um," Tadashi mumbles. "Hir—uh, Captain Cutie, Megan, please come out. This is rather terrifying."
I tint my visor the furthest it can go and reluctantly stand up, Megan beside me. Our appearance is immediately followed by a loud squeal from Karmi, and I resist the urge to yank off my helmet and slap the soppy look off her face. Trying to keep my cool, I say in my Captain Cutie voice, "Uh…hi, ladies. Welcome to the resistance."
"Mr. Hamada," Professor Granville greets me, inclining her head. "I suggest you reveal your identity to Miss Karmi immediately. If we are to be part of this resistance, it will not do to be keeping this kind of secret from her."
"She's right, Hiro," Tadashi adds. "It'll only make things worse."
"What are you talking about?" Karmi asks. "Who are you talking about? Isn't that Captain Cutie?"
"In a sense," GoGo replies. "Just do it, Hiro."
I take a deep breath and pull off my helmet.
"You," Karmi snarls, the confused look on her face replaced instantly with one of rage. "You're Captain Cutie?"
"That's me," I mumble, rubbing the back of my neck. "I'm sorry."
Karmi's face twists and she lunges forward, her fist obviously intended for my face. I yelp and duck back behind the couch as Megan jumps over it and immediately puts Karmi in a headlock.
"Meg!" I yelp. "Don't pick fights! Let go!"
Megan hisses something into Karmi's ear and releases her, turning away and grabbing my elbow protectively. "If she's gonna be in the resistance, she can't attack you, Hiro. I'm seriously thinking about kicking her out of here."
"We can't kick anyone out!" I whisper. "Look at them!"
Karmi, Granville, and Liv are all soaking wet and rather muddy from the downpour outside, and all three of them bear numerous scratches and cuts. Granville looks as strong and authoritative as ever, but Liv and Karmi seem rather bedraggled. We can't just throw them back out into the rain.
"Fine," Megan huffs. "I guess you do have some authority as my second in command."
"I'm your second in command?"
"Yeah, well, I'm the leader, so I get to pick one. I chose you a long time ago, Hiro."
"Wow," I whisper, touched. "Well…thanks."
Meg gives me a swift smile, then turns back to the others. Everyone is staring at us—hopefully they're not listening to our conversation.
Megan clears her throat. "So—new recruits. What brought you here? How did you know about the resistance?"
Liv holds up her phone. "Alistair texted me. He told me he'd come to a safe place with the resistance and to come find him."
It takes me a moment to realize she's talking about Krei. I've hardly ever heard people use his first name, except Aunt Cass on that one date they had.
A pang of grief shoots through my heart at the thought of my aunt. I hope she's out of the storm, wherever she is. I want to go find her more than anything, but it's not safe to leave the café, especially in a storm.
"We've come to join with you in your quest to stop this war," Granville announces. "We respectfully ask that you allow us to live and work with you, Mr. Hamada, as this is your house. Are you in charge here?"
"No, it's Megan," I reply, gesturing toward her. "But yeah, you can live here—sorry, I'm not sure we have any more beds, but we'll figure something out."
"I need to swear you in," Meg announces. "Um—do you agree to always support the resistance in all its endeavors, to never betray your fellow members, and to not do anything stupid?"
Granville, Karmi, and Liv all answer in the affirmative, and Meg gives them a curt nod. "Then welcome to the resistance. Our objective is to end World War Three as quickly and efficiently as possible, with minimal casualties. We've worked out a fairly solid plan to deplete their missile arsenal using teleportation technology—"
"If I may interrupt," Professor Granville cuts in. "We have a plan that may work even more quickly and efficiently than arsenal depletion."
Megan crosses her arms. "And what is that?"
Granville leans forward and speaks in a whisper so quiet everyone in the room has to strain to hear. "We must destroy their leader."
"No!" Tadashi bursts out. "We've been over this! We're not killing anyone if we can avoid it!"
"Mr. Hamada, it is inevitable!" Granville retorts. "It will be simple, swift, and demoralizing to the North Korean armies. You cannot deny that it is the best way to end this!"
"But it's not the only way," Honey argues. "You're talking about killing someone! Assassination! Murder!"
"I'm afraid you're wrong, Miss Rivera," Granville replies. "It is, most certainly, the only way."
"She's right," GoGo agrees. "I think it's a good idea. Wasabi?"
"Same here," he mumbles. "I don't like it, but it seems like it might be hard to end this war without killing Chasu Jeong. Like Granville said, it might be the only way."
"I am in agreement with that fact," Momokase adds. "I can even carry out the deed myself if I need do. Jeong will have no idea it is coming, and this war will be over before she can do anything more than scream."
"But we can't kill her!" Liv argues. "We'd be committing murder!"
"Murder is the shedding of innocent blood!" Karmi snaps. "Jeong isn't innocent in the slightest!"
My brain is warring with itself, engaging in inner conflict as the rest of the resistance starts to shout at each other, listing all the pros and cons of Jeong's assassination as if it's a decision about where to go on vacation. My thoughts are swirling, the light and dark sides of my soul attacking each other.
We can't assassinate Jeong! It would be murder!
Have you even listened, you idiot? Jeong is so far from innocent she wouldn't know it if it exploded two inches in front of her face!
But we'd be taking a human life—
But it's worth it to end the war!
We want to end this without killing anyone! At all!
There's no way to end a war without people dying! It's the only way!
I yank off my gauntlets and press my hands to my temples as my head starts to throb with all the noise and the battle raging inside it. No. We can't carry out an assassination—we have to end this without any further casualties. If we just take all their weapons, we won't even have to fight! Why can't anyone see that mine and Megan's idea is the best one? There is no way we're going to kill Chasu Jeong!
Still, my heart is crying out for the woman who nearly killed us all, who took Aunt Cass and Baymax away from me, who forced me into hiding, to be punished. Jeong deserves anything we could do to her—but we'd still be taking a life! That goes against everything I've been raised to believe, every moral I abide by, everything I've been taught for fifteen years.
But deep down inside, I wonder if it is inevitable. If it's really the only way.
I wonder if they're right.