Hiro had been relieved to receive Tadashi’s lab when he first started at SFIT. He knew that it wasn’t the norm for freshman students to receive prime lab space, but the university had recognized that Hiro had a connection to the lab, if not a claim. Hiro was relieved, of course, to be able to use the space that Tadashi had made his own for sentimental reasons, but also because it was just that much easier to start rebuilding Baymax.
They were calling it his freshman year project, building something that already existed, only better. After all, Baymax had been a prototype unit. So Hiro would build him back even better. Hiro envisioned a full suite of micro-robotics, capable of injecting life-saving medications, or able to stitch closed a hemorrhaging artery in seconds. Still a health care companion, but also a field medic. He hoped Tadashi would have approved.
More than anything though, Hiro wanted to get Baymax back. He needed to get Baymax back. He missed his friend, and the only thing that had soothed the guilt he had felt at losing him had been the relief of finding the green chip.
Hiro was busy machining new servos for Baymax’s skeleton (while other parts were printing in the background, while code was compiling on his computer, while a moulding set), when Honey Lemon stuck her head in.
“Oh, Hiro, quick question,” she said.
“Ahh, Honey, I’m kind of busy,” said Hiro.
“I know, that’s why it’s a quick question. I already asked Todd what he used for his rocket boots, but he won’t tell me, and Baymax’s rockets were much better, so I wanted to ask you anyway. So, what was the propellant you used?”
“There wasn’t any,” said Hiro absently, casting a keen eye over his work.
“Sorry?” asked Honey Lemon.
“It’s…you know, direct electric-propulsion,” said Hiro, tweaking at an uneven edge.
“Um, what’s that now?” asked Honey.
“I don’t know what it’s actually called,” said Hiro. “Go ask someone in astrophysics. I kind of reinvented it to prank Tadashi once, so I never actually read anything about it.”
“Oh,” said Honey Lemon, sounding confused. “Alright, I’ll do that.”
Hiro went back to focusing on his work, pulled back out of it suddenly though by a ding from his computer indicating an error in the compiling. Hiro let out a frustrated groan and set to finding the error. He swore, if it was another stupid typo, he was going break into the coffee supplies, no matter what anyone had to say about fourteen year old growing bodies.
“Hiro,” Gogo said abruptly from the doorway of his lab. Hiro was going to lock the door if they weren’t careful.
“Super busy,” said Hiro.
“Your deadline’s seven months away,” said Gogo.
“I’m not waiting seven months,” said Hiro, a touch annoyed.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Gogo. “But what’s this about direct electric-propulsion? There’s no such thing.”
“I already said I don’t know what it’s called exactly,” said Hiro. “That’s why I told Honey Lemon to check with an astrophysics professor.”
“We did,” said Honey Lemon.
Hiro frowned and checked the clock on his computer. Honey hadn’t been gone that long had she? When did it get to be five o’clock? All this time spent, and he hadn’t found the bug.
“Anyway,” said Hiro. “Of course there’s such a thing. I’ve been making them since I was nine. I may be a genius, but I’m not that much of a genius.”
“Professor Lee said she knew that people have theorized reactionless engines, but she still isn’t convinced it’s possible.”
“Yeah,” said Hiro, “okay. Check with Professor Snyder.”
“Hey, what’s this about propellant free propulsion?” asked Wasabi, sticking his head into the lab.
“Not now, Wasabi,” said Hiro. “Looking for a bug, very busy. My friend needs his body back.”
“You need to take a chill pill, little man,” accused Wasabi.
“No, coffee is what I need,” said Hiro.
“That’s kind of the opposite,” said Gogo.
“Look, I know I’m kind of obsessed right now, so can we all agree to just wait to talk about this when I’m working on Baymax’s armor?”
“Sure,” said Gogo, “we’ll just shelve the discussion of your groundbreaking discovery until later. No problem.”
“Thanks, you guys are the greatest,” Hiro called out as his friend’s left his lab.
He hadn’t really full-sale invented electric-propulsion, had he? Whatever, he needed to find this bug so he could get back to the servos. And after that, he still needed to figure out a new power system for Baymax. Well, he wanted to anyway. Supercapacitors had helped a lot over Tadashi’s original lithium-ion, but they had only just barely met Baymax’s needs in combat. But what was better than supercapacitors? Ugh, he’d have to figure something out later.
The servos needed to be perfect. Baymax 1.0 had been too slow, a fault of Tadashi’s, who had never been comfortable with fast precision in robotics. A problem that Hiro, with his bot-fighting career under his belt, had no trouble with. But it did necessitate a lot more careful machining, which took a lot more time. Hiro knew that he had time, but he didn’t feel like he did. Sometimes he felt like if he waited too long, Baymax’s programing would fade from his chip, and he’d lose Baymax all over again.
Maybe it was irrational, but it was a damned good motivator.
“Honey Lemon, Honey Lemon, quick question,” said Hiro.
“Sure,” said Honey Lemon. “Just give me a two sentence explanation of electric-propulsion first.”
Hiro huffed. “A closed asymmetric resonant cavity is flooded with microwave radiation. The differential in the radiation pressure on the interior walls of the closed resonant cavity creates thrust.”
“O…kay,” said Honey Lemon. Hiro supposed the explanation was a bit lost on the chemist. Gogo or Wasabi would have understood better.
“So,” said Hiro, holding up his tablet with a crystalline diagram. “How would you make a quartzite matrix crystallize like this?”
“That is not a quick question,” Honey Lemon complained, though judging by how she was eyeing the pattern, she wasn’t actually complaining. “Let’s go consult Wasabi; if this is possible, it’s going to need laser guided infra-structuring.”
“I don’t know what that means, but it sounds awesome,” said Hiro.
“What’s this for, anyway?” asked Honey Lemon.
“New battery for Baymax,” said Hiro.
“Of course it is,” said Honey Lemon. “Are you getting your homework done at least?”
“‘Course I am,” said Hiro. “I need to keep my lab space, don’t I?”
“Is that the only reason you’re doing your school work?” asked Honey Lemon.
“No,” Hiro muttered unconvincingly. “Besides, Baymax is school work.”
Honey Lemon sighed as she approached Wasabi, standing respectfully behind the yellow caution tape.
“Wasabi,” she said, “do you have a few minutes?”
“Sure,” said Wasabi, "especially if it brought this guy out of his lab."
"I'm not that bad," complained Hiro.
"You're totally that bad," said Wasabi. "Anyway, how can I help?"
"Show him the structure, Hiro," said Honey Lemon. "Could you help us make a quartz crystal like this with laser guided infra-structuring?"
"Sure," said Wasabi, “but could we do norellium instead? A lot of the same properties-”
“And a lot more stable!” Honey Lemon finished for him. "I was thinking the exact same thing!"
"Norellium?" asked Hiro, as he made a few adjustments to his tablet to show the new structure. "Oh, hey, you're right, that's ten times better."
"I've got just the gear you're looking for," said Wasabi, "with a little precision tweaking."
"And I can make the norellite solute," said Honey Lemon, "but we need to figure out the equations first."
"What are we working on, anyway?" asked Wasabi.
"I need it for a new battery for Baymax."
"You are way overachieving, little man," said Wasabi with exasperated fondness.
The three of them set to work ironing out the details. Perhaps an hour later, Gogo zoomed in on her newest version of her junior year project, a frictionless motorcycle. She walked over to examine what they were working on.
“So, you guys tell him about the museum heist?” she asked.
“Museum heist?” asked Hiro.
“Fred has a theory that the San Fransokyo Natural History Museum is going to be next in a string of rare gem robberies,” said Wasabi. “Their exhibit is moving tomorrow, so if there’s going to be a heist, it’s going to be tonight.”
“It’s a big place,” said Gogo, “it would help if we had you running overwatch.”
Hiro supposed that if he had time to make a new power source, he had time to run an op.
“Sure, but you get to make an excuse for my Aunt,” he said. “And can we finish our game plan on this thing before we talk robbery?”
“No problem,” said Honey Lemon. “We have time.”
"Wait," said Gogo after a minute of watching them work. "Are you making a quartzite reactor?"
"It's a battery," said Hiro.
"It reacts," said Gogo, "it's a reactor."
"Let's call it a battery," said Hiro. "Are they on the market? How much do they run for?” It would be a lot faster if he could just buy one, though the school hadn’t given him that big of a stipend for a first year project.
"They're theoretical," said Gogo.
"Wait, we're making a theoretical reactor?" asked Wasabi.
"Battery," said Hiro. "And it's perfectly stable."
"Theoretically," said Gogo.
"Anyway," said Hiro, "since you're here, I wanted to talk to you about a magnetic containment system."
"How is it stable if you need a containment system?" asked Wasabi.
"That's what makes it stable,” said Hiro.
“How safe is this exactly?” asked Honey Lemon.
“When do I ever do anything dangerous?” asked Hiro.
“You ask that like we’ve never met you before,” said Wasabi.
“Dude, ouch. Anyway, when have I ever built something that didn’t work how I wanted it to?”
“That’s fair,” said Gogo.
“So, anyway, you were saying about getting the oscillation just right,” Hiro directed towards Wasabi.
“Ooh! What are we working on?”
“Hello Fred,” said Honey Lemon.
“Hiro’s just making world changing tech again like it’s nothing special,” said Gogo.
“Yes! Tell me more.”
“Massive and long lasting energy source in a small compact unit,” said Hiro.
Fred got right up into Hiro’s personal space then, placing his hands on either side of Hiro’s face as he looked deep into Hiro’s eyes.
“Thank you!” he said with barely contained mirth.
“Thank you for what?” asked Hiro, with his lips squished together.
Fred bounced away from him in excitement. “Space travel, my man! Your fancy rockets plus your fancy Tesseract thingy, means you can travel the solar system easy.”
“That’s…maybe accurate, actually,” said Honey Lemon.
“Yes! I love science,” shouted Fred.
“Dude, I’m just making tech for Baymax,” said Hiro dismissively.
“You are way too single minded,” said Gogo.
“Am I the only person who misses him?” asked Hiro.
“Of course not,” said Wasabi. “But he’s not going anywhere. You’re allowed to take a minute to, say, think about how ridiculous this whole thing is.”
“Nothing’s ridiculous,” said Hiro. “Come on, let’s make a battery.”
“Ow?” said Hiro, hesitantly.
“I am Baymax, your personal healthcare companion. Hello Hiro.”
“Yes!” cried Hiro, leaping into a hug with Baymax.
“My scan indicates that your neurotransmitter levels are elevated. However you also appear to be: under-nourished.”
Hiro laughed. “Yeah, buddy. I may have skipped a few meals.”
“You are a growing boy, Hiro. Proper nutrition is crucial for proper physical development. Treatment includes: eating meals comprised of-” Baymax’s stomach screen lit up to show the food groups.
“I know, I know,” said Hiro, trying to head Baymax off before a big lecture. “How about you pick me a meal at the commons.”
“I am in agreement with this treatment plan,” said Baymax.
“You know, Baymax, I really missed you,” said Hiro.
“There, there,” said Baymax, scooping Hiro up into another hug. “It will be alright.”
They walked out of the lab together, and everyone was out there waiting.
“Baymax,” cried Honey Lemon. “You work!”
“Yes!” cried Fred. “Alright!”
“Good to see you, marshmallow man,” said Gogo.
“I am a robot,” said Baymax. “Or is this only an: expression?”
“Glad to see you, Baymax,” said Wasabi. “So now can we finally talk about electric-propulsion?”
“There is no time to talk,” said Baymax. “I must escort my patient to the: food court.”
“Oh, Hiro! How many meals have you missed?” asked Honey Lemon.
“I don’t know,” said Hiro with a shrug, as he let Baymax lead him off to the exit. “Come eat whatever meal this is with me. I can talk and eat at the same time. It’s a skill of mine.”
“Yeah,” said Gogo dryly, “we know.”
“You and Fred both,” said Wasabi.
“What can we say?” asked Fred. “It’s a talent.”
“It’s disgusting is what it is,” said Wasabi.
Baymax zigzagged across the school commons, scooping up just the right foods to complete a perfect meal for Hiro with the whole gang in pursuit.
“Alright,” said Gogo once they were sat down, “spill.”
“Did you ask Professor Snyder?” asked Hiro around a mouthful of chicken.
“We didn’t mention that you had already made them,” said Honey Lemon.
This was probably for the best, as they had been featured on Big Hero Red. Hiro was already making a note to pretend to discover them in the future. Honey Lemon went on.
“She said she think’s reactionless engines are possible, but probably at least fifteen years over the horizon.”
“Really?” asked Hiro skeptically. “I made them when I was nine. Rocket boots on Mochi. Classic.”
“And Tadashi never said anything about it?” asked Wasabi.
“Sure,” said Hiro. “He said, ‘Aah! Hiro, you almost set my hair on fire. What were you thinking?’ He wouldn’t listen when I said they wouldn’t have set his hair on fire. Come to think of it, I might not have had a chance to explain them to him, what with him chasing me around the cafe.”
Gogo face palmed. “You’ve been sitting on this tech for five years. You used it for a prank one time, and forgot about it?”
“That’s, yeah, that’s a fair assessment,” said Hiro. “So um, how important is this?”
Wasabi pointed to Fred who exclaimed. “Space travel dude!”
“What he said,” said Wasabi. “Fuel’s expensive and heavy. It’s the biggest limiter we have in space travel. You take it out of the equation, and you open a lot of doors.”
“Sweet!” said Hiro.
“Hiro,” said Honey Lemon, “you should make this your sophomore project, really perfect the tech.”
“Uh, first of all, it’s already perfect. And second, that’s not exactly robotics,” said Hiro. “I’m a robotics major. Well, I could make a robot that flies on them, but that’s a little on the nose, don’t you think?”
“Oh my god, you don’t even care that you’ve revolutionized everything,” said Wasabi.
“Well, I mean, yes, I’m awesome. And space travel is high on my list of awesome things. But I’m not switching majors. I’m taking a physics class next semester. There’s probably going to be a project I could use it for. Easy A!”
“You are literally the worst,” said Gogo.
“Oh,” said Hiro, “and we could all submit the norite battery at the next expo.”
“Reactor,” said Gogo.
“I keep telling you, you can’t call it norite,” said Honey Lemon, “they’ll think it’s the mafic intrusive igneous rock!”
“Just call it a quartzite reactor, that’s what all the literature calls it already.”
“You can’t call it that if it doesn’t have quartz!” complained Wasabi for the hundredth time. “And just so you know, half the people I’ve talked to about it think they’re impossible.”
“Really?” asked Hiro.
“You literally invented cold fusion!” Wasabi whisper-shouted at him.
“Anyway,” said Hiro. “Robotics major,” he said, pointing at himself with both thumbs, “going to keep robot-ing it up.”
“You are literally the worst,” said Gogo.
“That’s what makes me the best,” said Hiro.
“Look who’s home before dark!” cried a near ecstatic Aunt Cass.
“Hey, Aunt Cass,” said Hiro, a touch sheepishly. They had argued a lot recently about Hiro sleeping at the lab, with Aunt Cass finally putting her foot down on the subject. “I finished Baymax today,” he said as he pulled said robot into the cafe.
“Oh, yay!” said Aunt Cass, probably relieved before anything else that Hiro’s single minded obsession was now at an end. “I was about to start dinner, what are you feeling like tonight?”
“Hiro remains undernourished,” Baymax butted in. “Please observe these examples of nutritiously complete meals.” His stomach screen lit up again.
“Baymax!” cried Hiro, dashing his body across Baymax’s screen. He really needed to install some privacy settings on the robot.
“Hiro!” cried Aunt Cass. “How many meals have you been skipping?”
Hiro’s mouth made the vague sounds of the words, “I don’t know.”
“Honestly,” said Aunt Cass, “you would think you could feed yourself by now.”
“That’s what I got Baymax for now,” said Hiro.
“Your wit astounds me, Hiro. Now go clean up before dinner. You’re covered in lab grease. Baymax, maybe you could help me make one of those nutritionally complete meals.”
“There’s no such thing as ‘lab grease’,” Hiro groused over his shoulder as he made his way up the stairs.
He sighed as he got to his bedroom. It was silly, though he’d just been there last night, it kind of felt like ages since, instead.
Hiro ignored the wash room in favor of his computer. He probably had a few hundred emails to sort through. Moments later, he’d started up his browser, which opened to his home page. There was an email summary in one corner he was about to click on when a news headline scrolling on the bottom of the page caught his eye.
Hiro’s breath froze and his heart clenched. “No,” he choked out after a moment.
Hiro’s head darted to the side so he could look at one of the posters on the wall, a group shot of the Ares III crew, their names emblazoned beneath them, which stood next to a group shot of the Ares II crew, underneath a big diagram of the Hermes.
‘It can’t be,’ Hiro thought. The headline had scrolled away, so Hiro typed the words “mark watney dead” into the search bar.
A different headline popped up first, but it said the same thing.
“Astronaut Mark Watney Dead on Mars; Ares III Mission Scrubbed.”
The next headline said much the same thing, and the one after that, and the one after that.
It was some time later that his Aunt Cass found him sobbing in the corner.
“Oh, baby, Hiro, what’s wrong?” she asked, trying to get her arms around him.
“It’s nothing,” said Hiro, trying in vain to stop crying. He scrubbed at his face, but probably only made things worse.
“Of course it’s not nothing,” said Aunt Cass.
“It is,” said Hiro, trying to stand and move away. “Someone died, but I didn’t even know them. I don’t know why I’m crying.”
Aunt Cass finally got her arms around him. “Oh, sweetie, you’re allowed to cry for that. Who was it?”
“The astronaut, Watney,” said Hiro around a large glob of snot that was making its way down his throat.
“Oh no,” said Aunt Cass, who was leading Hiro over to his bed, sitting him down. “You guys were so excited for the launch.”
“That’s why it’s stupid,” said Hiro. “He’s a guy we saw on TV. I didn’t properly cry when Tadashi died, so why should I be crying now? I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
He tried to stand up again but Aunt Cass gently held him back and turned his head to face her.
“Hiro Hamada, you listen to me,” she said. “When Tadashi died, it was the worst thing that had ever happened to you, and you didn’t know how to handle it, so you shut down instead. Crying now doesn’t mean you cared more about this astronaut. I’m glad you’re crying, it means your doing a lot better than you were a few months ago.”
Hiro sniffled as he finally leaned into her hug and tried to even out his breathing. “When did you get so smart about this stuff?”
“Well, I read a book or two after Tadashi died,” said Aunt Cass.
“You did?” asked Hiro.
“I was worried about you,” said Aunt Cass. “I didn’t know how to help you.”
“Oh,” said Hiro, hugging his aunt. He sniffed again. “It’s not fair though. They both just wanted to help make a better world.”
“I know,” said Aunt Cass, kissing the top of Hiro’s head. “I know.”
Aunt Cass eventually dragged Hiro down to dinner, and Hiro got another hug from Baymax, and life moved on. Hiro kept taking in the news on what had happened though. Some part of him just wanted to make sense of it all.
The SFIT College of Aerospace and Astrophysics held a nice little memorial on the day of the funeral, and Hiro attended. There were plaques in the ground in front of the building honoring all astronauts, regardless of nationality, who had died on missions, including large ones for the Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, and Soyuz 11 crews. On that day, they added a new one. It felt a little bit like closure, but Hiro still ignored everyone’s advice and downloaded the newly released satellite images that came out a couple days later, showing the Ares 3 site on Mars.
No sign of the body.
Hiro downloaded some imaging software and scrubbed the image to see if it had been digitally removed, but turned up nothing. If anyone had asked him, he wouldn’t have been able to say why he did it, but he reverse engineered the software, and made his own algorithm to search for manipulation. Again, he turned up nothing. All the news articles had said that the body would likely still be visible on Mars.
Hiro huffed. He was going to get to the bottom of this.
Ten Months Later
“Pathfinder?” asked Annie Montrose, NASA’s Head of Media Relations. “You mean that ancient probe? How can we be getting a signal from it?”
“That’s um, that’s kind of the problem,” said Venkat Kapoor, NASA’s Director of Mars Missions. “Bruce?” he prompted the man on the television screen, Bruce Ng, live from JPL in Pasadena, California.
“The signal came in four days ago at about 2:00 AM our time. SETI picked it up, and clued us in. Of course, we weren’t really ready for it. But we’ve just managed to send the triangulation signal back to it. And, well, it’s moved.”
“You mean, the rover’s moved,” said Annie. She looked over to the corner where Mitch Henderson, the Ares III Mission Director, was stewing quietly. She did not want to know why he was there.
“No, the whole probe’s moved,” said Bruce. “It’s in Acidalia Planetia now. It’s not exactly a short trip.”
Annie looked between Bruce and Venkat. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Annie,” said Teddy Sanders, Director of NASA, “this is a serious situation.”
“I know it’s a serious situation, if you’re telling me what I think you’re telling me. Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Show her the satellite imagery,” said Teddy.
Venkat called the image up, cutting Bruce’s screen in half. There was the Ares 3 site. One section near the HAB was circled, and Annie could just make out the vague shape of the Pathfinder probe. But what really caught the eye was the big word spelled out with boulders.
“Are you shitting me?! Is there any way that he’s not going to starve to death?”
“We’re working on that,” said Teddy. “We’ve got people scouring for a rocket we can appropriate, and everyone at JPL who isn’t working on getting in full contact with Pathfinder is working on developing a resupply probe. Everything that we can be doing, we’re doing. And we need you to get ahead of this, so we can start moving the resources we need.”
“This is a shitstorm and a half, you realize that,” said Annie.
“Of course we realize it, that’s why you’re here,” said Teddy.
“I mean, there’s no good way to tell the world, hey, you remember that astronaut who died almost a year ago? Turns out he’s still starving to death on Mars. Because we left him there. And we didn’t figure it out until now.”
“You’re the queen of spin, Annie,” said Teddy. “And if there’s any way for us to pull a rescue out of our asses, then we’re going to need public support, which is why we need you to manage the public.”
“Okay, well, first of all, who knew before we did?”
“Annie, no one knew,” said Venkat.
“Can I get back to work?” asked Bruce.
“Keep in touch,” said Teddy, “if you need something, assume I said yes.” He terminated the connection.
“I’m not saying someone here knew already,” said Annie. “But someone always knows first. Some obsessed nut on the internet probably figured it out ages ago.” She typed furiously into her phone.
“I think we would have heard about it if-.”
“Found it,” said Annie. “watney-survived-sol-6.com, look, they even have their own failed whitehouse.gov petition. 87 signatures asking us to look more closely at the Ares III sight. Let’s look at their reasoning. Okay, no body, the obvious one. The rover was moved. Solar cells cleaned. How did we miss this?”
“We weren’t looking for it,” said Venkat.
“I need to do damage control,” said Annie. She walked over to the conference phone and dialed an extension.
“Selena, drop everything. I need to know if we’ve had any communication in the last year from a Mr…” she checked her phone. “Holy shit, Hiro Hamada. Make that any communication that I wouldn’t already know about. I need it yesterday.” She hung up.
“Not our Hiro Hamada,” said Teddy dubiously.
Annie did some quick searching before saying, “Definitely our Hiro Hamada.”
“Who’s our Hiro Hamada?” asked Venkat.
“The SFIT kid?” Mitch finally spoke up from his corner.
“For the second time today, I do not like where this is going,” said Annie.
“He’s this fourteen year old kid at SFIT we’re helping to build a space ship,” said Teddy. “He won the Oberfeld Grant. How do you not know about this?”
“You know I don’t read the newsletter. And what do you mean, we’re helping him build a spaceship?”
“It’s a concept project. Supposing someone builds a reactionless engine and a quartzite reactor someday, this little ship would be able to fly around the solar system like it was nothing.”
“That technology’s a pipe dream,” said Venkat. “The engine’s been ten years on the horizon for the last three decades. Doubt the reactor’s even possible.”
“Sure,” said Annie, “but it’s been great PR.”
“There’s actually been some speculation that Big Hero Red flies around on reactionless engines,” said Teddy. “Said so to the kid myself when I met him. And the work he’s putting into this is actually making some of our people sit up and take notice.”
“Ugh, now your shitting me again,” said Annie. “So this kid from Big Hero 6’s back yard, who thinks Mark Watney’s still alive came to us and said, hey, help me build a space ship based on technology that may never work, but maybe it already does, and no one noticed?”
Mitch frowned and walked to the conference phone and typed in another extension.
“Hey, Silberman,” he said.
“Mitch, what can I do for you?”
“You remember when we gave the SFIT kid a tour, and you helped him plot out a course for that ship for him. What were the details?”
“Oh yeah, that kid was awesome. He’d done his own calculations before checking them against the supercomputer. They were damned close.”
“What was the course?” asked Mitch.
“From here to a Mars landing, and back,” said Silberman.
Teddy threw his hands silently into the air.
“Okay, Silberman, I’ve got a call waiting, send me the specifics ASAP, would you?”
Mitch switched to the other line. It was Selena.
“Annie, I’ve got that information you wanted…I’m guessing I shouldn’t be talking about this with anyone else, should I.”
“You guessed right, what did you find?” asked Annie.
“Five phone calls, ten emails, and three hand written letters, all basically saying, “wake up, people, Watney’s alive on Mars.”
“That’s par for the fucking course. What were our responses?”
“Various shades of, ‘Thank you for your interest. We have all been saddened by the loss of Astronaut Mark Watney. We know it is difficult in times of mourning yada yada yada.’ You get the picture.”
“I need a list of everyone responsible for those communications,” said Annie.
“Already on it,” said Selena.
“I’m glad I’ve got one competent person under me,” said Annie.
“Annie?” asked Selena. “Is he still…still alive?”
Annie paused. “Get back to me with that list as soon as you can,” she said finally. “And find out who cleared him for the Oberfeld Grant.”
“I mean, it’s not great,” said Venkat once the call ended. “But it’s not like he’s got a functioning space craft, right?”
“No,” said Teddy, “it’s a three year project. He’s been breezing through deadlines like they were nothing but-.”
“Think again,” said Annie.
“What?” asked Teddy.
“Venk isn’t the only one who needs to read the newsletter. Don’t forget, you gave this kid a lot of lee-way with resources. I know, it’s all been great PR. But he’s not been using those resources to ‘breeze right through’ the deadlines, he’s been using them to build a rocket, and shoot to the finish line.”
“How close is he?” asked Teddy.
“He called my office two weeks ago. He expects to have a finished product by the end of the month. He wanted to know if we were still going to send out a couple of engineers to look it over and give it their seal of approval.”
“It’s the 25th,” said Mitch. “Are you telling me he might have it finished already?”
“Just because he’s built something that resembles a space ship doesn’t mean he has the critical components to make it work,” said Venkat.
“I’m starting to think he had them before he even applied,” said Teddy.
“Damn,” said Mitch, looking at his phone.
“What have you got?” asked Teddy.
Mitch held up the brief that Silberman had just sent him. “We’re right in the middle of his ‘hypothetical’ launch window.”
Teddy massaged his temples before calling his secretary.
“Linda, I need to get the Dean of SFIT on the phone right now,” he said.
“Director Sanders, it’s still 5:00 AM in California,” said Linda.
“Right, then get me San Fransokyo PD on the line.”
“Right away,” said Linda.
“This kid is officially grounded,” said Teddy.
Hiro yawned as he he walked to his project site. It was way too early, but he was basically done with the ship, and there were a few things he wanted to tweak before he brought in the NASA engineers. He needed them to give it a green light on the first go around. He was running out of time.
“Hiro,” said Baymax, “you have not had enough rest. I recommend you take a midday nap to better maintain your health and focus.”
“Sure thing, buddy,” said Hiro. “Just let me know when a good time for it is.”
Hiro had actually been following Baymax’s advice pretty regularly. Not because he had suddenly become a health nut, but because he knew that all of the adults involved in his life would be looking for any excuse to put the breaks on his project, and he couldn’t let that happen. So he went to his classes, he did his homework, he ate every meal, and he slept nearly nine hours a day, going so far as to let Baymax manage his circadian rhythm. Sometimes, he even let Baymax talk him into doing something fun. Sometimes he flew with Big Hero 6.
It felt like he was moving painfully slow though, and his best calculations of how long Watney could survive with the food he had suggested he needed to launch sooner, rather than later. But if Aunt Cass, or his advisor had decided that Hiro was doing too much, then they would have put a stop to everything, and Hiro couldn’t allow that.
“What the?” Hiro asked abruptly, as he noticed campus policemen posted at the building entrance.
Hiro decided to just try to walk past them like he was supposed to be there. After all, he was supposed to be there.
“Hold up, kid,” said the policeman on the left.
“What’s up?” asked Hiro, trying to be nonchalant.
“We can’t let anyone in,” he said. “The building’s on lock-down.”
“How come?” asked Hiro.
“Don’t know,” said the policeman. “We have orders not to let anyone have access to the spaceship project inside.”
“But, that’s my project,” said Hiro. “They probably meant everybody except me.”
“Well, they said everybody, so we’re keeping everybody out.”
“Who’s giving these orders?” asked Hiro. “Maybe I can straighten things out with them?”
“Well, it’s the Director of NASA,” said the policeman on the right. “So if you have him on speed dial, be our guest.”
“The Director of NASA?” Hiro said dubiously. “Are you guys sure you’re not being punked?” Internally he was freaking out. What had he done wrong?
“Yes,” said the policeman on the right. “We’re sure. Now beat it, kid.”
Hiro huffed in frustration. This could not be happening.
Who was he kidding, this was what he had been afraid of happening the whole time. His phone started ringing. He winced when he saw who the call was from.
“Director Sanders,” he said with as much good cheer as he could muster. “Hey! What’s got you calling all of a sudden. Is this about having those engineers come to look at my ship.”
“No, I actually wanted to discuss something else with you. Can you talk right now?”
“Um, I don’t think I can, actually,” said Hiro. “I’m helping my aunt in the cafe, and she’s just got a huge order in.”
“Well Hiro, the thing is, I wanted to talk to you about this website of yours.”
Hiro winced, and ground his knuckles into his scalp in frustration. He knew he shouldn’t have put the website back up!
“Oh, that old thing?” asked Hiro. “I should have taken it down ages ago. You know, I was just really upset when everything happened. Had a hard time accepting it.”
“Really?” asked Teddy.
“Yeah,” said Hiro. “Anyway, I’ll pull the website, and we can talk more…later. Got to go, bye.”
He hung up the phone.
“Are you okay, Hiro? You appear to be in: distress.”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” said Hiro after a minute. “Hey, I need you to call up the rest of the team.”
“I knew it! I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!”
“Okay, Gogo, we all agree that you knew it. And I mean, for the record, can we all agree that none of us really believed that I was actually planning to key NASA in to everything in the first place?”
“Yeah, sure,” said Wasabi. “We were hoping you would come to your senses.”
“Look, it’s not that I don’t know it’s crazy, it’s just, I think he’s alive. And if he’s alive, then he’s starving to death.”
“Okay, fine,” said Gogo, “but the jig is up. They’ve got your ship on lock-down.”
“They think they do,” said Hiro, “but Baymax scanned the building. All the police are on the outside. No one has eyes on my ship. No one’s guarding the roof. I only need three hours to prep for launch.”
“Is this a joke?” asked Gogo. “Don’t tell me your plan wasn’t to wait for the NASA egg heads to give it a twice over.”
“Plans change. I think we can agree, that’s never going to happen now.”
Honey Lemon got a notification on her phone.
“Even if he was still alive then,” said Wasabi, “how do we know he’s still alive now?”
“I’m not ready to give up on him,” said Hiro.
“Um, guys,” said Honey Lemon. “He’s alive.”
“What makes you say that?” asked Gogo.
“At least,” said Honey Lemon, turning her phone towards them, “he was alive three days ago when he sent a signal from the Pathfinder probe.” And there on her phone screen was a picture of the Ares III site, the word ALIVE in place of prominence.
“No way!” said Fred. “He did not recover an ancient Martian probe to reestablish contact. That is sick!”
“Guys,” said Hiro, “I’m doing this. I need to get in there and finish everything. And if I’m going to get everything done before they get someone competent to lock it down, then I need your help.”
“I’m in,” said Fred, “let’s go to Mars!”
“Would you keep it down?” asked Hiro. “There’s no us in Mars. It’s Baymax and me. Getting me off the planet, that’s a covert Big Hero 6 mission. I don’t want the team getting any flack from this. I’m going to Mars as Hiro Hamada, not Big Hero Purple. There’s no real way around that. And it’s all kind of illegal. I’m a juvenile, I’ll get a slap on the wrist. I can’t say the same about you guys.”
“You don’t need to do this,” said Gogo.
“Someone needs to help,” said Hiro. “And I’m the only one who can.”
“But NASA knows he’s alive now,” said Honey Lemon. “They could run a rescue mission with an actual astronaut.”
“The only thing that can get to Mars in time is my ship,” said Hiro. “And NASA is never going to send astronauts in untested technology built by a college kid.”
“They could remote control it, couldn’t they? Send it to Mars on it’s own, and have it pick Watney up?” asked Wasabi.
“Yeah, and if they rushed it, maybe they could finish modifications in two or three weeks. By my calculations, he’s starving now. It has to be me. It has to be now.”
“I don’t know how he could get to the Pathfinder probe, bring it back, and set it up, if he’s already starving,” said Honey Lemon. “He might actually have the time. And if we wait, then NASA can get in contact with him properly, and find out what his exact situation is.”
“If I was him,” said Gogo, “and I was all alone, and starving to death. I think I’d muster the strength to get the probe. I’d want the world to know I was there. I’d want to get the chance to say goodbye. If we wait, Hiro loses his chance to mount a rescue. He’s right about everything. It’s now or never. Someone has to help.”
If they had a motto, then that was it.
“Alright,” said Hiro. “Gogo, I’m going to need some help from you to infiltrate. Wasabi, Honey Lemon, here’s the provisions I still need. I need them prepped with the rest and ready to go on the roof of the robotics lab. Whatever you guys do, don’t get caught, okay.”
“What do you need from me?” asked Fred.
Hiro grinned. “I’ve got a special order in place. I need it packed with dry ice in this container.”
“You can count on me,” said Fred, giving a salute.
“Let’s do this,” said Hiro.
Baymax flew Gogo and Hiro over to the roof of the special-projects hall. By this point, Hiro had claimed most of the floor space. There was a retractable roof, for taking large projects out by crane, but they weren’t ready to use it just yet. Gogo helped him through the rooftop security and in through a large sky light. Hiro set up quickly, and with help from Gogo, he set about putting in the finishing touches. He had Gogo install the engines, while he installed the Quartzite Battery, and gave everything a twice over. He hoped that it boded well that he couldn’t find anything to tweak or change that he hadn’t already planned on. Everything was running perfectly.
Baymax flew Gogo back, while Hiro started going through pre-flight checks. Soon, Baymax would be returning with the provisions that Hiro had set the rest of the team on. Mostly food. Hiro was just glad that he had already filled the water tanks. One less thing to worry about.
Eventually, just Baymax returned with his large load of provisions. Together, they set about storing everything in place.
“Alright, Baymax,” said Hiro. “One last thing. Come here.”
Baymax, dressed up in his armor, walked up to Hiro, who stood on tip-toes to tap on the access port.
“Time for an upgrade, buddy,” said Hiro, removing the green healthcare chip and the quartzite battery. In the chip's place, he put another. It was a simple program, which would send Baymax back to his old charging station. Once his friends got his armor off of him, he would deflate and go into storage. Meanwhile, the actual Baymax would be with Hiro, in a new body.
Hiro placed the chip and battery to one side while he changed into his flight suit. He had resisted the urge to give it and his EVA suit black and purple accents. The point was to not conflate himself with Big Hero 6 by doing this. Once he was in, Hiro picked up Baymax’s chip and battery and loaded them into the new body, which had it’s own berth station in the ship.
Gone was the inflatable body, though Hiro had tried to keep the huggable aesthetics. Still, Hiro didn’t want Baymax to pop in the event of sudden decompression. This version was specifically designed to work in space or on Mars.
“Hey guys,” said Hiro into his radio, “I’m ready to go.”
“You know,” said Wasabi, “you can back out if you want to.”
“I know,” said Hiro. “But at the same time, I can’t, you know?”
“We know, Hiro,” said Gogo. “You wouldn’t be you if you did.”
“So um, I’ve got the patent applications all ready in my top drawer. Could one of you guys file those for us.”
“Sure thing,” said Honey Lemon.
“And um,” said Hiro. “And if I don’t come back, I’ve got back-ups of Baymax’s base programming. Everything’s basically ready for development. Fred. I know you try to act like you haven’t been raised to run your father’s businesses, but we all know you have. I want you to do right by Baymax.”
“Will do, buddy,” said Fred.
“Wasabi, please forward all schematics to NASA ground control,” said Hiro. Ironic, that NASA had been so hard to contact when Hiro was trying to tell them Mark was alive, and now so easy after Hiro had been given such access.
“Oh thank god,” said Wasabi. “I was afraid you were going to go it alone.”
“I’m crazy, not stupid,” said Hiro. “And um, keep Aunt Cass company, you know, while I’m gone.”
“Will do,” said Gogo. “Just make sure you come back. You know I don’t do sentiment.”
“I know,” said Hiro. He took a deep breath. “I’m opening the roof now,” he said walking over to the wall unit that controlled the roof. There was basically no security other than a key lock to keep it from being used. Hiro had already bypassed the lock. All it took was the pull of a lever, and the roof began to open.
There was a padlock waiting underneath the unit, and Hiro locked it in place to keep the lever from being moved out of position. With that done, Hiro ran to the ship. Surely, the police wouldn’t just stay outside while the roof was opening, so Hiro needed to be inside now.
“All systems are green,” said Hiro, buckling himself into place. His heart was pounding, his breathing hard.
“You all set there buddy?” asked Hiro.
“I am still processing this new body,” said Baymax.
“Well,” said Hiro, “you’re going to need to process on the ride up, because we’re leaving. Your scanner still showing no structural instability?”
“All aspects of the ship are within your parameters,” said Baymax.
“Great,” said Hiro.
The roof suddenly stopped retracting, and the building lights went out. Someone had been smart enough to cut the power. But it didn’t matter, the roof was open wide enough already.
“If anyone’s out there,” Hiro called out into the ship’s external speaker, “stand back. This ship is launching in 3…2…1…LAUNCH!”
Hiro pressed the button that he had for some reason labeled ‘ignition.’ There was no ignition though, just the sudden presence of thrust.
Astronauts tended to launch into space with about 3 g’s of acceleration. But they were in a hurry because they needed to reach escape velocity with their limited amount of fuel. Hiro had no such restriction, so he had settled on a more bearable 2 g’s to get into space. Rapid acceleration wasn’t needed when you had near limitless thrust, and it wasn’t like Hiro had an astronaut’s body. He was still scrawny at fifteen.
Two g’s still took some getting used to, though he had pulled about the same in the vomit comet a few months ago and on Baymax besides.
Hiro didn’t realize he was whooping with joy until he had screamed himself hoarse.
“Are you okay?” asked someone, Hiro thought it was Wasabi.
“I’m great!” Hiro cried. “Ten out of ten. Would recommend.”
“How’s everything holding up?” asked Honey Lemon.
“Like a peach,” said Hiro. “Whatever that means.”
Hiro was launching in a westerly trajectory, keeping the majority of the launch over the Pacific ocean. Most launches were made on the East Coast, both so that they could gain a speed boost from the Earth’s rotation, and to stay over the Atlantic to avoid the potential for debris to fall onto population areas. Hiro didn’t have the option of launching from the East Coast, and he didn’t need the speed boost, so he flew west for safety’s sake.
Seven minutes into the launch, NASA finally got into contact with him.
“This is ground control to the prototype ship. You are advised to cease this launch, and land along the following flight plan.”
“Hiro Hamada in the prototype ship to ground control, be advised that I am not going to do that, though I do appreciate having you to hover over my shoulder.”
“Ground control to Hiro Hamada, we are not in the slightest bit prepared for this flight.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I know that I didn’t give you any warning,” said Hiro. “I’m patching you into my systems feed now.”
“We are being advised by legal that you are in violation of federal and international aviation code, and that your ship is owned in part by the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. You need to follow our flight plan, and land your craft promptly.”
“I’m hearing you, ground control,” said Hiro, “but I’m advising you that I’m not coming back without Mark Watney.” SFIT typically had only minimal intellectual rights to technology developed on the campus, but given the scale of their investment in Hiro’s ship, there was a much more conservative contract between them.
“That’s…admirable,” said Ground Control. “Our instructions remain as stated.”
“I’ll take them under advisement,” said Hiro. “In the meantime, how’s my launch looking from down there?”
“Again, we weren’t exactly ready for your flight, so we don’t have eyes on you. Radar shows you are rising steadily with stable acceleration in an appropriate flight path for space launch to Mars.”
“Great,” said Hiro, “that’s what my readouts are showing me too.”
A minute went by without any contact. Hiro figured they were trying to think of a way to talk him down that didn’t just involve wagging a finger at him.
“Ground control to Hiro Hamada, please be advised that North Korea is launching anti-aircraft missiles at you as you are approaching their airspace. We are forwarding you a new flight plan to land at these coordinates to help avoid these missiles.”
“What?!” screamed Hiro, seeing the incoming missiles on his scanner.
“This is why we file international launch plans well in advance of any launch,” said ground control. "Change course immediately.”
“Wait,” said Hiro.
“Missiles do not wait, change course immediately.”
“I’ve got this,” said Hiro.
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do! Changing position. Firing meteorite deterrent in 3…2…1…NOW!”
The two missiles were really bearing down on him, but they had to be close for this to work. From the side of the ship, Hiro launched a rocket-powered high strength net, which caught the closest missile, and then slammed it into the second.
When asked later, Hiro would admit that he had neglected to realize that this would detonate both missiles in close proximity to his ship.
“Crap!” shouted Hiro as the explosion rocked his ship, and alarms started blaring.
“Ground control to Hiro Hamada, what is your status?”
“They knocked out three of my engines!” Hiro cried. The ship had zigged for a moment as the other three had adjusted for the loss. “Still accelerating at 1.5 g’s. I’m about to leave the atmosphere. I am approaching escape velocity.”
“What about the rest of the ship?” asked ground control.
“All systems remain green,” said Hiro. “No structural instability found.”
“We read the same,” said ground control. “Please hold for advice.”
“Hiro,” said Baymax, “please take deep breaths, you are starting to hyperventilate.”
“Right,” said Hiro. “Deep breaths.” He struggled to follow the advice. “That was sick, wasn’t it?”
“That is not the word that I would use to describe the situation,” said Baymax.
“Ground control to Hiro Hamada. Our assessment of the provided schematics indicate that you cannot land with only three engines. Are you in agreement with this assessment?”
“Yeah, I figured as much myself. I’ll admit, I planned for a lot, but I never planned for North Korea. This thing can’t land on Earth with half its engines out.”
“I am being advised to direct you to the International Space Station. Your VAL appears to meet their docking specifications.”
“Hey,” said Hiro, “I said that I can’t land on Earth. I can absolutely land on Mars with three engines.”
“Your ship has just taken damage. A landing on Mars is not advisable at this time.”
“I know,” said Hiro. “That’s why I’m going to go on a space walk before I make any decisions. I am cutting thrust now.”
The thing was, without constant thrust underneath him, Hiro was now weightless. He had been planning to make the trip with constant thrust, first towards Mars to accelerate, and then away from it to decelerate. It would be it’s own form of artificial gravity. Hiro just hoped he didn’t vomit onto his flight suit without it.
“Please be advised that you are not an astronaut, and you should remain inside of your vehicle.”
“You want me to dock with the ISS without knowing if there’s any hidden damage that could wreck the station on a failed docking?”
“Please hold for advice,” said ground control.
“Alright,” said Hiro. “But I’m getting ready for a space walk while you guys talk it out. By the way, what’s your name down there.”
“My name’s Hugh,” said ground control.
“Nice to meet you Hugh,” said Hiro. “You really saved my butt back there.”
“You have followed literally none of my directions.”
“Holding for advice,” said Hiro.
Hiro changed into his EVA suit and spent some time running diagnostics of his suit and the airlock. He clipped himself into the fifty foot tether.
“Hiro Hamada to ground control, I am ready for EVA.”
“Ground control to Hiro Hamada, be advised that ISS astronauts are fully capable of doing an EVA to assess airlock integrity.”
“I know,” said Hiro. “But I’m not ready to give up. Giving up means Mark Watney dies.”
“NASA’s every resource, that isn’t going to you right now, is going to bringing Mark Watney home.”
“Look, I know you guys have done the math already,” said Hiro. “There’s no way for you to get a resupply probe to him in time. I’m entering the airlock now.”
“We are reading your vitals and suit feed clearly. We have also achieved visual on your location.”
“Cycling,” said Hiro. “And make sure you get some cool pictures.” It took a full minute for the air to be pulled out of the somewhat cramped air lock. If Hiro ever made another space ship, he was making a bigger air lock with faster pumps. He would also include extra engines, because this was just ridiculous.
“Alright,” said Hiro. “Opening the exterior door now.”
“Be careful,” said Hugh.
“Always,” Hiro bluffed. “Oh. My. God!”
“What is it? Status report.”
“It’s…It’s the Earth. None of the picture’s I’ve seen…it’s incredible.”
Hiro could actually hear some chuckles from ground control. “Yeah, maybe take a minute,” said Hugh.
Hiro took a couple of minutes before reporting he was ready to go. He gave the gentlest of nudges, and flew out of the airlock, only just hanging on with his hand. “Woah. The vomit comet does not prepare you for that.”
“What is your status?”
“I’m alright,” said Hiro, “I just need to adjust how much force I use. I remain holding on to the ship, and I remain tethered to the ship. My suit is holding, my visor is clear, I have good mobility. I’m ready to move to the engines.”
“Nice and easy,” said Hugh. “Just the smallest of movements. Like you have all the time in the world.”
“Copy that,” said Hiro.
Just like he had said, Hiro moved from hand hold to hand hold, down and around to the bottom of the ship, before moving around from engine to engine.
“It looks like I lost engine four completely,” said Hiro. The wreckage of it was probably sinking somewhere in the Sea of Japan. “Engine three is just barely hanging on, and it looks pretty trashed. Engine five is clearly broken. I don’t know, I might be able to fix it later. I’m thinking, if I move engine one to where engine four was, it should even the load, and I’ll be able to fly straight without putting undo strain on the brackets.”
“Is the mounting and power supply at engine four intact enough to mount an engine there?” asked Hugh.
“The mounting, no. Power supply, yes. But I can pull the mounting to engine one and reposition it no problem. I have all the tools I need.”
“Have you observed any further damage?” asked Hugh.
“Negative,” said Hiro. “There’s some scuff marks, and a nasty looking scratch down the side, but I’m not seeing any damage done. I built her tough. I’ve got hyper spectral imaging though, so I’ll run detailed scans before I go back in.”
“How are you going to process hyper spectral scans in a timely manner?” asked Hugh.
“That’s what I have Baymax for. He computes in quantum.”
“Seriously?” asked Hugh.
“Seriously,” said Hiro, “Baymax is totally sick.”
Baymax finally butted in. “That is just an expression. I am a robot, and robots cannot actually get sick.”
“You got that right, buddy,” said Hiro. “Alright, I’m starting on removing the engine four mounting.”
“Be mindful of keeping track of all pieces,” said Hugh.
“Copy that,” said Hiro. He made sure to secure all of the screws into a pocket on his space suit. When the ruined mounting was free, Hiro clipped it onto his belt before moving over to engine one. Without the damage, this one was easier to remove. Hiro was really starting to get the hang of this whole weightlessness thing. He hadn’t even had to use the small thrusters on his suit yet.
“Both mountings are removed,” said Hiro. “Installing engine one in the engine four spot now.”
“Remember,” said Hugh, “slow and steady. Be mindful of the order of assembly. Check and double check your work at every step.”
“Copy that,” said Hiro. Fortunately, it was not a complex installation.
“Hiro Hamada to ground control,” said Hiro eventually. It had been about an hour since he had first stepped out into space. “Engine one is fully installed in engine four’s place. Engine two and engine six remain in place. I’m going to remove engine three for safe keeping, and engine five for possible repair.” It wouldn’t do for engine three to break off during landing and crash into something.
“Ground control to Hiro Hamada, we are in agreement with this course of action.”
It took another quarter of an hour to pull the other two engines. Hiro was a little surprised to find himself getting exhausted from the exertion. Space suits were not easy to move around in. He had only gotten an hour in the water tanks when he had toured NASA, and it had been poor preparation for this EVA.
“Hiro Hamada to ground control, I have completed all repairs and modifications. I am ready to assess for all structural damage. I remain on tether, and am prepared to release myself from the structure to get a good scan.”
“Ground control to Hiro Hamada. Again, we advise you to move with extreme caution. You do not need to move away from the structure at anything but a snail's pace.”
“Copy that,” said Hiro. “Pushing off now.”
Even with the tether, it was terrifying. It was very easy to imagine the tether snapping, and sending Hiro careening into the empty black of space. Even with his micro-thrusters, traditional gas powered ones, Hiro couldn’t shake the image from his head. But as he drifted out to the tether’s fullest extension, Hiro pulled the scanner from it’s mounting on his right arm and held it out to scan the ship.
“You getting this, Baymax?”
“I am receiving the information. I read no structural or systemic instability. Nor do I read any such instability from within here. I recommend though that you move to the opposite side of the ship to run another scan.” Due to all of the shielding, The scanner couldn't penetrate all the way through the hull of the ship, so it needed to be scanned inside and out.
“Alright, sounds terrifying, but I think I can do that.”
“Are you okay up there?” asked Hugh.
“Yeah,” said Hiro. “I’m ready to engage in-suit propulsion to move to the other side of the ship.”
“We advise against that,” said Hugh. “Please save those for emergencies and use manual maneuvering.”
“Er, copy that,” said Hiro. With smart flight functions in the suit, he thought it would actually be a lot easier than doing things manually, but he supposed he should actually listen to ground control a few times. With a subtle pull on his tether, Hiro glided back to the ship. Without too much trouble, he snagged a handhold and started making his way to the top of the ship, where he repeated the process. Eventually, he was ready to return to the ship.
“So as best as I can tell,” said Hiro, as he drifted out of the airlock and back into the ship. “I am well within all parameters for my mission to Mars.”
“Right,” said Hugh. “We still have to recommend diverting to ISS.”
“I figured you’d say that,” said Hiro. “I’m still going.”
“We figured you’d say that,” said Hugh, “so we brought in a ringer.”
“You what?” asked Hiro.
“Hiro Hamada! You march your butt back home right this instant!”
“Is this a prank?” asked Annie.
“You know this isn’t a prank,” said Teddy. “Please be serious.”
“What the actual fuck? How hard is it to keep a fifteen year old boy from launching a goddamn space ship?”
“Harder than the SFPD anticipated apparently,” said Teddy. It was just the two of them in the office. Venkat and Mitch were both off putting out fires. “No one actually put eyes on the ship itself.”
“So instead of preventing him from launching, we prompted him to launch rushed and early. Great. Why didn’t you just have them arrest him.”
“You know better than I what those headlines would have looked like,” said Teddy.
“Better than what we’re going to have now. This is insane.”
“Yes, well, hindsight being 20-20,” said Teddy. “Tell me how he got cleared for the Oberfeld grant without raising any red flags.”
“He took the site down before he applied,” said Annie. “The whitehouse.gov petition listed the website as the petition author, so it wasn’t directly tied to him. Hiro was probably feeling bold after he won the grant, and put it back up.
“Great,” said Teddy. “You know, say what you want, but he did try to get us to take care of the problem first. Though I’d like to think I would have actually listened at the meet and greet if he’d tried to tell me his wild theory about Watney.”
“Sure, whatever. Anyway, what people are going to want to know is, can this kid pull this off,” said Annie.
“Apparently, he’s actually got a shot,” said Teddy. “His ship is holding strong. The engine’s work. The power source works. Assuming nothing catastrophically fails, he’s got a space worthy vessel. Whether or not it can affect a Martian landing and launch again remains to be seen, but hypothetically, there’s no reason it couldn’t.”
“Huh,” said Annie. “Well, I need to go talk to the press. If they go for blood, make sure someone comes in to rescue me.”
“Don’t you ‘hey Aunt Cass’ me,” said Aunt Cass, sounding unusually severe. “What on Earth were you thinking?”
“I love you Aunt Cass,” said Hiro.
“That is not an answer!”
“I know,” said Hiro, his hand moving to run his fingers through his hair, before colliding with the helmet he was still wearing. He took it off. He had not been expecting them to patch his aunt through. At least not so soon. “Hey, um, they’re probably about to tell you that I’ve started accelerating again. Towards Mars. And it’s just because, well, I figure it’ll be easier to keep going if I’m already on my way.”
“Why are you doing this?” demanded his Aunt.
“Same reason Tadashi built Baymax,” said Hiro. “He wanted to help people.”
“No,” said Aunt Cass, “you mean the same reason Tadashi ran into a BURNING BUILDING.”
Hiro’s breath caught at that, and it took him a moment to reply. “Yeah,” he admitted. “You know what he said to me, he said, ‘Someone has to help.’ And um, I’ve kind of been trying to live by that, you know? And besides, when Tadashi, when he did what he did, he wasn’t prepared. He didn’t have protective gear, or a plan. I’ve spent every moment for the last year planning this. I’m sorry, Aunt Cass, but I’m doing this.”
“Dammit, Hiro, we’re the only family we have left!”
“I know,” said Hiro. “That’s why I’m going to do everything I can to come back to you.”
“Everything means coming back now, Hiro.”
“Yeah, you got me there. Alright, I’m going to do everything to come home, and make my best efforts to bring Watney home too. I just, I’m not going to compromise on that.”
“Why? Why couldn’t you have just kept bot-fighting?” asked Aunt Cass.
“I…yeah,” said Hiro. “Tadashi would be graduating this year if I had kept bot-fighting.
“…That’s not what I meant,” said Aunt Cass.
“I know,” said Hiro. “Look, everything that’s happened this last year and a half, it’s because Tadashi inspired me to do more. And he’d be alive right now if he hadn’t. There’s times I think about that, and I want to throw it all away. But doing that, it wouldn't bring him back. I'd just be throwing away my greatest connection to who he was, and who I want to be. So I can't. I'm sorry, I know that this is the hardest on you. And I love you so so much. But I'm doing this."
"Just come home," said Aunt Cass, she sounded like she was crying.
"I will," said Hiro. "And I'm not going to be stupid about this. If I need to abort, I'll abort. But I'm going to give this my best effort."
"You always do," said Aunt Cass.
"And um, check in with my friends, would you? They're probably freaking out too, now.”
A/N: So this idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I’d thought at first that maybe someone would have already written it, but I couldn’t find any other Martian/BH6 x-overs at the time. Sorry HW fans, but I’m getting right back to it.
You should know that I’ve played around with the timeline of the Martian to suit my needs. For instance, in the novel, they take pictures of Acidalia Planetia after more time had passed, and there was a lot more to indicate that things had changed and Mark was alive. Also, I’ve shrunk the amount of time Mark would have been able to survive on just the rations he was sent with to ten months.
Hiro’s explanation of reactionless engines was pulled directly from Wikipedia. There’s people who think they’ve invented actual reactionless engines, but I don’t think anything’s actually been fully confirmed.
There’s no such thing as a quartzite reactor. Norellium is a fictional mineral (I originally called it nitrium, but my beta pointed out it’s an old school name for sodium, and made up the replacement). I made up laser guided infra-structuring.