Chapter 1: Prologue - Ahoy
Disclaimer: Big Hero 6 is the property of Disney Animation. The new character that will be joining the gang (as well as a few minor ones) is the property of Michael Turner and Aspen Comics.
Prologue – Ahoy
"So, did Professor Granville tell you why she wanted to meet us at the docks?"
"Absolutely no idea. The only thing she said was to bring all of you with me."
"I guess because I'm the one with the transportation."
The gang was all together in Wasabi's car (minus Fred), heading down to the shoreline of the city. The entire team had been summoned for unknown reasons by their dean, Professor Granville. As the Applied Physics major pointed out just moments ago, no one knew really why they were going there. The e-mail sent to him had given very few details.
"We will arrive at our destination in approximately two minutes."
"Thanks, Baymax." Hiro patted the top of his robot's case. "Good thing there's no traffic."
"Well, duh. It's the middle of the day," Go Go said. "If we were driving in the afternoon, we'd be in rush hour, and Wasabi would be taking even longer than usual to get there."
"Hey, you could've gone on on your own. No one was stopping you."
"Actually, guys, Granville was stopping us." Honey Lemon adjusted the strap to her Chem-Purse. "She wanted all of us together."
"Speaking of which, there she is."
The car pulled up right at the end of the parking lot, right near the large warehouses that stocked crates from the incoming freighters. Everyone got out (and inflated, in the case of Baymax) and started to make their way down to the pier.
Their professor was at the far end of the nearest dock, deep in conversation with another person in front of her. Wasabi couldn't see who it was, but as they got closer, Granville stepped to the side, revealing another student with her.
Wasabi grinned to himself. The e-mail had mentioned that Karmi would be joining them on this project, but he conveniently forgot to tell Hiro that.
Hey, Go Go wasn't the only one that could have fun at Hiro's expense.
The robotics major stared at her as they walked up. "What are you doing here, Karmi?"
Granville turned toward them, her eyebrow raised. "I wasn't aware that you were the gatekeeper of who is allowed to partake in these sorts of projects, Mr. Hamada."
Hiro didn't answer underneath the glare of his teacher. She grinned at him, taking her victory over to the side of the dock. She also conveniently didn't see Karmi sticking out her tongue at Hiro.
Or maybe she just ignored it. In any case…
"Now that everyone is here, I suppose I should clue everyone in as to why I gathered you all today."
Granville began to pace the length of the dock. "I was contacted recently by an old friend of mine. He owns a company that specializes in oceanography and marine work. He mentioned to me that he wanted to do a study on the surrounding waters of San Fransokyo and any adverse effects that the recreation of the Great Catastrophe may have had. He wanted to see if I had any students who would be willing to work with them. I made mention that I had...a few."
"But we don't really deal with that sort of thing, Professor," Honey Lemon said.
"You are correct. However, combining the minds of my best students and their scientists, I thought, would provide the university with some expertise in that category. One that we have been sorely lacking in.
"I contacted him back and said to notify me when they would be making their way into the area and finished with their set-up. I received that notification yesterday. And so...here we are."
Hiro looked both ways before speaking up. "And where is this 'set-up', exactly?"
Granville glanced over her shoulder. "A liaison will be arriving shortly with transportation to the base of operations. That's all I was told. But we still have a few minutes before they are suppose to be here."
"Professor, what about my work at Sycorax?" Karmi said. "I don't want to leave Liv and my work on hold with her. We're actually quite close to a breakthrough on-"
"Do not worry, Karmi. I have already personally spoke to Liv, and we managed to come to a compromise when it comes to your current work with her. As soon as we have reached a conclusion with this project, you can return to your internship unabated."
Hiro made a motion to comment about Sycorax, but Go Go elbowed him in the gut, cutting him off.
"Now, as for the rest of you, I assured the captain that we would be able to assist with his research as best as as we could. He wanted me to gather the best problem solvers that SFIT could offer...which is why all of you are here."
Granville stopped her pacing, looking out into the water. "If my calculations are correct, our transportation to the headquarters should be arriving at any moment. I was told to be here with you at this particular time."
The water around the dock began to bubble, and the professor smiled. "Ahh, it appears that they're here."
The six students looked around them nervously. "Umm...who exactly is 'they', Professor?" Honey Lemon asked.
"Everything will be made quite clear in a moment, Ms. Rodriguez."
Something began to surface on the left side of the dock. It was a portable submarine, the gray metal shining in the sunset. The vessel had two portholes on each side, and a few seats and control panels could be seen through the front end. The hatch on top flew open with a hiss.
"Allow me to introduce-"
"The totally awesome Freddy-boy!"
Granville sighed heavily, her grand introduction now ruined. "Mr. Frederickson, may I inquire as to why you are here? I was told that you were off on some family matter."
"This is the family matter." Fred leaned on his elbow as he looked over the group. "Mom has an investing interest in the company you guys are working with. Plus, she can't drive two submarines at once."
"She?" Wasabi looked around, not noticing anyone else. "Who is-?"
He got cut off as a giant geyser of water erupted from their right, accompanied by the sound of something landing hard right in front of them.
The water crashed over the dock, most of it harmlessly avoiding the group. Granville was able to stave off the rest with her suddenly appearing umbrella. Content that nothing else would be raining down on her, she shook of the excess water and folded it back up.
"Students, allow me to introduce the lead marine biologist of Fathom Blue Incorporated..."
She took a step back, and the new arrival came into view. The young woman was wearing a wetsuit, light blue on the bottom of her sleeves and dark blue down the front. A cream color was adorned on her sides and top of her arms, a large stylized blue F on her shoulder. She shook the water off of her body, her black hair coming to rest a little past her shoulders. She looked up at the group with her clear blue eyes…
And to Wasabi, very familiar blue eyes.
"Ms. Aspen Matthews."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: To the people who guessed that it would be Aspen showing up, congrats. For those who didn't...here's your introduction to her.
Unlike the other character cameos that I've had in my stories (Robbie Reyes, Silver Sable, and my future ones), Aspen Matthews is not a Marvel character. She is a property of Aspen Comics, who has done several covers of comics for both Marvel and DC (most notably the Superman/Batman: Supergirl cover), as well as their original works (Fathom being one of them). I would recommend you reading up on Aspen; her back story and comic adventures are really quite interesting. I would also recommend reading Chapter 4 of Part-Time, where she was introduced, albeit not by name.
I'm going to do something that I have never done in a story before. I'm going to ask that people be patient with me on this one. In an effort to Big Hero 6-ify Aspen, some of her background from the comics will be changed (mostly her age and her personal story). A lot of it will stay, taking the form of some exposition in Chapter 1 proper. This story is also going to be a little more action-y, although there will still be a little romance thrown in.
Also, if you do look her up to learn about her, a lot of her official art is...risque. Again, we're going to tone it down a little bit in here. That's where me asking the readers to be patient comes in; I'm (pardon the completely intentional pun here) in relatively uncharted waters here.
And I'm going to do something that the show (as good as it is) has failed to do so far: finally giving Wasabi some proper attention. And maybe Aspen will give him some attention as well. :)
Read and review, if you like. Until next time, everyone.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1 - Sea Legs
Disclaimer: Big Hero 6 is the property of Disney Animation. Aspen (and some of the additional characters) are the property of Michael Turner & Aspen Comics.
Chapter 1 – Sea Legs
Aspen waved to the group, her attire now completely dry. She stepped up to Granville and grabbed her outstretched hand. "Thanks for bringing everyone over, Professor. I know it was on somewhat short notice."
"Not a problem at all."
"Sooo...you guys must be the cavalry." She took a glance over the group, her brow lowered. "A little on the young side, aren't they?"
"Need I remind you, Ms. Matthews, that you yourself started your journey at around the same age as they did?" Granville said.
"Oh yeah. I always forget that."
The dean turned to her five students, who were still a little surprised from the girl's entrance. "Allow me to introduce the students you'll be working with. You've already met Mr. Frederickson, who will be...apparently...assisting with our travel arrangement. But as for the actual team, first is our chemistry expert, Ms. Aina Rodriguez..."
"Then our Mechanical Engineer, Ms. Leiko Tanaka."
Go Go nodded as she popped a bubble with her gum.
"We have Karmi and Hiro Hamada, our resident biotech and robotics majors, respectively. Behind him we have Baymax, his personal healthcare companion."
The three waved at her, Baymax including an automatic "Hello" with it.
"And finally, we have our Applied Physicist-"
"Mr. Wasabi!" Aspen ran forward and threw her arms around Wasabi's waist, hugging him tight. "I knew I recognized you! It's good to see you again."
Granville raised her eyebrow at Wasabi, who sheepishly grinned as he patted the biologist's head. "We've...already been acquainted with each other."
"...I see." She made a motion to inquire further, but decided against it. "In any case, perhaps we should make our way down to the base of operations, Ms. Matthews. I do want to get this expedition under way."
"Of course." Aspen looked up at Fred, who was still perched inside his sub. "You ready to go, Freddy-boy?"
"Whenever you are, Milady Aspen!"
Wasabi glanced down at the girl in front of her and noticed something he hadn't before: two identical white wristbands, thicker than Karmi's, and what appeared to be the same stylized capital F on the tops. Tiny holes were punctured all around the edges. "What are those for, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Oh, these?" Aspen said. "They help me move around the water. Instead of clunky packs or getting tired with fins, the scientists at Fathom made them for me." She pointed at the top of her band. "Tiny vacuums bring the liquid I'm swimming in through and shoot it out at an increased velocity with the tech inside. Really helps when you're in the water as much as I am."
"And they don't hurt your hands at all?" Wasabi asked.
"Nope, each hole is only about an eighth of a millimeter wide. Can't even feel a thing."
"Man, can I get some of those? It sure would help me with swimming."
Go Go took the opportunity to butt into their perfectly normal conversation. "Wasabi, I thought you were afraid of the water."
"You? Afraid of the water?" Aspen laughed. "One, I don't know if we can be friends after this. Two, you're really not going to like where we're going, then."
She smiled as she climbed up on top of the other sub. "Oh, I don't know. I would give you a hint, but the two submarines that we're using should be enough of one." She winked and lowered herself down out of view in the hatch.
Granville shook her head as she came forward. "Yes, it would appear that the underwater transportation should lead you to believe that we will be going under the water. You are OK with this, I assume?"
Wasabi peered over the dock, Hiro stuffing Baymax back into his pack out of the corner of his eyes. "Do I have a choice?"
"No." Granville pointed to Fred's submarine. "You can go with Mr. Frederickson, Ms. Tanaka, and Ms. Rodriguez. Mr. Hamada, Karmi, and I will accompany Ms. Matthews. Do make sure Mr. Frederickson does not crash anywhere, because I do not wish to perform an underwater rescue today."
Very carefully, he stepped up on top of the submarine, pausing to look back at the cockpit of the other. Aspen was busy pushing buttons on her display, probably making sure everything was ready to go.
"Aww, it's adorable, isn't it, Go Go?"
"It's a little sad, to be honest."
Wasabi stared down at his two female friends, still on the dock. "What?"
"Really?" Go Go glanced back at Aspen, then back at him. "If she wasn't completely and utterly oblivious to you, she would've noticed you staring at her a long time ago."
He looked at the cockpit again, not realizing the trap that had been set. "I wasn't-"
Aspen was looking directly back at him, her fingers individually waving up at down at him in a suggestive manner, her smile now toothy and wide.
"Or maybe she did notice."
Wasabi propped up his head on his elbow, their gaze still locked. "I'm just saying...when we have kids, they'll be both intelligent and good-looking."
A foot came down upon Wasabi's head, smushing him down into the submarine. Go Go's smirking face was at the other end of it. "Yeah, and right now they're also a figment of your imagination, so get in and make room, Romeo."
After another minute (and some adjustment on the group's part), Fred flipped the radio switch on his console. "You ready, Water Girl?"
"Finally! Someone gives me a nickname! Ready to go, Aqua Boy!"
The two vehicles submerged at the same time, making their way down to the depths below.
"You gonna be OK, Aqua Boy? You have the coordinates and everything?"
"Yup. Everything's in front of me."
"Alright. Let me know if you need anything." Aspen turned her radio off and set the navigation to auto-pilot. "How's everyone doing back there?"
Hiro clutched Baymax's pack in his lap, his face losing a little color. "Not really used to traveling underwater."
"There's barf bags in the compartment behind my seat, and aspirin if you need it. I would try to wait until we get deeper, because it's going to get worse the farther we go down."
Aspen turned to Karmi, who was not having the same problems as her companion, but still had a weird look on her face. "What's up?"
"I keep thinking that I recognize your name from somewhere," Karmi said. "But I just can't remember it."
"I mean, I am pretty famous. I don't blame you."
Granville turned her head with a smile. "You might be remembering Ms. Matthews from when she competed in the Youth Olympic Games when she was seventeen."
"Oh, that's right!" Karmi yelled. "That's where I remember you from! You broke the world record there! And that was just in a qualifying heat!" She tilted her head, trying to think of the other details. "But I was young at the time, and I didn't recall seeing you again after that. Did you end up getting a medal?"
"Well..." Aspen said slowly. "One of the judges filed an review after the race. Accused me of doping. I know I didn't do that, so I agreed to a drug test."
She looked out the window forlornly. "They didn't find any drugs, but apparently said I had induced erythrocythemia."
"Erythrocythemia." Baymax's eyes projects a few pictures onto the back of Aspen's seat, showing a few red blood cells and a model of a person breathing in and out. "An overproduction of red blood cells, resulting in increased oxygen affinity, respiratory output, and endurance. The process can either occur naturally or induced by injecting a patient with their own blood."
Hiro sheepishly grinned as Aspen looked at him around the corner of the seat. "Yup...that's a healthcare bot for you."
"Anyway..." She returned his smile as she continued. "I didn't do that, of course, but I couldn't prove it. It was their word against mine, and since I was underage...you can probably guess how it went."
Karmi and Hiro glanced at each other, the former a little embarrassed she brought the situation up.
"I was banned from competing for the next three Olympics, but I wasn't going to go back. Too much drama, anyways. That's when I convinced my dad to let me enroll in UCSD."
"And succeeded in getting a master's degree in Marine Biology in just under three and a half years," Granville chimed in. "An accomplishment worth being proud about."
"Oh, please," Aspen said, a little blush on her cheeks. "It's nothing. I'm just glad I'm still able to be near the water. Working for Fathom has helped. But enough about me! I want to know about you guys! Like you, Karmi. Mind if I ask you something?"
She tore her sight away from the school of fish outside to face the pilot. "Yeah."
"You and Hiro." Aspen rapidly pointed between the two teen geniuses. "Are you guys, like...together?"
"What? Ew! No! Totally not!"
"You know," Hiro said, glaring at his classmate, "I'm a little offended by how quickly you answered that question."
Aspen's smile became more teasing as she looked at them. "I mean, your professor introduced you together, so I thought the two of you have already made, like, a marriage pact or something. I was gonna say...can't get in the way of true love, huh?"
"Ms. Matthews." Granville craned her head to turn toward her. "I would think it wouldn't be very prudent for you to pry into my students' personal lives. They are savvy enough to turn the tables back on to you."
"Well, that's my secret, Professor." Aspen looked out the front window, absentmindedly turning the wheel. "I don't have a personal life."
"You've apparently met one of my students before. I would count that as being social."
"Yeah, but that was a while ago. I was..."
Karmi turned her attention away from the conversation back toward Hiro, who was now staring out the porthole at the other sub with his friends inside. "What's up?"
"Nothing." Hiro rested his head on his chin. "I'm just wondering what they're talking about over there."
"I wonder what she's talking about over there. Probably about me, right?"
Go Go's face came down into her palm. "Wasabi, I have never seen you fawn over anything or anyone like this before, except maybe your toolbox."
"I am not!" Wasabi retorted. "We just...don't run into people who are that interesting."
"Ummm...we do. Like, all the time."
Honey Lemon cut into the conversation from the co-pilot seat. "Wasabi, you said you met her before. When was that?"
Wasabi turned to the front, eager to get away from the Korean staring him down. "Like a month ago. I was working a late shift at Furakawa's and she sort of...barreled into the place. Literally. We sat and chatted for a while. Told me she was in town for something super-secret or whatever. I guess this is what she was talking about."
He heard a scoff from beside him. "Go Go, I'm allowed to show some interest in people. Calm down."
"I'm just saying." She adjusted her seat belt instinctively. "Wasabi, you're falling for a girl that you've known for probably a few hours total. You don't even know a single thing about her. You need to keep your emotions in check and be careful."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't aware that you were an expert on that sort of thing...Mrs. Reyes."
Go Go's head wheeled around toward Honey Lemon, who was suddenly paying very close attention to the numerous dials and buttons in front of Fred. "I didn't know that you knew how to drive a submarine, Freddy."
The other three recoiled at his sentence.
"Ha! Just kidding!" Fred laughed. "I learned after Steamer had his whole statue thing in the bay. Turns out it's just like driving a car...if the car was underwater and didn't have any wheels and-"
"Yeah, yeah, we get it." Go Go interrupted. "Just don't crash, OK? We need to make it to wherever we're going in one piece."
"Speaking of which..."
Aspen's voice came over the comm loud and clear.
"If you look to your starboard side, you'll see our little base of operations."
The four looked off to their right and collectively gasped.
"Little, my a-"
As Go Go elbowed Wasabi in the gut, the full base came into view. The entire main dome, already rather big, had several smaller workplaces and warehouses surrounding it, housed in small glass orbs. Pipes with walkways were between them counting to the dozens. Even from their vantage point, the group could see people traveling between domes, most with lab coats on. The big dome had a lone sign on top with the letters DMD on it.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...welcome to the Deep Marine Discovery. My home away from home."
Aspen paused slightly, then corrected herself.
"Well...I guess it's just my home-home."
The four glanced at each other, not sure how to take that.
"Fredward, follow me. There's a docking port on the east side. We'll start our tour there."
Wasabi jumped onto the dock, bending down on all fours to kiss the ground. "Oh, how I've missed you so much! Don't leave me ever again!"
"You...do know you're going to have to go back topside, right?"
He looked up to see an amused Aspen standing in front of him, hands on her hips. "Also, I heard you over the radio. You kiss your girlfriend with that mouth?"
Go Go snorted from somewhere behind him, but Aspen lightly punched him in the arm, letting him know she was joking. "Anyways, you probably shouldn't do that. Chemicals get moved all around when the base travels."
"Wait, this giant thing moves?" Karmi said from atop the sub, getting ready to jump down. "How?"
"Carefully," Aspen replied. "And in separate pieces. But it helps to have a mobile base of operations in case you need to get set up quickly. For example...the waters outside San Fransokyo."
"C'mon, jump down! I said I would catch you!"
Karmi stared at Hiro, his arms outstretched. "You'd better, Genius Boy, or I'm throwing you in the water."
The rest of the group huddled around the doorway, flanked by two security guards. Fred was busy trying to talk one up, but they stayed silent, standing at attention before them. "They sure aren't the conversational type, are they?" Honey Lemon whispered to Aspen.
"Not really," she replied. "But the company hired them, and they're supposedly the best. We have a lot of top-secret stuff down here and need the protection."
They turned back toward the docks to see Karmi now sitting on Hiro's chest, rubbing her butt in pain. Hiro was not doing either of those, spirals swirling in his eyes.
Aspen leaned toward Granville. "Really? They're not?"
The dean only lightly shrugged in response. "Come along, students. We don't want to keep everyone waiting."
With their group now complete (and Hiro's eyes returning to normal), they started their trek to the main area. Through the tube they were walking through, they could see various wildlife swim around them, the light coming from the outside lamps dissipating into the water above. A couple of great white sharks lazily swam underneath as Aspen started walking backwards in front of the group.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please keep all arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Fathom is not responsible for any loss of limbs, brain cells, personal belongings, and sanity. If you need any aspirin due to decompression sickness, please see the modules located at the front and rear of each walkway."
Karmi made a motion to tease Hiro about his nerves, but noticed that he already had a handful in his grasp, one in the air and landing in his mouth.
"Or maybe that's the candy machines. I can never tell."
Hiro held one up to his eye, trying to tell whether he was on the verge of overdosing on sugar or acetylsalicylic acid.
"We here at Fathom Blue Incorporated are dedicated to not only providing the world with the latest in Eco-friendly technology, but also becoming the leader in the fight to protect our oceans, rivers, and everything in between." Aspen turned forward, waving her arms dramatically. "We will stop at nothing to make sure that our waters are safe for our lifetime and all generations to come."
Wasabi glanced at Go Go, who was not sharing Fred & Honey Lemon's look of amazement at their surroundings. "Can't you lighten up for a minute? This is awesome."
"This is." Go Go pointed straight above. "Hearing your girl perfectly recite a canned mission statement for us is a little off-putting, though."
Aspen continued on as they neared the closest doorway, unaware of the mini-argument going on. "My dad wanted to make a difference in the world, and with Fathom Blue, we can do that. What you're about to see is just a little bit of what we've been working on."
She pulled out an ID card from within her suit and swiped it on the keypad. The door opened with a hiss, the complete view now coming into focus.
The domed ceiling was high above their head as several scientists were walking around and between a plethora of consoles along the wall. A very large TV screen was directly across from them, with several boxes of data and numbers scrolling around in blue font. A wire-frame picture of a satellite was currently in the middle of it, lazily turning on an axis.
"Wow." Even Go Go was impressed with everything in sight. "OK, this is awesome. Can we get this all of this at SFIT?"
Karmi looked like a kid in a candy store, quickly running up to the nearest console. "Polymerase chain reaction analysis on sea life? DNA fragmentation and degradation repair? Liv would be so jealous of this."
The rest of the group made their way to the main screen, Wasabi looking at it closely. "Satellite imagery? Seems a little out of your playing field, doesn't it?"
"Not really." Aspen grinned as she flourished her arm. "You're looking at the alpha stage of one of our biggest projects...the Blue Sun."
"One sun isn't good enough for you?" Fred quipped.
"Nah, we love the Sun, but it's different." She pressed a few buttons on the display, the wire-frame becoming a 3D model. "The Blue Sun program is a state-of-the-art mapping operation that'll chart the world's oceans, populations, and land masses. We'll be able to use it to keep track of all sort of life on Earth, including endangered and vulnerable species. We just have one up in the air for now, but the eventual plan is to have several in orbit. That way, when we finish the program, the company will have access to an almost instantaneous map of the world on command."
"That sounds amazing!" Honey Lemon squealed.
"But that's not all!" Aspen clicked one more button, and the graphic updated to include a light shining down from the bottom of the fake image. "We'll also have an industrial light-laser equipped. We'll be able to use that to measure tectonic fissures deep in the ocean floor, without having to risk dive crews and bases like the one we're in right now."
Hiro tilted his head up at the screen. "So you would be turning into an air company instead of a water one?"
"We'd still have bases around, but we wouldn't have to commit resources for the really deep areas, such as the Marianas Trench. Currently, we could go there if we wanted, but the sheer cost of materials and resources would be almost astronomical. This would save a lot of time and money."
Wasabi stepped forward and peered at the schematics. "Are you sure about the details of this? You don't want to mess too much with this sort of thing. The particles could overload when launching, turning it into a-"
"Wasabi, don't you get it?"
A faceful of Aspen appeared in his vision, her eyes seemingly glowing at him. "All of this is going to change the world. The risks are there, yes, but I think even you would understand the ramifications of this. If this succeeds, we're looking at possibly being on our way to reverting hundreds of years of damage done to the Earth's waters. I-"
Aspen suddenly winced in pain, dropping to her knees and clutching her head with her hands. Wasabi was quick to act, grabbing her before she hurt herself. "Are you OK?"
The rest of the group watched with concern as she teared up. "Ow ow ow ow."
"Ms. Matthews, do you need any medical attention?" Granville bent down over her. "I can call someone for you."
"No need. I am here."
Everyone looked up to see a new person walk through one of the side doors. He was wearing a lab coat, just like all the others, but his long white hair distinguished him from everyone else. He had a calm look on his face as he took a knee right next to Aspen.
"You had another episode, didn't you? You know better than to get yourself worked up, Aspen. Here." He grabbed a bottle out of his coat pocket and poured out two pills. "Take these. Take a minute for them to metabolize."
Aspen popped the pills and slowly got back up on her feet, steadied by Wasabi and Fred. "Oh geez. That was a bad one. My head really hurts."
"I would strongly suggest we schedule another electrotherapy session before the day is over. We don't want this to recur again."
The new person glanced up at everyone else staring at him. "How crass of me. I haven't properly introduced myself. I'm Dr. Killian, Aspen's personal physician. I also oversee the team of doctors that care for the employees here."
"He's been with us since the beginning," Aspen added, looking a little less pale in the face. "And with me since as long as I can remember."
"What was that?" Wasabi asked, a hand still on her back. "Decompression sickness?"
Before she could continue, the doctor cut in. "I'm afraid that falls under 'doctor-patient' privilege, young sir."
"We're not in a court. That doesn't really fly here."
"That is true, young miss," Dr. Killian said to Honey Lemon. "However, Aspen's condition is...a little more complicated than the average malady. Perhaps she can enlighten you to some of the clearer details at a later time."
"I'm fine." Aspen waved the boys off and straightened her body. "We can move on. I still want to show you guys a few things."
Granville looked over at the doctor. "That is fine, Ms. Matthews, but I believe that it would be best if Mr. Killian accompanied us for the remainder of your tour. We wouldn't want you to suffer any additional episodes."
"My thoughts exactly," he agreed.
"Ugh. Fine." She didn't seem happy about it, but she was outnumbered. "Just keep your little happy pills nearby and we'll be set." She started off toward the door the doctor had walked through. "I want to show you guys some of the wildlife we've been working with."
Dr. Killian sighed, the frustration not lost on Granville. "Ever the Captain's daughter, I see."
"Oh, you would not believe me even if I told you," he replied, a small smile on his face.
A half hour later, the gang (plus Killian) were finishing their rounds. They had gone through many small rooms with an eclectic mix of fish, mammals, and plant life (and Fred having an animated conversation with a dolphin that said more about Fred than the dolphin). The company was, like Granville mentioned topside, investigating and testing any adverse effects of electromagnetic energy the recreation of the Great Catastrophe had sent into the atmosphere.
"But don't worry," Aspen had assured the group. "All of the animals we take in are medically cleared once the tests are done and reintroduced back into their habitat. Our plan is to keep those habitats as pure as possible."
They neared the last door, this one a little bigger than the rest. She swiped her card on the keypad...and a red light flashed on it. A message showed up on the small screen: Access Denied.
"That's weird." She waved her ID a few more times, each swipe garnering the same loud message. "This hasn't happened before."
"Performance issues?" Wasabi said sarcastically, leaning over her shoulder.
"Ha ha. Now you think of jokes, Mr. Wasabi." Aspen stared at the back of her card, running a finger over the magnetic strip. "Maybe it's busted? But that wouldn't make sense. I have one of the highest general clearances in the entire base."
"There's a simple explanation for it, Aspen."
The group wheeled around to see a tall man in a naval uniform approaching. He took his hat off of his head, the gray and blond hair seamlessly mixing with each other. The stubble on his chin was short and peppered. He was definitely a man who still had some prime years left in him.
"Dad!" Aspen ran up to him and threw his arms around his waist. "What are you doing here? I thought you left to go to Neo York!"
"I did, and then I wanted to see my daughter work. And it's a good thing I did, because apparently a lot of stuff was brought to my attention." The man turned to the dean, the smile not wavering. "Including..."
Granville stepped forward, her own grin on her face. "Captain Matthews."
"Grace. It's good to see you again." He put an arm around her shoulder. "It's been far too long."
The dean turned toward her students, who were now huddled together. "Allow me to introduce to you Captain Maxwell Matthews, CEO of Fathom Blue Incorporated. He handles all of the company's operations and bases throughout the world. He's also a naval captain in the United States Navy."
"Former captain. You're far too kind, Grace. I haven't been in the Navy for a while now, but I'll admit, I still get a little kick out of it every time someone calls me that." The captain looked through the group, nodding at each one. "This must be your team. I must say, when you e-mailed me about possibly joining forces earlier, I was expecting people a little...older."
Go Go rolled her eyes. "Why does everyone keep saying that?"
"You'll have to forgive this old man." He walked up to her, his hat back on top of his head. "I read through the backgrounds that Grace sent along. If I had even one of you on my team, I would have been able to get this company going in half the time. You must be the engineer." He offered his hand out to her, which Go Go took. "Tanaka, right?"
"Yup. Don't worry about it; we get that a lot."
Matthews glanced over everyone else. "It's a pleasure to meet you all. I do hope that you're enjoying your stay down here...and my daughter isn't causing you too much trouble."
"Captain, speaking of your daughter..." Killian leaned into his shoulder. "Aspen had another cranial episode several minutes ago. This one was not as bad as previous ones, but I would still recommend we have a therapy session as soon as possible."
"Yes, let's do that. I'll leave the planning to you, but I have a matter to attend to right now. I'll need you to accompany me to-"
His gaze fell upon Wasabi at the end, his eyes narrowing as he studied his features. "You...look familiar. Have we met before?"
He nervously looked up at the captain. "I...don't think we ever have."
"Did your father serve in the military?"
"No. He's an orthodontist."
"Well, even military brats such as myself need their teeth worked on. Maybe I'm misremembering something. But in any case..." He slapped a hand on his shoulder. "Good to meet you."
Matthews straightened up, his demeanor suddenly changing. "Now, unfortunately this is where I turn into the big boss man. There is an urgent situation that requires my attention. And that situation..." He gestured over his shoulder at the closed door. "Lies beyond that. Which is why you couldn't enter, Aspen. Top-level clearance and all that."
"What is it, though? Did you find something out there?"
His eyes darted between all of the occupants of the hallway, slightly frowning. "In a matter of speaking, yes. But don't worry. Once I...de-escalate the situation, you'll be able to do your thing. But I'm afraid this requires a more...deft hand at this time."
She looked down, but he patted her shoulder, trying to cheer her up. "Aspen, can you please escort our guests back to the surface? It is rather late, and I'm sure that they would want to return to solid ground after all this time. Grace, as always, you have my ear if you need anything. I look forward to working with your students to help this company take that next step towards greatness. Now, if you'll excuse me..."
Matthews nodded to Killian, and they both turned toward the door. The captain pulled an ID card out of his pants pocket and swiped it on the keypad. Unlike Aspen's, his turned the pad green.
"Access Granted. Welcome, Captain Matthews."
"Remember..." He leaned his head back toward the group, winking. "No peeking." He stepped into the warehouse, the doors quickly opening and closing with a loud thud.
"Come along, students." Granville put her hands on the back of Fred and Honey Lemon, pushing them back down the hallway. "Let's leave them to it. Mr. Frederickson, do try to not antagonize any additional animals on our way back."
"But he gave me the stink-eye!"
Wasabi was so busy thinking about Fred's argument that he hadn't noticed Hiro was still lagging behind, staring out the tunnel into the ocean floor. He was unconsciously tapping the straps to Baymax's backpack, the robot silently looking the opposite direction. "You OK, Hiro?"
The teen genius shook his head, just noticing Wasabi was talking to him. "Yeah. I'm...fine."
Karmi walked up next to him, staring at Hiro. "Oh boy. You have that look on your face again."
Hiro pressed a finger on Baymax's rig, the sound of clicks ringing through the tunnel. "OK, I'm good. Let's get out of here." He started walking past the two, in the direction of the rest of the group.
Karmi looked up at Wasabi. "What's his malfunction?"
She walked off without a response, but Wasabi had a suspicion as to what he was doing, but he would have to confer with the rest of the group before confirming it. Until then, he kept it to himself.
His own train of thought was derailed by the sudden reentry of Aspen, who was now back to her normal cheerful, oversharing self.
"C'mon. Fred's in a stare-down with Flipper again! Let's go!" She grabbed his hand and started dragging him down the hallway.
Even the sudden touch of her hand wasn't enough to get the foreboding feeling in his mind. It felt nice (really nice), but the sight of what was beyond those doors was still troubling him.
Because even in the dim light of the work space the captain had walked into...he had seen something.
A giant tank, almost ovalish in nature.
With something inside.
And a very serious Captain Matthews staring it down.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Welcome to the exposition chapter. Yes, it's long, but there's a lot of stuff that needed to be put on the table.
So now you have the making of what is going to set the stage for later chapters. Again, I would recommend at least reading into Aspen and her family's background as you read my story. It will help you understand a few things going on here.
Also again, this is going to be a different story than what people are used to me writing. There will still be romance (and definitely in the next chapter), but action and drama will be more prevalent here. All I ask is that you give it a chance.
Chapter 2 will shed light as to what Hiro was doing, as well as delve into some background into Aspen & Wasabi. Maybe the Captain has seen him before? * wink wink *
Read and review, if you like. Until next time, everyone.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2 - Off The Deep End
Disclaimer: Big Hero 6 and Aspen are owned by Disney Animation and Aspen MLT, respectively. Also, don't break into swimming pools on military bases. That's generally frowned upon.
Chapter 2 – Off The Deep End
The next day came around, and the gang was in the lab, working their hardest to help out with Fathom Blue Incorporated. As an added perk, Granville had excused them from their classes in order to focus on their work.
That certainly helped with their current predicament.
"I can hear you thinking from over here, Genius Boy!"
Hiro let out a deep breath. That...was not helping.
He, Honey Lemon, Go Go, & Karmi were currently sitting around the ping-pong table, which was riddles with blueprints, schematics, and the like. Originally, as the group arrived back at the docks after their excursion to the Deep Marine Discovery, Professor Granville had assigned them into pairs to focus on prospective projects. Hiro and Go Go were put on the same team, and Honey Lemon and Karmi were partnered once again. Hiro thought this was for the best; they had worked well together before when they cured Globby of his mutation.
That, and not even Granville wanted to test the gods by putting him and Karmi in the same pairing.
Unfortunately, all of their ideas seemed to have dried up. Go Go had some (water filtration system, piping design for the base's travel system), and Hiro had a few (cybernetic wet suits, auto-controlled wildlife entrapment bots). Too bad none of them seemed to be salvageable.
And then Hiro had looked over at the other occupants of the lab and saw some very frustrated faces.
So, against his better judgment, he had walked over to them and see if they wanted to pool their resources together. To his surprise, he had gotten two enthusiastic yeses out of both of them.
"Can still hear you."
...Although now he was regretting that.
"Karmi, you said you would behave yourself."
"I am being have." Karmi pointed her pencil across the table at Hiro. "He's the one who's not."
Honey Lemon turned her head to Go Go. "Can you tell your kid to calm down? He's bothering my kid."
The Korean was shuffling through a oceanography magazine, chuckling. "Only if you tell your kid to mind her own beeswax."
Hiro growled. This was going nowhere. "I can't believe we still haven't thought of anything substantial yet."
"Yeah." Karmi rolled out another blueprint, her eyes starting to glaze over. "You'd think that a billion dollar company would be able to come up with any idea on their own. Did you see that satellite system they were working on? That's big time compared to us."
The quartet collectively exhaled, their fatigue getting the best of them. It had been a long day, and with no end in sight, Karmi was starting to get even more volatile.
"Where is Wasabi, anyway? Isn't he suppose to be here helping up?"
Hiro spoke up. "Baymax told me that he ran into Granville and Aspen shortly before he was suppose to meet us here. Granville said that it would be in his interest to show Aspen around the city. Probably to get her re-familiarized with everything, and maybe think of some ideas while they were at it."
"Yeah." Go Go tapped the table with her finger. "More like they can just ogle each other some more."
Karmi looked at her, confused. "I...don't understand."
"I'll tell you when you're older," the Korean smirked.
The teen genius didn't bother trying to get her to explain further. "I'm going to go grab a drink. I can't think straight." Karmi got up from her chair. "Honey Lemon, Go Go, do you want anything?"
"I'm fine, Karmi. Thank you, though," Honey Lemon said.
"Grab me a soda or whatever. Something tells me we're still going to be here a while."
"OK, be back in a second." Karmi hightailed it toward the door, but before she hit the doors, Go Go called out to her.
"Karmi, aren't you forgetting someone?"
She sighed, turning back to the group. "You're right; I am." She craned her neck over the table, yelling beyond them. "Baymax, do you want anything?"
"My systems are operating at optimal levels." Baymax said from his charger. "Thank you for your offer."
Karmi smirked at Hiro as she exited, the irony not lost on him. It was fine; he had gotten used to it by now.
"Now that she's gone, are you going to tell us what's been bothering you since we got back on shore yesterday?"
Hiro pulled out his phone and started scrolling through his photos. "What does this look like to you?" he asked, putting the screen up for the girls to see.
"...Karmi with a dog filter on her face?"
"Oh. Whoops." He hurriedly poked his finger at his cell, not looking at Go Go's teasing look. "Must've not transferred it to here. Hey, Baymax? Come over here for a second."
"Yeah, Wasabi told us this morning about what he saw in that room. Did you see something as well?" Honey Lemon asked.
"Not me. Baymax." Now that he was over with them, Hiro opened his view screen. "He has a camera mode when he's in his pouch. I was able to take a couple of pictures down in the base. Here." He poked at Baymax's belly, and the photo that he had taken came up. The room was rather small and dimly lit, but the main attraction was in the middle: a blurry water tank, oval in shape, and the doctor and captain standing in front of it.
"...I don't think you could've gotten a worse picture."
"Hey, Baymax's ocular system isn't the best when he's compressed. But I was able to enhance it slightly." Hiro moved to the next photo as Honey Lemon and Go Go leaned forward to see.
"It looks like something's in the tank." Go Go squinted even more.
"But it could be anything, Hiro," Honey Lemon said. "It could be a dolphin or shark or literally anything from the ocean. This still doesn't explain why you were taking pictures to begin with."
He put his elbows on the table, head in his hands. "I just...have this feeling. There's something going on here that's doesn't feel right. A giant corporation appearing right out of the blue? Granville wanting us to help them even though none of us really work in that sort of field? It's almost like she wanted us there for something entirely different."
The Latina rubbed her eyes before speaking up. "Hiro, not every major company is doing shady business. I think your mind is still thinking about Sycorax. Plus, Aspen doesn't seem like the kind of girl that would get herself caught up in anything questionable."
"Well, I don't trust her," Go Go countered. "I'm all for ragging on Hiro for going down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole, but he might be on to something. Honey Lemon, you don't mean to tell me that this girl just shows up completely out of nowhere, runs into Wasabi a month ago, and then we see her again working for the same company Granville takes us to? Yeah, something's-"
The three of them turned to see Karmi back in the lab, a few bottles and cans in her arms and a worrisome expression on her face.
"A month ago?"
"Yeah," Go Go said slowly. "Wasabi ran into Aspen about a month ago when he was working. Said she was in town for this whole thing."
Karmi arrived at the table and sat the drinks down. "...Then why were we only told about this yesterday?"
Hiro's eyes widened. "I...can't believe I'm going to say this, but Karmi's got a point. Why were we only told about this yesterday? Granville said that Captain Matthews e-mailed her to talk about the collaboration 'recently'."
"No. The captain said she e-mailed him."
Hiro and Karmi stared at each other for a few moments, processing all of this information. The other two glanced back and forth between the two of them, a little surprised.
"Wow." Go Go was the first to break the silence. "You've corrupted her, Hiro. Now she's a conspiracy theorist."
Honey Lemon put a finger to her chin, thinking. "Did any of us actually get an e-mail from Professor Granville about this project? I know Wasabi got one."
"I didn't," Karmi said.
"Nope," Go Go replied.
Hiro shook his head.
"Hmm. That is interesting."
He turned back to Baymax, the blurry picture of the tank still on his stomach. Maybe he was looking too much into it. But there was so much that was unknown. He had to find out more.
"Better not tell Professor Granville you were taking unauthorized pictures down there."
Hiro looked at the girl next to Baymax, the water bottle being set in front of him. Go Go, from the looks of it, had already downed half of her soda and was offering a sip to a wide-eyed Honey Lemon.
"Wasn't planning on it." He grabbed the bottle and twisted the cap off. "And thanks."
"Don't mention it." Her eyes were still on the photo, concern in her eyes.
"I'm not going crazy, right?"
She looked down at him. "Clinically? Yet to be determined. I could test you, but it would hurt. This?" She lowered her voice as she pointed to Baymax's stomach. "I don't know. Have you asked Granville?"
"What about Wasabi? He's apparently the one who got the e-mail. You can ask him."
Hiro brought up his phone, looking over his contacts. "Yeah, I thought about it. But he's probably still out with Aspen. I don't want to bother him when he's with her. If there is something going on, I don't want to tip her off."
"To be fair, they're probably busy. Doing...stuff."
Karmi chuckled to herself. "I'll tell you when you're older."
She walked back to the other side of the table, leaving Hiro to his thoughts (and his slightly pink cheeks). He didn't even want to look over at Go Go, who was now attempting to hold in her laughter with her hand.
Wherever Wasabi was, he thought as he turned his attention back to the plans in front of him, he hoped he was faring better than him.
It was times like this that made Wasabi wonder what having a normal day was like.
Shortly before he was about to join the rest of the group in the lab, Fred wanted to show him something on Baymax (and also get him to look at his latest comic) when Granville had appeared in the hallway with her 'guest of honor', as she has named her. Instead of staying with the gang and coming up with an idea for Fathom Blue, he could take Aspen around the city, since it had been so long since she was around for any length of time.
It was a good plan, and he didn't mind spending time with her. Hey, maybe there were some projects they could brainstorm on as well.
And then five minutes later, she was in the backseat stripping.
...OK, I probably should add a little more context than that.
Aspen had looked mildly uncomfortable as Granville had talked to the two of them, only brightening up when the dean mentioned him being his makeshift chauffeur. Wasabi hadn't understood why in the moment; the white and light blue dress she was wearing had looked quite nice on her, complete with a pair of high heels on her feet. Turns out that she wasn't really a fan of the formal wear.
"Here, hold these."
Wasabi had looked down to see said shoes on his center console. "So I'm guessing that's what was in that bag you brought? A change of clothes?"
"Yup," the voice from behind him affirmed. "Dad wants me to look grown-up whenever I go out to official meetings. Hate it. The heels kill my feet. Can't breathe in the dress. I prefer things a little looser."
He had returned his gaze back straight ahead. He hadn't really wanted to make things uncomfortable, but Aspen's middle name might as well had been Uncomfortable at that point.
"There, almost done. One sec."
Wasabi's eyes, unbeknownst to himself, started to drift to the rearview mirror. Aspen was right behind his seat, a long leg stretched out to the side.
Her hands came over his face suddenly, blocking his vision.
"No peeking, silly."
"I wasn't peeking."
"Mmhmm." She had the tone in her voice of someone not believing his denial. "Sure you weren't."
Thirty seconds later, she was done and had climbed into the passenger seat. Her attire was very similar to what she had on the first time they met: a green short-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, her heavy Fathom jacket, and the two tech bracelets on her wrists. She slapped one of her sandals on the dash as the other one went on her foot. "Let's go, Mr. Wasabi! The day is still young."
What had followed was one of the weirdest afternoons of his life. They had traveled around the city, stopping at all kinds of places from Noodle Burger ("So this is what Fred was talking about?") to the Golden Gate Bridge ("You know, it doesn't look very gold from this angle."). All the while, she had the look on her face of a excited child, learning new things for the very first time.
Which was confusing, to say the least. Granville had made it seem like she had lived in San Fransokyo for a good amount of time. She had been young back then, sure, and not all of the places they visited were old, but it seemed like she should have remembered a few of them.
Oooh, how little he knew. And how much he was going to find out.
Aspen had been adamant on visiting one of the places she grew up at, and the one place that was most vivid in her memory: the military base just between San Fransokyo and Kyotoakland. It was a fairly short drive, and one that resulted in her changing all of the presets on the radio.
"Hey, those were classic stations!"
"What? I see a button; I press it."
He pulled up to the gate of the base, leaning back as Aspen handed her military ID to the guard. He glanced over it for a moment, then looked at Wasabi. "Driver's license, please."
Wasabi passed the card to him, the same glance going over that as well. "You're his sponsor, I presume?"
"Of course. We'll just be on base for a little bit."
The guard held the two cards up to the light. "Your ID is quite old, Ms...Matthews. I'm not sure if I should allow this."
"OK." She narrowed her eyes at him. "Let's just call my dad Captain Maxwell Matthews and see what he has to say about it. I'm sure he'd love to have a conversation with you about his daughter not being allowed entry."
He suddenly looked nervous in the booth, hurriedly handing them back their cards. "My apologies, Ms. Matthews. I'm just following orders. I'll let it slide this time, but you should make the time at some point to update your ID." He tapped a few buttons on his computer. "Vehicle scan's clear. Enjoy your visit."
As Wasabi pulled away, he looked over at his passenger. Aspen was staring straight ahead with the largest smirk he had ever seen. "Your dad's name still has some weight around here, I see."
"Yup." She crossed her arms around her body. "And I'm not afraid to use it."
The sun was now hanging low in the sky as Aspen and Wasabi were heading out of the administrative building. They had spent the time visiting a few people she was familiar with, all of them greeting them with smiles and marveling how she had grown so much over the years.
And yet...there was still something up. Wasabi saw her smile and talk back, but there was a...cloud there, whatever that meant. As if something was hanging over her head.
Even now, he could tell something wasn't quite right. She was staring wistfully at the skyline, her eyes shining in the setting sun.
She looked over at him with a smile. "Nothing. I'm fine."
"You're not," he retorted. "You have the look on your face of Hiro when he's trying to finish a project that's due the next day."
Aspen stopped walking, her stare now boring into his brain. "Can I show you something?"
"Umm...sure." He glanced around their surroundings, not sure what to expect. "Where is it?"
"Not here." She grabbed his hand, almost dragging him away. "I haven't been in the water all day. There's a place down this way that's perfect."
A short time later, he found himself staring at the back door of a building, anxiously watching Aspen turn the lock on it. "You know, you breaking into a pool hall when it's closed for the day wasn't exactly what I had in mind."
"Oh, don't be such a stick in the mud." She had her ear to the back of the lock, trying to hear the last click. "No one will notice. We'll be out of here before patrol starts." Smiling, she yanked the lock open and pressed the handle down. "There. This way."
"I have reservations about this."
She said nothing, grabbing the front of his sweater and yanking him inside, the door slamming shut behind them.
A few short steps later, Wasabi found himself staring at the aforementioned pool. The pool gradually declined from three feet deep in the shallow part all the way to about eleven feet at the far end. Aspen was already at the thermostat, checking the temperature of the water. "Seventy-nine. Perfect."
"How do you know that they're not going to find us here?"
"Because." She dipped her toe in the water, swirling it around. "I used to do this when I was young."
Wasabi's question blurted out before he could stop himself. "How come you can remember some stuff and not other things?"
Aspen pulled her foot back up, her face changing from excited to sad. It was so sudden that he instantly felt bad about asking it. She awkwardly shuffled between her feet as he turned to face him. "Do you really want to know?"
"Yes. Is it because of whatever your doctor was talking about at the base?"
"...Sort of." She looked down at the ground, her arms now crossed. "When I was young...my family was in a car accident. My mom didn't make it. I was told by my dad that I suffered very severe brain trauma. He was able to get me some of the best healthcare at the time, because of his position in the Navy. I don't remember much of it...probably because of said trauma." She softly chuckled. "Even now, I have trouble remembering a lot of things from my past. Dr. Killian says it's a form of retrograde amnesia. I've gotten better with the therapy sessions, but whenever I get emotional or my brain goes into overdrive, it gives me severe tension headaches."
Wasabi stepped up to her. "That's what happened below, right?"
"Yeah. We've done a lot of electrotherapy and brain stimulation to try to help my condition, but...I feel like it doesn't help sometimes. Like it's all for nothing. Like I'm nothing."
"Aspen." He put his hand on her shoulder. "Hiro told me about all that you've done. The Olympics? Graduating college? Working for Fathom? I wouldn't call that nothing. That's a lot of something. You're very successful."
She looked up at him.
"And smart. And...beautiful."
Her eyes widened as she took a step back. He only then realized what he had actually said. Quickly, he tried to backtrack. "I'm sorry. That was too far. I...I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
Wasabi watched as Aspen turned away for a moment. As she started to look back, however, the twinge in her cheeks was highlighted by the growing smile on her face.
"Who said you were making me uncomfortable?" she said slyly.
Aspen took off her jacket, handing it to him. "I'm just not used to anyone paying attention to me in that way. Besides college, I've seen the same handful of people almost my entire teenage and adult life. It's...flattering. Something I can get used to."
She walked off to the edge of the pool and grabbed the bottom of her shirt, pulling it over her head. The light blue high top hid her neckline, but did nothing to hide the curves of her exposed torso.
"Am I making you uncomfortable?"
The pants were next, the swim shorts now exposed to him. The white waistband was just underneath her hipbones, the blue leg material barely hitting the top of her thighs.
Aspen grinned as his face became flushed, throwing her clothes onto the nearest bench. "I'll take that as a yes." Without another word, she dove off the edge into the water.
It was a sight to see, Aspen moving through the pool with the greatest of ease. It was effortless to her. It was almost like she was made to be in the water. He watched her silhouette move around the bottom of the pool like a dolphin, ricocheting off all sides of the pool.
After a minute or so, she came up for air in the middle of the pool, right at the four feet mark. She swept her hair out of her eyes and waved to him. "Come on in. The water's great."
Wasabi had to snap his brain out of his daydream to respond. "Water and I are in a complicated relationship."
"Yes, I heard. You're afraid of it or whatever. You wanna explain that to someone who loves the water?"
He hesitated, looking over the edge down into the liquid below. Aspen couldn't help but laugh. "See, this is why you always wear a swimsuit. You never know when you need to get wet."
Wasabi wasn't going to touch that one. "I only have my yoga stuff on. I was planning on going after school today, but-"
He was getting nervous again, so much so that he didn't notice Aspen had lazily drifted over to the shallow end, smiling at him as she laid on her back. "Mr. Wasabi, I'm not going to let you drown, OK? You can even stay over here, if you want."
Taking that as a compromise, she set her jacket over with her other clothes and started to strip down himself. His yoga pants and shirt weren't the best when it came to swimming, but it was the best he had. Once done, he came back to the edge and sat down, getting his feet comfortable with the temperature.
"Now, as your official unofficial therapist..." Aspen drifted past him, drumming her fingers together. "We need to talk about your fear of water. It's not healthy. Plus, I'm nosy."
"...I almost drowned when I was nine."
Aspen stopped and stood up in the water, her face full of concern. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize-"
"No, it's fine." Wasabi lowered his body in, slightly recoiling at the sudden chill of the water. "You've opened up to me; I might as well tell you about this." He knelt on the floor, his body slowly submerging. "It was right here, actually. In this pool."
"I thought you said your family wasn't military."
"We're not. But one of my dad's patients at the office was a military guy, and his son came in all the time for alignment work. They got to be pretty close friends, and one day he invited us on base for this pool party with the rest of the kids. Me being a civilian rubbed someone the wrong way, I guess, because not even five minutes in, someone had pushed me into the water."
"Wow," Aspen said. "That's cruel."
"Yeah. I wasn't the greatest swimmer back then, and I hadn't even gotten an opportunity to get situated. I sank almost right to the bottom over there (pointing to the deep end)."
She stared at him as he continued on. "I can't remember where my dad was; I think he and the rest of the parents were getting protocol instructions from the lifeguard. But it's not his fault. I recall just sort of sitting at the bottom, the shock just...rolling over me."
"Well, you didn't drown. Clearly." Aspen smiled at him. "How'd you get out?"
"That's the thing." He softly clapped his hands together, making small waves in front of him. "All I remember is this really bright light. It was...I don't know how to describe it. Soothing. Calm. And the next thing I knew, I was back on the floor, gasping for air. All the boys and girls were gathered around me like they had seen a ghost. My dad was yelling a lot, and we didn't stick around that long afterwards. Our family friend apologized every day for like a month. We never ended up coming back here after that."
Wasabi looked up at her to see a look of pure shock on her face. "Aspen, it's fine. I've gotten over it. A little bit. I'm not really afraid of the water, per se. It's just-"
"You were wearing green trunks."
He cut himself off, his hands frozen in place.
"And had the frog inner tube. And some..." Aspen scratched the bottom of her neck. "Weird chain thing on your neck. Cheap metal."
Wasabi slowly stood up, now sharing her look of amazement. "Aspen, how do you know that?"
She took a few steps back, her eyes not leaving his. She stopped with the water level just below her chest, her hands skimming the surface of the water. "Wasabi...I need you to remember. That light."
Aspen looked down slightly, closing her eyes.
"Did it look like this?"
Wasabi watched as she took a slow, deep breath in, her fingers starting to nervously twitch. All of a sudden, her eyes snapped back open, glowing with the same soft blue that he had seen all those years ago.
Tendrils of water began to come up over her head, swirling around her entire body. The water climbed up her arm and around her body, a few stray droplets hanging over her like rain. It was like time had stood still, and Aspen was its master.
"Holy cow. That's amazing." Wasabi couldn't believe his eyes. "Those bracelets let you have that much control? Now you really need to-"
His gaze, in his haste to gather the spectacle in front of him, drifted over to their clothes on the bench...and her two white bracelets sitting on top of her jeans.
Wait a minute.
And that's when he knew.
Aspen held up her hand, it now glowing the same blue color. A perfectly round orb of water hovered above her palm.
"That was you."
The tendrils sucked into the orb, causing it to grow in size.
"You were the one who saved me."
Her eyes returned back to normal, the water falling back in its proper place. She stared back up at him with a smile. "Sorry. That took a lot out of me."
"How..." Wasabi was in shock. He didn't even notice that he had stepped toward her, his body now inches away from hers. "How did you do that?"
"I...I don't know." Aspen held up her palm again and concentrated as a small ball of water generated in it. "I've...been able to do this as long as I can remember. I did it unconsciously for the first time when I saved you. After that, I've been training myself to control it better. It's helped with my swimming, I can tell you that."
"So you really don't need those bracelets?"
"Not really. But I don't use my...powers or whatever you want to call them...when I'm at work. The tech is enough."
This was too much. Wasabi's mind was swimming with all of the new information he had just witnessed. It would have been totally unbelievable if not for the crazy situations he found himself in with Sycorax weeks ago. Speaking of that…
"Is it genetic?"
She looked at him again. "No. Unless my mom was a mermaid or something. And I've had my DNA looked at by Dad; it's standard procedure for Fathom employees. We want to make sure all of our employees are able-bodied to work underwater for long periods of time. There's nothing abnormal about mine." She laughed. "Although I can hold my breath for a really long time. Don't know where that is in my DNA strand."
"Aspen..." Wasabi said. "You have a gift. This is amazing. How many others have you shown this to?"
"Including you?" Her eyes shined up at him. "One."
"Not even your dad?"
"My dad would freak out. I love him, but...I didn't want to worry him. Daddy's Little Girl and all that. But...I trust you."
OK, now it was too much. His heart was hammering against his rib cage. But he still had one question left to ask.
"I still don't get something about your memory problems. You seem to remember that day clearly. And then some things are just not there for you. Why do you think that is?"
Aspen took a small step toward him and tilted her head. "Well, Dr. Killian and I have talked about this before. He thinks that long-term memory can be recovered or kept if it has a…strong emotional attachment."
She put her hand on his chest.
"And I knew that boy from back then...he was cute. He had a nice smile."
The orb turning in her hand started pulsating to the same rhythm as his heartbeat.
"He had a weird taste in jewelry, but I could overlook that."
Her half-grin had its own shine as they locked eyes.
"I guess there was no way of knowing that little boy would turn into such an equally kind and gentle man."
Her free hand traveled up his chest, coming to rest on his cheek.
"You must think I'm crazy. Some little girl who came into your life and just made things more complicated. Someone who can't keep their life straight. Someone who-"
His hand came down on hers, layering it against his body.
"I don't think you're crazy," Wasabi whispered. "This?" He pointed to the still hovering water ball. "This is crazy." He swirled his finger upward. "This whole thing? It's crazy." His hand came down on her waist. "You're not."
Aspen's eyes grew wide, her mouth slightly opened.
Without the heels, she was considerably shorter than him, but it didn't matter in the water. She leaned up toward him at the same time he leaned down.
Their lips connected, the orb in her hands now beating twice as fast as before.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Oh man, Wasabi. You've fallen hard. Guess I'll take the blame for that.
To the people who asked whether Aspen's powers were biological or centered around the tech...now you have your answer.
...Or do you?
Remember, not everything is going to stay the same from her comics. You're seeing a little of it both in the gang's interactions at the beginning and Wasabi & Aspen's conversations at the end. Trust me, what you think is going to happen...will not. I'm telling you this now.
Oh, and I'm also aware how actual military bases work. Them not being allowed entry doesn't make for a very interesting story, though.
We're going to hop back into the action next chapter. Also, we have to find out where Fred is. Poor boy deserves some car hopping.
Literal car hopping.
Read and review, if you like. Until next time, everyone.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3 - Bow-Chaser
Disclaimer: Big Hero 6 and Aspen are owned by Disney Animation and Aspen MLT, respectively. All references to video games that may or may not be canon are not intentional.
Oh, who am I kidding? They are intentional.
Chapter 3 – Bow-Chaser
"We're still in position. They haven't left yet. What do you want us to do?"
The man in the car nodded his head, the phone to his ear. "Yes, sir. We will."
"So," his passenger said as he ended the call. "Can we go back now? We've been here for who knows how long. I'm getting tired of this."
"His orders were quite clear: grab the subjects and bring them back to him. You wanna tell him that we didn't do what he asked? Be my guest."
"I'm just so hungry. Re-hydrated food isn't my jam."
The driver slapped him in the shoulder, bringing a pair of binoculars up to his eyes. "I see them. They're exiting now." He put a finger up to the earpiece. "Bravo and Charlie, gear up. Prepare to move."
"Did you enjoy your stay, Ms. Matthews?"
"Yes, it was very nice to see everyone."
"I hope that you got everything taken care of while you were here."
Aspen took a quick glance at her driver, a small blush on her cheeks. "Yeah...I think I did."
The guard gave her an odd look before opening the gate. "Have a good evening, ma'am. And you too, sir."
Wasabi and Aspen made their way off of the base, turning back onto the bridge to head back to town. Night had fallen while they were busy in the pool, the lights of the San Fransokyo-Kyotoakland Bay Bridge shining brightly as they made their way to the mainland.
Wasabi was absentmindedly resting his arm on the console. Normally, they'd be at ten and two like always, but he found himself being a little more relaxed at this time.
Couldn't imagine why.
He felt a hand come down on his and gently squeeze it. "So, did you enjoy your stay?"
"I did." Wasabi changed over to the far right lane. "Although I could have gone without you trying to drag me into the deep end."
"Hey! You were doing good! You stayed afloat for at least three seconds. And I didn't even have to save you this time!"
"...You moved all of the water out of the way so I could walk up to the shallow part."
"Eh. Freak accident. You can't prove anything."
Wasabi smiled. If she hadn't shown her powers to him five minutes prior, the sight of Aspen making a hallway up the incline would've knocked him off of his feet. But it seemed like that every minute he spent with her, he wanted another ten. This was a dangerous road he was going down; it was much more dangerous than the road he was currently on, getting off the bridge and hitting the outer limits of San Fransokyo.
"So, what are you going to tell your friends?"
Wasabi glanced over at her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, you have been gone all day. Your friends don't know where you are. But you can just tell them you were with that weird water girl, and they'll instantly understand," she joked.
"I mean, you are that person."
Aspen looked out the window, lost in thought. For about the fifth time tonight, Wasabi thought he had gone too far, but she spoke up again, her voice wavering a little. "I just...I've never really been in this sort of position before. Someone knowing about me and my...gift. I just want to keep that between us for now, OK?
"Oh. I thought you were talking about something else."
"You thought I was talking about me and you, right?" She saw him take a quick look in the rear-view mirror. "Wasabi, I don't even know where to begin with that. I'm still processing it all."
He took a left down the next street. "Now that we're on the subject, is there anything else you want to tell me? Anything at all?
"No, I think that pretty much covers the gambit," she laughed. "Unless there's anything you want to tell me."
There was no response from him as he took another left. His eyes were still on the mirror, narrowed in concentration.
"Wasabi, what's wrong?"
"...I think we're being followed."
"Followed?" She went to turn her head backwards, but he grabbed onto her shoulder to stop her. "Wait, how do you know?"
"Because." He pointed down to his console, the screen mapping his route. "I've taken four left turns and this car is still behind us. It's also the same car that's been near us ever since we left the base."
"Are you sure?"
Wasabi stopped at the crossroads, the red light above them. Across from him at the light and to his right were two black sedans, identical to the one behind him. Almost as if on cue, all three cars turned their high beams on, shining them in their direction.
"...Yeah, pretty sure."
Hiro rubbed his eyes. The four of them were still in the process of finding a project, but their search had slowed tremendously. Everyone had pretty much given up on their normal drinks and raided the soda machine, including Honey Lemon. As a young teenage boy, it had helped a little bit, but to the normal college student, it had no effect.
"OK, I'm done." Go Go set the latest soda can on the others, making a mini pyramid in front of her with all of their bottles and cans. "I don't even know how long we've been at this. Plus, I'm out of stuff to stack."
Honey Lemon stifled a yawn. "Yeah, I don't think I can go for much longer. And Karmi's already out."
Hiro looked around the plastic pyramid to see his classmate's head on the table, her arms folded under it. "When did that happen?"
"Shouldn't you know? You were staring at her for a good while."
"...I'm going to pretend you didn't say that."
Go Go's phone went off, the vibration causing it to hit the mountain of containers. They clattered to the ground, the clangs ringing through the lab...
"I'm awake! Chromosome chain analysis!"
And waking up Karmi.
The Korean put the phone up to her ear, the smile still there. "Hello?"
A very large amount of noise came over the speaker. Go Go stepped back a few steps from the table, the phone now at arm's length away. "Wasabi? Are you there?"
Another voice sprung up in the background. She narrowed her eyes. "Wasabi? What is going on?"
Hiro, Honey Lemon, and Karmi were suddenly very interested in the one-sided conversation. Go Go didn't give them any clues as to what was being said on the other end, only nodding and furrowing her brow. "Where are you two?"
She grabbed her coat off the chair. "Alright, you two hang tight. I'm heading out now. Be there in a bit."
As Go Go hung up the call, Karmi spoke up. "What's up? Is Wasabi OK?"
"He, uh..." She glanced at Honey Lemon and Hiro before talking again. "He's got a flat tire. Might be something else wrong with the car, and he wants me to take a look at it. Aspen's with him."
"Why was it so loud?"
"They're on the highway."
"It sounded like he was yelling."
"Oh, you know him. Overreacting and stuff."
Ignoring Karmi's "I...actually don't", Hiro really wished she would stop giving her the third degree. He had a suspicion that there was something more going on, but he had to be subtle about it. "Do you want to take Fred with you? The more people the better, right?"
Go Go stared at him for a second, then spoke up. "Yeah, you're right. I'll grab Fred. I don't think we'll need everyone, but I'll send you a text in case anything changes."
She made her way out the door, leaving the three in the lab. Hiro glanced over at Karmi, who was instantly back asleep on the table. "You know, we could have actually gone with her."
"And leave Karmi here alone? No, Hiro. We can't do that, not without her getting suspicious. Let's just hope Go Go & Freddie can take of whatever is going on."
Both Hiro and Honey Lemon's phones vibrated, a text coming in from Go Go:
They're getting chased around town. Not sure why. They're both freaking out. Standby.
"Standby. I'm going to see if I can lose them."
Aspen tapped the front of his phone, his contacts list open. "Why didn't you call the police? Why did you have me call her?"
"Ummm..." He didn't really feel like lying to her, but now wasn't really the time for his brain to tell her the truth. "She does know the police. Worked with them for a little bit on their vehicles. She can also get to them quicker."
He didn't get a response, but Wasabi had to focus on taking another hard turn. Only one of the cars was now following them, but he had seen all three weave in and out of the roads behind them at some point.
"Wasabi." She breathlessly turned toward him, her body slinging to the left as Wasabi went down a side road. "You remember about, oh, ten minutes ago when I told you I didn't have anything else to tell you?"
"Well...I take it back. There is something else you need to know."
"What is it?"
Aspen looked back at the car chasing them. "This...isn't the first time I've had people following me around."
"Wait, what?" Wasabi said. "How long has this been happening?"
"Ohhh...ever since I got to the city."
"It's not even the first time you've been a part of this," she continued. "The night we met...the night I came into your work...I was being followed then too."
"Why?" Wasabi said. "Do they know about you and your powers?"
"No! There's absolutely no way they would know. I told you I've never shown anyone else."
Wasabi's glovebox suddenly popped open, and the two looked down to reveal the bane of his existence: Go Go's remote for his car.
"Huh." He stared at the contraption with a frown. "I thought I locked that thing up."
"You just unlocked the glove compartment, didn't you?"
"Yup." She lowered her hand from the side of her helmet, grinning. "I know he doesn't like it at all, but hopefully one of them will take the hint."
Go Go was now armored up, Fred beside him in his normal costume. She had interrupted his so-called "Mount Snackamanjaro" in the food court to haul him off downtown to try to find Wasabi, Aspen, and whoever was following them.
"You made it sound like there was an action-packed chase sequence going on!" Fred turned both ways from the roof of Noodle Burger, looking down the road. "There's nothing going on."
At that moment, Wasabi's car sped by, its additional thrusters activated.
I'm going to take this remote out of this car once we done here and shove it right up
"That's weird." Fred tapped at his phone inside his suit. "The rest of the message got cut off. I wonder where he's going to put it."
"Fred." Go Go grabbed his arm and pointed to the two black cars coming up on them. The light in front of them had turned red, so the crosswalk was now beginning to fill with pedestrians. "You think they're going to stop?"
"Go Go, do you not read my comics? Of course they're not going to stop. That's not the supervillain thing to do!"
Fred and Go Go leapt from the roof and headed right for them. Luckily, the crowd noticed the loud noises and immediately retreated to the sidewalk. "Fred, burn their tires off! We need to slow them down."
A plume of fire erupted from Fred's mouth, running down the street right at the oncoming cars. Unfortunately, the sedans ran right through them, the tires looking no worse for wear.
"Fireproof? Really? Now that's some preparation!"
He leapt straight in the air as Go Go dove out of the way, the two cars whistling by them. She wheeled her head around and tried to get a face inside, but the windows were too tinted.
"Ugh." She slammed her fist into the ground, now even more agitated. "Fred, we have to take them out. How-"
She only then noticed she was alone, her teammate no longer in sight. Sighting, she hit the comm button on her helmet. "You're on one of the cars right now, aren't you?"
"Go Go, I may be on one of the cars right now."
"Oooh. What does this button do? Make the car go even faster?"
"...I am going to have a long talk with Go Go once this is over!"
"Ugh, I lost them again!"
Go Go had spent the last couple of minutes tracking one of the mystery cars. She had made good progress with her speed, but the sedan was built for this sort of thing, gaining some distance if she got too close. Now, she sped onto Morimoto Avenue, seeing the tailpipe just turn the corner. "I can't keep this up for much longer. Fred, are you having any luck?"
"I'm still with the one that took me for a joy ride," Fred yelled, huffing and puffing in his costume, "But I can't get close again! They have shocky-sticks and they are not cool! I have to stay out of their reach."
Go Go stopped in the middle of the street. "Not cool...out of their-" Her face lit up at the sudden revelation. "Fred, you're actually a genius!"
"Can I get that in writing?"
"No." She quickly pulled out her phone and pressed the button to call her Skymax. "I have an idea. You stay on that car, OK? I'll stay on mine."
She turned her head up to the clouds as the yellow robot made its flyby, throwing two additional discs down to her. She caught them out of the air, switching them out with the ones on her legs and placing them on her back. The inner ring of the new discs began to glow yellow as she looked at the tall buildings around her.
Go Go sped off like a bullet, jumped onto a car, and up the nearest skyscraper wall, the maglev discs doing their job. "Fred, you still got that liquid nitrogen canister in your suit?"
"You mean the bottle that I use to keep my hands cool in here? Yeah, why?"
Go Go smirked as she leapt onto the next wall. "Ready to get a little heartless?"
"Ooooh, thinly veiled references! I didn't know you had it in you, Go Go!"
"Alright, I think we lost her." The driver turned back toward the road. "You still have a bead on them? We've lost too much time; he's not going to be happy."
"Well, nobody said that Big Hero 6 was going to get involved!"
"It's their city, genius!" the driver yelled back. "Of course they're going to-"
The sudden slam of something hitting their car jolted them out of their conversation. They both looked up through the windshield to see a yellow-armored girl on top of their hood. The wheels that were on her legs were glowing a bright yellow, somehow letting her stay fastened to the car.
The two men screamed in unison.
Go Go couldn't entirely hear the two people in the car, but their wide mouths definitely indicated that they were yelling really loudly. And really girly. But in any case…
"Fred, your car still on course?"
"Yup! Steering it toward where you said to."
"Good. I'll keep mine busy."
The car continued to speed along, but Go Go revved up her wheels, the maglev mechanism keeping her atop the car. The passenger rolled down his window, a baton in his hand casting sparks from it. "You think you're so clever, you know that?"
"More clever than you."
"Dude! Get back in here! Don't talk to the superheroes!"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "You guys don't even realize you're going into a trap."
"Wait, what are you-"
Without another word, she jumped off the car, their vision now restored...just in time to see the identical sedan heading straight at them.
The two drivers slammed on their brakes, just narrowly avoiding a head-on collision. The cars sat smoking for a few seconds, and the other two occupants shared their looks of horror. Before they could react further, a shadow started looming over them, and the four men looked up together to see an ominous sight: Go Go riding on Fred's back, seemingly hovering in the air above them.
Go Go had grabbed the two discs from her feet to hold them in her hands, the discs on her arms also glowing yellow. In one smooth motion, they jettisoned off of her, landing in a square around the cars.
A blast of cold air shot down from the sky, the temperature around the artificial magnetic field dropping even more than normal. Before the men could react, they found themselves encased in a giant dome of ice, the two superheroes landed right on top. The civilians that were standing around started clapping and cheering for the two, Fred already basking in the glory.
"Thank you, thank you!" He took a deep bow toward them. "All in a day's work, citizens!"
Go Go only rolled her eyes. "I didn't think that would actually work, but thank goodness it did." She put her hand up to her comm again. "Wasabi, we got them. You should be good to go."
The loud noise on the other end told her that they weren't good to go. "Wasabi, what's-"
Fred was so busy working the crowd that he didn't see Go Go's arm slap him in the back of the head. "Hey! Watch the spikes!" He looked up to see his teammate's frustrated face. "What?"
"...There was a third."
"You didn't tell them there were three cars?"
"I'm sorry, I was a little busy trying to get away from them!"
Wasabi and Aspen had made it all the way back down near the water, the last black sedan still chasing them hard. He still hadn't been able to get a glimpse at the driver, but to be fair, his attention had been somewhat diverted.
His car turned down one of the main hills leading down to the docks. An idea had been brewing in his head for about two miles. It was a really bad idea, but without knowing how far away Go Go & Fred were, he didn't really have a choice.
He sped down the hill, overtaking one of the cable cars to the left. Aspen put her hand on the roof of the car to steady herself from the frequent bumps.
He pushed the pedal down even farther.
"Wasabi, you're heading straight for the water."
He started to hunch over the wheel, even more focused than before.
"Wasabi, I don't know if you heard me, but we're heading straight for the water."
"I did hear you." She pointed down to his dash. "When I tell you to, press that button there."
Aspen looked down to see a set of three buttons: one green, one blue, and one yellow. He was gesturing to the middle one, a water droplet symbol on it. "How is windshield wiper fluid going to help us?"
She hadn't noticed that her windshield view was now filled with the bay, Wasabi's car about to impact the surface. In a panic, she slammed her hand down on the button, a loud scream escaping her mouth.
His car barreled into the water, Aspen fully expecting the car to simply sink to the bottom of the bay. Instead, she opened her eyes to see the vehicle continuing on as if nothing had happened. She looked out her car window to see a wing had come out from underneath, the car using them to smoothly travel around.
"OK, wait just a freaking minute!" Aspen turned toward him, her eyes blazing. "When were you going to tell me that your car could turn into a freaking submarine!? That is so cool! This almost makes up for putting me in a car chase around the city!"
Wasabi put his hands up as she started to furiously slap him in the shoulder. "Hey hey hey! Still gotta drive here!"
Meanwhile, the last black sedan pulled up to the edge of the water, the two occupants getting out. The driver was stabbing at his ear with his finger, static filling his senses. "Bravo and Charlie, do you read me? What's going on? Why are you not responding?"
A yellow disc ricocheted off of the car door and slammed into his back, cutting him off. It careened off of the wooden dock post and returned to the wrist of Go Go, her and Fred a little bit away.
"Sorry, they had to take a message."
"You didn't go with a cold pun?" Fred slapped his forehead. "Aww man! You had a prime opportunity there!"
Ten minutes later…
Wasabi sat down on the rear bumper of the ambulance as he got checked by the EMT. Other than a small contusion on his forehead, he hadn't suffered any other injuries. He had been lucky.
Aspen wasn't. Not physically, anyway.
He looked over at her, her eyes down as she continued her conversation with the officer. The adrenaline rush of the chase had worn off, and she had started shaking not two minutes in. Luckily, it looked like he was just about wrapped up.
Wasabi turned to see Go Go had replaced the spot of the EMT right next to him, her arms crossed. "Hey. Where's Fred at?"
"Unthawing the rest of those guys that were chasing you. Turns out the police can't arrest them until all the ice melts."
He said nothing, returning his attention back to Aspen.
"Wasabi, what in the world is going on?" she whispered. "And don't tell me nothing, because ever since she came into town, things have been going off the rails with you. And that's putting it lightly."
He rubbed his temple, smoothing out the scar on it. "Go Go...I-"
Fred took the opportunity to slam down onto the roof of the ambulance, jolting them out of their conversation. The Korean looked up at him with a frown. "Fred, do you know any way to silently enter somewhere?"
He was uncharacteristically quiet, one of his hands sticking out of his mouth. Go Go held out hers, and he dropped a round piece of fabric into it. Wasabi looked over her shoulder to spy on it. It was a black shoulder patch, no doubt ripped off one of the men chasing them.
And the blue, stylized capital F was all too familiar.
"I pulled that off one of the guys. They were wearing it under their combat gear. And I recognize one of them here." He pointed a claw over to the cop car housing the two men from the last car. "He was one of the security guards that I saw down at the base. One of the first two we saw. 'Mr. Stick-In-The-Mud', as HL put it."
She had no chance to respond, because Aspen had finished with the officer and was walking toward them. Her face brightened as she saw the two superheroes. "Oh my goodness! It's Big Hero 6!" She ran up to Go Go and almost tackled her with her hug. "You guys are so awesome!"
"...Thanks." Go Go's sides were getting squeezed by her rather tightly. "You can let go now."
"Aspen, can you give us a minute? I need to talk to them."
"Oooh! Superhero planning with the big guns? You're even more cool than I thought!"
Wasabi looked up at Fred, who got the silent hint. "You wanna see how high I can jump, young lady? I'll show you what a true superhero can do!"
"Totally!" She jumped into his arms automatically. "Let's do it!"
As Aspen and Fred rocketed off into the air, Go Go's attention went back to her friend, grimacing slightly as she rubbed her sides. "Wasabi. You like her. I get it. But you can't be hiding stuff from us. One of you is going to get hurt even more, and it's not going to be her."
He stood up from the ambulance to face her. "You don't really think she's involved in this, right?"
Go Go sighed, her breath fogging her face mask. She glanced over at the other two and watched as Fred flexed for Aspen, no doubt trying to show off. "No. Unless she's a really good actor, I don't think so. The terror she had on her face before...you can't fake that. But something is up with her; you can't deny that."
Wasabi followed her gaze over at her. Even with everything that had happened that evening (the car chase, the rescue), he still didn't know which was more shocking: all of that, or what happened at the base.
If only you knew, Go Go, he thought, the memory of her glowing eyes still fresh in his mind. If only you knew.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Now, I'm not saying it's canon.
But it sure is fun to mix things up a little bit, right?
Not really much to say about this chapter. A little bit more action in this one, plus some much needed Freddie banter. I forget how much I like him sometimes.
The mystery continues in the next chapter, as well as a severe escalation, another confrontation, and a shocking revelation. Will there be more rhyming in there as well? Who knows?
Read and review, if you like. Until next time.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4 - Tell No Tales
Disclaimer: All of the people in this story are owned by corporations that are not me. You'd think that would sink in after four chapters and a prologue. Apparently not.
Chapter 4 – Tell No Tales
"And that's when Big Hero 6 showed up and beat the crap out of those guys! It was awesome!"
"I don't think they beat them up. Just subdued them."
"Nah, it was like...Ugh! Rah!"
"Ms. Matthews, I would prefer that you not reenact the confrontation with my bookshelf, please."
It was the next day during lunch, and there were three people now in Professor Granville's office: the previously mentioned dean, Wasabi, & Aspen. The marine biologist was busy recounting their adventure yesterday, and she was doing it rather...enthusiastically.
Wasabi stepped back as an errant arm came flying in his direction. "But you should've seen it, Professor! I had only heard about them in fairy tales and whispered rumors! They took down those men like they were nothing! And that one-eyed creature thing blew flames out of his mouth! It was unbelievable!" She suddenly looked out the window in thought. "I wonder who they are? What they're like when they're not saving the city?"
"Yes." Granville glanced over at Wasabi, the irony hanging in the air. "Who indeed."
She opened her laptop and starting typing up a document. "Well, what is important is that the both of you are all right, and did not sustain any injuries. I assume that you filed a police report?"
"I did," Wasabi affirmed. "Last night. They have the guys in custody and are going to file charges later today."
"Good. Let me know if you need to be excused from any of your classes to attend court. As for you..." Granville turned her attention to Aspen. "Have you told the captain yet?"
Wasabi and Granville exchanged a look before she continued. "You either did or did not, Ms. Matthews. It's not that hard."
"I sent him an e-mail about it." Seeing their amazed faces, she stammered on. "L-Look, I don't have a phone. I didn't know whether he was still at the base or above the surface, and we don't really get reception down at the DMD anyway. So I typed up an e-mail as soon as Wasabi put me in my hotel room."
"...Well, I would hope that he would respond quickly. His daughter possibly being assaulted is not the sort of thing I would put in a message, but I also don't live underwater." Granville continued typing on her computer. "In the meantime, I believe the team wanted to update you on some of the ideas they had going forward. You can find them in the main lab down the hall. We will be along shortly."
Aspen turned and walked to the open door, looking left and then right down the hallway. She peered over her shoulder at Wasabi, who pointed off to his right. Giving him a thumbs-up, she walked out.
The Physics student looked over at the dean, who was smirking slightly at the nickname.
"Shut the door, please."
Wasabi did just that. This was the first time he had ever been alone in Granville's office, and he had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't going to be a discussion about his grades. He made his way back over to the desk and crossed his arms behind his back.
"How is Ms. Matthews doing?"
Nope, definitely not the grades. "She's...hiding it well. She was all for the excitement when we were getting chased, but after everything died down, she was really shaken up. When she got to the hotel, she didn't want to leave me. But I gave her my cell and told her to call Go Go or the others if she needed anything."
"I was just talking in terms of the working relationship, but that is a good observation to make."
Granville looked up from her laptop to stare at him. "I am merely jesting. It is good to see Ms. Matthews connecting with someone on such a personal level. Suffice to say that's something she has needed for quite a long time."
Wasabi nervously twirled his thumbs behind him. "Professor Granville...how well do you know Aspen?"
She slowly closed her computer, her gaze not leaving him. Taking a moment to think, she pushed it to the side. "I've known Captain Matthews for quite a long time. I actually applied to a position for his company as he was just getting it off the ground. I was only on board for about a year, but we became friends afterward and have stayed in touch over the years. Aspen? I've only talked to her a few times in passing, but as you've witnessed yourself, she is a very intelligent young woman. Eager to learn, excitable...a bit overbearing. But very sheltered. The captain has been that way since her mother passed. I've only every once attempted to try to get the poor girl out of her shell by talking to him."
"I was shot down rather quickly. It was actually quite a shock when I learned he allowed her to attend UCSD. I thought that it was finally going to be where Ms. Matthews was able to come into her own."
"And then she started working for Fathom," he finished.
"Yes," Granville said. "On the surface, it's understandable; he want her to remain close because of her medical condition, and she does love working in the water. On the other hand, she's not a little girl anymore. She needs to-"
She noticed that Wasabi was staring off into space, an unusual action for one of her most astute students. "Perhaps you would like to share what's on your mind?"
He shuffled his feet nervously. "I don't want to assume things that aren't in my field, Professor."
Wasabi looked straight at her, not used to hearing his actual name.
"It's clear that you have something on your mind. So unless you would like me to drag Ms. Tanaka in here and force it out of you, I insist that you share."
Well, he had no other choice now. "Professor, what do you know about Aspen's health problems?"
Granville tilted her head. "About the same as you. Memory loss stemming from her accident. From what her doctor has mentioned, she's been undergoing electrotherapy sessions to stimulate her brain. Help with her amnesia."
"That's...that's now how amnesia works." Upon Granville's stare, he circled his hands in front of him. "I'm not Baymax or have access to a ton of medical procedures, but electrotherapy, from what I understand, is suppose to be used for the treatment of neurological diseases. Mental disorders. Not amnesia. That's been bugging me ever since Aspen mentioned it. And Dr. Killian should know better than that."
The dean continued to stare at him.
"I...just think that there's more going on. Hiro and Go Go think so too. And I don't want to think that Aspen's willingly being a part of all of this," he finished.
"If I can make a suggestion."
"I would see if you can talk to Ms. Matthews and see what you can get out of her."
"You mean...an interrogation?" he asked.
"I wouldn't put it that way," Granville retorted. "But if your instincts are leading you to believe something is wrong, I would follow them. I would suggest taking her out again. Just stay near the docks. She may be able to open up to you."
"I just don't want to get chased around the city again."
She thought for a moment, and pointed in the direction of the labs. "Perhaps Mr. Hamada can be of some assistance to you. He made it obvious to me that he wished to clear his head after his powwow with his classmates last night. Maybe he could be...an eye in the sky, if you will."
Wasabi nodded, getting the hint. "That's a good idea, Professor. I'll do that." He headed off toward the door...
He turned back towards the desk, Professor Granville's eyes narrowed at him.
"Please do exercise some caution," she said. "I know that I do not need to tell you this, because you're the most cautious student on this campus, but do not let your emotions cloud your judgment. If there is indeed something else going on, and it does involve her, you will need your wits about you to handle the situation."
Wasabi put his hand on the knob. "Go Go talked to you, didn't she?"
"...Ms. Tanaka may have mentioned something to me about it."
A few hours later...
Wasabi walked out of the restaurant with Aspen, the cool air whipping over them. True to Professor Granville's word, he had steered Aspen away from any shady parts of the city and kept her close to the docks, shopping along the pier and partaking in some of the cuisine there. Aspen, being back in her casual wear, hadn't minded it at all; being a stone's throw away from the water was practically like being at home.
He glanced up high above them to see the familiar plume of smoke circle over them. Also true to her word, Hiro had offered to keep an eye on them periodically, flying by every so often on his regular patrol through the city. Go Go, Honey Lemon, and Karmi were still at SFIT, brainstorming ideas. Fred had to attend some hotel opening that night, which he had explained to the group in excruciating detail until Wasabi ended the group text.
His phone chirped again, and he looked down to see that it was thankfully Hiro and not Fred who was texting him:
Baymax is low. Gonna run back to recharge his batteries real quick. BRB.
"Well, aren't you Mr. Popular tonight."
Wasabi looked over at Aspen, who was walking back over from the nearest shop. "It's the group. They just want to make sure I'm still alive. Probably because I haven't seen them a lot for the past couple of days."
"Oh yeah. My bad." Aspen grinned sheepishly. "I'm taking you away from your friends. I'm such a terrible person."
"You're fine. They see me enough that I don't really mind it."
"You know," she started as they walked down the pier, "I talked to them for a little bit while you were with Professor Granville. They're so cool! I want Fred to give me an actual nickname when I see him again."
"Trust me, you don't."
"I do!" Aspen grabbed onto his arm, hugging it tightly. "Go Go and Honey Lemon are so good! She's so tall too. I wish I could be that tall. Oh, and Go Go's got a cool bike. Wonder if I can get a bike for the base and just zoom around it all day."
Wasabi only chuckled as she continued. "Oh, and Karmi showed me her lab! All sorts of kits and caboodles in there! She doesn't give her organisms cool nicknames, though. Kind of a bummer. But she has her own lab! All I had when I was sixteen was a bedroom and some weird toy that just blinked at me and squawked with its beak...thing. Very creepy."
They had made their way to the edge of the pier, right where the wood hit the natural grass. Past that was a small beach, preserved from the hustle and bustle of the busy shoreline behind them.
"It's funny." Aspen stared off into the water, still holding onto his arm. "These past two days have been some of the best I've ever had. No headaches, no pain. Everything's been so clear."
"...Do you not remember the car chase we were in?"
"I do, genius. For once...I do."
This had to be the opening. The nagging feeling in his brain was almost overwhelming. If he didn't do it now, he'd have no other chance.
"Aspen, how bad are your memory losses?"
Luckily, it didn't seem like that bad of a question, because she answered rather quickly. "There was a point in time where I wasn't even remembering the previous day. It was that bad. But with Dr. Killian, I've been able to piece things back together bit by bit. He even said he might be able to get my entire memory back to normal with some more sessions. No more headaches. No more loss. That would be fantastic. But I haven't had an electrotherapy session since you guys left, and I've felt great. Hey, you think that I might not have to do those either?"
Wasabi sighed. He had miscalculated; the next question was going to be the bad one.
"Do you think...you're not having problems because you're not doing the sessions?"
Aspen leaned back to look up at Wasabi. "What do you mean?"
"It's just...I think it's a little weird that you're doing better without him doing all of that stuff to you."
She raised her eyebrow at him. "Wasabi, he's been my doctor since I was in that accident. He was personally hired by my dad. He's the best at what he does. Why would you say that?"
Oh boy. Here we go. "I just think you should get a second opinion, OK? There are other treatments you can get. Ones that don't involve questionable-"
His arm had been unclenched, Aspen backing away slowly as she held up her hand. "I know that you're worried about me, Wasabi. I understand that. But he's been looking out for my well-being my whole life. He said that-"
The interruption stopped her cold, the hand still lingering in the air.
"When are you going to think for yourself?"
Wasabi stepped toward her and grabbed her hand. "All I've heard is people telling you what you should do. What you should be. Why are you just blindly listening to what they have to say? When are you going to be you?"
She could only stare at him, her mouth agape. "I...Wasabi. You have it all wrong. He cares about me. He wants me to be better. It's the hair, isn't it?" she joked, twirling her finger at her own. "Yeah, I could never rock that, and it's a little off-putting, but that doesn't matter. You're wrong. I-"
The screech of tires shot out into the night, and Wasabi and Aspen turned to see a car come careening around the corner...followed by four more.
"That's not good."
Aspen turned toward the bay to make a quick escape, but a handful of men in wetsuits appeared out of the water, all holding up some sort of makeshift baton, the electricity sparking around the tip.
"Aspen, get behind me," Wasabi said.
In the blink of an eye, twenty men were around them, all wielding the same weapon. The two stood back to back, Wasabi shaking more than her. In the very brief period of time they had, he managed to reach into his pocket and type out a message to Hiro. He hadn't seen him fly over in a bit; hopefully he wasn't too far away.
"Put your hands where I can see them."
One of the masked men stepped forward, his voice gruff. "Hand her over to us, and you will not be harmed."
Wasabi threw his arm out, blocking Aspen from him. "You're not getting her."
"Oh, that's cute." The leader laughed and tapped his baton on his shoulder. "You're acting like you have a choice here."
The adrenaline was starting to kick in, and he was starting to feel a little cocky. "Well, you guys are going to be in for a big surprise once they show up."
"Big Hero 6! In fact," he added, pointing upward, "They're about to get here...right now!"
The silence was deafening as the leader looked up, a devilish grin growing on his face. "He's bluffing! Get him!"
"That didn't work out as well as I wanted," he muttered.
"Wasabi! Get down!"
He bent down as Aspen climbed onto his back, the water already circulating in her hand. She threw her arm out, a makeshift shockwave throwing most of the men off of their feet.
"Hey!" one of the other men yelled. "No one mentioned anything about this! It was suppose to be a grab-and-go!"
"Shut up!" the leader retorted. "Get them!"
Wasabi and Aspen took their momentary confusion to start running back down the pier. "We gotta get out of here!" Wasabi said to her.
"Don't you think I know that?" she yelled back, her sweet tone gone. "You want to speed dial Go Go again?"
"Yeah, something tells me she's not going to be able to help this time!"
The two turned around the corner, cutting between the two large warehouses. The hope was that they could make it back up to the main road and to his car. They could make a quick exit and-
Ten more men appeared out of nowhere, blocking their progress.
So much for that.
"I guess we're going to take both of you then."
They wheeled around to see the rest of the men at the other end of the opening, essentially bottling them into the narrow passageway. Aspen clung to Wasabi as the men crept closer, their batons at the ready.
"Aspen, grab onto me. I'm going to barrel through. OK?"
She nodded, still scared.
He, however, never got the chance, as the men moved on them before he could get a start. Bodies starting piling onto them, restricting his breath and pinning him to the ground. He felt the shocks come from their batons, lights starting to shine in his eyes.
Suddenly, the weights upon him were lifted. Grimacing, he slowly got up off of the ground and saw that Aspen was standing as well, her arms up in the air as a dome of water had formed around them. The bodies of the men were strewn all around them, some groaning and some out cold.
Her eyes were glowing that same color he had seen in the pool, but as he stepped closer, they dimmed back to her regular hue. She stumbled slightly forward, losing her balance. Wasabi caught her before she hit the ground.
"Hey, thanks for the save. You're going to be OK. Let's get out of-"
And that's when he saw it.
She wasn't fatigued from the power surge. She had half of a bowie knife blade jutting out from her right side, the loss of blood making her succumb to unconsciousness.
He pulled the knife out and threw it as hard as he could away from them. He put his hand on the wound, trying to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. "Aspen, can you hear me?"
Wasabi was so focused on trying to help her that he didn't see the man behind him, the butt of the baton connecting to the back of his head.
And everything went black.
How could he be so stupid?
Hiro and Baymax were flying back to the docks at top speed, his robot fully charged and his mind on overdrive. In an effort to save time, he had stopped by the house and pulled out his old boost charge chip to give Baymax a quick restock on energy.
But by that time, it was already too late. He had received Wasabi's very hurried text message and immediately knew something was up.
He just hoped that it was just a false alarm.
Baymax pulled up over the warehouse on the end. "This is where Wasabi's phone last pinged onto the cellular system."
"OK. Take us down."
The two lowered to the dock, Hiro jumping the last ten percent. He wildly turned his head to search for Wasabi and Aspen. "Baymax, flashlight."
As the robot's light flashed on, it ran the course of the dock. Hiro was about to look away when he spotted something next to the warehouse wall. "Over there."
He ran to the door and bent down to hopefully see Wasabi's phone.
Only it wasn't what he found there.
Right next to the corner of the warehouse was a bowie knife, the blade shining in Baymax's flashlight. And it was currently stained with-
Hiro had to restart his brain. This wasn't the time for it to shut down; he had to think quickly. If there was one thing that Fred's comics taught him, it was that if there wasn't a body, they could still be-
Nope. That didn't help at all.
"Baymax, can you scan the DNA to see who it belongs to?"
"I cannot." Baymax's eyes started to spark uncontrollably. "It appears that my batteries have been overexerted, causing my medical systems to malfunction."
"Great," he muttered. "Just great. Don't know where they are, can't track them, and for all we know this could be anyone's DNA. How are we gonna-"
Hiro stopped himself short, one person pushing forward in his mind.
"Baymax, can you get us to SFIT? I have an idea."
The voices started to echo into his ears, sending Wasabi back to the land of bright lights and headaches.
Very bright lights.
"You were told to use non-lethal force! You could've killed her!"
"Sorry, sir. It was necessary."
He tried to get up, but the bindings around his legs and wrists weren't having any of it.
"I highly doubt that. However, you were able to secure the subject. You're lucky I don't report you. Now, go. I have to get started."
Groaning, he fluttered his eyes open. It turns out the lights weren't bright at all; being unconscious for an unknown period of time would make any light brighter than the sun. He was in a very small room, with no distinguishing markings; it was barely big enough to be a closet. In fact, it almost seemed like-
"I hope you're enjoying your stay, young sir."
Wasabi looked up and saw him walk into the room, slamming the door shut. His calm demeanor was a stark difference from what he was accustomed to, but even with the light shining above, the long white hair was a dead giveaway.
"Ahh, you do remember me. I'm flattered."
"I knew you were up to something! Where's Aspen?"
The doctor looked to the side, and Wasabi noticed for the first time his companion, lying down to his left. She was similarly tied up, her eyes closed still. "She's here. Don't worry. She'll be back to normal once we're done with her."
"Normal being her memory altered?"
Killian's eyes widened slightly, but returned to normal a moment later. "You are a smart one. I'll give you credit for that. Too bad once Aspen's been taken care of, we'll need to work on you next." He turned his back on them. "And then, we can focus on a much more important task."
He left the cell, leaving Wasabi to his thoughts. All he could think about was Aspen, and how she was doing. He looked down to see her…
Wasn't there suppose to be a stab wound?
Her green shirt was still cut down the side, but the giant gash that had been inflicted on her body was completely healed. No mark, no blood. Nothing.
He saw that Aspen was awake, breathing heavily. Her bracelets were digging into her wrist as well as the bindings, but that was nothing compared to the pain that she had in her eyes.
"I think...I wanna get that second opinion now."
Hiro ran into the building, turning the corner on a dime. He had only landed moments ago with both Baymax and his Skymax, shedding his armor and sending him off to go round up the others. Normally, he'd just gather them all and go search for their missing friend. But he had to make sure of something, and with Baymax's systems on the fritz and the nature of the situation at hand, there was really only one person that could fulfill his request at this point.
He skidded to a halt in front of her door. He had remembered that she had retreated to her lab to work on a prospective project for Fathom. He prayed that she was still in there.
His fist came down on the door harder than he had intended. Yelping slightly, he retracted his hand and shook it, his knuckled burning.
"What do you want, Genius Boy?"
For probably the first time in their whirlwind rivalry, Hiro was glad to see Karmi. He straightened up and looked at her. "Hey, Karmi. Is it a bad time?"
"It's always a bad time when you show up," Karmi replied. "I'm in the middle of something here."
He didn't even bother to ask what she was up to, walking into the lab in a huff. "I need you to do something for me. It's an emergency."
"...Sure. Come in. Make yourself at home," she sighed. "I'm going to ask again; what do you want?"
Hiro didn't answer immediately. He didn't want to give too much away, but things were getting dire quickly. There wasn't going to be an easy way around this.
"Aspen was in here earlier with you, right? Did she tell you about what happened to her and Wasabi last night?"
Karmi nodded. "Yeah. Car chase and all that. She wouldn't stop talking about it. Although she got rescued by Big Hero 6, which I'm glad she agrees it's awesome!" She clasped her hands together as hearts started to form in her pupils. "I wish Captain Cutie would rescue me again!"
Not the time to daydream, Karmi. "Well, they went out together again, and...I think something happened to them."
Karmi stopped her excited speech to look over at him.
She looked down to see Hiro unwrapping the knife from the cloth, her face going white. He held it up to her, almost like an offering. "I need you to check this for DNA. Cross-reference it with Wasabi's and Aspen's. I need to make sure that I'm not going crazy."
Karmi kept looking between the weapon and Hiro's face, her eyes narrowing. "This had better not be a joke."
"I swear it's not. Just...please."
She hesitated for a moment longer, but relented. She grabbed a new pair of gloves, put them on, and gingerly plucked the knife from his hands. "I'm going to need some time. I can do the extraction fairly quickly, but the search through the national database could take a while."
"I can fix that."
Karmi looked up from her swab to see Hiro tapping away at her laptop. "Hey, what are you doing?"
"Refining your parameters to match only the two of them. Should streamline the process."
For the next ten minutes, silence hung throughout the lab. Karmi was busy with her centrifuge, turning it up to as high an RPM as she could. Hiro was busy setting up his algorithm. His fingers were typing so fast they were merely a blur against the keyboard.
"There, I'm done." Hiro bent his back, trying to loosen it up. "What about you?"
"Almost there." Karmi grabbed a small computer chip from a drawer and placed it into her microscope, the test tube mixture being poured upon it. "I'm going to have to cheat a little bit with the forensics, but it should do the trick." Satisfied, she peered down into the viewfinder. "OK, everything's good. You can start it."
Hiro pressed the Enter key, and the computer worked its magic. The two teen geniuses stared at the screen while the window started scrolling away.
"You're really not joking, are you?"
He shook his head at the screen, not looking at her. "No. I don't joke."
"...Well. You don't joke well."
"Karmi, when it comes to my friends, I wouldn't joke about something like this."
She didn't respond, even though Hiro could tell she was still staring at him. Luckily, the ping from the screen saved him from her further interrogation. "OK, it's done." His finger hovered over the Enter key again, shaking uncontrollably.
Her finger softly pressed his down, opening a new window. Karmi peered down at it, slightly frowning.
"It's not a match to Wasabi."
Hiro breathed a sigh of relief.
"And it's not a...wait."
And the air went back into his lungs.
His body went sliding to the right as Karmi lightly pushed him out of the way, the wheels on the chair squeaking. She started typing away at something Hiro couldn't see. Her brow was furrowed in concentration as Hiro spoke up from near the door.
"It came back with a match, but it's blocked behind some sort of firewall. It's something out of the university's purview."
"I can get past it, if you let me."
"Oh no you don't!" Karmi turned her head to face him. "The last time I let you do that, we almost got killed in the basement of Sycorax. We're not doing that again!"
"Karmi, this isn't like that. This is Wasabi and Aspen we're talking about!"
She sighed heavily. She was definitely going to regret saying this. "Fine. Do it."
Hiro started scooting back over to the table, but the wheels made it rather difficult to travel. Luckily, Karmi decided to expedite the process, running over and pushing him hard in the back.
Now in front of the computer (and slightly disheveled), Hiro got to work. More focused now, he tapped away as more windows came up on her computer screen. "I'm going to first set up a secure connection and scramble your Wi-Fi entry point. Don't want anyone to know we're looking at this."
"Oh good." Karmi's voice was dripping with sarcasm. "How considerate of you."
"Well, considering that the level of security that's around this data is even higher than Sycorax, you should be thanking me. But I'm almost through." He put in the final password, all of the windows closing simultaneously. "There we go. I'm-"
The entire screen turned light blue, the fancy lettering starting to fill the background.
There it was again. The cursive, stylized capital F.
Karmi stared at the screen along with him, mouth agape. "Did...did you just break into Fathom Blue's servers?"
"No, we did. Technically."
A new window opened on the computer and it started to scroll through an employee database. After a few seconds, it stopped on a single person: Aspen Matthews. Her profile picture, DNA strand, and a wealth of other information came up as well.
"Why does Fathom have a database of DNA profiles of their employees?" Hiro asked.
Karmi still couldn't look away from the screen. "I'm...not sure. I do know that places with extreme work environments need to screen people for medical conditions. It was like that for Sycorax too. But this is on a whole different level. Look at all of this data. It's so...detailed."
Hiro glanced over at the knife on the table. He had almost completely forgotten about the current predicament with all of the stuff they were discovering. Even though it wasn't Wasabi's, his fear for his friend was starting to creep up again.
"Hey, hold on a second."
Karmi pointed to the screen and at the DNA strand. "This is all wrong."
"Here." She pushed the screen flat onto the table and ran her thumb along the hinge. The display projected into the air in a 3D model, the database's DNA and the DNA from the blood side-by-side.
"C'mon, Genius Boy. You're not a bio major, but even you should be able to see it."
Hiro peered closely at the projection and the two DNA strands. Genetics wasn't his strong suit, but something definitely did look off. The strands twirled lazily on the display, the nucleobases connecting the phosphate-sugars together.
"Wait." He pointed to the strand on the left. "That's not how DNA bases work. There's suppose to be one purine and one pyrimidine connecting each other. This one has just a single one bridging the entire helix."
"Right," Karmi confirmed. "Adenine to thymine, and guanine to cytosine. It looks like whoever put this into the system just mirrored the nucleotide chain to both sides. It's...actually kind of lazy. Anyone with any knowledge of DNA would have noticed this mistake immediately."
She overlapped the two strands together. "One of the sides does match the sample you gave me, so it's definitely Aspen, but this chain...I've never seen a strand like this before. I'm gonna complete the chain with the proper bases and run a search through CODIS real quick."
Karmi tapped a few keys on her keyboard, and a bunch of numbers and letters started twirling in the air. "It shouldn't take too long; I've isolated the chromosomes to only match-"
A red window came up with the accompanying loud noise. She peered up at it, confused. "OK, it's not suppose to be that quick. I wonder what the error message is."
Hiro had stepped away to try to get in touch with the others, but all he was getting were their answering machines. Frustrated, he slapped the phone back into his pocket. "I swear, the one time they don't answer..."
"If Go Go's building a can pyramid again, I'm gonna-"
He was suddenly yanked by the hood of his sweatshirt by Karmi, jerking him back toward the computer.
"What?" he shouted.
She silently pointed toward the screen, where the red window was flashing before their eyes. Over and over again, it was flashing a single message, the capitalized font only adding to the severity of it. Hiro's mouth opened in shock as he read it:
ERROR: NOT HUMAN
AUTHOR'S NOTE: OK, it was more like confrontation, escalation, then revelation. But whatever.
To the people who've read into Aspen's background (and who have been keeping up with this story), this wasn't really going to come as a huge surprise. Our girl Aspen is not a normal person. The whole water-controlling thing killed that narrative. But how special is she? That, my friends, is a question that will be answered later.
Oh, and you're probably wondering about the real name I gave Wasabi. It is also from Fathom, and it corresponds to the on-again, off-again boyfriend of Aspen Matthews in the comics. The first name? Also fitting for Wasabi.
But I'm not telling you what it is. :P
So yeah, Dr. Killian is also not all he says he is. But here's a question for you.
Is he the only one?
Chapter 5, Depth Charge, will be out next week. Read and review, if you like. Until next time, everyone.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5 - Depth Charge
Disclaimer: Big Hero 6 is owned by Disney. Aspen is owned by Aspen MLT. I'm gonna own this giant sandwich in a minute.
Chapter 5 – Depth Charge
In Karmi's lab, the two teen geniuses continued to stare at the red flashing light on the projection, its error message still hovering in front of them. She slowly pressed a button on the laptop, closing out that window.
"Did you contaminate the DNA, Genius Boy?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes!" He threw his hands out. "I mean...it was just sitting there. It was still wet. Why? Do you think it got mixed with some other animal or something?" He bent down to the screen. "Maybe you can check an animal database."
"Hiro, we can't just plop it in there!" Karmi said. "The NAGRP is huge! Even with narrowing it down, it could take days for me to check that. Besides, I already know it's not an animal."
Karmi brought up the solo DNA strand from the blood. "Because it's not a mix of DNA. It's one DNA sequence."
"So it is human?"
Hiro could tell she was trying really hard not to throttle him. "Grr. Try to keep up with me, Genius Boy."
"If it was primarily human, shouldn't you have gotten a result back?"
"No, because that's not how CODIS works. Even if the majority of the DNA is human, if it's not 100%, it will come back with an error. That error (she waved at the computer)."
He closed his eyes, trying to think as hard as he could. "So...it's not human. But it's not cross-contaminated. Which means...what?"
"That it's her natural DNA."
Under Hiro's confused look, Karmi pointed at the strand with her pen. "If Aspen's DNA had been tampered with, you'd see some sort of separation along the origin. There's no evidence of a helicase either. There is evidence of it being replicated, though. A-"
Karmi wheeled around to Hiro, a look of realization on his face. "I thought you didn't know anything about biometrics."
"I don't." He glanced over at her. "But Fathom does. That's one of the things they were working on when we first got here. The thing you looked at, remember?"
Her eyes widened.
"And DNA degradation and repair?"
"Hiro, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying...that something is definitely going on down there."
Hiro stared up at the projection again, the DNA twirling around in space. "And I think Wasabi and Aspen are right in the middle of it."
Speaking of those two…
It had taken a couple of minutes, but Wasabi had finally gotten Aspen up to a sitting position. The bindings around their arms and legs had made it rather difficult, but luckily she had gotten over her shock of being kidnapped enough to cooperate.
Aspen looked straight down at the floor, her shoulders slouched and her head hanging.
Alright, maybe she hadn't gotten over it.
"I just don't understand."
Her whisper carried throughout the entire room. "He's...he's taken care of me. He was working with me to make me feel better. Why would he do something like this?"
Wasabi shifted his body in front of her. He rested his forehead on hers to get her attention. "Hey."
Aspen's sad eyes looked up at him.
"I know that you're angry. I know that you probably have a million questions in your head. I can't imagine what you're going through right now. But we have to focus, OK? The most important thing is that we get out of here, get back to the surface, and get help."
"I don't know how you can be so calm," she said. "You act like you've been kidnapped before."
Wasabi didn't answer, instead focusing on his arm restraints.
"Oh. My. God." Aspen stared at him. "Please don't tell me you've been kidnapped before."
"Look, I will tell you all about it once we get out of this." Wasabi stretched his arms to try to get some room to maneuver, but it wasn't working. "Ugh! I can't reach it." He looked around for something to grab…
And his eyes fell upon his companion.
"Aspen, I need you to do something for me. I may have something that can help, but it's in one of my pants pockets." He turned his body around, his back now facing her. "I need you to reach into there and very carefully grab it. Turn around and use your hands behind your back."
She followed his instruction and scooted her body over, her back standing against his side. She leaned her upper body back, trying to get an angle into his pocket. She got one hand in…
Aspen craned her neck to face him, that flirtatious smile back. "Is that a knife in your pocket, or are you just happy to be with me?"
"...It's a knife."
"Just...be careful, OK?"
Wasabi felt the clasp on the holster unfasten, and the weapon (luckily still in its sheath) walk very slowly out of his pocket. It feel flat onto the ground, the blade glowing through the small indentions in the holder.
"Now, take it out of the sheath. Slowly. Once you do, put the handle between your shoes, sharp side up. I'll cut my rope on my hands."
Aspen did as she was told, staring at the glowing green blade. "Why do you carry one of your chef's knives around with you?"
"It's a long story."
Aspen gently set the knife down, pushing it with her feet right below his bindings. "When we get out of this, Wasabi, you have a lot of long stories you need to tell me about."
"I can't stop looking at this spiral. It's so interesting."
Hiro did a double-take at her. "Can you stop focusing on that for a second? We still need to figure out where Wasabi and Aspen are."
Karmi looked down at the screen, going through all of the options on her profile. "There's a button here. One that's not on any of the other profiles. It looks like some sort of satellite..."
A ear-splitting noise rang throughout the lab, causing both of them to cover their ears. Hiro saw that the noise was coming from his phone.
"Would you shut that thing up already!?"
Hiro glanced at the screen to see what part of his phone was causing the horrendous sound. He pressed the side button to get it off of sleep mode...and froze.
"Karmi, I have to go."
"I...I have to get out of here," he said, walking toward the doorway. "See what else you can find out in the system, OK?"
"Hey, wait!" Karmi yelled. "I am not staying here with someone's DNA and a company's secret database on my computer. What if someone finds out?"
"I scrambled the signal; it's fine." Hiro turned to her, walking backwards to the exit. "If anyone comes, just stall them until I get-"
Hiro didn't notice the doorway had opened until he walked right into the person coming from the other way.
"I should have known that you would be up to something."
"Professor Granville!" Hiro turned to see the dean right in front of him, her arms crossed in front of her. "I should really get going! Work and all that stuff! I'll just see myself-"
She put her hand on the door lock, the entryway closing with a whoosh.
"I think not, Mr. Hamada."
"But Professor, I-"
She bent down and looked at him with her most dangerous glare, and whatever retort he had ready quickly faded away.
"I was just contacted by Captain Matthews, who told me that it appeared that someone tried to gain access to their secure servers, and that the geolocation originated somewhere on campus. I assured the captain that no one would be reckless enough to try to do that under my watch, and I would investigate the matter immediately. Now, perhaps you would be able to enlighten me as to why you are in Karmi's lab at this hour?" She put a hand to her ear, wincing slightly. "And what is that awful racket I hear?"
He realized that the alarm was still going off, and then knew what he had to do. "Professor, I promise I will explain everything once I get back, but I have to go. Wasabi and Aspen-"
"Oh, so something is going on? I am glad you've told me of this. Perhaps your partner in crime can tell me what is going on?" she added, looking over at a very surprised Karmi.
"Professor." Hiro held his hand out, palm forward. "She only did what I asked her to. But I have to go. It's an emergency."
Granville's eyes narrowed even more, an impressive feat if not for the situation at hand. "What kind of emergency are we talking about here? How severe is it?"
"Well..." He shuffled his feet as he lowered the volume on the alarm. "If we were to numerize it, it would probably be a...six."
He hoped that she would get the hint. They had only briefly spoken before about how to talk around people who didn't know of their secret identities, but that was a while ago.
Thankfully, Granville straightened up, her pointer finger coming down on the door panel. The exit opened back up again, the hallway open for him. "Go. I will deal with you later."
Hiro wordlessly ran out of the lab. Granville turned to the other occupant of the lab, glancing between her and the display with the DNA strands.
"Professor, what is going on?"
She walked up to the laptop, continuing to study the work that she and Hiro had done. After a moment, she spoke up.
"Karmi, we have very little time. Explain to me what's happening. You have two minutes."
The two guards standing outside the holding cell stood still, waiting for their further instructions. The occupants inside had been rather quiet, which made their jobs rather easy.
So easy, in fact, they didn't see the knife blade flash down the hinges of the door.
And being pushed over.
The solid door fell over onto the two before they could even react. Wasabi craned his neck out and looked both ways before beckoning Aspen to come out.
"Coast is clear."
"Now I know why you told me to be careful with that knife," Aspen said, taking his hand and making off down the hallway. "Can I get one of those from my birthday?"
"No offense, Aspen, but you can control water with your mind. What do you want a knife for?"
"...Because it's pretty."
Wasabi stopped at the corner and peered around. "There's two more guards down there. I think we can get past them."
"What about a distraction?" she offered. "We have to go that way; it leads to the evacuation pods."
"Yeah, that could be a good idea." Wasabi looked around, trying to find something to throw. "What about-"
And then he noticed her walk off, a spring in her step...and right toward the two armored individuals.
"Aspen!" He made a grab toward her arm to stop her, but it was too late, she was already out of his reach. Cursing under his breath, he could only watch as she walked straight up to the guards, sweet talking them into a conversation. He couldn't hear her words, but he did notice the small wave aimed at him. She scooted over to the wall, making their gaze follow her. He slowly crept forward and tiptoed around their backs.
"I know this great sushi restaurant that you can go to. It's right on the pier. Highly recommended."
Wasabi couldn't help but roll his eyes. Unfortunately, rolling his eyes meant that they weren't looking where he was going...and didn't notice the comically placed water bucket next to the wall.
All three of them turned to see the student on the ground, his foot still stuck in the bucket. One of the guards blinked at him. "Wait...aren't you guys suppose to be locked up or something?"
"What? Nooo!" Aspen grinned at him. "What are you even talking about?"
The other guard shook her head. "No, I definitely think that's where you're suppose to be."
"Wasabi..." She whispered to him out of the side of her mouth. "I don't think they fell for it."
"Gee, you think?"
The guards pulled out their batons and activated them. "OK, you need to come with us. Don't struggle!"
A quick flash went in front of their eyes, and the ends of their batons fell off and clanked to the floor below. They could only stare in amazement as Wasabi stepped in front of them, his personal knife in one hand and the sheath in the other. "Sorry, you two. We have somewhere else to be."
He turned to the side to reveal Aspen, a liquid orb conjured from the excess water from the bucket. She raised a wry eyebrow at them.
The orb collided with them, jettisoning them down the hallway to roll up on the two other guards who had freed themselves from the door. Wasabi and Aspen turned on the spot, sprinting away.
"As much as I hate to admit it, Fred would be so proud of that pun."
Aspen smiled through her panting as she pointed down to the next doorway. "My sub is just up ahead. We can use that to-"
Another WHAM! resonated through the hallway, only this time it was a makeshift wall cutting off their exit.
Another way came down right behind them, trapping them together. Before they could react, holes opened up in them, lightning shooting out of them and hitting the two.
It only took a few seconds for the shock to subside, but it had the intended effect. Both of them fell unconscious to the ground, not moving when the walls retracted back into the ceiling and floor.
Dr. Killian walked up to the bodies and noticed the knife on the floor. He picked it up and examined it. "A graphene blade. Perfect for cutting...and utterly useless to me." He took the sheath and put the knife in it, leaving a little of the blade showing. Satisfied, he threw it onto Wasabi's body.
"What do you want us to do with them, sir?"
He looked back at his guards. "Put her in a spot where she won't get away this time."
Killian rubbed his chin. "Throw him into an escape pod. Send it somewhere far out to sea. With any luck, no one will find him until dehydration sets in."
"OK, so the quiet method it is, then."
Hiro sighed. He was now back on Baymax, armored up and his visor clicking out a signal. He was trying his hardest to focus on that, and not the two girls flanking him on his robot's back.
"Go Go, let him focus."
"No, he has to answer me first!" Go Go put the rest of her discs onto her back. "How do you know where he is? You haven't said a single word since we've left. You even made me go get Fred from his dinner thing!"
"They were serving hours devourers, Go Go!" Fred yelled from Baymax's arm. "What was I suppose to do?"
"That's...not how that's pronounced, Freddie."
"Hiro." The Korean continued to stare at him. "You still haven't explained what's going on. Baymax just showed up and told us to get ready. We need to know what we're going up against."
The teen genius stared down at his robot's back. He didn't say anything, only focusing on the signal.
He looked up to see Go Go, her hand on his shoulder. She opened her mouth…
"I'm going to beat the snot out of you if you don't start talking."
So much for being respectful.
Hiro sighed out loud. "Do you guys remember when Wasabi found those blades in Momakase's lair?"
The two girls nodded.
"Well...he came to me after we were done in the garage that day and wanted me to temper them down a bit. So I did that. He had a whole set, and a few extra ones. He said that...after he got kidnapped, he wanted to be able to protect himself. So I made him a holster for one of them so that he can carry it around. Just in case of an emergency."
Go Go narrowed her eyes. "OK. That's fine. Nothing wrong with that."
"...I also put a high-pulse tracking chip in the hilt."
Hiro could feel the glare coming from everyone. "He told me to do that. I didn't want to; I argued with him about it for a while, but I relented. He wanted a fail-safe in case he had to defend himself...and so we could find him in case something bad happened."
Honey Lemon looked over at her roommate, her counterpart's stare still on Hiro.
"Look, you can argue with me about it later. But right now, we have a new problem."
Baymax pulled up and landed on the dock, and the group of five found themselves back at the place where Hiro found the knife. He pointed off into the horizon.
"The signal's coming from all the way out there."
Fred jumped down and peered through his eyehole at the water. "He's at the DMD."
"Probably. But you and Honey Lemon don't have diving gear. Then again, even if we all did, the suits weren't meant to withstand that amount of underwater pressure. We need a better way down there."
A car honk came from behind them, and he just noticed that Go Go was not among them. That riddle was quickly solved; Wasabi's car came barreling down the stairwell, coming to a stop next to them.
Honey Lemon looked to see Go Go rolling down the window from the driver's seat. "Did you break into Wasabi's car, Go Go?"
"So what if I did? You gonna sue me?"
"Suing would require both parties to convene at a courthouse, the process becoming long and time consuming-"
"It was rhetorical, Baymax!"
Hiro looked it over, worried. "There's no way we're all going to fit in there. What should we do?"
"Me and my big mouth."
Hiro couldn't quip too much; he still had to focus on looking for Wasabi. Go Go and Honey Lemon were in the car, speeding around at the surface of the water. His armor was in the backseat, courtesy of a quick drop-off of his Skymax. Hiro and Baymax were traveling above them, eyes on the horizonfor any sign of their friend. The signal had actually gotten stronger, but not because they were getting closer.
"I think he might actually be above water." He looked all around the ocean, trying to spot anything. "The signal's much more clear."
"Hiro, you don't think he's..."
He didn't want to answer that question. "Just keep looking for him. We're getting farther from the base, so maybe he got a hold of a sub and escaped with Aspen. Fred, what about you?"
Fred, being the goofball he was, was standing on the roof of the car, a telescope to his eyes. "Nothing yet, landlubber! I will let ye all know when we make landfall!"
Hiro didn't laugh, although he appreciated the attempt at humor. They had been at this for about twenty minutes, and he didn't want to tell them that the signal had actually just cut out. It wasn't dead; it was turned off, which meant the blade had been returned to its holder. Now, was that because of him...or something else?
"On the port side!"
Hiro lurched to the side as Fred made the jump from the roof to Baymax, the telescope resting on his head. "I see something!"
It wasn't just Fred; a round vessel of sorts was coming into their view as well, the visible half of it covered in glass. On the other side was someone pounding on it.
A very agitated someone.
The car and Baymax pulled up to the sphere, the robot prying open the glass part. Wasabi looked worn out; his eyes were starting to get bags underneath them, but otherwise he looked fine.
"Your Super awaits, Wasabi!"
"I'm not in the mood, Fred," he panted, hands on his knees.
Go Go rolled down the window as well as her eyes. "It's not a 'Thank you', but it'll do. Where's Aspen?"
He pointed downward. "She's still at the base. Dr. Killian's going to wipe her memory again."
"Wait, the doctor?" Honey Lemon said. "What does he have to do with this?"
The response didn't come from Wasabi, but from Hiro. The group turned to the boy, still perched on Baymax's back. Hiro noticed the attention and waved it off. "I'll explain on the way. Wasabi, you can probably fill in some of the gaps. Let's go."
A few minutes and explanations later…
That was the only thing that Go Go could say in response once Wasabi and Hiro were done talking. The three boys were crowded in the back seat, Wasabi now in his armor. Go Go and Honey were in front, driving directly downward. Baymax was hanging onto the top of the car, his weight helping the dive down. Hiro had placed two gravity discs to the roof and floor of the car; the thinking was that the artificial magnetic field would help stabilize the car as the pressure increased.
But that was nothing compared to the pressure everyone inside was feeling.
"Poor Aspen," Honey Lemon whispered. "I can only imagine what she's going through."
Even Go Go had a solemn look on her face. "What matters is that we go rescue her and shut this thing down. You ready back there, Lover Boy?"
"Don't call me that."
The Korean turned in her seat to look at Wasabi, his visor the last piece he was putting on. "Hey, we're going to get her back. Get your head in the game."
"Hiro, there is an incoming transmission coming into my communications system. Do you wish to receive it?"
The blip came in on all six visors, the audio lines jumping up and down as the volume fluctuated.
"Are you there, Mr. Hamada?"
"Professor?" Wasabi asked. "What are you doing on the comms?"
"I am glad to hear that you are safe, Mr. Calloway. I assume the same can be said for Ms. Matthews?"
Ignoring Fred's whispered "Calloway?", Hiro butted in. "Professor, we're on our way down to the DMD to get her. But I don't know what we're going to face once we're down there."
"A very large amount of opposition, Mr. Hamada. Because I'm afraid the situation is worse than you think."
"Worse? How?" Now Go Go inserted herself in. "Hiro and Wasabi explained it to us. Dr. Killian was experimenting on Aspen. Extracting her DNA. Exposing her to so much electrotherapy on purpose that she was experiencing controlled memory loss. To what end...we don't know yet."
"I believe I may know to that end."
A picture came up on all of their viewfinders, twirling on an axis.
"The Blue Sun?" Honey Lemon said. "The mapping satellite?"
"It's not a mapping satellite."
Once again, the group turned to Hiro, his frown growing. "It's a tracking satellite. Used to track one thing and one thing only."
Wasabi's eyes flared with anger. "Aspen. He's been using it to track Aspen."
"I'm afraid that's correct," Granville said. "Karmi was able to do some additional work on the DNA Mr. Hamada recovered and found the link. Ms. Matthews' profile was the only one in Fathom's database that was linked to the satellite."
"Yes, was. Until an additional DNA profile was uploaded recently. One that partially matches Ms. Matthew's DNA."
"When was this?"
Hiro had the answer this time. "Right before the Fathom base showed up. Why else would they show up completely out of the blue? They found something down there. Something that they didn't want anyone getting to or want anyone to see."
Fred was peering into Wasabi's visor, his hood off and his eyes narrowed. He was clearly thinking about something. Maybe a pun or a joke.
"Can I ask something?" Fred put a pointy claw to his forehead. "Doctors don't normally deal with satellites, right? Those things are very far apart from each other. It's like peanut butter and onions; they just don't go together."
"Putting aside that...disgusting thought..." Go Go said, "Fred's right. He would need someone to work with. He couldn't have done this all on his own."
"You are correct, Ms. Tanaka. He would need someone with more access than himself."
She paused for a moment.
"Someone who has the capital and the wherewithal to come up with these sort of plans."
Hiro's eyes widened.
"Someone who has the power to hide all of this behind a very high level of security clearance."
Now the girls's.
"The highest level, in fact."
The other two followed suit.
The entire gang looked at each other, the same realization coming to all of their minds. Honey Lemon was the first to open her mouth, her voice shaking with fear.
"Oh my God."
Aspen could hear the guards behind the door talking, but she didn't care. Her restraints were back on here, a gag placed on her mouth. She had woken up to a very different room, but the situation was still the same.
And she felt like giving up.
She put her head on the dome, tears starting to pour down her face. She had no idea what had happened to Wasabi; all she knew was the doctor that she thought she could trust was a monster. And he was going to get away with it.
Too bad there was no one coming to get her. No one to help…
A sudden thunk came from the other side of the glass. Surprised, she turned to see the water in the oval-shaped container jostling around. Something was in there, and it was trying to get her attention.
She saw a shadow swimming around, shapeless at first but becoming more defined as it got closer. It reached out and put something on their side of the glass.
Wait. Was that...a hand?
Sounds of a struggle diverted her attention away from the container. Aspen whipped her head around to the large door, several more hollow thunks hitting it. After a moment, a laser blade jutted out, carving an imperfect circle into the steel. It shot out of the door, the piece landing right in front of her.
"Ladies and gentlemen, your heroes have arrived!"
A very familiar lizard jumped into the room, followed by four other heroes she hadn't met before. But were they ever a sight to see at this time.
The one in the green armor unbound her gag. "Are you all right?"
The voice sounded like she had heard it before, but she couldn't quite place it. Maybe she could if she was in a right state of mind.
"Big Hero 6?" she panted, holding still for him to cut her bindings off with his wrist blades. "How did you guys find me?"
"Hero's intuition!" the lizard yelled again. "Truth and justice and all that!"
The one other recognizable face smirked at her as she rolled up. "Don't worry about him. We're gonna get you out of here." She pointed a thumb at the smoldering circle of steel. "And you can put the door on our tab."
Aspen got up to her feet slowly, braced by the giant red robot. "I...I can't believe this. Big Hero 6. Here to save me. I'm honored."
"The pleasure is ours. Are you able to stand?"
"Yeah. I think I can."
"Good." The green-armored man held out his hand, grabbing hers and gripping it tightly. "Then let's get going."
There were almost out. The route being familiar to them, the team knew the best way to get back to the docks. To speed up the trip, Hiro had everyone jump onto Baymax, Aspen clinging tightly to Wasabi's body. They burst through the door leading to the main area, the target in their sights.
"Chop Chop?" Aspen looked up at her savior. "Really? Your teammates need to come up with a better name for you."
"Yeah, it wasn't my doing," Wasabi responded. "But you know what? Once we get out of here, we'll come up with something together, OK?"
"I think I would like that a lot."
"Red Panda, pull up!"
Wasabi and Aspen looked up to see the normal door was replaced by a very familiar thick steel wall, blocking their progress. Baymax came to an abrupt stop, the rest of the team jumping off.
"Classic super villain tactic. Great." Fred said, banging on the door. "Can this get any worse?"
"Well, well, well."
The seven of them wheeled around to see Dr. Killian at the other end of the dome, flanked by a wave of security guards. All of them had foregone their normal batons and were now wielding some sort of ballistic weapon, every single one trained on the group.
"Big Hero 6. It is a pleasure to meet you."
"You know I was being rhetorical, right? I didn't actually want the situation to get worse!"
He ignored Fred's outburst, taking a step forward. The team got into their ready stances, and Wasabi has his arm in front of Aspen, his blade activated. "You're not getting her, Dr. Killian."
Aspen's eyes widened. Was this deja vu? No, it couldn't be…
"Ahh, you know who I am. That makes this all the more better." He raised his hand, and the guards clicked their guns to active, the barrels blazing. "I will give you one chance, Big Hero 6. Give me the girl, and you will be able to leave under your own power. Refuse, and you will be dealt with...forcefully."
"You already know our answer," Honey Lemon said, popping a few orbs out of her purse. "You have to go through us."
"...Very well. If you insist."
Every single head turned to Aspen, who had interjected with her shout. She slowly started walking forward, much to the bewilderment of her rescuers, but she ignored them.
"I just want to know one thing. Why?" She stopped midway between the two groups, clutching her hands together. "Why did you do this? What would possess someone like you to do such terrible things? To someone that you've known all your life?"
"Because...he was told to."
Dr. Killian had opened his mouth to answer, but it was Wasabi's voice that filled the air. Aspen turned to face him, confused.
"Wasabi," Go Go whispered under her breath. "Now's not the time for this."
He shook his head, raising his voice. "Yes, it is. She has a right to know."
He glanced over at Dr. Killian, who was merely looking on in amusement. "He's not the only person who's been lying to you. He had help. Someone who could give him access to you. Someone who could pull the strings. Think about it, Aspen. Think about where you were. Where we rescued you from. Remember."
Aspen closed her eyes, thinking hard.
"From behind the door that you should have been able to get through."
Her eyes snapped right back open.
"The door that only opened for one person."
The sound of clapping started to reverberate through the dome. The team and Aspen turned to Dr. Killian...or rather the person that was coming out from behind him. The weathered hands came together over and over again, only stopping once they came into full view.
"Bravo, Big Hero 6. Bravo."
He reached under his arm and put the Naval hat back upon his head, the thinning hair now covered.
"You are just as smart and capable as Grace Granville made you out to be. Too bad it's all for nothing."
Aspen's breath caught in her throat. She was barely able to get out her next words, but they still rang through the quiet like it was a firework.
Captain Matthews stood in front of his men, staring his daughter down.
"What...what are you doing here? Did you know about him?" She pointed wildly at the doctor, her hand shaking. "Did you know what he was doing to me?"
"Aspen, be quiet."
"What did you just-"
"Aspen, be quiet!"
The harsh tone shut her up, and the captain continued on. "For once in your life, listen to what I'm saying to you. You need to come with me, Aspen. Your livelihood is dependent on it."
The team could only stare as she balled her hands into fists, the shaking becoming more uncontrollable.
"Aspen, we really don't have time for this. Listen to your father and-"
Aspen's eyes stated glowing bright blue, tendrils of energy getting thrown out of them. Her voice started to echo as the floor ruptured around her.
"You don't get to talk to me like that."
The team backed up to the wall as water pipes began to come out of the floor and burst. The water started to circle around her entire body, sharing the same blue hue as her eyes. All of them shared the same look of amazement...except for Wasabi.
"Wasabi, did you know she could do this?" Hiro had clearly noticed his nonplussed expression.
"Yeah. She showed me," he replied. "Might have something to do with that non-human DNA you mentioned."
"Gee, you think?"
Captain Matthews, all throughout the exchange, continued to stare at his daughter. Sighing, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small white remote and pressed the top button on it.
Electricity erupted out her bracelets, causing Aspen to scream at the top of her lungs. All of the water fell to the ground with her body, now on her knees writhing in pain.
"Aspen!" Wasabi had to be held back by Go Go and Fred as he stared helplessly at her.
The captain took another step forward, his hand still on the remote. "You didn't think I would come prepared, Aspen? For your little water tricks?"
"You..." Aspen peered up through her hair at her father, gritting her teeth. "You knew? This whole time?"
"Of course I knew, you silly girl!" Matthews yelled at her. "Ever since you rescued that stupid boy from the pool, I've known. So much untapped potential...and so much destruction. But you have proven to be very useful."
He pointed his remote at the main screen and pressed the other button. It turned on, revealing the satellite model on the screen. "And by your, I mean your DNA, of course. You will be part of something great, Aspen. Something that will change the whole world."
Honey Lemon was the first to respond, her hands clenching her chem-balls so tightly they were in danger of bursting. "You monster! You experimented on her! Your own daughter! What right do you have-"
"Don't you dare lecture me on what I can and cannot do with my own offspring, young lady. You are not in any position to do so," he spat, venom in his words. "The only position you're in now is to witness my greatest achievement."
"You're going to destroy them."
The captain turned to Wasabi, his curiosity piqued. "Oh? Whatever are you talking about?"
"It's never made any sense until I just thought about it," Wasabi said. "Why would you spend billions of dollars to build a satellite for one person? And then we figured out you found something else...something else that shared parts of Aspen's DNA. You weren't just tracking her...you're tracking whatever she is."
Wasabi looked over at the screen. "And you found it. And you're going to destroy it with the electrolaser on your satellite."
Hiro stared at him. "What are you-"
"Remember from before? The light-laser that was used to track the depths? It didn't make sense; the blueprint was off from what was shown. It's not a light-laser; it's an electrolaser. A giant one."
Captain Matthews smiled evilly at him. "Well, aren't you the smart one. Grace sure fed you a lot of info, didn't she? So she was lying when she said no one was accessing my servers. I'll deal with her once I'm done here."
He pressed the bottom button again, and a countdown clock began to tick down. He returned the remote to his pocket and wiped the dust off of his shoulder. "In ten minutes, the laser will fire on the specified coordinates, getting rid of what I've been searching for all of this time. And then I'll go around the globe, wiping every last one of them out of existence."
Hiro looked over the screen, amazed at the power levels. "This amount of energy...you're gonna cause a tsunami. It'll completely destroy San Fransokyo. Flood the entire West Coast. You'll destroy everything."
"A small price to pay, in the grand scheme of things."
The five human members of Big Hero 6 glared at him, raising their weapons again. "We won't let you do that," Go Go said. "That's our home too."
As the captain stepped back, Hiro lowered his voice again. "Guys, I may have a plan. But you're not gonna like it."
"Do we ever like the plans you never tell us about?" Wasabi asked.
"No, but you're really not gonna like this one. But it'll work. I just need some time...and a distraction. Keep everyone conscious, too."
"I can do that," Honey Lemon responding, two more orbs in her hands. "Leave it to me."
"OK. Keep them busy. I'll need a few minutes."
Fred looked over at the clock, already down a quarter of its time. "As long as it takes less than seven, bud."
"Drop your weapons."
Their attention went back to Dr. Killian. Matthews was back out of sight, and the doctor was in front again. "Since we've been distracted, I will extend my offer again. Drop your weapons and leave, and you will live."
Honey Lemon raised her arms slightly, the four orbs resting in her fingers.
"...If you insist."
The two pink balls fell out of her hands, landing on the ground...the immediate chemical reaction chaining to the water around Aspen. The sudden drop in temperature caused it to freeze and form a protective dome around her.
The blue orb rolled in front of them, the burst of flame coming from his mouth. "Finally, a blast from the past! Smokescreen!"
The gas erupted from the ball and hung thick in the air, obscuring the guards's vision. At least the team had some sort of ability to see with their helmets.
A giant mass grew in front of the team, clearing away some of the smoke. It was Honey Lemon, encased in another gelatinous animal. But it wasn't a rabbit this time.
It was a T-Rex. With a bow on its head.
"OMG!" Fred squealed. "It's like Globby is here with us!"
She turned back toward the guards, who were now recovering from their shock. "Wasabi! Grab Aspen and get her out of here!" She stomped toward them, a thunderous roar coming out of the makeshift dinosaur's mouth.
"Wow." Go Go threw her disc into the nearest guard. "Remind me never to make her mad."
Wasabi dove forward with Baymax, Go Go, and Fred. Hiro had made himself scarce to work his magic, but being on a time limit didn't help things. It didn't matter, though. He had to find her.
Granted, it wasn't that hard; the ice trails that Honey Lemon had made led right to the dome. Shoving a guard out of the way, he smashed his fist into the ice to reveal a very shaken Aspen. He plucked her up in his arms and started running back towards where he thought was the door, dodging laser fire, discs, and a very excited Fred.
An errant laser exploded at his feet and caused him to lose his balance. He turned in the air and landed on his butt, sliding on the floor until his back connected with the wall. Groaning, he looked down to see Aspen still in his arms, wincing from her own pain.
That was fair.
"Wasabi? W-who is Wasabi?" he stammered. "I don't know what-"
She stared at him, and he immediately feel silent.
"And you thought I was just a dumb girl."
"No." Wasabi smiled in all of the chaos. "I never thought that."
Aspen groaned and sat up, her hand still on his chest. "You call Go Go during that chase, and those two from Big Hero 6 show up? They come down to rescue me even know they should have no idea where I am? Knowing the same things about Fathom from when you were down here with your friends? It wasn't that hard to figure out."
She shakily pointed off to the giant gooey dinosaur, its tail swiping a few guards away. "Plus...Honey Lemon yelled your name, like, really loud. You should probably get a better codename."
"I told you mine already."
"No, you have the name of a product from an infomercial. You don't have a codename."
The activity around them came back into focus. The two dove behind a console, several lasers passing over their heads. Wasabi grabbed her wrist and tried to make her a smaller target. His palm grazed over the band...and he got an idea.
"These..." He pointed to the two white bands around her wrists. "These have to be inhibitors. Something to keep you in control."
"Yeah, I'm realizing that now," she replied dryly.
He activated the blade on his right arm. "I'm going to cut them off. I need you to stay very still, OK?"
It took a couple of agonizing minutes, but despite the shaking (from both of them), he was able to get them removed. They fell to the ground in a clatter, Aspen rubbing her wrists to get some feeling back.
The smoke cleared out, revealing a bunch ofgroaning bodies on the ground. Honey Lemon had dissolved her dinosaur, two guards caught in the leftover ooze. Go Go's disc was in flight and returned to her left gauntlet. Baymax was flying above it all, scanning the situation with Fred on his back. Hiro was still nowhere to be found.
"What are you doing?" Dr. Killian yelled, his hair disheveled. "I didn't tell you to stop!"
"No, you didn't."
Everyone in the dome turned to the boy genius in front of the center console. Wasabi noticed that there was a data drive sticking into one of the ports. He knew that he kept them in the top of his glove for hacking purposes.
Oh. That's what he was doing.
Hiro pointed up to the clock, which was thankfully now stopped at under a minute. "Doctor, I've changed the program. The satellite isn't going to kill anyone…not yet, anyway."
"What are you on about?"
Hiro narrowed his eyes. "Captain Matthews had already charged the weapon. I was able to stop it from firing temporarily by resetting the clock. But it still has an excess of energy that needs to be released. It'll be one percent of what it was suppose to be...and it's going to fire right into this base."
The doctor stood up and straightened his coat. "You're bluffing. Only the captain has the codes to change the trajectory of the satellite."
He watched as Hiro silently pressed a button on the console. A new set of coordinates appeared and replaced the old ones...ones that he recognized.
"Does it look like I'm bluffing?"
Killian stared back at Hiro in horror, whose smile grew wider. "I've looked at the evacuation plans in case of an emergency. The escape pods are close by, and from what I can tell, you, the captain, and these guards are the only people left on the base. You can get everyone out of here in four minutes...I've given you five. I would get going if I were you."
Luckily, the guards had somewhat faster thinking than the doctor; some of them were already scrambling for the exit. One of them grabbed the doctor by the arm. "Sir, we can't take that chance! We have to get out of here."
Killian continued to look at Hiro, the rest of the team gathering around beside him. Without another word, he backed up out the door, closing behind him and leaving the group alone in the dome.
"That was amazing!" Fred yelled. "You really made him think you were going to blow up the base with a giant space laser!"
Hiro turned back to the module and started rapidly tapping buttons. "Yeah, about that...a giant space laser is going to blow up the base."
They stared at the teen genius, who ignored them to focus on whatever he was doing. "Are you out of your mind!?" Go Go shouted at him. "Why would you do that?"
"Because we can't leave this place operational. They'll just move it and keep using it. We have to bring it down," he responded. "And stop yelling at me. I have to finish this one thing."
Aspen leaned up against the counter, sadness in her eyes. "What about the wildlife? We can't just leave them here."
Hiro hit one final button, a series of green check marks appearing on the screen. "That what I was working on. All of the animals with cages attached to the network has had their exits opened. They should be able to get out in time."
He turned to his robot. "Red Panda, is there anyone else in the base?"
Baymax was already finishing his scan when he asked. "There are no additional human beings in the base. We are the only ones that are left. However, we must exit immediately to avoid any catastrophic injuries."
Hiro nodded as he put his data drive back into his glove. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
It wasn't a very far run to the car. After Wasabi and Baymax broke down the steel door, they burst through to the docks, Wasabi's car waiting for them.
"Wait, you took the car down here?" Aspen asked. "Are we all going to fit in there?"
"We don't really have a choice," Wasabi said. The rest of the group piled in, Go Go at the wheel. He was just about to jump in himself when he noticed that she was still on the dock, staring back from where they just ran.
She jumped slightly and turned back toward him.
"We gotta go!"
With one last look over her shoulder, she started back toward the car. She went to grab his hand…
And was suddenly yanked back.
The looming figure of Dr. Killian seemed to appear out of nowhere, his hand firmly grasped around her wrist. His eyes were full of fury as he dangled Aspen in front of him.
"You miserable girl! You've ruined everything!"
Wasabi grabbed her other arm to try to pull her toward the car. "She's coming with us!"
Aspen grimaced in pain, the two men threatening to pull her apart. "Let...me...go!"
A blast of water erupted from beneath her, knocking both of them backward. Killian slammed into the far wall and slowly fell over, not moving. Wasabi went careening into the open door of the car, the inertia causing it to close behind him.
Having expelled all of her energy, Aspen fell to her knees in pain. She tried to get up onto her feet again, but her body was failing her. Wasabi made a motion to yell at her again, but a sudden bright light caused him and the team to look up.
One of the portholes in the roof showed a gruesome sight: a giant blue laser erupting from above them, aiming right for the base.
They were out of time.
Wasabi shouted once more as the light enveloped them all, the shock wave of the explosions sending them off into the depths below.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hoo boy.
This one was rough. A lot of action, a lot of back story, and a lot of surprises.
I say every tie that it's a long chapter, but this one is really long. The funny thing is that I actually had to cut some stuff out of this as well, so it would've been even longer than what it is now. I do feel that it might be a little bloated, so I might go back and edit some stuff out, but not too much.
For the smart ones who've read this story and thought that the captain was up to no good...you were right. It was one of the secrets I kept close to the vest. But if you really thing about it, there was no way he wouldn't be involved. He is the big boss, after all.
So, after this giant novel of a chapter, where are we going to go from here? Well, we have to find out what's happened to Big Hero 6 and everyone else.
And we're not done yet with the surprises, including one that no one will see coming...unless you've been paying attention.
Another Marvel cameo won't hurt either...and it won't be someone with powers this time.
Read and review, if you like. Until next time, everyone.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6 - Shock Factor
Disclaimer: Big Hero 6, Aspen, all characters associated with her, and any other random Marvel cameos are not owned by me.
Chapter 6 – Shock Factor
"Mr. Hamada? Are you there? Mr. Hamada?"
Granville tapped her ear to make sure her headset was still working.
"Mr. Hamada, if you can hear me, I need you to respond immediately."
She was at the docks, an all too familiar place over the past few days. She had driven there immediately after the last transmission from her student, expecting them to arrive back to the surface in time for her to offer assistance.
But it had been far too long since that time, and now she was starting to worry. The storm clouds circling far out to sea were not helping matters.
Granville turned around to spot the additional person she had made the trip with. "Karmi, I believe I told you to stay in the car."
"I need to know what's going on. Why are you calling Hiro?"
The dean narrowed her eyes at her student. It was not in her benefit to divulge Hiro's whereabouts, especially at a fragile time like this. "Karmi, please return to the car."
"Where is he?" she asked, her voice shaking. "Don't tell me he went out and tried to do something. He kept going on and on about Wasabi and Aspen getting kidnapped. I don't know what I'd do if-"
Granville bent down to Karmi, her voice steady.
The bio-tech student stopped mid-sentence. The seriousness of her last name being said had the intended effect. "Both you and I know that Mr. Hamada is a somewhat reckless person, but even we would not believe him to be a fool in the face of an impossible situation. I have attempted to contact him several times, but he has not answered. That in itself means nothing. But we must remain calm. I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he has not responded."
Karmi looked out to the ocean as she attempted to calm herself down. "Yeah, you're right. Not even Genius Boy would be that stupid. He's probably at home drinking tea or something. Yeah, that's what he-"
She stopped again, noticing the sky out over the ocean turning a bright blue. "Professor, what's that?"
Without warning, a giant laser shot down into the water, hitting the surface. The immediate shock wave rushed up on them, whipping the air into a frenzy.
"Karmi," Granville said. "Go back to the car. Lock the doors. Do not come out until I come and get you. Is that understood?"
"Please do not make me repeat myself. Go."
She heard her student's steps walk away, her gaze still on the laser. This was turning out worse than she had imagined. She brought her cell phone up to her ear, the number already dialed.
"Patch me through. This is an emergency."
A short dial tone rang in her ear, and a different person picked up the second time. Before they could even respond, Granville cut in. "I need you and a team to meet me at the San Fransokyo waterfront. There's a situation that requires your attendance."
"What are you talking about?" the man on the other line said. "I haven't seen anything pop up on my newsfeed."
"Give it about five seconds."
She counted them down in her head as she heard the click of a keyboard in the background. At five, the sound of a chair being toppled over clanged loudly over the phone. "Holy cow."
"How fast can you get here?"
"I can get a team to your location in fifteen."
"Make it ten," Granville said. "I have a feeling we're going to need every available person in your employ for this one." She looked behind her at the parking lot. "People are already starting to gather. We'll need a perimeter so that we don't have any prying eyes."
"Yeah, I know the drill." Footsteps clanked on metal as the man walked onto some sort of vehicle. "Wheels are up now. Be there in ten."
She ended the call, not waiting for a reply. She stared up at the sky, the laser dissipating from above the gray clouds.
"Mr. Hamada...what on Earth did you do this time?"
Every part of her body hurt.
It was like she had gotten hit by a truck. And that truck turned around and hit her again. And a meteor fell into that truck.
Times about a hundred.
Despite the pain, her mind was...calm. Soothed. It was such a weird juxtaposition that her brain couldn't handle it. She couldn't tell which way was up and which way was down.
But her back was definitely against something. She opened her hands and dug into it. Sand. Nice and loose. Good. She was still alive.
All she had to do was open her eyes.
But she really didn't want to.
"Come on, Aspen," the little voice in her head said. "You can do it. But don't freak out if you see the Pearly Gates."
One eye creaked open. Then the other.
The first thing she noticed was that everything seemed very cloudy. Her entire field of vision was distorted, likely from the concussion she had sustained. But this was different; she couldn't see any clouds or stars in the sky. Something was wrong.
A school of fish swam by, going up over her head.
Maybe her eyes were playing-
Said eyes narrowed.
Wait a minute.
The pain, so enormous a moment ago, was subsiding at an alarming rate, letting her get up to her feet. Her body started to hover above the ground and she looked at the ocean depths all around her.
OK, this was really starting to get really weird. She took a deep breath in…
"Wait. I'm not suppose to be able to breathe down here."
She paused again, her brain on overdrive.
"I'm not suppose to be able to talk, either."
Aspen Matthews was at least two miles below the surface of the ocean. And her body was acting like it was nothing.
Her jacket had been blown off, leaving her in just her shirt and jeans. But that wasn't the important part. Normally, she would need a submarine light to see her surroundings, but her vision was lighting up the water like she was scuba diving near a coral reef. She didn't feel wet at all; it was almost like the water was barely touching her body. She kicked off of the ocean floor and she shot away, barely having to think about moving as she skimmed over the sand and seaweed.
A smile came over her face. It was liberating. It was fantastic. It was-
Aspen pulled up at the top of a cliff. She just noticed a truly horrific sight: the remnants of the DMD base, metal and glass strewn everywhere as far as the eye could see. The cliff she was on was clearly made by the giant laser that had shot down.
It was a disaster. So much destruction. But it had been necessary; Wasabi and his friends couldn't let the base stay operational anymore.
She suddenly remembered who had been down there with her.
"Wasabi," she whispered.
She torpedoed off down the cliff and started scanning the area. She didn't even know where to begin; there was so much debris around her. She set her hands on the nearest metal slab and tried to push it. No dice. It wasn't budging.
"They are not here."
Aspen turned her body around, looking every which way. Was she hearing things?
"Your ears are not deceiving you."
A shadow came out of the corner of her eye. Thinking it to be a shark, she fell back a little, bringing her hands up for protection.
"I am in no condition to fight you. Either way, I am not your enemy."
Aspen watched the shadow came forward and start to take shape. It wasn't a shark. It wasn't a fish. Heck, it wasn't even a sea animal.
It was a young woman, adorned in what looked like a silver metal suit of armor. It hugged almost the entirety of her body except her arms, which were instead covered with cuts and bruises. Her hair was tied in a loose ponytail, a few strands of white running through the vibrant red. She sat her feet down in the sand as she held her left arm to her body. Grimacing, she looked up at the marine biologist, who could only stare back at her.
"...Who are you?" That was the only thing she could get out.
The mystery woman, despite being worse for wear, gave her a small smile. "Intriguing. You're the first person to inquire as to who I am, and not what I am. You are a very interesting creature. I-Hng!"
She dropped to her knee, wincing in pain. Aspen swam over to her and inspected her body. "Are you OK? Can I help?"
"I will manage. I am not the one that requires help." She pointed over to her left into the abyss. "Your companions...the ones that rescued you...they are in dire circumstances."
Without a second thought, Aspen put her arm around the woman's waist and carried her off to where she was pointing. It wasn't a very far swim; not twenty seconds later, she spotted the car half sunk into the ocean floor.
She set the woman down on the ground and got closer. "Please don't be dead. Please don't be dead."
Aspen put her hands on the windshield. She saw all five bodies in the car, unconscious but alive. To her left she saw Baymax, deactivated and lying motionless face down. She spied a metal disc on the roof inside, its energy level running low. Cracks were just staring to form on the door windows, the ocean threatening to engulf them.
"Whatever contraption that is, it is keeping that vessel from caving in from the pressure. You must get them to the surface and to land if they are to survive."
"I...I don't know what to do." Aspen was struggling to regain her composure. "I can't lift that. It's too heavy."
"Are you one of us or are you not?"
"What? What are you-"
And that's when it clicked into place. The tank. The hand that was in it, reaching out to her. The closely guarded secret that was kept from even her.
"That was you." She pointed a shaking finger at her. "You were in the room with me. They caught you."
"A mistake that I would be willing to rectify if not for the situation at hand," the woman replied. "You have your task; I must return from where I came before my captors notice I am free."
"Wait!" Aspen glanced at the car, her head still reeling. "I don't know what to do! You can help-"
She turned back toward the woman, but all she saw was empty space. She was gone just like that.
Aspen looked all around her as her frustration mounted. "I don't even know your name!"
The yell fell on deaf ears, the silence rolling over her once again. She swung her fist in the water, wishing that it could connect with something.
"My name...is Kiani."
The voice sounded like it was coming from all directions.
"And you, Aspen Matthews, possess much power within you."
She looked back at the car, her brow furrowed in determination.
Aspen swam to the front of the car, putting her palms together. She started to concentrate…
"Strengthen the connection you've made so far to the waters..."
She felt the energy start to wrap around her hands, the blue glow shining through the circulation.
"And your power will know no limits."
Aspen raised her hands above her head and gathered the car and Baymax on top. The makeshift spout began to carry its cargo up to the surface, Aspen right behind them.
"May the currents run in your favor, Aspen Matthews. Until we meet again."
Every part of his body hurt.
It felt like he had gotten hit by a truck. A giant truck made out of lasers that had fallen out of the sky.
But he felt the pain subsiding. He wasn't sure why, but the feeling on his lips was making everything better.
And then he felt something else: the water coming up through his throat.
Wasabi sat straight up, coughing up a little bit of the ocean that he had ingested. A sudden rush of noise started to fill his ears, as well as the arms going around his neck.
"Whoa! Aspen! Let him breathe!"
"Yeah, let Lover Boy live for two seconds before you accidentally kill him."
The rest of the world came back into focus, and Wasabi began to take stock of his surroundings. Aspen was the one wrapping him in a bear hug. He still had his visor on, but his chestpiece had been removed, lying next to him on the dock. He saw Honey Lemon and Go Go standing off to his right, relieved expressions on their faces. He only heard Fred and Hiro behind him, talking to Professor Granville about something he couldn't decipher.
But he was alive. And everyone else was too. Including her.
Wasabi put her hand on her back, the other still steadying himself. "Are you OK, Aspen?"
"Yeah, I'm good now." She pulled back to stare at him in the eyes. "I...had to perform CPR on you. You swallowed some seawater when I pulled you guys out of the water. Looks like those classes paid off."
"I say that Wasabi enjoyed the CPR a little too much."
He saw Honey Lemon hit Go Go with her shoulder, but he was too tired to clap back at her.
"Ahh, Mr. Calloway."
He felt the dean's hand on his shoulder, as well as the others walk up behind him. "I see that you have returned to the land of the living. We were all worried about you. It would be best if we got you checked out."
"Just have Hiro and Baymax scan me," he mumbled. "I'm feeling a lot better now."
"Umm..." Honey Lemon was glancing between him and Aspen, the unspoken question hiding in her eyes.
"It's fine, guys." He craned his head to look at everyone. "She knows. Or...she knew." Under all of their stares, he threw his hands up in the air. "Hey, I didn't tell her! She figured it out on her own."
"Yeah," Aspen said. "Ever since we got chased and Go Go and Fred had to save us, I've known. Which reminds me..." She smirked at Hiro. "Chop Chop? Really? You couldn't come up with something better for him than that?"
"Trust me, I had nothing to do with the codenames."
"But seriously," Aspen said as she looked down at Wasabi, "We need to think of a better thing for you. Something a little more suitable. Something like-"
The charging buffalo that was Karmi came out of nowhere, glomping Hiro and sending the two careening off to the side. Oblivious to the iron hug that was being doled out, Aspen tilted her head in thought.
"Yeah...I guess something like that could work. We'll have to put our minds together."
Behind her, Hiro was busy trying to dislodge his throat from Karmi's grasp. "Karmi...I need to breathe."
"Oh! Sorry!" She loosened it a tiny bit. "But I'm so glad you guys are OK! You saved the day again!"
"Yup." Hiro donned his superhero voice. "Just a normal day for Big Hero 6!"
Karmi smiled at everyone else, but frowned suddenly. "Wait. Where's Hiro? Did you guys find him? Did he go down there? Did he do something stupid?"
Aspen glanced at Wasabi. "Wait, does she not-"
Wasabi cleared his throat and slashed at his throat, indicating to her to not go any further.
"Well..." Hiro was busy trying to think of an excuse. "You see, I did run into Hiro. He wanted to take matters into his own hands, but I told him to leave the rescuing to the professionals. I left him over at the police station. Yeah, where he totally is right now. But he was a big help to us!"
Karmi set her hand on her chest. "Oh, thank goodness! I was sure that..." She looked down, not noticing the seven other people in the group staring at the two. After a moment, she clenched her fist in anger.
"I'm going to kill him!"
Granville's smile was a stark contrast to Hiro's worried look. "Karmi, please do not threaten physical harm onto one of your classmates. The police have their hands full with everything else; I do not wish to give them any additional work."
"The police? What are you-"
And that's when Wasabi noticed everything else around him.
The far end of the dock, as well as the surrounding warehouses, were entirely filled with police cars and officers, the lights shining up the area like a disco ball. There were also several men and women in black suits, interviewing the employees of the company.
"Before we left, I overrode the navigational systems to the escape pods," Hiro said. "That way, they couldn't go anywhere else other than here."
"And you expected the police to be here?" Wasabi asked.
"Well...I didn't think that far ahead."
The sound of someone clearing their throat came from their left, and the entire group turned to their left to see one of the suits was standing by. He, like the others, had a pair of sunglasses over his eyes, but his balding head and wrinkles on his cheeks made him look much older than everyone else.
Granville straightened up to face the man in the suit. "...Philip."
The two stared at each other for a moment. She was the first to break the silence as she pulled out her phone. "I was afraid you weren't going to answer."
"Yeah, well, I wasn't expecting a call from you. Normally that line's reserved for emergencies, but I guess this counts as one, doesn't it?" He bent down to the group and gazed over his sunglasses. "By the way, I ama bigfan of you guys. I'm a bit of a superhero snob. Do you think I can get a signed photo or-"
Granville rolled her eyes at him.
"...Yeah, you know what? Not the time. We'll talk later."
The two adults walked a bit away to give them some space. "What's the situation, Philip?"
The man sighed deeply. "Perimeter's set at about a mile and a half. We're working with the local police to investigate and interview everyone, but the chief's being a pain. Doesn't trust anyone."
"So I've heard. You'll have to forgive him; he's a little over-the-top."
"A little? He practically ran up on those guys (pointing a thumb over his shoulder at the group) and tried to interrogate them. Luckily, I was able to calm him down."
Granville glanced back at her students, Aspen now in conversation with Honey Lemon. "Have you been able to discover anything from your interviews?"
"It's been a rough going. Everyone we've talked to apparently didn't know about the giant space laser. Whether they're actually telling the truth or covering their tracks is something we have find out. Otherwise, someone might get off scot-free."
"I think I can help with that, sir."
The agent looked down to see Hiro beside him, holding up what appeared to be a flash drive. "And what's that?"
"Everything that was on the servers down at the base. I was able to download it before it got destroyed. It might help you with your investigation."
He took the drive and inserted it into his phone, lines of data scrolling down over it. The agent nodded his head silently for a few seconds, then nodded to the nearest suit. "Get this to our data guy, OK? On the double."
Satisfied, Hiro walked back to the group. The agent leaned into Granville's ear. "Is he always this prepared?"
"Like you would not believe, Philip," Granville replied. "But you should probably focus on your people, and not them. Have you taken a head count of the employees?"
"Yeah, it's weird." The agent scratched the back of his head. "There's one person that everyone keeps saying they can't find. A Doctor...Killian? But here's the thing. We've seen the employee database, and there's no record of a Killian ever working there."
"...Grace, are you not telling me something?"
She turned and started walking back toward the group of eight. "Let me know if you need anything else, Philip. I must attend to Aspen. The girl has been through a lot tonight; I want to make sure she is OK."
The rush of adrenaline that had been running through the entire group was subsiding, and Aspen was looking over all of the people on the dock. Wasabi looked in the same direction as Baymax (now reactivated) was scanning him over. "Man, what a night, huh?"
"Yeah," she said softly. She was clearly looking for someone, and he immediately knew who that was when she suddenly gasped.
Captain Matthews had made his way out into the open, the hat under his arm. He was flanked by two of the agents and being interviewed by a police officer. He looked calm and collected, a sharp contrast from down in the base against Big Hero 6.
Wasabi could already tell Aspen was getting anxious again. He wasn't expecting her to get up and start walking toward him. He grabbed her wrist to stop her progress.
"Aspen. Don't even think about it."
The rest of the group came up behind him as Aspen turned back. "I need to talk to him."
"Yeah..." Go Go sighed, her arms crossed. "That's probably the worst idea I've ever heard."
"You don't understand. He's my father." She looked behind her at him. "He's going to have some sort of explanation for all of this. I know it."
Confused, she stared at the last member of the group to join. "What? What are you talking about?"
She looked straight at the girl, her pink phone shaking in her hand.
The bio-tech student stared back at her, trying to keep her composure. "Aspen, there's something I need to tell you. About your DNA."
Aspen chuckled. "Yeah, I already know what you're going to say. I'm not entirely human. I sort of guessed that with the whole water manipulation thing. I heard a lot about it from these guys when I was down there."
She stared at Karmi, who glanced over at Hiro before bringing up her phone. "Hiro brought back the knife you got stabbed with to me. We were trying to figure out who the blood belonged to, which we did after I analyzed it. And then after he ran out, I...analyzed it some more."
Karmi brought up the screen to show her the spiral. "Your DNA was incorrectly put into the database. I was able to add it back into the Fathom server. Since it was an abnormal strand, I did a search to see if there were anything else in the system that matched up with you."
"O...K. I don't know where you're going with this."
Karmi cautiously looked over her shoulder at her professor, whose face was grim. "And then I compared it to everyone else's DNA in the system, looking for other abnormalities...and similarities."
Aspen said nothing. The rest of the group also went silent.
"Aspen, I don't know how to tell you this."
"So just say it."
Karmi clenched her fist to stop the jitters, but to no avail. "There were none. There were no similarities between your DNA or anyone else's. No structural ones...or familial ones. Not to the foreign part of your DNA or your human part."
Her blood started to run cold.
"There's no shared DNA between you and the captain."
And then her heart stopped.
"Aspen, Captain Matthews...he's not your father."
Her eyes blinked once. Then twice. She stumbled backwards, almost like she had been punched in the gut.
"N-no. No, that can't be right," Aspen stuttered. "You're wrong."
"You're wrong!" she yelled at the top of her lungs.
Karmi, to her credit, stood her ground, although she looked like she was about to keel over. Hiro stepped forward and put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"...I'm not," Karmi repeated quietly. "I may be a lot of things, Aspen. Stubborn, hard-headed, unwilling to open up..."
Wasabi saw the look of knowing come over Hiro's face, but he didn't say anything.
"But one of the things I'm not...is wrong. I checked it over and over again. Did the extraction two more times. Everything came back with the same result."
Whatever remaining color that was in Aspen's face drained from it.
"I'm so sorry. I wanted to be wrong; I really did."
Aspen was shivering from head to toe, and without Wasabi standing up and grabbing her, she would have fell over. She was staring right into the ground, eyes dancing around wildly.
"Are you OK?"
She looked up at him, her composure now a complete 180. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I just...I think I need a minute."
"Of course." He let go of her shoulders. "Take whatever you need."
Wasabi watched him slowly walk off, then turned to Karmi. "Don't feel bad, Karmi. You did what you had to do."
"Yeah. So why don't I feel good about it?"
Fred pointed with a claw down the pier, and they turned to see Aspen still walking...right at Captain Matthews. The air pressure dropped drastically as water started to churn around her body, the power surge starting to affect everyone around them.
"Ohh no." Even Baymax could tell what was happening. "Aspen is going to inflict possibly fatal bodily harm onto the captain."
"Professor, take Karmi and get her out of here!" Hiro jumped onto Baymax, activating his thrusters. "We have to stop her!"
The six of them leapt forward, ready to subdue her...but Aspen had other plans.
A gigantic spout of water erupted from the cracks of the docks, sending Fred flying into the bay.
"Oh, this is not cool at allll!"
Honey Lemon and Go Go threw a chem-ball and disc at her, but a quick wave of her hand blew both of them away, as well as half of the officers on the pier. Her eyes were glowing as she stared back at them, her voice echoing in their ears.
The two girls were able to dodge the first gigantic wave aimed at them, but only barely; they weren't so lucky on the second one. They went barreling down the far end of the pier and stopped, not moving.
"Rocket Fist, Baymax!" Hiro yelled. "Do it!"
The projectile came out immediately, but the tendril of water conjured by Aspen plucked it out of the air. She waved it off into the direction of the bay…
"Man, her power level is off the charts! If only I had a scouter-Ugh!"
And right into Fred, who had been trying to climb back into the fray.
Several feet away, the agent turned to his companion, startled. "Grace."
The dean said nothing as she stared at the brawl going on.
"Grace, I will put her down if I have to."
"I trust them, Philip. They can do it."
Meanwhile, Aspen slammed Baymax and Hiro into the pier, holding them down with more water. Satisfied, she turned to the only remaining occupant on the dock.
"Aspen, you need to-"
A column of water pushed the captain all the way into the nearest warehouse door. She kept the pressure on him as she walked over to Captain Matthews, only relenting after a few more seconds. Coughing, the old man looked up at her, his entire body wet. "Aspen-"
She conjured an orb into her hand, but changed it into a long spike. She stared at him, her entire body radiating energy.
"You don't get to call me that."
It wasn't the captain that had responded. In her blind rage, she hadn't noticed Wasabi walk up to her side. She slowly stepped in between the two of them. "Aspen, don't do this."
"Get out of my way." The spike continued to shine as her hair danced wildly around her body.
"No." Hopefully she wouldn't notice his knees shaking.
"He doesn't deserve to live!"
"You don't get to make that call," Wasabi said. "Listen. Listen to me. He is going to pay for what he did to you. We'll make sure of that. But you can't cross that line, Aspen."
Her glowing eyes stared at him. "And what if I want to?"
Wasabi inched closer, his chest right at the point of the spike.
"You better not miss, then."
Aspen's eyes widened at the bold move. They traveled from him to the captain on the floor, going to Honey Lemon and Go Go staring at them from the ground, and finally Hiro and Baymax still struggling against their bindings.
The spike lost its shape, dropping to the ground harmlessly. Baymax was finally able to break free. Aspen's hair returned to her normal weave, the eyes going back to her regular blue color.
Wasabi sighed heavily. "Thank you."
The captain had stood up behind the two, undeterred from what had happened. He stood up straight and stared down at her. "You were going to be a part of something bigger than yourself. We would've gone places that no person would've imagine. We-"
The hand came flying out of nowhere, slapping him right on the side of the face. Wasabi hadn't even noticed her move; it was that quick. Her hand was quivering from the strike, but her voice was firm.
"The only place that you can go...is to Hell."
"Gentlemen," Granville said as she nodded to two of the nearest suits who had since recovered from the sudden tide. "Get him out of here."
"Grace, I'm in charge here. You don't boss my people around." Philip glanced at the two, waving his hands forward. "Well, what are you waiting for? Get him out of here."
The captain was led away, and Wasabi breathed another sigh of relief. The team gathered around him one by one. "Are you alright, Wasabi?" Hiro asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"OK, I stand corrected. That was the worst idea ever." Go Go smirked. "You're lucky Aspen didn't impale you."
"I knew she wouldn't."
"Did you, though?"
He chose not to answer that question, instead looking around at them. "Hey, where did she go?"
The entire group wheeled around, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. "She has got to teach me her ninja skills," Fred muttered.
Wasabi stepped forward and looked down. He was the only one to see it: a series of wet footprints, an increasing amount of distance between them until they stopped at the edge of the dock.
"...I think she's going to need more than a minute."
It had been almost two days since the destruction of the DMD, and Wasabi was still in a terrible mood. He found that he couldn't concentrate on anything, instead staring off into space at his work station. He didn't even move when Go Go raided his toolbox, a sign to even her that he was not doing well.
He had tried to contact her, but quickly remembered that she had no phone. He halfheartedly tried to make an e-mail and got blocked; the entire Fathom system had been shut down, no thanks to their actions. The news was blaring story after story about the company and its new-found financial trouble, but he didn't care.
Karmi was also in an awful mood, blaming herself for Aspen's outburst and battle with Big Hero 6, although the group couldn't properly relate without giving away their secret identities. They had managed to cheer her up a little, but in retrospect, Wasabi thought, it would've been better to send someone other than Hiro to her lab.
At least she apologized immediately after slapping him this time.
Wasabi stopped at the dean's door. Granville had summoned him for unknown reasons, but he couldn't be bothered to think of any of them. Sighing, he turned the knob and entered. Granville was at her desk, typing away at her computer. She glanced up at him and stopped.
"Mr. Calloway, thank you for coming." As Wasabi walked forward, she closed her laptop and turned her chair to the front. "I was wondering if you have heard anything from Aspen."
"No," he said simply. "I wouldn't even know where to start. She could be anywhere right now."
"That's quite understandable, but I believe it is imperative to find her. We would not want her to injure anyone, especially in her current state right now. And since you are the one that she has...found the most comfort in, I feel that we could pool our resources together and come up with a course of action."
Wasabi slouched his shoulders down. "Professor, I want to find her. I really do. But like I said, I don't know where-"
He stopped himself short, his brain latching onto what she had said.
Granville stared at him. "Mr. Calloway?"
"...I think I know where she is."
A long drive later...
His hunch had been right.
He stepped into the locker room, the combination lock in his hand. He knew that everyone had their place of comfort to go to when things were bad. He had his...and she had hers.
And there she was.
Wasabi saw her sitting at the edge of the pool, one of her legs turning in the water, the other being held into her body. Her back was to him as he walked over to her.
She didn't acknowledge him, her leg still churning the water.
"It was a cool trick, using your powers to put the lock back onto the door. Didn't think I would get in. But I...cheated a little." He tapped the pocket with his knife in it, the cut in the shackle clean and swift. "Remind me to buy a new lock for the base."
"You're probably wondering how I got on base. Turns out Granville has a military ID. Who knew?"
Wasabi took his shoes off and sat down next to her, his feet now in the water. For the first time, she saw her face. It was still as pretty as always, but the red veins in her eyes were a sharp contrast to the normal blue hue. She had been crying. A lot.
"We were all worried about you."
She looked at him for the first time, an eyebrow raised.
"Some of us more than others."
Aspen looked back forward. "Wasabi...I'm not really in the mood to talk right now."
He stared down at the surface and his reflection rippling in the water. "Well, it's a good thing I didn't come here to talk."
She saw him out of the corner of her eye, only noticing too late he was leaning forward, his pants and sweater now discarded and the yoga clothing on his body.
"I came here to swim."
With that, he fell face forward into the water, the shock of the cold only eclipsed by the shock on her face. After a moment, he came back to the top and whipped his hair out of his face. "Come on in! The swimming's great."
"Wasabi..." Aspen whispered, the beginnings of a smile on her face. "You can't fool me. You're kneeling in the shallow end."
"What are you talking about?" He weaved his arms in the water to mimic floating. "I'm totally swimming!"
She tapped the edge of the pool, right above the three foot designation.
"...OK, you win this time."
She chuckled and entered the pool herself, choosing to swim over to him. She broke the surface right beside him and mirrored his posture.
"I'm glad you came, Wasabi."
He looked down at her and saw her eyes beginning to well up.
Her bottom lip quivered, and without warning, she laid her head on his chest and started to cry. Wasabi wrapped her arms around her back as she sobbed loudly.
"I've lost everything."
He rubbed her shoulder as she continued. "I don't have a family. I don't have a job. I don't have a home. I don't have anything. I don't even know who I am anymore."
Wasabi took a deep breath. He still wasn't good with this sort of thing, but kneeling in a pool with a girl with strange water powers seemed like as good a time as any.
"I know who you are."
She looked up at him, her chin resting on his chest.
"You're Aspen. And that's the only thing that matters to me."
He pulled her back, both of his hands on her shoulders. "I can't help you with your family, and I can't help you with your job. But I think I can help you in one way."
"And that's what?"
"A home. You can stay with me. As long as you need to."
Her eyes widened with shock. "Wasabi, I...I can't. I don't want to burden you."
"Well." He started counting on his hands. "Between me feeding you at the restaurant, working with you at Fathom, breaking into a pool twice, rescuing you from Fathom, and stopping you from killing people...I would say that we're waaay too late for that."
Aspen laughed. "Yeah, I guess that's fair." She nodded at him. "OK, I'll stay with you. On one condition." She ran her finger around the collar of his yoga shirt, damp from the water.
"We have got to give you a swimsuit."
The iron doors slid open, and she stepped through, the guards flanking the next entrance in front of her. She had to act rather quickly; there was only a little bit of time left before things would move out of her control. She only hoped that the person she was visiting went along with her.
"Hey, he can move water like me!"
"Yeah, but he doesn't have quite as much hair as you."
"He has no hair." She grabbed a few kernels of popcorn and threw them into her mouth. "At least he's got a cool arrow on his head. Like the color, too."
She nodded to the guard on her right, who slid his ID into the console. The doors opened and she stepped through as they shut behind her.
The square cell had only a few offerings in it: a toilet, a bed, and a desk with a chair under it. The current occupant was lying flat on the bed, looking up when she entered.
Wasabi and Aspen were now at his residence, a small studio apartment meticulously clean and free of clutter. That was, of course, until she had walked in and immediately jumped onto the couch, pillows flying in every direction.
"Mmmmmmmm," she groaned, burying her face into the cushion. "I want to lay here forever."
Wasabi shook her head and put the bags down on the table. "You can't. You need to eat, remember?"
"You must be so proud of yourself, Grace."
Granville walked up to the cell, her arms crossed behind her back. "I don't take any pride in this, Captain. This is a sad time for everyone involved."
He got up off of his bed and mirrored her stance. "I take it this is not a conjugal visit."
"Far from it," she said. "I need all of the information you have about Aspen."
"Don't you have that already? That kid from Big Hero 6 stole all of the data on the server."
"I'm not talking about what was on the server." Granville tapped the side of her head. "I'm talking about what's in your mind. You're a smart enough person to know how to keep things off-the-record. And with Dr. Killian being MIA, you're the only person I could go to."
Wasabi stopped, his fork halfway to his mouth. "Hmm?"
"You'd think that working at a sushi place would make you not want to eat fish and rice, like, ever. You ever get tired of it?"
"Not really. I'm used to it."
Hearing no response, he had looked up to see her grinning...and a giant bottle of hot sauce in her hands.
"..I didn't realize you had bought that at the store."
Matthews sneered at her. "You do realize, Grace, that I'll be out of here before the week is over. I have the best representation money can buy. And when I get out, you can kiss your professional career goodbye. And then I'll get my company back, and everything will go right back to the way it was."
He noticed that Granville still had a smile on her face through his entire exchange. "What's so funny?"
She pulled out her tablet from behind her back and took it off of sleep mode. He held it up for him to see, the news article blown up on the screen.
"Your legal counsel has withdrawn from your case as of this evening." Seeing the shocked look on his face, she smirked even more. "Oh. I'm sorry. No one told you? I suppose it is hard to get the news when you're in prison. Haven't you been wondering why your lawyers haven't visited you since your arrest?"
"What did you do, Grace?" he spat out.
"I did nothing. But let me remind you as to what you're up against, since you've clearly forgotten."
She stepped forward even more, an arm's length away from the glass. "Embezzlement of company funds? Minor, in the grand scheme of things. You were the CEO after all. Terrorism? A very high bar of entry to prove that particular charge. You could probably dodge it."
Granville put on her most dangerous voice, lowering it to a whisper. "But illegal genetic testing? Endangerment of a child? Not even the most questionable of attorneys would touch that with a ten foot pole."
She scrolled to the right, a graph now on the screen. "As of closing time today, your company's stock has lost eighty percent of its value. No one wants to be associated with someone like you anymore, and I cannot say I blame them. By this time next week, Alistair Krei will have probably bought the company for pennies on the dollar, and knowing him, will turn it into a sushi restaurant chain. Everything you have ever had will be gone. All of the good you have done will be a distant memory."
Matthews stared off into the abyss, completely floored by her words.
After dinner, she had wandered off to his TV cabinet. Aspen had looked over his impressive selection of DVDs organized alphabetically above it and grabbed a random one in her hands. "Ooh, let's watch this!"
"Don't you want to take a shower first?" Wasabi had bent his nose down over her head and sniffed. "Apparently having water powers don't do anything for your hygiene. Because you stink."
Aspen had laughed at his assertion. "Yeah, that's true. I haven't showered in almost three days." She had grabbed two of the bags and walked off to the bathroom, shutting it behind her.
He looked back up at her, Granville's tablet now gone. "You tell me everything you know. I can stop it. There were a lot of people who worked in your company, many of them innocent from all of this. You give me what I want...and I can salvage it. Give your company a fresh start."
"Grace Gretchen Granville." He pressed both of his hands against the glass, a look of pure fury on his face. "Are you blackmailing me?"
"I would never do anything of the sort, Captain," she responded. "I am merely extending an opportunity for you to do the right thing...if you ever want to see the outside of this prison ever again."
After several minutes, Aspen had reentered the living room, a cloud of steam billowing from the bathroom. She flopped down onto the couch, coming to rest in Wasabi's lap. He had not expected it, the remote twirling comically in the air before landing on the coffee table.
"Wasabi," she said to him, a mischievous grin forming. "I hope that's not another knife in your pocket."
The staring contest was on, and both Granville and Matthews were not going to relent right away. But the dean had the added experience of disciplining a certain teen genius on her side, and after a long minute, the captain blinked.
"There's a file."
Granville's ears perked up as he sat down in the chair. "Encrypted. It's on my personal computer. It contains everything about her that wasn't put on the Fathom server. You'll find it...in a safe. Located in my office at the Naval Base."
"I wasn't aware that you still had an office at the base after all this time."
"It was kept intact even after my discharge. I would frequent it from time to time; no one questioned it."
She turned to walk away from the cell. "That is encouraging. I will get someone to fetch it for me. If needed, I'll require your authorization to access it." She started to walk back out toward the door...
She stopped mid-stride.
The rest of the evening had been wonderfully uneventful, them watching TV and Wasabi trying unsuccessfully to explain the show to her. She didn't really pay attention, choosing instead to snuggle up to him even more.
At least she liked the main character.
"You know, it's more than just the girl and guy, right?" he had asked. "There's a whole tribe that has the same powers. I could try to explain that to you too, Aspen."
"That girl...she's more dangerous than you or anyone else can even imagine," the voice rang from behind her. "She has the power to destroy everything around her. She is a ticking time bomb. And now that I'm not there to contain her, everything that happens going forward will be on you."
Granville turned back around to the prisoner. "How amazing. Every word of what you just said...was wrong,"
"Captain, allow me to enlighten you as to who that girl is."
Not hearing a response, Wasabi looked down at her. "Aspen?"
She stood up to her full height. "That girl? She is a young woman who has had her entire life taken away from her. She is a person who has been lied and deceived to by the people she thought she could trust. And yet when I look at her...I see someone who only wants to understand and learn from her experience. To become stronger than what she was."
He saw Aspen's head turned to the side on his chest, her breathing now steady, eyes now closed.
"She wants to be able to earn someone's trust again."
Smiling, he turned the TV off, careful not to wake her.
"And you can bet that the people that are around her now...are going to do everything within their power to right the wrongs that you have done."
He grabbed the pillow from the side and propped it behind his head. Not the most comfortable of positions, but it wasn't about him anymore.
"And you had better hope that the Navy has not confiscated everything in this office of yours and I can get what I need. Because if I cannot..."
He shifted his body slightly, the doldrums of sleep now calling him.
"Let us just say spending the rest of your life in this cell will be the least of your concerns."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: There is a lot that happens in this chapter (Kiani, Aspen, random cameos) and if you've made it through it all, congrats! You're almost there. More on that at the end.
If you've read her backstory, you would know that the comic Captain Matthews is not Aspen's father. I made a design choice at the early planning stages of this story for him to actually be her father...and then to subvert it right at the end. This was a decision that I told no one (not even people who read early parts of the chapters). It's a plot twist that I don't personally think anyone would see coming. I am particularly a little proud of myself for that twist, if I do say myself. I might be biased, though; I am the author, after all.
The original plan was to have three more chapters including this one, but I am purposefully combining them into two. This is partially the reason why this chapter (as well as the final one) are longer than normal. But if you like long reads, I don't think you'll complain.
Oh, and Philip? Yes. The answer to your question is yes.
And the kid with the arrow on his head?
...Come on. I don't have to explain everything.
(And we're not even going to talk about Ms. Khan. If you've followed me long enough, you know why I have her last name as Khan.
...And Kiani. Go look her up. She is also a part of Aspen's comic universe. Don't worry, she'll be back.)
The finale, Clean Slate, will be out next week. And then after that, we have some Hiro/Karmi to get underway.
Read and review, if you like. Until next time, everyone.
Chapter 8: Chapter 7 (Finale) - Clean Slate
Disclaimer: Big Hero 6 the Series is owned by Disney Animation. Aspen and her ilk are owned by Aspen MLT and Michael Turner.
Chapter 7 (Finale) – Clean Slate
One week later…
"If I never see this place ever again, it'll be too soon."
"...Don't you deliver mail down here, Go Go?"
For the umpteenth time, the gang found themselves in a place they didn't want to be, but it wasn't just them this time; the group was joined by Granville, Karmi, and Aspen, the latter putting the finishing touches on the submarine.
Over the past few days, she had been staying with Wasabi at his apartment, which was a complete shock to the other members of the group when they found out one day at the Lucky Cat Cafe, and a perfect opportunity for Go Go to crash it under the guise of checking up on her.
Her real intention was dealphabetizing the stunning collection of DVDs Aspen told her about.
Imagine the stunned look on his face when Wasabi came back into the room to see the A's swapped with the B's.
The horror. The absolute horror.
After being separated by a giant water wall, Go Go had revealed the real real reason for visiting them: Granville had informed her that Captain Matthews had reached a plea deal with the court marshal. Instead of being in the max security prison, he would be relocated to a correctional facility in San Diego, where he would serve his jail sentence with other military inmates.
"But apparently the evidence he provided as part of his cooperation agreement wasn't good enough to lower the time of his sentence," Go Go added as she sat next to them on the couch. "Aspen, he's not getting out. He'll be there for the rest of his life. He can't hurt you anymore."
After she left, Aspen had stayed on the couch with a thoughtful look on her face. Wasabi shut the door behind his friend and noticed as soon as he turned around. "What's up?"
"Can you take me to SFIT tomorrow? I need to talk to Professor Granville about something."
He wasn't sure what the conversation was going to be about, but she spent the majority of that next day in her office. Just like when she went missing, Wasabi couldn't concentrate on his work. And judging by the lack of bunson burner flames, wrench turning, and wisecracks, he wasn't the only one.
And then the gang of seven was summoned to the dean's office, where Aspen and Granville made available her plans for the next day.
And that's where we're at now.
...Er, we're at the docks now. If that wasn't painfully clear.
"Everything looks good." Aspen turned the last screw on the panel to fasten it into place. "This baby should be able to run for quite a long time. I completely forgot that you even had this, Fred."
"Well, you know..." Fred cracked his fingers. "I have to learn how to pilot a submarine somehow."
"I thought you said you knew how to when we met for the first time."
He shrugged. "I did. But don't worry, I know how to pilot one now."
Unfortunately, his admission had been within earshot of the group, and one Korean in particular. In one fell swoop, she grabbed his ear and dragged him down the dock. "You and I are going to have a long talk, Knucklehead."
Granville sidestepped the two as she approached the marine biologist. "Aspen, are you certain that you wish to do this? We would not mind at all if you wanted to stay for a while longer."
"I appreciate the offer, Professor, but I have to do this." Aspen peered around her shoulder to see a certain someone try to separate Go Go from Fred's ear. "I know it's hard to explain, but I need to find out who I am, both literally and metaphorically. As much as I've loved being here...I have to figure things out."
"You do not need to explain anything to me," Granville replied. "Although allow me to assist with your journey, if only a little."
"You don't have to do that," Aspen said, looking out into the ocean.
"Oh, but I insist."
Aspen glanced back to see Granville handing her a manila folder. "What's this?"
"Everything that the captain had pertaining to you."
She opened it up taking note of the photos and documents inside. She studied them over as the rest of the group (including a red-eared Fred) came back over.
"Captain Matthews was part of a naval rescue operation in the Pacific Ocean approximately twelve years ago," Granville explained. "A distress beacon had been activated by a family on a capsizing vessel, and his personal craft, the U.S.S. Paradise, was the closest to the last known ping of the signal. They arrived about twenty minutes after the call and had found you hanging on to some floating debris. There...were no other survivors."
Aspen stared at the inventory logs as the dean continued. "Standard procedure called for either notifying the next of kin or placing you into a foster home. The captain, however, was able to falsify documentation to adopt you into his care. And then a few days later, there was an incident involving you and a certain Applied Physics major at the pool on the naval base he was working at."
"Wait!" Fred pointed to Wasabi. "You're one of those!"
Go Go slapped him in the shoulder. "She's literally talking about him, Fred."
"The next day," Granville said, smiling at Wasabi, "Captain Matthews requested a transfer to the naval base in San Diego, which was granted. The intention, I'm guessing, was to keep you out of the public eye. This was also the first documented contact he had with Dr. Killian, and I would presume that's when they started their...experimentation."
Aspen had finished her read-through of the papers and closed the folder. "Professor, I didn't see anything else in here about the accident. What do you mean by 'other survivors'?"
She took a deep breath. "I can only guess, because the captain was able to wipe the majority of the incident details from the logs. The only thing that remained was the death count. It's documented as 'one male adult, one female adult, and one female child'."
"Wait," Hiro interrupted. "That's three people, including her. It sounds like the captain listed her as deceased after the fact to get her in his possession."
"That is a good theory, Mr. Hamada, and one that I agree with. Unfortunately, we may never know."
"So he knew about me and was lying since the beginning."
The two looked at Aspen, who was staring down at the wood beams of the dock. "For the whole freaking time."
Granville put a hand on her shoulder. "Aspen, I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am for what has happened to you. You are an extraordinarily talented person, and any company would be happy to hire you on the spot based off your experience. I could put in a good word, if you wish."
"I appreciate that, Professor, but I'm not really in the mood to work for anyone right now."
"And that is understandable." She patted said shoulder gently. "I know that you want to take this journey, but know that you will always have a home here if you need it. And if you ever should require the use of SFIT's facilities, just say the word and they are yours."
Aspen smiled up at her. "Thank you, Professor."
She simply nodded, gesturing over at her bio-tech student. "Karmi?"
Karmi stepped forward, a small thumb drive in her hands. "I took a deeper dive into an analysis of your DNA. I ran both your human and foreign strands through every single public database I could think of. Hiro also suggested some...non-public databases."
Under Granville's stare, Hiro merely shrugged. "Hey, it was for a good cause."
"In any case, Hiro set up an algorithm to search through them faster. It ran for almost the entire day straight."
Karmi shook her head sadly. "No match. To either one. I was able to document a strong expression of IGF proteins, so based off of that, I would presume that your human side is from your father. Your...actual father." She held up her phone to show her the two separate strands. "But their DNA isn't in any forensic, medical, genealogical, or national database that we ran it through. And your foreign DNA doesn't match any documented creature on Earth."
Aspen tilted her head.
"You're literally one of a kind, Aspen. I know that doesn't mean anything, but I'm giving you all of the tests we did." She set the drive into her hand. "Maybe you'll find something we didn't."
"Thank you, Karmi. I appreciate it." Aspen nervously shuffled her feet. "And I'm really sorry for yelling at you that night. You were just trying to help. And I was not in a right state of mind."
"It's OK," the bio-tech major replied. "I know you didn't mean it."
"I'll tell you one thing, though. I still can't believe that you don't know."
She gestured to the rest of the group, increasingly alarmed faces staring back at her. "About these guys. About how they're Big-"
"On justice!" Hiro interrupted. "Yup! Big on justice and truth and all of that good stuff!" He ran behind Karmi and pushed her in her back, back toward the cars. "So much so that we're going to go over here to get out of the way of all of that justice!"
Ignoring Karmi's "Hey!", Granville nodded to her. "Best of luck to you, Aspen."
Wasabi was the last one in line as the entire group exchanged pleasantries and hugs. His was a little longer than everyone else's for obvious reasons. Done with the queue, the rest of the gang were off to head back into the city...
She had grabbed his arm, stalling his exit. He waved off the rest of the group, who had seen him stop mid-stride.
"Can I...talk to you for a second?"
He turned back toward her, the sun setting perfectly behind her head. If this was a movie, he would be laughing at the sure absurdity of it all.
"Are you mad at me?"
"No." He was confused. "Why would I be mad at you?"
She chuckled as she tucked a stray hair behind her ear. "Last night, when we got back to your place and went to bed, I snuck into your room to try to talk to you, and you didn't answer."
"I was asleep. I don't know if you know this, but you're a little exhausting sometimes."
"Yeah, that's fair," Aspen said. "I wanted to make sure you were OK, and I haven't learned the ability to talk through a closed door from a couch yet."
"So I wasn't going crazy. You did...stay."
She stared at him with those clear blue eyes. "What can I say? You're like a giant fluffy teddy bear. But that's not what I wanted to tell you."
Wasabi waited as she stared off to the side, now a little unsure. The best thing to do, he thought, was to let her get enough nerve to talk. He knew that once she started, it would all come rolling out.
"I wish...I wish that I could blame my da-Captain Matthews for everything that has happened to me. But I can't. I...I deserve part of the blame."
"Wasabi," she cut him off. "I need to get this out, OK? I'm going to go crazy if I don't."
He nodded, falling silent as she spoke up again. "I've spent a lot of time underwater. Besides college and the occasional trip up here, I've lived down there (she nodded out to the water) almost the entirety of my life. I was told that I would make a difference in the world...and I believed that. I didn't second guess the things that were being said to me. I believed it so much so that I started to dread coming up to the surface. Between what was happening in my head and the constant travel, I just wanted to keep to myself. Because I knew that if I met someone or did something great...more than likely I would forget it the next day."
Aspen sniffled quietly. "It got to the point where I forgot how to live a normal life. I forgot how to be a human being. I forgot how to feel, how to think, how to...breathe."
Her eyes blazed blue as she looked up at him. "And then I ran into you."
Wasabi didn't know what to say, so he let her continue on. "I kept thinking to myself when we were at your work that it was just a phase. That it was just another normal thing that I was going to move on from. So I did what I always do: try to push those people away with my over-the-top personality. But the longer we talked, and the harder I tried...the more that I realized it wasn't working."
Aspen's lip started to quiver. "I got back down to the base after that night, and for the next two weeks, all I could think about was you. You were kind, you were comforting. You were someone that I really wanted to get to know. But I eventually just convinced myself that I would never see you again. But then..."
She threw her arms out wide, almost angry now. "You just...show up. You freaking show up with Professor Granville and all of those thoughts just came back to my head. It took everything I had to keep myself calm. And then we went to the pool and then we got kidnapped and you got hurt and we...kissed each other..."
Wasabi stepped closer as she started to ramble, her voice breaking. "And I know that didn't happen in that order but I'm still sort of new to this whole 'actually remembering things' but I really really want it to last and I don't want to-"
He put his arms around her, and whatever remaining calm she had was lost. Aspen's hands grabbed his sweater, her face now buried in it, her tears freely flowing down her cheeks.
It was a long moment before either one of them regained their composure. Wasabi felt his own cheeks getting wet, but didn't really care that much. Aspen lifted her head slightly and spoke up.
"Wasabi...all of those thoughts and feelings that I have? I still have them. And I still want them. Which is why I want to ask you something."
She looked up at him, the tears still falling. "Come with me."
"Come with me," she repeated. "We can find out who I am together. We can travel up and down the coast. We can get to know each other even more. We wouldn't have to be apart."
The words were almost out of his mouth before she stopped talking. "Aspen...I can't do that. You know I can't. I have to stay here. I'm part of a team. I have a life. I can't just leave all of that, even if it is you. I'm sorry."
She smiled sadly. "Yeah, I kinda knew you were going to say that. But that makes this even more difficult."
"Because." Aspen pulled up close to him, her cheek on his chest. "I've lost so much. My job. My family. Not to mention all of the memories that have been taken away from me over the years. Almost everything. The only thing I have left...is you." She let out a shaky sigh. "And part of me is afraid that if I go back down there alone...I'm going to lose you too."
The two turned to see a surprising sight: the other four in the group, Hiro and Go Go leaning against the dock posts, Fred with his arms crossed, and Honey Lemon's eyes glistening from her own emotions.
"You won't have to, Aspen," Hiro said.
"Yeah." Go Go popped a bubble. "For two reasons. First of all, you can't get rid of us that easily. I mean, you can try, but it won't work."
"Yeah, we're like poison ivy. The more you scratch us, the more it's just going to spread around your entire body!"
"...Freddie, I don't think you're using the correct analogy here."
"What the knucklehead is trying to say is that we're your friends. Yeah, you don't have experience in that department. So what? Who cares? There's no better time than the present."
"And the second?" Aspen said.
"Well," Honey Lemon replied. "Professor Granville and Karmi left, but Wasabi...kind of didn't unlock the car before we walked away. So we literally can't leave even if we wanted to."
Through the laughter that erupted from them, Hiro held up his phone. "It's probably a good thing we didn't leave anyway, because I almost forgot to give you our parting gift."
Aspen watched as his Skymax came from over the warehouse roof, landing right next to the teen genius. "I don't understand."
"It's funny, in a weird way." Hiro said, his smile growing as he opened the front hatch. "I think we spent so much time trying to think of a project to help out Fathom that we didn't see who we should really be helping."
He turned his body to her, and Wasabi saw for the first time the canvas bag that was in his hand.
Aspen took the tote bag from him, her hand shaking. "I'm still not understanding."
"Open it up," Honey Lemon insisted.
The marine biologist stuck a hand in the bag and pulled out the item on top. She unfolded it and held it out in front of her to inspect it. It was a long-sleeved hooded jacket, light blue in color with a few ribbons of white on the pockets and trim. It felt very light, almost airy. She slowly put it on and zipped it up, marveling at the fit. She wiped her tears off of her face…
And noticed them just roll off the sleeve, not even staining the clothing.
Aspen conjured a tendril of water from below her, curling it over the sleeves and back.
"Aerogel particles." She stared at the group, Hiro nodding in affirmation. "You made them hydrophobic and put them on the jacket. Helps repels the water instead of absorbing it."
"Yup," Go Go said. "Also insulated with a little silica aerographene. You can thank your boy for that." Ignoring Wasabi's blush, she pointed to the shoulder. "Best low-density solid you can find. Keep you cool in the heat and warm in the cold water. You won't even feel it touching you when you do your butt-kicking thing."
Aspen picked up the next item; it was a long white scarf, so thin on the ends she could almost feel her fingers between the material. It was thicker near the center as she put it around her neck.
"Karmi remembered that aerogel is also very biocompatable, so the scarf can be used as a delivery system for those medications Wasabi said you were taking to help with your memory," Honey Lemon explained. "The liquids can be absorbed down the body of the scarf and into your neck. No having to swallow anything."
"All proper placebos have been tested and approved by Karmi and Hiro," a cased-up Baymax said from Hiro's back. "Allow a trial period for up to two weeks before contacting us about your results."
"Yeah, let us know how it works. Karmi and I...sort of have a project in progress, and we had to forgo a clinical trial. So...I guess you're our trial person."
Aspen looked over at him. "How am I suppose to contact you? I don't have a-"
Her hand clenched around the next object, which immediately shut her up. She pulled it out and ran a finger around the edge of the case.
"Well, you do now. Preloaded with all of our numbers." Go Go smirked. "Should have good reception even in the sub. And a secure line if you need to contact us when we're not being civilians. Plus, Fred got his thing on the back of the case."
"I had to get her something, Go Go! You guys did all of the cool science stuff."
Aspen held the credit card up for everyone to see. "Fred...how much is on this?"
"Don't worry about that," he waved her off. "Professor G said that your accounts had been frozen as part of the investigation. She thinks you'll get them back at some point, but until then...go crazy. But we're forgetting one thing! The pièce de résistance!"
She didn't see anything else in the bag. "Where is it? I don't-"
Four fingers pointed to behind her, and Aspen turned to see Wasabi holding something: it was circular and white, almost clear. It looked suspiciously like the bracelets that had been made for her by Fathom. But it was larger, with a medallion hanging in front of it.
It was a necklace. And it was beautiful.
She tilted her hair to the side to let him clasp it around her neck. Feeling it click, she looked down and touched the medallion. A curved line went through the middle, an orb each on the peak and trough.
"I would love to tell you that this does something super complicated and whatever, but it doesn't. It's also 100% free of electrical suppressors."
The tears started to come again as Aspen looked around at everyone. "You guys..."
All of a sudden, she leapt forward and grasped Go Go around the neck, pulling her into the tightest hug she could.
"I don't understand," the Korean said, wildly gesturing to her friends. "Why does everyone go for me first?"
"Because you're small and adorable, Go Go."
"Didn't actually want an answer, Fred."
The rest of the group piled on with the hugs, letting the atmosphere hang for a moment longer.
"I am unable to offer a hug, but I am hugging you in spirit."
Aspen broke it off, Wasabi's hand on her back. "Guys, I can't even begin to thank you for everything that you've done for me. I didn't even know all of you a week ago, and you've been so kind to me. I...I don't deserve you. I really don't. And you!"
She wheeled around to face Wasabi, his sweater clenched in her grasp. Surprised, he couldn't react in time as she bent him down to her level.
Her lips landed onto his, pulling him deeply into a kiss. Wasabi immediately reciprocated, not noticing the youngest one in the group was busy having his eyes blocked by Go Go.
"Hey, what are you doing? I can't see what's happening!"
"Trust us, little guy," Fred teased. "You don't wanna see this. Grown-up stuff is happening right now."
After a few more seconds, the two separated. Wasabi stared at her longingly, but Aspen cut him off with a whisper. "You take care of yourself, OK?"
She glanced back at the others. "You make sure he takes care of himself, OK? Don't make me come back and set him straight."
Go Go laughed. "Now that I know where he lives, you can bet I'll be there more often."
"...Oh, I don't like the sound of that at all."
A minute later, Aspen's sub was completely underwater, the gang waving her goodbye. Once the water had settled back down, they started to make their way back to Wasabi's car. Said owner of car stopped right between the warehouses, staring back out into the horizon.
"Are you OK?"
Wasabi didn't even look at her. "No. No, I'm not."
"Yeah. Uncomfortable knowing that I know where you live now?"
"No, not that." He paused as he grabbed the keys in his pocket. "Do you think she's OK?"
Aspen set the sub onto autopilot and leaned back, her cheeks finally dry. She pulled the phone out of her bag again and turned it on. She started to flip through the contacts.
"She will be. You know how I know?"
Go Go looked up at her friend and patted his arm.
Aspen stared at the screen, running her finger over Wasabi's profile picture.
"...Because she's got you."
AUTHOR'S NOTE:...Hang on one second, I need to finish this e-mail.
I understand your hesitation into this venture, especially with everything that has happened over the past week. However, I believe that the company can be salvaged. I can see that you have unloaded the vast majority of your stock, which is standard protocol given the market collapse. But take a look over my proposal when you have an opportunity in the morning.
I know that you are six hours ahead, so you will not see the message immediately. When you have a chance, e-mail me back with your response.
A knock was heard from the other side of Granville's office door. Strange. She wasn't expecting anyone at this point in the night.
The door opened, and the person on the other side came through. They closed the door rather roughly and strolled to the head of the desk.
"May I help you, Mr. Hamada? I must tell you that I am about to leave for the evening, so I hope that you can-"
"You lied to us."
Granville recoiled a little, surprised by her student's abrasiveness. "That is a serious accusation that you've levied against me. Do you have any documentation to prove this theory of yours?"
Hiro silently pulled something out of his pocket and held it up. Seeing the black drive in his hands made her pause.
"...I see that you've taken a leaf out of Baymax's book when it comes to backing things up."
"Yeah." He set the drive down on her desk. "The best thing about these drives is that when they get put back into my gloves, it automatically makes a backup in the second one. And that's what I used to take a look at the data on the Fathom servers. You know what else Captain Matthews put on the servers? Personal e-mails."
Granville stared straight at him, saying nothing.
"When we were working on the project, Karmi brought up a very good point about the interactions between you and the captain, so when I saw the correspondence between you and him, my curiosity got the better of me."
He returned her glare as he pushed the drive to her. "The first e-mail you sent to him was on the day before you asked us to go to the docks. I went back as far as I could in his inbox to see there was anything that I had missed. There wasn't. You said you had been in correspondence with him for a while. That's just not true. And between what happened after Aspen pulled us out of the water and all of this...you can probably understand why I'm a little frustrated."
Granville straightened up in her chair. "Mr. Hamada, you have to understand something. I did not lie to you. I simply did not tell you the entirety of the truth."
"That's literally the same thing!"
"Listen to me-"
"No, I'm done listening to you!" Hiro pounded the table in anger. "I want the truth from you! I think we deserve that much!"
The dean stood up so fast that he almost fell backwards onto the ground. Yup, he had definitely gone too far this time.
He shielded his eyes from the inevitable tirade.
"Have a seat."
Hiro peeked over his arm to see Professor Granville standing behind her white chair, gesturing toward it.
"Are...are you serious?"
She raised her eyebrow at him.
"OK, you are serious."
Hiro strode around the desk to stand in front of the chair. He slowly sat himself down and looked around the office. He was normally used to seeing things from the opposite direction, but this was…
He took a deep breath in and let it out, a rush of emotions coming over him.
"How interesting." Granville went to the front and sat down on top of the desk. "That was my exact same reaction when I sat there for the first time. You can feel it, can you not? The pressure. The responsibility. All compacted into a nice little office. It's quite the accomplishment, really."
She turned to her student in the chair. "I wear many hats, Mr. Hamada. Dean, professor, friend, colleague. Some of those things conflict with each other from time to time. I have to deal with a lot of things that come my way, and not all of them are going to be in the interest of public consumption. It is a regretable circumstance, but one that is unavoidable when it rears its ugly head.
"Mr. Hamada, I am not going to apologize for any of my actions. I will, however, apologize for not keeping you informed of my actions. I forget sometimes that our continued cooperation is a two-way street, and that things may be better when our heads come together. So, I am sorry for that."
"Professor, did you know about what the captain was doing with his company?"
"I had...suspicions. I did work for him, after all. He was quite the meticulous person; even with Dr. Killian and his close friends, he always wanted to take care of everything himself. A good trait for the head of a company, but when things go wrong, it doesn't take much to figure out where the blame should go. I thought it was quite strange as well for an aquatics company to be spending an exorbitant amount of money on satellite equipment. You can say all you want about ocean mapping and the like, but those resources would be better off spent somewhere else."
"What about Aspen?"
Granville didn't answer immediately, and Hiro started to get mad again. "Professor, did you know what he was doing to Aspen?"
"Hiro." Her stare bored into his eyes. "I swear to you on the life of your brother that I did not know anything about what was happening with her. If I had found out or even had an inkling of a suspicion, I would've pulled all of you out immediately and had gone to the authorities. There would have been no need for you to rescue Aspen from the base...or for you to mislead your classmate, even though that was not your intention."
"Yeah, I'm still icing my shoulder after we got to school the next day."
"Yes, Karmi is rather direct when it comes to her criticism. Also her left hook."
Hiro had enough of the chair; he got up and returned to his prior position, absentmindedly rubbing his still sore arm.
"Speaking of your classmate, when are you going to inform her of your after-school activities?"
"I'm not." Hiro looked away from his teacher, trying to take in anything else in the room. "I...don't want to get her involved."
"I don't know if you have noticed, Mr. Hamada, but it is far too late for that. Especially if you take everything that's occurred into account. The past few days, what happened on Akuma Island..."
"Wait," Hiro interrupted. "How do you know about that?"
Granville opened her laptop, typed in a few commands, and waited. Hiro rocked back and forth on his feet, not sure what was going to happen. After a few moments, she turned her screen to face him, and his eyes filled up with the vision of a rather familiar website.
"Every great piece of fiction, Mr. Hamada, contains some kernels of truth. It also helps that Karmi is a fantastic writer and paints her...Captain Cutie...in such a grandiose light."
Hiro looked up, his cheeks blazing. "I still can't do it, Professor. She's..."
"Important to you?"
He said nothing, the heat almost unbearable.
The teen genius stared at her, still not used to her using his actual name.
"When I brought you and Karmi together, I knew that there would be difficulties. After all, the two of you are very different. Lifestyles, social circles, upbringings. I had hoped that the two youngest students to attend this institute would be able to look past those differences and be able to see the good in each other. To my pleasant surprise, I was not expecting...this."
Hiro had no response to her. If he opened his mouth, he wasn't going to be able to stop talking. Granville, seeing his dilemma, continued on.
"I understand if you wish to wait until the time is right. However, a situation may come where you may not have a choice in the matter. In a case like that, I would like to think that she would want to hear it from you and not from outside sources.
"Mr. Hamada, I am not going to tell you what to do. You are a college student, and someone who is capable of making your own decisions...but if she is as important to you as you wish me to believe, you should tell her before it's too late."
"Professor." Hiro's mind had wandered back to his interactions with Karmi, and the question came out before he could stop himself. "Do you know what happened to Karmi? Something happened to her in her past, and...she hasn't opened up about it. I can tell it's really bothering her."
"...You are aware of the irony of her keeping something secret from you when you are doing the exact same thing to her?"
"I am now."
"Hm." Granville pushed her laptop to the side, amused. She pulled out a pen from her drawer and started twirling it in her fingers. It seemed like an odd way to start a new conversation.
"Mr. Hamada, students come into this space expecting a certain amount of anonymity. You can understand why people would not want their personal conversations to become public knowledge, including yourself. I would like to think that you do not want people knowing about your heroics, at least not yet. But to somewhat dance around your question..."
Granville stared at him again, going full professor mode. "Karmi has spoken to me about a number of topics, all of which you have no business knowing about. You've probably seen this for yourself (her ironic tone was obvious), but she is a very private person. I am quite happy that she has even opened up with you on the level you have mentioned."
"It was bad, wasn't it?"
She must've seen the sadness in his eyes, because she let out a heavy breath. "Suffice to say, Mr. Hamada, it was not good." The pen was now on the table in front of her. "And that is all I will say on the matter. I implore you to not pressure her about it. When she is ready to tell you, she will tell you. And when she does, I hope you will sit and listen, because she will need someone to be there with her."
The silence permeated through the office for a bit before Granville spoke up again. "Well, now that we've probably broken every single teacher-student confidentiality rule in the book...is there anything else you wish to talk to me about?"
"No." Hiro set his hands in his pockets. "No, I don't-"
His fingers grazed the object in his pocket, and he pulled back his statement. "Actually, there is something."
Hiro put it down on the table right next to the drive. "A few weeks ago, before the semester started, I was alone on patrol. Everything was going fine, and then...I got jumped."
"Jumped, you say?"
"Ambushed, surprised, whatever you want to call it. The woman who attacked me said something about testing me. Getting me ready for something. She gave me this."
Granville peered down at the silver card, her eyes widening slightly.
"She said that she was an ally, and that she would be there if we needed her. I ran the initials that are on this card, but the only thing that came back was some private security company in-"
Hiro was surprised at the intrusion. "Yeah. How do you know that?"
Granville was back on her computer, typing away. "How well versed are you with the country?"
"Not at all. I didn't even know it existed."
"You are not the only one." She pushed her laptop screen down, the map projecting between the two of them. "They only recently gained their independence within the past couple of years. I'm sure it would not have been covered in any of your high school classes...if you were paying attention, of course."
"Geography is not the most exciting of subjects, to be fair. In any case..." Granville zoomed in onto the region. "I do not know a lot about the country myself, or even the company you speak of besides where it's located. If you wish, I can reach out to some people to get more information for you."
She looked down at Hiro, who simply nodded. "Very well. Give me a few days and I will reconvene with you when I am finished."
"Professor." Again with the questions without thinking. "What did you do between the time you left here and when you came back?"
He only got an amused smile in response as she dismissed the display. "Mr. Hamada, the list of things I have done in my life are quite numerous. You would probably find a lot of them boring."
"I don't think working with people in fancy suits and taking authorization over police 'boring'."
Granville nodded her head. "Philip and I were colleagues a long time ago. He owed me a favor; I simply asked that he fulfill it."
Hiro was silent as he walked to the exit. This had been such a weird conversation, yet an enlightening one. He was going to eat so many gummy bears when he got home.
"Mr. Hamada, do you trust me?"
He turned back to see Granville peering over the laptop at him. He wished he could say the question had been entirely out of the blue, but given what had been said between them, it was only a matter of time before it came up. He had to take a second to think about it.
"...I wouldn't have given that to you if I didn't."
She smiled at him. "Thank you for your honesty. Have a good night, Mr. Hamada."
As he left, Granville rubbed her eyes. She sure was going to enjoy this weekend, but not before she finished this e-mail first.
P.S. - All of my students, up to and including Hiro Hamada and his friends, are considered off-limits. Surely you understand that getting them involved in your affairs will end badly for one person only, and that will be you. Have I made myself clear?
She sent the e-mail off and got up from her chair to grab her coat from the closet. The time difference meant that she probably wouldn't get a response until the morning.
But to her surprise, as she bent down to close her computer, there was one already waiting for her. She narrowed her eyes as she read it:
Your opposition has been noted.
AUTHOR'S NOTE (FOR REALS THIS TIME): (I told you she'd be back. I never said for how long, though.)
This story was a risk. I've mentioned that before, but it's a point I want to reiterate. Not a lot of people even know about Aspen and her comic series' existence, and putting her into an established verse like Big Hero 6 was me taking a chance in the creative department.
And I wasn't kidding myself; I knew that the views were probably not going to be as much as they were for my other romance stuff. And they weren't. The total views by the end will probably be half of what they are for my other stuff.
But what I didn't get in views...has been made up for in sheer passion from you guys.
Based off of trends, this story will have more reviews for it than both Foundation and Continuity, which is insane. I never expected to have people come out and say how glad they are to have fanfiction made with Aspen Matthews in it. I don't know if you've noticed, but there is pretty much no fanfiction out there in terms of Fathom, or even just with Aspen.
And that's almost criminal. If you get past the scantily drawn artwork and the swimsuits and all that, you see a character in Aspen that has a ton of potential. I can only hope that I fulfilled some of that potential with this story.
Thank you to everyone who read this fic, and who was kind enough to leave a review. You guys, as always, are the reason why I do this. Your support, even for a story out of the norm like this one, has been great to see. I may have deviated from the source material a little bit (as one reviewer has already noted), but I wouldn't change anything.
...Except maybe throw more Avatar jokes in. Who knows? Maybe later.
Speaking of later, you guys are probably wondering what's going to be coming next. Well, for the first time, I will be making a companion piece to this story, which is currently untitled. It will take place immediately after the ending of Fathom and may or may not have a certain motorcycle driving, cabbage cart burning Latino in it.
And then we're going to go back to what we all (including myself) have been waiting for: a story filled to the brim with Hiro/Karmi. This is a story that has been in production since I've started writing BH6 fanfiction, and I am dying to share it with you guys.
It'll have a little bit of everything. Volatile arguments. Hurt feelings. Karmi's fanfiction. Awkward conversations. Butter chicken. Friend excursions. Squirrels. The sharing of sleep spaces. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is only the tip of the iceberg.
The prologue of Overnight will hopefully be going up next week. The companion piece may go up earlier in the week to not interfere with this, but we'll see what happens.
As always, read and leave a review, if you like. Until next time, everyone.