Chapter One: Earthquake
Hiro Hamada stared out the window of his third story bedroom. Dark clouds hung low in the sky while water ran down the glass panes. The sky's tears mirrored the ones the fourteen-year-old boy wouldn't, or couldn't, let fall.
The dark-haired boy toyed with a small robot he'd named Megabot. The deceptively simple design had won many a bot fight before he'd found a new path in life. It was a path that changed him in so many ways. But that wasn't the reason he felt the now familiar ache in his chest.
Several months had passed since his older brother, Tadashi, had died. It was still hard, even though he had all the support in the world from his gang of college-aged friends. Not to mention the somewhat goofy looking robot his brother had left behind.
Baymax had become part of the family, an integral part of Hiro's identity. And when they'd unwittingly become super heroes, well, that also changed things. Saving people's lives had helped heal at least a small part of the dark mass still living inside him.
But the rain. The rain made it seem as though none of that had happened. He felt alone, cut off from the rest of the world. It was the same feeling he'd had off and on since Tadashi's… death. He couldn't quite bring himself to think murder, even though the fire that killed him had been set on purpose.
With a sigh, Hiro set Megabot back on the desk. Sometimes it helped to hold the cold metal body, a reminder of what he'd given up, and what he'd gained. But, today, it didn't help. Not even thinking about all the good that had come from that tragic event helped.
Trying to push past the lethargy, Hiro swung away from his desk and sent his wheeled chair across the floor. The castors lost traction as they connected with a shirt he'd dropped and not bothered to pick up. The slight jolt almost unseated him, but he managed to stay upright.
Why did it have to rain? It had rained the day of Tadashi's funeral. Despite there not being a body, there was a headstone. The service had been short, with black umbrellas held high to ward off the crying sky. And then, later, it had continued to pelt against the house. Hiro had sat at the top of the stairs leading to his room while his friends and aunt consoled each other on the second floor above the Lucky Cat Café.
Hiro clenched his fists. He wouldn't cry. Not even when he remembered Baymax's words that it was okay to cry, that it was a natural response to pain. And he was in pain. Emotional pain. Why hadn't it rained since then? Why did it have to rain now?
The boy dropped his gaze to the floor. Near the wall sat the red case where Baymax was stored. The robot was not currently activated, and he was almost tempted to call out with the one word sure to wake the medical bot, but he couldn't make it come out.
An almost sonic-level sound seemed to pierce his eardrums and the boy cried out as the ultra-hi tone wave crashed through his skull. What the…? It left his eyes watering and his balance off as he lunged away from the chair, the world seeming to heave around him. He misjudged the distance and ended up slamming into the floor instead. "Ow!" he exclaimed.
Still clenching his teeth, Hiro didn't hear the telltale sound of Baymax activating. But by the time the robot had inflated and stepped free of his case, the sound had stopped.
"Hello. I am Baymax, your personal healthcare companion," the robot announced. He looked down to where Hiro remained, nursing his knees. "Hiro, you have fallen."
Hiro almost hissed through his teeth. "Yeah. Misjudged the distance." He glanced up at the blinking eyes on the white balloon head.
"I will scan you now," the bot announced. "Scan complete. You seem to have caused minor contusions to your knees. Also, your neurotransmitter and hormone levels are low, indicating emotional distress. I also detect a slight irregularity in your breathing and heart rate."
Looking up through his mop of dark hair, Hiro let out a sigh. "Wasn't expecting that to happen," he confessed, feeling his heart beat against his rib cage. He took Baymax's offered hand and stood. "There was just this incredibly high pitched sound that…"
The ground suddenly shook beneath them, causing him to pitch forward into Baymax's large, inflated belly. Overhead, the light flickered and the windows rattled. Below, the boy could hear the screams of café goers, along with the sound of breaking glass.
The white vinyl-covered robot held the boy steady as the ground continued to shake, making the walls creak and small furniture to move around.
"What the-?" Hiro exclaimed as his bed began to move towards them.
Baymax somehow managed to turn so the boy was facing the middle of the room, away from the bed, making it crash into him instead of the flesh and blood of his friend. "Earthquake," the robot said in answer to the boy's question. "Six point four, I believe."
Hiro's eyes widened as more screams came up the stairs from the street level. The child genius pushed free of the robot's massive arms to run for the stairs, taking them two at a time. "Aunt Cass!" he called out as he ran.
"Wait," Baymax warned, too late. "It is yet not safe." The robot seemed to let out a sigh as his young charge ignored him, plunging down the still heaving stairs.
The café was a mess. Several of the pasty displays had fallen to the ground, littering the floor near the counters with glass. About half a dozen patrons sat or stood, looking more shaken than harmed. A few seemed to have sustained minor injuries, but Hiro didn't worry about that as he looked frantically around for the one person on his mind.
Broken plates and mugs lay scattered across the floor as he navigated towards the counter area where hot coffee had spilled from broken urns. He paused, his shoes crunching on the glass as he looked around, trying to find his aunt. But no matter how much he twisted, he couldn't see her light brown covered head anywhere. "Aunt Cass! Aunt Cass!" His voice felt dry as he called out.
The café owner didn't usually leave the store during business hours. Hiro raced back to the back section, looking around the kitchen area, but to no avail. Finally, he saw the closed door of the rear storage area; somehow knowing his aunt was inside. He tried to open it but the usually inward swinging door wouldn't budge.
"Pardon me," Baymax said from the front of the café. He skirted the wreckage as best as he could, scanning each individual to assess his or her injuries. None required immediate medical attention, though attention would be needed at some point.
Hiro pounded on the door, unaware that tears were now streaming down his face. "Aunt Cass!" Something tightened in his chest as he thought about his aunt, possibly lying crushed under the storage shelves inside that room. "Baymax! Baymax! Help me!"
The white giant swiveled to look in Hiro's direction, noting his accelerated heart rate and respirations. Side stepping more debris, he made his way to the boy's side. "I detect one life sign inside," he said.
Almost hiccuping with his tears, Hiro continued to pound on the door. "I can't get it open! I can't! Why won't it open?"
"There is something blocking the door," the robot announced unnecessarily. "I will remove it now." Pulling back one arm, he firmly pressed his hand against the wood and pushed. The door flew off its hinges with the force, pushing a fallen shelf back into the one behind it.
Flour, and who knew what else, lay scattered across the floor. Several more shelves lay overturned or tilted.
Hiro gave a strangled sob as he saw a hand coming from under one of the overturned shelves. He made to run into the room but was pressed back against the door's frame by his companion as the floor began to shake again.
"Please remain stationary until the shaking has stopped," Baymax requested, even though he was holding the boy firmly under the doorway, just to be safe.
Despite his request, Hiro tried to break free of the restraining arms. "Aunt Cass! Aunt Cass!" He pushed at the vinyl skin restraining him, with little to show for his efforts. Baymax was not moving.
"It is not yet safe," Baymax admonished in a gentle tone.
The ground continued to shake, but with less severity than before, until it finally subsided. It didn't take long. Once it stopped, Baymax turned to scan the room once more. "Please remain here while I stabilize the patient," he said.
Not waiting for a sign of acknowledgment, the robotic nurse moved into the room, skirting fallen debris and thrown furniture, pushing back shelves as necessary. Coming upon the area where Hiro had seen his aunt, Baymax pushed the shelf back into position, revealing her underneath.
Sensing Hiro might try and enter the room against advice, he put out a restraining arm to try and deter the boy. "Please wait while I extract the patient and bring her to you." He bent to gently pick up the unconscious woman.
Hiro watched, gripping the edge of the door frame until his knuckles were white. The metallic taste of blood filled his mouth, telling him he'd somehow bit either his lip or tongue, though he was too numb to tell which.
Soon, Baymax returned to the doorway, turning to allow passage through the narrow opening. Hiro quickly scrambled out of the way to give him access to the rest of the café.
The robot continued back into the main area of the store, moving to a padded bench bolted to the wall. Once there, he carefully set Hiro's aunt on the fabric covering. "Emergency response teams have been dispatched," he announced as a circle with a red cross flashed on his screen. "Estimated arrival time, ten minutes."
Hiro followed him into the café, kicking aside broken glass. No one else in the café seemed hurt by the aftershock, though it was hard to tell. His eyes were focused solely on his aunt. "How is she?" he asked, almost afraid of the answer.
Baymax moved to apply a bandage to the woman's forehead, just below the hairline on the left side. "Most notable injuries include lacerations to the head and arms, minor abrasions to the legs, and contusions. I also detect signs of a concussion."
The café's guests looked on as the medical bot tended to the proprietress. Cass Hamada had a smile for everyone. And everyone loved Cass.
"You're neurotransmitter levels are fluctuating and your respiration has increased," Baymax observed as he turned to the boy. "Please do not be alarmed. Your aunt's injuries are not serious. The shelf protected her from sustaining more serious harm."
But Hiro didn't relax until the sirens in the distance grew louder, stopping outside the café. With the arrival of the paramedics, he almost breathed a sigh of relief, though everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. And his head was killing him.
While Baymax brought a medic up to speed, several others attended to those café goers who had been injured. Thankfully, none of the former needed to be transported to the hospital, and they quickly left to seek out loved ones, or a good stiff drink.
Hiro came back to his senses long enough to realize the paramedics were wheeling his aunt out into the rain. One held a poncho over her head to keep her dry. The gurney paused as he called out but continued on when he didn't make any other sound.
Outside, the rain continued to pour down. Thunder filled the silence left behind as the sirens screamed away.
"Your body temperature is low," Baymax said as he wrapped his arms around the boy from behind. Heat began to radiate outward as his belly glowed red.
Despite his friend's kind attentions, Hiro felt as though his head was full of cotton, his ears buzzing. He realized he was shivering the moment he felt the heat begin to spread across his shoulders. Hiro blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he thought he was seeing things.
Honey Lemon stood dumbfounded in the doorway of the café. She said something softly in Spanish as she moved into the shattered remains of the store. GoGo, Wasabi, and Fred stared from behind the light-haired chemist. They crowded in behind her as she just stared at the mess.
"Wow," Fred commented as he accidentally stepped on a broken plate. "I swear this place got hit the worst. I mean, it's almost as if some super villain used some kind of seismic doomahicky to isolate the quake's area or something."
Hiro shook his head, trying to clear out the buzzing. He felt toasty warm now, realizing Baymax still held him in his arms. "What? You're not saying…?" He looked at Honey and GoGo.
GoGo shrugged, popping her gum. "Looks that way, though I'm not sure about the super villain part. Seems several parts of the city have been hit."
Wasabi righted one of the televisions, plugging it back into the wall. He gave a sigh of relief when it came on, albeit with a bit of static.
A news anchor popped into view, a map of the city behind him, with several red dots pock-marking the area. "For those just joining us, isolated earthquakes have been reported throughout the area. Seismologists are still at a loss to explain how these quakes can be so localized, leaving sections of the city untouched. We'll update as we get more information."
Hiro pushed away from Baymax's embrace, still feeling dizzy. "What? How's that even possible?" He stared at the screen as the areas hit were shown. It almost looked like someone had played a game of battleship, the earth shaking in clearly defined radii.
Honey watched the boy with concern. Even though she had become used to Hiro's unconventional ways, she knew that look. She glanced at Baymax for confirmation.
"Hiro is experiencing emotional distress," Baymax confirmed, seeing her look.
Fred frowned, then moved further into the café. "Yo, Hiro. Your aunt around? Maybe you should go…"
The boy turned to face the t-shirt clad man with such a look on his face that his words choked in his throat.
"Ms. Hamada has been transported to the hospital for medical attention," Baymax announced. "She sustained several lacerations, contusions, and abrasions during the course of the earthquake and resulting aftershock."
Hiro bit his lip to keep from crying again, still tasting the faint hint of blood on his tongue. When his friends looked his way, he could only nod.
"Man, I'm sorry," Fred apologized, his mouth turned down. "You okay? You don't look so good."
Behind the shag of dark hair, Hiro's face looked more pale than usual. The dizziness swelling again. "I uh… I don't think…" The boy's words trailed off as his knees buckled.
His friends let out a collective expression of surprise, but it was GoGo who caught him before he could hit the ground. "For such a small fry, you sure seem to weigh a lot," she complained as she eased the boy to the floor. She blinked, realizing Hiro was out. "Ah, man. Now how did that saying go? If the face is pale…?"
"Raise the tail," Wasabi supplied, then glanced towards Baymax for confirmation.
"What Wasabi said is correct," the robot confirmed as he moved closer. "Hiro's blood sugar levels have dropped. This is likely the cause of his current unconscious state."
Honey Lemon bit her lip. "Maybe it's because of the shock?"
Fred helped GoGo find some seat cushions to raise the boy's legs above his heart. It didn't take long, as plenty had been scattered around the floor.
"My scans do not indicate a significant decrease in bodily functions, or oxygen levels," Baymax observed. "It is likely the root cause is psychological in nature. I observed possible depression prior to the earthquake."
Fred nodded. "Yeah, I can dig that." He glanced towards the front windows, where the rain continued to pelt down. "Remember, guys? It was raining the day of the funeral too. Maybe Hiro was depressed because of that?"
Honey Lemon nodded, her hands clasped together. "I'm so glad you called us," she said to the medical robot. "My apartment wasn't even touched by the quake, but knowing Hiro was trying to deal with the pain alone…"
"Stupid kid," GoGo said quietly as she brushed enough debris out of the way to sit down.