hello everyone! here is chapter four! i hope you enjoy!
i know it looks way shorter than the last chapter, but the last chapter was suuuuuuuuuuuuuper long even for me. this is more normal length. I hope you guys like it! there's lots of illegal activiy and inner conflict, two of my favorite things to write about!
thanks to everyone who gave me feedback! i really appreciate it! i'm so lucky to have such a great community of readers!
please everyone read and review! let me know if i make any mistakes!
this installment of wwiii is halfway done! i'll probably get to four installments, so stay tuned! I think I'm gonna name this whole giant wwiii series Resistance...whaddaya think?
thank you everyone!
I gasp and jolt awake, my blanket twisted around me like a straitjacket, and tumble off my bed onto the floor with a loud thump. I lay there for a few moments, panting, and then struggle to disentangle myself from the blanket. It takes a few moments, but I manage to free myself and climb back into bed, still gasping for air.
Blood. So much blood. Running down the street, dripping from every roof and falling from the sky. People screaming, children crying, gunshots and bombs splitting the air with resounding explosions.
Something that has filled my life with terror and pain and uncertainty. If I don't come out of this with PTSD, I'll be seriously lucky. It's already been pretty traumatic, and I have a feeling it'll only get worse.
I roll over and bury my face in my pillow, trying to dispel the nightmare. My head aches slightly, and I make a mental note to take some Advil in the morning. I don't have that bad of a concussion, but it's only been a few days since I got it, and I still have a headache. At least it helps to keep my mind off my dreams.
After several minutes, I haven't fallen back asleep, so I get up and walk over to the window. We can't leave it open, but sometimes I need to see the sky.
I pull one of the blinds up and peer out, looking at the full moon. The thin shaft of light falls across Meg's face, and I tear my eyes away from the moon to study her, sleeping in Tadashi's bed with her hair spread over the pillow. I'm glad she doesn't have to take an air mattress for tonight—Tadashi stayed downstairs with Honey, so Meg gets the bed. She looks beautiful in sleep, even with her tangled hair and still-scraped-up face. I'm glad she's been with me for the whole war—I don't think I could have made it this far alone.
Returning my gaze to the sky, I drink in the silvery light for a moment longer, then climb back into my bed, hoping I don't have any more nightmares. I'm already tired enough.
When I wake up in the morning in the same position—sweating profusely and wrapped tightly in my blanket—I'm honestly more annoyed than scared. I guess I'd better get used to it—these nightmares won't end until the war does, and they might even last longer than that.
I wrench myself free of the covers and stumble into the bathroom, turning on the sink and splashing water on my sweaty face. Upon drying it off, I discover that my cheeks have wide red pillow creases on them, my eyes are shadowed with deep purple, and my hair is an absolute rat's nest. Man, I look awesome. Note the sarcasm. I can't really do anything about how I look at the moment, though, so I just head downstairs for breakfast.
"Hey, Hiro!" Tadashi says cheerfully when I step into the kitchen. "You're just in time! I'm making waffles!"
I flop down on the couch next to Megan, who appears to still be asleep. "Awesome. Tadashi, do you know how to make pillow creases go away fast?"
"I did notice those—yeah, they're pretty bad," Tadashi replies. "But I don't know how to make them go away, you just kinda have to wait. Rough night?"
"Yeah," I groan. "Nightmares. You?"
"I actually didn't sleep that badly," Tadashi says, sounding apologetic. "Honey didn't need anything during the night, and Wasabi promised to wake me up if she did. I hope he got some sleep too."
Tadashi sets a plate of waffles, doused in syrup and whipped cream, in front of me. "Sorry you didn't, buddy. Maybe waffles will wake you up. Oh, yeah—we forgot to tell you, Callaghan and President Cruz cleaned up the street so you can't tell there was a chem explosion. They, um, also buried the North Koreans. Honey's explosion really did the trick—all the guards were killed. They can't tell Jeong where we are now."
"And you feel really bad about it," I mumble through a huge bite of waffle. I didn't realize how hungry I was.
Tadashi sighs. "Yeah. I wish we could have sent their remains back to North Korea, but there's no way to do that without incriminating ourselves."
I finish chewing, then swallow. "Yeah, it is pretty sad. Maybe we could sent some kind of message to their families when this is all over—that way they at least know what happened to the guards.
Tadashi nods mutely. "I'm not sure if Honey was trying to kill the guards or not, but I can't believe we've actually...you know..." He sighs again. "We've actually taken lives in this war, Hiro. I don't think it's considered murder in war if you kill for your country, but...I still feel really bad. Those people shouldn't have died just so we could hide from Jeong a little longer."
I reach out and put a hand on his cast. "I know it's a terrible thing, Tadashi. But who knows? We might have saved a lot of people by staying hidden. It's just that we won't know until the war is over."
"I know," Tadashi agrees, looking sadly down at my splinted hand resting on top of his broken arm. "We probably did save a lot of people. But I still think it's wrong to kill, and that's what we did. It's hard not knowing if they died for the greater good."
"We'll see one day," I whisper. "I promise, Dashi. Everything we do is for the greater good, and we will never stop striving for that."
Tadashi smiles slightly. "Thanks, Hiro. Oh—are you gonna fix the armor today? The break-in is tonight, right?"
"Yeah," I tell him. "And I know you think it's a bad idea, but—"
"Hiro, I think it's a great idea," Tadashi counters, taking my empty plate to the sink and starting to rinse it off. "I just wish we didn't have to do it. I don't like having to lie and steal for the greater good—it goes against everything we've been raised to believe. Sometimes good people have to do that kind of stuff to save the world, but sometimes I wonder if doing it makes us...you know...not good people anymore."
"Tadashi," I whisper. "We're still good people. This break-in is meant to stop this war and save millions of lives, and it'll all work out in the end. I really think it's worth it if it means we save all those people."
Tadashi gives me a faint smile. "Then by all means, Hiro, do it. Just don't get caught."
The armor repair only takes about an hour—simply putting new Plexiglas into my visor and fixing the thrusters on both sets of wings. After that, Meg, Momokase, and I are pretty much ready to break into KreiTech, but we have to wait until night.
"I suggest you allow me to handle any guards," Momokase tells us in the supposed-to-be-brief heist team meeting we hold in the basement. "While I am certain you are capable young heroes, the fact remains that you have not been trained in the art of karate. I will go ahead of you and incapacitate any North Koreans I see. Once we have reached the office, I will stand guard at the door while you retrieve the blueprints. I suggest we exit through the window from there."
"Where should we go in at?" Megan asks. "Which entrance do you think will be least heavily guarded?"
Momokase spins her blade, thinking. "I do believe it will be the front door."
"Why?" I ask, bewildered.
"Think," she commands. "The North Koreans will be suspecting thieves, spies, impostors—all of whom would most likely choose to enter the building surreptitiously. Therefore, the more traditional ways of entering KreiTech will have less protection than the ways a lesser thief would choose to enter."
"You're a genius," I whisper, impressed. "Okay, the front door it is."
"We should still exercise caution," Momokase warns. "The enemy will most certainly be on high alert. I understand we'll be invisible, but I would not be surprised if North Korea had technology sufficient to reveal us. They are much more advanced than the United States believed at first, and in assuming that, I fear that our country has made a fatal mistake."
"We'll be careful," Megan decides, even though I've never known her to be careful in my life. "Like you said, we'll be invisible. You still have that suit from Hiro, right?"
"Indeed I do," Momokase replies. "And I thank you for it," she adds, turning to me. "It has never once failed me. I do believe it will serve me well on our mission tonight."
"You're welcome," I mumble, dipping my head. "Oh—did Tadashi stitch up your lung? Is is okay to go tonight?"
"Of course," Momokase tells me. "I thankfully did not reopen the pulmonary tissue, only the superficial wound. Your brother sutured it very well and assured me that it should hold if not strained too suddenly. I told him it was inevitable, so he sutured it a second time. I believe I will hold up in the event of an emergency."
"Awesome," I declare. "I think we'll meet at ten tonight, just down in the café. Anything else?"
"Nope," Megan says cheerfully. "Meeting adjourned, then! See you guys at ten!"
The cool night breeze whispers against my skin as we slip, invisible, through the the shadows at the edge of the broken, empty streets. The city is perfectly silent—almost too silent. It seems like the whole of San Fransokyo is waiting to ambush us.
Megan, Momokase, and I don't talk on the way to KreiTech, fearing that even the slightest noise will be heard. I take great care not to step on anything breakable, trying not to make a single sound on our treacherous journey through the streets.
Finally, the looming silhouette of KreiTech comes into view in front of us, its windows glowing with cool blue light instead of the usual warm amber. Its destroyed front has been repaired, much faster than I'd have expected. I wonder if they're using my microbots—but no, I took the neural transmitter with me when Meg and I escaped. I suppose they could have replicated it, though.
"As I suspected," Momokase whispers as we crouch behind one of the building's large hedges. "The front door has minimal protection. I will clear your path. Be ready to run inside, and try to cut the locks off the doors with your blades. Break left...now."
And before I can even figure out what "break left" means, Momokase has leaped forward and knocked out four North Korean guards, so fast I barely see it. As Meg and I hurry forward, five graphene blades land point-first in just as many security cameras.
When we reach the door, I flip the lock's electrical panel off its mount with my graphene blade and slice the wires inside. Pushing open the door, I beckon to Megan and we slip inside. Momokase darts in after us—or at least I think she does, since we're all invisible—and throws her blades with startling precision into every security camera in the vicinity.
"You know the way," Momokase whispers. "I will follow you. Be bold and do not hesitate."
I put a hand on Megan's elbow to let her know where I am, and we start forward as quickly as we can toward Krei's office, Momokase creeping along behind us.
I'd like to take the elevator, but it appears to be locked by some kind of advanced security, with a fingerprint sensor on the console. Those are much harder to hack into than keypads, so I reluctantly—and quietly—inform the girls that we need to take the stairs.
Momokase's graphene blades hit every security camera we pass, and I am eternally grateful we brought her. Meg and I would have been dead or at least captured a long time ago if we didn't have Momokase.
"We're almost there," I whisper. "Just another turn and—"
I freeze as a horribly familiar voice reaches my ears, drifting through the softly lit corridors of KreiTeach along with at least two sets of footsteps.
"Perimeter breach? I'll take care of it. The intruders will be appropriately dealt with—they'll learn they never should have messed with Chasu Rinah Sakura Jeong."
"Jeong's coming!" I hiss. "Quick, hide!"
"I can just—" Momokase begins, but I cut her off. "She'll know it was us! She'll kill us later, whenever she finds out!"
"In here!" Meg gasps from about ten feet down the hall.
I follow her voice to a door, which is locked with a keypad and mared OBSERVATORY. As Jeong's footsteps draw closer, I hurriedly pull of the keypad cover, cut the wires, and jam it back into place as fast as I can. Momokase and Megan dart inside, and I fling myself through the door, shutting it as quietly as I can just as the footsteps come around the corner.
As we stand there in the dark, panting, I realize that this is the room that Jeong made our deal in—the one with stars on every inch of the floor, ceiling, and walls. It's beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
Jeong's footsteps fade into silence, and I whisper, "I think it's safe to come out of invisibility mode for a little but. We need to let the suits recharge a bit or they won't hold invisibility for the whole mission."
I press the button on my suit, and it flickers back into my vision as the girls do the same. Both of them look around the starry room in awe, staring at the twinkling ceiling.
"Is this...the Amphitheater?" Meg asks in wonder. "It looks so different..."
"Yeah," I whisper. "It's beautiful."
"Indeed," Momokase agrees. "It's as if someone has captured the sky in a room."
I look around and see the cryptic North Korean characters still inscribed on the wall, glowing amidst the stars in luminescent script. Raising my phone, I snap a picture of it, hoping we can translate it back at the café.
We wait several minutes before we leave, to ensure that Jeong is completely gone and to allow the suits to recharge a little. Once we have deemed the coast clear, we all go invisible and step outside, ready to go the rest of the way to Krei's office.
As we come upon the door, we discover that there are two guards standing in front of it. It's really not a problem, I guess, since Momokase simply leaps forward and knocks them both unconscious. I push open the office's sliding door, and we step inside.
The office is dimly lit with moonlight and perfectly silent, looking almost exactly like it did before the war. The only thing out of the ordinary is the absence of Krei—I half expect him to leap up out of his chair and cry, "Intern! Which smile should I use for my press conference?"
Then, suddenly, I head a muffled "mmph!" from said chair, which has been turned around. Heart pounding, still invisible, I inch around the perimeter of the room toward the window. When I stop in front of the chair, I have to stifle a tiny gasp.
Alistair Krei is tied to his chair, with a strip of cloth tied around his mouth and another around his eyes. Some kind of glowing bands encircle Krei's wrists, pinning them to the armrests, and his suit is scuffed and torn.
Seeing no harm in it, I whisper, "Mr. Krei?"
"Intern?" he asks, his voice muffled by the gag.
"Hiro. But yeah, it's me—hang on, let me get you out of there."
I step forward and slice through Krei's bonds, then yank off his gag and blindfold, revealing his disheveled hair and swollen eye. I don't judge, though, because I can't look much better.
Krei appears utterly confused for a moment, and hten I remember I'm invisible. I hurriedly press the button on my breastplate and flicker back into existence. Krei doesn't look like this bothers him in the least—he takes it with an expression of resignation, as if used to this kind of thing by now.
"We can show ourselves now," I whisper to Megan and Momokase. "It's okay. Krei won't turn us in."
The girls materialize out of thin air, and Krei finally speaks. "Why are you three in my office?"
"Top-secret mission," Meg replies. "Doesn't concern you. Why were you tied up in your own office?" She walks over to the safe in the corner of the room and begins carving a hole in it with her graphene blade.
"Sorry to deflect your question—but what are you doing to my safe?!" Krei yelps, dashing over to it. "What do you want in there?"
"Blueprints," Megan says briskly, shoving him away. She finishes carving the circle and reaches inside, but all that comes out is a wad of hundred-dollar bills and some kind of deed. "Sorry, Hiro. Nothing in here."
"What are you looking for?" Krei demands. "Are you trying to rob me? Because I would really prefer that you didn't!"
"Tell us where the blueprints are," Momokase hisses, grabbing Krei by the collar and holding a blade to his throat.
"Wait!" I yelp. "Let him go! We can figure this out without threatening anyone!"
Momokase growls and releases Krei, and I turn to him. "Mr. Krei, we need you to tell us where the Silent Sparrow blueprints are. It's really important—it could even force the North Koreans out of America. Seriously, you just need to tell us where you keep them—you'd really be helping your country."
"Why do you need those?" Krei asks suspiciously. "That machine almost killed us both! I agreed to never start work on it again!"
"I want to teleport North Korea's weapons out of America," I explain hurriedly. "Please, Mr. Krei, we'll even take you with us. You can join the resistance—you'll be safe there."
Krei sighs. "I suppose I'll do it. Miss Cruz, press the button in the back of the safe. It'll open another safe in the floor, and the blueprints are in there. I kept one copy just in case."
Megan reaches into the safe and presses the button. A small panel slides out of the tiled floor, and I glimpse a sheaf of blue paper. Megan leans in and retrieves the blueprints, shoving them into her pocket.
I study Krei, trying to figure out how to take him with us. Maybe if we just grab his arms—
Suddenly, a massive crash echoes through the room, and glass sprays into the air. With no time to make sure the others are okay, I yelp and fling myself to the ground. Thankfully, my armor does a pretty good job of protecting me from the flying shards of glass. As soon as they've stopped, I feel Megan's hand on my elbow, pulling me up. I glance over at her to find that her armor has also protected her skin, and Momokase and Krei seem to have been far away enough from the spray of glass to avoid it entirely. Relief swamps me, but it's quickly overtaken by terror as I turn toward the shattered door and discover what broke it.
The shaodw of a massive robot stnads in the doorway, its eyes glowing white and its body a configuration of sharp angles and black carbon fiber. It's easily ten feet tall, its shoulders nearly that broad, and a familiar access port stands out on its chest.
Oh my gosh.
"You guys," I whisper, my voice deathly quiet. "It's Baymax."
Before I know it, Momokase has leaped forward and started slashing at Baymax with her blades. I want to tell her to stop, but I know that isn't really my robot, not anymore.
"Go!" Momokase shrieks. "I'll hold him off! You have the blueprints, get back to headquarters!"
"We can't just leave you!" I yell as Meg starts to drag me and Krei over to the window.
"Go! Just go! I'll catch up!"
"Alright," Megan begins as the killer Baymax struggles to throw Momokase off. "Krei, I need you to link an arm through mine and the other through Hiro's. Hold on as tight as you can and squeeze your eyes shut. Hiro—wings."
I press the button on my chest, and my wings fly open. Beside me, Megan's do the same.
"Amazing!" Krei exclaims.
"Close your eyes, Krei!" Meg reminds him. Suddenly, I hear a scream from behind us, and I turn to see the killer Baymax charge.
"Now, Hiro!" Megan screams. "Blast off! Wings first, straight through the window!"
I don't even question her. I hit the button one more time and fire up my thrusters, flinging myself toward the glass for all I'm worth.
The window shatters into million tiny shards, and Krei lets out a rather unmanly scream as we blast through the window and out into the night.
"We need to go invisible!" I yell to Megan as we soar into the sky and shouts start to echo below. "They saw us!"
"It doesn't matter!" she shouts back. "They can see Krei anyway! We've just got to land as far away as we can and then get to the café!"
"Was this your plan?" Krei yells over the roar of the wind. "Because if so, it was a terrible plan!"
"Excuse me, we are saving your butt right now!" Megan retorts. "And yes, this was my plan! From about twenty seconds ago!"
Gunshots start to echo through the air behind us, and I yelp, "We've got to go faster! They're firing on us!"
"I can't turn my speed up!" Megan calls. "In case you forgot, my available arm is in a sling!"
"Then we need to go higher!" I declare, and Krei actually squeaks. "Not higher! Please don't go higher!"
"Sorry, Krei!" I call. "We kind of don't want to get shot down!"
He screams as Meg and I tilt our wings back, and we shoot up into velvet darkness shot through with glittering light.