2007-12-08: 9th Wanderers

Starring:

Hiro_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif Kory_icon.gif Jane_icon.gif

Summary: Hiro's quest to gather all the 9th Wonders! comics leads him, and others, to some unexpected revelations.

Date It Happened: December 8th, 2007

9th Wanderers


The Secret Lair

East Village, New York

Hiro bustles through the door into the Secret Lair with no small amount of excitement. For he is now in the place where the great, wise people come to meet and read comics.

But he is also on a mission! Find every issue of 9th Wonders! Wait, since when was the Hulk red? Nevermind! FIND EVERY ISSUE OF 9TH WONDERS!

As he arrives at one of the shelves containing the greatest of all literature, he begins to pull them out in great bunches and thumb through them swiftly. Soon, he finds an issue of 9th Wonders and he begins to look through it curiously.

Niki has had a busy day, and has a busy night ahead of her, so as the blonde mom eventually enters the comic shop known as the Secret Lair, a place she only knows about because of certain twelve year olds, she's expecting it to be a short trip. She's wearing layers of winter stuff over her clothes to fend off the annoyingly cold Not Nevada Weather - black jacket with soft brown faux fur around the wide hood that sits across her back, a red scarf and gloves, which she starts to pull off once she's inside. She glances about for familiar faces, finds none, and… is completely and obviously out of her element. High-heeled black boots, overtop her jeans, cautiously carry her through the jungle of comic books and action figures and geekware she can't even begin to name. "Hey. Uhm, excuse me…" she says to Hiro, mistaking the back of his head for a Lair employee. "Do you know where I can find a comic book called 9th Wonders?"

No employee is Hiro, but he's always willing to help out someone - especially when it comes to comic books.

But as he smiles and is about to turn to speak, he glances down at the page he's been reading. He's not one-hundred percent when it comes to reading English, but he's much better at it than he used to be so he realizes that what he's reading on the page is exactly what he's hearing behind him right now. And apparently, the Hiro in the comic book is being approached by a blonde woman. Wow. Wait, turn around!

Hiro turns around quickly, lifting up the comic book and pointing excitedly to the Mendez-illustrated Niki on the page.

"9th Wonders!" he exclaims, accent a little thicker and harder to understand than usual through his excitement, "This is you."

"I…?" Niki, perplexed and surprised in the same breath, just stares at Hiro wordlessly. She was expecting to hear 'sure, they're in that box to the left', not— not this. It actually takes her a second to stop staring at Hiro and turn her dumbfounded gaze on the pages of the comic. Comprehension grows slowly, she stops gaping, and reaches out to take the 9th Wonders! Issue and draw it closer. "And… that's… you. You're— I remember you."

Hiro blinks a couple of times. His memory is usually good and today is really no exception, recognition flooding his features before too long.

"Kirby Plaza! And … St. Patrick's Day!"

He nods and hands the copy of 9th Wonders! over to Niki when she reaches for it, their entire conversation from hereon out dictated on the page exactly.

"One of the heroes," Hiro says quietly with a knowing smile.

It's not that Niki doesn't believe what she's seeing, because it's right there in front of her, but she's still the picture of incredulity. "I'm … not much of a hero," she says quietly, self-deprecating, maybe, but she can't help it. She looks at the last panel on this particular page to see her downcast self saying 'I'm not much of a hero' with Hiro's smiling face in front of her and takes a moment more to stare at the illustration. Coming out of her daze, she doesn't say 'why are we in a comic book' or 'how is this happening' … she says, "I thought the artist was dead."

Hiro's smile fades and turns into a look of sadness, bowing his head for a moment at the mention of the artist's death.

"Mr. Isaac, yes. But he made many comic books before Sylar killed him. I am in them!

The smile and enthusiasm quickly returning, Hiro spins and recovers Issue #14 from the shelf and flips through it to show Niki. Hiro stopping time on his clock in his cubicle back in Japan. Hiro and Ando at LAX. Hiro showing the comic to someone at the airport.

"They tell the future. I am collecting them."

Niki lowers the newer issue in her hand to examine the #14, leaning in to scan the images. They're all vaguely familiar, in a way; she's seen these lying around so many times at home… her head tilts slightly to one side. "Your friend looks familiar." She straightens, furrowing her brow. "I knew his paintings, but … comic books?"

Hiro nods his head, "Yes. Comic books and paintings. And sketches."

He pauses a while before carrying on, putting #14 aside so they can go back and flip through the one starring the both of them in the comic store right at this moment.

"I have to collect all of them so we can find out what is going to happen."

He half-turns and begins to flip through the comics again, looking for another 9th Wonders!

Kory comes from the back staircase, twirling her hair into one of those loose, quick buns. She gives a quick wave to Tito, who has been unobtrusively hanging out in the gaming area in case the customers need anything. Tito waves back and gestures forward. Kory follows his gaze and smiles wryly. Wouldn't ya know it. The 9th Wonders display.

"Hi there," she calls to the customers, "Finding everything you need okay?"

Niki tucks her gloves into a half-zipped pocket of her coat joins Hiro in his epic search. Sort of. She stands beside him, anyway, watching him flip through the comics. "I just came in to buy Christmas presents." And now look. "Who else is in these…?" she starts to wonder aloud before turning her head to look at Kory, with a light swinging of her long, blonde ponytail over the hood of her coat. "Kory, hi," she smiles. "You could say that."

Hiro excitedly points to the representation of Kory on the page asking the exact same question. He nods his head in response.

"Look!"

"Oh, hey, Mrs. Sanders." Kory lifts a hand happily to wave at the mom of one of her favourite kids. She blinks as Hiro exclaims, and smiles faintly. "Yeah, Mr. Mendez was really talented, huh?"

"Talented. You could say that, too." Niki grins a little bit, as if harbouring an inside joke or secret— but it's not much of one, it's all right there in the panels. She looks at Hiro and shakes her head, laughing ever-so-slightly under her breath as she says, "My son has almost all of these at home. I can't believe they've been telling the future all this time."

Hiro blinks a little when Kory doesn't seem all that interested in actually being in the comic book. It must just be a mistake, of course. Or maybe she didn't notice. He holds it up a little higher and points at it, "That's you!"

It was more Kory didn't realize Hiro was trying to get her attention. "I'm sorry," she says, shaking off the preoccupied expression. "What's — oh." She sees herself, rendered in art, with the same expression she must be wearing at the moment, saying what she just says. "Wow. That's…really…disconcerting."

"Tell me about it," Niki says, looking from Kory to the page of the comic … which … hey, she's still holding. She turns the page, folding the other lightly behind the front. There are only a few pages left in the issue.

The next panels stop following our unlikely trio in The Secret Lair and switches to Elsewhere, In Manhattan…

A distinctively-featured older Asian man sits at a desk, frowning. It's Kaito Nakamura. Beneath the panel of his close-up face, his hands are shown packing files into a briefcase, and in the next, he's leaving his office. Hiro is then suddenly illustrated in the empty room, which looks out over a cityscape of skyscrapers on a snowy day. The caption above his head reads '??'.

Hiro may very well have a '??' caption over his head in real life as he looks at the comic book, confused slightly by the sudden appearance of Kaito in the comic book.

"<Father?>" he wonders aloud, in Japanese no less.

Kory stares from the page to Niki to Hiro, and back to the page. "Your father?" she asks. She isn't fluent in Japanese by any stretch, but she has picked up a little. She's a geek. Who watches lots and lots anime. And hangs out with geeks. Who watch lots and lots of anime. And try to impress her with translating for her when they can't find good dubs or subs. Osmosis. "This guy's your dad?" She wrinkles her nose, and shakes her head. "Good thing…" she murmurs to herself, half a thought unspoken.

This part of the comic book doesn't mean much to Niki, and neither does what Hiro says in Japanese, until Kory clarifies. She doesn't spend time thinking what the panels mean, there's not much there— she just turns the page.

An empty office.

The text reads, Understanding the exact nature of the danger he faces, Hiro's father disappears.

A close-up of Hiro's face, animated and perplexed. Now Hiro must journey to find his father — before it's too late.

'Too late…' the comic book Hiro says in Comicraft. 'Too late for what?'

The next page is a small biography on Isaac Mendez, which doubles as a tribute now that he's passed away and explaining how he never got the chance to finish the next issue.

And Hiro says exactly what he's 'scripted' to say on the page in the comic, brow furrowing as he looks at the next page only to find a biography. He points at it, unable to make out most of it himself so he has to rely on the native English speakers.

"What does that say?"

"It says, 'Isaac Mendez, artist and writer of 9th Wonders died tragically some months ago, and was unable to complete the last issue. But 9th Wonders comics extends our sympathy to his family, and his fans, whom he always considered a family of sorts.'" Kory reads for Hiro.

Niki closes the comic book after Kory's words and offers it sympathetically back to Hiro. "I'm sorry it wasn't more helpful about finding your father," she says; with a furrowed brow, and tentatively hopeful smile, she tags on, "Maybe there's still time. Maybe this part doesn't happen right away." Niki sure doesn't know how prophetic comic book mechanics work.

While the three are discussing 9th Wonders, the shop door opens. A jean-clad twenty-something brunette, at first glance, is coming through it. The first recognizable thing about her, other than taller than average female height and the color of her hair is the guitar case opposite the backpack she's carrying. More can be determined when Jane turns around and makes her way toward the counter, not yet spotting the trio.

Hiro is still looking at the comic book as though some as-yet unseen clue will spring out and he'll be able to discover exactly what to do. When Niki speaks, he looks up at her and nods his head.

"You might be right. But I should check to make sure … I did not even think he was in New York."

Kory looks up as the door opens; conditioned reflex. "Happy Hol—oh. Hey." She remembers the face. And the conversation. The name follows as the cascade in her head stops. "Jane. Right? How's it going?" She bobs her head to excuse herself from Niki and Hiro and greet Jane. "Everything …okay?" Last time she was here — things were uneasy.

"Kory," she greets in return when spoken to, flashing a slight smile. Jane seems about to say more when she stops short, her eyes raking over the other two. "Hiro." And a nod to the blonde lady from Cass's store whose name she can't remember hearing. Curiosity shows on her face for a moment, as if she were perhaps speculating that Niki might also have an ability, like so many people who've found Enlightenment Books, but she shakes it off. "Not badly, Kory. I'm all good, in fact."

As Kory goes to see to a customer (who she glances at with vague recognition), Niki brushes past Hiro and takes a random assortment of comics from the box of 9th Wonders, not even quite in order. "That makes it harder," she comments distractedly to the young Japanese man while she flips through about four comics, just looking at the covers with a slightly frantic insistence— an eclipse, a cheerleader surrounded by flames, a glass of bubbling, frothing water… none of these mean anything to her. It's the fourth one that gives her pause; she holds it up, criticizing it. The unclad blonde woman in front of a mirror with a bloodied reflection.

Hiro blinks at the unclad blonde woman on the cover of the comic book that Niki is looking at, still lost in his own thoughts about what to do about this whole father situation. But when he looks at the cover, he remembers Ando's iPod when they first flew to America and says (maybe a little too loudly, as well):

"Las Vegas Niki Dot Com!"

"Good to hear it," Kory says. "Anything I can getcha?" She seems a lot calmer in the store than she has since the last time both Niki and Jane were here. A lot more at ease.

She's about to speak with Kory again, the words forming on her lips to say she met someone she wants her to meet, the bespectacled Japanese man in the store with them, when her ears pick up what Hiro says, and Jane loses the thought. Her eyes move over to settle on him, and the blonde, along with the comic she's holding if visible. She's quiet in that moment, looking between the two, before turning back to Kory. "Oooookaaay," she utters, "it seems you already met."

It could be worse. There could be more people in the store to overhear Hiro's revelation. (Who knows where the geeks hide, though.) Niki just… closes her eyes for one brief moment, smiles despite herself, and laughs at Hiro, because what else can you do, really? "…your friend," she has a small revelation of her own, "…he came to my house." She tucks the comics back into the box. Micah has all of these anwya— oh god Micah has all of these.

"Yes," Hiro says with a nod of his head, reaching to recover the comics from the box as soon as Niki has put them away - Peter wants all of these.

Hiro looks around in a fashion of conspiracy and whispers to Niki, "I won't tell anyone."

He keeps the latest issue on the top of the pile, though. He's going to go check on his father as soon as he's done here.

"Do you want the back issues as well?" Kory asks. The display case only had about the last five or six issues. "They're back here." She glances quizzically at Jane and then back to Hiro. "Well, yes, but not officially." She smiles to rectify that. "Hi. I'm Kory. I'm the manager of the place. Let me grab you the rest of the series." Which she will be doing herself before the night is out at this rate.

She's left standing there, her eyes wandering, as Kory goes into the back and Hiro continues speaking with Niki. Jane quietly murmurs "What does a Las Vegas website have to do with anything here? Is it a key to finding his sword?" She doesn't intend to be overheard, the words are for the benefit of her own thoughts alone, but spoken just the same. Her eyes glance over at him again, then move on toward the shelves where Black Canary is kept. There will be time to ask about it later.

Niki hesitates as Hiro goes and takes all of the comics she just put back — which is what she's still doing when he whispers to her. "…" She smiles in some form of half-awkward, half-sincere and turns away. She came here to shop for kids, but suddenly she's not feeling so focused on Christmas presents.

Hiro hears the remark and turns to Kory, "I need to buy a copy of each issue!"

"We're going to have to put an order in," Kory calls, exasperated, after an exhaustive search of the long boxes. "9th Wonders has gone up in popularity so fast recently we've pretty much wiped out our backstock. I should have more in right after Christmas…maybe the New Year. They tend to pull skip weeks at holiday time." She looks embarrassed and apologetic.

Niki twirls around to face Hiro again when she hears what must be bad news from him a la Kory. "If you get these comic books— they'll help you? Not counting these new ones," she touches a corner of the latest issue, "My son loves these things. He has almost all of them. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if the star of his favourite comic borrowed them."

"We need them because they tell the future," Hiro explains, nodding to Niki and moving to follow her. Sure, it isn't strange being invited back to meet someone's kids in a comic store in New York City after discussing how comic books are telling the future. Not at all. Who said it was?

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