Hello. Yes, I am writing a zombie apocalypse AU, because I have absolutely zero self-control and watched WWZ last night. This is probably going to be the longest fic I have ever written and I haven't even completed it yet.
So. General info: John's second eldest in this, I think this is only the second time I've ever written Scott's POV, I beta-read this myself so sorry for any errors, and this is mostly based in the TAG 2015 universe. It's a canon-divergence from around season one.
Warnings: strong language, graphic descriptions of violence (I mean... it's zombies, my dudes) and some serious made-up business terminology because I haven't studied business or economics in my life and when I rang my friend for advice he informed me that 'one in the morning is not an appropriate time to ask me to explain stocks, Kat', so here we are.
People said that you remembered the last twenty-four hours before the world ended in paralyzingly precise detail. The exact groceries you picked out at the store, which fruit you chopped up to have with your cereal because your brother had stolen the last of the kind that came pre-packaged with chocolate, what time it was that you were scrawling down numbers on the torn corner of your napkin because one of the advisers was stressing about the stock changes for the new year; everything was supposedly important because it was the last time you'd be part of a functioning society.
For Scott, his last twenty-four hours before the world collapsed began with the fascinating memory of his youngest brother crashing into the bathroom without knocking and waving a phone around.
"Have you seen this?"
Scott tugged his towel closer with a yelp and narrowly avoided dropping his toothbrush down the toilet. "Wha'?" he mumbled through a mouthful of toothpaste, spat, and repeated: "What? Also, learn to knock."
Alan gave a dramatic sigh and shoved the phone in front of Scott's face. The screen was misted with condensation from the bathroom and the brightness was lowered so that the images were difficult to distinguish, but from what Scott could make out there appeared to be two people wrestling on a street corner, one covered in blood.
"What's it supposed to be?" He queried, shouldering past his brother to head back to his own room. Alan growled in protest and followed him. "Because it looks like what's gonna happen when Gordon goes ahead with his plan to redecorate Two." There was a confused shout from aforementioned brother's room and Scott knocked on the door with one foot as a response. Gordon didn't appear – probably tending to his apparently immortal goldfish.
Alan tilted the phone upside down and peered at the video again. "He's not attacking the guy, he's eating him," he stressed.
Scott paused. "What?" It appeared to be the only valid response at this point, and he didn't dwell too much on the entire thing as he searched through his wardrobe for his work shirt. He'd take a difficult rescue over Tracy Industries meetings any day, but with John needed up on Five there was no real choice. God, he hated wearing suits. "Alan, I don't have time for this."
He snapped his fingers at his hologram projector. "John, did you take my shirt?"
John, hair sticking on end from sleep and cast a pale blue from the reflections of his holograms, shot back instantly, "you have more than one?"
"I'm late, my work shirt is missing, Gordon ate the last of my cereal and Alan, why are you still in my room?"
Alan, still protesting, allowed himself to be pushed outside the door. Scott could hear him shouting in the corridor. For a brief moment he allowed himself to wonder whether there was seriously something going on – Alan didn't freak out about nothing, it would be hard to do a job such as theirs if he didn't have better control than that – but John would have alerted him if there was anything about to go down. Hopefully.
He finally found his work shirt at the back of his drawer and headed down to the hangars whilst brushing the creases out. He didn't look too bad. The Board would have to deal. He couldn't help the fact he wasn't his father. He struggled to attach the right-hand cufflink when a flash of blond hair and red fabric caught his eye. Alan was sprawled across the wing of Tracy One, phone held aloft in one hand and a half-empty bottle of Grape Fanta – because little brother was a weirdo – dangling from the other. His feet were hanging off the edge of the aileron. As usual, he wasn't wearing shoes.
Scott wandered over to him with a concealed groan. "Alan, what are you doing?"
"Waiting for you."
"Well, you found me. So now you can go."
Alan sat up. His eyes were wide and pleading and dammit, that was manipulative. He knew Scott would give in to that look.
"Alright," he sighed, notifying John that he'd be a couple of minutes behind schedule – more than he already was – and sitting down on the wing next to his brother. Alan shuffled to the side to give him more room. His grip on the bottle was white knuckled. Scott hid his concern carefully. "What's going on?"
"That's what I'd like to know," Alan muttered darkly. He gestured to the phone once more with a pinched expression that spoke of a deep, instinctive fear. "Look, I'm not messing you around. I get this meeting's important. But reports like this have been cropping up around the world." He took a deep breath. "People randomly attacking and cannibalising one another."
Right. Okay then. Scott held out a hand. "Let me see."
Alan grinned. "Exchange," he offered, and passed Scott the phone whilst setting about fixing the cufflink for him. "Isn't that how business works?"
To give Alan credit, the video looked legitimate. If Scott had seen it projected as a briefing by the GDF then he wouldn't have questioned its validity – or rather he would, but that was due to his distrust of most authority figures. The ground was glistening in the light of the streetlamps and neon glare of the bar in the background and when the other figure finally withdrew, his face was stricken with crimson. Eyes which should have been bright with alcohol-induced rage were rather flooded red with blown-wide pupils. Something twisted akin to fear roused itself deep in Scott's chest, and he fought a shiver.
"Has John seen this?"
Alan shook his head. Blond hair fell into his eyes and Scott – somewhat absently – made a mental note to remind his brother to get a haircut. "No." Alan twisted the hem of his tee between his fingers. "I was gonna send it to him but then I remembered that you were headed out today and I figured it was more important to tell you first."
Scott slid off the wing. "I'll keep an eye out for any trouble, how's that?"
"What?" Alan jumped down and winced as his feet smacked against cold concrete. "No. Scotty, I don't think you should go to New York. At least not until this has all been cleared up."
"I can't just skip this meeting."
Alan stared at him in mute protest. "But Scott, you saw the video. New York is one of the most densely populated cities on Earth. It's the last place you want to be if this all kicks off."
Scott tossed his bag into the cabin and turned back to his brother.
"I'll be fine," he promised. Alan appeared doubtful and Scott placed a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, look at me." Alan reluctantly raised his chin to meet Scott's searching gaze. "If I see anything suspicious, I'll call you to come pick me up in One. Deal?"
Alan's shoulders slumped.
"Deal," he murmured, although he still didn't sound convinced. Scott was torn between wanting to comfort him and the knowledge that he really had to leave if he wanted to avoid the wrath of the investors. He drew Alan into a quick hug and – while his brother had never been one of those kids who suddenly hate receiving affection from their family – was surprised when the teen wound his arms around Scott's waist and hugged back fiercely. "You'd better come back."
The words were mumbled into his chest, but Scott caught them all the same. "I will," he promised gently and ruffled Alan's hair as he reluctantly pulled away. "Go on Allie, go annoy Gordon now."
Alan's face lit up with evil glee. He took a swig from his Fanta, shot Scott a final grin and sprinted back up the steps, all tousled blond and secretive laughter. Scott watched him go a moment longer. Something metal was digging into his fingers and when he looked down, he realised he'd been fiddling with the cufflinks.
"Alright," he announced to thin air out of the habit of constantly referring to radios, "let's get going."
The door at the top of the stairs was banging shut in Alan's wake. Now, weeks later, Scott found himself fuming at his past self with a curious sense of entitled grief. If he'd known what was coming he'd have held on to his little brother for longer, tighter, and made sure he could remember every last detail.
But there was no real warning. Because the world ended quietly, overnight. As most important things in life do.
Four hours before the end of the world, Scott was bundled into the back of a taxi with a mildly drunk Eddie Walters draped over his lap. Eddie was the one man on the Board who'd accepted Scott as the new head without a question – probably because they were around the same age and had both been in the Air Force for a number of years. Shared experiences, shared therapy if you looked at it from a certain angle – either way, when Eddie had suggested a drink after the meeting, Scott had agreed without hesitation. However, while Scott could handle his drink, Eddie was a total lightweight, which was why Scott was now the one providing directions to the driver while his friend was mumbling nonsense into the fabric of his trousers.
"Scott," Eddie was saying, voice light with laughter and drink, "I'm real sorry man."
"Uh huh." Scott retrieved Eddie's glasses from the footwell before his friend could accidentally smash them into oblivion. "I don't know what you're talking about, but sure. I appreciate it."
New York sped past in a blur of deep maroons and angry purples. Lights glittered like stardust against the window and Scott rested his head against it. The dull ache about his temples was threatening to develop into a full-blown headache and he could really do without that. Maybe the drinks hadn't been his best idea to date.
Eddie reached out and fumbled around, narrowly avoiding smacking Scott in the face. "You should go home."
"Trying to get rid of me that quickly, are you?"
"No." Eddie's cheeks were flushed, and his hand was hot when he gripped Scott's. "There's some real shit going down out there and pretty soon it's headed this way. GDF reckon they've got a handle on it, but Papa always said you can't trust the big guys with the guns 'cos they'll only use 'em to protect themselves."
Scott frowned. The words struck a chord in him, rousing a partially forgotten memory from hours ago. "What's headed this way?"
Eddie hitched a choked laugh. "People, man. People turned monsters. Letting it all out." He scrubbed a hand across his face until his palms were streaked with salt. "I'm not supposed to know, but Papa told me to get Lisa out yesterday. I thought they'd solve it, but defences went down, and God knows what we do now. Even International Rescue can't save us from this."
"Save us from what?" Scott shook his shoulder, but Eddie let out a muffled whine and pushed his face into Scott's knees. "Eddie?"
There was no further response, other than a grumbled yawn and yeah, that seemed about right. Scott snuck a glance at the driver, who was pretending not to have been eavesdropping. This was New York – the guy had probably overheard far stranger conversations in the past. Plus, Tracy Industries was paying him enough to keep his damn mouth shut.
Scott pressed his forehead to the cold window and breathed in the faint metallic smell of the aircon. He'd definitely had a few too many at the bar. John was not going to be impressed. Thank God he'd invested in his own apartment in the city because the PR team would not be happy if any hotel staff in the area sold photos of a drunken CEO before the stocks exchange.
Still. He was in control enough to help Eddie out of the car and into his house in the pricier part of Manhattan, complete with a string of security cameras above the door like fairy lights. The intercom was far too loud, and he rubbed his temples with a groan, Eddie clinging onto his side like a particularly determined limpet. A man with a shock of purple hair answered the door.
Scott stared at him. "Did I get the right house?"
"Yeah, man. You're dragging Eds home after a few too many, 'eh? I'm his brother-in-law."
The guy shrugged. "Outta town. Eds was pretty determined about that. Sis took the last flight out to their place in Norway yesterday. I got here this morning."
"How come?" Scott was briefly aware that he was falling more into the interrogation category than a friendly conversation, but something didn't add up and somewhere amongst his alcohol-addled thoughts alarm bells were ringing.
A certain purple-haired southerner didn't seem too concerned. "Fuck knows, man. There's some crazy rumours goin' round. I'd have thought you'd have heard 'em, given how high up the chain you are. Something about people going crazy. Riots? I don't know. Lisa texted me to get my ass outta dodge, so I came and Eds and I are leaving first thing in the morning." He scrubbed the back of his neck, glanced around the empty street, and leant closer, his voice hushed. "Honestly? I reckon you oughta do the same thing. Where's home?"
He blinked. "Shit, dude. Go home. Gather your family. Things are about to get wild and not in the good way."
If the world hadn't been vaguely blurry around the edges and reminiscent of a bad trip, Scott would probably have taken greater heed of this warning. As it was, he handed Eddie over and limped back to the cab, fumbling with his wallet, and relying on the retina-scan to let him into his apartment block because keys were far too fiddly, and besides, this suit had too many pockets for him go on a hunt for them in the first place.
He made a beeline for the bedroom, but there was a nagging sense in the back of his mind, a little fireball of anxiety that he couldn't quite pinpoint, so he gave in to his instincts and slid the deadbolt across the front door first.
Showers could wait until morning. He sprawled across the bed, pressing his face into mercifully cold pillows, and pried each shoe off with the opposite foot. Something was glinting in his vision. He scrambled out of his jacket until the glare of the city lights through the window stopped reflecting off his cufflinks. Soundproof glass was a dream – asides from the travelling patterns across the carpet and sheets, there was no disturbance.
Shit. He was supposed to have called John hours ago.
It could wait until morning.
It could wait until the room stopped spinning.
He really needed to stop drinking. This was a terrible example to set.
Huh. It was suddenly very dark. He squinted through his fingers at the window. New York hung, frozen, flickering, before light flooded back into being, the haze of neon and electric energy rekindling along the streets.
Scott buried his head under the pillows again. He was far too drunk for this. Leave everything until the morning, that was his best bet.
His first conscious thought was that his head hurt like a bitch. There was a brief moment in which he genuinely entertained the possibility that he'd somehow been abducted and was now being constricted in some sort of vice, but the memories that assaulted his mind a second later was evidence enough that no, this was all his own fault. God, he hated hangovers. At least he didn't have to be out of the city until nightfall. He could take his time about things.
Peeling his eyes open took far too much effort. There was that vague sticky feeling that came with sleeping in clothes from the previous day, and he stripped down to his boxers only for that same pesky cufflink from before to spring free and lead him on a chase to retrieve it from behind the desk by the window. He paused, peering through the curtains at the streets below. New York seemed strangely quiet. He had no idea what time it was. His phone, which he discovered in his trousers after they hit the floor with a louder thud than mere fabric caused, was dead, so he hunted around in the kitchen for a charger, leaving it to power up whilst he took a shower.
The lights went out half-way through. Scott froze, still dripping in soap suds, and silently prayed to the universe for someone, somewhere, to restore the power. A couple of minutes passed whilst he began fumbling around past the curtain for the towels, and then a faint whirr echoed about the building, the very walls seeming to tremble, but the lights were igniting in a wave of electricity, so he shoved it to the back of his mind to worry about later.
Besides. He had more important priorities. Namely, food.
It was around ten according to the clock in the kitchen. The fridge was stocked – because honestly, bless the staff, they needed a raise – and despite his family's constant complaints, he was capable of cooking without setting everything on fire. With scrambled eggs on the go and toast at the ready, he finally got around to checking his phone.
John had given up on him by eleven. The texts started out as casual inquiries as to how the meeting had gone – as if little brother expected Scott to believe that he hadn't been listening in from Five the entire time – and delved into a wonderful selection of long-suffering acceptance and judgement.
Call me when you're done nursing a toilet. If you're still alive.
Right. Scott scrolled down to the final message John had sent him, and softened, because complain as Johnny might, he still had his big brother's back when it counted.
I covered for you. If Virgil asks, you're running an errand for me at Colombia.
And then there was Alan. Alan, who had apparently spammed his phone with messages and forwarded videos and then a picture of Gordon in high heels that was immediately followed by a text of he lost a bet. Dammit. Scott always seemed to miss out on the fun evenings at home. He saved the picture to his gallery and returned to John's contact, shooting him a quick message of gratitude and assurances that he was still alive.
Something was burning.
"Ah, shit." He rescued the toast before the fire alarm could go off, when his phone chimed and vibrated itself off the counter. His reflexes were still shot to hell, and he retrieved it from the floor with a silent wish that he'd stayed in bed.
His message had bounced back. Which… didn't make sense. This was his private phone, not his business number, and everything ran through their International Rescue server. He peered closely at the top of the screen, where the data bar showed he had no signal.
"No signal?" He wandered over to the window, waving the phone higher. "This is New York. What the hell do you mean there's no signal?"
He rescued the rest of his breakfast and left it on the side for later. He had a higher priority right now. His jacket was still heaped on the floor, a mass of dark fabric that wrapped itself around his hands as he struggled to find his IR watch, which, apparently, had gone walkabout.
"This just really summarises my whole morning, doesn't it?"
Okay. So. What was the first rule of rescue? Stay calm. Something was seriously wrong. He needed a game plan. He found an old pair of jeans and a spare t-shirt from his last visit and wolfed down the food as he flicked on the television, hunting for answers. If the cell towers were down, then there had to be answers somewhere.
CNN was broadcasting an emergency message. Scott lifted his feet onto the sofa and sprawled across the arm of the chair like a roman emperor, faintly hoping that the alcohol was still in his system and that he was reading too much into something that really wasn't worth stressing over at all. Virgil had once accused him of being paranoid. Hopefully that was true.
The broadcast was old. He could tell instantly. It was a repeating loop. A good repeating loop, that was true, but he knew live footage when he saw it, and he also knew the sort of lines authorities fed the public when they were trying to avoid mass hysteria: this was a classic example. He reached for his phone again and scrolled through his messages, trying to figure out when the cable towers had gone down. His last text was from Alan around three-AM EDT time. It was an innocuous message, a simple inquiry as to how he was getting on, and then, amongst a jumble of emojis as if Alan had been trying to hide it, were the words get home safe pls.
Shit. Scott dragged his feet off the cushions and tossed his phone onto the opposite couch. The TV hissed a spittle of white noise at him, and he increased the volume. Videos were flashing to the right of image, and there, amongst it all, was the original footage Alan had shown him back home.
"The World Council has called an emergency meeting to address this crisis. As of yet, we have received no official statement. The GDF report that they are working to protect citizens and to stop the spread of this virus.
Citizens are asked to barricade themselves in their homes and are not to leave at any point. Do not attempt to reach loved ones. Remain in a safe place until you receive the alert that it is safe to come out. Remember, the infected show no signs of human intellect. They will attack without warning. They appear to view the healthy as a food source. Keep your distance and, from all of us here at the studio, please keep yourself safe."
The broadcast flickered. White static blasted from the speakers and Scott practically flung himself from the couch as he jumped. There was no need to try to decrease the volume, for the channel cut out and when he scrolled through the other broadcasts, nothing was on air. The cable had gone down completely.
He knotted his hands in his hair and tugged until the pain brought him back to his senses. Focus. Figure out a plan. Work the problem. He was the improviser, and yes, he was used to having John in his ear, telling him which line of action would maximise the lives saved, but before International Rescue, he'd been the problem solver. He'd flown his way up the Air Force ranks, both metaphorically and literally. He could do this.
What was his end goal? To get back home. To make sure his family was safe.
He needed to get in contact with John, or hell, anyone. If he could track down his damned watch then that would be one step closer. He also needed to figure out if this virus had hit New York yet. The lack of signal suggested yes, it had.
He drew the blinds and peered down at the city below. The streets were dark and murky, hidden from sight by a haze of strange fog. He cranked open a window and was met with a chorus of sirens and shrieks. An acrid stench met his nose. Alright, so not fog – smoke. An amber glow of hellfire paraded a few blocks away, twisting columns of ash kindling amongst the skyscrapers, little wisps of smoke flinging themselves towards windows and people.
Scott slid down into a crouch instinctively and tried to make out the action in the road immediately beneath him. It was mostly empty from what he could see, but there was a splattered pile-up of crucified metal and a shattered truck that had barrelled into the end of the street, blocking the quickest route towards downtown Manhattan. There was no way to see any further unless he could somehow reach a higher vantage point.
His gaze travelled up to the ceiling. Somewhere, in the distant, fragmented part of his memories, he could recall his agent describing how there was an emergency exit onto the roof, concealed within the panels. He just had to find the hatch.
"I am never getting my deposit back on this place," he muttered to himself as he stood up, stretching, and prowled the length of the hallway, peering at the ceiling for any signs of touched-up paintwork or discoloured panels. He reached up and trailed his hand along the length of it, his fingers catching on a strange globule of paint that stuck out from the rest, forming a ridge that was around a metre wide.
He pried his fingers around it. Though nothing budged, a smash of the end of a broom handle into it caused the entire panel to shudder. The broom sent another cloud of paint-dust cascading down, turning his hair and shoulders white, before it broke off, splintering with an awful snap that sounded a little too similar to breaking bones for his liking.
There was nothing else of use in the apartment. Scott glared at the obstinate panel and grimaced as a new idea flickered into life.
"This is gonna hurt."
He slammed his shoulder into the panel, stumbling back and clasping a hand to his upper back with a groan, spitting curses as he hopped about, willing the pain to ebb away. Peering up at the panel, he could see there was a little gap between the edge of the ceiling and the hatch, and he wedged his hands into the space, pushing it with all his strength until the wood gave way and flung open to reveal a square of inky blackness.
Scott glared at it. "Lovely. Just like the beginning of every horror movie ever."
His phone torch did very little to penetrate the darkness. It was unnaturally cold in the space that appeared to be a miniature attic. Scott ducked back into the apartment to grab a pair of his old trainers and the only sharp knife in the kitchen, just in case.
Metal glinted from the far end of the attic and, as he moved closer, it revealed itself to be a ladder. This time the hatch was held shut by a rusted padlock. Scott made short work of it and jammed his poor shoulder into the panel, bursting into the bright light of day with a gasp, choking on a cloud of dust. The air was thick, as was the stench of smoke and something that stunk awfully similar to rotting flesh. He wriggled out onto the rooftop and then rose into a crouch.
The streets ran red. A sea of people were vacuum packed into one of the roads a little distance away and their screams carried on the wind. The city was on fire – a smoking, panicked cesspit of death and decay. Something was snapping against the air, a current of energy buzzing somewhere above him. Scott tilted back on his heels and glimpsed the signal booster stapled to the top spike on the tower, just a few short metres above him. His phone hung heavy in his hands. If he wanted a way to kick start any sort of signal in the device, then this was his way to do it. That, or find a working cabled line, which was going to be next to impossible.
Another siren shrieked across the cloud of debris. Scott flattened himself to the roof and scrambled to the edge, hooking his chin over the rim, and peering down. He was dizzyingly high. The people below seemed tiny ink blots against the pavement as they fled from somewhere to nowhere. A fire truck coursed through the road like blood, screeching as it took a corner too sharp. Scott's gaze caught on the pile of cars and the crashed truck that he'd seen from his window. There, parked up beside them, the doors flung open but the vehicle itself abandoned, stood another fire truck. He grinned. Maybe his luck had just turned for the better.
Fire-trucks carried a variety of supplies if you knew where to look. They also carried a radio that ran on a different circuit. Mobiles and phonelines were all dead, Scott was going to admit that to himself, but if he could get a hold of one of those radios, then he would have a way of tapping into the emergency services frequency and maybe, just maybe, get a message out for John to pick up.
There was only one problem. He was up here, in the relative safety of his apartment block, and the fire truck was down there, at the far end of the street. He had no weapons beyond a knife and his own training, and there was no guarantee that Thunderbird Five would pick up on his radio transmission.
He fished his phone out of his pocket to check the time. Staying here was sensible. It was safe, he had enough food and water supplies to last him another month, minimum, and that was without any serious rationing. On the other hand... He examined his phone's background, etching that candid family photo into his memory, and pressed his face into his hands with a groan.
He'd made a promise. He'd told Alan he was going to come home. John was on Five, probably able to see him but unable to reach him. Virgil and Gordon, Brains, Penelope and Parker: they were all out there. And he'd promised Alan. Mom had promised. Dad had promised. And yes, it hadn't been their fault, but there was no way in hell Scott was going to let another promise like that be broken. He wasn't going to be the one to leave his kid brother behind. Not this time. So, really, he supposed there wasn't any choice at all.
He stayed a little longer on the roof. He needed to get to that fire truck, grab a radio and some supplies and then hit some of the shops, kit himself out as best he could. He'd never thought he could miss his IR suit this much. Grabbing some different clothes would be a good idea too, because jeans were not the best thing to run in.
There was a strange comfort that came with returning to his apartment when he crawled back down, but something had changed. He imagined it was a hamster ball, a bubble, a force-field, blocking out the rest of the city, keeping him safe within glass walls. He lay down on the bed for a few minutes until his heart stopped threatening to beat its way out of his chest. He was sweating, despite the aircon. His hangover had diminished in the face of the disaster facing him outside the front door.
He stared at the ceiling. "They view the healthy as a food source," he repeated the CNN broadcast, stumbling over the words in disbelief. "Food source." It sounded like it had been taken straight out of one of Alan's video games.
His phone was digging into his hip. He prised it away from the pocket and held it above his face, staring at the familiar home screen, the unread message on their family chat from last Thursday about adding bagels to the shopping list, one of the games that he'd downloaded to play in secret when Tracy Industries meetings passed a level of boredom that he could sanely cope with. He opened his photo gallery without thinking about it. There were rows upon rows of videos, photos, embarrassing screenshots, a series of selfies from when Gordon and Alan had stolen his phone, footage from their Christmas party: a snapshot of his crazy, save-the-world family.
He hadn't accepted it. Not really. The concept of crazed, hungry infected wandering around and trying to eat people was not something that could happen in reality, surely?
He took the knife, his phone and his old flight jacket that he always took with him on trips for no reason other than tradition at this point. It was on his way out of the room that he caught sight of those same, ill-fitting cufflinks on the desk – those same cufflinks that Alan had helped him with yesterday morning, whilst drinking that ridiculous grape Fanta and trying so desperately to warn Scott not to go to frickin' New York – and he tossed them into the inner pocket of his jacket on a whim, zipping them safe and feeling the small weight of them against his chest.
The stairwell was in darkness. Lights were flickering. The elevator doors were parted and there was a terrible copper stench wafting from the vents. Scott yanked his shirt higher to cover his nose and mouth and paused at the rise of the stairs to listen for any signs of life. Something wet was dripping, steady and even, and the lower he got, the more slippery the floor became. The sirens grew louder as he reached the ground floor and cracked the door open to slip into the lobby.
The lobby was deserted. Scott shrugged his jacket closer, tightened his grip on the knife concealed within his pocket, and headed over to the front desk where the corded phone was sat, half off the handle. When he lifted it, there was no dialling-tone. It was as dead as a dodo. He set it back down, heart sinking. There was a leaden weight in his stomach and for the first time he began to question his own course of action when he reached for the front doors and discovered there was a bloody handprint smeared across the glass.
The street was void of life. The cars - tangled, smashed, slotted in a crude collection of pick-and-mix metal - were smoking. Scott kept to the roadside, amongst the shadows, and flattened himself to the side of the fire truck once he reached it. The cab door nearest his side was shattered, the frame hanging limply. Scott hopped up onto the first step and jerked back as he came face to face with a bloodied corpse. The steering wheel was drenched in crimson, and, suddenly relieved that he was so used to such grisly sights, Scott peered closer. The poor soul had smashed through the windscreen, and there was no coming back from a head injury so severe. He didn't wait around to check for a pulse that he knew wasn't there.
The panels along the side of the truck looked the same, but Scott was the Field Commander of a rescue organisation that worked with the emergency services all the time. He knew exactly where to search. He yanked the panel free and dragged out the box of equipment. Sitting with his back to the truck in case of a surprise attack, he rifled through the kit until his fingers closed around something hard and plastic.
"Thank you, god." He winced at the burst of static that erupted from the radio as he turned it on and adjusted the volume until he could hold it to his ear and just about hear the transmission. There was a robotic voice, repeating over and over.
"This an emergency broadcast effective until further notice. The authorities have announced a contagious disease warning. Remain inside. All responders to return to base. Repeat. This is an emergency broadcast…"
He switched the channel, searching for a frequency that didn't bring white noise, but there was nothing. No-one was out there. Well. Time for another plan.
"Thunderbird Five, I hope you've got your ears on," he murmured with a biting grin as he pressed down on the transmission button. "International Rescue, I have a situation. Repeat. International Rescue, I have a situation. Is anyone listening? Over."
There was a beat where the static paused, and his breath caught in his throat, but then it subsided back into white noise. Scott slid down to slump on the floor with a tiny whine. "John?" he asked quietly, trying to keep his voice level, but slipping into more desperate tones despite his best efforts otherwise. "John? Thunderbird Five? Is anyone out there?"
More static. Then, broken, splintered, as fractured as the glass from the fire truck's windscreen, there was a voice, so familiar, warm, home. "Scott – can – we – where – danger – hear – Bird – gil."
He snatched up the radio. "John? Can you hear me?"
A pause. "Yes."
"Oh, thank fuck. Listen, you keep breaking up. We need to keep the replies as short as possible, or I won't be able to understand you."
He pressed a fist to his mouth and took a shuddering breath through his fingers. "No. I… I kind of slept through the whole thing."
John's reply was broken up, but there was no mistaking what he'd said. "Wow. Fucking idiot."
Scott snorted. "Yeah, yeah, as supportive as ever, Johnny."
"Don't call me Johnny."
"Uh huh. Look, I've got a radio from a fire truck outside the apartment. It's blocked all the way down to Central. I don't think I can get to Tracy One. Tell me where to go."
John was very quiet for a moment. "You need to get to higher ground. Not a roof. High ground. Proper ground."
"Why not the roof of my apartment?"
John's voice was strained. Scott could just about pick out the slight inflections of concern and another emotion that he would never associate with his brother in a million years – fear.
"GDF advice. No high-rise buildings. Too easy to get trapped."
Scott's grip tightened on the radio. The plastic was slippery in his grasp, licked with his own sweat. He switched hands and wiped his palms on his jeans. "How far does this go? Just the city? Beyond?"
"What, the whole US?"
John sounded like he was underwater. "The whole goddamn world, Scott."
And bam. World. Imploding. (Ha, quite literally). Scott dug his nails into his palms and forced his voice to remain stable as he spoke. "What?"
"Come home," was all John could say, in that desperate, drowning voice that Scott hadn't heard from him since after Mom, during one of those days in college, after Dad. That same, choking tone that betrayed John, the one that told Scott that his brother was damn near close to breaking down.
"John, take a breath."
"Take a breath. That's an order."
John took a breath. "Not the damn boss of me," Scott heard him mutter over the radio link, before, in a less constricted voice, "alright. Get to higher ground, keep to the back streets. Virgil's in Two. He's gone to pick up as many as he can."
"As many who?"
"Survivors. GDF have bunkers."
"Bastards. They knew this was coming."
"We'll talk about it later. Alan's in One. He's gone for Penelope and Parker. He wanted to fly out to you last night. I told him no."
"Scott, I'm sorry."
Scott huffed a laugh. "Yeah, me too."
John was silent. "Scott?"
"Please come home. Don't… I'm seeing the world right now. I can't lose you. Not you. Get back here in one piece."
Scott took a deep breath and let it go in a rush. "FAB." He scrubbed dried blood off the crescents of his nails and tried not to think about the body in the cab behind him. "I'm coming home, Johnny, I promise."
John chuckled humourlessly. "So did Dad."
Scott stared at his hands a moment longer. "I'm not Dad," he breathed. "I'm going to make it home and we're going to fix this."
Scott stared at the sky above him. It was overcast, grimy, filthy with the skin of buildings that had burnt away. "See on you on the flip side, Jaybird."
John gave a light laugh. "Y'know, I think I hate that one more than Johnny."
New update next Friday. I would love to hear some feedback on this one, because this is very different to anything I've written in the past and I'll freely admit that I am very scared to post this.