Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no copyright intended
A/N: This fic is my entry for "Angst big bang" on Live Journal. I began writing it in August last year (although the idea came to me after series 5 aired on Watch, the big bang was the shove I needed to put it down into words)
Thank you to my lovely beta reader iEvenstarEstel for all of her support and encouragement throughout this process, and also to luvconnor who has done some brilliant artwork to accompany this over on Live Journal (I wish I could share that with you here too but we can't post links)
I have put a hell of lot into this... months to write. Please take a moment to let me know what you think. Thanks.
Abby knew something was in the air and she didn't like it. Back in the Cretaceous, she had taught Connor how to read the natural world; how to take their cues from the behaviour of the various creatures around them. If the wildlife seemed concerned about something, then that meant they should be concerned too. She knew that animals can sense impending danger, whether it be from an approaching predator or some force of nature. Right now, the creatures in the menagerie were agitated about something, and that made Abby nervous.
She'd left Connor, Matt, Emily and Becker at King's Cross station clearing up the aftermath of the anomaly. They had a train full of very confused passengers who had found themselves in the Triassic period instead of on their usual commute from central London. When the anomaly had finally closed, Abby had discovered a pair of Morganucodons that had somehow come through and had been missed by the clean up team. She'd been fascinated by the small, weasel- like, creatures, and had managed to capture them and brought them back to the ARC. It was whilst she was placing them into a pen for quarantining that she got her first real sense that something was terribly wrong.
There was a loud rumbling noise; almost as if a high speed train was careering towards her. Then everything seemed to start vibrating and the creatures started pacing around; some seemed to be trying to escape their enclosures, others rearing up onto their hind legs in a panic. Gripping the edge of the desk, she looked down into the main holding area. There was definite fear amongst the inhabitants and Abby wished there was something she could do to calm them.
Suddenly, the entire building shook violently and Abby was thrown off her feet. This was like nothing she'd ever experienced before; earthquakes on this scale were unheard of in England. She rolled herself under the desk, hoping it would protect her from anything falling, and remained still.
It felt like an eternity, but in reality it lasted a matter of seconds. Everything fell silent; eerily silent, and for a moment Abby almost thought she was dead. When she was certain that the shaking had stopped, she crawled out and moved over to the large window to check on the creatures. Thankfully, they seemed to be calming down and unharmed – the thick lead walls had remained intact and the only sign of any damage was a large crack in the window which could be repaired fairly easily.
Her concerns then turned to her colleagues working in the ARC; Jess, Lester, the few remaining security and technical support guys... she hoped that they'd also managed to find somewhere safe whilst the earthquake hit. The phone in her office was dead; the quake must have knocked out the phone lines, so she made her way to the airlock and went through to go into the connecting corridor between the menagerie and the main hub of the ARC. The air was thick with a strange smell; not gas but something Abby couldn't define. Clearly, this wasn't just an earthquake.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed her way through the door. Immediately, her eyes began to burn and she was gasping for air; whatever it was in the air it was toxic. She went back into her office again, realising that she would need breathing equipment to stand any chance of getting to the others. Fortunately, each office was equipped with basic emergency kits, including a small portable oxygen canister and a gas mask.
She was working purely from familiarity of the building whilst her eyes stung and watered, feeling her way along the long corridor until she reached the doorway into the hub where Jess worked. Abby was worried – she expected to hear shouting, or at least the sound of people coughing and choking in the toxic air, but there was the same eerie silence here that she'd left behind in the menagerie. She hardly dared open the door, fearing what was on the other side, but she had to know...
When she was younger, Jack had made her watch the "Terminator" movies. There'd been a scene in one of them; a nightmare sequence where the world was destroyed by a nuclear bomb – Judgement day. The scene in front of her now bore a fairly close resemblance to that and Abby felt her stomach lurch. Her eyes scanned frantically for signs of life but there was nothing but stillness. Finally, her eyes rested on what remained of the console and monitors of the ADD; the screens flickered and rolled a jumble of meaningless letters and numbers, huge cracks across them and sparks flying from one corner. Then Abby felt her stomach twist in agony and her throat tightened. It had to be Jess; but there was little left to positively identify the seemingly charred remains sitting in the chair. Removing the mouthpiece of her gas mask, Abby was violently sick.
After some minutes, Abby managed to gather her thoughts and her wits enough to put her mask back on. Her throat felt like it was on fire, her stomach was in knots and her heart was pounding hard in her chest. It would have been easy to have just stood and screamed or cried – but right now she had to think about her own survival, and finding the others. She fumbled for her phone in her back pocket and tried to call Connor, but the line wouldn't connect.
"No! No! No!" She desperately needed to hear Connor's voice more than anything in the whole world. She could cope with anything if Connor was with her, even this nightmare. She had to hope that he was with Becker, Matt and Emily and that they were all looking after each other. She tried not to think about poor Jess; it would eventually be a little comfort to know that she wouldn't have experienced pain, death was probably instantaneous. As Abby ran towards the exit, she passed three other corpses; some of Becker's men at a guess. Her stomach retched again, but she'd already emptied the contents when she saw Jess's body, so nothing would come. Fighting her nausea, she stopped to take an EMD from one of them; not caring whether it worked or not, she just needed the security of having one in her hand.
As she was about to leave, a thought struck her. Lester. She had to know; see for herself. Maybe he wasn't in the ARC? Perhaps he'd gone off to one of his mysterious meetings with the Minister and was sat in some fancy restaurant oblivious to what had happened? She turned back and made her way up the staircase to his office.
What remained of his body was surreal; like a statue or something frozen in time. His arm was poised over the handset of the phone on his desk; Abby could almost imagine him feeling the first tremors like she had and him reaching for the phone to demand to know what was going on. The tears stinging her eyes would not fall; she couldn't allow them to yet. If she cracked now, she may as well just resign herself to death too. Grieving could come later, once she was out of this situation and back in Connor's arms.
It was the thought of Connor that got her legs moving again, taking her outside into the open. She met the same stillness; the same silence, and that was when she knew. She wasn't going to find Connor, or the others. Everyone was gone. Whatever it was that had happened had happened to everyone except her. Some evil twist of fate had put her inside the protective walls of the menagerie and kept her and the creatures alive whilst everything else around her had died.
She was alone; the only survivor of some horrific event that she couldn't explain. She choked, dropped to her knees and let out an anguished cry before sobbing uncontrollably. Every inch of her body ached, her head was spinning and then she felt faint. Just before she passed out completely, a pair of strong arms scooped her up and held her tight.
Abby awoke with a start. That had been some nightmare. She scanned her surroundings and realised that she wasn't at home in her own bed; this room looked vaguely familiar but she couldn't place it. When she swallowed, the burning sensation in her throat and lungs made her gasp out and she panicked, struggling for breath. It hadn't been a nightmare.
"Here, easy!" A familiar voice said. "Drink this." A metal flask was handed to her.
"Matt?" she managed to rasp out. "Where are..."
"Shh, we can talk later. Let's just focus on getting some water into you, you'll feel better then."
Abby did as she was told, the cold water soothing her sore throat. She realised that this was the panic room in the ARC; the only other place that had lead lining the walls. If Matt had made it here, then surely so had the others? She tried to sit up, hoping to see a concerned Connor sitting in the corner waiting for her to wake up, but it was just Matt. He was half watching her, half checking something on his wrist. Abby had seen him use his wristband before; it was a device from his time that contained computer files – he'd used it to show her what New Dawn did to the world.
"Just checking the oxygen levels," he said, noticing her looking at him. "We all had one of these. We're OK here for a while anyway, we can save the oxygen tanks for when we really need them."
"What happened? Where are the others? How did you get here so quick?"
"My guess is this is something to do with Philip's anomaly, but I'm not sure what... this is what happened in my time, but it took several years to get to this stage. The others are probably dead, unless they happened to be underground and then perhaps they have a fighting chance... and I was here the whole time."
Abby blinked away tears. She hoped they had made it to the underground tube station at least and that right now they were making their way here. She didn't want to entertain the idea that everyone else was dead. Matt had survived so there was still a glimmer of hope, and whilst she still had hope there was a reason to stay strong. "What do you mean, you were here the whole time? I left you at the anomaly site, you were joking around with Becker."
Matt shook his head. "The last time you saw me, I was driving into Philip's anomaly with Connor's prototype in the back. When the anomalies imploded on each other, I was knocked unconscious for a moment. As I came round, I saw you guys getting into the car and I tried shouting to you."
Abby blinked. "I don't understand... you came out of the wreckage and..."
"That wasn't me; or at least it was but it was another me. He must be from the new future we created by destroying New Dawn and somehow he came through before the anomalies collapsed. Have you any idea what it's like, seeing yourself like that?"
"So there's two of you?" Abby raised a smile. Connor would have a field day with that; it would be like he'd died and gone to Sci-Fi geek heaven... and then a lump welled up into her throat and she choked it down. Connor wasn't dead, she had to stop thinking along those lines.
"Basically, yes," Matt returned her smile. "Scary thought eh?"
Abby blushed, and drank another long mouthful of water. "You came back to the ARC?"
"I followed you – got here just in time to hear you propose to Connor; congratulations by the way!"
"Thanks," Abby whispered, her fingers fiddling with the gold band that Connor had slipped onto her finger only a few hours ago.
"I tried to tell the other me that he needed to go back; having two of us here could potentially cause all sorts of issues, and then Emily arrived. She's pretty open-minded but I didn't think she was quite ready to take all of this in so I hid. I came to the panic room because I knew it's the only room that doesn't have security cameras. I needed to consider my next move; maybe enlist Connor's help... and then all of this happened."
Abby began to cough; her lungs burning and her throat constricting. Matt passed her an oxygen mask and told her to breathe deep and slow and sat on the edge of the makeshift bed she was laid on. He tried to ease her suffering, but deep down he knew Abby was fighting more than just a physical pain and him stroking her back and shoulders was not going to be much help.
"We should go and find the others," Abby said, pulling the mask from her face.
"They're dead, Abby."
"You don't know that!" She slid off the bed and started to strap the oxygen tank to her back. "What if they're alive and need our help? The people we work with, our friends... the people we love. How can you not try?"
"You saw what it was like out there! No-one could survive that." Abby was already pulling at the heavy door trying to get out of the room. "Abby! We have... 5, maybe 6 hours worth of oxygen each. We have to save it to use once we've worked out what happened and if we can put it right." He moved towards her, pleading with her not to open the door.
"Maybe I just need to see for myself." Abby glared defiantly at Matt, then pulled the door open. "You can either help me, or stay here and do nothing. It's your conscience."
He grabbed his own oxygen tank and was behind her in seconds.
Abby realised she'd been here before; cars abandoned, crumbling buildings, an uneasy stillness and no sign of life. It was just like the future she'd seen with Danny, Becker and Connor when they rescued Jack; the place where they'd followed Helen Cutter to and ended up trapped for a year in the Cretaceous. She felt a chill run down the length of her spine as she and Matt moved swiftly through the deserted street. Abby tried not to look at the bodies scattered on the floor; poor innocents caught up in whatever this thing was, fleeing for their lives in vain. She had to remain focussed on getting to King's Cross and finding the others.
Matt tugged at her arm and made her turn to face him. "The station is miles away, Abby. This is crazy."
Abby turned her head and then ran to one of the abandoned cars. She looked for keys, hoping whoever had left it had not had time to grab them from the ignition. "Do you know how to hotwire a car?" She called out to Matt. He frowned, she then ran over to another abandoned car; no keys there either. It took five more cars before Abby found what she was looking for and she waved Matt over. This would cut down their journey time considerably and save precious oxygen. Abby started the car and screeched off at speed.
"Abby, slow down! You'll get us both killed!" Matt yelled. She ignored him; her mind set on only one goal. Matt sank back into his seat and pulled the seatbelt around him, looking out of the front window. "Do you even know which way you're going?"
"King's Cross," Abby muttered, then laughed. "No, I'm not sure which way we're going."
"Take a left here," Matt said, nodding at the junction ahead. Abby turned left, the tyres screaming as she refused to even slow down for the corner. Matt glanced down at his hand gripping the edge of his seat; his knuckles were white. Suddenly, he was thrown forward. Abby had slammed on the brakes for some reason. Her face was white and she was staring ahead. In front of them were the two ARC vehicles, doors open and surrounded by the charred remains of their colleagues.
"Abby, let's go back to the ARC," Matt said softly, stroking her hand that was gripping the steering wheel.
"I need to see," Abby said calmly. She unfastened her seatbelt and opened the car door.
Matt closed his eyes. There wouldn't be anything identifiable; it was pointless going to look, but he realised she needed to find that out for herself to get some closure. He watched her move slowly towards the first vehicle, then bend down to examine the remains just by the driver's door. She walked around, stopping at each body in turn – 4 in total. Becker, Emily, Connor and the other version of himself. She turned and made her way back to the car and slid into the seat again.
"We should go back," she whispered.
Matt nodded. "You OK? Do you want me to drive?"
"No, I'm not OK!" Abby finally snapped. "I couldn't even tell which one was Connor!" she choked down her sobs. "I just wanted to... I just wanted to say goodbye and tell him I love him!" Matt folded his arms around her and pulled her into his chest, stroking her hair and just letting her cry.
"He knew, Abby. He knew how much you loved him. That's why you're wearing his ring on your finger."
"But I never actually said the words, Matt!" Abby pulled away and took a long breath from her oxygen mask. "I never actually said 'I love you' to him."
"Actions speak louder than words. He knew." He felt tears stinging his own eyes; Abby wasn't the only one that hadn't said 'I love you' to the person they really cared about. As Abby sank against his chest again, he let his tears fall silently for Emily and for the rest of the team he had come to trust and rely on.
Matt had no idea how long they had been sat there; holding each other and finding a little comfort in the other's presence, but he knew that they had to pull themselves together and think about how they were going to simply survive before they could even begin to work out what had happened. He looked up and scanned around; food had to be their priority. There were some emergency provisions at the ARC, but they would barely see them through until tomorrow.
"Abby, is there a supermarket around here?" he said.
Abby sat up and wiped her eyes. "Not sure, but I think we passed one a little way back."
"Good. Turn the car around and let's go find it."
They pulled up outside the supermarket and stood outside, trying to take in the scene. The front windows were smashed; not from people trying to break in, but from people trying to escape. Abby supposed that, like her, they believed it was an earthquake and thought they'd be safer outside. Matt stepped through the largest hole, but Abby remained on the pavement outside.
"You can't just take stuff, Matt!"
"Abby, take a look around you! Everyone else is dead. As far as we know, we're the only people alive right now. This is about our survival." He disappeared from sight and by the time Abby had found him, he had a trolley and was throwing things into it. "The fresh produce is no good to us; it's probably contaminated with whatever it was that killed everyone, but the tins and packets should be OK. Get things we can heat easily over a gas stove; soup, baked beans, stew...I don't want to use up any of the power in the backup generator if we can help it, we'll need it to get a computer up and running and start working out how we can put this right."
Abby watched him for a moment, then resigned herself to the task. He was right, they had to concentrate on staying alive and she had to put the thought that this was effectively looting out of her head. She grabbed her own trolley and made her way over to where the bottled water was. She filled it with as many bottles as she could then wheeled it up the aisle towards the window and then out to the car.
They spent a good hour filling the car with everything they could think of; they both insisted on some particular items - Abby got soap, toothpaste and deodorant – basic toiletries that she had really missed in the Cretaceous, and Matt took alcohol and chocolate – some luxuries to get them through the dark times ahead. The car was so full, the suspension was stretched to its limit and Abby had to drive very slowly back to the ARC. They unloaded in silence, taking their provisions to the panic room, focussing purely on the task and trying not to think too much about the devastation around them. Losing it now would be their undoing, they both knew it.
When the last of the food had been taken in, Matt bolted the door to the panic room securely and turned to Abby. He didn't need to say anything; his look said it all. Neither could see beyond the next couple of hours.