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This fic has been over on the CP comm for ages now, and I forgot I don't have it up on my own LJ, so here it is.

It was for the CP Fic & Art exchange, the prompt was for a Zombie Apocalypse fic where Arthur saves the day at some point. It has some violence and gore, but isn't too bleak. More Shaun of the Dead with aeroplanes, really.

Ensemble cast - Douglas, Martin, Arthur, Carolyn, Herc, Snoopadoop, Carl from ATC, Douglas' daughter & second wife and many more! A little light Carolyn/Herc romance going on, but it's not central.

No sexual content. Rating this as Teen/15 cert for some swears & some violence.


The End of the World, via Tesco

Chapter One
-x-

Tuesday, 1pm. Somewhere over Mid Wales:

Eight hours from a freezing assortment of shacks in Greenland and half an hour from home. All that Martin wanted to do was to get back to his room, take a hot shower and crash out until morning. He wasn’t sure that he could abide Arthur’s singing, or Carolyn’s meddling on the flight deck as a means of herself avoiding Arthur’s singing for much longer.

He also wasn’t able to get through to Fitton ATC. Which was worrying. He tried Bristol ATC. Again – nothing. He checked the radio channels. Nothing wrong with them, that he could tell, only to check them properly he’d have to land, and for that he really did rather need to get through to ATC first.

‘Oh, what’s the problem?’ Carolyn tutted when he brought this up. ‘It’s not as if they’re not expecting us at Fitton. It is, after all, where we generally park. It’s not as if they’ll see a decrepit Lockheed McDonnell sailing down from the heavens with a nervous little chap and a smug git at the steering wheels and not know it’s us, will they? And it’s Tuesday lunchtime – they never have any other flights on a Tuesday. Carl’s probably just sleeping off a hangover. Just land the damn thing.’

Tuesday, 2pm. Above Fitton:

‘Martin!’ Carolyn snapped as they made their 3rd circle around Fitton; Martin still desperately jabbing at the SATCOM. ‘Just park the bloody plane – I’m getting giddy!’

‘I can’t,’ fretted Martin, ‘I don’t have clearance.’

‘Tell you what else we don’t have, Captain,’ added Douglas, ‘fuel. We’re currently down to running on fumes.’

‘I had noticed’ replied Martin through gritted teeth.

‘And you do realise that an aeroplane does need fuel to stay up.’

‘Yes!’

‘So,’ Douglas continued. ‘Are we going to land at Fitton airfield without clearance, or crash into Fitton airfield? Without, I hasten to add, clearance.’

‘Fine,’ Martin groaned, trying ATC for one last time, ‘fine.’

Tuesday, 2.30pm. Fitton Airfield:

‘Post landing checks complete.’ Martin looked around, and saw that Douglas had already got off the plane. He sighed, and disembarked. He frowned as he did so. Fitton airfield was never particularly buzzing at the best of times, but even he had never seen it so… well. So dead, before. The only sound, bar their footsteps, was a harsh wind that rustled the nearby trees and the croak of a couple of crows.

‘Looks like Carl’s not the only one sleeping off a hangover,’ muttered Douglas as Martin caught up with him and the others. ‘I wonder where everyone is.’

Carolyn yawned. ‘Who knows, who cares. Now, since I’ve been up with you idiots since yesterday, I think a hearty lunch, a hot bath and bed calls. Arthur, come on!’

‘Mum…?’ Arthur was dawdling, squinting up at the Control Tower.

‘…not even any traffic,’ Douglas muttered.

‘Mum,’ repeated Arthur, ‘if Carl’s sleeping off a hangover, why has he left the light on?’

‘What?’

Arthur nodded up at the Control Tower. ‘The light’s on up there. When I’ve had too much to drink and my head’s all poundy I generally need to lie in the dark for a bit until it stops telling me off for drinking so much.’

A horrible thought popped into Martin’s head. ‘What if he’s had an accident up there? Or… or a medical emergency, or something? What if that’s why he couldn’t respond?’

‘Hmm.’ Douglas’ face creased. ‘It’s not as if there’s anybody here today to help him out if that were the case.’

‘Oh, no!’ Arthur exclaimed. ‘Oh, I hope that hasn’t happened! Say that hasn’t happened! Let’s go and see if he’s all right, and make sure that that hasn’t happened.’

Martin exhaled. A potential medical emergency did overrule his shower-and-bed plans, albeit temporarily. And, if Carl hadn’t fallen foul of a terrible calamity, he would have a word or two with him about the importance of remaining alert and in contact as an ATC, while the rather annoyed little speech he’d been planning was still fresh in his mind. ‘Yes, all right.’

‘Oh, do what you will,’ said Carolyn. ‘I’m going to go and wait in the car. And if I nod off while you’re rousing Carl from his hangover-siesta, then that’s your own look out.’

Tuesday, 2.40pm. Fitton Airfield Control Tower:

‘Hello?’ Arthur politely knocked on the Control Tower door. ‘Carl? Are you in there? If you’re not in there, you left the light on, that’s a bit of a waste of electricity, isn’t it?’

‘If he’s not in there,’ Douglas reminded him, ‘he won’t be able to hear you.’

‘Yes,’ Arthur countered, ‘but I still wanted to say about the electricity before I forgot.’

Martin pushed the door open. ‘Carl? What’s going o…OH!’

The sight in front of him made him recoil suddenly, stepping backwards into Douglas as he did so and knocking the First Officer off his balance into the wall.

‘What the…? Oh. Oh, Christ.’

‘What is it?’ asked Arthur, stuck between the doorway and the two pilots.

A table and chair had been upturned, papers scattered. Blood was spattered across the floor and far wall. And that wasn’t the worst of it.

‘Arthur.’ Douglas turned urgently to the Steward, grabbing his shoulders and pushing him back into the stairwell. ‘I need you to go downstairs, call the police and an ambulance, and wait for them outside.’

‘Police? Ambulance? What do I…’ Arthur was starting to panic. ‘Is Carl OK?’

‘He’s been attacked. Just call the emergency services, would you? Police and ambulance, there’s a good lad.’

‘But…’

‘Arthur. It’s important. Please, do as I ask.’

‘But… Oh… OK…’ Arthur scurried back down the stairs.

Martin still couldn’t break out of his torpor.

The worst of it… the worst of it was Carl. At least, Martin was pretty sure that the bloody, mangled figure lying very still at the far end of the Control Tower was Carl. Douglas was already hurrying towards the stricken form.

‘Martin, snap out of it!’

‘Is… is he…?’

‘If he’s not, he’s going to need help. Come on!’

Still, Martin couldn’t move. His eyes darted around the scene of destruction. ‘How… who… what… why…?’

‘My thoughts exactly. It’s not as if there’s anything to take.’ Douglas knelt by Carl with a quiet ‘Oh, God – Christ, his leg,’ hands tracing over the fallen man’s form as if unsure where to even begin. ‘If they were terrorists, or anybody else hell-bent on causing aeronautical destruction, they’d still be here.’

Martin felt his breath hitch. ‘What if they are?’

‘What?’

‘What if they’re still here?’

‘The thought had crossed my mind – why do you think I sent Arthur out to phone the police straight away?’ Douglas raised his voice. ‘You hear that? The police are already on their way. Now come over here, Martin, and help me with Carl before he bleeds out…’

Martin shook himself out of it and took a few steps towards Douglas. A low moan quickened his pace.

‘Oh, God, Carl! Douglas. He’s still alive!’

‘Yes, Martin. I gathered that. Medical drop-out I may be, but I did get a grip on the basics of Alive Versus Not Alive, especially with regards to the subject trying to talk.’

Carl turned a little in Douglas’ arms, and opened his eyes.

‘Carl?’ said Douglas, softly. ‘Can you hear me? It’s Douglas. It’s going to be all right – we’ve called you an ambulance…’

Carl just stared up at Douglas.

‘Carl…?’

‘We’re here for you, Carl,’ added Martin, feeling more than a little useless.

Carl flitted a glare at Martin for a moment, then went back to staring at Douglas.

‘Can you tell me where it hurts the most?’ added Douglas.

Carl grimaced, letting his jaw fall until the grimace had turned into an open mouthed snarl.

‘Carl…?’

The speed with which Carl lunged at Douglas startled both Martin and Douglas himself – fortunately, in fact, for Douglas, since it resulted in him dropping Carl.

‘Carl!’ Douglas got up to his feet, backing away from the snarling ATC. ‘It’s over! It’s me – Douglas. I’m your friend. I’m here to…’

Carl scrabbled forwards on elbows and knees, snapping and snarling and honest-to-God growling.

‘Carl! Stop this! You need to calm down. We’re not going to hurt you…’

Carl didn’t stop. If anything, he sped up.

‘Run,’ Douglas told Martin.

‘What?’

‘Run! We’ll barricade the door, the paramedics will just have to tranquilise him. If they can get close enough…’

With a sudden burst of effort, Carl pushed himself up onto his feet and threw himself in Douglas’ direction. Martin yelped, grabbing onto Douglas’ arm and pulling him back – again, causing Douglas to lose his balance, and stumble backwards.

Carl stumbled too, his balance completely off. It was only at that moment that Martin realised why – his right shin was horrifically broken. Carl’s foot was pointing towards his other leg at a crazy angle, and shards of bone poked through his shredded trousers. The pain of trying to stand up on it didn’t seem to so much as register for Carl, even though the shattered bone couldn’t hold his body weight and he came crashing furiously down again.

‘Douglas, his leg…’ began Martin.

‘Yes, funnily enough, my very basic medical training did help me notice that, too.’

Carl made another scrabble towards them, and both pilots darted for the door, only to find their escape suddenly, inexplicably blocked by Carolyn.

‘Aargh!’

‘Delighted to see you, too,’ said Carolyn, archly. ‘What’s all the fuss? Arthur said you’d found Carl…’

‘Most of him, yes,’ Douglas replied, pulling her back towards the stairwell, ‘and even that’s not necessarily put together in the right order, any more. Aren’t you and Arthur supposed to be waiting for the emergency services?’

‘Poxy T Mobile – no signal. I thought…’

‘Then we’ll use the landline in the Portacabin.’ Douglas physically manhandled Carolyn down the stairs, with Martin – in need of no such persuasion – following close behind. ‘We just need to get out of here.’

‘Without Carl?’ argued Carolyn. ‘I was under the impression he was in need of urgent medical attention. Is he suddenly all better?’

On the landing above them, a pair of hands shot forward to grab the bottom of the railings, and pulled. Carl slid on his belly, pressed his face against the railing and screeched horrifically down at them.

‘Good God,’ breathed Carolyn. ‘Yes, let’s give him his privacy, shall we?’

‘I found the first aid kit,’ chirped Arthur, blocking yet another exit. ‘I thought maybe Carl… ooh, he doesn’t look well, does he? Hello, Carl!’

There was another screech, and a sickening, heavy “thud-thud-thud” from above. Martin looked up briefly as Carolyn hustled her son out of the door – Carl was pulling himself down the stairs on his front.

‘Cor,’ exclaimed Arthur, impressed, ‘look at him go!’

Martin slammed the Control Tower door shut and, along with Douglas, pressed his back against it. The thudding of Carl throwing himself down the stairs after them continued unabated.

‘We need something to barricade this door,’ panicked Martin. ‘Arthur – find something to keep the door shut – something big. Hurry!’

‘Right-o!’ Arthur scurried off.

The thudding stopped. There was another screech, and a wet, sliding noise. Martin closed his eyes and braced himself against the door. There was a scrabble, then a bang from within. The door held, with Martin and Douglas against it, but Martin was surprised by the force with which Carl had managed to hit it from the other side.

With a quiet ‘budge up,’ Carolyn put her own weight against the door as well. There was another bang.

‘What on earth has happened?’ she asked.

‘I don’t know.’ Douglas pulled his mobile from his pocket and checked it. ‘No signal with Orange, either.’

‘That’s not right,’ added Martin, ‘is it? Reception here’s usually fine. And it’s so quiet.’

There was yet another bang, and a screech.

‘Well,’ conceded Martin, ‘it was. But you can usually hear tons of traffic from here, and now… not a single engine.’

As if to prove him wrong, a deep motor engine roared into life, close by.

‘What the…?’

Another hefty bang against the door almost knocked all three of them off their feet.

‘Oh,’ fretted Carolyn, ‘do hurry up, Arth… oh, Arthur!’

The source of the engine noise was revealed as the airfield’s fuel truck, a particularly gleeful Arthur at the wheel, rounded a hangar and started chugging straight towards the Control Tower.

‘Better get out of the way then, chaps,’ he called cheerily, between blasts of the horn.

‘What is he doing?!?’ cried Martin, bracing himself against yet another shove to the door.

‘He’s doing what you asked,’ Douglas replied, ‘with typical Arthurish flair.’ He held on to the top of Martin’s arm. ‘Wait til you can see the whites of his eyes…’

Another bang to the door. The fuel truck raced ever closer – 20 feet, 10 feet, 5…

‘Now!’ Carolyn dodged one way, Douglas the other, pulling Martin along with him. For a split second, the door began to swing open… only for it to be slammed shut again as the fuel truck drove straight into it. There was a crunch of metal on metal and brick, another cheerful horn honk, and the sound of a handbrake being far too forcefully applied.

‘There we go,’ beamed Arthur, switching off the engine, ‘that ought to hold it. Sorry about that, Carl!’

Tuesday, 3pm. MJN’s Head Office, Fitton Airfield:

Douglas picked up the phone in the Portacabin, tapped the hook a couple of times, and shook his head. ‘No landline’.

‘What the Hell’s happened here?’ wondered Carolyn.

‘Zombie outbreak,’ Arthur informed her, matter-of-factly.

‘Oh, Arthur. Don’t be ridiculous.’

Arthur shrugged. ‘Carl looked pretty zombieish to me. And there’s no phones, no cars, no people…’

‘Maybe there was a terrorist attack,’ muttered Martin, grimly. ‘Bioweapon or something. I mean – we wouldn’t have heard anything about it, over in Qaanaaq the past couple of days – no internet, no news, no nothing.’

Douglas stared out of the window at the airfield, checking for what was probably the tenth time that the fuel truck was still securely jamming the Control Tower door shut. Now that the adrenaline had left him, he felt a great wave of exhaustion sweeping over him. The last sleep he’d had, in Qaanaaq, certainly felt like a long time ago. With the exhaustion came a deep sense of foreboding – as if he’d suddenly found himself at the edge of a void that was about to consume everything – not just himself – everything.

‘Does anybody else remember that little story in the news the day we set off for Qaanaaq? About that rat they were looking for, in Cambridge – the one that had escaped from a research lab?’

The others looked at him, blankly.

‘They were saying, if anybody got a rat bite, they had to go to this particular institution immediately,’ Douglas added. ‘I only remember it because the powers that be were saying there was no need to panic, which I usually take to mean there’s big trouble up ahead.’

‘Zombie rat,’ said Arthur, nodding sagely to himself.

‘Not quite,’ sighed Douglas. ‘But you’d be amazed how quickly a virus can spread. And if it’s something new, barely understood, no vaccine, no cure…’

‘From one rat, a couple of days ago?’ asked Martin. ‘And in Cambridge – that’s right the opposite side of London!’

‘A big city’s hardly going to stop the spread of a disease, Martin. Quite the opposite, in fact. Or, have we forgotten about the Great Plague of London? So called because it happened in… ooh, now, where was it, again…?’

‘Yes, all right,’ snapped Martin. ‘But, I mean… how bad can it be? Really?’

‘Well, I certainly don’t fancy going back to my house, alone, waiting for it to turn dark and finding out,’ Douglas replied. ‘How about you?’

Martin shuddered in response.

‘Yes, but what else are we supposed to do?’ argued Carolyn.

‘Carolyn. We are in the enviable situation in this sort of crisis of being in the possession of two pilots and, crucially, an aeroplane.’

‘Are you suggesting we just take off again? Abandon Fitton? Abandon Blighty altogether?’

‘Not quite so craven, Carolyn.’ Douglas paused, wetting his lips. ‘Things might be better up north. I say we have a scout around up there – see how things are looking up near the border, maybe up into the Highlands. There could be refugee bases there already that would be in need of a plane and pilots. And if there’s nothing – if it’s already spread across the whole isle – well, there’s always Qaanaaq again.’

‘”Up north”,’ Carolyn echoed. ‘And I don’t suppose our little scout-around for the great Zombie Resistance Movement will include any stop-offs at Barrow in Furness, will it? Perhaps looking to pick up a little passenger?’

Douglas narrowed his eyes at her. ‘You can’t possibly be saying that as if it’s a bad thing, Carolyn? With your own son safe and well and by your side?’

‘I simply…’

The tiredness stretched and twanged in him, snapping his nerves in a way that he was usually able to prevent.

‘Oh, fine. You’ve seen through my devious scheme. But, since I can fly a plane, and I am currently but a few yards from a plane, I am certainly not going to sit around here when I could be flying my daughter to safety. I’m perfectly happy for all of you to come along with me. Even to say that this cancels out all the many, many favours every one of you owes me. But you’re not stopping me. I’m flying to Cumbria, and I’m doing so before dusk. Understand?’

There was a momentary pause.

‘I’m going with him,’ announced Martin.

Douglas blinked at the other pilot, who shrugged, meekly. ‘What’s the alternative? At least finding your daughter is doing something. And. You know. You might need somebody to keep the engine running while you fight off the hoards.’

Carolyn nodded, briskly. ‘Very well. You two had better fill the old girl up, then. Arthur – we’re going home.’

‘Oh, but Mum,’ Arthur protested, ‘I’m not sure I want to get zombied like Carl. And I’ve never been to Barrow in Furness before!’

‘Oh, we’ll be back in time for Douglas’ little rescue mission, since he insists on using my plane to do so. But if he gets to go all the way to the Lake District to fetch his daughter, then I am jolly well driving the 20 minutes home to collect my dog.’

Part 2

November 2013

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