Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 4175 words.
Notes: Sam/Gene. Title from the Frank Sinatra song. ♥ This was written specifically for zomromcomlomcom. Warning for gore and unpleasant images.
Summary: Those who weren't on shift guarding, acquiring, or strategising either slept in one of the cells or sat playing cards. The first few nights had been thick with smoke and the stench of booze, but they'd begun to realise they were in it for the long haul and it was rare to see anyone with a fag dangling between their lips.
Sam had thought things couldn't get any worse. As if it wasn't bad enough that his life consisted of time travel, and supernatural children, and the radio crackling to attention when he least wanted it (such as in the middle of a passionate speech about ethics, or as he was trying to eat his lunch.) Now, Sam had to contend with undead creatures battering at the walls.
The most terrifying thing was that it made sense, in a ridiculous sort of way. It began with ominous threats from the Test Card girl, 'actions have consequences, Sam. You need to learn this. Because I'm a good friend, I'll teach you', and didn't seem to be ending any time soon.
Everyone that had died during Sam's stay in 1973 due to mistakes he had made, events he couldn't prevent, had come back with a thirst for human brains. And had it stopped there, perhaps the situation could have been contained.
But it hadn't, of course, because things could always get worse. It was Tyler's Law.
"Up and at them, Samuel. One of the oogly-booglies got through the barricade at the Eastern stairwell."
Sam stared up at Gene blearily, rubbing his hand down his face and grimacing at the greasy residue left on his fingers. He hadn't bathed for three weeks and it was obvious from the fact his hair defied gravity after a nod of his head, and his skin was regularly sticky. One of the first things the outsiders had done was cut off the water supply; bursting the main pipe that ran into the station. This left the force with the drinks in the vending machines, the bottles of scotch many officers had stowed away, and whatever was left in the canteen fridges. Gene, for his part, didn't look much better. He had the beginnings of a beard and dark rings around his eyes, the sleeves rolled up by his elbows were smudged, and there was a tear in his trousers.
A telltale shadow crossed Gene's face. "Lytts got munched on."
Sam jumped to his feet, his hand on his pistol. "So we---"
"Chris already shot him in the back of the head."
Sam wrestled with the conflict between relief and revulsion. Lytts had been a valuable member of the team, often going on reconnaissance missions. He'd had a wife and two daughters that he spoke about without a hint of stoicism, unlike the other men who were detached and blasé when discussing family life. Lytts had fondly told Sam of the first night he and his wife Jean had met, had recounted stories about his children growing up.
"So what's the game plan today?" Sam asked, already weary, despite the three hour sleeping shift.
"We're gonna try and get to the canal again. If we find transportation, it'll be a day thing. Otherwise, we're scouting out routes."
"We need supplies. Ammunition, water, food, first aid."
"What makes you think we're gonna have any more luck than with the shops close by?"
Gene spoke to Sam as if he were a child; carefully and precisely, but not unkindly. "Because we know there were people; proper people, not zoned out brain-eating people, by Barton Swing two days ago thanks to radio transmissions. We've been over this."
Sam set his jaw. "That doesn't mean anything."
Gene gave a hint of agreement. "At the moment, it's all we have."
Sam followed Gene into the incident room, their main base of operations. It had been the station canteen, once. It seemed odd to Sam that this was less than a month ago. They chose it because it was a large enclosed space, no windows to the outside world, and on the ground floor. Easy enough to barricade, but also easy enough to escape from should the need arise. Many of the tables had been shoved into other rooms. One was set up in the corner as medical assistance; although it was only a help to those who'd fallen over. If anyone was scratched or bitten by the outsiders, they were placed into Lost and Found, which Sam always thought was a little too apt. So far, only two of the nineteen had got out of there alive and sentient.
Those who weren't on shift guarding, acquiring, or strategising either slept in one of the cells or sat playing cards. The first few nights had been thick with smoke and the stench of booze, but they'd begun to realise they were in it for the long haul and it was rare to see anyone with a fag dangling between their lips. There'd been a punch up the night before between Phyllis and Clive about a cigar won over a game of cribbage, and Phyllis had crowed about her victory to Clive's black-eyed disgust.
Sam was actually impressed by how well the camaraderie had held, but most certainly hadn't breathed a word about his little friend with the red dress and cruel sense of humour.
"Annie, love, any more messages?"
"No, Guv. I've been trying the past hour. It's silent out there."
Sam quirked an eyebrow. Gene ignored it.
"Ray, man the fort. Chris, go get some sleep. Clive and Dennis, you're with us. Gwen, d'you have that list drawn up?"
Sam watched as the once languorous room whipped up into a frenzy. Ray stood to attention, walky-talkying to Derek for a status report. Chris marched out, straight towards the cellblock. Clive and Dennis began hauling on the rucksacks they'd stolen in the first couple of days of outsider invasion. Gwen scurried forward with a notepad and pencil, offering it out to Gene with a crooked little smile.
"Put everything I could on there, everyone's requests, the items we know we're desperate for. I reckoned anything could be useful. After all, we killed those nasty little buggers with ladles last time they made it into the Collator's Den."
"You're a diamond, you know that, don't you?"
"Make sure you get the tubing," Gwen responded, a flush over her cheeks. "If we're gonna get water back into this station, it's vital. The lads've figured out where to feed it, now, to access the underground water supply."
"We'll do our best, just like you always do."
"We're going right this second?" Sam asked, telling himself the bile in his throat was because he hadn't eaten a proper meal in God knows how long.
"No, we're going five months from now. I was hoping we could stand around a bit and chat about the weather." Gene rolled his eyes. "We've gotta get a move on when it's daylight. And if we don't take this chance, we're gonna be dead from starvation before the outsiders get to us anyway."
Sam swallowed thickly. He couldn't help but wonder if that was a viable alternative to living in a constant state of fear and exhaustion.
"What do you want me to do?"
Gene gave a feral grin. "You, dearest Sam, are the decoy."
Sam and Chris were regularly the decoys. So many of the woodentops had fallen prey to bone crushing, brain mushing oblivion. Over twenty of them had become attackers themselves. This left those in the force with very few fit, younger men who could run fast enough away from the outsiders to not get eaten. Before a pale grey and green Joni had appeared by the Cortina and Sam's life had been turned upside down, he'd been thinking he needed to get more regular exercise, so this was almost a blessing in disguise. The outsiders were slow. They lumbered. It wasn't difficult running away, as long as you didn't get cornered. There were, however, hundreds of them, and they may no longer have had all their faculties, but they were smart enough to situate themselves near shops that held necessary items. They'd let down all the tyres of the police vehicles and seemed to have set up a constant patrol.
Sam's lungs were tight in his chest as he sprinted down the road, screaming and waving his hands wildly. He'd cut a thin line into his hand and smeared it against his shirt. The smell of blood appeared to make an impression on the outsiders. During the day, the creatures loitered. It was only at night that they came out in full force, smashing through wooden fortification and attempting entrance into the station. This didn't mean that they wouldn't kill someone during sunlight; Sam had learnt that the hard way, watching Inspector Rathbone be brutally eviscerated on only his second expedition.
Sam did not look behind himself as he ran. He could hear and smell the outsiders, he didn't need the motivation of vision, and he would likely trip and fall were he to attempt it. Instead, he concentrated and increased speed. As he neared his destination, he ripped off his shirt and tossed it into an overflowing dustbin.
By the time Sam made it to the designated rendezvous point his breathing was laboured and his ankles sore. He signalled to Gene that he was alright, but really he was as far from alright as any man could get. They waited for several minutes to assure themselves there were no outsiders on their trail, and thankfully, this time, there weren't.
"It's knackering watching you puff and pant like that," Gene said, curling his lip up at Sam doubling over. Sam straightened up and stared Gene down.
"This could be your job, only we know that despite your unnaturally long legs you run like a slab of lard on a skillet."
"No, Samantha, we know that the station would go to pot were anyone else in charge for longer than a day."
Sam gasped again, this time for effect. "So you freely admit you'd get masticated by our little friends with the glassy eyes?"
"I admitted no such damn thing, don't you go putting filthy words into my mouth."
"It means 'chewed', Gene."
Gene tossed Sam a rucksack. "I know what it means." He indicated to Clive and Dennis with a flick of his hand and the men scuttled to their side of the alleyway.
The four of them began a rapid journey towards the canal. Sam pondered the chances of there being a boat for the taking; nothing on board but maybe a ham and cheese sandwich with Dijon mustard, freshly made. He knew the chances were slim.
Three hours later, Sam had all but lost hope for discovering transport, but was feeling pretty lucky considering they hadn't awakened interest from the outsiders milling about. They walked along the water's edge, ever watchful, guns at the ready.
"We should build a raft," Dennis said, head in constant movement, like he was viewing a tennis match.
"Or an Ark," Sam retorted, absent-mindedly checking that his safety was off. "Get two of every kind of animal, watch them shag."
"Don't be a prissy prick," Gene admonished. "It's not that stupid an idea."
"Where'd we get the wood and binding from? Who's to guarantee the outsiders can't swim and we'd therefore be defenceless and easy pickings? It may not be stupid, but it's wildly fanciful and we can't afford to have our heads in the clouds. No offence, Dennis."
"Oh, none taken, Boss. I just love it when it's suggested I'm a fantasist," Dennis replied, tone dry and weary. "Especially by someone who'd know."
"Crates," Clive said, "we could use crates. They're always lying about."
"There's bound to be some rope around. Old oil containers to use as floats."
"And we could push an outsider into the canal, see if they sink or swim," Gene added, nodding.
Sam opened his mouth to protest, but then closed it again. It could work. They had to try. He followed Gene away from the water, towards the street and abandoned buildings on the other side. As they were crossing, an outsider began to take keen interest in their movements, its white-filmed eyes tracking their journey. Sam gave it a quick glance, and then looked closer when he realised it was June. They hadn't managed to kill many of the original outsiders who first turned up, and they often seemed to be present on these excursions. Sam had half a mind that they had directions from the Test Card girl. Not that he could voice these fears with anyone.
Sam raised his pistol and shot June in the head, lips twisted into a grimace. Kill someone twice, shame on him.
After another hour, they had gathered enough resources and Sam was keeping guard as the other men lashed four crate sides together using twine they'd found in the dustbin outside a textiles warehouse. Clive was sealing the lids to eight oil drums with candlewax.
When they were finished, they carried the raft above their heads and tried not to make a sound passing a collection of outsiders guarding a pub called the Bull & Ram. The outsiders ignored them until they got to the water's edge and pushed the raft in. It floated without anyone on it, but that wouldn't guarantee it would with four adult bodies jostling for space.
"Okay, Sam, it's time for you to get one and see what its breaststroke's like."
Sam groaned and gazed at the outsiders. They were not famed for their communication skills, but normally, if one was interested in something, the others would pay attention too. He had to find one that was separate from the rest. After walking some way and scanning carefully, he found a suitable candidate. An outsider that had once been a teenage boy, kicking sullenly at the brick wall to a porno shop.
His heart was in his throat as he crept up, eyes and instincts on alert. The thing was grizzling, the inhuman sound stomach-clenching, his rotting fingers clawing at the bricks. Sam went slower, modulating his breathing, until he had a handful of the outsider's sleeve in his hand and was tugging. The outsider circled around, and Sam saw that his eyes were missing. It groped blindly for Sam, but he backtracked.
"Come here, little thing," Sam beckoned, voice low and soothing. "There's fresh meat here. Squishy grey brains for the taking. And it can be all yours. All you have to do is walk."
The outsider tilted its head to the side and advanced, picking up pace the further Sam walked away from it. After five minutes, it was snarling and flailing, and mercifully about to tip into the canal. Sam went around its back and gave it a push.
The outsider waved its hands around, but that was it. It didn't even scream or shout. It let the water rush over its head and Sam felt a surge of pride and joy as the murky waters accepted another body. He turned to see Gene, Clive and Dennis jumping up and down on the raft.
"Who's the stupid one now?" Dennis asked with a grin the size of the Blackpool tunnel.
Sam nodded acquiescence and took Gene's proffered hand gladly, thinking that, for once, he was glad to be wrong.
"Four drifters, off to see the world, there's such a lot of world to see, we're after that same rainbow's end, waiting round the bend, my Huckleberry friend, moon river and me..." Sam sang, sitting on one end of the raft with Clive to balance the weight as Gene propelled them with two brooms duct-taped together, digging into the grooves of the banks of the canal. Dennis was on the other side, keeping them on track. They were far away enough from the edge that an outsider couldn't just jump the gap, but close enough they weren't floating uncontrollably.
"Never knew you could sing," Gene said, momentarily staring at Sam in surprise.
"I was in a choir once," Sam said, thinking back to the first two years of secondary school. His mother had forced him into it in a bid to get him more friends. "We used to sing Beatles songs."
"That's ridiculous. Why would a choir sing songs that modern?"
"We did. You should've heard Eleanor Rigby. It's quite something being sung by a bunch of pre-teen boys."
Gene frowned again. "Unless I'm very much mistaken, you weren't much younger than thirty when you were in this Beatles-singing choir. What was a man of your age doing with a bunch of 'pre-teen' boys?"
Sam pushed a hand through his hair, trying to think quickly. "It was inter-generational. People of all ages. But the younger ones often did set-pieces, and that was one of them."
"The more I think I know you, the more I realise I don't," Gene said, and there was a gravelled edge to his words that made Sam examine him again. He was staring steadfastly towards the street.
"Sing us another one," Clive said, in the midst of disassembling his gun, cleaning, and reassembling it again.
"Okay, I'll take requests."
"River Lady," Gene interjected.
"The day the river freezes, is the day it won't seem fair, 'cause they'll come to get the River Lady, and I don´t think they'll care..." Sam started, but stopped when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Two outsiders were poised as if about to run and attempt to jump onto the raft. Sam knew they'd likely never get the speed up, but he didn't want to take the risk. He nudged Clive and they raised their guns and fired simultaneously.
"I think I'm attracting them," Sam said. "They don't like my cover version and want Roger's dulcet, smooth tones instead."
"Or they like you very much and want to make you their pet," Gene replied, a small smirk on his lips and glimmer in his eyes.
It was late afternoon and Sam wondered if they'd have to get to Liverpool before they found a stopping area that looked suitable. He was feeling hungry, his eyes were gritty, and the air smelt of flesh and maggots. Life was great.
Gene had swapped with Clive and was concentrating on keeping watch. Sam looked as the wind ruffled through his hair, his eyes narrowed and lips pushed forward. Gene had been handling this entire situation with level-headed organisation, and Sam couldn't help but admire him for that. Where others would have failed, the Gene Genie rose to the occasion; and whilst it was glorifying Gene, perhaps, and not taking into account that there was little else he could do, Sam realised he respected Gene more than anyone else around him.
"Like what you see?" Gene asked, turned to face Sam with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes," Sam admitted.
Gene gave him an odd look; Sam couldn't tell if he was annoyed or just surprised. He didn't have time to search the gaze as Gene resumed scanning for the undead.
Eventually, they came to a spot where there were no outsiders to be seen. Dennis used his binoculars, zoning in on usual outsider hiding places; they didn't have many, but occasionally the bastards pressed flat against the walls of an alleyway, or waited on the roof of a single story building, ready to pounce in an uncoordinated, bone breaking fall.
"Nowt to be seen," he said, "and there's a shop. Glass windows, but can't see any of them in there either. This might just be our lucky hour."
They tied the raft to a bollard, Sam gripping between the raft and bank so it didn't float away in the meantime, body aching as his muscles stretched. Once tethered, Gene helped him up and they headed towards the store. Inside, Clive created a loud diversion just to double check there weren't any monsters lurking in the depths, and they got to work systematically packing the rucksacks with items from Gwen's list. Gene rattled off the necessaries with experienced speed. Most of what they acquired were ingredients to last a while, but they went for the occasional quick treat. Sam ripped into a packet of bakewell tarts and devoured two in the space of forty seconds.
"Still can't see anything suitable," Gene said, huffing out a deep breath.
"We really need a hardware store," Sam replied around crumbling pastry. He handed Gene a tart, his hand lingering on Gene's longer than strictly necessary. Gene noticed, but didn't pull away.
"D'you know where we are, Clive?" he asked, instead.
"Not really, sorry Guv."
"Just as well I do," Gene said. "There's a tool shop about twelve streets away; but back towards where we came from. Is it worth the risk?"
Dennis answered for everyone. "We need water or we're stuffed. The risk is something we'll have to take."
Armed with rucksacks and high hopes, the four started off for Tim's Tools. Sam wasn't going to lie to himself and say he was feeling brave and powerful for charting the unknown. Mostly, he just felt scared. He had yelled countless apologies, begging the Test Card girl to stop her torture, but his hoarse supplication had been ignored, and he was stuck jeopardising life and limb every day of the week.
The moans grew louder the further they walked. The outsiders were never completely silent. They groaned and grumbled; never using words, but their meaning was clear. Sam could have felt bad for them, if he could be completely detached from the situation, had he not seen the death and destruction they wreaked first hand.
Turning the corner, Gene raised his hand to tell everyone to stop. Sam arched forward onto the balls of his feet, craning to see. There were a group of outsiders stretched across the alley; fifteen, sixteen of them. They seemed to be surrounding someone. Gene nodded in the opposite direction, and they found an alternative route, coming around to the side door of the hardware store as opposed to the front. There was no one inside, and up on a hook behind the main counter, Sam saw what they had been searching for.
Sam and Gene worked together to kick the door in without making much sound, Sam holding hard onto the handle as Gene applied constant, steady pressure. There was a low crack; not too loud, and they gained entry. Clive stood by the exit as more items were piled up, and Sam jumped up onto the counter to reach the plastic tubing. They needed metres of it, and soon realised they'd have to empty one of the bags in order for it to fit.
Items clattered as they were furiously removed and repacked, but Sam felt it was necessary noise for much needed speed. They'd already taken too much time getting here. Dennis managed to cram some of the jars and containers into his own bag, and others still they could fit amongst the tubing, but many items had to be sacrificed.
"Let's get out of here," Sam whispered, wincing as he put his rucksack back over his shoulders and tried not get dragged down to the ground.
"It's getting dark," Gene agreed, shrugging his own on with an intake of breath. They turned back towards the doorway, surprised to find it mysteriously empty.
"Clive?" Sam called, voice high and strained.
There was an answering groan.
"Oh shit. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit," Sam said between clenched teeth. He heard the shuffle of feet and watched in stone-cold terror as a shambling, limping outsider blocked the door.
Gene took the shot, but behind that one came three more, and soon it was obvious they were surrounded. The windows flexed under the weight of punching fists, outsiders came pouring in, and Sam, Gene and Dennis went back to back, standing in a circle with guns raised. Clive emerged out of the crowd, flesh torn from his cheek, head at an unnatural angle.
"Sam, I did warn you, didn't I?" a voice said over the cacophony of inhuman wailing.
Sam's eyes widened as the Test Card girl stepped out from the throng of bodies. His chin felt heavy and his throat parched.
"Actions have consequences. Inaction has consequences."
"What does she mean, she warned you, Tyler?" Gene barked, fear making his voice louder and his eyes wild.
"You can see her?" Sam shrieked, fingers slipping on his gun.
The Test Card girl smiled blithely. "What's happening to you now is your star DI's fault, DCI Hunt. He wouldn't play my games. But he has destroyed a lot of lives. I thought I'd give him a taste of his own medicine."
Sam began to aim his gun towards the girl's forehead.
"Not just me, though," she continued, her grin growing wider. "My friend too."
Sam's heart stopped as another small body crawled between the legs of the outsiders, his breath caught at the top of his throat and his pulse racing as he looked at short blond hair and blue eyes that would soon turn brown.
"Hello other Sam," the small child said, his face an eerie calm. "Alice says we're going to have a lot of fun learning how to be good little boys."
To Be Continued...
Strangers in the Night (1), Night and Day (2), Call Me Irresponsible (3)