AU – Mycroft Holmes leads the grim war on terror and Sherlock is his best secret agent: cold, calculating and ruthless. He is obsessed with destroying the militant terrorists hiding deep in the disused London Underground – until one momentous day when he meets a child soldier named John.
Genre Adventure/Action, Kidfic, Espionage, Romance, Dark,
Characters Sherlock/Irene, Sherlock&John, Mycroft/Anthea, Lestrade, Sally Donovan, Anderson, Moriarty
Length 40,000+ 16 Chapters
John was sitting alone in the Underground tunnels, just out of sight of the Euston Station platform. He enjoyed the peaceful darkness, broken only by the small auxiliary lights placed high up on the tunnel walls. In this serene place, John could devote himself to his thoughts. Very soon the world was going to change beyond recognition, and perhaps John wouldn't have the chance to sit and enjoy this familiar calm anymore.
His thoughts were a jumbled mix of apprehension and excitement. Once the government was overthrown, John could go to the surface as much as he pleased. He could search for his family and visit Hoot's previous owners. He could spend more time with Dr Sigerson and Erin Watts. He could go swimming and roll on the grass. The possibilities were endless.
John's reverie, however, was soon disturbed by the sound of footsteps in the distance. They were not the heavy footfalls of military boots, but the soft, subtle, and somehow sinister crunch of an unfamiliar tread.
"Hello, John," said a soft, lilting voice. "I was wondering where you'd got to."
John looked up cautiously at the man approaching him. It was Jim. The odd little man was wearing an immaculate blue suit with matching tie, and shiny black shoes that had been polished to perfection.
"Hello," muttered John apprehensively. He didn't know what this strange man wanted from him. As far as John knew, Jim was also helping out with the operation, but in a different capacity. When he'd pushed Seb further on the issue, John had been met with a blank wall of silence. Secretly, he was quite glad that he had been ordered to work with Dr Sigerson, rather than with this strange, menacing man.
"I heard from Seb that you were here all alone," said Jim, with a false tone of concern in his voice. John looked away and tried not to make eye contact. Jim's eyes frightened him: they were black pits, empty of life. It was like looking into the darkness of space, but without the pin-pricks of starlight.
"You can talk to me, you know."
John forgot all about Jim's eyes and turned to look at him in surprise.
"I know what it's like to be alone in the world, John," said Jim, taking a seat beside him and leaning in far too close for John's comfort.
"I'm not alone," protested John, getting the odd sensation that he didn't really want to hear what was coming next.
"Oh…oh, but you are, my boy: no family, no friends, no one to really care for you."
"I've got my platoon – I've got Murray and Slightly and Zero!"
Jim smiled, but his eyes remained cold and dark, as if no warmth could ever touch those black orbs.
"You understand, don't you?" asked Jim, sounding terribly sad. "They're jealous of you, John – terribly jealous, even though Murray and Slightly are better at hiding it than Zero."
John was amazed that Jim, who had only turned up the day before, could know so much about his squad.
"That's not true," said John, even though a nasty, sinister voice at the back of his mind suggested that it was.
"And Seb…he doesn't have much time for you, does he?" continued Jim as he picked up a stray stone and tossed it at the wall. "He's never bothered to hug you or pat your back. He doesn't stick up for you when you're unfairly punished."
John stared at this man, wondering why he was saying such hurtful things. It was true that Seb was busy, but he still cared about John. And while it was also true that Seb had never stopped him from being whipped, that was because he couldn't overrule his superiors.
"He does care about you," said Jim immediately, almost as if he had read John's mind, "but he doesn't do very much about it, does he? A real father would spend time with you, doing what you wanted. A real father would care about your feelings, and not just how well you can complete a mission."
"But…." John wanted to object, but he couldn't think of anything to say. From what he read in the storybooks, Jim was completely correct.
"Seb cares about you, but he's not father material," explained Jim in what John thought was supposed to be a kind tone. Instead, it made him feel terribly uncomfortable. "Wouldn't it be nice to have a real family?"
John kept his eyes fixed on the dust and gravel that covered the disused train tracks, feeling confused and anxious. Seb had assured him that Jim was a good man – someone who would help them achieve their goals, a vital part of their complex operation – but John simply couldn't bring himself to trust the man, with his cold smile and soulless eyes. He wanted to just get up and run away as far and as fast as he could, but Seb had told him to respect Jim, so an abrupt departure was out of the question.
"I guess," muttered John, fidgeting nervously with the loose threads on his uniform. He'd stored the new clothes Sherlock had bought him safely away in his sleeping bag: such fine clothes were not meant for the dirt and grime of the Underground. John planned to wear them to meet his family, if he ever found them.
"I suppose you have no idea who your family are," continued Jim, his tone dripping with over-zealous concern. "You see, John, this is why I came to talk to you." John froze momentarily, the loose thread from his trouser leg wound tightly around one finger. "I wanted to tell you that I have information about your family…your real family."
It took Sherlock nearly five minutes of speed-talking to explain how he had come to his conclusion. First, John's disclosure that there was a power station in the Underground; second, Irene's deduction that it had to be nuclear-powered; third, their discovery of supporting documents in Mycroft's office; and finally, the blueprint from Thames Water. Halfway through Sherlock's rapid-fire rendition, Lestrade had to answer a phone call, much to Sherlock's disgruntlement, but the Section D chief returned within moments and calmly listened to the rest of his soliloquy before agreeing to help.
Dimmock and Gregson were less than enthusiastic, but Lestrade appeared to be convinced by Sherlock's reasoning. He voiced his agreement that they couldn't allow the government to cover up the existence of the terrorist cell by obliterating the evidence. They needed to take the rebels alive and gather intelligence on their operations. The captives could provide a veritable gold mine of information that would possibly lead to the discovery of other, as yet unknown, cells.
The country, Lestrade had said passionately, would not be safe if they didn't foil Mycroft's plan, and their duty as MI5 officers was to their country – not to Mycroft Holmes.
It was a very rousing short speech, which reminded Sherlock of just why Lestrade had become the head of Section D, and why he commanded the respect of both his subordinates and his superiors. What Lestrade tactfully didn't mention was Sherlock's own personal motive for stopping Mycroft: he wanted to save John.
The small group spent a good deal of time discussing the actual plan of attack – and how, exactly, to round up three hundred special operatives – before Lestrade, Gregson and Dimmock disappeared to brief their officers.
When Sherlock finally tore his eyes away from the speakerphone on the bland wooden desk, he saw that both Q and Irene were staring at him as if he might spontaneously combust.
"You couldn't have given us a little warning before spilling the beans?" said Q.
"This was a more economical use of time; I didn't want to have to say everything twice."
Irene shook her head as if to clear her mind, and then stood up purposefully. "I need to get changed," she said, ever the pragmatic spy.
"There are some jumpsuits for lab techs in the cupboard on your right," replied Q helpfully, "and the toilets are outside, two doors down on the left."
They watched in silence as Irene strode out of the room with a blue mechanic's jumpsuit in one hand and the grappling hook she'd had hidden under her ball gown in the other.
"There's a bathroom directly off this office," observed Sherlock quietly, "behind the screen in the left corner."
"I needed to get you alone," admitted Q, his eyes darting about nervously, as if he was expecting invisible spies to come crawling out of the woodwork. "I suppose there'll never be a good time to tell you this, but…." He hesitated and nervously pushed his glasses up his nose. Q had always been a reserved and controlled person; his blatantly agitated state was not a good sign, and Sherlock felt the nasty sensation of fear start to creep up his spine. "That stillbirth certificate you had me dig up…. I discovered yesterday when I retraced my hacking code that I'd missed something…."
"Go on," growled Sherlock.
Q took a deep breath and blurted out his next words.
"Basically, someone got there before me and altered the birth certificate to a stillbirth certificate. It was professionally done – I only found pieces of the original file under layers of data debris." He pulled out a small piece of A5 paper, half of which was completely blank. "There's no death certificate that matches this name and this date of birth. I think…there is every chance the baby – child – might still be alive."
The words hit Sherlock like a physical blow, and he had to grip the edge of the desk to steady himself.
"You're right," he muttered shakily. "There wasn't ever going to be a right time to tell me this."
Three hours later, Lestrade had managed to gather all of his team. Gregson had done just as well, and Dimmock had miraculously managed to round up three hundred special ops soldiers in their civilian outfits. Ten bland-looking vans were now parked unobtrusively in various side streets around Westminster, while twenty others had been dispatched to King's Cross and Euston. The heavy pedestrian traffic around the Westminster area would disguise the sheer numbers involved in this operation, and each unit of special ops had been ordered to arrive at its Underground station separately.
Deliberately foiling Mycroft Holmes' plans was not something Lestrade ever thought he would have to do, but here he was, standing in the middle of London with a huge, unauthorised team of MI5 agents. He checked his phone and re-read the text message he had received half an hour ago during his conversation with Sherlock. Sugarhorse was the ID displayed prominently on his phone, and one word he'd never thought he'd see – but today was turning out to be a string of nasty surprises.
Ours not to reason why, he thought grimly, ours is but to do and die.
The partially-concealed causeway leading to the entrance of the Westminster Underground station was littered with debris and a few yellowing leaves, heralding the early arrival of autumn. Clueless pedestrians walked and chattered noisily above them like a never-ending flock of migrating birds.
Sherlock was standing in the shadow of the great metal gates that sealed the entrance, his expression unreadable. Beside him, Irene was standing rigidly in a standard-issue jumpsuit, her wavy, flowing hair tied in a ruthlessly sleek bun.
"Well, it's a good thing we brought a proper battering ram," muttered Dimmock as he eyed the huge sheets of metal that towered before them.
"No need," said Sherlock as he pulled one door open. "We don't have time to lose."
Lestrade couldn't help but smile at Sherlock's amazing ability to get into places he really shouldn't.
"You do realise we are effectively going in blind, and if your plan doesn't work out, we're all dead?" said Dimmock bluntly.
"Then you'd better hope I'm as smart as I think I am," replied Sherlock dryly.
What was left of Westminster Station was covered in a deep, stubborn layer of dust that refused to be disturbed even as numerous pairs of thick military boots stealthily moved through the wide, deserted corridors that had once seen the passage of millions of commuters. Only the light from torches affixed to the fronts of rifles illuminated the way forward. The vanguard of their operation had already moved into the dark tunnels, scanning for and disabling all surveillance devices.
Suddenly the great booming blast of an explosion rocked through the deserted platform, almost knocking Lestrade off his feet and sending several other officers collapsing on top of each other.
"Lestrade!" cried Sally, pushing her way through the throng of agents and grabbing her boss' arm to steady him. He leant into her supporting grip and tried to smile reassuringly, but it turned into a grimace.
"That would be the booby traps," he muttered grimly. "What's the damage, Anderson?"
Anderson arrived from the opposite direction with a state-of-the-art radio communication set strapped to his waist. "It's alright, sir, just a controlled explosion by the special ops guys – no one's hurt."
"Have our communications been picked up yet?" asked Lestrade, a semblance of calm returning to his mind.
"As far as I can tell, someone is piggybacking on our frequency, so our position is known and our communiqués are being monitored."
"Thank goodness for that," muttered Sally as she started to shepherd Jo Portman and Callum Wood off the platform and into the tunnels. "I was thinking we'd actually all drown down here when the sluices were opened."
"What makes you think Mycroft Holmes isn't going to open them anyway, even though he knows we're down here?" asked Anderson cynically.
"Shut up, both of you," groaned Lestrade as he holstered his gun for a moment to have both his hands free so he could climb down off the platform. As he stepped down onto the abandoned railway line, he could see the torches of the special ops team darting like fireflies far in the distance, their light slightly distorted by the slowly dissipating cloud of dust and smoke. Sherlock was somewhere in front – probably right at the front, shouting instructions at the special operatives and getting himself covered in every type of grime available. Although Lestrade had never believed Sherlock belonged in MI5, it would be a lie to say that he hadn't missed working with that whirlwind of energy and dazzling genius.
Just like old times, thought Lestrade, and found a curious sense of comfort in the idea.
Sherlock tried desperately to remain focused on the task at hand. The controlled explosion had spewed forth a huge cloud of grey dust, most of which Sherlock felt he had personally inhaled. He spluttered and wiped his face as best he could with the sleeve of his dinner jacket, which was now ruined beyond repair. He holstered his gun for a moment while he furiously scrubbed the dust from around his nostrils with both hands. The weapon felt odd, pressed against his left hip. He hadn't carried a weapon for the last two years, after being thrown out of the Service, and now he was uncomfortable with the cold, hard weapon.
When he finally regained his composure, his mind still refused to obey instructions. Not for the first time, the tight control he had over his emotions deserted him.
There is every chance the baby – child – might still be alive.
Q's words haunted him like a living nightmare or an obsessive fantasy: it was hard to know which, in a stormy sea of confused sensations. He might be a father – the thought both terrified and exhilarated him, and his mind refused to stop analysing all the possible implications.
Where was his child? What had happened to him? Who had orchestrated the cruel scheme to keep Sherlock from knowing his only son?
The questions and associated emotions were clouding his logical faculties and slowing his responses like a haze-inducing drug. It was dangerous and irresponsible to be thinking about this during the mission, but Sherlock's psyche refused to obey his commands.
Suddenly someone grabbed his arm in the semi-darkness and he reacted reflexively by sliding out of the grip.
It was Irene's voice, just inches from his ear, and yet Sherlock hadn't even realised she'd approached him through the small throng of special operatives. In the dim, darting lights of the ever-moving torches he saw that her expression was one of deep concern.
"Your mind is not on this mission," she hissed so quietly that only they could hear. "What's going on?"
He stared blankly at her, unable to tell the truth and even more unable to fabricate a lie under her unwavering gaze. He could feel cold beads of sweat breaking out across his forehead, and his mouth started to feel like a sun-baked desert.
"Case Officer Adler," someone called from in front of them, "the service door to our right is heavily protected. Do you want us to investigate?"
Irene glanced at Sherlock and he nodded vaguely, his mind still trapped in a hinterland of doubt and fear but also joy, an uncontrollable exhilarating joy that seemed to take on a life of its own. With that joy there came the uplifting feeling of hope, illuminating the world that was so filled with darkness.
If his child was alive….
He couldn't finish the thought: it led down a road he didn't have the courage to travel. If he truly became emotionally invested in the idea of being a father, it would leave him utterly dependent on pure speculation, his hopes and dreams pinned on something that might be no more than the desperate fantasy of a man wanting to make up for the past.
"Do it," ordered Irene, and the dedicated unit of special ops rushed to surround the booby-trapped door. Three minutes later, which was slightly longer than their usual disarming processes, the partially-hidden door had been blasted open, the wired explosives disarmed and the laser sensors disabled.
"How's Gregson doing at Euston?" echoed Lestrade's booming voice behind them. Someone gave him an almost inaudible answer and the section chief appeared satisfied. "Right, the base has been cleared, Sherlock!" cried Lestrade. "Eleven dead – amongst them, three boys."
Sherlock froze, his heart suddenly seizing in horror and all previous thoughts dissolving into one screaming voice: John.
"John Watson's not there," continued Lestrade's voice, which was getting louder as he sprinted towards them, "but we don't know where he is. The forty-three captives they caught haven't said a word."
Relief was immense, as if the weight of the world had abruptly lifted from his shoulders and Sherlock could simply float away. John was still alive.
With his body on autopilot, Sherlock found himself walking through a hole blasted into metal. Only as he entered did he observe just how thick and shiny the door had been. In a moment of returning clarity, he understood that they were at least on the right track. Behind the door was a long, low, claustrophobia-inducing tunnel, delving deep into the bedrock under London. It was completely dark, the torchlight from the special ops unit having disappeared from view around the bend. The floor was uneven at first, but this gave way to a rough set of stairs. Finally, after what felt like an eternity in darkness, Sherlock saw a dim, white light in the distance, outlining the figure of Irene running a few metres ahead of him.
The sight that greeted him as he emerged from the narrow tunnel confirmed all his suspicions.
The vanguard and Irene were crowded onto a small metal platform overlooking a gigantic cavern carved out of the deep-red sandstone* beneath them. A vast network of cables, ventilation openings, and lights were fixed to the uneven ceiling, illuminating enough of the cavern to give Sherlock an idea of its size. It was an enormous space, extending down into the earth for over a hundred metres and spreading so far in all other directions that the walls of the cavern were no longer visible.
"Oh my god," whispered one of the special ops men. The light from his torch was no longer visible under the harsh glare of the overhead lights. He was staring at the centrepiece below them: an ugly, immense complex of cooling towers and pipes – the nuclear power station.