Age of Heroes
A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma
Summary: The apocalypse has come and gone and the Age of Heroes is long since over. There's not much left to live for, but Wally's never been one to give up without trying, and maybe there are still a few miracles—and heroes—left in the world. A zombie apocalypse AU for the YJ Anon Meme. Mostly features Wally and Connor, but other S1 characters will make appearances as well. Friendship only, no pairings.
Prompt: "Wally lives in a world were surviving is all that matters. He has been alone since the out break started while he was a road trip by himself a year ago, now his only reason to live is to find his family and friends. That is tell one day when he searching through a place called 'Cambas' for supplies when he stumbles onto a teenager in a pod...
(The rest of the prompt removed because it contains some spoilers)
Note: I couldn't resist zombies. Anyway, the timeline was shifted around a bit...this story assumes that Project Kr is begun in 2007 (not 2010) and that the outbreak begins in the same year. This means Wally does not have his powers (because feeding his uber-metabolism in a post-apocalyptic wasteland would be pretty much impossible). The fic itself takes place in 2011, four years after the outbreak begins. A lot of the details are pretty heavily inspired by Max Brooks' World War Z too, so some of the stuff might sound familiar. It's all based on Season 1 of Young Justice only, since I have not watched Season 2.
Warnings: Teensy bit of language, some blood and gore (mostly zombie-related), occasional creepy psychological stuff (again, mostly zombie-related), occasional dark outlooks on life and rather morbid humor (it is the apocalypse). Rated M mostly to be safe (for the aforementioned zombie blood and gore).
Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, Young Justice or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs to DC, Warner Brothers, and associated parties.
"As long as zombies and an apocalypse are going on, then it's officially a zombie apocalypse."
~ Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee
As the sun came up one cool May morning, Wally West realized he'd been doing this for exactly four years to the day now.
He honestly couldn't even believe it had been that long. It felt like so much longer, like decades even, since the outbreak began on Z-day and the world went straight to hell. And the worst part was, up until that point, everything had been going so well. He remembered fondly back then, when he'd just discovered that his aunt Iris' fiancee, Barry Allen, was none other than the Flash himself. He'd been exhilarated to discover his heroic idol was soon to become family.
Uncle Barry—he'd already started calling him that, even if the wedding hadn't happened yet—had promised to tell him some first-hand stories about the Flash's many exploits when Wally returned from the school trip to Washington, D.C. Which had promised to be a fun trip, too, because it would be a whole week on his own, without his parents telling him what to do, and for a twelve year old nothing was more awesome than that. A great field trip, followed by getting the chance to hang out with his amazing super-hero uncle—what could be better?
Except he never made it home. Two days into his school field trip, the outbreak had started, and Wally never saw his parents or his aunt or his soon-to-be-uncle again.
Nobody knew where the zombies came from, or why. Wally heard all sorts of theories in the past: disgruntled super-villains, aliens, biochemical warfare, curses (he always scoffed at that last one). The truth was, nobody really cared anymore, either. The end happened and the zeds were there to stay. Life was hard, learn to deal with it or die.
There'd been a lot of dying.
Things happened so fast back then, the outbreak and the panic spread too rapidly, and there was no way to get home. The school teachers and chaperones tried shipping the school kids to a sort-of fortified location near Gotham City with hundreds of other kids that the country was desperate to protect, but it didn't last long, and neither did his teachers. Eventually the place was overrun, the walking dead swarming the gates, breaking down doors, and feasting on flesh, and only the fastest, smartest, most adaptable kids lived through it.
Wally was one of them. He taught himself how to survive fairly quickly, out of pure necessity. He'd always been pretty smart, and he'd always been a decent runner—never quite on the Flash level, although wouldn't that be awesome, to have super speed—but enough to outrun shambling animated corpses, at least. He learned how to feed himself, how to travel safely, when to run and (much rarer) when to fight.
And most important, he taught himself to hold on to a single, all important goal, and live for it. Because the world now was simply too depressing to try and live through, a post-apocalyptic wasteland of broken memories and old, false truths, and if a person didn't have something to keep going for it wasn't worth trying.
For Wally, his goal was simple: he would find his family again. He would find his mom and his dad and Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry and he wouldn't stop searching for them until he did. Which meant he had to keep on surviving, so that he could see them again.
So he did. And he had. And four years later was still surviving and had no intentions of giving up any time in the near future.
But it is sort of ironic, Wally reflected, staring in the distance carefully through a pair of binoculars he'd stolen from a camping store years ago, how four years later to the day I'm back where it all started for me. Washington D.C. sprawled out in front of him, impressive in its own depressing apocalyptic way with any number of broken houses, broken monuments, and broken historical buildings. It was an old, haunting reminder that a grand civilization had once existed here, full of history and innovation and progress.
Now it was full of nothing but corpses, the kind that moved and the kind that didn't. And supplies. Lots and lots of supplies, probably, if one knew where to look. You just had to avoid the obvious targets, which would have been picked clean long ago.
Wally considered his options carefully. He had to be careful, because the higher the density of buildings and the former population, the higher the chances one would run into a pack of wandering, hungry zombies. Really, it would be smarter of him to skip D.C. entirely and keep on heading for the closest settlement of still living moving bodies. But he needed the supplies, both for himself and as tradable goods for when he did reach a settlement. So before he could second-guess his decision he turned, stuffed his binoculars back into his ratty camping backpack, and hopped on the abandoned utility bike he'd found down in Florida two months ago, coasting down the first of the abandoned streets.
Just a quick look, he promised himself. If you see any zombies you pedal like crazy and get the heck out of here.
But for a while D.C. didn't have much of anything to offer Wally, other than a massive case of the creeps. The teenager saw signs of people passing through, but most of them were old, so old he wasn't even sure if they were of the living or dead variety of human. He kept his eyes and ears strained, but saw nor heard any sign of zombies, no telltale moans or shuffling bodies. Wally knew better than to jinx his luck, and travelled as silently as possible through the streets, keeping an eye out for possible scavenging opportunities. But there weren't any of those left, either; most of the shops and homes he passed have long since been picked clean by other opportunistic survivors like himself, with all traces of food, clothing, blankets, medical supplies, drugs, weaponry, tools, batteries, fuel, rope, and camping supplies completely gone.
Wally snorted at what did remain behind. None of the cash registers were cracked open, still containing hundreds of dusty dollars, and the houses were all still filled with entertainment systems, wide-screen televisions, souped-up desktop computers, and surround-sound stereo systems. Four years ago, a veritable fortune's worth of cash and merchandise—today, absolutely worthless. Money went out of style years ago; trade was the new currency.
Wally poked around the houses and shops a little longer, but the more he stayed in once-great capital, tip-toeing around the dead streets that had once been so heavily populated, the more he began to grow nervous. Every second he spent there was another second he could be discovered by the zeds, and if he got himself trapped in a house or shop while scavenging he was as good as dead. The search was rapidly becoming pointless; after hunting for hours he had still failed to find anything of use. Better to cut his losses and run now, while he still had a chance, than to die looking for something that wasn't there.
It was a frustrating conclusion to come to, but Wally reminded himself again of his promise: stay alive, I have to find them again. So he grimaced, and turned his bike towards the only bridge still standing, hoping to make it across the water and put some distance between himself and D.C. while he still had a full day ahead of him.
That was when he spotted the sign, as he zipped past it: Cadmus, Advanced Laboratory Research.
That gave him pause, and he screeched to a halt on his bike, spinning it around to stare back at the building he'd just shot past. It looked innocuous enough, a plain two-story building that was still in relatively good repair. It seemed inevitable that somebody already would have gone through it ages ago, though. Labs could be dangerous, since a lot of the outbreaks appeared to have originated or gotten worse in them, but they could also be a treasure-trove of valuable goods, which usually made the risk worth it.
It's stupid, Wally told himself. I should leave. This isn't worth it. It'll be ransacked already. But he had to try, as long as he was here. So he left his bike leaning up against the wall, slipped out his weapon of choice—a sturdy crowbar he'd found last year in Virginia somewhere—and carefully levered his way past the broken outer door, heart hammering.
No moaning and shuffling met his ears immediately, but it was dark inside, even though it was nearly noon outside. Like most of America, electricity had stopped working a long time ago here. Wally pulled a flashlight out of his bag, hoping he found more batteries for it while he was here because he was running low on spares, and explored, always keeping one hand on the crowbar at all times.
Like he'd suspected, the building had been picked clean a long time ago. There was once-fancy-looking furniture, a number of computer frames and towers, a few tattered photographs and whiteboards stuck to the walls, and even a monthly calendar, still dated May 2007. On the second floor he even found evidence of a make-shift shelter where the scientists, or maybe a few survivors passing through, had holed up for a while. But any supplies of value were long gone.
Wally sighed. It had been a long shot anyway.
But when he did one last circuit of the first level he was surprised to discover a small hole in a sagging portion of the floor, near the rusty elevator doors. That in itself wasn't too surprising—buildings were always falling apart, these days—but what did surprise him was that there appeared to be another floor below.
Baffled, Wally doubled back to check the stairwell. The stairs only went up, not down. Intrigued, he went back to the hole, and after a little poking and prodding realized the damage was relatively recent. There was something down there, and more likely than not nobody had been given a chance to scavenge it yet.
It was a golden opportunity. Grinning to himself at his good luck, Wally wasted no time setting to work. He didn't know how long he'd be searching—if it had one hidden floor it could have others, potentially—and he didn't need company from a wandering pack of dead heads falling down the hole after him. He heaved and shoved several large desks and cabinets in front of the broken-down main door, just to be safe, and then set to work prying at the hole with his crowbar until it was wide enough for him to slip through. There was rope in his pack—he tied it off carefully against the still-fairly sturdy stairs, so he'd have a way back out. Then he tossed his pack through the hole and, gripping his flashlight and crowbar, jumped down after it.
Wally grinned at his success. He was standing in a hallway that was pretty much identical to the second-floor one above—besides the curious fact that it wasn't connected to the ground floor at all, other than perhaps than by the elevator that he was sure was no longer operable. The place was coated with dust and clearly hadn't seen any visitors—human or zombie—in years. Perfect.
To his surprise, despite being below-ground, there was light as well—dim, weak emergency lights, but lights all the same. Wally made note of it with interest. Where there were lights, there was some sort of power source. Did this lab have its own generator? Some other internal power supply? Whatever it was, if he could find it, it might be worth a lot, or extremely helpful to a few of his friends and contacts around the country. Snapping off his flashlight, he slipped his backpack on, hefted his crowbar with both hands—it paid to be careful, no matter what the dust indicated—and set off to explore.
The first few floors were like any other office building he'd been in: clean and organized, other than the dust he kept kicking up, full of filing cabinets and office supply closets and rooms with cubicles. Wally took his time going through all the desks, cabinets, closets, bathrooms and office rooms, and was rewarded for his success with a few great finds: batteries, a few hand-held tools, and best of all, a pair of undisturbed first aid kits still bolted to the walls. There was an abandoned iPhone with a dead battery on sub-level seven, but although tech was mostly worthless there was a bounty out on portable, modern tech at the nearest refuge settlement, so he stowed that away too.
Somebody's desk on sub-level fifteen had an even luckier find of of several packs of cigarettes and a bottle of alcohol—this guy had vices like woah, clearly, but it'd serve Wally well. He didn't smoke or drink himself (stupid habit to get into, especially when traveling zombie-infested territories), but luxuries like these sold for a bundle in trade when they were so impossible to come by now. He'd be able to feed himself for a week or two just by trading for a single pack of cigs. He stowed everything away in his backpack, wrapping the alcohol bottle carefully in an extra shirt so it wouldn't break, and kept on exploring, now enthusiastic about his chances for finding more great stuff.
Past sub-level fifteen (he couldn't believe how far down this place went, but the stairwells kept dropping past fifteen into darkness, so he could only guess it went really far) things got a little more science-lab-y. Which only made sense, since the sign outside had said they did 'advanced laboratory research.' There were a few more finds here—some drugs that were still viable, and might do a settlement's medical facilities some good later, as well as a few other medical tools that might also be of use. He packed these up with particular care. They were as good as money to him, but they might mean somebody else's life one day in the future.
More exciting to Wally on these floors, though, was the scientific notes he found everywhere. He found himself reading whiteboards with chemical formulae curiously, or paging through binders and notebooks of hand-written and computer-printed notes, idly decoding the meanings and intents of the scientists that had been here before him. It had been a while since he'd seriously toyed with chemistry, biology, or physics, since zombies really were more impressed by your ability to run away from them than your ability to recite the entire periodic table from memory. But it was all still there in his head, and it didn't take him too long to pull apart the formulas for the hidden meanings beneath.
At first it was exciting—he'd always loved this stuff, even at twelve—but the more he read, the more it became disturbing instead. Some of the things this facility had been up to were...well, sick, honestly. Genetic manipulation, forced mutations, experiments regarding meta-powers...it all looked pretty twisted, and the more Wally read, the more he had questions. What had been going on here? Why was there some secret scientific facility below the capital? Had his uncle...the League...even known about this place? He guessed not, on that last one, or he was sure they would have shut the place down a long time ago. He knew his Uncle Barry would have disapproved of everything he was seeing.
Conspiracy theories flew through his head by the dozen, but Wally had already come this far, and he wasn't about to turn back. Ignoring the warning voice in his head that told him maybe this place was not safe, he kept going, crowbar at the ready.
At sub-level twenty-six, things started getting really disturbing, because that was when Wally started finding the bodies. The first one, he was not ashamed to admit to himself, scared the crap out of him. He saw something human-shaped sprawled on the floor in the dim emergency lights, screeched in alarm, and had the crowbar up and ready to start lashing out before five seconds were out. But the thing didn't move, and when he tentatively approached it, he realized it was dead. Definitely an it, too—the thing was only vaguely human shaped, and possessed gangly limbs, a whiplike tail, long, pointed ears, and a set of wicked-looking teeth. Wally grimaced, and tried hard not to think of it leaping at him and trying to tear his face off, because he was pretty sure that encounter would end pretty badly for him.
There were others too, the farther down he explored, and not just like the first thing. He counted four or five different types of strange creatures, always dead, from elephant-sized and built like a tank to tiny enough that one could have ridden on his shoulder. Perhaps the strangest was the entire floor dedicated to hundreds of glass tubes, filled with spiky bug things. A number of them still sparked with bright crackles of electricity, which suddenly explained why the whole facility still had emergency lights at least. The bodies increased the farther down he went, although Wally couldn't fathom why. He'd gotten halfway decent at assessing fights and massacres after seeing so many of them, but these things didn't look like the'd been in any major fights when they died, and he hadn't seen a trace of a zombie either. It was like they'd all just been...turned off, or something, had just keeled over and died.
This is not weird or creepy at all, he thought to himself grimly. Whoever the hell Cadmus belonged to, clearly they'd been up to no good before Z-day. Maybe he could bring some intel back to the nearest settlement, see what his friends thought of it...
The strangest of all were the last ten levels. By now Wally hadn't found anything of trading value for a while, but couldn't resist the urge to keep exploring, and when he saw the bottom of the facility he was shocked. These halls didn't even look like halls anymore—they were all coated in a thick reddish jelly-like substance, and put him in mind more of a strange, giant hive of bugs than a science facility. There wasn't much to find on these floors, other than a heart attack when he looked into the walls once and realized one of the weird elf-things was staring back at him. He'd screamed and backpedaled, bringing the crowbar up like a batter at plate, until he realized the thing in the wall was dead as well, sightless and empty and wrapped in a bubble-like pod of the jelly-stuff. A quick glance around revealed dozens of other dead, wrapped-up whatever-they-weres, also trapped in the walls.
That had been enough to almost make him turn around and head back up to the more normal levels. But he shook his head and kept going. "Don't be a wuss, Wally," he told himself out loud (a habit he'd picked up for himself after a few years on his own). "You're already here. Might as well go the whole way or you'll regret it."
Other than the weird jelly, most of the lowest hallways weren't much to speak of. Sub-level fifty-two, though—the lowest, final level, from what Wally could figure—was a special case. There was a lot of machinery strewn around, and a few odd-looking, highly-advanced computer consoles, most of which looked to be in severe disrepair if they weren't broken already. It branched off into two smaller hallways. One of them was full of canisters that, after a brief glance at the formulas written on the outside, Wally determined he wasn't going near—that stuff was explosive, and volatile, and who knew what would set it off after this long. So he headed down the other hallway, trying hard to ignore the dead creatures in the walls until he reached a strange round door at the end, slid partway open.
Something about that door seemed...odd. But he'd come this far, he reminded himself again, so he stepped through to the other side. It was dimmer in here—some of the emergency lights appeared to have gone out—and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust. But when they did, his jaw nearly dropped, and he stared in surprise at what the room contained.
Or, more specifically, who the room contained.
I bet you guys totally cannot guess who is in that room. Hur hur.