"The Storybrooke Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse"
Fandom: Once Upon a Time
Warnings: Spoilers through the end of Season 3.
Summary: There are times when living in a town populated by fairy tale characters has its advantages. Apparently, a zombie apocalypse is one of them.
Challenge: Written for the 2014 apocalyptothon, for sumi, who asked for gen Once Upon a Time and "Anything featuring the Charming Family would be love."
Beta: Thanks go to my talented beta, lone_pyramid, who made this story much better than it was with innumerable suggestions, and who made me laugh by asking for accents in words.
1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Emma's still more asleep than awake when she makes her way out of her apartment after only three hours of sleep. The only reason she's up at all is a vow she made to herself that she'd be there to see Henry off to school every day, and apparently her conscience has decided that "being there" means "awake and making sure he's had a good breakfast." Days like this, she wishes her conscience would take the day off and let her sleep in.
She doesn't even look both ways before crossing the side road she's parked on, barely noticing the man shambling down the road towards her, apparently suffering from the after-effects of one too many the night before and, fortunately for her, not stupid enough to get behind the wheel. She sets her coffee on the roof of the car while digging through her pockets in search of her keys.
Emma has the feeling that there's something important she should be doing, other than figuring out where she hid her keys from herself. There are three gloves, none matching any of the others, a pacifier that her baby brother dropped that she hasn't gotten around to returning, a set of lockpicks that will come in handy if she can't find her keys, a sample size tube of toothpaste, and someone grabbing her arm.
When someone grabs Emma's arm, it generally means that they want to get her attention; they want her to arrest someone or fine someone or at least give them a good scolding. But occasionally, it's because they're a misogynistic bully that thinks they'll get some sort of medieval extra credit for besting Storybrooke's female sheriff in hand-to-hand combat. And Emma's not even close to being adequately caffeinated today, so when she feels someone grabbing her arm, her instincts take over and she smashes her elbow into their nose.
Usually, when she does that (and, yes, she does it often enough so that there's a 'usually'), it's followed by a dull crack of bone breaking accompanied by a surprised grunt of pain, and her arm is released with lots of swearing. This time, there's only the crack and an odd gargling sound, so she spins around and ducks under the arm holding her, a maneuver sure to free her from the grip of anyone who's not expecting it. It's not until after she's completed her move and is facing her opponent that she realizes it's a zombie.
The zombie genre is not one of Emma's favorites. She spends about half of most zombie movies wishing that the zombies would kill the characters faster, because there's no way people that slow or stupid would ever survive even an entry-level apocalypse. The irony of that viewpoint is not lost on Emma as she jogs just far enough away from the corpse so that she can continue to search her pockets for her keys without having to go toe-to-toe a second time with her newfound sparring partner. It occurs to her, too, that the sword her father gave her might really come in handy — once she gets it out of the trunk.
2. Store Your Weapons in an Easily Accessible Location
"Do you know what's going on?" David asks Emma as she bursts into the sheriff's office. He looks downright odd with a gun on one hip and a sword on the other.
"Do you mean the zombies all over town? Or is there something else we should be worrying about too?" Emma asks, almost completely serious. She'd spotted at least another dozen of the walking dead on her way to the station. But when bad things happen in Storybrooke, they tend to happen in droves.
"Not just in town. It's everywhere. New York, Paris, China ..." David gestures towards the small television set in the corner, tuned to a news station showing footage of a small army of the undead shambling along the mall in Washington, D.C. towards the Washington Monument, the reporters so excited that they can barely form complete sentences.
"I need to go check on Hen — I should go check on the school, make sure all the kids are safe," Emma says, pulling at the lock to the cabinet where the rifles and shotguns are stored. "Hey, do you have your keys?"
"Where are yours?" David asks, tossing her a key ring. "Don't worry about Henry. The school's the evacuation center for the town. In case of winter storms and stuff." Stuff apparently includes any passing zombie apocalypse or, who knows, alien invasion or something. "Mother Superior called. She's got a protective shield in place, and everyone even remotely magical who shows up is bolstering it."
"Regina and Gold?" Emma asks, feeling better with a shotgun in her hands. Now all she needs is some coffee. The cup she'd had with her when she was attacked had spilled in the ensuing mêlée .
David shakes his head. "Haven't heard from them. You know, this is why ..." and Emma swears she can hear the change in gears from deputy sheriff to protective father "... I gave you that sword. Swords don't run out of ammo."
"I know. It's in the trunk of my car. With my keys. And, um, one of the zombies. But don't worry, I'm pretty sure the zombie can't use a sword." Emma avoids eye contact with her father, looking instead at the news footage of a massive pile of zombies trying to get over a very tall wall somewhere in the Middle East. No, wait, that was from a movie.
"Why is there a zombie in the trunk of your car?"
"Well, Regina told me that you can't raise the dead using magic. So I thought he might not be dead, just, I dunno, sick or something. And I didn't want to kill him, so I locked him the trunk of my car. Locking the keys and the sword in with him was an accident." Emma looks mournfully at the station's empty coffee pot. "I really need caffeine if I'm going to be fighting zombies first thing in the morning."
3. Communicate with Regional Authorities
The zombie apocalypse has taken over the local news station, much to the chagrin of its reporters, who weren't used to local news stories quite so dangerous to report on. Usually, that fell to the weather forecasters. They're showing footage of the Maine National Guard coming to the assistance of a small town just down the road, whose police chief, a towering man built like a professional wrestler, doesn't look very happy to have a couple score of the Guard camped out in the park next to the police station.
Emma's glad that she doesn't have to worry about explaining to some National Guard commander that the block watches they have patrolling the streets are really quite good with swords because they were all part of the Royal Guard in any one of about six different kingdoms; that the forest west of town is clear of zombies because Robin Hood and his Merry Men are having a contest to see who can kill the most zombies with a single shot, and yes, Commander, that would be a shot with an arrow. They do tell me that some redheaded teenage girl they don't even know stands a good chance of winning their contest, so it's nice that the kids are helping out too.
If she did have to report to a National Guard commander, though, Emma would tell him (or her!) that her son had chosen codenames for the three men patrolling the town cemetery. Who better to cut off the problem at its source than heroes like Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty, Prince Thomas from Cinderella, and Prince Charming from Snow White? Just as well the Maine National Guard didn't know about Storybrooke — a commander would lock Emma up in her own jail after any even vaguely accurate report she could put together.
Emma's moving little colored flags around on a map of the town — who knew the apocalypse required well-stocked office supplies? — when Regina comes in, surveying the map as she does. She doesn't say anything in greeting, just pulls a lump of black crystal a little bigger than a baseball out of her oversized purse and tosses it to Emma.
"There's your answer," Regina tells her. "Is Henry still at school?"
"Yeah, it's the town's -"
"Emergency shelter, I know. I am the mayor, after all." Regina plucks one of the blue flags near Granny's Diner and puts it in the cemetery. "Whatever this is, it's only affecting the dead. There's no spark of life left in any of them, nothing even close."
Emma looks at the crystal in her hand and, realizing what it must be, drops it on the desk with a look of revulsion. "Are you sure?"
Regina doesn't seem offended by the question, just steps over to the desk and upends her bag, spilling another dozen or more of the discolored crystals onto the desk with the first one. "Really sure."
"How did you know I thought they might still be alive?" Emma wonders, stepping back from the desk.
"Because you're you, Miss Swan. I was wondering the same thing myself, actually, although probably for less altruistic reasons than yours. So I decided to find out. I met your little zombie hit squad when I was up in the cemetery, by the way. They were discussing the best things to read to their little ones to get them to sleep. You know, for being princes from fairy tales, they have some very modern notions about fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Nothing too violent, nothing too morally ambiguous." Regina makes a snort of contempt. "A little moral ambiguity never hurt anyone, that's what I say."
"Yeah, well, look who's talking," Emma comments drily. "Why were you in the cemetery?"
"Research, for one." Regina nods at the pile of darkened crystals on the desk. "There were also a couple of graves that I wanted to lock. I only had enough reagents for two. We really don't need my mother getting up and wandering around. Somehow, she would find a way to make this about her, and end up queen of the zombies. And I didn't want Henry running into his father."
Emma hadn't even thought about the possibility of the zombies being people she knew. Fortunately, Regina hadn't been as shortsighted. "Thank you."
"Just remember this if some angry mob decides I'm responsible for this mess," Regina responds tartly.
Emma nods, acknowledging that it's a real possibility. "Deal."
4. Encourage Civilians to Stay in a Secure Location
Nothing has really improved by lunchtime. The sheriff's office has turned into a command bunker (despite Emma's halfhearted protest that the glass doors don't make it very bunker-like), coordinating the efforts of those Storybrooke residents that are willing to be coordinated. Emma has just gotten off the phone when Mary Margaret comes in, baby Neal in a carrier on her chest, facing his mother and sleeping soundly.
"Hey, how are things going?" Mary Margaret asks cheerfully, setting down a bag. "I knew you must be busy, so I stopped by Granny's and bought you lunch."
Emma stops glaring at the phone and looks disbelievingly at her mother. "You brought me lunch. In the middle of a zombie apocalypse."
"It was no trouble, really. I can take care of myself." Mary Margaret's tone is firm. Emma notes that Mary Margaret is carrying a bow over one shoulder, and a sword hangs from her belt. About half a dozen arrows are clustered over her shoulder, fixed to her back not by a quiver, but by a diaper bag.
"You can't just ... it's not ... " Emma runs her hand over her face, not quite sure what to say. "What about the baby?"
"Don't be silly, he's much too young to be fighting zombies," Mary Margaret replies, her eyes twinkling."Any luck figuring out what's going on?"
"Not really, no. Regina was by earlier, and she wanted to make sure Henry didn't come by her place. Apparently, some of her research is —" Emma makes a face, "— unpleasant."
Mary Margaret nods. "David called earlier. He said she was in the cemetery earlier, and it was really something to see. She'd freeze a zombie in place with a flick of the wrist, walk up to it, pull its heart out while it just stood there, examine the heart for a few minutes, and then move on to the next zombie while David, Sean, and Phillip killed the last one. It's nice to have Regina's magic working for us instead of against us for a change."
"Well, just in case magic isn't the solution, Dr. Whale is examining some of the zombies, trying to figure out if it's something ... sciency? He did say 'fascinating' about five times before he got to work. Because if anyone knows about using science to raise the dead, it's going to be him."
"Sounds like you have your best people on the job. How are your defenses doing?"
Emma is reminded that her mother, although she looks petite and harmless, has commanded entire rebel armies. She glances at the phone. "Not so bad, actually. Captain Hook and a few of his men are patrolling the docks. They've decided to herd any zombies they find into the cannery."
"Is there a good place to keep them in there?" Mary Margaret wonders.
"Not really, no. Which is why they're feeding them into the processing equipment."
"Oh. That doesn't sound very sanitary."
"I'm never eating sardines again."
5. Establish a Clear Command Structure
"Isn't it awesome?" Henry exclaims as he enters the room where Emma is just resting her eyes, not napping at all. "I didn't think I'd ever get to see a real zombie." As Emma reluctantly opens one eye to look at him, Henry seems to realize how that sounds. "I mean, of course it's terrible, because the zombies are killing people." In spite of his words, Henry doesn't sound very contrite.
"Henry, how'd you get here?" Emma demands, worried that, like Mary Margaret, he'd taken to wandering around an ongoing apocalypse unaccompanied.
"Grandpa came and got me after school. He said it wasn't safe to go home by myself," Henry explains, stopping to examine the map of Storybrooke on the table with a sprightly assortment of colored flags indicating zombie sightings and patrol routes. "What color are the zombies?"
"Yellow," Emma answers. As he leans over, she spots a pewter pendant hanging from his neck that she has never seen before. "Where'd you get that?"
"Oh, this? Grandpa gave it to me. He said it would keep the zombies from noticing me." Henry moves around the table to examine the green flags.
"What did you have to give him for it?" Emma asks, immediately suspicious. He hadn't specified which grandfather, but of the two, Prince Charming was unlikely to have unused magical talismans sitting around. Rumpelstiltskin, on the other hand ...
"Free of charge," Mr. Gold tells her from the doorway.
"You never give anything away," Emma counters.
"It seems that my beloved Belle wouldn't take one unless I gave the other one to the boy." Gold explains, exasperation clear in his voice.
"Thank you, then. And thank her." Emma's glad that Belle seems to be able to influence Mr. Gold for the better. "You know, we could use your help with all this."
"I'm not some soldier you can just recruit," Gold tells her primly, nodding to the television where men in military uniforms wielding flamethrowers are barbecuing a small group of zombies. "But don't worry, dearie, I'm devoting my full attention to the situation. Once I find out who's responsible, we're going to have a nice little chat."
Emma almost feels sorry for whomever Mr. Gold decides is responsible for the apocalypse. Almost.
6. Prioritize the Current Crisis Above Everything Else
Surprisingly, things don't get worse after sunset. It turns out that even when they were wandering around in full force, the zombies hadn't been particularly successful at increasing their own numbers, and once the townsfolk had mobilized against them, their population dropped dramatically. The total death toll in Storybrooke was standing at a whopping forty-seven. Heck, Emma thought, the Evil Queen had a bigger body count than that.
Storybrooke's biggest current problem is the zombies wandering into town (apparently the curse wasn't quite sure what to do with zombies, so it just let them in) along the roads and through the woods from other nearby towns, apparently less successful at curtailing the zombie menace. Not bad for a town invisible to the military forces taking on the zombies in every other part of the state.
The television is showing a report about the effects of the zombie apocalypse on the funeral industry, while Emma's examining the map, wondering if she needs more flag colors and if the zombie apocalypse was likely to cause a run on office supplies.
"Why don't you run along home, love, and get yourself a good night's sleep? I can keep an eye on things until morning." Captain Hook walks up to the map, surveying it without question.
"Things okay down by the docks?" Emma counters, glancing at the pirate.
"Dead as a doornail. Assuming the doornails haven't removed themselves from their doors and started wandering around on their own," Jones assures her with a ready smile.
"I should —" Emma starts, guiltily.
"You should go get yourself to bed. Big day for you. Apocalypse and all. I'll manage just fine until morning. No further need for all hands on deck. Besides, your family are waiting for you outside. Your mother said something about helping you get the keys out of your trunk? Go on, then." Hook makes it sound like it's decided, and straddles one of the office chairs, spinning around to show just how blasé he is about the whole situation.
Emma leaves, grabbing a shotgun on her way out, to find David and Mary Margaret discussing a fight they'd had with some ghouls back in the Enchanted Forest while Henry plays with Neal in the police station's lobby.
"We thought we'd head over to Granny's to get a late dinner," Mary Margaret tells Emma, giving her a quick hug. "You can probably use a good meal, and the take-out places are all closed until they beef up their security."
"Sure, sounds good," Emma says as her parents gather up Neal's things.
"But first," David tells her, "we're going to take care of that zombie in the trunk of your car."
"Yeah, I'd actually kinda forgotten about that."
"That's not the sort of thing you want to forget," Mary Margaret chastises her, settling Neal into his carrier. "You never know when you're going to need to get into your trunk."
"Hey, can I kill the zombie?" Henry asks eagerly. "If Grandpa supervises?"
"Well ..." David starts, and Emma can tell that he's on the verge of agreeing.
"No, kid," Emma tells him firmly. "Maybe when you're older."
The five of them head out the front door, ready to confront whatever adventure life in Storybrooke has ready for them next. Or at least the zombie in the trunk of Emma's car.
- The Storybrooke Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse