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Going Underground (Or: Five People Who Helped Save London, Even if They Didn't Know It)

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Amitoj Dahar

Amitoj hates working Covent Garden. He isn’t even supposed to be here, he’s supposed to be at Waterloo, working behind large barriers and not getting crushed by twelve thousands kids who didn’t know walking to Charing Cross is just as easy. But someone called in sick and he’s the unlucky bastard who drew the short straw.

He likes his job, sure he does. It’s just, Covent Garden tube station has to be one of the most ill designed stations in London, and it’s in no way equipped for the crush of tourists the capital now attracts.

He watches over the heads of the masses of humanity, rushing rushing rushing.

“Madam, please exit the other side,” Amitoj says to a woman attempting to exit the lift the wrong way. (There is a reason the far doors open first, honestly.)

The other problem with this station is Solomon, who keeps talking about his wife and how she’s a ‘lazy cow’ (Solomon’s words, not his) and never does anything useful while Solomon works his arse off. Amitoj thinks Solomon should be glad he has a wife who is happy to stay home and look after their myriad of children. It's not like Solomon does.

He doesn’t tell Solomon this though.

“Trafalgar Square?”

A tiny Chinese woman has managed to get to the front of the barrier crush just to ask this question. A knot of disgruntled tourists gather behind her, trying to get through the gate.

Amitoj takes her map gently from her hands and proceeds to explain, with numerous hand gestures, the easiest way to walk. When he looks up again, the tiny woman smiling and thanking him profusely as she leaves, he finds himself eye-to-chest with a weird looking bloke wearing what looks like fantasy armour.

“Can I help you?” Amitoj asks automatically.

“I require you to let me though,” the man says, his tone slightly imperious.

“Do you have a ticket or Oyster card?”

The man looks at him strangely. “You are the gatekeeper, are you not? I require entrance. You are supposed to let me pass.”

“Gatekeeper?” Amitoj mutters to himself, before looking up at the man to study him properly. You get weird people in London. It’s a good idea to learn the regulars. It makes it easier to deal.

This man is definitely not a regular. But he is very, very familiar.

Amitoj gapes.

“You’re…” he flounders. “With the lightning and the… hai rab ji. Is it aliens?”

Amitoj whispers the last bit. Not that anyone is paying him or the big guy (Thor, his mind supplies. Thor, God of Thunder. Kirin and her friends are going to be so jealous) any attention. Typical London.

“You would call them that, yes,” Thor says calmly.

Amitoj’s mind goes blank and he fumbles with his master card to open the gate. If Thor God of Thunder can’t travel at TfL’s expense, who can? Though isn’t he supposed to be able to fly?

“Thank you, Am… Ami…” Thor squints at his name badge, clearly confused by the pronunciation.

“Amitoj,” Amitoj supplies, almost blankly.

“Amitoj,” Thor repeats, smiling. He then strides towards the stairs, forgoing the lifts and ignoring the signs saying that they’re only to be used in emergencies.

“Wait!” Amitoj calls after him. “Where are you going?”

“Greenwich,” Thor calls over his shoulder, just before he disappears down the 193 stairs to platform level.

Amitoj is too stunned by the entire encounter to have the presence of mind to tell Thor that there are much quicker ways to get to Greenwich from Covent Garden than using the tube.

 

Lupita Mombo and Sanjeev Vijayakumar

“I can’t, Sanji! There’s a massive thing on at work that weekend and no one is getting time off. You know this.”

“Yes,” whines Sanjeev, “But attractive Matt Fraction will be there. You don’t want me to miss attractive Matt Fraction do you?”

I don’t want to miss attractive Matt Fraction, but I’m sorry Sanji. Isn’t there anyone else you can go with?”

“Peeeeetaaa, you know I have no other geek friends who will facilitate my letching of attractive Matt Fraction. You’re my only hope! Also, no. I don’t.”

Lupita shrugs slightly. “I’m sorry, Sanji.”

“You suck,” Sanjeev replies as the train pulls into the station. “C’mon, King’s Cross. We’re getting off.”

They shuffle with the masses heading towards the station exit, getting briefly separated by a bunch of Spanish tourists bunching around the exit towards the Victoria line. Lupita loves central London, but God, she wishes there were less Spanish tourists. They clump, and block pavements.

Sanjeev suddenly elbows her in the side – or it would be her side, if they were anything close to resembling the same height. As it is, she gets a pointy elbow in her shoulder.

“Ow!” she exclaims. “What the fuck, Bean?”

“Check him out!” Sanjeev whispers excitedly. “That’s some epic cosplay right there.”

He gestures over at a huge guy looking at one of the tube maps on the platform wall. He has a red cape on and, Sanjeev is right, some pretty epic looking armour. He also looks confused.

“Huh, I wonder if there’s a con on,” Lupita muses.

“There isn’t,” says Sanjeev pointedly, “because it is November and the only con on is in Leeds.”

Lupita rolls her eyes. “Yes, yes point made. He looks lost though, let’s help out.”

Sanjeev sighs. “You are so weirdly not-London for a Londoner.” But he dutifully follows her through the crowds towards the man in armour.

“Hi!” Lupita says cheerily, “Can we help?”

She’s slightly alarmed to find she comes up to, at best, the bottom of his ribcage. Everyone is tall to Lupita, but this guy is really tall.

He’s also really good looking. Something she discovers when he turns, first seeing Sanjeev because he’s a regular height, before looking down to meet her gaze.

Sanjeev might actually whimper behind her. Subtle, he is not.

“Yes, thank you,” the man replies. “I was informed that this would be Greenwich. But it seems that it is not.”

Lupita is surprised. Greenwich is a pain to get to at the best of times, but normally people know better than to take the tube there from central London.

“Um, no,” she says. “This is King’s Cross. Here, see?” she points at the map and the man turns to look. “You want to be here.” She moves her finger to indicate the area he wants. “You have to change here to the DLR,” she indicates to Bank station, “and probably then change somewhere here as well,” pointing to the Poplar/Westferry area, “or you can go from where we are now to here,” pointing to London Bridge, “and then change to the Jubilee line to get off at North Greenwich.”

She drops her hand from the map. “Any way you go, it’ll take you about 45 minutes to an hour.”

The man doesn’t look pleased at this news, and Lupita notices that his make-up – cuts and blood and bruises and such – is really very good.

“Are you going to a con?” she asks.

He turns back to her and frowns. “I do not understand,” he says.

“It’s just…” Lupita gestures to his outfit half-heartedly. The man looks down at his clothes, then back to her, still looking confused – as if it was perfectly normal to walk around London in full fantasy armour.

“So is there no quicker way to Greenwich from here?”

“Flying,” Lupita says promptly, and then, when Sanjeev pokes her in the back she grimaces and amends that to, “A taxi is probably your best bet. Though it’ll cost a bomb.”

The man holds his hand out slightly, like he’s expecting something to just arrive in his grip. He then nods. “Could you point me towards the exit please?”

Luptia nods and points the man along the, now marginally less, crowded platform. “Follow the signs saying exit and you’re golden,” she says.

“Thank you,” the man says looking at her in such a way that implies to Lupita that he is waiting for her name.

“Lupita,” she supplies. “And the silent beanpole is Sanjeev.”

“Nice to meet you, Luptia and Sanjeev, I am Thor. Thank you for your assistance.”

He then smiles and makes his way at considerable speed down the platform towards the exit, cape swirling behind him.

“Thor?” Sanjeev says once he’s rounded the corner. “Taking it pretty seriously don’t you think?”

Luptia shrugs as they follow the man’s path through the crowd towards the exit in King’s Cross station. The crowd has increased again, and they spend the ride up the escalator separated by a chatting Italian couple and a grumpy looking guy with his phone out.

They’re going through the main ticket barriers when the tannoy blares into life;

“This is a service update from the control room at King’s Cross Station. The Jubilee Line is part suspended between Canada Water and Stratford, and the Docklands Light Railway between Limehouse, All Saints, Canning Town and South Quay due to…”

And here the woman reading the announcement falters. “Unexpected occurrences,” she says delicately, “in the Greenwich area. People travelling to the Greenwich area are advised to… not.” She takes a deep breath and then continues. “There is a good service on all other London Underground Lines.”

The tannoy clicks off and Lupita and Sanjeev look at each other.

“Oh. My. God.”

 

Colin Chan and Aziza Abrika

“That was Wainwright, keeping us updated. All available dispatch units are heading for Greenwich. Grant is swinging by to pick us up in ten.”

Abrika nods absentmindedly.

“Apparently it’s big,” Colin says leadingly. And when Abrika doesn’t say anything in return he adds, “Apparently it’s our New York.”

“Seven seven was our New York,” she says.

“Seven seven was our nine eleven. Not the same thing,” Colin says sharply. “Are you one of those people who doesn’t believe it happened?”

“Nine eleven or New York?”

Colin rolls his eyes. “New York, Abrika. C’mon.”

Abrika watches the tide of people rush through the underground barriers and into King’s Cross station, and she takes so long to reply that Colin thinks she’s forgotten he spoke. He’s just about to give up when she answers.

“I don’t know,” she says. “Iron Man I get. That’s fine. Stark is a showboat and a bit of a div but seemingly good people now. And it’s not like I’d wish a cave in Afghanistan to anyone. But… Captain America? Really? You expect me to believe someone can survive 70 years buried in ice?”

Colin shrugs at this. ‘Cause yeah, that’s pretty stupid sounding really.

“And I remember that thing in 2008. You know, massive destruction in Harlem and official sources say it’s gas mains or something and the internet is full of ‘giant green man’ paranoia. And you notice how it’s always America?”

Colin in saved from answering by a family from Newcastle politely asking how to get to Argyle Square Gardens, and seemingly saying ‘officer’ at the end of every sentence. It’s nicer than hostility, but it gets tiring all the same.

But once the family is gone Abrika carries on.

“Always Americans. How come there aren’t any British superheroes? Or Algerian? Where’s our Superman?”

“Superman is fictional. And also an alien.”

“Well, apparently aliens are real now,” Abrika says derisively.

Colin rolls his eyes. He likes Abrika (and he can hear his brother’s voice in his head; you liiiike her. You faaancy her. You want to maaaarry her and God is that annoying, even more so as Kevin is in his thirties and married now and thinks it is his life’s goal to get Colin married off too. And it’s more annoying because it’s kinda… sorta… very true. Fucking Kevin) but sometimes she drives him up the wall. And he gets it, he does. She’s a woman in the Met. She’s a Muslim woman in the Met. If she didn’t talk big and hold her own she’d’ve bombed out in her first month thanks to the floods of drunk Essex boys who think yelling abuse is a good Saturday night out.

So he gets it. But, well…

“Hey,” Colin says suddenly. “Big guy, barrier. Wearing a cape.”

It’s a testament to how bizarre London policing can be that ‘wearing a cape’ doesn’t get the slightest reaction from Abrika.

She looks over. There’s a huge blonde guy arguing with Janice at the barrier. He looks big enough to just pick her up and mover her out of the way, or jump the barrier, and he sure as hell stands out. But that’s not why Colin pointed him out.

“He’s one of them,” he says in undertones to Abrika.

“One of who?”

“One of the guys from New York. Thor. The not-American. Flying hammer.”

Abrika raises a perfectly plucked eyebrow and Colin is momentarily distracted.

“You’re telling me,” she says, scepticism colouring her tone, “That there is an alien god with a flying hammer in King’s Cross station, arguing with Janice at the barrier.”

“Yes,” Colin says, “Though I can’t see the hammer.”

He then grins. “C’mon Aziza, betcha this has something to do with the brouhaha at Greenwich.”

“Yeah sure,” she says dismissively. “He’s probably one of those mad geek boys.”

“Yeah,” Colin says over his shoulder as he heads towards Janice and Thor. “He definitely looks like a ‘mad geek boy’. Big on the gym, those guys are.”

Colin can hear Abrika muttering, “This is a terrible idea,” as she follows behind him.

“Hi Janice, can we help?” Colin says in his most Met approved voice. Thor is even more impressive in person. Colin feels flabby in comparison, and he’s no slouch.

“This gentleman,” Janice says, and Colin immediately substitutes ‘gentleman’ with ‘idiot’ based solely on the tone of her voice, “is trying to convince me to let him through because aliens are invading and/or something to do with parallel worlds. Which is definitely the stupidest excuse I’ve ever heard for not having a ticket.”

“OK Janice, Officer Abrika and I will take it from here.”

“We will?” Abrika mutters behind him as Janice waves Thor away, and he scowls at her over his shoulder.

Abrika sighs. “Fine,” she says, “We will.”

Colin draws Thor around a corner and away from Janice’s sight.

“OK,” Colin says before Thor can speak. “First thing’s first. You’re Thor from New York right?”

“I am Thor from Asgard,” Thor replies, and Abrika just manages a look that screams ‘I told you so’ before he continues with, “But yes, I am also the Thor from New York.”

“Prove it,” Colin says, partly because he really wants to see, and partly because on the off chance he is a crazy person, finding out here is better than finding out via a series of stabbings or whatever.

“Chan,” Abrika says sharply, while Thor looks mildly affronted.

“No seriously,” Colin says. “I’m assuming you want to get to Greenwich.”

Thor nods, going from affronted to confused in two seconds flat. “How did you – ?”

Colin taps his Met patch. “Police,” he says. “We’re scrambling teams from everywhere.”

Thor nods again.

“So if you’re Thor you’re trying to save the world or something. But if you’re a crazy person we’d be doing terrible police work by letting you through. So prove you’re Thor and we’ll let you through and you can save the world and we can feel safe in the knowledge that we haven’t let a crazy person onto the streets of London.”

Colin feels vaguely pleased with his speech. Abrika looks like she wants to deck him. Yeah, so ‘crazy person’ is not Met approved wording. Thor’s not going to know.

Shit. What if this guy is a crazy person? Or, you know, not Thor?

Thor stares at him for a long moment, making Colin feel as though he can see right through him. Suddenly Colin remembers than Thor is a god and an alien and a prince and something terrible might be happening in Greenwich and that Grant is coming to pick them up soon and maybe he should have just got Janice to let him through, no questions asked.

Christ, he should have listened to Abrika.

Thor then moves so his back is to the main concourse (terrible policing, Colin thinks idly. Officers should always work to have the advantage) and spreads his fingers.

Tiny bolts of lightning arc between his fingers. Abrika gasps quietly, and Colin lets out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.

“OK,” he says breathlessly. “OK. We’re going to get you through, and then we’re going to take you up to the main courtyard and you can… leave from there. Does that… does that work for you?”

Thor smiles at them. “Thank you.”

Abrika leaves quickly to find a barrier guard to let them through, and the three of them climb quickly up the escalators towards the courtyard and the Euston Road bus stops, probably looking rather garish; Thor with his red cape and the two of them in their yellow high viz jackets.

As they reach the top of the stairs that lead into King’s Cross Underground Station, Thor turns to them with a smile.

“May I get your names?” he asks.

“Um, sure,” Colin says, because you don’t say ‘no’ to the God of Thunder and one of the Saviours of New York. “Officers Colin Chan and Aziza Abrika.”

“Thank you for your assistance, Officers Colin Chan and Aziza Abrika,” Thor says. “Stay safe, and keep people from Greenwich, if you are able.”

“Yeah,” Colin stammers, all police induced grace under pressure failing entirely. “Sure thing.”

Thor smiles again, then shakes Colin’s hand and presses a kiss to Abrika’s knuckles (making her blush furiously, which Colin thinks is a great look for her) and sets off running across the courtyard, apparently heading for a couple of the benches in the centre. There’s a faint humming in the air and Abrika only manages to get as far as, “Hey don’t make a – !” before Thor hits the benches, leaps into the air, latches on to something and hurtles into the sky in a blur of red.

“Scene,” Abrika finished lamely, as the courtyard erupts into exclamations and sunlight reflecting off camera phones.

“You believe in New York now?” Colin asks Abrika after a while, in almost reverent tones.

There is silence for a moment.

“Well, I still don’t think it was the original Captain America,” she says finally.