Harry had never planned to die first. This was supposed to be a drill, after all, nothing more dangerous than some over active imaginations. They were supposed to be a little shaken, nothing that couldn’t be cured with a pint at the George.
No one was supposed to die today. Of course, in Harry Pearce’s line of work, that’s little insurance against death. Still, even though he knows better, he has always assumed he’d know when death came looking for him. That there’d be the sharp spike of adrenaline as he ran through the streets of London, the calm acceptance of waiting for the shot in the back of the head, or at least a sense of doom.
This morning was clear, though, and calm. Beautiful, even. He’d been in a good mood, even with all the fiddly details of the exercise. No foreboding clouds, no ravens in flight, nothing but the feeling of London humming around him.
Two hours later, and the world is ending. London is dying, and he is dying with her.
He ignores the symptoms at first, ignores them until he can’t. VX is a sticky thing, and he has become the plague carrier. He is surrounded by these people he has taught and molded, these people that he has fought beside, these people that he loves. He can stay with brave, broken Tom. Brainy, brilliant Malcolm. Clever Colin. Zoey and Danny, both so very young. And Ruth, Ruth who makes his heart beat faster with her shy smiles and blushing apologies and her comprehensive knowledge of every esoteric thing. He can stay with them, he doesn’t have to die alone. He can stay with them, but to do so would doom them all. Harry can no more chance exposing them, than he could shoot them without cause.
It’s harder than he thought, telling Tom to lock him in his office. He would spare Tom this if he could. There are things in this world Harry Pearce cannot do, legend is wrong about his omnipotence. He cannot save London, and he cannot save Tom from this. Most of all, he cannot save himself. He can only hope he has taught Tom well enough, and that Tom is strong enough to use those lessons wisely.
He suspects that he will not be the only person dead at the end of the day, however.