For Mycroft, the most jarring thing about V-Day isn't that it happened. It isn't even the fact that a good quarter of the Parliament died along with a number of extremely vital officials and bureaucrats. The loss of lives and resources, while utterly bothersome, is something that he can overcome in time; replacing people is the easiest thing in the world so long as he still remains alive and functional. No, none of that truly bothers him.
It's that he did not see it coming. Sherlock did not see it coming. No one saw it coming.
Later, Mycroft tears through his network for answers to questions that he did not even know to ask before it was far too late. How, is in the forefront of his mind. How did this happen? How was it done? How was it done without him knowing about it?
A billionaire goes and not only concocts an utterly mad plan to annihilate what he can now only assume was intended to be a major portion of the world's population, and Mycroft didn’t know about it. The billionaire accumulates the tools and weapons to do it, testing them, creating whole new technologies, disguising them in cellular phones… and Mycroft didn’t know about it. And then, and then that self-same billionaire goes around and collects people – the famous, the affluent, the influential, and the markedly intelligent – and he either turns them to his side or he keeps them like pets, like rats in his cage… and yet, somehow, it failed to get Mycroft's notice.
Well, yes, Mycroft noticed the kidnappings – everyone noticed the kidnappings. Towards the end, Valentine was hardly being nondescript about it. But early on, when it was just one or two, no connecting factor linking them together, he'd thought it beyond his interest. A kidnapping of a rich businessman, a famous artist, a politician… how very banal, surely to be resolved in a couple of weeks. The intellectuals vanishing he never even noticed – a university professor not coming home from work just doesn't make the news at that same, irritating level. And it was so very irritating. It was in the news on a nearly regular basis, the words.
The disappearance of. The kidnapping of. The absence of. Insert name here, still missing after…
A monotonous droning of key words. Like all things, it grew old and worn very quickly. The first couple of missing person's reports were notable, the next four were a tad confusing, but by the time there were ten people missing, all of them on the news… A lot of those people who vanished, they never interested Mycroft – they didn't influence his life or his business, didn't factor into his work. What did he care about a missing singer or an investor?
He grew aggressively uninterested with it and he wasn't the only one. The whole thing was cleverly designed to make that very thing happen. There was brilliance in that, he has to admit as much. Because the kidnappings were constantly on the news and always in people's faces, they became familiar and commonplace and eventually people lost interest. Oh, another missing rich guy? Some singer vanished again? Is there anything new on the telly?
People grew tired of it. The news stopped making sales and eventually the media stopped reporting them as much.
When Mycroft really noticed, when it started being a bit too much, when the rate of missing people went from oddly tiresome to downright abnormal… then that was all people cared about. And it was brilliant. When they were eventually called kidnappings rather than random disappearances, that was it, that was all there was to it. The serial kidnapping of VIPs. By the time Mycroft finally took full interest, by the time Sherlock turned his attention reluctantly to it, by the time there were so many people missing that they simply couldn't ignore it anymore… it had already settled in.
The kidnappings themselves were the main thing, the biggest issue, the big mystery. That was what they tried to solve, drawing connections and coming up with profiles, trying to figure out what was the unifying factor among the missing people. They wondered about motives, especially since there wasn't a hint of blackmail. Why this PhD and why this film star, why this politician and this TV host – what was the point?
They were concentrated onto the kidnappings alone.
And so no one saw V-Day coming.
When V-Day occurred, Mycroft was in his downtown house. It was late, and he was aggravated – he and Sherlock had spent the evening arguing over the VIP kidnapping case, and with no John there to mediate, they'd gotten fairly energetic about it. They'd gotten loud and acerbic and very nearly violent, and the frustration in the air had been palpable even after Sherlock had flounced off, overly dramatic and theatrical.
Mycroft had been drinking utterly abysmal brandy and trying to calm his pulse down when he'd gotten the frantic call – several calls even, all of them overlapping and each of them horrified.
"Sir, they're dead, she's dead, she just," a breathless little civil servant, always so eager to please, nearly sobbing. "Her head, sir, it's… just gone, sir!"
"So far we count at least four in the Parliament – the Prime Minister among them. And at least one of the princes – the royal family isn't entirely accounted for, I'm waiting for the –"
"We're getting reports now, it's happening all over the world. We don't know if it's over yet, but as of now we count at least four hundred people worldwide –"
"Politicians, celebrities, businessmen – there's an entire club full of very important, very influential people dead in –"
The surprise of it very nearly froze Mycroft. The whole thing came entirely out of nowhere, no warning at all, no signals, nothing. Just sudden mass deaths of a lot of very important individuals, utterly out of the blue. It was easily the biggest shock he'd ever gotten. And that probably saved his life.
Because the surprise jarred him and made him startle, made him stop. Made him not move.
And then he wanted all of the facts first, he wanted to know how. How did it happen, what caused it – was it a weapon, a chemical, what was it? He discounted any sort of firearms instantly – too many closed rooms, too complete a destruction, and it was far too simultaneous – there wasn't a force on earth that could carry out a series of assassinations with this level of coordination, on this scale. So what was it – and more importantly, was it still happening?
As a great number of world leaders found themselves dead, meeting rooms and assembly halls splattered with their brains and fragments of their skulls, he hesitated because, simply enough, he couldn't afford to die. Already a quarter of his most important allies were confirmed dead, his power base was severely shaken – never mind Parliament itself – and if it was as bad as it seemed… he knew he would be needed afterwards.
It was a cold, pragmatic calculation that eventually kept him indoors, in his own home – which made him casually make his way to his panic room, where he locked himself in, safe and sound. Still connected enough to know what was happening, still in touch enough to give out orders, to try and pull his people together – but safe.
If he hadn't been so surprised, though, if he had seen it coming, if he had been expecting something, he might've left his house. He might've headed to work, to investigate for himself – the urge was there, but the fact that it was such a shock made him err on the side of caution. And thank god for that.
He checked on Sherlock, and found him at Baker Street, alive and well and as of yet unaware. Safe.
And then, barely a couple of minutes later, the V-Day wave was launched.
It didn't affect Mycroft, as he was secure in his panic room – but he saw it. He watched it with increasing disbelief through several monitors and listened to the cacophony over the speakers as the entire planet suddenly went completely mad.
It was beyond anything he'd ever thought possible.
He scrambled for an explanation – a chemical attack? Impossible on this scale. Perhaps one city, maybe even several cities – but this was global, this was everywhere. What could affect people everywhere all at once? Some sort of natural disaster perhaps – some sort of solar event, cosmic radiation that interfered with the chemistry of the human brain? So soon after exploding heads? Hardly likely and besides, there were no reports of any abnormal solar or cosmic activity of any sort.
It took him twenty second to land on wireless network – the only unifying feature shared by every corner of the world. The internet. But how? It simply wasn't possible for something as simple as radio bands to do something like this; the frequencies were far too benign for that. Unless there was something boosting it. Something amplifying it. Something…
Like mobile devices.
But knowing made no difference.
The world was going mad, and no one cared about why – no one had the actual capacity to give a shit about anything other than beating the closest person to them to death. And they did that. They did it with alarming ferocity, just tearing into each other without restraint and without remorse – heedless of their own injuries, pushing beyond their limits, utterly ruthless and, unless met by someone stronger than themselves, unstoppable. And even when they managed to kill the nearest person to them, it wasn't enough – no, they just went for the next closest person. And the next. And next.
For four minutes and twenty seconds, humanity did nothing but kill each other. And while there were isolated pockets where it didn't happen – places where the signal did not reach – it was an alarmingly global event, and there wasn't a town with above twenty thousand people that wasn't affected.
Four minutes and twenty seconds is a very long time. People have murdered a lot of people in less.
In four minutes and twenty seconds, hundreds of millions of people died.
Most of them children.
Later, they put it together. What few were left of them. Mycroft's network is full of corpses and what little of it is still left standing is too traumatised to be of much good. Almost everyone who survived had become a murderer against their will and even Mycroft can't scoff at their horror.
Even he could feel this.
"The Valentine Network," is the first thing Sherlock says when he, John, and Mary – all three of them with blood on their hands – come to stay at his house.
"The free SIM cards," John agrees, his knuckles white as he grips his wife's hand, both of them pale and coldly furious.
"Obviously," Mycroft scoffs and doesn't ask about Mrs. Hudson. Or where the Watsons were when the wave hit them. He already knows.
They talk it over and for once Mycroft doesn't say anything about Sherlock's appalling habit of pinning everything on walls. His brother utterly ruins Mycroft's living room walls, not only pinning useless pieces of paper, writing, and pictures, there, but he also finds it necessary to write all over Mycroft's wallpaper. Mycroft will have to have the whole living room overhauled after this.
He doesn't mind. He even joins in, adding a few pieces of information himself.
"I didn't pay them much mind – the cells involved were very minor and hardly threats," he says as he pins the incident in Uganda on the wall. "And while the chemicals used were worrisome, it was eventually revealed that their make up and production were far too cumbersome for anyone to manage a large enough amount to be an actual risk. The similarities with the wave, however…"
"So someone was testing it out?" John asks.
"Or experimenting, trying to figure out the perfect way to do it," Mary says, her lips tight. "They wanted a specific reaction."
In all honesty, it's ridiculously easy to figure it out afterwards. Richmond Valentine was behind it all, had been working for it for years, starting out with chemicals and working his way up until he figured out the precise neurological wave to trigger people's aggressive impulses while toning down their inhibitors – basically, pumping every man, woman, and child with enough anger to turn them all into raging murderers.
"Why?" John asks, plaintive and furious and exhausted all at once.
"To cut down the population, if we go by Mr. Valentine's beliefs," Mycroft says. "He's very vocal about his views on climate change and such, and believes that humanity was not only facing but is already experiencing an overpopulation problem. He believes that the only way to deal with the issues of climate change, pollution, and all the other things caused by humanity… is to deal away with humanity itself. Or at least a significant enough portion of it to make a difference."
And he'd definitely done that.
"What if it happens again?" Mary asks quietly, staring fixedly at the wall of evidence. She rests a hand on her belly, gripping the fabric stretched over the swell, and if she were a lesser woman, Mycroft supposes she'd be weeping and wailing right about then. "Will it happen again?"
"No," Mycroft says, drumming his fingers gently over his laptop and frowning. "At least not on the same scale. Word of the SIM cards is already spreading on the internet, and they're being destroyed by the thousands. And most of the satellites in Valentine's communications networks are being… commandeered, should I say. One of them has already been shot down, actually. This sort of thing will not work twice."
"Which is why it had to work perfectly this once," Sherlock mutters, very nearly wringing his hands.
But for all the things they can figure out, all the things they learn… none of it really matters.
The missing VIPs re-emerge a couple of days into the V-Day aftermath. They come out limping and wincing, flying planes that don't belong to them, their pilots just as confused as the kidnapping victims themselves. Not one of them remembers what the hell happened – all they know is that Richmond Valentine kidnapped them and held them, some of them for months on end, trying to get them to agree to his conditions…
And then suddenly they were on planes on the way to safety, without even knowing where they were flying from.
"It was the damnedest thing," one of them says on the news – a pop artist who was one of the first to actually give a full, in-depth interview on the matter. "I was there for… how long, three, four months? Stuck in that damn cell. Pretty sure I was either going to die there, or be stuck there fucking forever – or that if Valentine ever did release me, it would be after he forced one of those fucking implants on me. And then, suddenly… I was on a plane out of there? And no damn idea how."
No one can find Valentine's base – and Mycroft knows Sherlock tries very hard, he works on it day and night for nearly a week, and comes no closer to figuring it out. It could be on the damn moon for all anyone knows. All anyone can figure out about it – and that only thanks to the interviews from the kidnapped VIPs – is that it's in some snowy mountains, built into a mountain, and that it's about the size of a small town. Had to be, considering that it held over five hundred kidnapping victims in individual cells, enough staff to keep them all live, and who knew what else.
Did Valentine release the VIPs? Why did he hold them in the first place? The answer is both surprisingly simple and infuriatingly juvenile.
Valentine was keeping them safe. Protecting them from V-Day – making sure that they'd be around in his post-apocalypse world. Respected politicians, leading scientists, and inspirational artists, speakers, and spokespersons. The influential, the affluent, and the intellectual.
People who would be necessary in keeping the world together after Valentine blew it open – and they do, too. It takes a bit of time for them to recover from their ordeal, but once they do, they're all quickly in the spotlight. And while they speak vehemently and acidly against Valentine, they all preach just about the same message. Working together, staying calm, trying to solve the issue peacefully – let us not point fingers at our neighbours, because we have a common enemy and that enemy is Richmond Valentine.
It's made all the more powerful when people figure out that these people, the Five Hundred as they're called – even though there are five hundred and eight of them – are those who did not agree with Valentine. And the people whose heads exploded in grandiose and gory fireworks? Those were for. It's a sobering revelation, especially considering how many prime ministers, presidents, and world leaders in general got their heads blown up just a couple minutes prior to V-Day.
The question is, though… was that part of Valentine's plan? To kill all the people who agreed that the V-Day wave was a brilliant plan and were all for it? Did Valentine kill them and then release the Five Hundred – was that all part of his design?
Mycroft can't quite make sense of it. Because it's the death of those implanted world leaders and businessmen that is causing the greatest societal collapse now – their absence and their betrayal both. It's the reason why so many countries are now facing dire crises not only in the form of millions of their people dead, but also the utter destruction of any sort of public order in their governments. There are coups by the dozens happening worldwide – and some of them out of a strange form of self-defence because it’s the only way their countries might survive the V-Day aftermath.
Considering that Valentine was supposedly trying to save the world – to save humanity and human society – he's doing a damn fine job tearing it apart.
Two billion people. It's the sort of loss only a man of Mycroft’s intellect can fully grasp and even he has to pause to fully take it in; to take in not only the sheer overwhelming loss of it, but the implications.
Of course they don't have the full numbers yet. There are hundreds of counters online trying to nail down the true number – but two billion is the most commonly accepted estimate. Mycroft leans more towards two point two billion, but it's hard to be sure, since China is currently off line for most part and India has yet to report any sort of numbers at all. But the estimation of the best social analysts, taking into account things like age groups, family units, armed forces, the number of available weapons in any given place, average abilities and capabilities and so on, points towards two billion.
Two billion includes millions and millions of dead children worldwide, killed by their parents or elder siblings. It includes the elderly and infirm in the millions, killed by their attendants or simply their own attempts to cause destruction. It includes armed forces and law enforcement officers who gunned down their co-workers. It includes people out on the streets, in vehicles, driving over people. It includes doctors and nurses who had untold power over their patients.
The number will go up when the suicides start, Mycroft muses. They're not done dying yet.
But the implication of all those losses, that's the thing that frightens him the most – as much as anything can frighten him, really.
Because two billion lost lives is millions and millions of jobs going undone. The first and immediate loss is the transport industry – it collapses instantly. Trains stop moving, planes – what few of them still remain – sit on the ground, and trucks stop running. The postal system is in shambles and goods stop moving. Which then means that grocery stores stop being restocked.
The next loss is the health industry – though perhaps that was the first. What they need the most in the wake of V-Day is what works the worst. There isn't a doctor out there who hasn't become a killer and those few who still remain functional aren't even nearly enough to keep those injured during V-Day alive – never mind the rest. Hospitals are all blood splattered and people die by the dozens from lack of medical care.
There's hardly need to mention law enforcement. The few members of the police forces of the world that survived V-Day are hardly enough to try and maintain order in the post V-Day world. Honestly, Mycroft is ever so slightly impressed that most of them have the intelligence to not even try.
The economy collapses and money stops being valuable in most of the first world countries. The exchange of goods and services crumbles and those few people that don't resort to outright robbery get what they need by trade. Factories go dark and farms go unattended. The only reason necessary utilities don't go down is because the need for them is so dire that governments struggle to keep them operational. Still, power in London goes on and off randomly, sewers overflow with lack of maintenance, and water comes out lazy and slow from faucets. The internet stutters and the phone lines are clogged for days on end.
It's the end of the world as they knew it and it will take a while before they will see what the world afterwards will really look like.
One thing is for certain, however. It will be far emptier and far slower than the world from before – and Mycroft is not looking forward to it.
Still, he does what he can.
While governments abroad collapse in on themselves, into anarchy and chaos and some of them even into outright civil wars, Mycroft keeps the UK on its feet. He browbeats the new king into office, he force feeds him his speeches, and he makes sure the new, young king does his damn best to be inspirational. Mycroft navigates the shambles of Parliament and puts together some semblance of government and he collects every semi competent official he can into something like a serviceable force. He selects a suitable candidate amongst the ruins and sits her in the Prime Minister's seat and he forces it to work.
It's a lot of mad, desperate fighting, but the UK stays together, stays united. There are riots and fires in London, and Scotland is doing its damnedest to crack the island in two, and not a storefront is left unbroken all across the nation… but the United Kingdom carries on, carries itself through the first days, the first week and finally, into the true aftermath.
Two weeks after V-Day, the world starts to settle. The death toll is semi-confirmed to be around two point twenty six billion, and the financial death toll includes several governments, including pretty much the entire Euro-zone. There are too many conflicts and political issues to mention but at least no one has gone into war just yet – though there have been incidents. But for now they can almost see what the world after will be like.
The stock exchange is down, has been down for days and will be down for days further. The depression already looming over the entirety of Earth is catastrophic and even the best of economists can't predict how bad it will get, or how long it will last. Governments are actively encouraging people to rely on trade-based economy rather than relying on money – even major businesses are making such trade agreements.
But it looks like they might survive without World War III breaking out and the reason for that is very simple – they still haven't found Richmond Valentine. Every country on Earth is looking, every intelligence organisation is clawing at its walls to get answers – and no one's found anything. They've shut down his factories, they've torn down his entire corporation, questioned each and every worker still alive in his organisation, and yet no one has found the man himself – and no one knows of what else he might be capable.
Valentine looms over humanity like a great big boogie man and no one knows what he might do next. Everyone waits, breathless and wary.
And the other shoe never drops.