Bang, Not Whimper
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The end of the world started with a bang, not a whimper.

A slight rumble tore through the server room and Mac glanced over at Danny and Don, reaching for his weapon. Lindsey had gone to the bathroom; the rest of his people were on the other part of the tour, in various sections of the building.

“The hell?” Danny asked, looking up toward the ceiling. A series of muffled booms could be heard and, even though they were in a strongly reinforced room, they all ducked. Mac glanced across the servers to where the NCIS team crouched with a guy from the Secret Service, who looked almost identical to Mac’s old Marine buddy, Gibbs.

The room rocked, dust raining down from the ceiling The lights flickered and they felt the deep throb of the backup diesel generators coming online. Don, who was leading the tour, manipulated the blast door and ran toward the stairs.

“Mac! The stairwell is blocked!” Mac pulled Don back into the room and closed the door, already starting to strategize, even though they didn’t have any facts yet.

“Danny, you and Flack see about routes out of this place. Is there anything beside the stairs and elevator at the front, Gibbs, you and your men check the emergency exit, through the door in the back of the room. I’ll dig up the blueprints for this place and see what I can find.

Two minutes later, Mac started to go out toward his men, who were coming back in grim-faced. “No dice, Mac,” Danny said. “Ain’t gettin’ out that way without big tools.”

“Taylor!” Gibbs jerked his head to one side and Mac hurried over. The NCIS personnel stood in a tight knot, Gibbs and his near twin"Donovan, Mac remembered--standing shoulder to shoulder. It was clear they hadn’t had any luck either.

“Mac, I think with a few hours of work we can clear the staircase, but it’s gonna take some serious muscle and time, Gibbs said softly. He blinked a few times, shaking his head, as if he’d forgotten something vital.

“Simon Donovan, Mac Taylor. Simon’s my brother. He’s been presidential detail for the service and was an Army Ranger. I trust him as much as I trust you, Captain Taylor,” Gibbs lessened the seriousness of his words with a wink. “Any of your people military? I have a Mossad officer who went off with your girl.”

The rest of the terrorism task force had been touring the other parts of the building, as the ending event of their intel conferenece. Other teams from their agencies, as well as state and city police forces, DEA, ATF, FBI, were all on other floors, floors closer to the ground. Mac was getting concerned about the fate of them.

“No,” Mac said. Another boom"this one much louder"shook the building and the men moved closer in a tight knot, despite all their training. Mac eyed the group. In addition to Danny and Don, this portion of task force consisted of Donovan, who was representing the Secret Service, and Gibbs and Tony DiNozzo, another NCIS agent. The men stood together, wary, concerned.

“Terrorist action?” Gibbs asked, from the tone of his voice, he knew this was something major.

“Looks that way, Gibbs. We stay put. This building is one of the most fortified in the world.” It was. After 9/11, the government had put forth funds for some task force operation centers. This particular one, in a warehouse in Hoboken, had sixteen secured underground floors, Kevlar armored walls, many feet thick with blast plates between floors, three foot thick glass “windows” on the aboveground floors, the capability to withstand electromagnetic pulses, those were just the beginning of the security features in these high tech fortresses. They also held a fully equipped armory with tactical gear for at least a half dozen first responders. Mac didn’t even know what other hidden secrets the building held.

Another boom, this one resonating throughout the room and hanging in the air, had all at attention. Mac glanced to Gibbs and nodded slightly. “Okay, people. We’re sticking together here in this room until no more explosions sound. I know we all want to be out there helping, but we have to bide our time or we could end up being casualties. There are some provisions and, before we leave this level, we gear up. No telling what we’ll find up there.” He looked to Danny and Don. “The armory clear of debris?”

Mac’s gut was screaming that this was worse than 9/11, that they were all in a hell of a lot of trouble. “Going to check the computers. You guys go into the armory and see what we have.” He trusted Gibbs enough to know he could leave him in charge of that while he checked the computers.

“Mac, what’s going on?” Danny asked, touching his arm, looking wary.

“Don’t know, Dan.” Mac frantically typed, accessing whatever secured networks he could. He was barely aware of movement around him, of the other agents and officers streaming in and out of the room, bringing in supplies from the attached armory and packing backpacks.

It was a couple of hours before news trickled in, the men working to clear the back staircase in shifts. When the scope of the event came through, Mac was too riveted on the screen before him and the destruction he was reading about. Taking a deep breath, he looked at his friends, new and old, dusty, bruised, very concerned. He hated having to tell them this, but in the last couple of hours, he’d realized what a capable group Gibbs’ team was and Mac knew they could all take it.

“Something attacked New York, DC, Chicago, LA, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Paris, London, Rio, Madrid, Delhi, Toronto, Riyadh, Johannesburg, Cairo, Lima, Mexico City, Osaka, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Manila, Mumbai, Jakarta, Buenos Aires, Karachi, Istanbul, Lagos, and Tehran. A lot of major population centers all over the world.” His voice shook slightly. “News reports are of…huge explosions and…” His voice faltered slightly before Mac regained control of it. “Strange craft in the sky. Some say they’re silver, others iridescent. They’re approximately three to six miles across and about ten in length. They aren’t ours or any military we know. This is the stuff of movies, men.”

“This is like Independence Day,” Tony said excitedly, his voice a little too high. Mac winced when Gibbs cuffed the younger man firmly, but it served to re-center DiNozzo, his eyes gaining sharpness, his expression going from manic to very serious.

Mac jerked his head, motioning Gibbs and Simon over and showing them the screen. Pictures were streaming in from various locations. A flyover of some unrecognizable city showed a huge crater, another had the skeletons of buildings standing and bodies in the street. A faraway camera caught a helicopter shooting pictures of a destroyed city and then the explosion as a beam of light shot from the craft and burst it apart.

“Hell,” Simon muttered. “We have to get out there. Help what survivors we can.”

“Nightfall,” Mac cautioned. “It shouldn’t be long after we finish clearing the stairs.” There was no guarantee that they could get out, though they had to try.

These…aliens…they had to have sophisticated technology, but the cover of night might afford them some level of stealth. He pulled in a deep breath, glad that Gibbs was preoccupied with DiNozzo and not challenging him, though the Gunny had always had more than healthy respect for Mac. The way he had to divide the men in teams was clear to him.

“Okay, men. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to partner up, military guy with civilian. Dan, you’re with me. Don, you’re with Donovan. Gibbs and DiNozzo. Anyone object?”

“Sounds good,” Gibbs said, looking over to DiNozzo. “Need to all stick together, though, Mac. Not good to break apart. This is more than we’ve ever dealt with.”

Mac nodded, sighing. “I know, Gunny. What have we got here?” he asked, finally inventorying the tactical gear.

Donovan stepped up. “Flashlights, breathing masks, bottled water, protein bars, water purification tablets, radios, There’s enough weapons and ammo to equip a half dozen or so people pretty well for a firefight protecting this building , but not nearly enough for this situation.” He glanced up at the ceiling. “No way we can outgun an enemy that did that.”

“God…” Tony, Danny, and Don finally caught sight of the screen and were staring at the destruction. “Think I’m gonna be sick,” Danny muttered, but his face was grimly determined.

Tony glanced over at Gibbs, seeming to seek comfort from the other man and Mac found himself wondering if they were as close as he and Danny were. Mac rested a hand on Dan’s back, squeezing a shoulder.

“All of our friends,” Don said, his voice raspy and unsteady. “Our families. You guys are from outta the area, but Danny and I, we’ve got family here…”

“DC is gone too,” Mac reminded quietly. “And twenty five or so other cities so far. We can’t focus on that…” His own voice wavered slightly. “We’re gonna get those bastards, somehow.”

“Like Independence Day,” Tony said, but his voice was bleak. Mac nodded first to Simon and then to Gibbs, giving them a silent signal to look after the man they were each partnered with.

“Dan,” Mac started, leading Danny to a quieter area of the room. “You here with me and okay?”

Danny pulled in a sharp breath, holding it for almost twenty seconds before he expelled it, nodding. “Yeah, just seems…surreal, Mac. There’s millions wiped out…maybe even everyone we were having lunch with a few hours ago. Hard to get a grasp on.”

“I know, Dan. Like DiNozzo said, it is something out of a movie. But this time we get to write the script.” Giving in to a need he had, Mac pulled Danny into a tight desperate hug, pressing his mouth against the younger man’s. Danny opened up against him, kissing him just as passionately, groaning into his mouth. Seemed the end of the world had put an end to their worries about being outed.

When Mac came up for air, he could see from their position across the room Gibbs and DiNozzo kissing just as deeply. Don wasn’t locking lips with Donovan, though Simon had a gentle arm around Don’s shoulder and was clearly helping the man get through the emotional trauma so that they could focus on the task before them.

Gibbs caught Mac’s eye and nodded briefly, giving him the ghost of a smile and tightening an arm around Tony. Mac gave Gibbs the same hint of a smile. It seemed strangely fitting that they both had found relationships with men after their wives had died, especially since they’d been the other’s first male lover so many years ago.

The team stayed quiet, monitoring what news feeds they could get, shifts of two men at a time finishing clearing the debris and evaluating the structural integrity of the stairwell. It was blind luck that they even had satellite service at this juncture, though the feeds were limited to inbound traffic. It was enough"it was plenty. It was too much. They commandeered some chairs, each ate a protein bar and drank eight ounces of water, and watched the end of the world as they knew it unfold on a twenty-one inch monitor, four men at a time. At least the ships seemed to have veered away from the cities, now that the destruction was complete.

Three hours later, Mac stood, shouldering his backpack. He knew he had to give a rousing speech to motivate his men, but he wasn’t sure he had it in them. “We don’t know what we might find out there. Stay close, be on guard, and keep your weapons nearby at all times. Channel Three. If we get separated, meet back here by dawn.” He didn’t mention his own worries, that there might be no way out of the building, fortified as it was. Clearing the stairwell was only part of the battle.

He waited until everyone had their breathing masks on before he led the party through the twisted maze that once was the building’s stairwell. They stepped out into the rubble of the foyer., finding the first two bodies crushed under the debris from the reinforced armored windows. Lindsay Monroe and Ziva David were clearly dead; their mouths open in expressions of shock. Mac closed his eyes and shook his head, squeezing both Danny’s and Flack’s necks gently. Gibbs was doing the same to DiNozzo and Mac was relieved to see Donovan edging closer to Don. These first deaths were personal, their co-workers, their friends.

They found a few more bodies as they made their way to ground level, but Mac suspected that the worst of the destruction was buried under the parts of the building that hadn’t survived. Even with all the fortifications, the lobby was a mess of broken glass, patches of sky showing through the pockmarked ceiling.

“Where to first?” Gibbs asked before the exited the ruined building. Mac motioned toward the Hudson. “Let’s see what we’re up against.” Even as he said the words, Mac could tell it was bad. Very bad. Nobody walked the near silent streets, the darkness almost overwhelming. There was only the faintest glow from the city, dark orange rather than yellow. Fires.

“Mac, we can’t do a damned thing over there,” Gibbs said gently. “Look.”

Mac took a long hard look and wished his hadn’t. The entire city was gone. The entire Manhattan island looked like a continuous, two story high pile of rubble. Only the skeletons of a few buildings remained, shattered wraiths of metal and glass. “Hell…” Don whispered.

Someone gulped loudly"Mac suspected Donovan"and someone else wrapped an arm around his waist. It was Danny, Mac realized, resting his head against the other man’s hair. Someone else wrapped an arm around him as well and soon the six men stood arm and arm, looking at the destroyed city, united in their grief and horror.

“Mac, what do we do now?” Don asked.

“We survive,” Simon replied, voice firmer and calmer than Mac knew his was. “The six of us stay close, try to stay out of the way of whatever caused that, help anyone we find, and we survive. There is no other answer, Don. No other option. We’re all brothers now, all for one, and one for all.”

“Like the Three Musketeers,” DiNozzo added softly. Mac felt Gibbs’ arm twitch, but Gunny didn’t give in to the urge to headslap his boy.

“Yeah, Tony,” Gibbs finally said, a thread of affection in his voice. “Exactly like the three musketeers.”

“Times two,” Mac added. Simon was right, they’d survive. They’d find a way. Together.

“Heya, Mac,” Danny said. “If I hadda see the end of the world, there’s nobody else I’d rather see it with.”

The small group of survivors broke out into a quiet burst of laughter at that.

“Come on, let’s look for survivors back at our building. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

“Together,” Danny added.

“Together,” they chorused softly.