My Chemical Romance/Hawthorne Heights crossover. [Featuring MSI, EC, and FOB]
The child’s pitiful cries were of no use. His mother laid there, dead at his tiny feet, with ruby-red blood running down the side of her head. She was one of many dead in the streets of what used to be known as Dayton, Ohio.
The child knew nothing of life before the CALM. His mother told his stories, that was true, but other than that, he knew only of the CALM’s promises of peace and prosperity. He had been lucky enough in his six years of life to have never witnessed such a conflict up until this very day.
A tank roamed towards him, but the child was paralyzed with fear. His feet refused to heed his commands. Finally, the tiny child took in a deep breath and decided to accept his fate. After this, the CALM wouldn’t be able to get him. After this-
There was the sound of a pistol going off, but the child felt no impact. Cautiously, he opened his eyes. Before him was the tank, mere meters in front of him. A soldier of the CALM hung out of the top, bleeding between the eyes. A short teenager with black hair and several tattoos inspected the tank, showing great interest.
“’Ey, Mikey! Look at this baby!” The short teen inspected the tank with glee. “It’s one of the newer models! Isn’t it cool?”
Another teenager, who was much taller, nodded. His mousey brown hair got in his face, obscuring the glasses that hung down his nose. “Yeah. Get rid of the soldier. Gee’s gonna have a fit if we come home with yet another CALM trooper. I’ll check for- oh, hello there.”
The child nearly panicked. The brunette now had his attention on him. Was he part of the CALM? Was he going to be taken to an orphanage? Was he going to be killed?
“Hey, don’t be afraid, kid,” the teen said, his features softening. He knelt down to the child’s level and gave a small smile. “I’m not with them. I promise. Are your parents around, little guy?”
The child pointed down at the body of his mother. At this, the elder frowned. “Oh… I’m so sorry. My brother and I lose our parents in a conflict just like this, kid.” He gave a sympathetic look to the child. “C’mon, little guy. I know a place where you’ll be safe.”
The brunette offered his hand to the child, which he took. “You have a name, kid?”
“JT Woodruff,” the child said softly.
“I’m Mikey Way. I’m sorry that you and I had to meet like this, but I promise you’re not alone." Mikey took out a can of black spray paint and sprayed a circle with a “Z” running through it over the CALM’s emblem. “I take this tank in the name of the Zero Collective, blah, blah, blah. Are the soldiers cleared out, Frank?”
Frank nodded, sighing. “Y’know, you could at least be a bit more dramatic with the whole taking of the tank thing.”
“I’m not Gerard, Frank,” Mikey said, climbing up the tank. He helped JT up and into the tank before following him in and shutting the hatch. “I feel that the drama is unnecessary and risks our lives. It’s best if we stay out for as little time as possible.” Mikey turned to JT. “Now, before I forget, I think now would be a good time to introduce you two. JT, this is Frank Iero, our mechanic.”
Frank gave JT a wave before sitting in the driver’s seat. “C’mon, let’s go home.”
Mikey took the seat next to Frank, allowing JT to sit in his lap. Frank started up the tank and started driving, doing his best to avoid the dead bodies in the street. The tank was silent for a good ten minutes or so before JT looked up at Mikey and asked, “What’s the ‘Zero Collective?’”
Mikey sighed softly. “About thirty years ago, before you and I were born, Dayton was a relatively peaceful town. My mom was just a little girl when she moved here from New Jersey. She was the daughter of a man that worked in a factory that designed machines of mass destruction. In that factory, there was a man relatively high up that thought war was wrong. So, with the help of my grandfather and many others in the factory, they designed an army that would keep the peace.
“They called it the Coalition of Alternate Living Methods- the CALM. At first, it was a peaceful approach- they spoke with the mayor of Dayton. To no avail, they were laughed at. Enraged, the leader of the CALM waged war, coming out on top in mere hours. To this day, thirty years later, they retain an iron grip on this city, as well as a great portion of the Midwest.
“The Zero Collective is still relatively new. My brother founded it, and found like-minded individuals that were against the CALM’s tyrannical means of ‘keeping the peace.’ I was thirteen at the time. We had just lost our parents to a raid similar to this, and he simply couldn’t take it anymore. We gathered our weapons, trained ourselves, prepared ourselves, and waged a war that we might not be able to win. We are the Zero Collective, and we’re determined to return life to Dayton. We want the CALM to go away.”
JT gave Mikey a look, as though he just heard a fairy tale. Mikey, though, showed no signs of lying. Instead, he nodded. “I know it’s hard to wrap your mind around it… but trust me, this is very real.”
The tank came to a stop. Mikey stood, carrying JT in his arms. “C’mon. We’re here.”
JT clung to Mikey’s shirt tightly, not quite sure what to expect. He was expecting some kind of fortress, but saw only a small cabin. Mikey seemed to catch his surprise, as he gave the child a knowing smile.
“Well, we can’t exactly operate in plain sight, now, can we?”
JT gave Mikey a confused look, but nodded anyway. Mikey set JT down on the porch step before going through his pockets for his key. He unlocked the door and opened it, revealing a very plain, very typical home.
“Follow me, kiddo,” Mikey said, stepping into the cabin. JT followed closely, afraid to be left alone. He led the child to a door, which he presumed led to the cellar.
“See, we can’t exactly operate in a huge, important building,” Mikey explained. He opened the door, revealing steps that descended downwards. “If we did, the CALM could kill us all in one attack. This old cabin proved to be a fantastic base of operations.” He started the walk downwards, turning on a small flashlight. “It’s still a work in progress, but we’re able to live down here.”
JT swallowed his fear and followed Mikey down, ignoring the fact that the passage was cold, dark, and dank. The steps seemed to go on forever, at least to the child. He was prepared to run back up the stairs when he finally saw an inviting light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Before him was a marketplace-like setting, almost like it came out of a storybook. There were tunnels and signs pointing here and there, showing the way to those lost. Smuggled goods, from food to books to medication that didn’t come from the CALM, were being sold and traded. Light bulbs above casted enough light for the base to be inviting, but enough to remind one that the world above was still just as dark.
“Surprised?” Mikey asked. JT nodded. Mikey chuckled and motioned for the child to follow him. He led him through a winding tunnel, finally ending in a room full of bunks.
“Like I said, you’re not alone in this, JT,” Mikey said. He found an empty bunk and wrote something for on the paper taped next to it. “Here’s your bunk. I’m really sorry that we don’t have much room, but it’ll get better. If you choose to be a part of the Collective itself, you’ll have a room that’s less cramped.” Mikey gave JT a small, reassuring smile. “I’ll go see if I can find some clothes that’ll fit you. I’ll be back soon, JT.”
With that, Mikey left the room, leaving JT alone. JT sighed softly and pulled his knees up to his chest, feeling more alone than ever. Mikey was nice, and from what he could gather, so was Frank, but what about the rest of the collective? What about the other children? At this thought, he buried his face into his arms, sobbing quietly.
“What’s wrong, kid?”
JT looked up, seeing a guy a few years older than Mikey. He, too, had messy brown locks, but was slightly shorter and didn’t wear glasses. He approached JT, concern on his face.
“C’mon, kid, I don’t bite,” he sighed, sitting down next to JT.
“I w-w-want my m-mo-mommy,” JT sobbed.
The brunette sighed softly. “You’re new, aren’t you? When did you get here, kid?”
“Oh, so you’re the kid Frank and Mikey found,” he said. Upon seeing JT nod, he added, “Mikes told me that you seemed a bit distraught. My name is Gerard. I’m Mikey’s brother.”
“Well, JT, welcome aboard,” Gerard said, “I’m sorry that you’re stuck here.”
JT shrugged, wiping his eyes. He sighed softly, prompting Gerard to ruffle his hair. “I know that it doesn’t seem like this now, but I promise the pain will lessen. I promise that, soon enough, everyone here will become a family to you.”
JT nodded, but showed no sign in actually believing Gerard.
“Okay, I think I may have found something- oh, hey, Gee.” Mikey had stepped in, clothing in his arms. “I see you’ve met JT.”
Gerard nodded, “Yeah.” He stood, helping his brother with the clothing. “You were right- the poor kid really is distraught.”
Mikey nodded, setting the clothes on JT’s bunk. “Here you go, JT. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Make sure they fit, okay?” JT nodded, prompting Mikey to give him a small smile. “I’ll give you a few minutes. When you’re ready, I’ll show you around.”
Mikey was still talking with Gerard when JT set foot out of the room. The elder immediately took notice and smiled down at him. “Ready to go, kid?”
JT nodded, prepared to follow Mikey. The brunette said a quick goodbye to his brother before leading JT back out to the crowded marketplace.
“The hallway you just came out of is where the boys who are not a part of the Zero Collective reside,” Mikey explained, “You’re all organized by age groups. There’s at least one adult per room, and since they’re not in the collective, they’re always there. The girls’ dormitory is down that hallway, but for obvious reasons, you’re not allowed down there. You’ve already been through here- this is the bazaar, where you’ll find whatever it is you might need- food, clothing, hygiene products, and medicine that have been treated to prevent the CALM’s virus from affecting you. The merchants here are either freelancers or strictly affiliated to the Collective, so we can ensure that there will be no surprises.”
JT followed Mikey through the crowded bazaar, down another hallway. “To the left is where families that were lucky enough to survive reside. To the right is the academy.”
Mikey then walked into the hallway in the center. At the end of the tunnel were two metallic doors with a familiar emblem on them- the zero with the “Z” running through it. “Through these doors is the Collective’s base of operations. Unfortunately, I can’t let you through these doors, since it’s not the safest place for a kid your age. Should you choose to join the Collective’s efforts, you will be given access to everything behind these doors.”
Mikey turned around and looked down at JT. “Any questions, kiddo?”
JT shook his head. At this, Mikey nodded and said, “Great. You start school tomorrow.”