"Good evening, Winston," said the elder assassin.
"Widowmaker," said the ape, grimly, with a three second delay. "I see you have acquired Lena's prefix code."
"Thank you for responding," she said. "We have not talked in some time."
"Using Lena's code set will get my attention. Does she still have access to it too?"
The spider smiled wanly and leaned out of the way. Lena popped into view, "Hiya, big guy! It's okay, I'm here, she's using my kit."
Winston blinked confusedly. "oh! Hello! Where have you been? I hadn't heard from you in a few weeks, and then I heard about London. What exactly happened?"
"I'll tell you tomorrow, now that I don't have MI5 watching my every breath. It'll be a lot easier to get ahold of you from now on! But Amélie needs to talk to you alone, and I wanted to make sure you'd answer, so... hear her out, will ya? For me?"
Winston did not look pleased by the request. "I... what's this all about?"
"Trust me on this, Winston? It's not my place to talk about it, but... if I'm gonna catch you up, there's some things I want you to know first. And it's better from her."
Amélie, from off camera, added, "I must note you are the one insisting I do this. I am not enthusiastic. He is your friend, not mine."
Lena looked to her left, towards the off-camera assassin. "I know," she said gently. "I know how hard it is to talk about. But it's important, to me."
From the side, a quiet, "I understand."
Winston sat on the far side of the link, having no idea what to think of any of this conversation. Lena looked back to the camera and said, "Will you, Winston? Please? Hear her out. It's important."
He nodded. "All right. I don't know what this could possibly mean, but... okay. For you. But before you do anything else, before you make any more decisions... talk to me first, okay? Promise." What is going on here? he thought.
"Sometimes you're a little too protective, big guy. But if it makes you happy, fine. And... thanks, luv. You'll understand better in a few minutes." She pulled Amélie back on camera, and kissed her forehead, gently. "You can do this, love. I know it'll be hard. I'll be right outside, waiting. Signal me when you're done - or before, if you want me."
Lena Oxton stepped out of the camera's field of view; from off-screen came the sound of a door, closing.
"Well," said the blue woman, after a moment. "Here we are."
Winston looked at Widowmaker, and realised that he'd never seen her like this - not since Amélie vanished those years ago, and maybe not even then. Did... Lena reawaken Amélie, somehow? he thought. Am I not talking to the Widowmaker? Is this...
Amélie leaned forward closer to the camera, then back. "By the way, I never took a moment to thank you," she said, "for your help, in pulling Lena back into time. And that is wrong of me. I owe you, tremendously; I am forever in your debt."
That is not the Widowmaker, he thought. "...Amélie? Is that... you? Actually you?" he said, daring to hope.
The blue woman sighed. "It has always been me."
"Amélie wouldn't've betrayed and murdered Gérard. Amélie wasn't a globally-wanted assassin."
"Which," she said sadly, "is why Lena insists that I drag myself through that horrible night again." She sighed. "This is not easy for me. Please do not make it more difficult."
"I've seen all the reports - I know what happened."
"You've seen lies. I have copies as well, the only correct particular in them is that I killed Gérard, my beloved husband."
"Do tell," he said sardonically.
"I will. I presume you are recording this; I'm fine with that, because this will hopefully be last time the only surviving witness of this particular disaster testifies to what actually happened. I only ask you not to share it with others while I am still alive."
"Did you kill Gérard Lacroix?"
"Of your own free will?"
"Yes. And everything the same, I would do it again."
The blue spider took a deep breath. "A little of this, at the beginning, is from other sources. Trusted, but other sources. A small part, in the middle, is how I imagine it happened - I could smell the wine sauce, burning. The rest, I saw, or heard, or did, myself."
[Paris, 2070; all dialogue is in translation from the French]
«I tell you, he's rotten.» The Blackwatch intelligence agent flipped paper copies of files around, full of highlighted numbers, tracked money. Old fashioned, perhaps, but nobody can hack paper.
«I agree.» said the other agent. «He's a Talon mole. That's the only thing that makes it all logical. But no one else will believe it, not from us.»
«One little mistake...»
«One big mistake, we should admit that...»
«...and we have a reputation as loose cannons forever? It isn't fair.»
«I know. It's grotesque.»
The bigger, burlier agent stomped around their joint desk. «We should confront him. He'd crack.»
«And if he doesn't, he's tipped off, and we're both finished.»
«No, if we get a confession out of him, we're both heroes.»
«You saying we should just go over there and...» The agent waved his hands around, «...make sure?»
«Yes. I am. Tonight.»
«You are certain, aren't you.»
The other agent leaned forward, putting his hands palms-down on the desk. «Aren't you?»
«...yes. I think I am.»
«Then let's call in a security cordon and do this. We'll say we think there's a Talon agent shadowing the place, we want some outside protection while we go in to brief Gérard. We'll be legends.»
The agent leaned back in his chair. «Or up on charges.»
«No way. Legends.»
Amélie was late.
Amélie was never late. Gérard worried, but her emergency beacon hadn't tripped, and the lack of any concern from support meant it couldn't've gone that badly.
Ah, well, he thought, It has given the wine sauce more time to reduce. All the better. Gérard tasted a sample. Exquisite. As long as she is not too much late. He checked the carrots, roasting slowly over the grill. When all this is over, someday, he thought, I will open that cafe. Assassination may be Amélie's art, but this is mine.
I wonder if she'll come through the window again, Gérard smiled at the memory of Amélie leaping through the living room window, executing a perfect fouetté en tournant en dehors, with her sniper rifle as accessory. «I have returned!» she had announced, dramatically. «Now kiss me.»
«Ah!» Gérard had said, laughing. «You are wonderful! And early. That is most certainly worth a kiss.»
The bell rang, the front door, breaking his memories. Oh good, he thought sardonically, more Mormon missionaries. «You've already been here!» he shouted. «I am not interested in your book, thank you!»
The bell rang again. Blood of christ, he thought, settling the stove and oven, and called out, «Just a moment!»
«This had better be good,» he shouted, as he walked down the short hallway to the front door.
Amélie was late.
The mission had not gone well. They'd hit their target, but not cleanly, not elegantly. She'd been spotted, on the roof - her heat signature, that's all it could've been - before taking her shot. And while the second would be fatal, there would be fear, and pain, before death.
She did not enjoy giving pain with her deaths. Death should be exquisite, and instant. One perfect shot, annihilation, and the river of history changed - wonderful.
The troubles in her mind almost caused her to miss the security cordon around her and Gérard's townhouse, but not quite. Something is very wrong, she thought. Terribly wrong.
The warning beacon is not lit, she noticed, searching at distance from the building a block behind. Perhaps it is not so bad. Or, she worried, perhaps he did not have the chance.
She swept across the street, and closed her vizor, zooming in on faces. She recognised one face, then another - people she suspected but had not previously confirmed as Blackwatch covert agents, an outer-ring cordon. Too few for an all-out raid, but far too many for a friendly visit.
Shit. They know, she thought. They know. Her thoughts raced. But they do not know everything, or they would not have moved when I was not here. Perhaps this can still be salvaged.
She changed vizor modes. Three in front. Two in back. Three people inside, two standing, one... not. None on the sealed roof - Their mistake, she decided. Hopefully, I can make it a fatal one.
They'd have to leave, of course. They'd assumed this would happen, eventually; plans had been made.
Thoughts of the unlit beacon ate at her gut as she circled around the block to an appropriate roof.
Inside, the second agent smiled. «See?» he told the first. «That was not so bad, was it?»
The first agent frowned, wiping blood from his face. «I didn't think he could fight like that, and sure as hell didn't expect him to. It's a very good thing you had that dart prepared.»
They looked at the bloody Gérard, now splayed neatly onto the stripped bed, tied down, semi-conscious. «It's his own fault for not realising when to stay down,» said the second. «He can recover in jail.»
«Sure,» said the first. «You have that recorder ready?»
«Audio only. Keep it simple. So we had to get a little rough, no need to blow things out of proportion.»
«I am not a fool, Henri.» He touched his padd. «Recorder running.»
The first agent injected Gérard with a complex mix of interrogation drugs, and a mild stimulant. «Now, Agent Lacroix - what do you have to say for yourself?»
Blinds had been drawn on all the windows; there was no seeing into the bedroom. But Amélie could listen, from afar, with the laser microphone in her sight, and so she heard it all.
They cannot make that recording, she thought, it cannot be allowed. Everything we've worked for...
Her position worked well for audio, but not well for hitting her targets, and she was late and so there was no time left, none at all. She swung in with her grappling hook, zipping over the heads of the two back cordon guards down on the ground, attracting their attentions. Landing on the balcony, she unloaded her first clip into first agent through the antique doors she and Gérard had spent a week restoring, just that previous spring. Throwing herself through the wreckage, she destroyed the little recording padd. Hopefully not too much had been said.
The second agent was slower, still rising from his little chemistry set, crouched over Gérard's prone body, as the security cordon charged up two flights of stairs. Amélie smashed him in the face with her rifle stock, and he went down instantly. «Pathetic,» she said, before finishing him with a single round to his forebrain.
She grabbed at Gérard's arm, pulling at the ties, «Gérard, wake up, it's me, come on, we need to...» as three rounds of semiautomatic fire burst through the bedroom door, knocking it open. She flipped backwards towards the balcony, rolling, and returned fire, as one of the rear cordon shot at her from the ground below. The first of the three front agents burst into the bedroom...
...and time, it seemed to the spider, later, stopped. The web was clear; the paths forward, unavoidable. She had been imperfect, and so now she was late; now Gérard might live, and the world would die in fire, or Gérard would die, and there could still be a path to tomorrow. A crux, but one without a choice.
I will always love you, Gérard, she thought, as she finished her husband with a single shot. Perfect, but bitter, not exquisite, even as she felt history move with the pulling of the trigger, and ordinary time resumed.
Launching her hook towards the nearest tall building, Amélie hurled herself into the night sky above, and was gone.
"And after that?" asked the scientist, quietly.
Widowmaker shrugged. "It does not matter. I left. We had a emergency plan, I used it. Blackwatch fabricated a report to make themselves look better - they may believe some or all of that, I do not care. Overwatch distorted that report further, to the same ends; the final report distilled it all to me."
As soon as she'd started her story, Winston had started analytics. Deep processing would take longer, but even without that, the pieces fit - not with what he thought he knew about Gérard and Amélie, but with what he knew about the role of Blackwatch abuses in the fall of Overwatch. We were all at least a little complicit, he thought, not for the first time.
He sat, silently, for several seconds, until Widowmaker spoke again. "In the end, I cannot even say that distillation was wrong. I make no pretences about what I did. I was imperfect on my mission, so I was late; I was late, so I was faced with a choice. I chose to kill Gérard. Had I not been imperfect, perhaps the choice I faced would have been different."
"That's why," the scientist said, realising it even as he said it, "it's one shot, one kill. It's not a boast. It's a pledge."
The assassin nodded. "Ah oath. I will never allow that to happen again," she said, voice deep in melancholy. "Not ever."
Winston had been around humans his entire life. He still needed help, sometimes, reading their emotions, reading their intent. Genetically manipulated or not, he was still a gorilla, with a gorilla's body language, a gorilla's interpretation of faces and tones, and in many ways, a gorilla's view of the world, and the translation to and from human always invited mistakes, always left room for error. But even so...
"I think I believe you," he said.
"On my word alone? Thank you for that," she replied.
"I'm not sure what you told was the real story, or the whole story, but I believe you believe it."
"There is very little I can authenticate, of course."
"Of course. Is there anything?"
The assassin nodded. "A little. When I use my laser microphone, it also records, automatically, in case I miss something." Starting a file transfer, she continued, "Here is a copy of the file from that night," she said, "It is not the best quality, but it's not edited, and, as far as it goes, I think you will find that I was accurate."
The gorilla nodded as his system marked the file as received. "I'm sure I will."
Amélie closed her eyes, and rubbed her temples. "Now, if you will excuse me, I am finished, and I need to go drink far too much wine, and possibly cry on my lover's shoulder until she makes me feel better. I hate telling this story."
"It does not make you look good, no."
"No, I suppose it does not. Good night, Winston."
"Good night..." he paused, "...Amélie."