[A Talon safehouse, some kilometres west of Trondheim, Norway]
The senior assassin walked out of her office, and found Venom in the living room, looking out towards the fjord, and mountains opposite. In front of her, both of her personal handguns lay on the table, partially disassembled.
"We have confirmed a new target," the she said, ominously.
Venom looked up. "That's off - normally, you sound happy about that." Putting the cleaning solution aside, she continued, "And normally I already know. What haven't you been telling me?"
"I've avoided talking about him. That was... a mistake, but I have been hoping I would prove wrong, and avoid this entirely." She handed a PADD, reluctantly, to Lena. "You are not going to like it. But the outcome curves are too clear. It cannot be avoided."
Venom took the screen, quizzically, and read the file header: London. Tekhartha Mondatta.
Lena felt suddenly very, very cold, and very, very still. "No."
Amélie sighed. "I knew you would say that."
"Not funny, love."
"This can't happen."
"It must," insisted Amélie Lacroix, irresistible as a raging river.
"It. Can't." stated Lena Oxton, now the boulder, now standing, standing against the flood.
Amélie threw her hands into the air, pacing around already well-worn paths in her head. "Disaster, if it doesn't. Complete disaster. Alive, he is marginally useful; dead - assassinated, by villains - he becomes a martyr, his following growing monumentally in death."
"It's not right," insisted the rock.
"You've said that before," said her river, equally insistent. "And you've changed your mind."
"I mean it this time. I know. I've seen it. I know." declared the stone, unworn and unmoved. "This. Can't. Happen."
That's disturbingly familiar, thought the assassin. "I thought we'd come to an agreement that those flashes of memory were unreliable."
The once-Tracer nodded, acknowledging that they had. "This one is different. I know my my old home, my old stomping grounds. I know the smells, I know every brick of every building on every road, I know it all. This is real."
Amélie scowled, seeking new ways around.
"Look," said Lena, "You told me once, you said, you decided to try to save me for two reasons. One, to try to recover a life rather than take one. For your own sake, to see if you could. But two - to see if one life - one life, restored - could change everything as much as one death."
The river, washing back. "Yes, but..."
The stone, "What if this is what changes? What if, because you saved me, Mondatta is saved, by me, right now?"
"That... I..." the assassin's mind raced, scanning timelines in her head, tracing strands of the web that few besides herself could see, rivulets in time. "I... how? How could that be? I do not know."
"What if it's that? " loomed the stone.
Something is there. Something I cannot see, thought the flood. This is more than I expected. Why? Aloud, she said, "I... I have to think."
Lena nodded, a little surprised she'd hit something, a little surprised Widowmaker would even consider it. "All right. How 'bout this: we run the simulations on the cluster, back to before you pulled me back into time."
"What happens," she continued, "if you didn't pull me back? What if someone else did, instead? What if nobody did? What happens here, then? "
"That..." Amélie said slowly, the river diverted, "That is a difficult task. The results are too unpredictable, too scattered, it lacks consistent meaning over such timescales."
"Yah, but this is past, not future. It's better at that."
Amélie nodded, slowly, agreeing. "And we have it for a reason. It could, perhaps, shed some light on the matter. Fine, then, we will do that. It will take some time..."
"We have some time," held the boulder, constant.
"This is true. And while the simulations are running, we can plan just the same, no?"
"Fine," said the junior assassin. "I'll treat it like an exercise. But I won't like it."
Amélie flipped through screen after screen of results. "My god."
"It's daft, innit," said Lena.
"Every run-though. Every variation. If you are not saved, if Winston saves you, if Dr. Ziegler saves you, if... apparently someone named Satya Vaswani isn't out of the question, somehow... if we postulate you somehow pop back into normal time on your own, and nothing else changes... it does not matter. If you are not here, now, Mondatta dies in a week, at my hands. It is the unchangeable constant. I have never seen anything like it."
"But not here. Not now. Not with us. Now" - Venom pulled the original screen atop the others - "now, it's a coin toss."
Widowmaker nodded. "Yes. And it makes my head ache."
"What if this is the everything that changes? "
The head of Talon thought deeply, looking for any way forward, any route that could make Mondatta's continued life more beneficial than his martyrdom, and not seeing one. "I don't like it. Something terrible is there. It feels... wrong."
"What you're planning feels wrong to me. And right here, right now, maybe I'm the crux. Maybe it's me. Not him."
This cannot be right. But... I cannot refuse her. Not out of hand. Widowmaker sighed. "Get me a path forward," she relented. "Find a way. Get me to 30% on another outcome and I will consider another plan."
Tracer pulled up a PADD of her own, and beamed, having run a set of trials on her own. "There's a 31% shot someone not us will try to pull the trigger."
"What?! " She grabbed the screen away from Tracer. "This is new, I did not have it - when did this come in?"
"While your simulations were running. Humanity First and The Human League both want his assimilationist head, remember? Latest chatter says one or the other will have another go."
"...what..." crashed the river, shaking.
"Thirty-one percent," said the stone, triumphant.
Amélie's stomach churned, an unfamiliar raging inside her. This is wrong, she thought. But there is still time.
"Agreed," said the river, surrendering, for now.
Widowmaker and Venom surveyed the crowd - large, peaceful, excited - from opposing buildings, as Mondatta moved forward from the hotel to his podium. The London security detachment had left inexcusably large gaps above the roof level - the possibility that someone else might take care of the business at hand had been the only thing keeping Amélie going.
"I've got primary and secondary coverage secured, and a mine on option C," the spider said into comms. "This feels... deeply strange."
"I've got primary and secondary on this side in sight, and if anything smells funny, I'll throw a bomb at Options C or D on this end, scatter the crowd. Even these idiots should notice that," her partner responded.
Venom's mind paced, even as she crouched perfectly still at her position, in that way only Talon agents could, and even then, only with help. I hope I'm not bolluxing things up, she thought. But I know she's wrong. I just wish I knew why.
Widowmaker held perfectly still, the spider set in her web, scanning along lines and strands and distance, trying to think about anything but what she wasn't doing. It's no wonder, she thought, he doesn't survive this anywhere else. This is inept. We should find out who got paid off - it might be useful.
Venom breathed, slowly, carefully, invisibly, her eyes briefly closed. I've been here before. I've been here before, right now. It's not deja vu, I know what that feels like. This is... mad. Her eyes opened. She's about to raise her rifle. How do I know?
Every fibre of Widowmaker's body had been screaming at her for hours. Nothing felt right. She pulled up the Widow's Kiss, scanning the crowd through the sights, and let it rest on Mondatta's forehead for just a moment. I could finish this now, she thought, finger moving to trigger, probabilities shifting, dragging her forward, she could feel it. As a martyr, he'd be so much more...
"Don't," said Venom, quietly, insistently, in her ear, over comms. "I know. I know what you're thinking. I know what you're feeling. I know. But not this time. Please. Don't."
"I... I feel like I have to," the assassin replied, voice somehow remote, even to herself. "It happens in every version of this moment. The strands of the web, they're so clear..."
"I know. But please. I'm begging you. I thought this might happen, I, I think it had to happen, and I've let us get here." Amélie heard her breathe over the comms. "I think it's why you saved me. To be here. Now. To tell you. Don't do it."
Amélie blinked. "You...?"
"I've trusted you, so many times, making these calls, even when I wasn't sure, even when it felt wrong to me, I've trusted you. This time, I know. Don't. Fire."
"I..." So simple. So quick.
"Trust me," she begged. "If you love me - trust me."
A heartbeat passed. A second. An eternity, and time stopped. Strike, sang the web to the spider, while you still can.
...thought the assassin, taking a long, slow breath of her own...
I feared this day would come. I am so, so very sorry. For everything.
She closed her eyes, and, lifting finger from trigger, slowly lowered her firearm.
"My god, you did it." Venom, over comms, unfiltered joy laced throughout her voice. "I, I didn't know if you could, I love you so much, I can't even..."
Amélie fell to the ground, sobbing. All the forward history lines showed skyrocketing probabilities of horrors every second she delayed pulling the trigger, and yet, I'm sorry, Gérard, I... I can't. It would kill her and I can't do that. I have, I have, I have failed...
"BLOODY HELL, IT'S NOT HUMANITY FIRST, IT'S NULL SECTOR! DETONATOR INCOMING!" shouted Venom, so loudly Amélie swore later she heard it without comms.
Widowmaker looked up. A Null Sector landing beam. Two thousand metres up, one of their massive, walking bombs. Eight seconds.
Without thinking, and without hesitating, Widowmaker stood and fired, even through tears hitting and destroying the guide emitter in a single shot. Two blocks away, Venom had already thrown a stinger into one of the speculative attack routes and detonated it, panicking the crowd, who scattered. The London security team rushed Mondatta back away from the direction of the explosion, into the hotel, and shelter, as the crowd fled in all directions.
A second shot from the Widow's Kiss took out the trigger mechanism. A tight cluster of six rounds of fire from Venom took out the backups.
The Null Sector Detonator fell to the ground with a deep bass thump, harmless, in front of Mondatta's empty podium.
And deep in Widowmaker's mind, the massive web of probabilities, the strands that had guided her as long as she'd been alive...