solarbird: (tracer)
2017-09-20 01:33 am

Old Soldiers, Chapter 9: (not) dodging bullets

Sorry this one took so long. I'm not good at large action sequences, and this chapter was difficult to write, mostly because of that. I was trying to keep it gamelike, in that it would be evocative of a failed charge onto take a point with a payload on it in game, as opposed to a realistic infantry scenario. I hope it works.

If nothing else, it's way longer than most of my chapters, so at least nobody's being short changed. ^_^

[AO3 link]


The opportunity came sooner than expected. An arms shipment, escorted by Los Muertos, task force almost certainly to be led by Jack Morrison - or, as it seems they called him, the white ghost.

Jesse McCree had been the one to catch the rumour, talking with some of his old Deadlock Gang contacts, who, turns out, would be happy if a rival gang did not get to run goods through their territory. And so, they passed the news to him, and he passed it to Amélie, who passed it to Venom, who gave it to Overwatch, and Gabriel Reyes, who built a plan.

Mockingbird lay atop the crest of the hill, silent, even her breath inaudible, even to herself, even she wasn't entirely sure she was bothering to breathe right then, as the small three-vehicle convoy stirred itself, beginning its early-morning trundle out of the two-building ghost town that had once called itself Cloverdale. There had been more here, once, before the climate warmed, but really, it had ended before then, a former bit of a farming town, a little store, a dance pavilion, enough water - just - for a bit of crop and cattle raising, but now, even that last was gone, which is, of course, why they were all where they were.

The sniper had been in her nest since two days before, had watched the convoy trundle its way across the desert and to a stop, loading out into the little stone ruin, and calling it a night. She had not slept; she did not need to, for this watch. Once everyone had tucked themselves in so nicely, so quietly, she'd then confirmed via radio to Gabriel that Jack Morrison was, indeed, in the front truck, and that they were not, in fact, transporting refugees or undocumented workers - there were no innocents to get in the way. Just a simple cargo delivery - maybe the weapons, maybe a side delivery before the main delivery, no way even to know.

Not that it mattered, really.

She watched as the convoy slowly rode its way west, towards her and past burned out soil, past former farm gates, now collapsing along the road, the paint bleached in the sun. She took in a breath, just enough to speak. "They're on their way."

Gabriel's voice in her ear. "Do you have the target?"

Lena allowed herself the smallest of smirks. Less than a kilometre. No breeze, at all. Crystal clear skies. Do I have the target. Honestly, Gabe. But she kept it to herself. "Target confirmed and moving into go/no go. Do I have go?"

Reyes ran through the numbers one more time in his head. Everyone in position for the ambush. A lot more fighters on the Los Muertos side - more than they expected, and it bothered him - but only one hard target. The gang side wouldn't be trying for a capture - they'd be shooting for kills, without hesitation - but Overwatch had surprise on their side.

"Nearing optimal range, Gabe. Go or no go?"

Who knows when we'll get intel even this good again, he decided. "Action confirmed. All team, on my mark - go."

Venom - no, Mockingbird - smiled the spider's smile, and pulled the trigger. Morrison's head jerked to the side as the tactical visor went flying out across the desert in pieces, and he swore, loudly, in Spanish, blinded by his own blood, but not really hurt, despite the proximity of the bullet. The transport vehicle swerved, blocking the road forward, but did not fly out of control, and seconds later he was shouting orders to his team as the Overwatch group moved in from the northeast, from the dried-up spring.

"Visor down," the sniper confirmed, as Mei threw up a wall behind the convoy, Gabriel lay down fire blowing out the front vehicle's tires, and the unlabelled Overwatch carrier blared its orders to drop weapons and be commandeered. Pharah charged into the air, letting loose with a series of rockets aimed at vehicle engines, as Mockingbird readied for a spray of long-range discouragement fire from her position, to keep the grunts under cover. She grinned as she watched the Los Muertos gangsters circle their vehicles and swarm for weapons, and then her grin froze as Jack darted away from her sight, without a visor, then reappeared on the other side of the transport vehicle, with one.

What th'...?! She looked back towards the wreckage of the visor. Yes, there, pieces, still on the ground. She called into comms, "Gabe, he has a second visor somehow, watch it!" just as Jack triggered the device, visual overlay screen appearing almost instantly, knocking Pharah out of the air just as she'd disabled the third vehicle. Mockingbird adjusted her sights and took a second shot, surely hitting him dead on, but somehow apparently not as he just kept shooting through the visor, after briefly jerking to the left.

She waited for a third shot, and Jack's head popped up again, again through the front transport, behind two windows. Mockingbird reacted instantly, and fired. Her vision seemed to blur, and suddenly, it was a Los Muertos grunt splayed out across the sand, her head smashed, and Jack Morrison was still firing.

Nobody's that lucky, she thought, coolly. Something's going on.

Los Muertos got a shield generator running as Mei threw up another wall while taking bullets to the shoulder and chest, saving Gabriel, who had also been hit and hurt by the barrage of bullets. Pharah limped back into the air, got off a single rocket knocking Morrison down, and went down again herself almost immediately, Mercy flying to her wife's side. Gabriel, Mockingbird, and - a moment later - Mercy's fire kept most of the rest of the Los Muertos fighters ducking for cover, as Winston leapt down, shield in place over the wounded Mei, Tesla cannon keeping braver Los Muertos back, as Athena flew in as pickup for the injured.

"Gabriel, Tracer here," Mockingbird shouted into comms, trying to force some emotion back into her voice. "Mockingbird's hit this guy in the head three times and he just shakes it off, something is very wrong. We need to..."

And then Jack fell to the ground, unconscious, and an older woman's voice came over the Overwatch comms, saying, "He's down, but it won't last more than 30 seconds. Get your wounded out while you can, and regroup at my position. Tracking beacon enabled."

-----

"A second visor?!" Gabriel - limping, but mobile - looked incredulously at Mockingbird as the small Overwatch strike force mended its wounds at the beacon site deep in the hills to the north. "He can't have a second visor. It's unique to each soldier. It was wired into his brain."

"Don't care," insisted the woman in black and green. "I shot the first one off, just like we planned it. It was on the ground, in pieces." She folded her arms. "My sight takes pictures, I can show you."

"But a second visor - that's not possible," Gabriel insisted.

"I know I hit him. I know I did. Three times. There's something we've missed, Gabe. This should've been easy and it was a disaster."

"You look very familiar," said the older woman with the beacon, looking with narrowed eyes at the younger sniper.

Mockingbird blinked, and looked over to the older woman, finally realising who she was seeing. "...no question of it on my side," she said, recovering. "The legendary Ana Amari, in the flesh. You're supposed to be dead. What the hell, mate? And how'd you get on our comms?"

Gabriel glanced away from Mockingbird and brushed dust off his hands, looking resolutely unsurprised. "Ana, this is our sniper specialist, callsign Mockingbird. Mockingbird, this is Ana Amari, apparently not dead."

Ana snorted at her former Blackwatch friend, and gestured over to Mockingbird. "You think that can replace me?"

"You have been dead since 2069," said Winston, stepping in between the new and the old, "as far as we knew." He gave Reyes a look, a look that said they would be talking about Reyes's lack of surprise in the very near future. "She's an independent contractor willing to work with us, and we're happy to have her service."

"I know that kit," said the Egyptian, with a sideways glance back to the younger woman. "And I know that blue tinge. Working with Talon, are we, now? Maybe Jack's not so crazy as I thought."

"Not with Talon, luv," Mockingbird lied. "But I always buy from the best. No second chances in this game. 'Cept for you, apparently. And Jack." She looked around at Angela and Gabriel and Ana, and frowned. "And apparently all you old lot."

Amari glanced disdainfully at the young assassin, then returned to ignoring her, looking back to Gabriel. "And where's the so-called Hero of Old London supposed to be, then?"

Mockingbird glared, anger a flash across her face. No, she told herself. Lena's not here. Ana's trying to provoke you. Realising that, she found she didn't even need to bring up the web further to keep control. It's a game. She knows, she just wants us to admit it. Spill the beans, grams? Not likely.

"We all thought it was for the best if she stayed out of any direct action involving the man who left her to die in the Slipstream." He looked directly into the sniper's eyes. "Knowing you're here, I'd say that was the right call."

"Afraid she'd lose her cool, get hurt?" She made a little unimpressed sound, a kind of pffft. "And yet here you hand whatever they've made of her" - she waved at Mockingbird, without looking - "a sniper rifle. You're fools."

Lena almost spoke up, then almost laughed, but kept her expression flat. Nice try, she thought. "So I shouldn't ask for your autograph, then?"

Winston shook his head at Mockingbird's verbal jabs, and Gabriel crossed his arms, with a frown. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Ana. More importantly - where the hell have you been all these years?"

"Really? You're going to keep up this laughable facade?"

"Whatever. You gonna tell us where you've been all this time?"

Amari glared. "No. But I will give you this." She pulled a small memory card out of a coat pocket. "It's video and notes from a... previous attempt to solve the Jack Morrison problem. If you're going to try to kill him, I need you not to make things worse."

"We aren't trying to kill him," Winston said, taking the card. "We're trying to bring him to justice."

Amari spat at the ground. "There's no justice for what he did, or for what he's become. I thought you understood that."

Well, thought Mockingbird, there's one place we agree. She found she didn't like the agreement. "That's what I thought, too. Maybe I ought t'reconsider the point."

"Does it always make this much noise? Maybe it should be reprogrammed again."

"ENOUGH OF THIS." Mercy glided down from the flat spot on the hillside above, where she had been tending to Mei and Pharah, watching since Ana showed herself, stunned to see her mother-in-law, of all people, reappear from the dead - not her way, but alive and well the entire time.

"Angela, why are you mixed up in this idiocy? I thought you'd know better."

The field medic marched over to the old military officer, and slapped her across the face, hard, staggering her back. "You dare show your face? You dare act like this to my friends, after what you have put us through?!"

"Woah!" interjected Mockingbird, jumping forward to restrain the doctor. "Angela, no! It's fine, she's just horrible!"

"No," she said, looking back, and shaking her arms free, "it is not fine!" She turned back to the old soldier, and pointed to Pharah, unconscious, but recovering. "She mourned you. You ignored her as a child and she loved you anyway and then you died and she put it behind her and now you are here and alive and she is here and wounded and you have not even acknowledged her existence?!"

"I've done what has been necessary, and I've stayed out of the way of the medic while she works. Fareeha will understand that."

"Will she? I hope not! But I will make sure she knows. I will make sure she knows everything. Including how horribly you have just abused our Mockingbird. 'It?! '" She shook herself, as though fluffing feathers she did not have, except in her wings. "You call her an it?! She is a person, not a tool, and you have become a monster."

Quietly surprised, Lena's heart tore, just a little, at the medic's furious defence. "Doc, really, it's fine, she's just digging..."

"I know what she's doing," Mercy said, not looking at Lena. "And I don't care why." She turned to the openly astonished Reyes and Winston. "We should get the wounded out of American territory as soon as possible. They will not be happy with our actions today."

"I agree," said Reyes, taking the opportunity. "Ana, we can pick this up later. Do any of your old dropboxes work?"

"No. Do yours?"

"Boxburg does."

"I'll leave a contact point there, then."

"Thanks. And... thanks for helping out."

"You're welcome. Maybe next time we can work together, make sure the grown-ups are in charge."

Mockingbird's face showed absolutely no sign of emotion, and her hands did not tighten visibly on her rifle.

"We'll talk later," said the former Blackwatch head. "Team - back to the ship. Mockingbird, give Mercy some help with Mei; Winston, I wouldn't mind a little help myself. Let's roll out."

The Lunar gorilla offered his friend an arm, as Mockingbird turned towards the Chinese scientist with a curt "acknowledged." Behind Venom's mask, beneath the web, the assassin roiled viciously, but no hint of that storm made it outside.

Maybe I've got more than one problem to solve, she thought, as she guided the semi-sedated Mei up off the ground. Maybe I've got two or three.

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-09-17 10:42 am

advice received on a treadmill

This is a semi-sequel to "I Could Murder a Chippie," inspired in part by the fact that my gym's colours are UW Huskies colours, which is to say, Talon purple, and Overwatch gold, and that had to show up somewhere. [AO3 link]


"Th' hell?" said Venom, as the treadmill she was on - black and purple, like so much Talon gear, like so much Talon corporate culture - suddenly gained gold highlights.

"Ha!" said Tracer, as the treadmill she was on - black and gold, like so much Overwatch gear, like so much Overwatch corporate culture - suddenly gained purple highlights.

Venom looked to her left, the previously unoccupied treadmill now occupied by her mirror image, almost, hair almost the same, eyes almost the same, accelerator stripes most definitely not the same, or even there at all.

Tracer looked to her right, the previously unoccupied treadmill now occupied by her mirror image, almost, hair almost the same, eyes almost the same, accelerator missing, but she has thin stripes showing on her shoulders and legs, faintly shining blue.

"Hiya!" said Tracer, beating Venom to the punch. "Somehow I just knew you'd have a gym on Filicudi."

"You again..." Venom's mind raced, as she thought back to the impossible luncheon she'd shared with the Manic Pixie Murder Machine. "...that was real?"

"Kinda!" chirped Tracer. "As real as interdimensional transits can be, anyway. Thought I'd see if I could set up the right conditions and meed up again. You remember me, so I guess it worked!"

Venom reached over and tried, and failed, to touch Tracer. Tracer did the same, in reverse. At least she's not really here, thought the assassin. That's a relief. "So... your Winston's somewhere off... in some impossible direction from here, I guess?"

"Yah! Well, yeah, I guess so, but not to me. He's been helpin' out, but it's by remote. We've had this set up a while - it's the first time it's actually worked!"

Venom looked crossly at her Overwatch alternate-dimension counterpart. "So. Your Overwatch doesn't work with your Talon, does it?"

"Nope!"

"So what's this about, then? Intel gathering?"

"Kinda?"

"Won't matter, y'know. Apparently, our kind of Talon is pretty rare."

"Yeah, I've only seen a few of your lot. Tekhartha always dies, 'cept when it's you... which is..." she looked down at her treadmill, and let it coast to a stop. "...why I wanted to apologise."

Venom blinked, letting her treadmill slow to a stop as well. "...wot?"

"I'm sorry. For calling you evil. I've been thinkin' about that fight we had, and..." She let out a deep breath, and took another one. "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I mean, you're still assassins, and I still can't go with that, but..." She shook her head back and forth, slowly. "Bloody hell, love, you saved Tekhartha Mondatta. D'ya know how rare that is?"

"We've... kind of got that idea, yeah." Venom didn't say that mostly, worlds like theirs, they ended up without her, or with a Venom that didn't question the mission, with Widowmaker taking the shot. With atomic fire and ash. With the war that truly did end all wars.

But not here, she thought. Not us. Not now.

"So..." continued Tracer, "...I'm sorry."

Venom shook off the things that could've been, but weren't, and smirked, but with a little warmth to it. "You went to these lengths for an apology? Maybe you're not so bad as I thought, Tracer. I accept."

Tracer smiled her genuine smile, the soft one, the one she saved for people she really, truly liked. "Thanks."

"But you said you wanted intel. Sorta."

Tracer blushed furiously. "...yeah."

What's that blush? Venom wondered. "G'wan then..."

"Tell me..." she looked nervously off to the side, "...about Amélie."

"Wot." said Venom. This can't be what I think it is, she thought, or maybe it might. "I thought you and Emily were..."

"We are!" Tracer protested. "And we're happy! But..."

"...you've seen some of those universes where it's all three of us together, haven't you?"

"Yeah."

"And y'want that."

Tracer looked down, and her voice became very quiet. "I'd... I don't know. I don't know what I want. But I know I'd given up on her, and I... I think that was wrong."

Must do, thought Venom, to poke at spacetime about it. She sympathised, of course. How could she not? But might as well have some fun with her opposite. "Well, first things first. You have another apology to make, luv."

"For wot?"

"'Aggressively overstyled shitehawk' ring any bells?"

Tracer laughed. "Ah, c'mon, mate, that was a joke and you knew it."

Venom smirked. "Apologise anyway."

"Done," the Overwatch agent replied, laughing. "I'm sorry. I don't know what is wrong with me, but I'm sorry."

Venom grinned her famous half-grin, and looked off to the side, where Tracer could not see. "Amélie, Em, you think we should help her?"

Em?! thought Tracer. "What?! "

"Surprise!"

"What?! When?! "

Venom beamed, broadly. "We placed a discreet notice for a private top-class aircraft mechanic. Guess who showed up?"

"Wha... wha..." Tracer quite literally vibrated in place. Venom didn't think she could do that with her kind of accelerator, but, apparently, she could.

"Is that a question?"

"...yes?"

Venom just laughed. "It's fate, Tracer. Get used to it, it's probably gonna happen! Mostly just a matter of when."

"But luv, where do I start? How do I get past the Widowmaker and free Amélie?"

Venom frowned. "Y'want a serious answer? Y'won't like it."

Tracer nodded.

"Stop thinkin' they're different."

Tracer blinked. "But they are, Widow's not even - well, fine, not yours, but mine, Talon..."

"Doesn't matter," interrupted the junior assassin. "Got news, mate. If you can't love the Widowmaker, you can't love Amélie."

From out of range of the interface field, but not out of range of the movement of air to carry sound, came the senior assassin's voice. "It's true. Even when they think they've built someone completely new, they have not. They have only forced changes, and even then, fewer than they think. The foundation remains. It must, for the process to work."

"Woah," breathed Tracer. She knew the elder assassin had to be there, somewhere, but hearing that voice sent tingles down her skin. "...Widowmaker?"

Amélie stepped into what she suspected - correctly - was the area of field effect. She put down the free weights, wiped her face with a towel, and turned to the tangerine-clad Overwatch agent. "Hello, Tracer."

Tracer's breath stopped and she blinked, her mouth half open for a moment before she was able to close it, and she shook her head. Venom and Widowmaker exchanged the briefest of meaningful glances - oh, she's got it bad, doesn't she? - before Tracer collected herself, with a "...nice to see you, luv." The teleporter swallowed. "Even though you're not..."

"...your Widowmaker?" interjected Amélie.

"Yah."

"Neither is she," said Tracer.

Widowmaker nodded her agreement. "She is a person, cherie, and she is not yours."

Tracer took the point, and, for once, knew when to shut up. Amélie picked up on the silence, and granted her a small smile. "Ah, you already begin to understand, yes? She is real - as real as I am. As we all are, every one of us. Just as every Tracer is a person - even the most dedicated members of the worst kinds of Talon - so is every Widowmaker, no matter what she may seem to you."

"So she's still in there..."

"No," Widowmaker said, frowning a little, and crossing her arms. "Understand this. She is there, right there, in front of you, as I am now. Perhaps under various kinds of influence, perhaps traumatised, perhaps parts of her are muted, perhaps parts of the old her are even lost, perhaps she is even a new person built from the old - but no matter what has happened, she is that person now."

Tracer's eyes widened, as her thoughts flashed to all the ways she'd tried to talk to her universe's Widowmaker, and how offers to help, to undo what they'd done, to bring back Amélie, always backfired.

"...I've been..."

Widowmaker smiled.

"...telling her we'd do the same thing Talon did."

"Exactement," Widowmaker bowed, her arms now spread apart, as if on stage.

"Oh. Oh, oh, no," Tracer said, burying her face in her hands. "What've I done? "

"Hey, hey," said Venom, reaching forward uselessly, to comfort her opposite. "It's all right. She still talk t'you?"

Venom looked back up, towards the voice. "Yeh. Sometimes."

"Then," said Widowmaker, "I think it is not too late. I cannot imagine any version of myself that would talk to you if she had, how do you say, written you down?"

"Y'think?"

"Also, you are still alive, are you not?"

Tracer snorted. "Don't underestimate me, luv."

"Do not underestimate her, either." Widowmaker nodded towards Venom, whose accelerator stripes suddenly shined brightly, and then she grabbed Tracer off her treadmill, hand strong and oh so very solid. "Or me."

Tracer shrieked, and found herself unable to teleport away, as Widowmaker leaned forward, golden eyes bright, the spider bearing down on her terrified, halfway hypnotised prey. "Understand. I do this for her. Not for you. Can you love the spider? "

Tracer stared back into those gold eyes, and that cold blue face, overcome with fear... and then, suddenly, felt no longer afraid. She reached forward, pulled her arms around the Widowmaker, and kissed her, briefly but fiercely. Pulling back, she held the spider's gaze, and said, firmly, "...I can."

Amélie smiled coquettishly, and let Tracer go. "She does not taste like you, beloved," as Venom and Emily both laughed.

"They never do," said Emily, from outside the field.

"They never...?" replied Tracer, confused.

"You're not the first Tracer to come asking these questions, luv," Venom said, with something between a grin and a smirk. Her glow faded to normal, and Tracer returned to her insubstantial state, at least, for the Talon crew and gear. "All patched up. G'wan back home."

"And good luck!" she heard Emily call, from outside the field. "Most of us are pretty poly, but some of us aren't. Don't hurt your Emily, or I'll come after you myself!"

Tracer looked towards the direction of Emily's voice. "Not for anything, Em. Not for anything."

"I'll hold you to that," she shouted, as the field began to fade, and then collapsed.

Tracer dropped and sat on the treadmill's belt as the gateway failed, the last of the stored charge exhausted, patting the ground, the floor, the chairs, making sure she was still here, still home. She'd not expected to be grabbed completely into their reality like that, and she shivered at the thought of losing her Emily, her Overwatch, her world. That was... a lot riskier than I imagined! she thought. Winston'll want to know.

"So," she said, after a moment, looking over outside the field boundaries, to her Emily. "You still sure about this?"

Emily "Kestrel" Oxton raised an eyebrow. "After seeing you and her kiss?" The flying agent smiled a broad, bold smile. "I am. More than ever."

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-08-28 08:51 am

Old Soldiers, Chapter 8: that which we must not know

[AO3 link]


Mercy sat, shaking, alone, at her desk, her composure collapsing the moment Lena Oxton had walked out the door.

Mein gott, had I not known, and had I needed to revive her...

She shuddered, and swallowed, hard. She did not like thinking about what might've happened. Not to anyone. Particularly not to Lena.

But now, I do know.

Lena Oxton never really did really read medical documents she signed. In this case - as far as Dr. Ziegler was concerned - that was a very, very good thing, and she pulled up files from the deep scan which had been triggered as soon as Venom acknowledged that the previous documents still applied.

Now, thought the doctor, let's see how you are made...

Her hand stopped, just above the console surface, just above the file. ...No, she thought.

She blinked, surprised at herself. I've done this with everyone else, she thought. Why not her?

No, her mind insisted, again, at war with herself. This is different.

God, she wanted to. So much. So very, desperately much. It was all right there, flagged, sorted, available, ready to open, ready to be known. But...

She would be so angry.

Angela Ziegler leaned against her desk, hands over her eyes. Do not be foolish, doctor, she told herself. She's a patient. She can not be anything else. Your job as a combat medic is to keep her alive, whatever it takes.

And yet. No.

If the not knowing ached - and it did, viciously - the unreadiness for disaster ached even more. Losing Lena, or Tracer, or Venom, or whatever she called herself today? She shook her head, firmly. I can't. I won't. It is unacceptable.

And so, she took a deep breath, and compromised with herself. She pulled the dataset off the scanner, onto a small card, securely deleting the original. Then, she physically moved the card over to the nanosurgeon programmer for her Caduceus staff, and inserted that card into a small slot, compiling the deep-scan data set into the knowledge base for the Overwatch agent known as Mockingbird.

Compilation completed, she looked at the card, now removed, sitting in her hand. The original data, the raw scan, not the abstracted assemblage merged into so much other data, unrecoverable - or essentially so - from the nanosurgeons, and even then not comprehensibly, at least not to human minds - available, intact, only here, in one tiny chip.

So much I could learn, she thought. They'd done impossible things at Talon, and the key to it lay in her hand.

She slid the small protect tab along the edge of the medical data card, and firmly pressed her fingers against the centre. The chip briefly glowed, hot, as it destroyed itself, and then, she threw it away.

As long as they know, she thought, putting her hand gratefully on the nanosurgeon farm, watching as it built a special nanite cluster just for the Talon sniper, that is... good enough. For now.

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-08-24 10:09 am

Old Soldiers, Chapter 7: is it good enough for you, still?

This chapter contains events which might end up making me setting a couple of content warnings on this story on AO3. Accordingly, I an putting the story behind a fold, here, as well.

[AO3 link]

Cut for content )
solarbird: (tracer)
2017-08-22 11:19 pm

the day the spider ate the sun

I was in Oregon, in the totality zone, for the eclipse; this is more or less my trip report, written as fiction in the Fear of Spiders/Overwatch universe. The eclipse really was indescribable - you have to be there - but this is my best attempt to relate what I saw and how I felt.

All the locations are real world locations, accurately described, and specifically relate how I got down to Shiniko, Oregon for the totality, and back, after crossing the Oregon border from the north. All of Venom's and Widowmaker's lines are basically my commentary while being the one driving... inappropriately quickly... with my road trip crew down a surprisingly empty Highway 216.

[AO3 link]


"I loved it," said the Widowmaker, her voice fluid, "when the spider ate the sun. Slowly dimming light, then sunset all around, in all directions, and then - gone, but for the corona. Exquisite."

"That was wizard!" agreed Venom, speeding along Highway 216 west from Highway 97 to Highway 197 in the Oregon high desert. "The sky went violet! Blue, dark, rich, with extra violet, somehow. The pictures always made it look black, but it wasn't! So intense!"

"I think that was partly ultraviolet, from the corona," suggested the elder assassin, as the old-style automobile - a Spider, appropriately enough - barrelled down the road into the canyon, chasing the water. The speed limit sign said 55kph. She hit it at 120. "The light had such intoxicating depth."

"Felt like time just stopped! And I know from time." She giggled at little at herself, and shook her head. "Pictures just can't tell the story, can they?" said Lena.

"Not at all. One cannot even describe it, one must experience it. The changes in the air, the blue and violet glow, the heat vanishing with the sun..."

"And then, and then, the last bit of the sun goes out, and you look past the glasses, and - wow! The sun is, like, whole different star! And the sky is a different sky! It was like - it was like bein' in space, like being on a whole 'nother world!"

"The black hole sun, the streaming flares of fusing hydrogen writhing in the sky, the glowing colours - I never imagined the colours would be so intense." She sighed, wistfully. "I do not think my cameras captured the violet, only the blue."

The tires screeched at the first downhill hairpin turn. The road carried with it no forgiveness, no margin - cliff wall to one side, sheer drop to the other. A few guardrails buffered against the worst of the turns, or, at least, the first couple, and then not the next, and not the one after that. The Spider held the road, if barely, as the Talon assassins drifted in their vehicle, across the road, into the opposite-direction lane.

"I remind you," said Amélie, "despite having applied to the Commonwealth, this country is still right-hand driving."

"Yeh, yeh. Curve speed signs are for wankers."

Widowmaker smirked. "That one, if anything, seemed overly permissive."

The junior assassin slowed the vehicle, but not much, and sped it back up at every opportunity. "Nobody's usin' the other lane, I might as well."

It was true. Even with the tens of thousands of tourists flooding back from the zone of totality, Highway 216 sat empty of traffic, out in the high grassy desert, barreling down towards the Deschutes River, splashing and rushing at the very bottom.

"Even so," said the spider, "this road does not seem very forgiving."

Venom chuckled, and hit the accelerator again. "Feeling nervous, love?"

"Feeling impressed that the Cascadians do not seem to care about guard rails, perhaps." The car's right mirror - still just within its lane - came within a few centimetres of the cliff wall. "Or margins for error." She looked out over the cliff the road hugged. "This countryside - it is almost painfully beautiful."

Off to the left, a series of canyons, or one long, split canyon, almost cartoonish in perfection, stepped down towards the water, a mix of steep rocky slopes and bare basalt column cliffs, volcanic, spotted with the occasional first-coloniser plants, mostly gold, some auburn, some ash, and, almost inexplicably, splashes of dark, vivid green, the green becoming dominant the further down towards the river, but really, anywhere water might run or pool or even be slowed down, even a bit, for the thirsty plants to grab it up.

"Whole bleedin' country's a bunch of picture postcards, innit?"

"Truly."

"Glad they had the sense not to muss up the view with fences." Venom floored the antique Sypder into the next hairpin curve, not quite fishtailing, not quite sliding away and to oblivion. "I can't believe we're the only ones on this road. Look at what they're missing!"

"It's not the eclipse, but it is fascinating. Perhaps the tourists are afraid of the heights," said the spider.

"You mean, it's just us 'cause they're too scared?"

"And therefore, do not deserve to see this."

"Fair cop," said the younger assassin. "Woah!" she said, surprised by the severity of yet another hairpin. "That was a tight one!"

"Be careful, we cannot crash this vehicle here - we might start a fire."

"Blimey, that'd be a right cock-up," the junior assassin replied in all sincerity. "They have fires all summer already, don't they?"

"It seems so," the senior assassin said, gesturing back towards a burnt out patch they'd driven by, some 30km before.

"Well, good thing we've got that car park all lined up."

"Indeed. Just be sure not to hit the river. Fish and gasoline do not mix."

"Easy peasy. Reach 'round, pull the body forward, will ya?"

"Certainly."

She pulled the middle-aged man forward, from the - well, it wasn't really the boot, not one worthy of the name, not in an F430 - and propped him up against the centre console, between their individual seats.

The Ferrari flew over the first river bridge, as Venom let the engine really open up. "May as well go out in a blaze of glory, y'big ugly monster," she said, made the final turn at a desperately dangerous 220kph. "Good handling, I'll give you that. Right! Whenever you're ready, love..."

"Grab hold, cherie, and ready your grapple," the Widowmaker said, grabbing her lover and launching the two of them out of the automobile. Venom kicked the wheel hard to the right, and the Spider flipped over, briefly flying, then bouncing down the road, hitting once, twice, a third time, and skidding into a gravel parking lot before bursting into flame. Widowmaker's chain retracted, pulling the two Talon agents high into the air, and just short of apogee, Venom launched her chain, and up they went again, a second arc, and again, at apogee, Widowmaker's grapple made the top of the butte, where their ship sat, concealed, and waiting.

From atop their high vantage point, they could see the local wardens rushing forward with emergency fire suppression, the wreckage of the convertible already burning itself out, the body of Roger Müller - well-known multi-millionaire playboy and less-well-known deep financier of ultra-nationalist media and neofascist politicians - already well-crisped. His remains would show a blood alcohol content well above 0.17, over twice the legal limit, but entirely in character.

"And that's why y'don't drive pissed." Venom said to her partner, cheerfully.

"That was magnificent."

"Such a shame when people overindulge, innit, love?"

Widowmaker spun on her lover, pulling her abruptly, roughly, against her own body, eyes wide and open. "Yes. Let's balance it by overindulging ourselves."

Venom shuddered with quick arousal. "Fast cars and fast kills? I like the way you think, sweet. But let's move the..."

"Now."

"So now I'm the sensible unf " - she said, as Widowmaker bit into her neck - "...we can't stay here, love. Somewhere else. The way we went south. Nobody's on that road, either."

"Fine. Bakeoven, then. How quickly can you fly us back?"

"You just saw how quick I got us here in an antique, didn't ya?"

"Point made. Go."

solarbird: (widow)
2017-08-20 10:04 am

it is not easy to imagine, thought the widowmaker

[I can't believe I'm saying "Canon in the 'It is not easy to explain, she said'" Overwatch AU, but, well, this is the fourth story in this set, so, I guess it's an actual second AU now. AO3 link.]

[It is helpful to know that Widowmaker (in canon, and here) has a tattoo on her arm which incorporates the French word for "nightmare."]


It is not easy to imagine, thought the Widowmaker, propped up a little on pillows but between her two lovers, Lena, Tracer, sprawled along her right side, hands and arms jumbled about everywhere, like always, and Emily, Kestrel, on her left, arranged so neatly, even in sleep, even halfway through the night, even after turning over a few times, always tucked back in like the little hawk, her namesake in battle. Not even when it is real and in front of me.

She took one of her long, slow, deep breaths, and felt her heart beating, even more slowly than usual, so calm, so quiet, so at rest.

Were Gérard and Amélie like this? she wondered. It seemed impossible. Not just because that was only two, and this was three, and therefore obviously so much better, and not just because they were human, baseline human, with childhoods, and growing up, and stumbling about blindly until they figured how to make a life - though that last part, she finally understood, at least, a little - but because this, this perfection, it, too, seemed so impossible, so to conceive of it happening twice? Ludicrous. Foolish girl, she smiled to herself, it could not have been so... this.

It had taken some time to come up with a bed that the three of them could share. Widowmaker's low body temperature meant she needed similarly lower temperatures for real comfort, particularly in sleep, and both her lovers were so very warm. It'd been Angela's idea, a mattress made of medical thermal control columns, temperature regulated, sensing who lay where, and adjusting, automatically.

The doctor had got a paper out of it - modified to discuss burn victims and others with particularly sensitive skin - and had done fairly well from the patent rights. But Widowmaker didn't care about that. Widowmaker cared that she could sleep with her lovers whenever she wanted to, and whenever they wanted her to, and it would just work.

She breathed in the scent of her brown-haired love, the teleporter, nuzzling down a little into that silly, tossed hair. Unimaginably wonderful. She shifted just a little, carefully, and did the same of her red-haired love, the flying officer, and the scent was so very different and yet so much the same. So wonderful.

And softly, so softly, her breath caught, and water pooled in her eyes, and she sniffed, not wanting to, but she still did, and she tried to stop herself, to stop the tears, but that just made her laugh, just a little, and trying to stop that, too, made more of all it it happen.

Emily awoke, blinking, but lay still except to look up towards the sniffling. "Sweet? What... are you crying?"

"No," whispered Widowmaker. "Yes."

"Oh, love, what's wrong?"

"Nothing. Go back to sleep." She laughed a little more, shaking again, and from Lena came a little "mmf?" and she blinked those big brown eyes that Widowmaker could see so clearly even in the low light.

"You too. Go back to sleep."

"Wuzzit?" said Lena, awake enough now to attempt words, but still, at least half asleep.

"But what's wrong?"

"Nothing," sniffed Widowmaker. "Nothing. Nothing." She leaned over and kissed the half-asleep Lena on top of her head. "Everything is wonderful," and then did the same for Emily.

"Why're you crying?" asked Lena.

"I am... so happy," said the blue assassin, half-sobbing, smiling, confused, but not caring. "I..."

She stopped, and her eyes opened wide.

"I found it," she whispered.

"What?" asked Emily, reaching up to run her fingers through Widowmaker's hair.

"Yeah, love - what?" asked Lena, reaching up to do the same from the other side. Her hand met Emily's, and she smiled, as their fingers intertwined.

"Perfection." She brought her two lovers tightly against her, laughing, crying, all at the same time, the emotions, they are too much she thought, gasping, but that is also perfect. "This perfection."

Lena blinked. "You mean... like before? At the beginning, when you were made? But... here, now? ... with us?"

Widowmaker nodded, not being able to put it into better words. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Oh my god."

Emily chuckled. "You're beautiful too, you know that, right?"

"Love, no, she means it. Losing this is why she left Talon."

"Yes," whispered the spider.

Oh. Emily hadn't been there when the assassin had told the story, but she remembered it, and how it affected Lena. "And now you've got it back?" she asked.

"Yes," nodded the Widowmaker. "It is... different. But better." She sniffled. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Is any part of this bad?" asked Emily, a little worried, a little unsure, a little amazed. The assassin's body always carried tension, tension she could feel in her muscles, feel almost in her skin. And she did not feel it. It was... gone.

"No," breathed the Widowmaker. "Oh no, oh, oh no. It is wonderful. I am so happy."

"You sure?" asked Lena.

"Yes."

"Completely sure?" asked Emily.

"Yes."

"Good," said Lena, as the three snuggled back in together, and the three of them slowly drifted back to sleep.

What would my makers think of me now? wondered the spider, as she slid back towards her dreams, laughing, to herself, just a little. And then when she did sleep, she slept smiling, finding her dreams new, and happy, and not unlike her life now, found, new, and happy.

She would need to change her tattoo. No more nightmares. None. At least, not, for now.

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-08-17 10:36 am

Old Soldiers, Chapter 6: Terrifying in Flight (I Just Wish We Had a Sniper)

[AO3 link]

"Letting us take the first shot, then?" Gabriel Reyes asked Venom, eyeing the new intel sent along on sideband. "We got Sombra's location reports - thank you."

The Talon assassin nodded. "Yeh. I..." she frowned. "Gabe, luv, I'm gonna get this out there. I voted no. But I lost, so I'll go along."

"I appreciate that." Reyes gave Oxton a considering look. "You sure, though? The way you stormed out..."

The assassin nodded. "I've got my reasons, and I've made my promises - to Amélie - and I keep 'em." Just ask G/C Henderson, she thought, Oh wait, you can't, he's dead. The memory made her smile, just a little. Small but lasting comforts.

"Glad to hear it. Thank you," replied the tactical advisor. Promises to the Widowmaker? That'd do it. "We collectively - all of us at Overwatch, Tracer possibly excepted - want to bring him to justice, intact. Not just have him disappear again."

Lena "Venom" Oxton snorted, a little. "Might be right about Tracer. But for us - well, it's better than nothing."

Reyes breathed out. Good. "I'm putting together some plans, based upon your intel - and ours." He brought his right hand to his chin, thoughtfully. "I just wish we had a sniper. Closest we've got is Mei, and she's good with that ice pistol of hers, but it's not the same thing."

Venom thought about the problem, and a solution. Would Amélie be okay with it? Yes, she thought so. With the right conditions attached. Maybe even... proud. Let's float it. "You might. Have a sniper, I mean."

Gabriel tilted his head and stared into the screen. "...Amélie's suddenly willing to work with me?"

"No," Venom said. "But I am."

"Since when are you a sniper?"

Another snort. "C'mon, mate, how long have I been with the world's best sniper? Like I've told Winston - she teaches me her tricks."

"I can't see how you have the patience for it. How good are you?"

"I'm good, mate. Not Amélie good, but... good. Very good."

Gabe looked dubiously at her, through the screen. "How very good?"

Venom thought about it. "I keep a list of better snipers than me, right? Amélie's on top, of course; Zhanna Orlov's below her, Shimada Hanzo a few steps down, all that."

She's good enough to keep that list? he thought. But aloud, he kept it to, "Sure."

"Everyone on that list keeps a list like it. Amélie's still on top, but theirs has a question mark, down... maybe below number ten? But on the list."

"And that's you?"

Venom smiled. "Can't confirm that, luv. But."

"You willing to demonstrate that at the embassy?"

"Maybe. There's conditions." She looked thoughtful, glancing down to the side. "I have to check with Amélie. She might veto this."

"Why?"

"Reasons."

Gabriel nodded. Talon secret tech, or something like it. Fair enough. "Let me know. It sure would be nice to have a sniper available."

"Aye aye."

-----

Two days later, Tracer appeared on the balcony outside Winston's office, in the usual tangerine and white. She waved towards the glass door, and Winston started to let her in, then stopped, blinked, and stepped back.

"Honest, luv, it's me," came her voice through the door speaker. "Horizon Angle Delta Vector Seventeen Nine Seven Nine Banana Clown."

"Pictograph?"

"Waves."

The gorilla opened the door, still wary, and Lena Oxton stepped inside out of the sunlight. In the office, she looked less blue around the edges, thanks to the warm lighting overhead, but the tint was still there, and her goggles had a fleet of extra red eyes, in mobile plates, along the sides and top. "I wanted to arrive dressed as Tracer, so's nobody'd notice, but..." She pressed buttons on her grapple, now equipped with familiar and frightening extras, and her suit changed to black and green. "Mockingbird reporting for sniper duty."

"Lena, what did you do?!"

She smiled in a broad way, most unlike her spider, and most like herself. It helped, a little. "Nothin' permanent. I swear. This is just what I look like when I'm a sniper."

Gabriel and Angela came up the stairs to the ambassador's office, and froze in their tracks at Winston and Lena. Angela shrieked a little, and Gabriel shuddered. "That... that is... deeply disturbing. Lena, are you still you?" asked the doctor.

Gold-tinted eyes - regular brown still visible underneath, if you looked closely - darted to Dr. Ziegler. "Guess I shoulda warned ya, huh? Yeh, it's still me in here." Her voice was the slightest bit slower and lower than usual, but clearly still hers.

"What have you done to yourself?!" Angela leaned forward, and Mockingbird stepped fluidly back, with an ah-ah-ah finger motion. "Sorry, doc, no scans. That's the rule if I'm gonna be here like this."

"I wasn't going to. Is it, is it..."

"Permanent? Nah. Nothin' to it, really. Some drugs, some other tricks."

That's a lie, thought the doctor. "Why?!"

"All the sniper traits. Night distance vision. Stability, in motion. Patience - well, for me, anyway. Stillness, too - I can stop my heart for three minutes in this mode and be just fine. But I keep my twitch reflex, and the energy I store up is barmy! I won't need to eat for four days. Which is good," she joked, "'cause don't ask me to read a menu in the dark right now."

Gabriel shook his head back and forth. "Your whole organisation is not right in the brain."

Mockingbird laughed, a very Tracer-like laugh, and that, too, helped. "When we're on the range, I'm gonna be even scarier. I'll ramp down my emotions s'more and turn the spider all the way up." She brought up her vizor's extensions, and her goggles' primary field went dark red.

Winston reached out to her, without words, and she took his hand. "Or maybe I won't." She reset the vizor to standard mode. "Didn't think you'd be this fruck out, big guy. It's okay, honest."

"You weren't here when Amélie killed Gérard, you don't..." He felt her hand. "You're cool to the touch," he said, quietly.

"Not that cool. Just enough to avoid bein' picked up on infrared. Won't fool the best models, but it helps."

"Please say you aren't turning into Amélie. I... I don't want you turning into Amélie."

Mockingbird snickered, saying, "Well, they do say married couples start to look alike," and activated the vizor again.

"Lena, no! Be serious! I don't want to lose you."

She smiled, waved the magnifiers away, and held her friend's hand against her face. "Aw, luv, no. I like who I am. This is fun, but not... as fun. It'll all go away later. But right now, you need a sniper." She lowered his hand, and patted his shoulder. "I can shed most of this in about an hour, if I really need to."

"That's all it takes?" asked the Swiss doctor.

"For me? Yeh, in an emergency. I can throw 'bout half of it off in under a minute, if I really gotta - but it hurts like the dickens."

Gabriel shook his head. Crazy people, Talon - all of 'em. "Where's your rifle?"

Mockingbird, it seemed, had Lena Oxton's famous half-grin, and she flashed it, and flipped her pistols. "Right here." She popped them together, they locked, and the barrel extended. From a pouch, she pulled out a surprisingly conventional-looking scope, which snapped right on top. "But: ground rules. One: no scans. Sorry, doc. Two: I'm not Tracer, I'm Mockingbird. Stick to it, I mean it. No "Lena," no "Tracer," not outside this office. Three: nobody, and I mean nobody, touches my tech but me. Anyone does, I walk away completely, and for good. No more Mockingbird, and" - she said this slowly, and clearly - "no. more. Tracer. either."

She waited a moment to make sure all that had sunk in. "These are the terms. Otherwise, I leave now, no harm done, and Tracer comes back tomorrow wondering if she missed anything. Agreed?"

"Le... Mockingbird, this cannot be good for you," said Angela. "I promise, just a circulatory..."

"No," the sniper said firmly. "None."

The doctor sighed. "You are not the only one here who experiments with her body in extreme ways. You are stressing it more than I think you know. I want to help."

"We do this before breakfast, luv. But, y'know, if you ever want to switch teams, you could do all the scans you..."

"I don't think so," the doctor interrupted. "But how am I going to know how to treat you in the field, if necessary?"

Mockingbird tipped her head, and smiled. "I'll give you this." She held up a small memory card. "Complete treatment protocols for anything that has to happen faster than a Talon extraction team can reach me. You can have it once everything's settled."

"I insist that I be allowed to practice these protocols. At least the physicality of them. In battle," she did not really have to say, "it matters."

"Ah, yeah! As long as your nanos aren't taking samples, that's fine."

"And may I please, at least, examine you later? When this is over? To be sure you've handled this well? Your own doctors may want that data."

Mockingbird thought about it. The compassion was genuine, she was pretty sure, but so was the desperate curiosity to know how all this worked. There would be things for her to find, later, but little she wouldn't've had a chance to see before, and she'd be looking in all the wrong places... good enough, she decided. "They'll already have it, but - deal."

"Thank you." The doctor looked a little bit relieved, if still more than a little concerned. "I accept."

"Winston? How 'bout it?"

"Gabriel, are you willing to work under these conditions?"

The former Blackwatch head nodded. "I've worked under way worse than this. I'm good. Uh, I... accept the terms?"

"Oh, right," said the assassin, "This has to be for the whole organisation." She switched to Tracer colours, and said, "On behalf of Overwatch, I, Lena "Tracer" Oxton, agree to the terms of Mockingbird's service," before switching back. "Sounds like a bloody software license, don't it? That just leaves you, Winston. And Mei, but she's not here yet."

"I don't like it," said the gorilla. "But... deal. No scans, no handling, no anything."

Mockingbird smiled. "Brilliant!" She tossed Angela the memory card. "Have fun with that. The rest of us - let's go shoot some wings off mosquitoes!"

-----

"You know, as a sniper, I'll be going for the head shot," Mockingbird said over Overwatch comms, launching herself high into the air with her grapple. They'd started at the indoor range, but she got bored with 50 metre shooting and started coming up with creative ways to undo target clips with bullets, and the army's outdoor range was much more interesting. Still carried by momentum on the way up, she twisted left, and took the head off the first target dummy.

"We've been over this," responded Gabriel, watching as she took the head off a second target on the way down, before even landing on her cliffside perch. "We want him alive." He took notes that started with 'Terrifying in flight.'

"And we want him dead," she retorted. "I want him dead. Don't get me wrong, Gabe, I'm here, I'm goin' along with your plan, but alive's not the sniper's job." From that upper perch, she hit three for four on moving ground targets. Two headshots, one ricochet shot that missed, a follow-up direct shot leaving a grazed neck. That last one would walk away, with medical aid. "Damn."

'Never really stops moving,' the new Overwatch tactics expert added to his notes. 'Highly mobile.' "We just want the tactical visor gone."

She spun around from her nest and ticked a faceplate off the sixth target dummy. "And that's a headshot."

"Tracer, just..."

"Tracer's not here, luv."

"Mockingbird."

"Hiya!" She triggered reload, and launched herself to the second perch. He noted she wasn't jinking at all, no teleports, no rewinds, just running, moving with the grapple, and nothing else. Still all about movement, though.

Bang, target down. "No additional shots after the visor's gone." He could almost feel her dirty look from the ground. Bang, another ricochet shot, target missed.

She landed, swore, and took a second shot on the second target, moving within her section's perch point for a direct shot, taking the dummy down. "Not even to save another agent?" She ran a strafe pattern against moving dummies, bang, bang, bang. Four for three, including a domino shot. All perfect.

Jesus, she's good, Gabriel thought. Maybe not Amari good, those ricochet shots aren't working, but... Aloud, he said, "Except to save another agent."

"Short day for me, then." Another reload, and she launched herself into the air, diving to the final shooting perch. Gabriel surprised her with three airborne targets. Bang, down, bang, down, bang, bang, down. "Seems a shame if I have to get all gussied up." She landed and rolled to the third sighting point.

"A short day would be very, very good indeed."

Three fast targets, running along the ground, zagging, all with faceplates - the most human of them all. Three shots, three faceplates off, all targets down. "My way would be even shorter."

"Mockingbird. Please. I know what you are. Don't make it harder."

Lena Oxton breathed in, carefully. She wondered, occasionally, how long she could make this Talon-Overwatch joint arrangement last, and this was one of those times. It's for the best, she reminded herself. If, occasionally, a right pain in the arse. "Sorry, Gabe. I'm workin' so hard to remind everyone it's me in here, maybe I overdid it a bit. Is that it for the first round?"

"Yeah, that's the first set. What'd you think?"

"I liked the surprise skeet, that was fun! But I was sloppy. I can do better, if I drop the banter. And nothin' returned fire!"

"This is a target range, not a combat simulator, what'd you expect?"

"Might fix that."

"If we had the money. You're supposed to know that."

"Maybe Tracer's supposed to know that - I'm not."

Right, he thought. "Mockingbird, secure weapon, and return to start. We'll reset the range for another round."

"Gotcha!"

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-08-08 02:32 pm

It's really not easy to explain, said Emily Oxton

I really did not expect this to go here but here we are, I thought there was an Emily story in this series (yes there's a series of these, this makes three, that's a series) but I did not think it was this one.


Widowmaker brought herself in from the cold, one day, exchanging a list of Talon agents for sanctuary, and for a time, would not say why. The first person she opened up to was Lena Oxton, unexpectedly, at Gibraltar. Lena, for once, had no idea how to process what she was feeling, and took that to her wife, Emily Oxton, back home in London. This story takes place two years later.

This is not part of the On Overcoming the Fear of Spiders Overwatch AU. It is... apparently the third standalone story in a timeline much closer to current known canon as of July 2017, and follows "It's not easy to explain, said Lena Oxton."

[AO3 link]


"It's really not easy to explain," said Emily Oxton, her wings off and splayed across the cleaning table in front of her, soaking in their shallow reservoir of nanorepair fluid. "Or... you know what? Maybe it is."

Widowmaker glared at her redheaded lover. "I do not believe that is possible." Of the three of them, they had the most daily friction - but, really, also the most fire, and so, it balanced out.

"Yeh," said Lena to her wife, as they stood in her workroom at Gibraltar. "This is kind of a lot to take in."

"If you two gang up on me about this I'm going to put these right back on and head to the practice range."

"That," said the blue assassin, "would be a good idea, given some of the mistakes you made today. I'd recommend..."

"Wot." Tracer interjected. "No no no no no. The two of us are bad enough, we don't want her getting into the line of..."

Widowmaker eyed her spiky-haired lover. "Kestrel has made it very clear this is already happening, she should at least be trained. Perhaps Fareeha could..."

"No no no no NO!" Tracer insisted. "Do not encourage her!"

"I think I have final say in this," insisted the woman with the wings and body armour, body armour she was slowly removing, and putting into a different cleaning bath.

"Really," said Winston, walking in through the side hallway door. "I think I do. At least, within Overwatch."

Emily turned a little towards Lena's scientifically-minded friend, automatically smiled, but also nodded her acknowledgement of the situation. "Point taken. Hi, Winston."

"Emily," he said, a little more warmly than neutrally, but still measured. "Or, I understand, it's Kestrel, now?"

"In the air? It's Kestrel. Down on the ground, Emily's fine..."

"Em," broke in Lena, "What the bloody hell?! Isn't two of us doing incredibly stupid and dangerous things bad enough?"

Emily spun around on her wife. "No. It's not. That's the entire bleedin' point, Lena - it's not."

"Personally," said Widowmaker, "I found your first dive attack a convenient distraction."

"Thanks, love," Emily said, more than a little bit pleased.

"I think with proper training, you could..." began the sniper, before Tracer interrupted with a quick, "You are not helping!"

"I'd ask how you got Overwatch prefix codes," interjected Winston, trying to keep the situation on track, "but I think that's pretty obvious. However... how did you get your own prefix added to our systems? Athena shouldn't've let you do that."

"Remember when I told you that you really ought to use locking screensavers?" started Emily, when Tracer jumped back in with, "WHY? ARE? YOU? DOING? THIS?!"

Emily spun back 'round to her wife and shouted, "BECAUSE I'M SICK OF NEVER KNOWING IF YOU'RE ALIVE OR DEAD!"

She looked up to their taller lover. "Or you. Neither of you know what it's like. Neither of you can know what it's like."

"Em, I'm military, I know..." started Tracer.

"No. You don't." Kestrel stripped off the last of her armour, placing it into the second bath, and took a deep breath.

"Remember," she said, "when you first came home with news about Widowmaker? That long talk we had, over breakfast? What did I say?"

Tracer thought back to two years ago. She'd been so confused about her own feelings, for the first time ever, and Emily had teased it out of her, bit at a time, and it was all fine, and... "anything that gets one less set of sights on me?"

"Yes. That."

"Well, that worked out..."

"It worked out for exactly six months, until..." she grabbed the spider's hand. "...I fell in love with her, too." She looked up to the taller woman. "And let's get this out there: I'm not blaming you for any of this."

"I did not think you were," said the French sniper, with a bit of a smirk. "But much of this is new to me."

Emily - Kestrel - nodded, and looked back to Tracer. "And then suddenly I had two loves in battle. One sniper's sights removed for a few months, and then suddenly there are twice as many as before because there's two of you at risk."

"Yeah, but Em, we look out for each other, it's safer..."

"It's two of you and I'm still not there and I still don't know." She pulled the control ring off her head, and wiped it clean. "And now, I will."

"Ahem," said Winston.

Emily gave him a look so sharp it could've cracked stone. "I will."

Tracer didn't know what to say. She didn't know what she could say, not really, so she reached out her hand to Emily's, and tried anyway, saying, "I'm... I just don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you."

"Me either," said Emily, taking her wife's hand and squeezing it, briefly, "to either of you. Only I've been living with it since we got married. And I can't. Not anymore. And it's either stay, or go, and I'm not going anywhere. So..."

"So, then, we had better make sure nothing happens to any of us," said Widowmaker. "Kestrel, in particular," she added, most pointedly.

Still by the door, Winston wondered, as he was want to do with this collection of desperately wilful heroes, if he really had anything to say in the running of Overwatch after all. But - for an undertrained amateur - Kestrel's first outing had been surprisingly effective, particularly given the relative lack of co-ordination with the team as a whole, so... "So, uh, Kestrel, this suit... it's yours?"

Emily nodded. "Top to bottom. My design, a new variant on antigrav foil, I filed the patent forms a few months ago. It's still not efficient enough for cost-effective commercial use, but..."

"How long you been workin' on this, love?" asked Tracer, still in a bit of a daze, as the world shifted around her.

"A year and a half. Not seriously, not at first, but then you had that firefight in Milan, and..." She slumped a little. "I couldn't not work on it. It kept me together, you know?"

"And you couldn't tell me?" asked her teleporter.

"Or me?" asked her sniper.

"That..." she sighed, "At first, it wasn't serious, then it really, really was, and I thought if it was a fait accompli, it'd just happen, and we'd work the details out later." A wan smile. "Like we are. Right now."

"It's been that hard on you?" asked the kestrel's wife, softly.

"Yeah."

"I never knew."

Emily just nodded. "I've told you."

"I never really got it."

"I know."

"I'm sorry."

"I forgive you."

"So..."

...asked the Overwatch agent...

"...how'd it feel? Being out there, flying into combat?"

Emily hesitated, then beamed, eyes all at once bright with the memory. "Terrifying. And exhilarating. And wonderful. Actually being there, seeing you both in action, and being in action with you..." She shivered, and turned to the Widowmaker. "I finally get it now."

The former Talon assassin tilted her head, guessing at what she meant, but nodded, not saying a word, prompting her lover to say it, and she did.

"I've never felt more alive."

The spider grabbed her kestrel, pulled her close, and held her tight. "If that is how it makes you feel... you will be my air support until the end of time."

This wasn't how this particular ganging up was supposed to go, Tracer thought. "Uh," she said, "we were supposed to talk her out of this."

Kestrel laughed, softly, a couple of times, and Tracer recognised it, after a moment, as almost exactly the laugh which had been the Widowmaker's first real thought, those years ago, and while she wasn't the sort of person to recognise that in herself, she was entirely the sort of person to recognise it in other people, and she noted, not for the first time, how close "Amélie" and "Emily" were as names, and shook her head and did not let herself pursue that too far, because she was not, for all her faults, that kind of person, hyperawareness or no. So she simply said, "I... feel like I've heard that, before."

Emily put her forehead on Widowmaker's shoulder, then backtracked, "...wait. Was that a..."

Widowmaker nodded. "If we are to be peers, we should be peers."

Kestrel's gaze met the Widowmaker's, eyes widening. "I accept. Oh god, I accept."

"Wait, you... wait," as Tracer got it, "We're making it official? The three of us? Legal and everything?"

"Yes," said the Widowmaker and the Kestrel, together, then snorting at their own chorused response. "I did not know why I was not ready, until now," said the blue sniper. "And now, I know, and now, I am."

"Right!" said the teleporter, "uh, right! You're both mad, y'know that? But hooo, if this how it's gonna work? I'm on board!"

"I take it we should formally combine your quarters?" asked Winston, bemusedly. It wouldn't change anything on the actual ground, the three were already conjoined at the hips as far as he was concerned, with quarters adjacent and connected, ever since they Emily and Lena had fallen in with the former Talon assassin, and staying in the old apartment in London full-time had become far too great a security risk.

"Yeh," said Tracer, giving in. "Yeah. Yeah!"

"Well, I'm not going to stand in the way. And if it means a regular fourth for Christmas, I'm happy about that, too. Athena?" Winston asked the air, and the air responded, "Yes, Winston?"

"Please set up a complete - and I do mean complete - training regimen for a new flying field agent, Emily Oxton, call sign 'Kestrel.' You already have her prefix code in your roster" - he glared at Emily, saying that, and Tracer couldn't stop herself from snickering - "and the agent will provide you a comprehensive summary of her capabilities." He thought a moment, and added, "Also, set up a link with Pharah and Mercy, I'm going to want a consult whenever they're available." Turning to Emily, he continued, "If you're going to do this, you're going to do it right, and I will work you into the ground getting you trained up. So, are you sure? Are you ready?"

Emily gave Winston the broadest smile he'd ever seen, one arm around each of her lovers, and replied, "If Overwatch will have me?" She stood straight up and saluted. "Flying Agent Kestrel, reporting for duty. Sir."

Winston snorted, and returned the salute. "I'm not your CO, and we're not military. But I appreciate the thought."

Tracer shook her head, looking down at the ground, but smiling, and leaned against her wife. One of her wives, now. Or soon. "I'm gonna make you earn this, Em. Just so you know."

Widowmaker nodded her agreement. "I believe you said something about the practice range?"

Kestrel nodded determinedly, so flushed with relief - no more waiting alone, no more not knowing - that she could hardly think. But she knew how to work, and there is never a time like the present. "I did! Let's get this thing moving, already."

"Sounds like something I'd say," quipped the senior Agent Oxton to her cadet.

"Leave the wings," said the blue assassin, "and the armour. We are going to start at the beginning. Today," she hummed to herself, briefly, thinking the happiest of spidery thoughts, "today you start learning properly how to fight."

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-08-04 01:39 pm

It's not easy to explain, said Lena Oxton

Widowmaker brought herself in from the cold, one day, exchanging a list of Talon agents for sanctuary, and at first couldn't or wouldn't say why. Her first breakthrough in explaining herself came in a talk with Lena Oxton. Of all people, why her? Tracer tries to figure it out, talking about it with her wife, Emily, over breakfast.

This is not part of the On Overcoming the Fear of Spiders AU. It is... apparently the follow up to a standalone story in a timeline much closer to current known canon as of July 2017, but not including the Doomfist comic. It follows "It is not easy to explain, said the Widowmaker," and I think Emily might get one, too. No, that's a lie; I've already started writing it. Or rather, it's already writing itself. FINE THEN.


"It's not easy to explain," said Lena Oxton, and chewed a bit on her lower lip. "I don't even know what I'm trying to explain."

Emily Oxton - she'd taken Lena's name, something terribly old-fashioned, but she still had biological family, and Lena didn't - gripped her wife's hand at the little two-person table in their small London kitchen. "I don't know why," she said. "You care about her. You care about everybody."

"Heh," the teleporter snorted. "Not everybody."

"Just about everybody," said the aeronautics engineer, booping her wife on the nose. "Don't deny it."

Lena looked down at the remnants of her breakfast, picked up her fork, and smiled a little. "I guess I'll own up to that, but..."

"But it's her," said Emily. "The assassin. The one you couldn't stop. The murderer of Mondata."

"Yeah." Lena scowled, and scooped up the last of the beans with the last of the toast, and threw it into her mouth. She swallowed, and continued, "Why... why her? I thought... how can I forgive her that? Why would I forgive her that?" She stared down at her plate. "It's all complicated, and I'm not a complicated person, love. I don't get it and I don't like it."

Emily played around a bit with her bread, mopping up the runny egg yolk with the blackened toast, and smiled. "Why? Seriously?"

Lena tilted her head, as Emily downed the last of her egg, and swallowed, before continuing. "Because something happened to her that she had absolutely no control over and didn't ask for and didn't want, and it changed her even more than the Slipstream changed you. That's why."

Tracer dropped her fork.

"I thought it was obvious," giggled Emily. "Come on, sweet, is that really so hard?"

The Overwatch agent's gape turned into a look of adoration, and she laughed, softly, a couple of times, and had she had just a touch more self-awareness, she'd've recognised it as almost exactly the laugh which had been the Widowmaker's first real thought, but that wasn't the sort of person she was, so she didn't. She leaned forward, putting her forehead against her wife's. "How do you do that?"

"Oh," snorted the redhead, "like you're hard to read?"

Lena closed her eyes. "C'mon, love, I'm not that transparent."

"You are and you know it."

Lena leaned back, and waved her own objections away. "All right, all right..."

Emily refilled both their teacups. "But that's not what's eating at you." She put the pot back down. "It's the other bit."

Lena added sugar and cream, and stirred the mix together. Lena always took sugar and cream. Emily took neither. "Yeah. I... dunno. I dunno if I can deal with it."

"Which?" asked Emily, before taking a quick sip of her second cup. "Help her figure this out - or deal with her at all?"

"T'be honest, a bit a both. I hate her. Or... I did. But I don't. I..." Lena threw up her hands in exasperation, then rested her head on her palms.

"But you don't, now, do you." It was a statement.

"No," agreed Lena, sounding a little ashamed. "And I feel... like I should feel bad about that."

"Do you?"

"A little. I feel like I'm betraying Mondatta's memory. Like I, I, I've just decided I'm fine with all that? But I'm not. Even Zenyatta's not, no matter what he says, and he's a bloody Shambali monk."

"And meanwhile, you can't turn away."

"I can't. I ... I don't even want to. What's wrong with me?"

Emily reached over and took her partner's hands in her own. "Not a single, solitary thing. You're you, and this is the most you thing I can imagine." She stood a little and leaned forward and kissed her wife, gently, on the lips. "You'll help anybody if they want it. I think it's wonderful."

Lena closed her eyes and smiled through the kissing, and after they were done, said, "I love you, you know."

"I got the idea 'bout when we got married." Emily kissed her again, and booped her nose a second time.

Tracer flopped back on her chair dramatically, arms splayed as if knocked back, grinning for a moment. Then her serious expression returned as she leaned forward again. "But what can I do? Why'd she open up to me? I'm not a doc, or even a therapist - I'm a pilot. It's not like I'm some kind of expert."

Emily tipped back into her chair, in turn, and took another sip of her tea. "She's got experts already, though. Maybe what she wants is... I think I was going to say sympathy, but maybe it's not sympathy. The way she latched onto that character in that video game - maybe it's empathy. Maybe... maybe she's learning empathy again."

Tracer hunched down, thought about it hard, and slowly bobbed her head. "That kinda fits, yeah. She's like that game character in one way, who's like me in other ways, and I'm kinda like her... in... life-altering trauma?"

"So, show her empathy, then. Show her she's not alone."

"But she is. I wasn't built, not like her. Nobody else was, 'sfar as we know."

"Maybe not, but - she's latched on to you. Maybe it's the shared trauma. Maybe you're the closest she's got."

"It doesn't seem like much."

"When all you've had is nothing," Emily said, smiling wanly, "...a little can feel like a hell of a lot."

Tracer just hehed.

"She likes you. And you like her, too."

Tracer's frustration came out in her tone, if not her words. "...I guess I do." She put her hands over her head. "I'm a fool."

"I'm fine with that, you know." Emily smiled, taking Tracer's hands off of her head. "Who's the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who marries her?"

Lena laughed, weakly. "Oh god, love, what've I got myself into?"

"As long as it stops you from being in her literal sights? I don't care. I'll take it."

"Woah, what?"

"I'm not selfish, not really, but I'm selfish enough to want you alive more than anything else in the world. If this means there's one less assassin after you, I'm for it." She squeezed her wife's hands tight. "And I don't feel bad about it at all."

Emily leaned back in her chair. "She can even move in here if it'll help stop that."

Tracer laughed, this time, not weakly at all. "Like that'll happen."

Emily giggled. "I know, right?"

The two leaned over and kissed again. "I feel better," said Lena. "Thanks, love."

"Good, 'cause I have to get to work." She got up and grabbed her purse and bag. "See you tonight?"

"Can't wait."

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-07-20 01:33 pm

Old Soldiers

prelude
[2076, autumn]

"Why'd you do it, Gabe?"

"Do what?"

"Send those killers to her house."

"Lena, I don't know what you're talking about. Fill me in."

"Why'd you send those idiots after Gérard Lacroix?"

"I didn't! Hell, they weren't even field agents. It never should have happened. Not the way it did, anyway."

"Amélie doesn't know that."

"Amélie should know that, she has the logs. She just doesn't want to."

"Wot? Why not?"

"As long she doesn't know that, there's someone else alive to blame."

"That's shite, Gabriel."

"Is it?"

"It is, and you know it. She blames herself. Always has."

"'Course she does, girl. But she also blames me. I was head of Blackwatch, so she's kinda got a point."

The younger assassin just grunted, a "huh" sort of sound.

"Trust me here, having someone else to blame? It helps."

Venom thought about that, for a moment, sizing up Gabriel Reyes through anger-narrowed eyes.

"I'm not so sure it does."

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-07-20 01:34 am

an online timeline

I've been maintaining an offline official timeline of canon for On Overcoming the Fear of Spiders and all the in-universe stories written seperately and collected in intersections in the web of time, and now that I'm making some headway on Old Soldiers, I thought I'd format and post the thing.

It's pretty big. It includes a fair number of things that happened in Fear of Spiders that did not make it into the manuscript or any following story, and also contains a couple of first-chapter background-info spoilers for the new story. So if you're allergic to that sort of thing, don't read it. If you're not, you might find some new background you might enjoy.

Official timeline of the Fear of Spiders Overwatch AU
[solarbird at Archive of Our Own]
solarbird: (tracer)
2017-07-17 07:43 am

It is not easy to explain, said the Widowmaker

This is not part of the on overcoming the fear of spiders continuity; Lena Oxton is Tracer, not Venom. It is a standalone story, in an AU which is still pretty much canon-compliant as of July 2017. It would be set in late 2077 or early 2078, in universe. [AO3 link]


"It is not easy to explain," said the Widowmaker, looking frustrated, fixated on her game screen and sitting next to Hana Song, who of course had her own pro rig and client.

Widowmaker had said that, not Amélie, and it was very important not to get that wrong. The Widowmaker didn't like it, and if Amélie had an opinion - or was in there at all - she never spoke up.

The blue assassin was playing a shooter game, but not as a sniper - as a melee character, high DPS, fast - not entirely unlike Tracer. She always played the same character. Tracer wasn't sure what that meant; Angela told her not to read too much into it, but she knew that Lena tended to think of it as a good sign anyway. It's still shooting people, but it's shooting people in a different way, and Lena couldn't help but feel a little flattered that if the spider was emulating anyone, it was her.

"I exist," the spider continued, as her character on screen ran across open field between buildings towards some sort of objective. "I am here. I exist by right of existence. I do not wish not to exist." Realising that - she knew, herself - had been a big step for her, one she had managed on her own, one taken before she escaped from her controllers with a surprisingly complete list of Talon embedded agents to exchange for her sanctuary.

"And Talon didn't agree with that, did they." Tracer replied.

"No. I was supposed to be an asset, not a person."

"And Angela doesn't entirely either, does she." It was a statement, not a question.

Widowmaker glanced briefly at Tracer, just with her eyes, just a little surprised, before her focus snapped back to the game. "No. She still thinks I am some folded-up version of her former friend. I am not."

The spider saw that Tracer nodded her agreement. Of all the people here, she thought, only Tracer seems to understand even this much. Perhaps it was the younger woman's experience as a ghost, after the Slipstream accident. Perhaps it was being an Omnic War orphan. Perhaps it was just her nature. The spider didn't know.

Tracer watched the two women game, but really watched Widowmaker think. She's close to something, I can feel it, she thought to herself.

"Is this why you won't let Angela undo any of Talon's work?" Widowmaker had adamantly refused any attempt to reverse any of the physical changes Talon had made, though she tolerated anything she could decide qualified as an "improvement." That included giving her control over her own emotional dampers. Handling that was still a learning process.

"Yes," replied the blue assassin. "I am me. I am not that other woman, even if she was the source for some of my parts. I cannot be her. I do not want to be her."

"I get that, luv," said the Londoner. That part didn't matter to Lena. It was easier, for her, if Amélie was dead, if she was gone, and buried, and this was Widowmaker, another person entirely, just happened to look a lot alike. "Y'know, personally, I like the blue," she said. Makes it easier, she thought.

"You may be the only one, myself aside," replied the spider.

"Hey, n00b," Hana said, "Cover your flank or you're gonna get p0wned."

"Thank you," Widowmaker replied, sweeping left, hitting far more than she missed. D-pad instead of mouse or rifle, she was built for aim.

"Nice shot! For a game controller. You should level up to a real interface."

"Perhaps never," said the assassin.

"Okay," replied the gamer, "don't listen to the professional."

"...point taken," replied the blue woman, as the round ended, with scores D.va 100, bad guys 12, Widowmaker 10.

"I'm outta D.ritos. Want anything?"

"No thank you."

"Just ate, luv, but thanks."

"Be right back!" she said, as she jumped backwards over her chair and headed out to the hallway.

Widowmaker leaned against the rec room's couch, watching the game's idle screen. "I like the character I am playing, more than the game itself. I think that is not too unusual, no?"

"Sure!" Lena answered, encouragingly. "That's why there are fan sites and hangouts and stuff. What do you like about her?"

"This character I play," Widowmaker gestured to the screen, "within the confines of the game, she is a person, like me - no, that is wrong, she is not like me, except in that she was... constructed. It is part of her story. Built, for a purpose. As I was, by Talon."

Built, thought Tracer. "Like Omnics, you mean?"

Widowmaker shook her head, no. "I have thought about it, but I think not. Neither of us are robotic, I do not think it is the same, and I cannot really ask our occasionally resident Shambali master to be sure..."

"Yeaaaaaaaaah," agreed the younger woman. "Probably never."

"I have been told that he says he does not carry a grudge, but I can tell that he carries a grudge, and I do not even blame him." She paused for a moment. "I am far more surprised that you talk to me than that he does not."

Lena bit her upper lip for a moment. "T'be honest, I am too."

Widowmaker hummed a little, a note that signalled her acknowledgment of the situation. "Why do you?"

Lena tilted her head back and forth a little. "...I dunno. That night in King's Row was the second worst of my life. I felt so angry and so betrayed, and I'd've done anything to undo it, but I couldn't. And you couldn't even tell me why."

"I did not know," she replied. "Or care. The question, it struck me as so unimportant, so silly. It was the first time I'd ever laughed. It may have been my first real, unprogrammed... thought."

"I didn't know that," said the Overwatch agent. Her first thought was... laughter? Wow. "But it hurt, then. Still does, a little. Less, now that I know you really aren't Amélie."

"My emotional range is still limited, but... I think I am sad about that."

"Maybe that's why, then. Maybe I can tell. Maybe that's why... somehow, here I am."

The eyes of the woman who had been made from Amélie Lacroix narrowed in thought at those words.

"Winston was built, too, genetically," said Tracer, changing back the subject and realising as she said it that it didn't fit. "But that's really not the same either, innit? He still grew up. You didn't. I think I get it, you just... came online, all at once, didn't you? 'Here I am, ready to kill.'"

The spider's gold eyes flashed to Tracer, but not in anger, as was so usually the case with that look. "Yes," she said, grabbing Tracer's hands. "Yes. I had a purpose, already. And then I had more purpose, that fit with it. No doubts, no hesitation, just purpose. Do you actually understand?"

Lena's heartbeat jumped as the spider grasped her hands, but she didn't let herself flinch, at least not more than with surprise. She touched me, she thought, intentionally. Woah! "I," she gathered her thoughts, "I think I do. I mean, not emotionally, right? I grew up too, and looked for somethin' to do with my life. But... in my head, I kinda get it. A little. You're not there, and then you are, all at once. And you already know why. That's, that's, that's, a kind of perfect, innit? It's..." she groped for the right words, "...flawless."

"Yes," she said, squeezing Lena's hands tightly. "For a reason, and with a purpose, and she," she gestured to her head to the screen, "is like that, and also biological, also for a reason, also for a purpose."

Lena put the rest of the pieces together. "...and nobody else in the whole world is."

The Widowmaker pulled Tracer against her, suddenly, roughly, and put her head on the Overwatch agent's shoulder. Lena could hear the spider breathing and found herself dazed, wrapping her arms around the assassin before she even knew what she was doing, asking only as she did it, softly, "...is this okay? Do you want a hug? 'Cause I can stop..."

"...no. I think I do."

She is so lonely, thought the former test pilot. And she don't even know it. Maybe that's why I don't mind this. She held the cool blue woman carefully in her arms. "Did you lose it, somehow? Your purpose?"

The spider did not say anything.

"Did you stop believing in it? Was that it?"

"It was... I could not stop... thinking. I was perfect, and whole, and content, and I brought exquisite deaths, and then I... and then I laughed, and I was not perfect, and not whole, and not content, and I could not fix it."

"And you miss that purity of purpose."

"So much."

"Would you go back to it?"

"I cannot."

Tracer nodded, and hugged a little tighter, as she said, "Because it's part of being a person. That's why you're here, innit?"

Widowmaker lifted her head from Lena's shoulder, looked her in the eyes, and whispered, "You do know."

Lena Oxton met the spider's gaze, and was not afraid. "This much, yeh. I do."

The spider laughed, just a little. Another thought, all her own. "May I hug you again, later?"

Tracer surprised herself by nodding agreement at once. What am I doing? She... she's who she is. She's built to kill. I can't ignore that. "'Course you can."

"Thank you," she said, and went ahead and did it right then, as well.

I can't ignore what she is, but maybe, Tracer thought, as Hana burst back into the room with grotesque amounts of junk food, ...maybe I can learn to live with it.

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-06-27 12:13 pm

November 2074

"Unfinished Business with the Group Captain"

  • Graphic Depictions Of Violence
  • Major Character Death

Lena "Venom" Oxton made Winston a promise, one Winston did not like. But Lena Oxton keeps her promises.

This is part of the on overcoming the fear of spiders Overwatch AU continuity, and the linked novella should be read first, both for spoiler avoidance and for context.

In the north of England - November 2074 )
solarbird: (tracer)
2017-06-24 09:04 pm

Spring of 2077

So... huh. I guess this happened. It's small and very lightweight but here it is. ^_^

This is part of the on overcoming the fear of spiders continuity, and takes place before the end of that story. You should read that story first, for context.

Spring of 2077 - Nepal )
solarbird: (tracer)
2017-06-11 01:46 pm

2075

[The twenty-ninth instalment]

[London. MI6. November.]

Video from the Humanity First strike in Naples rolled on the large screen, as the analyst section scribbled notes. Key sections were framed and elements highlighted from the incident which took place the week before.

"Now, until this moment, in minute 44," said the presenter, "the attack appeared to be going as we think they'd planned. They were moving through the arcade, here, in a sweep formation, when their progress forward suddenly fell out of good order. You can see the confusion, particularly these two figures, reacting to... something. We don't know what. Local police rapidly found themselves doing cleanup duty."

"A good thing, too, with the payload they were carrying," said the head of the table. "This sort of sudden breakdown - is it just me, or is it becoming a pattern?"

"The best kind of pattern to my mind, ma'am," said the woman in front of the large display.

"Yes, but only if we know why. Do we?"

"Generally? No. In this case, we think they lost comms, and fell out of sync. But we've no idea why that would've happened. And they certainly won't be telling us."

At the far end of the table, the less annoying American analyst flipped through photograph after photograph. She'd seen something, in a still photo. What was it, she thought, what was it, something faint...

More photos and video, now from minute 44, as the room discussed comms failures, a discussion she largely ignored. It's in here, somewhere, I saw it... there. What am I seeing here? She wasn't even sure herself.

"Excuse me, but... could we have item 59 from minute 43 on the large screen?" she asked, breaking into the room's conversation.

The collection of specialists present looked over, "Sorry, Agent...?" The presenter fished for the American's name, but she couldn't bring it up. "Um... certainly. Minute 43, item 59... here..." she put it on the large screen. "It's... the side of a building."

"How far in can we zoom on that second window from the left?"

The image enlarged to show the entire window frame.

"Lower half, please? Contrast enhance, gamut expansion?"

The presenter flicked controls. "Now... oh! Now I see... what the hell? Is that... someone's... back and head?"

"Someone aiming a rifle, looks like," said the tactics desk. "Someone not in our accounting."

"Is that colour correct?" asked her second. "Verify against reference." The tint shifted, brickwork used as a standard, and the Talon desk erupted in shouts as the presenter continued, oblivious to the noise, "That's... is that hair? Is it blue?"

"That, that, that that can't be her," the Talon desk second broke in, as the lead followed with, "We need that photograph and every picture of that window, and we need it right now. Do we have the other side of the building?"

"Someone verify the colour of the glass in that pane. Get someone out there to look at it, in person, we need a hard reference."

"Who is she shooting? Can we get any kind of interpolation on that?"

Systems brought up a three-dimensional rendering of the scene at that moment, and added a series of possible locations for the new actor, and possible targets, based on the one image obtained.

A small square device with a collection of protrusions hung off a nearby rooftop, at minute 41, visible, and intact, and at minute 46, visible, and destroyed.

"That," said electronics, "would be a tactical comms relay. Probably one of two. We should look for a second."

"What bet it's also smashed?" asked the tactics desk, excitedly.

As the room as a whole proceeded to tear through every photo and video segment with renewed intensity, the two reps from the Talon desk just stared at each other. "My god," said the lead. "What else did we miss? What the hell have we found? "

[Naples, a week earlier]

Kate checked her position and counted heads. Everyone who's supposed to be here, is here, in place. This'll show those fucking species-traitors. "Ready one!" she shouted, as as her team ducked behind columns and walls, and she pressed the outer ring detonator. Her team braced, ready for the impact of the explosions.

Nothing happened.

She pressed it again. Nothing continued to happen. No. No. Goddammit, Len screwed up the detonators.

"Ozzy, round one bad! Fire round two!"

"Len and Charla aren't out yet!"

"DO IT OR THIS WHOLE THING FAILS. DO IT, NOW!"

"Give them five more seconds!"

Kate would've shot Ozzy, and frankly wanted to, but he was too far away to make up the lost time. "DO IT OR I WILL SHOOT YOU MYSELF," she shouted anyway, aiming her pistol.

Ozzy was on comms, trying to raise Charla. "Shut up, I'm trying to ... god dammit! Now comms are out?!"

"NOW! THEY'RE MOVING ON US! DAMM YOU TO HELL, NOW!"

Ozzy swore, and thought, sorry, guys, and pressed the second ring detonator.

Nothing happened, a third time.

"DO IT!" shouted the team leader, enraged.

Ozzy pressed the trigger again, and again, useless. "I AM! IT ISN'T WORKING!"

Kate shrieked. It's those damned Aussies, they sold us shit goods, she thought. Shouting again, "Ozzy, try to keep the team moving forward, get the fourth ring set up. I'm going back to the second, try to reset the charges. Blow them in two minutes whether I'm here or not!"

"God speed!" shouted Ozzy.

Kate retreated around the corner back out of the arcade. Three steps out of sight of the rest of her team, there was a flash of light, a single round of automatic fire, a second flash, and she was gone.

They found some blood, a bit of flesh - more than enough DNA to identify the team leader - but they never found her body.

[Alicudi, six months earlier]

"Woah, what a mess," Lena said, looking at the latest eruption of violence - this time, in Korea.

"I know," Amélie said sadly, "Even acting as quickly as we can, everywhere we can, we can only do so much."

"You know we could step in more often," said the junior assassin.

"Certainly, in retrospect," agreed the senior assassin. "It's not so simple, in the moment."

"C'mon, love, maybe for most people," Venom countered. "Not for us."

"But that's not the difficult part," insisted the Widowmaker. "Getting there, creating a plan, executing it in real time - that is not so easy."

"Sure. We can't always act. But when we can, I want to try."

Amélie smiled. "You want to become a sort of... International Rescue, but of assassins?"

Lena laughed at the thought, and said, "Aye aye!" enthusiastically.

"But it will not change history," said the assassin, reluctantly, "at least, not often, if ever. Not as we've always measured it."

"It'll save lives," said her apprentice. "Isn't that enough?"

"Lives that do not change history," insisted the spider.

"Lives nonetheless," said her lover. "Besides, fewer deaths mean fewer relatives vowing revenge and voting for demagogues. It's got to help."

"At the margins, perhaps," the spider calculated. "It is a risk. Each time, a possibly fatal risk. Stepping in improvisationally to complex situations with live fire is not a step to be taken lightly."

"I'm good at risk," retorted the test pilot. "Won't be a problem if we're careful."

After a year and a half together, Amélie Lacroix had learned when Lena Oxton's mind was made up, and turned to face the inevitable. "You're going to do this whether I help or not, aren't you?"

The inevitable replied, "I'd much rather not have to decide 'bout that, love."

"I have two counter-conditions," said the woman of blue.

The pilot smiled. She'd won, and knew it. "Name 'em."

"First, our primary mission is always paramount. Nothing may affect or endanger that."

Well, that's easy, Oxton thought. "Goes without saying," she said. "Didn't even consider it on the table..."

"Second," the spider had started, when Lena interrupted. "No, no, love, wait. I need to make that clear: I will not risk this project. I just won't. I might argue..."

"...might and have done..." noted Amélie.

"...yeh, and likely will again. But once it's sorted? Never. I swear."

Amélie smiled, relieved in spite of herself, and reached out to touch her her partner's face, gently. "I did not think you would, but I do not leave such things unstated. Particularly not with you."

"Fair enough," Lena answered, warmly, nuzzling Widowmaker's hand, and taking it into her own. How did I get so lucky as to fall into you? she asked herself, as she did every time they fought. "Hoo. What else?"

"Second, we move only if I think it is safe and practical. I will not endanger our organisation, or myself, or you." In this, she was an anchored stone, an unmovable object.

Venom laughed again, playing the river, splashing around the rock. "I'm never in danger, love."

Widowmaker gave her a most sharply pointed look. "We are always in danger, ma chérie - do not forget that."

"Sorry, sweet," she said in reply. "Not the time to be flippant." A small surrender, wrapped in affection. "I don't forget."

"Then that is all," said the Widowmaker, lightly, relaxing. "It is acceptable?"

"More than that," said Venom. "It's a deal."

solarbird: (Default)
2017-06-09 09:57 am

some months later

[the twenty-eighth instalment]

"I see you've been racking up quite the kill list," said Winston, a second and a half before.

Venom frowned. "Ah, c'mon, luv, do we have to talk about work?"

"It's just a job to you, now?" asked the scientist on the moon.

"No," replied the assassin, "but we're just gonna have another fight." The last one had been a real row; they hadn't talked for a month, and Winston seemed intent on picking up where they'd left off. "Let's not do that again."

Winston shook his head, no. "I'm sorry, Lena, but - fifteen kills in five months?"

"Only twelve," Lena retorted. "Six by us, six by other agents, some of which never made the news. Anyone else wasn't us at all."

"Six, then," he conceded. Like that isn't enough.

Fine, she thought. Let's not pretend. "Yep! All good ones. Clean. Fast. Sharp. We've never been tighter, and it's exhilarating." She put on her best wicked smile, the one she knew sent a bit of a shiver down Winston's spine. "Each one moved the war another step back. We might not be getting ahead of that curve, but we're doin' the best we can. No regrets here."

"All on Amélie's word," he said, stiffly. "Just whatever's in her head."

"Nah," said Venom. "It's not that simple, mate. Even she doesn't trust herself that much. There's a consensus system - won't describe it, sorry, secret - and a lot of deep analytics. And..."

"Just please tell me Katus Varga wasn't one of yours," he broke in, expecting the worst. "Please tell me you aren't starting into world leaders, are you?"

Venom blinked at the unexpected question. "It's got bad enough we might have to. And I wouldn't hesitate, if that's what was needed. But... if it makes you feel any better, Katus Varga? That wasn't us."

"With her politics and that M.O.?" he asked, "It screamed Talon."

"Really! Not us." She affirmed, holding up her hands. "See? All clean. We think it was domestic. Someone who wanted to make it look like us."

"I'm a little surprised," he said. Also a little relieved, he thought. Something about the timing had felt almost sadistic, and for all Widowmaker and Talon were, they did not appear to be sadists. He did not want to see them becoming such.

"We were looking at taking out her Omnics advisor, though. Lower profile, more actual impact."

"I... don't know who you mean, offhand..." the scientist said, punching up a search on the panel to his right.

"Sándor Farkas. An academic - I think he's a crackpot, really - with some wicked nasty supremacist ideas. Also, daily access to power. He needed to go."

"Mmm," said the gorilla, having pulled him - and his troubling history - up on his own displays.

"But not her. She was too popular! Whoever did it created a martyr. Made things worse. If we find them, we will kill them."

"For killing her?" he questioned distractedly, still reading.

"For making it look like we killed her," she explained.

"Ah," he said, glancing sideways as her while reading.

"Don't like imitators in this business, luv. Can't have it."

"I see," Winston said, unhappily. "Business."

An uncomfortable nothing was said for several seconds.

Venom decided to break the silence. "We were in Naples the other day."

Winston scowled. "Taking advantage of the attack?"

"C'mon, luv," said Lena. "That's mean."

"What, then?" asked the scientist.

Lena Oxton rocked back and forth in her chair. "Can't talk about what, exactly. Not even with you. But..." she struggled with it, trying to figure out how much she could but should not say, "go give what happened a good look-over. Carefully. Watch all of it, but... focus about... 40 minutes in. Or so."

Winston hunched forward, just a little. "Ten minutes before the police suddenly cleared them all out?"

"'Bout that," agreed Venom.

"...what did you do?" he asked.

"Didn't say we did anything," said the assassin. "Can't. But..." the assassin tilted her head left and right with a tight little mostly-repressed smile, "give it a careful look. You're good at thinking, so... think about it."

"I seem to recall they had a lot of explosives they did use, didn't they," he proffered.

"Explosives... " Venom tilted her head, pointedly, "that didn't explode. There's a difference."

"Yes," agreed the scientist. "There most certainly is."

"Funny how that happened, innit?" she asked, "subtle" not being her middle name.

"Perhaps even strange," said the gorilla.

"Plans like that, they're goin' wrong a lot lately," she said, looking at her fingernails, then back at her friend.

"Are they?" he asked.

"Sure looks like it."

"Fascinating," said the scientist, remembering a promise made months before.

"Not sayin' anything past that, big guy. Maybe I'm guessing. Maybe they're just gettin' sloppy."

He nodded, understanding - not the specifics, not yet, but most certainly the message. "Maybe they are."

With a small sly smile let free, Venom said, "It's a funny old world, innit?"

A moment passed, a somewhat less uncomfortable silence, before Winston nodded again, this time, in agreement. "That," he said, "it truly is."

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-06-03 10:03 am

A few days after "Un ballet d'enchevêtrement quantique, en deux parties," the first half

"aaaaAaAAAaAAAAA NO" Lena shot upwards, blurring blue and red, teleporting right and up, across the room, almost into the wall, knocking over a lamp which crashed to the floor before she even knew she'd done any of it.

Amélie, startled in her sleep, leapt out of bed and had her rifle out and scoped before she, too, could fully awaken. But after a moment, she calmed herself, and looked to Lena, climbing down from her terror. She put the Widow's Kiss aside and calmly walked over to her partner. "You're here, ma chérie, not in the airplane, not on fire, you're with me, not in the airplane, not on fire, you're with me..."

Lena's gaze darted randomly, until she locked onto Amélie, eyes still wide, still hyperventilating.

Amélie put her arms around her beloved. "Now, I have you..."

Breathe, Lena thought, breathe, as her lover took embraced her. Breathe. This can't happen. Breathe. What can't happen? Breathe. She put her head on Amélie's shoulder. That felt right. Breathe. She put her arms around Amélie, pressing against her, that too felt right, and wonderful, breathe, like it felt when... what? Like it felt when what?

Amélie knew these nights well. They were not common, not exactly, but came often enough to have a routine. Doctor Mariani had, at Amélie's insistence, examined her beloved three times now; she'd assured her there was no physical issue either with her or her web, said that while she was not a psychiatrist, it looked to her like classic trauma reaction.

But the spider was not so sure. Something poked at her mind, something vibrated the web, just a little, like an echo of something large, long ago, or something yet to come, far away. "You're with me, you are not on fire, I have you, you are safe, it is over," she kept repeating. It always seemed to help.

"This. Can't. Happen." Venom said, quietly.

Amélie tilted her head, confused. This was new. "What cannot happen?" she asked. "Should I... should I not be doing this? Should I let go?"

"NO!" shouted Lena. Breathe. "No. Hold me. Never let go. But..." What can't happen?

She almost has something, Amélie thought. Something different. Not more of the empty echoes of things that never were. Something more. Perhaps. She held her lover tightly against her, manoeuvring them both back over to the bed, and stroking her hair.

Venom slumped. It was gone. Breathe. Whatever it was, it was gone. "Damn. I... I almost had it, that time. I think. I thought."

"You said," Amélie prompted, "'this cannot happen' ... no, that's not quite right, it's 'This. Can't. Happen.' with little pauses, like that." Amélie thought she could almost smell the scent of burning jet fuel. "The Slipstream disintegrating around you, again?"

Lena shook her head, negatively. "No. Well... not really. But sort of. That, too." And not for the first time, she did not need to say. Breathe. "But... no. The order's wrong, it's back to front. Something else."

"Could it have been triggered by the mission?" she spider worried. "Your first night out, we were successful, but it was new and explosive..."

Lena laughed. "Nah, love. That was great." She smiled, genuinely, the fear and dread quickly dispelling. "Ho, that's funny," she said, relief in her voice. "Just thinking about it, I feel better." Hugging her partner close, as the last of the terror slipped away, she continued, "...yeah. I think about being on mission with you, working together, and it's - the dread, I mean - it's just gone."

Amélie closed her eyes for a moment, and thought, if there is a god, I thank them for that. Opening her eyes, she asked, "You are sure?"

Lena nodded, eyes clear, if all too awake for the middle of the night. "fffft," she said, "I'm not complicated, love. I know how I feel. I'm sure." She looked at the clock. "Great. 3am. I've ruined both our sleeps. I'm sorry."

"Do not let it concern you, I am just glad you are feeling better." She squeezed her partner tightly, and they crawled back under the covers.

"I wish we were back on Alicudi," Lena said, wistfully, curled up with her blue lover. "I'd go listen to the waves 'til I got sleepy again."

"I know," Amélie sighed. " I miss it as well. I would come with you. We could stay out all night and fall asleep under the stars, as far as I am concerned." She frowned. "Sombra's fake listing was a little too inviting."

Lena chuckled. "Booked through August. She thinks the whole thing's hilarious."

"Of course she does," Amélie said, crossly.

"'Look! We have real vacation reviews! Ooh, they're very good!'" Venom liked the hacker, but her sense of humour could be inconvenient at times. There really was no need for registration functionality. Not that actually worked.

"At least tourist season will be over soon," Amélie said, resignedly.

"She wants a commission, y'know."

"Fine. I will charge it back to her later," said the spider. "Perhaps, 'inconvenience fees.'"

Lena laughed. "Nice."

"Roll over," Amélie said. "I'll rub your back until you fall asleep."

"...does that work?" asked the younger assassin, obeying.

The elder assassin nodded, though her partner could not see her do so. "Every time."