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: (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)
2017-07-26 10:52 pm

Old Soldiers, Chapter 2: she'd thought she was okay

Fuck me. What was I thinking? Venom thought, throwing up the throttle on her aircraft. How'd I ever think this could work? Why can't that bastard just stay dead?

A couple of years of therapy and liberal use of the web spread across and through her brain had helped. She didn't wake up screaming any more, at least, not often. But the rage - the rage that still laced through her being like the chronal accelerator which kept her in place in time - hadn't gone anywhere.

I should've known. I shoulda known, she thought, as her craft jumped high towards suborbital space. The old guard had to start showing up. Just bloody had to. And ruin everything.

She'd thought she was okay with Reyes's return. She liked the Angelino, and they needed a strategy expert. Amélie was not exactly thrilled, but then, she wasn't the liaison, and she wasn't going to break the project over it. But this, she thought, this... no. No more. We find him, we kill him, we fix it.

Her thoughts had mostly turned to a stream of comfortingly creative swear words by the time her ship's comms board lit up, with Amélie and Winston both, trying to make contact. She took Amélie's signal at once.

"Cherie, are you..."

"Jack Morrison is alive."

"I've been talking with Winston. I know."

"He doesn't get to stay that way."

The spider hummed a little; Lena could see in her mind the little smile that went with it, and it calmed her just a bit. "I think I agree," the spider said. "Winston does not, yet, but that is not important. Regardless, there are times and places and ways to consider. Please return to base. We should plan."

"Don't worry, sweetie - I'm not flyin' off to Mexico half-cocked. I'm already a third of the way home."

"Good." A moment passed. "I have missed you these last few days."

"I've missed you too, love. How was Calgary?" Calgary, and a minor target. Normally, beneath Talon's radar, but something twigged in the spider's web, and so, off she'd gone.

"Magnificent," replied the spider, warmly. "Not the town, of course, it is provincial in all of the worst ways. But the shot," she continued, voice liquid, "ahh, that was exquisite. I missed you all the more for it."

Venom smiled and relaxed a little more at the tone of her lover's voice. Reunion sex was always good sex, but reunion sex after a kill that made her spider's voice do that? Magnifique, as she would say. "J'ai hâte de t'embrasser encore."

"Très bien, mon bien-aimé," the blue woman replied. "Ton accent s'améliore."

"J'ai étudié beaucoup."

"Ça se voit. C'est merveilleux et je t'aime."

Lena flipped briefly to autopilot, closed her eyes, and breathed. "You're calming me down on purpose, aren't you?"

"Of course. But nothing you've said was wrong. Not even in French."

The younger assassin laughed a little, nodded, then laughed a little more at herself - nods don't make sounds. "Merci." She opened her eyes again, and took the little ship back off automatic. "Love you. Be home soon."

"I'll be waiting. Widowmaker out."

"Venom out."

Winston's hail still blinked on the comms pad. Hoo, do I wanna take this? she asked herself. It took a moment. ...yeh, I need to. She punched the acknowledge signal. "Tracer here. Sorry 'bout that, big guy. Got myself into a bit of a race."

On the other side of the signal, Winston slumped in his chair, relieved. He looked over at Angela and Gabriel though the office window, and motioned for them to come in. "It's okay, Lena."

"Nah, it's really not," replied the pilot. "I should've reined myself in, and I didn't. No excuses here, I've got the tools, I didn't use them, it's my fault. I'll do better next time, promise." Gabriel nodded a small silent approval, hearing that.

"Where are you?" asked the Lunar Ambassador.

"Sorry, luv. But nowhere you'd mind."

Heading home, then, he thought. Good. "Our new friend has some more information for you. I'll put it in the expected place."

"Righto, thanks."

"Talk to me later?"

"Will do. Tracer out."

"Winston out."

"Well," Gabriel said, "at least she owned up to it. That's something."

Winston and Angela both glared at the former Blackwatch lead, but it was Angela who spoke first. "Do. Not. Dare."

Gabriel raised his arms in a shrug. "Hey, I'm not the one who charged out of a staff meeting just because..."

"No," said the doctor. "Do not. This isn't your Overwatch either."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, doc, this isn't a power play..."

"I know you, Gabriel. Yes, it is."

"No, it's... really not," he insisted. "I'm not a senior officer anymore. I'm done with that."

"Then don't act like one," replied Dr. Ziegler. "You are not her CO, and you are not her father."

"She was already on edge about letting the old guard in at all, other than Angela," Winston said, quietly. "She bought in with you, because she likes you, and she respects you - but I'm the one who really wanted you onboard."

"But Winston, she can't do things like that, not in her position. I'm not a senior officer here, but she is."

"Then tell her that, to her face," said Angela. "Not to us, behind hers. You may say she's a senior officer, but you are not acting like you believe it..." She frowned. "This is not the old Overwatch. Do not bring in its baggage."

Gabriel slowly nodded, and his eyes narrowed. "...damn, doc, you're good. This'll take some serious getting used to, won't it?"

Mercy smiled and let herself look a little smug. "At least you owned up to it."

Gabriel laughed, something he rarely let himself do in the old days, and said, "I deserved that," and the tension drained from the room. "My CO is half my age," he said, rubbing his eyes. "I must be getting old."

Angela chuckled. "She's not really your CO."

"No, but you can't take the Army out of a man. Let me think of her like that for a little while, it'll help."

"As long as it's old Army, and not old Overwatch," insisted Ziegler.

"It is," answered Gabriel, chuckling, and shaking out his arms. "I feel like a First Lieutenant again, showing up, screwing up, getting my ass in trouble... Ana would have a field day if she ever heard me say that."

"Let's not bring up any more unpleasant stories right now," said the doctor.

"Agreed," said Winston, bringing the Morrison dossier up on his displays. "We have enough old soldiers to deal with already."

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)
2017-06-07 08:00 pm

February 2075

"None of these are nice people," said Widowmaker.

"Goes without sayin', don't it?" said Lena, popping a bit of handmade picture candy into her mouth, flavoured hard candies with an image running throughout, looking like little round slices of pomegranate, pips and all, made entirely by pulling sugar. "These came out great, love. I thought you couldn't cook."

Amélie raised an eyebrow and smiled. "I have some talents beyond shooting people. But this is confectionary, not cooking, it is different."

"How's that then?"

"Because I am French and know better than English barbarians about food."

Venom laughed. "Oh, right. Of course."

"But - yes, that these are bad people does go without saying. Still, moreso, even than usual, these are not good people." She threw Venom a file from her padd. "Here is a dossier on everyone I expect to attend - you should memorise it."

"Gotcha." Venom slid aside news of the latest anti-Omnic violence in North America - and the latest retaliation from Null Sector - to flip through the pages she'd just received. "Huh... Most of these... they're just ordinary criminals. Bad ones, but just criminals."

"Yes," Widowmaker agreed. "They are suppliers and sellers, not movers of history. They are without ideals," she frowned. "But we need to deal with them, occasionally, and that means dealing with their, um... muscle? Yes. Muscle. Bodyguards. I had to make an example of one, a few years ago."

"That's too bad."

The elder assassin shrugged. "Yes, I'm sure he was an adorable child with a mother, once."

Venom laughed. "And probably killed her."

"I do not have room to talk," said Amélie, pointedly. "But I do not wish to make any further examples. Bringing you, I hope, will help make that less likely."

"Really?" asked Tracer, wondering if Amélie could make these candies with maltose. Chocolate's great, but variety's good too. "Why?"

Widowmaker smiled. "Your reputation in certain circles precedes you."

Venom licked her lips. "Fantastic."

"But behave," said the blue assassin. "I'm bringing you to prevent problems, not cause them."

"'Course, love," said the teleporting assassin, cockily. "Don't I always?"

"Honestly?" asked the spider.

"Never but," said the striped assassin.

"Yes," the blue woman smiled, "You do."

"Aw," the younger assassin pouted, "You're no fun today."

"Should I start lying to you, then?" asked Amélie, amusement in her voice.

"Fiiiiiiine," Venom said, with greatly exaggerated exasperation, "I'll be good."

-----

Widowmaker touched her comm. "McCree, from Widowmaker. Do we have an all clear?"

Over comms, the cowboy replied, "Widowmaker, McCree - I hear ya. All clear. C'mon down whenever when you're ready."

"McCree, thank you. We'll keep you looped in, but otherwise, we'll take over from here. Switching to monitor mode."

"McCree switching to radio silence and out."

The meeting had been scheduled for a large conference room on the second floor of a older, nondescript, and otherwise-empty metal building in Caracas, hosted by a trusted neutral party specialising in such arrangements. "Why are these things always in warehouses?" Venom asked, as she landed their stealthed light flyer on a rooftop two blocks away.

"Because warehouses are boring," replied Widowmaker. "Clients rotate in and out of light industrial facilities like these constantly, as companies build and fail, and so strangers are not..."

Venom broke in, "Rhetorical, love," as she unstrapped from the pilot's seat.

"Ah, of course," the spider said, opening the side hatch. "I will punish you later."

"Ooooh, goodie," said Venom.

"Behave."

"Yeh, yeh."

The two assassins executed their own secondary recon of the facility before approaching, and a second facilities check before entering. "Looks clean," said Venom, from atop a building on one block; her partner agreed, from atop a building the block opposite, and they fell in together.

Most of the expected buyers and sellers had arrived already, a few early, some just entering from the lower level as the Talon pair entered from the balcony entrance above. Widowmaker spotted the Menger Group's muscle as soon as she walked in, but not Javier Menger himself. She leaned to Venom as the two descended the stairwell and said, "Menger Group, on the opposite wall, but no Javier. I am concerned. He does not miss these meetings."

Venom nodded affirmatively, a subtle gesture. Texans, she remembered from the dossier. SIG Sauer specialists and neo-fundamentalist survivalists. "One of the muscle has a much better suit than in the photos," she said quietly to Widowmaker. "Something's changed."

Widowmaker agreed. "Caleb. I've seen him - and his bodyguard - before. Javier kept them both on tight reins."

As the senior assassin side-eyed that new suit, Caleb caught her glance and bristled. "I see you brought your new guard dog," he called from across the room, a bit of extra sneer in his heavy Texan accent. "She better be well-trained."

The room instantly grew very quiet. Other groups subtly edged away from the Menger representatives.

Oh, thought the spider, how tiring. The new boss feels he must establish himself, and has chosen me. "Javier, are you here?" she called, scanning the room for the older Menger. "Is this the kind of help you've resorted to hiring these days?"

"Javier's out," said Caleb. "You aren't dealing with the old man anymore. I'm running the show now."

"That is unfortunate," said the Widowmaker, wondering how recently it'd happened. Enculer, she thought. Bizarre religion or not, he would keep his promises. Aloud, she continued, "Javier was reliable, and often pleasant. I will hope his successors decide to continue that tradition."

"That right?" said the woman with him, Haley, the bodyguard, possibly a new lieutenant, judging from the swagger. "We all thought it was time for some fresh blood. People who won't let themselves get led 'round by a pretty blue face."

The Widowmaker frowned.

Turning to Venom, Haley gazed down at the much smaller woman. "But we ain't the only fresh blood, are we? Careful, little bitch," she mocked, "don't want to get hurt playin' with the big dogs." She pronounced it like "dawgs."

They do not deserve artistic deaths, thought the Widowmaker. But examples must sometimes be made.

"Venom?" asked Widowmaker.

"Yes, love?" asked Venom.

"Sting." said Widowmaker.

"Yes, love." said Venom.

She never even appeared to move. There was a flash of light, which was actually three, and what sounded like a single shot, but was actually two. Both offenders dropped to the ground, dead, individual bullets placed precisely into the centres of their forebrains.

Instant, perfect death. Not as elegant as some, perhaps, but strong lines, and good design, a clean, modernist improvisation. Widowmaker approved. "Nicely done."

Shouts of shock echoed around the room as the bodies hit the floor, not all of those dead. Venom smiled, sweetly, and looked up to her spider. "Anyone else, love?"

"Thank you, no," said the Widowmaker. "I think that should do." She turned her gaze slowly across the room. "Unless, of course, anyone else has additional commentary to bring to the conversation?"

The room became quiet, and still.

"Then shall we get to the tasks at hand?" asked the Widowmaker. Looking past the table, she said, "I'm sure our hosts can handle the mess, can't you?"

A couple of agents in matching grey suits nodded. "Just waiting for your permission to move, ma'am," said the smarter of them.

Widowmaker chuckled. "Excellent. Please do." Turning back to the room, she said, "Why don't we get down to business?"

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."

solarbird: justice rains on your face (pharah)
2017-05-31 09:25 am

tracer, NO.

(I just found out that some people call Winston "Furious Georg")
solarbird: (tracer)
2017-05-30 10:23 pm

the next day

The first thing Winston said, upon seeing Lena appear on his screen, was, "So, you're part of the Talon team, now. I can't say I'm happy to hear it."

Lena let out a little "heh," before answering, "It's that obvious?"

"Seriously? After London? Yes. It is. I presumed explaining that was what prompted getting me and Widow... me and Amélie to talk, yesterday."

"Yeh," Lena nodded. "I wanted you to know - really know - that she wasn't..." she waved her hands around, "whatever you thought she was. An automaton. A mind-controlled slave. Whatever," she shrugged. "And neither am I. I need to be somewhere I can make a difference. This is what I've got; I'm takin' it."

The scientist on screen nodded, three seconds later. In a thoughtful tone, he replied, "I think I believe her now. In some ways, it's harder to accept than the old neural reconditioning story. I never would have imagined who she really was, back then. The same, I guess," he added, "goes for Gérard."

Lena nodded. "She's real, all right. She always has been. And Talon is doing something, Winston, when nobody else is, not really." She beamed, despite everything. "The girlfriend part, well - that's a bonus!"

"Theoretical goals - and girlfriend - aside, they're doing things in ways I can't support."

"I know," she accepted. "I think I can help them. I think I can improve them. Maybe make Talon something you could support. I do have unique access to the top, after all."

Winston frowned. "I don't see that ever happening."

"Don't count me out, luv," she said, with her half-grin. "I've budged you on Amélie, I doubt you saw that one coming."

She had a point, and even if he didn't want to admit it, his body language did. So he huffed, and said, "You should've radioed me more often. I have some access to resources. Angela could've tried to get you out."

"I couldn't get up in the air. Or, I guess, I mean, I couldn't get isolated enough. Once I started noticing the surveillance, I started seeing it everywhere."

"It couldn't've been that bad," he grumbled.

"It was that bad. I think. They'd been grinding me down for a while, it's hard to be sure. And I wasn't gonna let myself get searched. Any chance they'd take the retrieval beacon was..." she shuddered. "No. I couldn't risk that."

"You didn't seem to have a hard time contacting me from on top of Big Ben, maybe something like that could've..."

She smirked - Elizabeth Tower, you twit, she thought, somewhat crossly - but let it slide. "Sure! When I had my grapple. I couldn't bring that back from the dead with me, now could I?" She bent over and pulled the kit up off its shelf, holding it before the camera and smiling. "Have it back now, though." She slapped it onto her left forearm, all form-fitting black and violet. "Secure. Super light. It matches hers, I like that." She twisted her wrist, completely unimpeded. "Feels nice."

"Still," he insisted, "you should've gone back to Brighton, at least, or..."

"No." Anger flashed into her eyes, hard and quick, a line crossed. "You don't understand. They'd done me in, big guy - I was falling apart."

"But Lena..."

"No. You want to know how I spent Thursday - Thursday last? I spent Thursday last in bed. I couldn't. even. get. out. of. bed," she said, hands in angry fists. "Brighton? Seriously? "

"Lena, I..."

"NO," she demanded, "I can take anything but nothing, turns out. There, now you know too, everybody else does, why not you? They figured that out. They figured it out, and my own Forces used it against me. Then when they'd tipped me over, they brought me in and brought down the hammer, hoping to finish me, and I am not fucking kidding when I say it was either bring in the cavalry or blow up their fucking building, mate, and it was a fucking close call."

"I've never seen you like this, ever," he said, taken aback, "Lena, what's..."

"Aren't you even listening!?" Lena shouted at her friend, rising and slamming her hands down onto the table. "She saved me, Winston. Twice now. Not you, not Overwatch, not the RAF, she did. She caught me when I was falling, both times, not..." Lena vibrated in place, blue and red, and stripes shining through her clothes. "No. No. No," she said, to herself. She put her fists together, at her waist, and closed her eyes, and sat. "Breathe. Breathe. Breathe." she repeated, as the colours faded.

After a couple of minutes of long, silent, deep breaths, she opened her eyes again. "I'm... really sorry about that, big guy. That wasn't just misdirected, that was wrong. I'm not..." breathe "mad at you. At all. You've always been there as best you could," breathe "and without you, Amélie couldn't've brought me back." Another breath. "I had no business saying what I did just now, none at all, and I'm sorry for it..." breathe "I just get so angry, so quickly, right now." Another long, deep breath. "Amélie's trying to help me with it. I'm back to Shambali-school meditation, too." Another breath. "It's always helped me get things worked out. Helped get me under control."

Winston just stared, sadly, and then, carefully, leaned back forward, and said, "I... I didn't understand how badly they'd hurt you. I shouldn't've pushed. I'm sorry too."

The teleporter nodded, and breathed. "Not your fault, luv. They'd've had my psych profiles, Forces and Overwatch both. They," she breathed, "they probably put a team on it. Must've focused right in."

"I didn't think they'd do that," he quietly said.

A little bit of an experienced smile. "Neither did I, luv." A deep breath, and she closed her eyes again. "Guess I was a bit naive."

"I'm sorry."

She exhaled, long and slow, and shook her head, blinking her eyes open. There, she thought. Centred. Much better. "I will kill them for it, someday," she said, cheerfully matter-of-fact.

"I'm sorry for that, too."

"I'm not!" she said, almost brightly. "I'm not that naive, luv. I'm not the first person they've done this to."

"...almost certainly not."

"You know, right? That neural reconditioning you talk about, with Amélie?"

"...yes."

"That they have it."

"...yes."

"That they've used it?"

"...I know."

"Then," she rocked back and forth in her chair, idly, "I guess we understand each other."

He nodded. "I suppose we do."

"Will you still be my friend, though?" she asked, a little hopeful, a little plaintive, a little afraid.

"Always," said Winston, firmly.

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-05-27 08:44 am

twenty seconds into the future

A violet sphere of energy burst overhead, and most of the nearby lights went out. Two sniper shots, muffled, but audible to a practised ear, came in rapid succession. A short burst of less-muffled machine gun fire - and then a small armoured ship appeared from overhead, dropping hard and fast to low hover. The large hatch on the side blew open; from inside, a masked figure shouted in a machine-like tone, "GET OVER HERE."

Lena ran. Ran, and dove, reacting, not thinking, onto the platform, and it raised, carrying her with it. As she tumbled to the deck, the masked figure said, "Trafalgar Square?! Points for style, but are you insane?" now with a distinctly Hispanic accent.

"It was either that or blow up Fleet House, mate. I thought this would be better."

"I'm not so sure."

"I could still change my mind."

"Get in the crash chair, we're moving quickly."

Widowmaker appeared at the opposite hatch shouting, "GO, GO, GO," slammed its close button, and dove into a second crash chair as the ship shot forward, horizontally, low, and vanished from sight over a partially darkened Old London.

"Fourteen... thirteen..."

The ship shot west, tilting upwards, pulling four Gs for 12 straight seconds, as it just cleared buildings.

"That... was fast..." said Lena from her crash chair as the retrieval ship broke towards the Channel.

"We've been keeping an eye on you," said Sombra, with some effort, from the pilot's seat.

"Several," said Widowmaker, somehow effortlessly. "No one escapes from my sight. But... Trafalgar? Êtes-vous une folle? Why?"

"I... I'm not even sure. I think I wanted to give 'em the two-finger salute. I wanted them to know."

"Well," Amélie admitted with a mix of amusement and irritation, "they certainly know now."

"Four minutes thirty seconds to international airspace," said Sombra, from the pilot's seat. "33 seconds to cloak recharge."

"I didn't expect you to bring in a bloody troop carrier. How are we not shot down?"

Sombra mocked, "World's greatest intelligence agency! Spycraft is in our blood! And they still rely on CCTV. Pathetic - they won't even be sure you're gone until we're too far away to care." As gravity returned to normal, she turned and tossed the semi-prone Lena a seemingly-random collection of electronics. "Much better. Here, a present for you."

"What are they?"

"CCTV relays, a couple of encoders - it's all stuff they were using to track you tonight. Junk, really." A chime from the console. "Cloak reactivated. 15 seconds, changing course."

"So you knew," said Lena, looking towards, but a little past, Amélie.

"We watched them watching you," said the spider, looking back, "and I anticipated, and made contingency plans. I did not know, until they took you in. I'd hoped, if you came back out, that you'd go out of town to summon us - not go as far into town as possible." She checked the tactical board visible on the wall from her crash chair, and to Sombra, said, "No one is painting us. I don't think we need to use the backup boosters." From the pilot seat, Sombra agreed. "Boosters on hot standby."

Lena's focus moved further out again. "They one-thirty-foured me. And they took my license. Amélie," she said, distantly, as the adrenaline surge faded. "They took my wings."

Amélie reached across the lengthening gap, and took Lena's hand. "That, I did not know. So that is why... all this." She scowled. "I know what it meant to you. I am displeased, but much more than that, I am sorry."

"I told you they were bastards," Sombra chimed in. "10 seconds to full cloak charge..."

"Tactical board still clear. At recloak, bring us down to noise level and evade; we should be able to demicloak the rest of our way out."

"Cloaked... dropping... we're in the muck. Stealthed."

"Thank you," said Widowmaker. But she stayed in her crash chair, counting seconds. Three minutes to international airspace. "Once we hit the channel, deploy the decoy east and drop below Mach 1 - let's take the long way home."

"Got it."

-----

"I want to kill him," the now-signless pilot said, awake again, fury seeping from every syllable. "I get it now. I want to kill him."

"I understand," said the spider, carefully. But it is unnecessary, she thought.

Tracer - no, not Tracer, she'd need a new name - paced around the small cabin, as the ship flew quiet and low over the north equatorial Atlantic, moving slowly towards normal traffic lanes, just another surplus straggler finding its way back to its place.

"I want to kill him," the pilot repeated. "With my own hands. I want it to be close, I want it to be personal, I want him to know why."

"I am hearing you," the assassin said again, soothingly. "I am listening; tell me. Tell me all of it."

The former Flight Officer raged, "They knew I was back. They knew who I was the whole time, toying with me, trolling me even, I see it now. They were watching me since I showed up at the consulate and they cut me off and they moved my friends and threatened the one they didn't and they bled me 'till I almost gave up and died and then they took me and they put me in a box and told me to go do nothing and be nowhere and they took my wings and they took my life and they treated it like some kind of favour and now I want to take them and show them what kind of favour it was."

"I believe you, and I hear you. Keep going."

"Why?!" the flyer shouted, "What else is there? The box, the glass room, it was a bomb chamber, I get it now, I didn't get it at time, they were ready for me to explode, or they were ready to blow me up, I don't even know which, they'd planned it since I reappeared, I am so angry and feel so sick..." Pain and anger radiated from her body, so clearly the assassin could almost see it, as she slammed her fists down onto the flattened crash chair, now a bench, and then sat, face in her hands. "Why?! Why would they do that?"

If she did not want to kill them, I would..., thought the spider, struggling to keep her own emotions controlled. No, she realised, I do want to kill them. Not for history. For her. "I will tear through them until not one is left standing, if that is what you truly need," she said, voice quick with her own unexpected cold fury.

Lena looked up, face wet, and the blue woman thought, She has had no one, for weeks. "I have missed you," she couldn't not continue, aloud, reaching out her hand, "more than I could have possibly imagined. May I sit with you?"

Lena grabbed Amélie and pulled the taller woman down beside her, sobbing as the dam broke, digging into Amélie's shoulder and gasping for air, just holding her, so tightly, "i've missed you so much, it's hurt so much "

"I stayed away," Amélie said thickly, through her own new tears. "I didn't want to, but I did, until you called. It's what you said you wanted." She pulled the smaller woman closer against her, holding on tight in return. "Please say it's what you wanted. Please, please, or I will burst, I..."

"It was..." Lena managed slowly, though shuddering breaths that she fought to control, "...I thought I needed..." another heaving breath, "oh god, Amélie, I was so wrong..."

"Everyone," said the blue woman, finding herself suddenly, confusingly happy, "is wrong. Sometimes. But you are not, for me. Not ever."

"Don't let go. Never let me go again."

Not unless you want me to, the spider thought. Only then. But that is not what you need right now. And the most rational part of her mind raced, I need you with a whole heart, but I need that heart to be whole, and it is tearing...

And then, with the clarity of stars in a deep black sky, she knew.

"Pilot," she said softly, "would you fly us home?"

Lena gasped, eyes instantly wide open. "..."

"Sombra needs a break, she has not slept, and we are not too far away now. Are you cleared on this kind of craft? Could you take us home?"

A final heaving sob out of Pilot Oxton, and then she sniffed and laughed amidst the crying, and for the first time in what felt like years a smile peeked through the tears falling like rain. "uh," she sniffed, and swallowed, "B, uh, B-10M class, right?" She looked around. "Yeah. I can fly her. If... if Sombra doesn't mind..."

"Sombra needs a nap," came a voice from the flight deck. The hacker, being no fool, had already put the ship on autopilot, and stood by the empty flight chair, smirking and motioning towards the empty seat. Lena stepped up to that chair, and looked back to Amélie. "Stay with me? It's been a while."

"Always."

Lena sat down, put on the flight headset, and grasped the pilot's yoke. "Yeah," she said. "Let's go home."

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-05-26 09:11 am

The day after, and the day after that

"I think it's time," said the Brigadier. "She seems ready."

"I agree," said the Group Captain, "she should be pliable enough, now. Let's bring her in tomorrow."

MI5, Fleet House, London.

Two surprisingly fit but otherwise almost aggressively ordinary-looking people escorted Lena Oxton towards an almost aggressively ordinary-looking private office with venetian-blinded glass walls in a room surrounded on three sides by other surprisingly fit but otherwise aggressively ordinary-looking people at aggressively ordinary-looking desks.

If Pure Gym had a security division, she thought, as she was not quite shoved, but quite briskly moved through the short glass hallway to her destination, this would be it. Crikey, those are thick walls - I'm in real trouble now.

"I'm a British subject, you can't do this. I've got rights." she said to the man at the desk, after the agents dropped her into a chair and exited the room. The man actuated a control, and the blinds closed, leaving them alone. He tapped at the nameplate on his desk - Group Captain Aubrey Henderson - and said, "Salute your superior, flying officer, or I'll have you for insubordination."

Flying Officer Oxton's heart leapt and she snapped to attention and saluted. "Sir! My apologies, sir."

"Much better," said the G/C. "At ease."

"Thank you, sir!" She burst out, too rapidly, "I've been trying to get someone to listen to me for weeks, and I've had a lot of nothing back for it. You're the first person who's even acknowledged who I am! I, I, I, didn't realise I'd been reactivated!" She beamed. At last, she thought, I've got through! "Sir!" She almost saluted again.

The older man glared, and she toned it down immediately. "I know," he grumbled. "We've been following you since you contacted the consulate in Pretoria. Sit." He motioned Oxton back to her seat, and sat down behind his desk. "Quite frankly, some of us have been hoping you'd just give up and go away, back to... wherever you came from."

"...sir?" said the Flying Officer, uncertainty replacing happiness on her face, as Imogen's words spooled through her memory. "I've been missing for..."

"I know the story," he interrupted. "You've told it about half a dozen times at this point, in full, I think?"

"...yes, sir. Before people stopped letting me in. Sir."

"It hasn't improved."

Not knowing what to say, Lena said nothing.

"Look at it from our standpoint," said the Omnic War veteran. "You die in a fighter test flight, killed over Greece. We retire you, with honours. We investigate, we find out your whole organisation was a horror, ridded with... funds abuse, embezzlement, questionable human experimentation, out-and-out war crimes, and even worse. And so, we put it away." He tapped the top of his cold, metal desk. "I put it away."

Oh no, thought Tracer. "Yes, sir."

"And now, two years after we finally had it all sorted, and the press have moved on and the public have started to forget and forgive, one of the few people not implicated shows back up, out of nowhere, outside our consulate building in South Africa, with a story not even a schoolboy would believe - the prodigal daughter returns, and starts poking her nose where it isn't wanted and no longer belongs."

"Sir?"

"What do you expect us to think? What do you expect us to do with you?"

"Sorry, sir," she said, with just a hint too much insubordination, "I thought the military might want to know one of their missing officers was alive."

Cute, he thought. "It was that ape, wasn't it. Somehow, he brought you back. From the moon." He shook his head - it still sounded foolish aloud. "I can't blame him for that - you were friends. But I can blame him for whatever he's built into you."

Lena froze. I haven't been near a military examination room, how did they know? What else do they know? She swallowed. "...sir?"

"You're a not a terrible liar, pilot, but you're not a good one either. Bioluminescent tattoos isn't the worst line..."

"Regulation-compliant within Overwatch, sir, nothing visible in uniform," she interjected, before he sternly continued "...but it's still a line. You're six kinds of wired up, and we know it."

Shite, she thought, scrambling for some way to salvage the story, "Sir, Winston had nothing to do..." That's not better, think before you talk, Oxton!

"I'll pretend you didn't say that," he said, "because the alternatives are far worse. For you."

"...sir." she said, outright afraid now. He's called me F/O, I must have some standing, I can use that, I have rights. "Has my commission been reopened, sir?"

"Not formally," the G/C replied, "which is why you're not in the brig for desertion, first, and more severe charges, later." He sighed, and leaned back off the top of his desk. "I don't think you're a villain, flight officer. The problem is - none of us really know what you are. I've brought you in to offer you a way out. I'm offering you a deal - and I promise you, it was the very best one I could make."

"A deal, sir?" she said, quietly, stalling for time and thinking quickly, I can live without the service, she thought. I can live with that. I can still do good work. There are plenty of other opportunities for a good pilot. Médecins Sans Frontières, maybe, they can always use...

He picked a padd off his desk, and tossed it towards her to catch. "Approve this. We reopen your commission and close it, this time as a medical discharge. We give you five years' back salary - more than enough to get you on your feet. You go away, again, get a job, and and live a quiet life somewhere. You don't talk to the press; you don't write a book; you don't do video; you're Lena Oxton, ex-RAF, not Lena "Tracer" Oxton of Overwatch." He gestured towards the PADD. "Section IV invokes the Official Secrets Act - whether you agree or not."

Tracer shuddered at that, and it took a forceful act of will not to teleport out of the building. "You're one-thirty-fouring my life, sir?"

"No, not your life. Just Overwatch, and Tracer."

"Sir!" the pilot spat out, "This is unfair. This is wrong. You can't do this. Sir."

"Move out of London - preferably, somewhere unimportant - within a week. After that, never get within five kilometres of a military or intelligence base, unless specifically recalled, ever again."

That's a big no-fly zone, she thought. "That'll limit my opportunities as a working pilot, sir."

"Your license terminated with your death, Flying Officer, and you're not getting it back. You've been on every no-fly list in the world since you landed at Heathrow; you are grounded. Most likely, for good."

Horror flashed across Lena Oxton's face, and she bolted up from the chair. "Sir! No, sir! You can't do that to me, sir!"

He barked the words, every syllable a body blow, staccato against her frame, "I can and I have, and if you have any sense at all, your next action will be to sit back down, and your next words will be 'Yes sir, I accept, sir.'"

Lena stopped herself - barely - from screaming at the Group Captain, composed herself as best she could, sat, and managed, shakily, "...but flying... being a pilot... it's all I ever wanted. Sir."

Group Captain Henderson let his expression, and his voice, soften a bit. He remembered that feeling - love of the air, the altitude, the endless sky, the pure speed. "I know."

Flying Officer Oxton straightened a bit, and stood her ground. "I've done nothing wrong. Sir. Except die in an experimental vehicle that exploded around me. It wasn't my fault, I'm pretty sure the record shows that, and I don't see why I should lose my license over it. Sir."

"Your record does show that," he agreed, almost kindly, "and, if you agree, it will continue to do so." Then, with a harder edge, "But if you didn't think we'd find out about that device you have embedded inside you, you underestimated us badly."

Keep it together, Tracer, keep that trim tight, she thought. "I, I..." The jig's up now, but... "I need it. It keeps me from sliding back out of time. Sir."

Thank god, thought the Group Captain, exhaling slowly, she said it. "Good. You admit you know. I'd hoped you finally would." It means if you behave, we might actually honour this agreement,, he did not add aloud. "But we don't know what else it does, and the only way to know, for sure, would be to take you apart, all the way down, and study what was left. The only reason we haven't done that already is that you tried so very hard to get our attention."

"Sir." This can't be happening, she thought.

"Would you rather we changed our minds about that, Ms. Oxton?"

"...no," she said, bitterly, "Sir."

The Group Captain nodded. "Then accept the agreement, and you walk out of here a civilian, and intact. We'll be keeping an eye on you, of course, but stay quiet, let people continue to forget all of this, don't do anything stupid, and we'll leave you alone." The older man - older than Ana, probably older even than Reinhardt - leaned forward, with as much compassion as he could push into his blunt, once-chiseled face, and said, "Just walk away, Oxton. This really was the best I could get you. Walk away, and go live your life."

Lena Oxton sat in the chair, suddenly feeling strangely calm, separate, isolated. This is the second time since the explosion I haven't really had a choice, she thought, as she reached out her hand and pressed her thumb against the acceptance screen. I like it this time much less.

Former Flying Officer Lena "[Redacted]" Oxton left the MI5 building for the first and last time. Money instantly appeared in a bank account, a fair and reasonable sum. Ms. Oxton checked that account, took a little bit out in cash at an access point, and treated herself to a lavish dinner, which tasted like nothing, then box seats at a show at the Palace Theatre, which left her utterly unmoved.

Then she walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, around Old London, past Piccadilly and past St. James and past Westminster and along the Thames and across and past the Tate and past the ruins of the London Bridge and back across the river and past St. Paul's and then she didn't even notice anymore, until hours later, at 3am, when she found herself in the middle of a deserted Trafalgar Square, carrying a worn satchel popular in South Africa some ten years before, with the remnants of her flight suit, her burnt Overwatch identity card, a fake of her old passport, and a change of clothes, old, but serviceable, from a Lutzberg charity shop.

There, standing between the fountains, from a small, round, metal box, she extracted a smaller, round device. Clicking its power cell into place, she held the beacon tightly against her chest, depressed the second button, the one on the top, until it beeped, twice...

...and waited.

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-05-24 08:44 am

Lena, in London. Day 30.

"Hey, doc!" The pilot waved her arms, and shouted across the square. "Angela!"

"Lena!" The doctor waved back in response, and walked quickly through the thin crowd. "It... it really is you. You look almost exactly the same."

"So do you!" The two women hugged, close. "Gor blimey, doc, it's been so long. You're the first person from the old team I've actually seen in person since Greece. How's Fareeha?"

Angela hugged the pilot again, and whispered into her ear, "I am certainly being surveilled, we should get to my office at the embassy" before leaning back, taking Tracer's shoulders in her hands as if everything were perfectly ordinary. "On a mission, like always. But we're both very well, thank you. I'll be back home with her again in a few days." She showed a decorated gold band on her ring finger. "It's our second anniversary."

"Oooh, nice," said Tracer, looking closely at the interweaved inlays, the halo and the hawk. "Very nice. I'm not surprised, though - you two weren't exactly subtle." She scrounged her pockets for cash. "Let me grab something from the takeaway and we can head over to your place. You don't mind, do you?"

"Of course not! I have the entire afternoon, go ahead." She gestured to the order window. "So tell me, how is life back in London?"

Tracer frowned, and ordered a vindaloo and joined the short queue for pickup. "I'm not alive yet," she said flatly. "Still trying to get that sorted."

"Still?" asked the doctor, confusedly.

"Yah, that's why I'm doing everything in cash. It's like being a tourist in my own home town. Still living in hostels, couldn't get work if I tried, it's just every-day all-day throw myself at another corner of military bureaucracy."

"That sounds terrible. Have you tried the civilian authorities?"

"Yeh, I gave up and submitted a bunch of forms earlier today. But if I could get the bleedin' forces to pay attention, I wouldn't have to. I'm an officer! This shouldn't be so difficult."

"Surely some sort of official status is better than none," said Angela.

"Not too sure about that, luv." Tracer's curry arrived, and she grabbed it, a couple of napkins, and her tea. Turning to go, she confessed, "Honestly, outside flying, outside Overwatch... I'm starting to wonder if I ever even had a life."

-----

"Sorry if this messes up any of your tests," said the pilot, putting away the last of her second lunch. "But I was ravenous. Happens a lot these days."

"Well, I won't be able to tell you much about cholesterol levels or blood sugar, but that's not exactly why we're here, is it? You look quite fit."

Lena just smiled, happy to be looking at anyone she recognised. "Bloody hell, it's good to see someone I know. Even if you were always just 'the doc.'"

Dr. Ziegler smiled professionally back. "Before you say anything else - anything else - authorise this." She offered the pilot a padd, with forms.

"What is it?"

"It confirms that I'm your doctor. Doctor-patient confidentiality is core to my organisation and we're prepared to defend it. I assure you, whatever I see or record, it will not go to the British - or Swiss - governments. We are on Swiss soil, and I am notoriously prickly."

"Brilliant." Tracer keyed her acceptance. The form even looked like an Overwatch document. It felt like being back at old home, and her heart ached a moment for it.

"And this document," the doctor changed pages, "is not standard. But it authorises me to share your data with Winston. He has legal standing with us in ways he does not in Britain." Tracer approved again.

"Now, we may talk freely. But clothing off, please. Let's get you looked over."

Lena threw her shirt and trousers off, onto the chair, revealing the intricate pattern of bands of light, blue or red or white, flowing across her body, from upper right shoulder to lower left leg.

Angela was visibly taken aback. "Gott in Himmel. It's beautiful. You are living art."

"Clever, innit? I can control how it looks," she said, and faded it to a series of thin lines across her skin. "But I wanted to show off."

"This is what it takes to keep you in time, then?"

"S-," ..ombra, she almost said, but did not quite, "Since I got pulled back, yah. There was an earlier version that just belted on, but it wasn't stable. I kept," she shuddered, a little, remembering the feeling, "trying to phase back out of time."

"One broken strap from vanishing? That does not sound like a good solution, no," offered Angela.

"I'd've lost the plot in a month from stress and lack of showers. Can't lose this, though - it's part of me." She ran the traces through a cycle of soft, calming blues. It reminded her of No, she thought to herself, leave it. "I tell people it's bioluminescent tattoo. The latest thing, in Greece! Everybody wants them now."

"I understand why." Dr. Ziegler selected a pair of scanners. "With your permission?"

Lena hesitated. "You sure this place isn't bugged?"

The doctor smiled, and nodded. "Quite sure."

-----

"Good morning, Winston," said the doctor, a week later.

"Angela," he said pleasantly, sipping at a cup of tea, one and a half seconds ago. "How are you this fine morning?"

"Quite well, thank you. I'm in Egypt; Fareeha's just off to work. I'm ready to transmit the data, if you're set up to receive it."

"Go ahead," said the scientist.

"Sending," she said, pressing confirm.

"How was she, in person?" he asked, as the progress metre slowly climbed.

"Physically well. She's in fantastic aerobic condition. She has some new scarring - in my opinion, almost certainly burns from the explosion. She lost a toe, and broke several bones, but I see nothing to worry about. On the whole, she had to have been remarkably lucky."

"But is she still herself, to you?"

"As far as I can tell, she is. But while were perfectly friendly, before - professional friends, yes? - I didn't know her like you did. I would miss subtleties." She looked thoughtful. "Even so... even to me, she seems very lonely."

Winston nodded, sadly. "I can't even imagine what she's been going through. If I could just get down there..."

"I think that would be good, if only it could be done." The doctor paused a moment, collecting her thoughts. "But to the larger question..."

"Don't say it."

Mercy smiled, as close to wickedly as she ever came, "the ten thousand pound gorilla in the room..."

"For the last time, Angela - I am not ten thousand pounds!" he huffed.

Angela giggled, the Swiss equivalent of a guffaw, and continued, "...the hardware itself. It's extraordinary. The shielding is perfect, and where it cannot be shielded, it is too fine for nondestructive deep scans. I could get nowhere with it."

"Damn," said the ape. "So we still don't even know what it does."

"Not so," she gestured with her left hand, "we know it's a chronal accelerator. Of that, I am sure. We just don't know what else it might do."

He put more sugar in his tea. "Like mind control."

The doctor drew in a deep breath. "No, I don't think so. The brain interfacing is all motor cortex and reflex. It's meticulous work - it had to have been grown into place - and the guiding was magnificent." She highlighted some of the interface points, and at each level further down, the integration became, if anything, more complete. "It is truly a part of her, as much as any other part of her body."

"Huh." Winston peered at data sets as the first files completed upload. "Like your nanites?"

"A different approach, but if anything," said Mercy, "moreso. Whoever did this - it's not new to them. They've been doing this. They have practice."

"You could replace someone's whole brain with these techniques, couldn't you," he said, grimly.

"Certainly. But you can also do that in a chair with a combination of drugs, conditioning, and high-precision electromagnetic fields, and not leave so much evidence." She leaned forward on her elbows, towards the screen. "I know what you're thinking. Amélie had nothing like this in her brain. Whatever has been done to your friend Lena - I think her mind is still her own."

"With respect, doctor, you thought that about Amélie. We all did."

Dr. Ziegler nodded, resolutely. "I still do."

solarbird: (tracer)
2017-05-23 10:10 am

Two and a half weeks after Lena Oxton arrives in London

"Heya, Winston!"

"Lena! It's been weeks - it's so good to see you," he replied, with a three second delay. "Are you okay? At least you're on the ground this time - where are you?"

"Brighton! Can't you hear - oh, I've got background noise filtering turned on, let me fix that." And the sound of the ocean appeared around her in Winston's feed. "It's cold, but I'm on the beach. Look!" She aimed the camera to the sea.

"It's March and it's not even raining! How about that," came Winston's voice, clearly, over the small speaker. "Is Amélie there? Or any of her friends? "

"Nope!" she chirped, turning the transmitter back around and walking with it. "It's just me, all by myself, kicking around old haunts."

"You're... out, then?"

"Yep. Entirely on me own, footloose and fancy free, walking the earth - or at least this beach - with no way to be found. Nobody even knows who or where I am - except you, I s'pose."

She didn't mention the retrieval beacon in her bag.

"I'm staying a couple of nights in a hostel, a few blocks in. It's cheap! And nice. But mostly, cheap."

"Off-season like this, I'd hope so." The scientist discreetly zoomed his viewscreen and scrolled around, looking for anything out of place in the background. Nothing obvious. "So... Talon just let you leave."

"Sure did. Helped me arrange my story and flew me out."

He leaned forward, and said, conspiratorially and low, "You haven't assassinated anyone yet, have you?"

Tracer laughed. "Only because I can't catch a shuttle to the moon, y'big ape. Which way do you want to go - pummellings or too much peanut butter?"

"Oh, peanut butter, definitely." He put on his best, big, toothy grin, which he let drop to a more genuine smile as a small popup window confirmed, Signal origin: south coast of England (probability 93%), Brighton Beach (probability 77%). "They really just... let you go."

"Yep. I said I needed to go find my old life, and Amélie made it happen." She bit her lower lip. "It's like she even agreed."

"Are you... alive again? Legally, I mean? Do you have money? Did they re-activate your commission?" Location probabilities climbed as more signal data arrived, and Winston dismissed the window. Good enough, he thought.

The smile Lena had been keeping propped up fell. "I'm... still working on that. After they cleared me at the consulate and helped me hitch onto a cargo flight home, I thought it would be easy. I kind of thought I'd be snapped up at Heathrow for debriefing, really. But... I wasn't. I just can't seem to get anybody's attention."

The pilot sat down on the top of a breakwater, propped up the transmitter, picked up a rock, and threw the latter towards the waves. "It's like I'm some kind of ghost."

"That's very strange," he granted. "Overwatch has been out of the news for a couple of years now, but - take it from me - the governments are still keeping tabs on everyone."

"Yeh. But it's fine, honestly!" It wasn't fine, but she managed to mean it through sheer sunny determination nonetheless. She turned back to the camera. "I've got enough money to live on for weeks - a few months, if I'm careful. So I thought, well, I just need to get out of London, right? Take a few days by the ocean, get some of that sea air. Get my head cleared up."

Partial retina image capture, said another, discreet popup. Image quality acceptable. Match probability 96%, margin of error +/-35%. "That accelerator they built you - how's it holding up?" He pursed his lips and shook his head. "I wish they'd used mine," he grumbled.

"Oh, it's absolutely wizard! Once I got the swing of it? Natural as breathing. I'll show you some time, I promise!"

Far away under the surface of the moon, in the research station now again his home, Winston the scientist studied Tracer's face for any hint, any sign, of the kind of programming he believed had been implanted into Amélie Lacroix. Face and voice analytics ran over and through every frame of vision and every millisecond of audio, searching for some hint, some breath of change, and found nothing.

Of course, they'd found nothing with Amélie either. But they'd had less reason to look.

I need someone actually there, he decided. "Lena, would you let me tell Angela you're back, and safe? I'd feel better if she checked you over herself. In person."

The pilot nodded enthusiastically, throwing another stone into the sea. "Let's! I'll be back to it on Monday, trying to get someone to listen to me. It'd be great to have someone from the old crew around to chat." She picked up a little stick of driftwood, and poked at more beach rocks, turning them over, seeing what was underneath. Generally, that meant more rocks. "To be honest, it's been kind of lonely. Funny, innit? Me? Lonely?"

"Haven't you looked up any old friends?"

"Oh, I've looked 'em up all right. It's a military life, though - most everybody I can find's been all moved 'round. Katarina's back in Norway, my graduating class have completely dispersed - a lot of 'em are in Greece, but I don't have the money to fly anywhere. The only one I found still in London was Imogen."

"That's too bad. I'd transfer you some money, if I could. But at least you found her."

"Yeah..." she said, sadly.

"uh oh."

Adequate data received to begin deep analysis, said the popup. Winston deactivated additional notifications.

"It was..." She looked for other words to describe it, and came up with nothing better than, "...it was weird, big guy. We were great friends in flight school, and we kept in touch when I jumped to Overwatch. And now, I'm... I'm literally back from the dead, least as far as she's concerned, and she won't even talk to me."

"That's awful!"

"She recognised me, I'm sure of it. She said she didn't, but I know she did. She said she didn't even remember knowing anyone who joined up with Overwatch." Tracer looked off to the side, not liking where her thoughts went. "She looked scared, Winston. Of me."

I can understand why, he thought to himself. The woman whose death brought down Overwatch is back from the grave, hasn't aged a day, and nobody is talking about it - who knows what you are? But out loud, he said, "I'm sorry," and meant it.

"It's been five years, the world's a different place - it feels like wheels are flying off everywhere, it really does - but now look out everyone, Tracer's coming to town! I thought..." her voice trailed off.

"Those missing five years didn't sink in, did they?"

They really hadn't, she knew. Not until then. "I really miss you, big guy," she said, sad and quiet.

"I've missed you too, Lena," he answered, softly. "I can't get off this rock, but you can always - any time of the day - radio me, and I'll listen." He reached over and touched a few points on a console. "I'm sending you my 'wakeup' prefix code. It will get me up, if I'm here, and I will answer."

Her padd chirped. "Got it."

"And don't wait 'till you're back in Brighton. Any time. Day or night."

"I will, I will! But maybe not tomorrow." She shook her head, brushing off the sadness. "There's a bar just a bit down the way, and it's also just hit me that I haven't picked anyone up in a bar in over five years, and that can't be helping. I think I'm gonna fix that tonight."

Winston howled with laughter, big honking bellows. "Now that sounds like the old Tracer," he said, merrily. "But... how're you going to explain the accelerator?"

"What, you think I've got some bulky ring in my chest, like yours? These are posh, mate!" She grinned. "I figured it out on the flight north. I just call 'em bioluminescent tattoos, and all the girls will want their own."

"Heh," he chuffed. "I believe the traditional Air Force benediction is, 'Good hunting?'"

"Rwrar." She winked.

"Go get 'em, pilot. But promise you'll radio me from London on Monday."

"I will, Winston. I promise."

Winston waited 'till Lena shut down her transmitter, and then threw the whole conversation - sound, vision, raw signal, transmission detail data, everything - into deep computational processing, to send along to Dr. Ziegler. If they've done anything to you, he thought, I will find it. And one way or another, somehow - they will pay.