solarbird: (Default)
Super-nervous about chapter six (just posted).

I always worry about tearing it, you know? In the showbiz sense. Breaking credibility, within a context, even if that context is pretty incredible (in the sense of not credible) to begin with, like Overwatch. And I kind of feel like I'm dancing up to that line with that chapter, with Venom as a character.

If people make it through Terrifying in Flight, I think chapter seven ("Is It Good Enough For You, Still?") will clarify some things. Angela thought, in chapter six, "that's a lie," and she was correct. But I can't put that in front of chapter six, I can't say, "trust me here," because, well, y'can't do that, it doesn't make sense.

Questions of identity float around in Old Soldiers, and this is part of that arc, and and and and.

Scary.
solarbird: (tracer)

[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)

[AO3 link]


[All dialogue in «angle quotes» is translated from the Spanish]

«Whatcha doin', Spooky?»

Jack Morrison looked up upon hearing Leticia Delgado's question from where he sat with his notebook. Paper, pen, overstuffed chair - old school, like he was. «Updating the dossier.»

«On your old friends?» she asked, putting away her phone, and grabbing an orange off the counter separating the small kitchen from the small living room.

«They're not my old friends,» he growled. «But this attack by Amari, and this fake Overwatch news - maybe it'll help fit some more pieces together.»

Leticia nodded, peeling the orange. Morrison had been hauling that notebook around as long as she'd known him. He'd never let her look at it, and she'd never pushed too hard. But she'd been curious, and if he was going to open up a little, well, it beat sitting around, anxious and bored. «Why you so obsessed with this new Overwatch, anyway?»

He shook his head. «It's not Overwatch. The real Overwatch - my Overwatch - went down with me, when Talon moved against us.»

The street fighter cocked her head to her left. «I thought that was the UN.»

Morrison snorted. «Talon, UN - it's all the same thing, has been for a long time. Early 2068 - a few months before the Slipstream exploded - that's when I started to realise what was really happening, what was going wrong.»

«Talon,» she said, before biting into a wedge, «...controls the UN?»

«Talon proxies. Maybe mind controlled, like Lacroix, maybe conscious traitors, I don't know. But they're pulling the strings. I just have to find them all, cut them all down, show the world what they've done.»

«I know they're terrorists, but that's what they call us, too...» She swallowed the piece of orange.

«They really are, though. More than anyone knows. More than anyone understands. But I'm the one who's seen it.» He poked at his notebook. «I'm the one who's figured it out.»

«You got evidence?» She peeled threads off another piece of the orange. «I mean, if they're that kind of dangerous...»

«It's everywhere you look, once you start to see it. Start with Gérard Lacroix's murder - Talon eliminated him as soon as he got too close. You think he was their mole? Of course not. He just knew too much.»

The young Los Muertos gangster bit into another wedge. «I don't even know who that is.»

«You...? Yeah, I, guess you wouldn't. You'd've been, what, 12? 13?» He chuckled. «Gérard Lacroix was head of Overwatch's anti-Talon task force. Good man. Murdered in his sleep by his wife - or rather, by whatever thing Talon put in his wife's head after they took apart her brain.»

«Wait. I've heard part of this story... are you talking about la blue girl?»

«The killing corpse? The purple assassin? Yeah. The Widowmaker. Second-best sniper in the world. I was friends with the woman they killed to create her.» He flipped to the Amélie Lacroix section of his notebook, filled lately with his notes on her partner, the teleporting assassin known as Venom. «I'm not sure who they killed to create her girlfriend. I thought it had to be Lena Oxton, somehow back from oblivion, because...»

«Lena Oxton... the Widowmaker's girlfriend? Wait, you think the hero of Old London is the spider's sidekick? Really?» Laticia snorted. «Put this in your notebook, I heard about it from the old squad leader. Those two showed up at an arms show together a couple years ago, right? Got disrespected by a some anglo Texans, and killed like a dozen people just to make a point. They're not...»

«I know. The girlfriend part, that's what made me think it might've been Lena.» He tapped the page with the tip of his pen. «Still think it might be. Just can't figure out why they'd keep the lesbian angle. I didn't even think Amélie liked girls, not that there's anything left of her in that machine. But it has to be important, for some reason.»

Hoooo, she thought. This is kind of nuts. «I'm sorry about your friends, Jack. But this - it's a lot to take in.»

Jack looked up at Laticia, and nodded. He trusted her. He hadn't trusted anybody in a long time, and he didn't trust the trust, but it was still there. «It's a lot more to live through.»

She let out a little bit of a 'heh,' and replied, «This's why you don't talk about your past much, huh?»

He nodded, flipping through pages, adding small notes in tinier text. «One of the reasons.» He dotted a couple of lower-case Is and put the book down. «The part I can't get past - there is just no way that the real UN would ever have moved against us. Not like that. They'd never have shut me down, not us, we mattered too much. Not even with that bastard Gabriel turning on us, turning on me...» He'd run through the story too many times in his own head even to get angry anymore. «I don't know whether they brainwashed him or reconditioned his mind or whether he just got bought out, but he turned on us. All those lies at the hearings, all that slander, all those leaks...»

«I remember that part,» she said, finishing the last of the orange.

«Big news, even to the tween set?»

«We watched the hearings in school.»

The solder smirked. «Not surprised - schools are about control. But all that propaganda aside - we mattered too much. The real UN - an uncompromised UN - wouldn't've shut us down. Never.»

She tapped her fingers, one, two, three, four, on the table, working out bits in her mind, before sweeping the peels away. «So... if Talon took over the UN, then...»

He nodded again, this time, approvingly. She gets it, he thought. «Then they have control over a lot of the governments, too. Deep state agents, fingers in key parties, big and small.» He picked the book back up, made a few more notes, and closed it again. «But I'll get it all out there, sooner or later. Once I have it all figured out. Then everyone will know, and we can start to put the world back together.»

The soldier looked down at his empty mug, feeling all talked out. «Hey. You mind making some more of that coffee?»

Delgado looked quizzically at Jack Morrison. «My coffee?»

«Who else's? I can't make it the way you do.»

«You can't... you hate my coffee. You always dump it out, and by the way, you still owe me new beans.»

«I don't hate it, I...» and he remembered, oh, yes, he kind of did, didn't he? No, that's not right, he loved her coffee. Nobody else could get it quite right, particularly not that white-haired... he shook his head, no, that doesn't make sense. «I'm getting used to it. It's kind of growing on me.»

«Ha!» She grinned. «I'll teach you how to appreciate good food yet, gringo. If I do this, you can't pour it out! I have to make a whole pot, or it comes out too weak, like yours. Just, you know, not as bad as yours. Which is terrible.»

«Wouldn't dream of it,» he groused, and stood up. «While you make that, I'll go out, get some more beans. I do owe you.»

«It's been quiet long enough, yah, I think it's safe.»

He nodded his agreement. «You heard anything from Araceli?»

Laticia shook her head, checking her phone again. «No, not yet. I'm worried.»

«Afraid the Maras got her?»

«Worried they might've.»

«I hope not. She's no soldier, but she's... a pretty good kid.»

Delgado smiled, surprised. «Thanks, Spooky. That's the nicest thing you've ever said about her.»

Morrison looked through the edge of the blind from the gang house. Twilight, and all clear - at least, as far as he could tell. Amari doesn't double-dip, he thought. We should be fine, for now. «I'll be back in a few minutes,» he said, throwing his gun over his shoulder. «With dinner.»

«No hunting in city limits!»

«Not even for tacos?»

«Okay, maybe for tacos. You know the kinds I like?»

«'Course I do,» said the soldier, opening the door. «If I'm not back in 15 minutes - leave, and don't look back.»

«Don't have to tell me twice!»

«I won't.»

solarbird: (tracer)
This chapter is below a cut because the rating on this story has been adjusted upwards, and this chapter is NSFW. It's not particularly explicit, either, but still. As I said on AO3, I have not been flagging this story with archive warnings, but I will say that I categorically do not write non-con and I do not write underage. Those will not appear in this story. Continue reading (NSFW) )
solarbird: (tracer)

[All dialogue in chevron quotes is translated from the Spanish]
AO3 link

Jack Morrison shook his head, tried to clear it up. Mornings were hard - a lot harder than they used to be, and he didn't know why. He just knew he didn't like it. He'd always been a morning person, even back in the Army.

He did a quick set of forty pushups, quietly, twenty each arm, try to get the ol' blood moving, and it helped. He still felt out of joint, but these days, he always felt a little out of joint. Had ever since the bombing, back in '70. But everybody would feel a little out of joint after that. He didn't even remember how he got out of the complex, but he got out alive - and that's what mattered.

«Morning,» he growled to the small Los Muertos stakeout team in the front room of the small apartment. Araceli waved and Leticia nodded, her combat helmet tipping in his direction as he started some coffee.

«I just made that pot you threw out, gringo», Leticia grunted back at him. «Why you always wasting my good coffee?»

Morrison snorted. «Because I make actual coffee, the kind you drink, not eat.»

«You make tinted water.» She shook her head, but with a little smile. «Americans.»

«Yeah, yeah,» he groused, amicably.

Araceli patted Leticia's shoulder. «Now that the white ghost is awake, I'm taking my turn.»

Leticia nodded. «Get some rest.»

The steamer finished its work, and Morrison drew a cup of the brew. Not bad. Leticia wasn't wrong about it being good coffee. «I'll buy you some more beans later, make up for it. Anything new on our friends outside?»

«Nah, it's all nice and quiet.»

Morrison settled in for the first half of his stakeout shift. He didn't really like working with Los Muertos, but with his history, well, he took what he could get. And Leticia - she had chops. He could respect that. Araceli's just another street rat, no discipline, but Leticia - he could turn her into a proper soldier, if he had time.

«Oh, hey,» she said, «Get out your padd, there's been another show with your old band.»

«What?» growled the former strike commander.

«Something in Vietman? Maybe in China, I forget. There's pictures this time.»

Morrison almost snarled. «Goddamned Lena Oxton and her so-called Overwatch, what the hell does she think she's doing, pretending to run my organisation...» He found a video taken live on the scene, saving a freighter and crew from a large pirate gang operating around the edges of the south China sea, one armed with a strange new weapon that froze everything it touched. They just want that freeze ray back, they don't give a damn about those sailors...

He watched the video, as the self-proclaimed Overwatch jumped in, with good power, if not in the best of order. Oxton wasn't there, he noted, and the resulting mess lived down to the worst of everything he expected out of a band of wannabe heroes with no god damned sense of discipline. Overwhelming power saved it from being a fiasco, but the sloppiness enraged the soldier, in his mind disgracing the name of Overwatch and everything I built...

«Huh?» said Leticia, startled, looking to her right. «Hey, spooky, where'd you go?»

«I'm right here,» he said from her left, where he just barely stopped himself from punching a hole into the wall.

«Fuck, you can be creepy quiet sometimes, you know that?»

«Part of the training.» He sat back down where he should've been, and shook his head. Discipline, soldier, he thought to himself. One mission at a time.

Leticia sulked at the building down the street. How long can it take to prep a shipment of stolen processors, anyway? Hurry the fuck up and move out so we can steal them back from you, she thought. «We've been here three days! I wish these idiots would get going.»

«Me, too» said Jack Morrison, settling down for another day of hurrying up to wait. «Me, too.»

-----

The sniper round flashed by Jack Morrison's ear, nipping flesh, as he ran zig-zag through the warehouse district. God damn that woman, he thought as blood ran down the side of his face, and he spun around, launching a grenade towards the perch he knew she had to have. His reward was another round by his other ear - but it wasn't a good shot. He'd knocked her down, and that confirmed it.

The shipment had been real. The security had been expected. The sniper waiting for them, though - that had been a surprise.

Sprinting to the left and down an alley, the old soldier charged forward and found Leticia, in a zig-zag run from the other direction. «Spooky?!» she shouted, surprised. «You're still alive!? I thought they got you back in the...»

«No time,» he grunted, wiping the blood from his face with a rag from his pocket. «Join up with me. Where's Ara?»

The street fighter looked confused. «I thought she went with you.»

«Didn't see her.»

«Huh... She must've headed north,» Leticia decided. «Taking the long way home. For us, there's a sewer access two blocks ahead my way, if we can make it.»

Morrison spun around. I really could make her a soldier, he thought, and said, «I shook the sniper out of her nest, we have a window. Let's go.»

They ran, dodging between gates and down tiny side paths. Morrison thought he heard a ricochet, but he couldn't be sure, not completely, not until they could see the access down the end of a narrow walkway, when he looked back just in time to see the glint off a scope. «Get down!» he shouted, and dove behind a skip.

Leticia dove beside him, rolling, aikido-like, to his side, as a bullet ricocheted, grazing her arm. «Jesus! Who the hell is shooting at us? The Maras don't have anybody this good!»

«I'm not sure, but I've got a pretty solid guess. How long will it take to get that door open?» Another round, bounced by the shooter off a wall, whizzed behind them. Given a smoother surface to bounce off of, it would've hit.

«No time at all, I broke the lock when we first got here.»

«Smart. I've made her, and she wants me, you're just collateral damage. I'll lay down suppressing fire, you go for the door. Get it open, get inside, then aim where I was aiming, and I'll dive for it.»

The Los Muertos fighter nodded, and bolted, as Jack sent a flurry of bullets towards the sniper. In a single long, jagged sprint, she reached the access door and threw it open, diving inside, then spun around from the shelter and threw a full clip towards the same spot Jack had sprayed with bullets. A moment later, he was beside her, slamming the door shut as a bullet made a large, angry dent directly in front of her eyes.

«Keep your head down,» he said, smirking, «or lose it.»

«Hooooooooooo...» Leticia breathed out, slowly. «How?»

«There's only one sniper in the world that good,» said the soldier. He bolted the door from the inside and broke the mechanism, wedging it in place, as Leticia motioned down one of the access tunnels.

«If she follows us down here, I have a lot of surprises ready. Keep your hand on the left wall, it's important.»

Morrison shook his head, no. «She wouldn't risk a tunnel. Night vision's not so good since I took one of her eyes.»

«Wait, you know her?» Leticia asked, as she led the way through the foul air.

«We're old friends,» came the soldier's voice from the darkening gloom.

«Some friend,» replied the fighter in the darkness, «trying to kill you.»

A snort from the soldier. «She's been trying to kill me for six years. At this point, I think it's her way of flirting with me.»

«You are messed up, Spooky, you know that?»

«You have no idea.»

-----

The MS-13 grunt poked at the body with her rifle. Los Muertos, she thought, from the arm tattoos. I wonder who? She rolled the corpse over, careful to avoid the blood.

"¡No mames!" she exclaimed. A section of the body - the left side of the head and neck, and part of the shoulder - was simply gone, cut cleanly away, as if sliced neatly off a wax sculpture of a woman.

One of the other guards - Samuel - came over to check the corpse. "¿Qué pedo?"

«Hey, Sam,» asked the grunt. «What kind of gun does this?»

solarbird: (tracer)

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: (Default)
[2077]

"Gabe!" Lena shouted, running down the stairs towards the former Blackwatch head. "Hi!"

"Lena!" the tall Angelino replied, beaming. "Wow, you look good in black and violet." He picked the younger woman up like a doll, and she giggled. "I still can't believe you pulled this off," he said.

Venom laughed. "Hold on a mo, I'm on Lunar soil." She pressed a set of buttons on her grapple holster, and her clothes went to tangerine, orange, and while. "There we go."

Gabriel Reyes looked over the Overwatch version of Lena Oxton, and considered. "I like the violet better."

"So do I, luv, but - appearances, you know. Does this mean you're in?"

"An Overwatch where I don't have to run black ops? Hell yeah, girl, I'm in! I've been watching you operate, you need someone who can make some plans that work in the field."

"Ah, c'mon mate, we're doin' all right."

"Sometimes, yeah, when you're there calling the shots yourself," he agreed. "But then you look like badly-disguised Talon, and I don't think either of you need that."

"True 'nuff," Tracer smiled. "So you're here to run strategy for Winston?"

"I'm right over here, you know," said the Lunar Ambassador. "It took some talking, but yes, he's in."

"Hi, Winston!" Lena teleported over and gave the gorilla an enthusiastic noogie.

"Hey! Cut it out!" But he still laughed. "You're in a good mood - I take it you have something for me?"

"Here y'go!" She popped a small memory card out of one of her pockets. "Everything we'd hoped for and more."

"Oh, that's great news!" He knew not to ask how she'd got it. "You'll want to see this immediately, Gabe."

"Excellent. And yeah, if that didn't make it obvious, I'm in," said the former Blackwatch head, picking up the card, all smiles... until he wasn't. "But Lena, there are some things you need to know. Amélie too, for that matter." To himself, he thought, Not that I could tell you and not be telling her, even if I wanted to...

Lena looked down at her scientifically-minded friend. "What's this about, then?"

"It's... Jack Morrison," said the ambassador.

"...oh," said the assassin. "Him." She frowned, an unpleasant coldness twisting in her stomach.

"Yeah," said Gabriel, confirming. "Him."

Lena took a long, deep breath. "Right. Let's get the staff together."

[A Lunar embassy conference room, half an hour later]

"I thought Jack was dead," Lena said, anger, nervousness, and some small dismay in her voice. "I thought he died when the UN moved on him, in Geneva."

Gabriel Reyes nodded. "We all thought he was dead. Everyone. When the UN stand-down order came through, I ordered my chain of command to obey it immediately. We knew it was coming, and frankly, we deserved it. I've been owning up to that since it happened."

"Before," Angela noted, charitably.

Reyes looked down at the table in the direction of the doctor for a moment, left whatever he was thinking unsaid, and continued. "Jack, of course, decided he knew better, and I guess we all know how that went down..." He shook his head. "What the hell that man thought he could get by launching a counter-assault, I'll never know."

"He was bound and determined to keep the mission going, no matter what," said Winston. "Maybe it was the statue, maybe it went to his head."

"Yeah, well, it had all come apart by then, he should've figured that out," Gabriel replied. "Public opinion was not on our side."

Mei-Ling Zhou - present in virtual form, at least, from her satellite research laboratory in the north of China - shook her head, looking down. "I can't believe he changed so much. He used to be so nice!"

"And he really just outright refused the stand-down order?" asked Tracer. "I'd read that, but..." She kept tapping the buttons on her grapple, fidgeting. Winston eyed the device nervously, a little worried she might accidentally launch the hook across the room, but kept it to himself.

"Yeah," said the Californian, "flat out said no."

"That's mad."

"I agree. I evaced my team as soon as I saw where the show was going, and we mostly got out fine. Some of Jack's side of the organisation got out too, but... a lot stayed with him, for whatever reasons." He shook his head. "He always had a knack for putting together a loyal team."

"Yeah," said Tracer, flatly. "Loyal. One direction, anyway."

"Regardless," Rayes carried on, "the UN response was heavy, and his counter was heavier still, but utterly futile. Nobody could've survived the implosion - or so we thought. I sure as hell wouldn't have."

"It's not just a solid pile of rubble, though," Oxton insisted. "There's big sections still intact, deep enough in. Amélie got pretty far down."

Angela contemplated those words. "That was when she retrieved Winston's accelerator, yes? The medical unit near Winston's laboratory... could it have been reached?"

"No idea, luv. She's never mentioned it." Tracer said, nervously.

"Find out, if you could."

"What're you thinking, Angela?" asked Winston.

The researcher and field doctor shook her head. "We had a full compliment of medical supplies there - including ample stocks of regen gel and nanomachines. More than enough for a badly injured man to repair himself, if he knew how."

Mei-Ling looked over to Angela, her expression uncharacteristically severe. "The research unit versions? Do you think maybe he might've..."

"Regardless of how," Rayes interrupted firmly, "there is evidence he's active again. Not openly, but there have been rumours for a couple of years - mostly in Mexico - of a white-haired American soldier vigilante. And I received this yesterday." He threw an image up in the centre of the table - "It's not the best photo in the world, but I'm pretty sure this is him."

The shot, taken in an alley in Dorado three weeks earlier, was from the back, at night, in fog, a bit blurry, and showed a leather-jacketed man, white-haired, with the clips of what could - with a lot of imagination - be a tactical visor showing over the ears. Really, it could've been anyone of that general build - but the way the figure carried himself, that was familiar, and the gun slung over his back - that was unique.

Mei-Ling gasped at the image. «Halla die Walfee,» exclaimed Angela. "I think you may be correct."

"I'm sure you are," Lena said, voice low and quiet. "That's him."

"And if it is," the Angelino said, "given what went down, I'm pretty sure he won't be happy there's an Overwatch not under his command."

"I have to go," Venom said, suddenly again in black and violet. She hit more buttons on her grapple, and talked into her collar. "Widowmaker, message, urgent: Venom heading back immediately. Will brief en route."

"Lena," said Winston, alarmed, "What are you..."

"I owe him," said the Talon assassin, as she strode to the door, old anger drawn across her face. "If he's still alive, I've got a job to do."

"Lena, don't..." called the scientist, but it was too late, she younger woman was already down the corridor. "Athena, raise Amélie, if you can. Route it to my office, I'll be there in a minute. We've got to try to talk Lena down."

"Wow - she didn't used to get that mad that fast," Gabriel said, confused. "Is this about the Slipstream failure? She still torn up about that?"

"Oh yes," said Angela. "She is. Amongst other things."

"For good reasons," Mei said quietly.

"That wasn't even Jack's fault," protested the former Blackwatch head, "Not at all."

"No, it wasn't," agreed Winston. "But not letting me try to save her - that was."

solarbird: (tracer)
prelude
[2076, autumn]

"Why'd you do it, Gabe?"

"Do what?"

"Send those killers to her house."

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

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

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

"Amélie doesn't know that."

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

"Wot? Why not?"

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

"That's shite, Gabriel."

"Is it?"

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

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

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

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

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

"I'm not so sure it does."

solarbird: (tracer)

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)

"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)

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)
I've posted chapter 29 of 32 of "on overcoming the fear of spiders." (Link goes to the version on AO3, which has comments and chapter titles and so on.)

There are only three more chapters. Two are complete. The third is complete enough that I could post it as-is, but I'll expand it, I know, before doing so. But posting Chapter 29 really locks it down, because at this point there's really no changing course. The ending will work, or it won't. People will buy it, or not.

[personal profile] annathepiper has read it. She thinks it works. I hope it works for other people.

I wish this was a thing I could do more regularly, more intentionally. At roughly 35,000 words, it's more words of fiction than I've written, combined, my entire existence. I've never had fiction just flow out of me like this before, and I don't know that I ever will again. It's almost painfully close to a novel, but there aren't really other parts that should be part of it so I suppose I must live with that.

Spoilers, thematic, and possibly otherwise )

2075

Jun. 11th, 2017 01:46 pm
solarbird: (tracer)

[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)
[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)

"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)

"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."

August 2017

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