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)
2017-08-15 09:49 am

Old Soldiers, Chapter 5: don't have to tell me twice

[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)
2017-08-11 09:05 am

Old Soldiers, Chapter 4: don't you feel better - at least, for now?

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)
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)
2017-08-05 04:41 pm

Old Soldiers, Chapter 3: A Little Out of Joint in Old Dorado

[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)
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 01:33 pm

Old Soldiers

prelude
[2076, autumn]

"Why'd you do it, Gabe?"

"Do what?"

"Send those killers to her house."

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

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

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

"Amélie doesn't know that."

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

"Wot? Why not?"

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

"That's shite, Gabriel."

"Is it?"

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

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

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

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

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

"I'm not so sure it does."

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

an online timeline

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

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

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

It is not easy to explain, said the Widowmaker

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Perhaps never," said the assassin.

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

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

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

"No thank you."

"Just ate, luv, but thanks."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The spider did not say anything.

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

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

"And you miss that purity of purpose."

"So much."

"Would you go back to it?"

"I cannot."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2074

"Unfinished Business with the Group Captain"

  • Graphic Depictions Of Violence
  • Major Character Death

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

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

In the north of England - November 2074 )
solarbird: (tracer)
2017-06-12 09:45 am

on nearing the end of the story (spoilers below the cut)

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 )
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."