solarbird: (tracer)

Ana plans ahead, Sombra thinks maybe Lena has been overestimating Morrison the whole time, and Laticia Delgado knows who to talk to, particularly around here.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


"She's saying the old dude is back," Sombra reported, listening in on Laticia's conversation with the older woman running the little store by the side of the road, near the nature preserve. "The creepy gringo who scares off the kids."

Amélie and Lena could hear everything being said over their headsets, and understood it all. But Angela appreciated the translation.

"Does he have a friend with him this time?"

"Sssh, she's asking."

More Spanish, and Sombra grinned. "Yep. He brought 'er along. We've got 'em."

"El es un problema," said the shopkeep. He's a problem.

"Nos desharemos de ellos por ti, Simona," Laticia replied. We'll get rid of him for you. "Gracias por hacérmelo saber. Lo aprecio." Thanks for filling me in. I appreciate it.

"Oye, también nos estás haciendo un favor. Gracias." Hey, you're also doing us a favour. Thank you.

"No es nada," the younger woman said, with a grin, bringing her candy to the counter. It's nothing.

"Nos vemos más tarde," Simona replied, ringing up the small purchase. Don't be a stranger.

"Could you follow the conversation?" Gabriel asked, over comms, as Latica paid for her saladitos and a couple of bottles of sangría señorial, before making her way out of the little shop, into the sun.

"Yes, Gabriel - thank you," the Widowmaker responded. "Her signal is loud and clear."

"We'll still have to pin him down, but now we know where to look." Lena chewed her lip a little. "He'll have the place boobytrapped to hell and back, won't he?"

"Hell yeah he will. He's pretty good at that, too. I used to be better, but he's still in practice."

"You'll run us through his library of tricks?"

"It's nothing you wouldn't know, but sure."

Laticia's voice broke in, now over comms as well, back in the second stolen - 'borrowed,' Reyes insisted - transport. The door closed, making a noise under her voice. "Hey, did you all get that?"

"We did," Sombra replied. "Thanks."

"I bet he's holed up in one of the old counsellor's cabins." The sound of one bottle cap popping, and a second. In the background, Reyes thanked her for the drink. "He's not gonna be in the ranger house, it's too close to a road. But I'd bet good money he's in one of the cabins."

"What?" Angela broke in, surprised. "Counsellor... cabins?"

"This is a park," Laticia laughed. "I thought I explained that. There were older kids from school who worked here in the summer, before things went to hell."

Angela could hear a rustle as the gangster settled in, buckling her seatbelt.

"How do you think I knew to ask Simona? Nosy old woman knows everything. She's trying to get it going again, wants him gone."

"...I like you, amiga," Sombra said, not keeping her grin out of her voice, looking for older maps of rather different sorts, online.

"Not sure how much I want to be liked by a Talon agent," Laticia quipped, "but I'll take the compliment."

Sombra just laughed, as she forwarded around an old camper's map of the extensive park and nature reserve, with all 14 cabins clearly marked. "Venom, I know you keep saying we have to be ahead of this guy, but... I have to tell you... he looks to me like an easy mark."

"I know," Lena agreed, nodding. "But he just keeps..."

She growled a little, frustrated, wishing she had a soda.

"...slipping out of traps. He's way too good at getting away. Don't underestimate him."

"I guess so, la rapidita, but..."

The hacker shrugged, her hands a little in the air, not seeing it, and Lena shook her head and wondered, not for the first time, if they'd been - no, if she'd been...

"...I think maybe you've been overestimating him this whole time."

"He's a legend," Lena insisted, defensively.

"Oooooooor... consider... maybe these days... he's just a myth."

-----

Ana watched, silently, as Jack napped, unsettled, writhing, on the large couch. Occasionally, wisps of grey smoke, foglike, would trail off of his body, and she shuddered when it did.

How much control does he really have? she wondered, again, and not just about his physical form.

Jack had become... erratic, over the years, it seemed. In public, or on mission, or when planning an action, the old man could pull himself back together pretty well. But on his downtime...

If I hadn't known him before, she thought, I probably wouldn't've realised how far he's gone. He's still quite the charmer, and he can put on a good show when he needs to, but...

He'd started rambling, earlier, the previous evening, a little drunk, first about how they would take apart the conspiracy at the UN, and how once they could just show everything, how they'd be hailed again as heroes, and that struck her as unrealistic enough, but then, as the night wore on, he went on about Spain, and about a girlfriend he'd had once, while in the Spanish army.

He'd never been in the Spanish army. Ana knew this. And he'd most certainly never had a girlfriend. Jack could do many things, but pretend to be straight - or even bi - wasn't one of them. When she asked about it, he looked confused, and said he had no idea what she was talking about, and she said she must've misheard, because they both knew that was impossible, and they laughed about it. On the outside, at least.

How many people have you stolen from without knowing, she wondered. And how many pieces of them are you still carrying around with you?

She pulled up the tactical plan they'd worked on, for California, glanced over it again - it was a stretch, to put it mildly, but sound enough - and then back up at Morrison.

Perhaps I should work on a second plan, as well. For afterwards.

She put the tablet down, and sunk deep into thought.

If I am going to finish this, after all... I should really finish it. He may be the lesser monster, but he is, still, a monster. And monsters must be slain, even if they are useful. To a point. For now.

A part of her wanted to grieve at how far they'd both fallen, but she did not let it. Grief, too, would have to wait for after.

-----

"I have him," Widowmaker subvocalised over comms. "Through the west window, off of a mirror. But I have no shot."

She frowned.

"I also recognise the glass. It is not original. It will not stop my bullets, but it will change their course - I should not target through it."

Lena nodded, and smiled. "Good," she replied. "I want 'im."

"Not in the daylight, ma chérie. Not unless you also want a firefight."

"Kinda do," she said, spotting another trap. "But... yeh. I'm still findin' his little surprises."

She crawled over to the tripwire, following it, carefully, found the bullet trigger, and the little pack of explosives it would ignite, when fired. She pulled the cartridge carefully from the rig, and the explosives, but left the rest set up, not obviously molested. Across, on the far side of the ravine, Gabriel and Laticia were doing much the same, up and down the hill. They'd found multiple areas with proximity alarms, but the cordon... well. Once, it had probably been comprehensive. Now, not so much, and they'd make their move before either Ana or Jack could try to fix it.

"Mexican police are gonna spend weeks in here trying t'clean all this out," she muttered, pocketing the cartridge. "Listen to me - he's got me sympathising with the bloody filth." She suppressed a snort at herself. "Another thing he's bodged up, the absolute rotter."

Widowmaker continued to watch, through the scope, off the mirror, as Morrison slept, writhing a bit, wisps of smoke floating around him. We should not assume he is done with surprises - but where is Ana? She has not left him, I do not think.

She shifted her sight, looking for reflections, and spotted a metal pitcher, and through it, reflected in it, distorted, thinned, the other target, the target they still hoped not to take, apparently still, apparently also at rest, and the sniper smiled.

"Ana confirmed," she subvocalised again, over comms. "Sombra, if you could place the beacon within range?"

"Already there," the hacker replied, a smirk clear in her voice. "I planted it as soon as you called Spooky."

So close to ending this, she thought, a little excited by the prospect of the kill, even if - most likely - she would not be the one to get to make it.

She adjusted her scope, and looked again.

I see you, she thought.

Do you see me?

solarbird: (widow)

Alliances, it has been said, are at their weakest on the brink of defeat, and on the brink of victory. After defeating the China Sea omnium, the gods of Oasis offered their help to Russia, to defeat their own Siberian threat, and Russia accepted that offer - but made additional secret plans of their own.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict
Edda 14b: What Would You Have Us Do?

solarbird and bzarcher

As the details of what happened in Russia begin to spread, the Gods must make a decision. Will they be vengeful? Or will they offer Katya Volskaya as chance to stop the war before it begins?

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict is a continuance of The Arc of Ascension, The Arc of Creation, and The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow the story as it appears, please subscribe to the series.
solarbird: (tracer)

Alliances, it has been said, are at their weakest on the brink of defeat, and on the brink of victory. After defeating the China Sea omnium, the gods of Oasis offered their help to Russia, to defeat their own Siberian threat, and Russia accepted that offer - but made additional secret plans of their own.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict
Edda 14: Echos of the Hammer of God

solarbird and bzarcher

Russia, in striking the omnium and the Oasis agents and advisers on site, has shattered the alliance. Oasis will retaliate - of that much, everyone is sure. But no one, least of all Russia and Overwatch, are as yet sure how.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict is a continuance of The Arc of Ascension, The Arc of Creation, and The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow the story as it appears, please subscribe to the series.
solarbird: (Default)

Alliances, it has been said, are at their weakest on the brink of defeat, and on the brink of victory. After defeating the China Sea omnium, the gods of Oasis offered their help to Russia, to defeat their own Siberian threat, and Russia accepted that offer - but made additional secret plans of their own.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict
Interlude 2: Moments in Time and Space

solarbird and bzarcher

These are moments, nine of them, across space, and time.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict is a continuance of The Arc of Ascension, The Arc of Creation, and The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow the story as it appears, please subscribe to the series.
solarbird: (tracer)

The new gods have risen, ready, at last, to grapple with a world of heroes. Moira O'Deorain herself has been reborn, now made one of the creations her previous self meant to rule, and she works with her wife - the goddess Mercy - and their ensemble of new deities to remake the world, to improve it... for everyone.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Saga 9: an unexpected break in the weather

solarbird and bzarcher

It's Mei-Ling Zhou's turn to receive an offer from the Gods in Oasis. But what will happen...

...if she says no?

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension is a continuance of Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Creation, a side-step sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow it as it appears, please subscribe to the series.

solarbird: (tracer)

The new gods have risen, ready, at last, to grapple with a world of heroes. Moira O'Deorain herself has been reborn, now made one of the creations her previous self meant to rule, and she works with her wife - the goddess Mercy - and their ensemble of new deities to remake the world, to improve it... for everyone.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Text s7,2: ::READOUT

solarbird and bzarcher

** interception is fragmentary **
** transcription is incomplete **

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension is a continuance of Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Creation, a side-step sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow it as it appears, please subscribe to the series.

solarbird: (Default)

The new gods have risen, ready, at last, to grapple with a world of heroes. Moira O'Deorain herself has been reborn, now made one of the creations her previous self meant to rule, and she works with her wife - the goddess Mercy - and their ensemble of new deities to remake the world, to improve it... for everyone.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Saga 7: Dancing Around the Table

solarbird and bzarcher

Korea hangs on the precipice of destruction, waiting for the next attack of the Giant Omnics created by the omnium in the China Sea. MEKA Lieutenant Hana Song, formerly of the reborn Overwatch, stands as one of their best and brightest hopes for a future free of fear. But when an old friend comes with an unbelievable offer, she has to ask herself how far she is willing to go, and who she is willing to trust.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension is a continuance of Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Creation, a side-step sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow it as it appears, please subscribe to the series.

solarbird: (Default)

The new gods have risen, ready, at last, to grapple with a world of heroes. Moira O'Deorain herself has been reborn, now made one of the creations her previous self meant to rule, and she works with her wife - the goddess Mercy - and their ensemble of new deities to remake the world, to improve it... for everyone.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Saga 6: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

solarbird and bzarcher

As Talon - or, now, really, Oasis - rebuilds itself from within, Overwatch, too, works to pick up its pieces, as winter ends, and summer approaches.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension is a continuance of Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Creation, a side-step sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow it as it appears, please subscribe to the series.

solarbird: (widow)

The new gods have risen, ready, at last, to grapple with a world of heroes. Moira O'Deorain herself has been reborn, now made one of the creations her previous self meant to rule, and she works with her wife - the goddess Mercy - and their ensemble of new deities to remake the world, to improve it... for everyone.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Fragment s5,1: I Wish I Believed That

solarbird and bzarcher

Ana Amari's visit to Oasis has ended in anguish for her, and heartbreak for Fareeha. In the shadows, Widowmaker has been watching over their reunion, but what will happen as Ana flees, and when the Huntress returns home?

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension is a continuance of Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Creation, a side-step sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow it as it appears, please subscribe to the series.

solarbird: (tracer)

The new gods have risen, ready, at last, to grapple with a world of heroes. Moira O'Deorain herself has been reborn, now made one of the creations her previous self meant to rule, and she works with her wife - the goddess Mercy - and their ensemble of new deities to remake the world, to improve it... for everyone.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Saga 5: That’s Me Trying

solarbird and bzarcher

Ana Amari has found a way into Oasis. It is a short-lived chance, and must be taken - if it is to be taken - at once. So of course, she goes.

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension is a continuance of Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Creation, a side-step sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow it as it appears, please subscribe to the series.

solarbird: (tracer)

Of Gods and Monsters
Saga 2: Brother, Have You Heard?
solarbirdy and bzarcher

Moira O’Deorain has won. Her rivals within Talon destroyed, her trio of loyal Weapons - the Changed and copper-eyed Tracer, the silver-eyed Oilliphéist, and golden-eyed Widowmaker - at her command, to remake the world.

The remnants of Overwatch, licking their wounds and mourning their lost friends, now seek to regroup, trying to figure out how to fight back in a war no one else realises is being fought - and what comes next in a world that may already be changing beneath their feet.


Of Gods and Monsters is a side-step/alternate-ending sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon, told in a series of eddas, sagas, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. Eddas and Sagas appear late Sunday/early Monday, fragments, texts, and standalone cantos appear Thursday and/or Friday. To follow the story as a whole, please subscribe to the series.

Because this is a co-authored work, I'm only posting links here.

solarbird: (tracer)

Yep, still working on Old Soldiers. It's really difficult to switch gears between the Oilliphéist and Venom/Fear of Spiders universes, it really is, but it's happening.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


[All dialogue in «angle quotes» is translated from the Spanish. Amélie's thoughts are translated from the French.]

Amélie awoke, early. She often woke before Lena, regardless of where they were, but she didn't mind that. Usually, when it happened ahead of the alarm, she'd doze, and wait, so they could rise together. But sometimes, it there was time, she'd slip out, sneak over to the kitchen, make coffee and tea and get out cheeses and creams and preserves and the morning's good bread, delivered, and the scents would reach over, across, to their bedroom, and awaken her partner, and she'd stumble out, eyes still half-closed, usually remembering to put on a shirt, following the delicious smell of breakfast, and she'd say, "y'know what this needs? Bangers!" and she'd grab the sausages she'd bought a day or two before out of the refrigerator and get to work, and everything would be wonderful.

This was neither of those sorts of day.

The spider plucked at her web. What is it? she thought. It is... something. What?

She didn't really care all that very much about this mission. Morrison had been someone her husband knew, the person to whom Gabriel Reyes reported. They'd met, no doubt, at some function or other. But his time for shaking the world had passed, taking care of him - justice, of a sort, their way - was important to Lena, and so, she was willing to put Talon behind it. And finding herself thinking about that, she let her mind trace that strand further, further down, lower, into thinner, lesser strands - but strands nonetheless.

And she was very surprised to discover that for some reason she did not know, some reason she didn't understand, something had changed.

Jack Morrison, left to his own devices, was going to do something very bad indeed. And it had to be stopped, before anyone else even knew it could happen.

"How did you know?" she whispered, shifting up, and looking at her wife, sprawled across the bed, arms akimbo, hair even moreso. "How did you know before I did?"

Lena stirred just as the alarm rang the chimes of Big Ben. She blinked, groggily, looked up at her wife, and smiled. "G'morffin'," she managed, flopping over onto Amélie's legs.

The assassin smiled back at her partner, but there was a firmness to it. "Get up," she said, firmly, sliding out from underneath. "Something has happened. I must find out what. Suddenly, I think, this mission may be... important."

-----

Amélie pulled her helmet off, frustrated, frowning. Nothing, she thought. Nothing of interest, at least. No new news items, at least, nothing that affected this situation. No outbreaks of violence, of disease, no disappearances, no interesting thefts, not even any strange new conspiracy rumours reaching high enough to matter, not even to her...

Perhaps Sombra has had more luck, she thought, climbing out of her lotus position and off the bed. Or perhaps we can make it not matter. She pulled on the rest of her field kit, and walked into the safehouse's living room, where Sombra sat, intently, poking at virtual keyboards and screens, Lena and Angela keeping each other company, occasionally watching.

"Anything?"

"Nothing, araña - sorry." Sombra turned around, facing the spider. "If he's done something, it's too quiet even to make my ears. And I don't miss much."

"Gabe's almost here, though. I was about to talk to my old friend again, too. See what he thought about our little video."

"Good," Amélie nodded. "I'll make some coffee. Anyone else?"

Lena waved her off, holding up her mug of tea. Angela smiled, though, and said, "I would. I always liked your coffee."

"Sadly, this is not the best version," the assassin smiled back, fondly, "...but I will do what I can with what I have."

I've missed her more than I realised, she thought, as she walked into the kitchen, glancing over the cluster of information monitors Sombra had set up for her, but seeing nothing new. She pulled the pitcher of water and coarse coffee grounds from the small refrigerator, pulled out a filter, and drained the cold brew into a second pitcher, giving it a taste.

Much better, she thought, pouring two glasses half-full, adding milk, some sugar, and ice, and tasted. Yes. The beans are good. It is just a shame the water is so hard. Still, it will do.

She walked out in time to hear Sombra speaking in increasingly agitated Spanish with her friend in Los Muertos.

«What do you mean, he left?» she said, confused.

«He left! This morning! We'd watched your video and were trying to figure out how to get rid of him without getting ourselves all killed by whatever the hell that was, and he walked in and says he has an outside job, needs to take a couple of weeks to work on it.»

«Well... did he say anything about where he was going?»

«We weren't about to ask, we were just glad he was gone. We're gonna pick up and relocate before he comes back. You're gonna tell your friends in Talon about that, right?»

«Of course I am - and you're welcome.» She thought for a moment. I think he's telling the truth, but we'll have to check... «Did he say anything about where he was going?»

«No - just that he had to get training for some special mission. He wouldn't tell us what, or when, or where - he just made some joke about the animal at the heart of the animal? Which I kind of think probably worked better in English.»

Lena largely kept up, listening as the Spanish went by, and looked confused for just a moment before her eyes went wide, and she whispered, "No!" She looked up at Amélie, who looked confused by the metaphor.

"The animal - the beast. The beast at the heart of the beast," she whispered, as Sombra joked with her friend, trying to weasel out possible training locations without actually sounding like she wanted the data. "I think that means us, and I think... I think the beast means Winston."

Angela's eyes went wide as Amélie tested the idea and nodded, eyes half-closed to slits. It fits, she thought. "It is possible. We must send a warning."

"Embassy security's pretty good. I'm pretty sure he's safe as long as he stays in Geneva," Lena said, nodding, as Sombra told them to shut up, can't they tell she's talking to her friends? And the junior assassin waved everyone into the kitchen.

"I knew we should've just capped him from th' start," she said, closing the kitchen door behind her. "Could've avoided all this."

"I did not take this seriously enough," her wife acknowledged, adding another cube of ice to her coffee, and motioning to Angela if she wanted another herself.

The doctor frowned, not at the ice, but at the entire situation. "I do not speak Spanish, and did not catch enough of your English - what is going on?"

"Jack's bugged out, luv. He's headed off somewhere - don't know where, Sombra's workin' on that - t'get ready for some mission, and I think that mission is Winston."

"Winston?!" the doctor exclaimed. "Why? That makes no sense."

"'The beast at the heart of the beast' is what he told Los Muertos, yah? Given what we know about his obsessions, I'm pretty sure we're the beast. Which means the beast at the heart of it is Widowmaker..."

"Let him try," she sneered.

Venom giggled, briefly, before getting serious again, "...or Winston, if y'want the 'joke' t'make any sense, right?"

Angela sipped at her coffee - quite good, still - and thought. "Ana thinks," the temporary Talon field medic said, "...that she knows 'everyone' you are. Given what she said in person, we can assume that means Talon. She also said that I'm involved. Which means she thinks I am involved with Talon..."

"Not wrong, now. Ironic, innit?"

"Quiet, I'm thinking..." she said, not wanting to think about that too closely, "...and if Ana thinks that, then... what? She thinks I am your... contact? Your superior?"

"...her creator, perhaps? Perhaps also mine." Amélie sipped her coffee, still thinking, as the other two women looked at her, surprised, and she shrugged. "That ludicrous set of documents from the investigation - if Overwatch and Blackwatch actually believed the official story about my 'abduction' and 'conditioning' to be who I am..."

"You're thinkin' that all came from her?" asked Lena, half a smile on her face.

"No. But if she went to Jack, after sending that letter to Fareeha..."

"...it could've come from him," Venom nodded. "Yeh. He signed off on both reports..."

"And he's latched onto Winston, because, because..." The doctor stood up very straight, very tall. "Because of your accelerator! Of course! It couldn't just be me, because I am a medical doctor, not a physicist - it would have to be Winston!"

"It almost makes sense," the Widowmaker said, "in an oddly... detached-from-reality sort of way."

"We need to get Gabe in on this," Lena said, shaking her head. "He knew Jack best, before. And that Los Muertos fighter, Delgado. She might know something. She said he talks in his sleep."

"It means bringing her in on this side of the fence," Angela frowned. "Please do not do that."

"He can talk t'her, we can talk t'him. He should still be an hour out of customs, we should try t'raise him. I'll do it."

The door opened, and Sombra walked in, her expression a combination of bemusement and outright disbelief. "You guys aren't going to believe what I think is going on."

"Yeah?" Venom grinned, happy to have an even better reason to kill Jack Morrison. "Wait'll you hear our version. But g'wan, luv - you first."

-----

"How...?"

Ana Amari looked around the pocket valley not too far outside Jalpan De Serra, a hidden spot deep in the nature reserve. Under a canopy of forest, a small, single-storey house sat in good order. But the interesting parts were around it - the cleared, low-level training camp hidden from overhead view, boxed off in most directions by steep slopes and cliffs.

"Pretty sure it was originally cleared during the war," Morrison replied. "Local resistance against the Omnics. Deep cover. Well hidden. People stay away - bad memories, I guess." He chuckled, a little. "I try to encourage that."

He pointed with his rifle over towards a particularly green patch. "Latrines used to be over there, I think. Found a bunch of old tent stakes, too. Probably didn't want anything too permanent, so they'd just tent up and go."

"Either that, or it was a campground," she smirked. "So this is where you go to hide."

"Hide, or think, or train, Ana. Different things, but it's a good place for all three." He gestured towards the house. "C'mon inside. It's comfortable - I've got a combination of solar and geothermal, and there's an uplink towards the top of the cliff. I figure we'll want to get to San Jose a week before Winston arrives, and until then, we should just lay low, and plan."

I don't like it, Ana thought. It is too steep, and the cliffs are too close. "A hidey-hole is also a trap, Jack. You know that."

"Nobody else in the world knows I know about this place, Ana. Not anymore. If there's any safe place in the Western hemisphere..." He opened the door, and threw his knapsack onto the couch against the far wall of the small living room. "...this is it."

solarbird: (Default)

Of Gods and Monsters
Fragment s1,1: Early March, 2077
solarbird and bzarcher

Overwatch now know that Fareeha Amari has been taken, as well - apparently by her wife, Angela, presumably to be remade. The ease with which it was accomplished - a mere three Weapons routing three hundred Helix Security trainees and instructors - has prompted a change in strategy. And as the last Overwatch presence at Watchpoint Gibraltar is finally wound down, Jack "Soldier 76" Morrison sends a warning - and some key video - to two trusted confidants.


Of Gods and Monsters is a side-step/alternate-ending sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon, told in a series of eddas, sagas, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. Eddas and Sagas appear late Sunday/early Monday, fragments, texts, and standalone cantos appear Thursday and/or Friday. To follow the story as a whole, please subscribe to the series.

Because this is a co-authored work, I'm only posting links here.

solarbird: (Default)

Of Gods and Monsters
Saga 1: Winter Kills
solarbird and bzarcher

Overwatch - and Fareeha Amari - have discovered that the missing Angela Ziegler is alive, but not necessarily well, not necessarily herself, at least, not the herself they knew, and Fareeha Amari will take whatever steps are necessary to get her back. But what she and Overwatch both do not know is...

...Angela feels exactly the same way.


Of Gods and Monsters is a side-step/alternate-ending sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon, told in a series of eddas, sagas, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. Eddas and Sagas appear late Sunday/early Monday, fragments, texts, and standalone cantos appear Thursday and/or Friday. To follow the story as a whole, please subscribe to the series.

Because this is a co-authored work, I'm only posting links here.

solarbird: (tracer)

Hey, look what I haven't forgot! (Tho' it did take a while because I kind of wished I hadn't had Morrison say something in a previous chapter... it took me forever to figure out what it meant and how to make it work without a retcon.)

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


[All text in «angle quotes» translated from the Spanish.]

Laticia Delgado strapped herself in to one of the Orca's passenger chairs as Gabriel sat beside her, not strapping himself in. She looked at him, confused, and he smiled. «It's a soft launch. Strap in if you want, but it's going to be a long ride and I'm not sitting here the whole time.»

«Oh,» she said, pulling on the shoulder belts. «Don't you always strap in for takeoffs and landings?»

«On civilian flights, sure.» He shrugged. «You know what, it's never a bad idea.» And he strapped himself in, too. "Athena, we're ready whenever you are."

"Thank you, Strike Commander. Departing."

«How long a ride is this?»

«Don't want to attract attention, so we're flying commercial speeds along a standard route. It'll be a good 14 hours.»

«Huh,» she said, disappointed. «I thought Overwatch would have something, I dunno, more... sciencey?»

«We could get there in under an hour if we went suborbital. But Jesus Mary and Joseph, those Sparrowhawk flights are noisy and uncomfortable. And expensive. And they attract a lot of attention. But mostly... ever pulled four Gs before?»

«Pulled four... oh!» She sat up, excited by the idea. «No. Is it fun?»

Gabe grinned at the Los Muertos street fighter, surprised. «Honestly...? Yeah. It's kind of fun. But if you aren't trained up, it'll knock you unconscious, and I don't want to have to deal with an unconscious passenger if we end up going through customs.»

«Too bad,» she said, slumping back down a little. «Probably never get another chance at something like that.»

«You know it'd probably knock you out and you'd still want to try it?»

«Yeah!» she boasted. «Not many people get to do anything like that, Angelino. I'd do it in a heartbeat!»

Reyes snorted, a little, in friendly way, and as the Orca reached cruising altitude. I keep underestimating you, he thought. I wonder if... and he shook his head, and took off his seat belts. «Well, we have fourteen hours, and I brought some games, and some movies. Also, snacks, and breakfast, for later. What'd you like first?»

-----

"All packed up?" Venom grinned at the doctor, the field medic, Angela Ziegler, all fences mended as far as she was concerned, her beloved spider having received her first supply of nanobots the day before yesterday, laying the foundation for more. Unlike Fareeha, it was in a more professional setting, and unlike anyone else, it was being staged, insuring compatibility with her unique physiology.

"Yes, I am quite ready" the doctor said. "I did, after all, pack lightly."

"Anything fragile nice and sorted away?"

"Yes, I followed your instructions carefully."

"Been to the W.C.?"

"Just now."

"Great. Let's get this thing moving, then!"

Lacroix and a second woman greeted them at the door at the top of the stairs, transport ready, outside. Ziegler stood expectantly, looking at the person she presumed to be the pilot.

"You... want something?" van Vliet said, confused.

"I... presumed I would be blindfolded," the doctor replied.

Clara shrugged, and glanced over to Amélie. "Is this another one of your..."

"No, Clara, she is not," she said, with a slight smug smile. "And a blindfold seems unnecessary." She opened the door to the path, and to the small transport, almost invisible except for the pad lights, black body lost against the 4am sky.

Onboard, van Vliet stowed Dr. Ziegler's luggage and then went to the flight deck, as Widowmaker handed out fake passports. "These are already stamped with dates of entry. Sombra will add them to Mexican border control's systems once we're safely down. But show them to no one, if you can avoid it."

"Course not, luv," Lena said, smirking at "Linda Oxford"'s information, memorising it, quickly.

"I know you know," her wife replied. "But..."

"...what kind of name is 'Angelica Steenbakker'? Why have you saddled me with that monstrosity? It is terrible! And the picture is worse."

"It is a photograph that will, I hope, remind you not to use it," the blue assassin said, and her wife laughed.

"Everyone ready?" Clara called from the front cabin, as Tracer put on her headphones, motioning to Angela to do the same.

Angela smirked back at her. "It is hardly the first time I have been in a military transport, and you know it."

Widowmaker checked everyone, sat down, strapped in, and pulled her helmet's microphone into place. "Passengers and payload secure. You may launch."

"How long a flight is this going to" the doctor said, as the transport shot forward, then up, pulling just under 4Gs.

Oh my, she thought, feeling a bit fuzzy around the edges. It's been a while since I've been on one of these... I'd forgot how... She felt her brain start to fuzz, jut a little, before her nanites intercepted the problem, solving it. She turned her head, as best she could, looking over to Widowmaker, placidly sitting down the row from her, unperturbed, as if between stops on the metro.

"Amélie, do you feel all right?" she asked, with a bit of effort. "Are you feeling any unanticipated effects?"

"I am built for this," she replied. "But I admit... it does feel easier than usual."

"I'm good - thanks for askin'!" Venom interjected, between them, and Widowmaker reached over, and bopped her forehead with one fingernail. "Ow! Careful, love, four Gs!"

"Were I not careful, you would not be conscious, ma petite agace."

"That's funny, normally y'don't like me quiet," she said, leaning over a bit, as if to bite her wife's shoulder.

"Clara," Angela asked, over comms, in German, "are they always like this on missions together?"

"Yes," van Vliet replied, also in German. "You had better get used to it now. They will not stop."

The doctor chortled. "Thank you. I will try."

"It took me months."

"I understand completely."

-----

"It's the only thing left that makes any sense," Morrison said. "It has to be him."

Ana thought her way through the timeline again. It could work... but it requires a lot of very large leaps.

"Who else could've brought in exotic matter? It had to have come from the moon." He gestured with his hands, one by his face, open, the other, in front of his chest, a fist. "You can't generate it on Earth, not safely, not in any quantity, or more countries would've done it by now. He caused the Slipstream failure, to create her, and he brought her back from it, him and Ziegler, when he was ready. He used them both to get back down planetside. This time, of course, with diplomatic immunity - and, no doubt, more exotic matter."

He shook his head, a grim smirk on his face. "If it wasn't so diabolical, it'd be genius."

"He and Angela stayed in contact, doing joint research, while he was exiled, didn't they?" She flipped through parts of her own research, confirming. "And if Angela is Venom's controller," she said, "and his primary contact on Earth, while he was in exile..." She thought, harder. "I remember Lena - the real Lena - as a good woman. She would never have done this willingly. So ... Ziegler took control of Lena... how? Using the same technologies she developed in making Widowmaker?"

"No doubt. Lacroix was probably the testbed."

"And that initial meeting in London was probably some sort of... check, to see that her control systems were still functioning."

"Exactly. See how it all fits together?"

"Loosely, at best," she said. "It's just possible, given what we know. But we'd never be able to prove it."

"I agree. Not without a confession. But I think - I think if he was out of the way, no longer directing everything, Ziegler might be pressured enough spill the beans. And once she broke, we could get it all out in sun. Blow the whole thing wide open. Maybe - maybe - even make her put your daughter back together, if it's still possible."

Ana's anger flared, and she tamped it back down. "If there is any chance for that, we must take it."

"Of course. The question is - how? We'll never be ready to launch an assault on Geneva - no matter how much I train up Los Muertos, they're still a regional gang. Even if I picked a few of the best - if Delgado hadn't been captured - a commando assault would be suicidal."

"If we see her again, we'd probably better assume she's being... controlled the same way."

The soldier's face fell. Damn. She's right. That's one more debt to be repaid. "Maybe. I have no idea how long the process takes."

Ana thought on the news briefing she'd read that morning, eyes darting up. "Jack... Winston's going to be in Northern California next month."

"What?"

"You should pay more attention to the news," she chided, pulling the article up on her padd. "'Lunar Ambassador Winston to visit Stanford.' He's getting an honourary physics doctorate. If we could somehow get ahold of his travel plans, and better yet, his security arrangements..."

Morrison grinned, fiercely. "Then we'd have a shot at the literal heart of the," he chuckled, "of the literal beast. Great catch, Ana. Let's see if we can reel it in."

-----

"That did not take long at all," Angela said, rising from her seat, almost six hours earlier, by the clock, than she'd left the Mediterranean Sea. "Gabriel will not make Tampico for at least another twelve hours."

"Life's easier when y'don't have t'give a fuck about customs," Lena said, grinning. "This direction's easier - makes leavin' so late worthwhile. Goin' back's not so much fun." She stretched, and yawned.

"Indeed," the Widowmaker agreed, as van Vliet opened the hatch just in time to see Sombra came walking up from the little Tamaulipas safehouse to meet their flyer.

"Hola, amigas!" she called, waving. "'Bout time you got here."

Widowmaker waved back, and checked the time on her grapple. "It is just after 10pm, locally. We have melatonin tablets inside; I suggest that we all use them to get a good night's sleep. We should all be well rested before we begin."

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter contains a scene some readers may find disturbing.

All text in «chevron quotes» translated from the Arabic. All text in "double quotes" translated from the Spanish. All thoughts in italic translated from the native language of the thinker.

[AO3 link]


[Geneva — 2070]

The blue-helmeted Spanish soldier stepped around another piece of debris - a large chunk of glass, heavy, thick, still attached to a piece of wall, and partly buried into rocky ground. Probably fell from pretty far up, she thought, looking around it.

Infirmary, she read, knowing at least that much English. Ironic.

She pulled on it, and it tilted a little to one side in response - not buried deep, not much larger than it looks. Recording its location, she continued on, following the fall pattern of the outer tower's shell. Most of the complex had fallen inward, not outward, the result of the implosion device used to bring it down and end the Overwatch resistance - but some parts had flown out, and away.

She made her way to the next large chunk of debris. ¡Cáspita! she thought, that's a big one! Large enough to have been a small room, or even two, flattened, collapsed in on itself, it lay strewn across several square metres of mountainside, the trail left behind by its impact clear in the landscape.

I wonder if it's more of the infirmary? She logged its location as she walked towards it, skirting its outer perimeter. Something... huh. Something's... hot? Is that steam? What is that?

As the mist flowed towards her, she did not have time to draw, much less fire, not that it would've made any difference, not that she'd even have considered it - it's not as though anyone can shoot the fog. And indeed, it wouldn't've made any difference at all. All she had time to do was recoil in horror and fear as her hands, first, then her arms, and then the rest of her, melted away.

Several minutes later, Jack Morrison awoke, and shook his head, violently, confused, feeling deeply out of joint, trying to place himself. What the hell... how did I get out? He looked down at himself, in UN blues. Or into this uniform?

Must've blacked out, he thought, and looked around, evaluating the situation. The battle was over, the complex in ruins, UN forces above, up the mountain, where Overwatch HQ had once been. We've lost. God damm you, we've lost. He looked the other way, down, towards the lowlands. I guess... it's time to live to fight another day, he thought, and followed the water down, running, running, running away.

-----

"Morrison."

"Amari."

«It's been a long time,» the sniper said, changing to Arabic.

«Not that long,» the mercenary retorted, looking up from his chair in the small outdoor restaurant on the outskirts of Tampico. «You were just shooting at me a few months ago. Nice replacement eye, by the way.»

«Thank you,» the former captain said, archly. «By all rights, I ought to be shooting at you now. But... I have been astonished to discover that you seem to be the lesser of monsters, so, here I am.»

The soldier took a drink from his tall glass of ice water, followed by a sip from his whiskey, before pointing to the opposite chair. «Well, if you're here - want to take a seat? Or are you going to stand there and glare at me like some sort of angry owl?»

Ana shrugged, pulled out the chair, turned it around, and sat, facing the table. «You'll forgive me, I'm sure. I'm just finding it more difficult than I expected to look at the man who got Reinhardt so meaninglessly killed though anything other than a rifle scope.»

Morrison winced. «He was a good man. Loyal, to the end - unlike a lot of people I could mention. I miss him.»

«I do, too.» She glared. «Obviously.»

«You're not being fair, though. It wasn't me.» He picked up his whiskey and took another sip. «It was Talon. I know you'll never believe that, but...»

«I have cause to change my mind, on that. Or at least, to reconsider. You gave the orders, but... you may, after all, have had reason to give them.»

Morrison put down his shot glass and stared at his former executive officer. «You... what?»

«I told you, in my message - I had new information.»

He nodded. «You said you had information about Talon. Information I'd want to see, that'd I'd pay anything to get.»

«Yes. It regards Overwatch, as well.»

«And? What's the price?»

She snorted. «I've never been in this for money, Jack.»

He nodded. «I know. None of us were.»

«At least there's that.» She flagged the waiter, walking by, and asked - in Spanish - if he could bring her a strawberry soda. He returned with a can and a tall glass of ice, a few moments later.

"I'll get it," Morrison said, also in Spanish. "Just add it to my bill."

Ana's head tilted, just a little. "Your Spanish is much better than your Arabic. You'd pass for a Madrileños."

Morrison just snorted. "I've had a lot more cause for practice."

"I suppose so."

«But... you were about to say?»

Ana took a long drink of her soda, put it back down, took a deep breath to fortify her resolve, and dove in. «The person calling herself Lena Oxton - whoever or whatever she really might be - is a Talon agent. She is, specifically, the Talon assassin known as Venom. She is also the supposedly-freelance sniper Mockingbird, and the so-called Hero of London, Tracer.»

The former strike commander slammed his hands on the top of the table. «I knew it! I knew it wasn't her.» This is what I've been waiting for, he thought. Vindication. At last. «She was probably the sniper who shot my tactical visor in New Mexico... but can you prove it?»

«I'm not even finished with what I know.»

«Please!» He leaned forward. «Go on!»

«She appears to change who she is, becoming different people to suit a task - I have video of this, of her changing from Tracer to Mockingbird. She can be any of them, and possibly even more people - I do not know.»

«Of course... I never thought of that. That explains so much. She can't be the only one. Maybe they're all shapeshifters.»

«I... don't know that, either.» She closed her eyes, pain across her face. «But I do know... that my daughter's wife is her handler, and she is the one who controls the changes. Or, at least, she is one person who can.»

«Your...» He thought about it. «Angela?! Angela Ziegler was the mole?»

The old soldier dipped her head, once. «It appears likely. In the video I have, she changes Tracer into Mockingbird, using that 'healing staff' of hers. Clearly, it does more than we ever imagined.»

«So.» He took another sip of his whiskey, imagination running with this new information, galloping along unhindered. «Reyes, Ziegler, and Oxton, all Talon, all guiding the new "Overwatch," all under the nose of the Swiss and the UN. Or with their cooperation.» He let out a long, slow breath. «You're right,» he agreed, «I would pay anything to have this.»

«I believe it's clear now that the entire Overwatch revival effort is a Talon project - for what purpose, I do not know.»

«And... if Angela's involved...» He dreaded the answer to the question he was about to pose. «...Fareeha's involved, too?»

Ana's eyes closed, her face scrunched into a knot of pain. «I... I fear so. God, Jack, I stayed away too long, chasing after you... I should've been there, I could've kept her from that witch... I contacted her, when I contacted you, begging her, telling her what I knew, telling her, leave Overwatch, leave Angela, while she still could... if she still could...»

His mouth set into a firm line. «She didn't?»

She shook her head. «No. I... I have to presume she... can't. Or doesn't want to, given her messages back to me. I have to presume... that she isn't who she was. That she...»

«Ana, I'm...»

«...I fear my daughter is gone, Jack.»

Her mask broke, and all at once, she dissolved, in sobs, and Jack Morrison took her in his arms, comforting her as best he could in his own gruff way. «Ana, I am so, so sorry.»

She cried for a moment, then, as quickly as she broke, she forced herself back together, sniffled heavily, coughed, and sat back up. «My apologies, Jack. That was... unprofessional.»

«No,» he disagreed. «It was natural. I've never had a daughter to lose, but... she was kind of all of ours... we all cared for her, very much.»

«And you... you're... not exactly who you were, either. Don't lie. I know.»

He looked into his whiskey, did not take another sip, and looked back up. «I've done some awful things, Ana. Things I didn't even know I was doing. They - they made me a monster, too. During the attack, I stumbled into Angela's lab, thought I was patching myself up...»

Her eyes widened. «So, that's how...»

«I can't be sure, but - I think so.»

She shuddered. «Even back then, she was... with them. Working on such unspeakable things. And we never knew.»

He nodded. «Is that why you've been after me all these years?»

«No - not originally. I thought you were a monster, but... only metaphorically. I thought I was avenging Reinhardt. But then I saw what you could do, and... put pieces together, and had another reason.»

«I can control it now. It, it took a while, but... I can control it.»

«And you didn't even know, until,» she shook her head, «when?»

«Someone - Mockingbird, I think - shot off my tactical visor, last year, on a convoy run. Then I had another one, suddenly, somehow, and the old one was on the ground, broken. There was dashcam footage, and then... I spent a few months shooting myself to watch what happened. Learning to control it.»

«That's... grotesque.»

«Desperate times, Ana. Desperate times and desperate measures.»

Ana looked into her former CO's eyes, thinking, for longer than he was comfortable, but she didn't care. He wasn't so wrong, about the owl-like stares. After several moments, she nodded, curtly, once. «So. Now, I have the pieces I have been missing, and you have the pieces you have been missing. What can we do with what we've both made?»

Morrison gave his executive officer half a smile - he knew he'd passed a test, even if he didn't quite know what kind. «I know this - the governments are corrupt. They're all in Talon hands, or, at best, Talon-infiltrated. So we have to take the fight straight to the heart of the beast.»

«That's a tall order, Jack.»

«It is. But I've been building Los Muertos into a real fighting force - I wasn't even entirely sure why, it just felt like I needed to do it.» He took a long drink of his water. «Guess I've finally figured out why.»

Captain Amari nodded. «My message to Fareeha - or...» barely suppressed pain flashed across her face, «...whatever she is now - will have tipped them off. If we're going to act, it will have to be soon.»

«All the more reason not to waste any more time here.»

«No,» she said. «Jack... it's been a long while. We should... if we're going to be working together again, we should take a little time. Catch up.»

The strike commander smiled a very old smile. «Hardly feels like any time at all, to me. Feels good to talk again, too - despite everything. It's almost like picking back up where we left off.»

«I guess we haven't changed as much as we like to think, have we, Jack?»

«Guess not. You still like corn cakes?»

«I do.»

«They make good ones here.» He let himself relax, just a little. «Let's... just have brunch. Catch up, like you said. For a little while.»

She nodded, and then looked over to the waiter who had brought her soda before. "Excuse me?" she called, in Spanish, bringing the young man back over. "I think we're finally ready to order."

solarbird: (tracer)

[AO3 link]


Ana Amari blinked, and looked again, more closely, zooming her sight further in.

Same woman, before and after. Unquestionably the same woman. I knew it. She shuddered a little, despite herself. Knowing, that was one thing - seeing the transformation happen, that was another. Tracer is Mockingbird. And most certainly the Talon assassin 'Venom,' as well.

How many ways have they split her? How many people is she? And... Angela is her controller? She can trigger the changes? That, I did not expect. The sniper held her position as Mockingbird flipped her costume back to Tracer, and disassembled her sniper rifle into her paired pistols.

It's all true, she thought. He's not mad. He's a monster, but they're all monsters - he's just been the one talking about it.

She scanned the distance as Morrison retreated, trying to regroup with the rest of his strike force. What do I do? What do I do, now? She looked towards the small number of Los Muertos fighters being taken in by the "Overwatch" strike team, and then, towards the distance, where Morrison and his cadre had retreated.

Those poor prisoners, she thought, looking back at the captives. 'The Dead' is all too apt. Who knows what demons they'll make out of you? But the numbers were bad, and the range was worse. She might, she knew, put them out of their misery, but would most certainly be taken herself in the aftermath. Unacceptable.

In the other direction, Morrison, Jack Morrison, her personal demon, surviving by stealing others' lives, consuming the living to fuel himself and his quest for vindication, to prove everything he's ever said about 2070 was true.

She weighed the options as both groups receded further into their relative distances. Scylla or Charybdis, Scylla or Charybdis, she thought. There are no good choices. But one cannot hide from duty. Oh, Fareeha, my poor daughter, knowing you are mixed up in this... She swallowed, hard. But... better the devil you know. And if he's been right about this much... maybe he's been right in other ways, as well.

I will send a message to Fareeha, warning her off. She'll listen, she has to.

She pulled up her sight, and slid discreetly back down the little slope on which she'd lain. Morrison, then. God help me.

-----

Mei ran ahead of the rest of Overwatch and up the Orca transport's boarding ramp, finding Angela still inside. "Something bad just happened, didn't it?"

"Yes," nodded the medical doctor, trying to force herself back into a semblance of her normal self. "I have made a terrible mistake. Lena is... Lena is perfectly healthy. But I must ... I have to ... I ..." she rubbed her temple with her left hand. Get yourself together, doctor! She took a deep breath and fortified her nerves. "I will explain, once we are back to Geneva, and the prisoners are safely secured away."

"But you saved her life! What went wrong?"

"I swear, I will tell you everything, I will tell everyone everything, but - prisoners."

Mei nervously nodded as the slower-moving assemblage of captives and Overwatch agents made their way to, and up, the hatchway ramp. Winston, Pharah, Reyes, and D.va looked around, seeing no sign of Tracer, and Fareeha looked at the doctor first, concern in her eyes.

Ziegler set her chin. "Tracer is well, but has departed via her own transport. I will debrief everyone once we have returned to base - but not before. Also, I must examine the Los Muertos personnel once we are underway." She looked at the angrier of the two fighters. I know her, she thought. I've seen her before. Somewhere. Where?

Winston nodded, a little sad, but accepting what he mistakenly thought he understood. "Athena, prepare for immediate liftoff. I'll be piloting us home."

-----

Venom hid in the scrub, beacon active, as the Talon emergency retrieval flyer made its emergency landing hard, not five metres in front of her, primary engines still running. She stood in the scattering dust and semaphored her good health, and that she was alone; the front hatch opened, and she chained over, surprising Taviano, who almost dropped his checkout kit.

"No military trouble?" asked Svetlana, Taviano's security escort, who did not drop anything.

"No military trouble," she acknowledged. "Security trouble, but - not that kind. You can stand down. And strap in, for that matter, we're boosting off right now."

"Understood."

«Then it's not a medical emergency?» the combat nurse asked, as Lena dashed past him, onto the primary deck.

«A bit of yes, a bit of no. Once we're in the air, I'll have you check everything you can, but I need a full workup as soon as possible.»

«Dr. Mariani will be waiting for us on arrival. Is it safe to take off?»

«Yes,» she said, hopping into a crash couch, and slipping on the internal comms headset. «First priority is to get out of here. Who's piloting?»

«van Vliet» he said, strapping himself in, in turn. «Combat experience.» "Svetlana," he called over to his escort, in English. "You good to go?" and gave a thumbs up as the Russian signalled her readiness.

"Hey, Clara, thanks for coming," Venom said, into comms, as soon as the nurse secured himself down. "Patch Amélie into the onboard comms and burn the boosters, I need home right now."

"Rockets first, patch-in later. Emergency launch in five, four, three," said the pilot, "two, one," and the ship threw itself up and forward at the usual four Gs.

«Tell me what's going on,» said the medic, over headset comms.

«Ziegler did what we were afraid she might,» the assassin replied, grimacing. «And worse. One minute, I'm injured but still playing Tracer, the next, I'm healthy, but all in black and green and sniper-style. Sure hope nobody on the other side saw it.»

«No wonder you want a workup. Are you feeling normal?» he asked, quickly. «Are your internal systems reporting anything atypical at all, no matter how small?»

«I feel fine, and no, all clear. I'm hoping you can verify that once we're back in international airspace.»

Nurse Bonsignore nodded. «I'll hope there's nothing interesting to find.»

[three hours later]

"You're certain she's well?"

"If there's anything wrong with her," said the doctor, "I can't find it. Her specifications match exactly the, ah, standards we set, the last time we ran them." She tapped her lips thoughtfully with her right pointer and middle fingers. "I should've complained more about the reading drift I saw. The problem, though, it's just so difficult to know, with her unique condition. It complicates everything."

"But meanwhile," said the Widowmaker, "she is fine."

"Yes."

"Was it necessary?"

"What Ziegler did, to keep her safe? Eh. I cannot say for sure, I did not see it. From what she says, it was a bad wound, very bad - emergency, yes - but I think she would have recovered. Definitely time to get her injected, get her stable, call us in. But for anyone with, ah, only experience in more baseline patients? It would seem necessary."

"How do you feel about... Ziegler?"

"Disappointed. I think Lena's right, we can't trust her, not on her word, but..." She shrugged, hands out and up. "But that is not so unusual. Perhaps with some leverage, it would come out all right."

The Talon assassin smirked. "I do not think there is any dirt to be had on the good doctor."

"I am not so sure about that."

"Really?"

Dr. Mariani nodded. "She worked with Moira O'Deorain. No one in Overwatch was completely, ah, clean? Clean. Except your wife, somehow. But... O'Deorain..." She shook her head. "I work with professional assassins, yes? By comparison, I feel I have nothing to hide."

Amélie laughed. "That is... probably fair. When may I see Lena?"

"As soon as this last scan is done. I'm making new images, to be safe."

"Thank you."

-----

"You what? " said Winston, disbelieving.

"I offer my resignation as Overwatch medical officer. It will not, I promise, change your or Overwatch's status in any way, but I have committed a ... serious ethical violation. I have made that kind if mistake before, and have tried to do better, but... failed myself, as much as her... and I think it is necessary to..."

The doctor had explained what she'd done earlier, in an all-hands meeting. It had been difficult - even to an essentially sympathetic audience - but necessary. This was the logical next step.

"Are you out of your mind? Angela, we need you."

Angela smiled a wan smile. "That... was her opinion, as well."

"Look, Ange, I..." he shook his head. "Frankly, I think you were right. You've made the same scans of all of us, and she should've had the sense to say yes, particularly with the security precautions you took. And from how Mei described her wounds, I think you were right to revive her, too."

"She says it was not necessary."

"Angela, it's Lena. Call her Venom, call her Tracer, call her Mockingbird, call her whatever, she's Lena. She was a test pilot and now she can bend time and she literally thinks she can survive absolutely anything."

"She was still moving with a 15 centimetre hole in her back. I'm not sure she's wrong."

"I'm not willing to bet she was right." He slid the letter back across his desk to the doctor. "As far as I'm concerned, you should burn this. I can't force you to stay - if you quit, you quit - but I'm sure as heck not accepting any resignation offer from you."

"Thank you." Dr. Ziegler took back the envelope, and smiled, just a little. "Then... I will need more oversight, and we will need to do something to regain their trust. Even if she and Amélie forgive me... I have damaged our relationship. I must repair it."

The Lunar Ambassador nodded. "There, at least - I agree."

"Has she answered any of your calls, yet?"

"No. I was about to try again, when you knocked."

"I will leave you to it, then."

"Do you want to try?"

The doctor hesitated. Yes, she thought. "I... no. I think it would not be best."

"You sure?"

"I... no, I'm not. I... may I sit down?"

"Of course! Pull a chair up on my side of the console. Even if you don't make the call, you should be here if they decide to answer."

"I'm not sure I should do that, either." She pulled over a chair, sat, and rested her face on her hands. "I am emotionally clouded. All of these decisions - they didn't come only from medical determinations, they came because I have become... too fond of Lena."

"But we're all fond of..." A small moment passed. "...oh."

The doctor grimaced, embarrassed. "Oh."

"Does Fareeha know?"

"Of course."

He chuffed a big chuff of breath. "...does Lena also...?"

"I do not think so. It is my problem, not hers."

"That does make everything more complicated."

"You're telling me?" laughed the doctor. "I... have always had a tendency to feel a little too much for my patients. It is what drives me, but it is a problem, and it is why I maintain such strict professionalism, particularly when I do not feel so professional. But... this time, it went too far."

"Can you handle it?"

"I'll have to."

"Maybe I should be the one to make that call again, after all."

"I think so."

Winston offered his hand, palm up. "Thank you for telling me everything, Angela."

"Thank you," she said, taking it, just for a moment, "for not accepting my resignation."

The gorilla laughed. "Never. Now - out of my office. I'll try to contact Lena again."

"Good luck."

-----

From: Ana Amari
To: Fareeha Amari
Subject: If you are still you, leave Overwatch at once

Fareeha -

I am sorry that I have not written you all these years, but I have been hunting a very particular monster who has been responsible for far more personal evil than I had ever previously imagined, and my silence has been necessary to that end. I never wanted to leave you alone for so long, but I thought I had no choice.

Now, I have found out that I have been chasing the lesser devil all this time - and that you are involved with the greater of the two.

I know who Lena Oxton is. I know everyone Lena Oxton is.

Leave Overwatch at once. If you have any sense at all, leave Angela, as well - I know that is hard, but I know what she's done, and if she is still making the same decisions, there is no redeeming her. While you still can, before you are remade, I beg you - leave her and Overwatch behind.

There is much more I wish I could tell you, but I can't, not yet. But someday, and hopefully, soon.

Your mother,

Ana

-----

From: Ana Amari
To: Jack Morrison
Subject: We need to talk.

Jack -

Don't ask how I have this address, it is not important. What is important is that I have learned that you may not be so crazy after all. I have information about Talon that you want and that you would pay any price to get.

We need to talk, in person, just you and me, like old times. Unarmed, and in public, but where we can speak Arabic and reasonably expect not to be understood - assuming your Arabic is still any good.

(Well, let's be honest, it never was any good. But if it's no worse.)

If you're willing to meet, under these terms, reply within two days. Otherwise... I will explore other avenues.

Capt. Ana Amari
Overwatch

solarbird: (tracer)

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

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

[AO3 link]


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

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

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

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

Not that it mattered, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No. Do yours?"

"Boxburg does."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

solarbird: (tracer)

[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?»

February 2019

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