This chapter is worksafe, but somewhat violent. [AO3 link]
"Well, that's the funny thing, Ana," the assassin told the enraged woman in front of her. "We have you? But we don't actually want you."
Most of the two parties had spread out, in the woods and brush, in separate sectors, looking for any sign of Morrison. Venom had weighed the odds carefully, decided this would be giving Laticia her chance, and stayed back at the house, with Angela, to interrogate their prisoner.
The oldest sniper spat, glaring at the young woman who had once been a test pilot, then the so-called "Hero of London," and a Talon sniper, and then... "So who have they made out of you today, pilot? Is there even a 'you' in there, anymore?"
Lena frowned, and growled a little. "Look, Captain, would you bloody get off it? You can't be as crazy as Jack - though I have to admit, that mail you sent makes me think you've come pretty close."
"That mail I sent...?"
"To Ree. Pretty nasty, I have t'say. But at least it got her off th' pot."
"Ah." Ana wondered, for a moment, what that last sentence meant, before carrying on. "So. You intercepted it, then? Or did she hand it to your controller, there?"
Amari glared over at Angela, in her Devil field kit. One of Lucifer's abilities is to heal, she thought. I will grant that it is clever. "I presume you're doing the same thing to my daughter that you've done to whoever this poor woman used to be, and to Amélie, before that."
Angela's face passed through a series of expressions, from confusion, to brief amusement, to anger, as she realised her mother-in-law was serious.
"You think... that I..."
Ana grimaced. "The suit is fitting. How long have you had it? Since you founded Talon? Was the angel always a joke at our expense?"
"Wow," Venom said, laughing, "you are gone." Then she frowned. "But this isn't my interrogation, Cap - or hers. It's yours."
She hunched down in front of the chair holding the senior Amari. "We know what you saw, thanks to that mail, and we've wiped the video off your rifle. But we're not stupid, and neither are you. You've got a backup, somewhere."
She didn't mention that a copy had already been sent off, to be edited, just so. The first fake version would appear on an Overwatch conspiracy theory site in two hours, from a regular on the board generally believed to be living somewhere in the Philippines, though some suspected they were really in Curaçao. Both groups, naturally, were wrong.
The former Strike Commander's former XO merely glared, and did not deign to reply.
"All we want to know is where the backups are. We're not unreasonable people, luv. You can be whatever kind of crazy old conspiracy nutter you want - we just want that video. Convince us all the copies are gone, and we'll let you walk away."
"So generous of you," she spat. "Give you the one piece of evidence I have that you care about - the one piece of power I have over you - and if I don't, you will... what? Kill me? You will kill me once you have it."
"Rather not, t'be honest. Kill you, I mean."
"I find that difficult to believe. Aren't you Talon's greatest assassin?"
"Flatterer. But that's my wife." She smirked. "Honestly, mate, it's all the same to me. You're part of the same rot who broke the original Overwatch. You're the ones who got my friends killed - who got Reinhardt killed" - Venom noticed as Ana blanched, a little, at that - "and who left me out to die in the Slipstream."
"So you... remember that much."
"Balls! 'Course I do. Why wouldn't I? I remember all of it. 'S far as I'm concerned, we'd be better off without any of you hanging around, still trying t'find ways to screw things up."
"Then why don't you just kill me? Afraid I have some sort of deadman's switch on the video?"
Venom nodded. "It's a possibility. But mostly, that's not it. Mostly, I just don't want to make Fareeha sad."
"Straight up," the assassin replied. "That's the real reason."
"...why do you care?"
"Because she's bloody great, that's why."
Lena stood up, walked over, and opened the fridge, finally finding that sangría señorial she'd been wanting for two days, and grinned, opening it, taking a sip.
"Must be from her pop. 'Cause it sure as hell didn't come from you."
They'd sedated Ana and put her in the small hut's only bedroom, safely away from prying eyes, when she wouldn't talk.
"So, Angela," Amélie asked. "What happened?"
Angela looked at her little projector, all systems functioning perfectly - or so its diagnostics claimed.
"I do not know. It should be working. It should have kept him from being able to ghost, it should have locked the nanites of his swarm into their state, and..."
The two women looked at each other, realising, both, at the same time.
"...he ghosted first," Amélie said, eyes wide.
"...of course! He can't come back," Angela said, astonished. "He's, he's, he must be locked in that form? Is it possible? Yes. It could be. He, he... could be still ghosted, now. Just... moreso. More, more, dispersed, and possibly even still dispersing. There are failsafes, but..."
"Can he survive that?"
"I have no idea how he survives any of it! I certainly have no idea for how long."
"And if we turn this off..."
"...he could pop back right in front of us. Or, if he moves out of range, he could fall back together on his own. At any time."
"How far is that range?"
"Perhaps... 450 metres. 500 at the very most."
The spider picked up her rifle. "Let's get everyone warned."
"Yes," the Devil said, wholly in agreement. "Let's."
"We have to presume," the Widowmaker said, "that he could be here, right now. This very moment. Presumably aware of us, presumably able to control his position, as he appears able, when normally ghosted - we have no way of knowing."
The Talon team had kept the cabin, Ana still bound and sedated in the bedroom; Overwatch, the southeastern ridge, out of sight, but along the easiest escape route.
"When we deactivate the field generator, he could appear in the middle of either team, or nowhere visible at all - or not even appear. He may even not have survived this; Teufel says she cannot know, but given everything else, that we must assume he did, and that he could attempt to absorb anyone nearby as soon as he attempts to materalise, before the field can be re-established. We must all be ready to attack on sight."
She let that sink in, for a moment.
"Is everyone in position?"
Sombra nodded, her scanners set and machine gun out; Angela nodded, her staff at the ready, hand on the field generator's control pad; Venom nodded, pistols and bomb readied, watching the perimeter. On the ridge, Laticia nodded, once, and last of all, Gabriel responded, "We're ready to go."
Angela swallowed, and tested her resolve, and found it... firm enough.
"Deactivating field," she said, "in five... four... three... two..."
...is back on a schedule.
I have a complete draft. All the missing pieces finally fell into my head this past weekend, and filled in all the gaps, and I wrote them, and boy are my arms tired. No, really, I'm taking anti-inflammatories today. But it's fine, because 30 chapters of 30 written, this work is complete pending revision on my side, and we are back on a publishing schedule.
I'm really surprised by this too, and really, really pleased.
Chapter 26: highly experimental work
or, "damn chupacabras getting into everything"
This chapter is worksafe, but somewhat violent. [AO3 link]
"I don't get their whole dynamic," Sombra said, watching the site through one of the multiband cameras she'd left behind, hidden. "Not from what you've told me. She's apparently been trying to kill him since that old Overwatch HQ blew up, and now they're best buds again, all at once?"
Gabriel managed a tiny bit of a laugh, over comms. He worried that this was not enough distance - the fiction of separation became awfully small, this close to a shared target. But, well, here we are. "She's always been a bit ruthless."
"That's pretty damn ruthless, amigo. And that's coming from me. I have done some shit."
"She has!" Lena agreed.
Laticia sat, with Gabe, listening to the voices - disguised on her and Gabe's end, not maybe not enough. She... the way she talks... who did you used to be, chica?
"It's an asset," Reyes said, "in the military. At least, to a point. You do what has to be done to accomplish the mission."
"I guess I'm not very military, then," the hacker replied.
"You're right, though," Gabe continued. "She has to have some sort of plan here. Any guesses what it might be, team?"
"Maybe.. she's going to ground? And trying to talk Jack into going along?" Angela hoped, on the far side, as Widowmaker shook her head, dismissing the notion.
"No," Gabriel nodded his head, from his side of the canyon, unseen. "She's always had contingency plans." He snorted. "You should've seen her this one time in Italy - little part of Venice called Rialto. We were holed up in this restaurant, waiting for extraction, with damn near every omnic trooper in the world coming down on us us..."
Is that the same Rialto that Jesse's talked about? the hacker desperately wanted to know, but would not ask. "What'd she do?"
"Noticed the kitchen was propane and turned the entire building into a giant shaped charge, aimed right at the primary force. Saved us all."
He paused, letting the moment sit.
"She wasn't always like this. Neither of them were. It's been a while but... we were friends, once. Real friends."
"You're really hoping you can talk her down, aren't you?"
"Of course," he admitted. "If I can. Jack..."
"Nope," Venom said, flatly.
"I know that, Venom," Gabriel said. "I get it. As I said, Jack, by contrast, is a clear and present danger, and... we're going along with doing it your way. It's not my first time in the field."
"Y'know," the hacker said, "If we can't get her to cough up all the copies of the video..."
Attention in both vehicles turned to Sombra's voice. "Go on," Amélie urged.
"What if we just... hold her for a while. Get the best copy from her we can, and start dumping altered versions on conspiracy theory sites."
"You know some good ones?" Laticia asked, poking.
"I know all the good ones," Sombra shot back, and Laticia smiled, a suspicion supported.
Sombra hopped up, out of her seat in the back of the transport, and started pacing back and forth in the low-ceilinged space, thinking about the video, her footsteps audible on the link. "The videos, though, right? It's not that she has 'em, it's that they're real. So we make 'em fake. Bad. Like, really bad. And some of 'em good. Maybe the first one. Make one of 'em what actually happened, but with Tracer edited out first and then edited back in, with, maybe, slightly fucked up lighting, and some paste effects you don't notice until you get in close. Looks real, at first, but then doesn't, when checked. Underlay somebody else under Tracer, then put Tracer back on top, leaving a little fringe."
"Dirty the water," Gabe muttered, thinking.
"Yeah, amigo, exactly, right? No, better. Change the question. Get them going, 'this isn't really Tracer, so who is it really - and who's behind it?'"
"Oh," Gabe said, a smile in his voice. "I like that."
"Then maybe some meme versions, right? Making fun of the original. Have Tracer turn into an omnic, or into that gamer from Korea, or Bowser, or," she laughed, "or a chibi version of your friend, Winston. Something like that."
Lena laughed and laughed and laughed. "Seriously?"
"Absolutely!" Sombra said, getting excited by her own idea. "By the time the real one comes out - if it ever does - our fake version of the real one will have been out so long that nobody will give it a second glance! It's just another refinement, you know?"
"I knew there was a reason I kept you around," the Widowmaker said, a small grin across her face.
"Old-style psyop, straight up. Active measures, they used to call it, back before the Omnic Crisis," Gabriel mused, calculating, trying to weigh against his own confirmation bias, wanting so much for it to be enough. "...it could work."
"We should check in with, uh," Venom said, not finishing the sentence. "You know. See what they think. Get their buy-off, 'cause we'd need them to, you know."
Amélie hummed her agreement. "I think I agree. Yes. Venom, that will be for you."
Lena groaned a little at the thought of having to call Overwatch, but couldn't deny her wife was correct. "Mind you," she said, carrying on, "we need t'get them apart before we can do anything." The younger assassin looked back to her drawings of the layout. "Got t'get an original of that video."
"Peel Ana off from Jack. Yeah." Gabriel acknowledged the point. "Tricky, though. If you wound him, and the doc's suppressor field isn't effective - no offense, Teufel -"
"None taken," the Swiss German said, waving off his worry of insult. "It is still highly experimental work."
"...he might... absorb her."
"Or, he may do something more conventional, but still particularly rash," Widowmaker added. "Or she might. It is difficult to tell."
"Gabe and I found a bunch of proximity alarms," Delgado reminded the teams. "Most of 'em were dead, like the ones you found. Maybe we trip one, maybe he comes out by himself, or she does, to check it."
"And either way, then we grab 'er, that what you're saying?" Venom asked. "And the other party goes after whoever doesn't come out."
"Seemed like worth a try," Laticia said, a little defensively. "I mean, she's a sniper..."
"It's not a bad thought, luv. I like it." She grinned to herself. "And, depending on how th' dice roll, we might both get a shot."
"I heard it," Jack grumbled from the couch, resting after working out. He really needed to get to those outer alarms. He knew local wildlife had tripped half of them - that every alert had just been one more false positive - but the situation had become more serious, now. "Probably another chupacabra. Every time one of those alarms gets triggered it's some damn animal or another."
"Perhaps," Ana said, frowning, dismayed a little at his casualness. "But I will check."
"No," the soldier said, rousing himself out of his torpor, feeling more out of joint than ever. Usually, workouts helped, but not as much today. "No. You cover me, while I go out." He shook himself out, trying to rally himself, physically. It worked, to a degree. "And... when I ghost... don't freak."
That much, at least, is wise, she thought, as she picked up her rifle, got into position, and nodded.
In the trees surrounding the small cabin, Venom sat, watching. "He's comin' out," she said, with a predatory grin, "and he's alone. Checking the door..."
"They are rightly suspicious," Widowmaker added. "Ana is..." She activated her helmet. "She is covering him, from inside. Do not underestimate her, even now."
"I've seen her shoot," Laticia chimed in. "I won't."
"Shit," Gabe said, "he's ghosted." They'd let the field generator untriggered, not wanting to tip Jack off, Angela and Venom both suspecting he could feel its effects. "Teufel, hit the trap!"
"Activated," Angela replied. "Is he..."
"Fuck!" Lacitica said. "Where'd he go? I saw him, I saw his cloud, then.... where the hell did he..."
"I do not have him in my sights," Widowmaker growled, frustrated. "How? How could he...?"
"I'm goin' in," Venom spat, through clenched teeth. "He's somewhere, but he's not here. We get Ana, maybe he comes back for her."
"Go. I have her in my sights - let us make sure she knows."
The single shot smashed the window, the bullet deflected as she'd anticipated, missing the Egyptian sniper. As the older woman spun to track back the shot and respond with one of her own, Venom teleported behind her, and with one blow, knocked her to the ground, dazed but not out. Ana's hand dove into her cloak for her knockout pistol, and the Talon assassin grabbed it as she did, the two wrestling, briefly, before the gun fired, once, into the wall, and a second time, into the Egyptian woman's shoulder.
"Sorry, mum," Lena said smirking, as the older woman's consciousness faded. "Not this time."
Jack Morrison floated, sightless, enraged, a diffuse mass, spreading, uncontrolled.
He'd felt himself scatter, when the trap triggered. He'd felt himself fly apart, the thinnest mist, held together for now, barely, buffeted by the breeze - how, he didn't know.
But he could hear. Vibrations in the air also vibrated what was left of him, and somehow, whatever network held him together, that still - barely - let him still think, also let him understand sound. He heard the Widowmaker's shot; he heard the glass shatter; he heard the sound of Venom teleporting, he heard a scuffle, he heard two shots, and he heard Ana fall, unknowing what it all meant.
And then, as he drifted away, he heard Venom's shout.
"Y'STILL OUT THERE, Y'MONSTROUS FUCK? WE'VE GOT 'ER, NOW."
"YOU WANT 'ER BACK?"
"COME GET HER!"
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."
"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?
This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]
Laticia Delgado frowned as Gabe nodded.
"A little. I... it's..." She scratched at her head, concentration clear on her face. "He always acted like he was going to be... like he wanted to make us into something. I didn't think he'd just ... bolt, like that."
"He was always good at building a team," the former Blackwatch commander agreed. "Maybe he hoped to build one with you?"
"Maybe," she granted. "He..." She looked down, to her left. "He had a way of making you feel like... he was in charge, sure, but that he cared. That he'd take care of you." She looked back up. "But he was never one of us, you know? He..." She grunted, frustrated. "He always stood back, a bit. I thought it was just being a commander, yeh?"
"Some of it's exactly that," he confirmed. "You have to keep some distance."
"I know, but..." She stopped, and shook her head, clearly conflicted. "I kind of... liked him. But he... but then..."
"But then, Araceli."
"Yeah," she muttered. "Then that."
"Not having second thoughts, are you?" The old soldier gave her a sympathetic look. "You don't have to be there. Our friends can take care of this. They have," he chuckled, a bit grimly, "...experience."
She shook her head. "No. I'm just..." She set her expression and hunched her neck a little. "I guess I'm glad he's run. I mean, he's... away from my gang now. He's away from my friends. We can take him down and it's..." She stood up, suddenly, pacing. "They're good. They've, we've got ourselves out of all kinds of scrapes. And they can take care of themselves, believe me. But..."
She thought of Araceli's face melting, dissolving, into the monster that was Jack Morrison.
"...not against somebody like this. With them out of the picture... I know they aren't gonna get hurt now, you know? I might, but they..." A scowl crossed her face, and she stopped pacing. "This is out of their league."
Gabriel Reyes gave her a considering look. "Yeah," he said. "It is."
"It's out of my league, too. Isn't it."
"A week ago, I'd've said yes," he granted. "Now... honestly, I'm not so sure." He leaned back on the bench, with more than half a grin. "I like the way you think, kid, you know that?"
Laticia Delgado snorted. "I'm not a kid."
He raised an eyebrow - "When you're as old as I am, everybody's a kid" - and checked his watch. "They're gonna call us, soon. Brainstorm, try to figure out where he might've gone. I'm supposed to keep some distance between you and them, but I could push back if you want in on this."
She looked back and forth, a little, as she thought.
"Yeah," she said. "Push back. I might have some ideas."
Widowmaker turned to the doctor, and gave her a little bit of a smile, perhaps a little bit more than she meant to, or thought she would, particularly given that not the slightest bit of it was anything less than entirely genuine. "Yes, Angela?"
"Do you have a moment?"
"For you?" The assassin gestured to another seat in the small room she and Lena had taken up as a remote office. "Of course."
"Thank you," Angela replied, as she closed the door behind her and sat down.
"Have you and Sombra had any breakthroughs in determining how to find and destroy that unfortunate video of the Captain's?"
"A little," the Swiss woman replied. "Now that I've given her better images of Ana, she's able to search more effectively for any sightings. But..."
"Have you considered how we got here?"
"I consider everything," the assassin answered, a you-know-better smirk on her lips.
"Of course. And I know that - if you're right - this has become important, now. But..."
"But... it didn't have to be?"
Angela hesitated, and then frowned her agreement, looking down, looking up, nodding at nothing in particular. "If... if Gabriel hadn't brought in that photo, if Lena had... just left Jack alone... none of this... none of this had to happen, did it?"
The spider smirked, but there was fondness in it. "If everything was completely different, then everything would be completely different, I think you are asking, no?"
"No," Angela replied, sharply, reconsidering it even as she did. "But... fine. Perhaps. But it's still true. Jack could've still been dead, as far as the world knew. Ana, as well. Eventually, he would've actually died - what he is would not prevent that, I don't think. Honestly, I am astounded he is still alive. The mice and rats did not last very long, but... well. He is human, and I cannot be sure of everything, regardless."
"I see," Amélie said. How... interesting, she thought. Perhaps that would solve our problem, eventually. But he'll last long enough, despite that.
Angela plowed ahead, heedless of Amélie's thoughts. "Instead, the Overwatch project is endangered almost as soon as it's been reborn. Jack has almost killed Lena in view of Ana, who almost certainly recorded both that and her revival, and might expose Talon and Overwatch both, and has... what she said to Fareeha, it is unforgivable, and..."
"And Lena is entirely willing to kill both of them, and eager to kill one, and you don't like thinking of her as being... like that. Like me."
"I..." The doctor sighed, and closed her eyes. "I... do not. I do not deny what she is - what you are. And I've never denied that I have also been a soldier, of sorts."
"It is not the same," the assassin stated, knowing it was not.
"It isn't. I like to... play one, with Fareeha. I joke about the Swiss military, and how we are all trained - and we are - but... now, we are here, and almost ready to move, and..."
"I understand, I think." Améliie gave her a thoughtful look, and leaned back, a bit, in her chair. "I can't tell you if he would never have begun to matter, eventually, even had none of this had happened. But..." She allowed herself a little bit of a laugh. "How many people would Jack have... absorbed... keeping himself alive, until he died? How many would he kill, or would Ana kill, trying to kill him?"
"We can't know."
"Similarly, we cannot know this. We cannot know how it would've gone, had Gabriel, and Lena, done nothing."
The doctor frowned. It seemed valid to her, but...
"And most of all, as far as I'm concerned - had none of this happened, would Fareeha have accepted your gift? Would I have received mine?"
Mercy shuddered, and closed her eyes. "...I know."
Ah, the spider smiled. There it is. She stood up from her small desk, walked around it, and knelt beside her friend, and, once, a little more. "Angela?"
The doctor looked up, eyes open, again.
"You do not need to feel guilty that you have benefited from this."
"But I do. I'm... all this has..." Angela shuddered again. She was so happy about everything Amélie mentioned, but the reasons, the why it had happened... it hurt. "It all hinges on killing - on assassinating - someone, Amélie. Someone who... used to be a friend, even if he has become something else. It's not what I am. But... Lena, and... you..."
"It depends upon assassinating someone - stopping someone, permanently - who has killed hundreds. Many, many people would consider it no less than overdue justice. You seemed to agree with that, back in... back at our previous stop."
"I did. I thought. As... as far as it goes. As long as we can spare Ana. But even if it's just him, I can't look away from what I'm doing. I won't."
"Knowing what Jack is, can you live with there being only one way, really, to stop him? Can you not live, after all, with that? Does benefitting from it make it so much worse?"
"It's hard. Everything I've ever done has been about stopping death, not about... dealing it."
"I know. But you will save lives, by helping us end his."
"That's different than... perhaps it is hypocritical of me," the doctor granted, "but it is different to helping do it."
"And yet, you were a field medic for Overwatch."
"And not for Blackwatch. Ever. That was why."
I see, Amélie thought. So she did draw that line, before. At least, insofar as she knew.
She reached over, and took Angela's hands in her own. "I wish," she said, after a moment's hesitation, "I wish... our world was more... compatible, with your ideals. I wish the lines could always be so clean. That my art, and Lena's art, were not so necessary."
Angela managed a sad little smile. Somehow, she thought, that helps. "Thank you. So do I."
"It is nothing. Talon is... pragmatic, in our own way. Gérard and I were even more so, which is why I know he would've understood what I did." She sighed. "This is the world we have, and we do what we think we must, for the best. But that doesn't mean I can't admit... sometimes, I wish, perhaps... that it wasn't."
"Even though... it is."
Amélie nodded, resolutely. "Even though it is."
"I've missed you," the angel said, looking into those golden eyes.
"I've missed you," her friend replied, those eyes soft, and warm.
"Let's not let it happen again, shall we?"
The blue assassin smiled a most un-spiderlike smile. "Never."
"So you think you might know where he's gone, then?"
Lena looked at the young gangster sitting next to Gabe, across the display, her own image and voice disguised via software. Amélie sat across from her, at the same table, at her own display, her voice and image similarly distorted; Angela and Sombra watched, out of camera view, across the room.
"Not exactly. But he's got someplace down south." Laticia leaned forward, her image and her voice not disguised at all. "He never said where, but it's somewhere people won't go, and won't be found, at least, not easily."
"People stay away on their own?"
"I think so. And he can't be spotted from above."
Sounds about right, the junior assassin thought. "Well, it's a start. I don't suppose you have any more specific ideas..."
"'Course I do. But I want some promises."
The younger assassin smiled. "Fair enough. What?"
"I want in."
Lena blinked, surprised, face quizzical. "Wot? You want in with us? We're not recruiting, luv."
"No," the gangster dismissed, "I want in on taking him down. I want to be there. I want a shot."
Oh, Lena thought, unhappy at the suggestion. "Nope. That's for me. I've owed him for more, and for longer."
"You owe him for more? What do you know about it? He was on my side, and killed my last family."
Venom growled, now angry. "Yeh, well, he killed my..." she started, before biting her lip, stopping herself. No. She looked up at Amélie, across the table, who'd tilted her head just a little bit, her hands under her chin, giving her one of those looks, and Lena understood, Professionalism, she thought, and nodded. Control.
"You aren't us, and you aren't going to be - so you have to stay with Gabriel. Got that?"
Laticia nodded, knowing that few people who saw Talon agents in the field ever lived to tell about it. "Got it."
"But if your information checks out... then... if you get a shot... we won't stop you from taking it."
"If we're both there, I want to fire first."
Then I'll have t'make sure that doesn't happen, Venom thought. He's mine. But aloud, she said, "Then you can fire first. Deal?"
Lena watched as Gabe leaned in, and spoke, quietly, off microphone, with the Los Muertos gangster. She tracked Laticia's eyes as they flicked nervously from Gabriel, back to the camera and screen with Lena's distorted image, and back, and eventually, she nodded.
"Deal," she said, a little reluctantly. "Okay." She straightened a bit in her chair. "Here's what I know."
"What," Venom asked, eyes alight, "is that?!"
Angela snorted, adjusting the 'horns' on her headset, securing them down into place. "You don't like it?"
"Gordon Bennett, there's a tail. There's a tail!" The assassin turned, calling down the hallway. "Amé, Sombra, c'mere - you have got to see this!"
Amélie arrived first. "What is the matter, aren't you..." She blinked, seeing, and smiled. "That... is a delight."
Sombra trailed in, behind her, and beamed. "Ah, la ángel - a demon? Or..."
"A devil, if you are to be particular about it," the Swiss doctor said, thinking, and if I am to be honest about it, as well. "A surprising amount of this is my basic kit, with the camouflage modes reprogrammed."
"I adore it," Lena said, finally finding her voice again. "Didn't think y'had it in you, luv!"
"I did," Widowmaker said, a knowing smile on her face.
"I could hardly go into this with my Overwatch colours, now could I? I can at least pretend someone has..." - she whirled her staff around, careful not to scrape it against the ceiling or floor - "stolen, or perhaps reverse-engineered, my technologies. It's far from a perfect solution, but..."
"I think it's pretty great, luv. And absolutely, I get it."
"You know, conjita, I have a lot of makeup, including temporary hair dye... want me to make the eyebrows match the rest?"
"We have time, rápida?"
"Can you do it in ten minutes?"
"I can make her into a completely different person in ten minutes."
If only, Angela thought.
"Brilliant!" Venom chirped. "We'll finish loading up, and meet you outside!"
Angela almost nodded, but stopped, as Olivia grabbed her chin. "No, no, none of that. Let me work!" The hacker grinned. "Trust me. You're going to look amazing."
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.
"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."
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."
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.?"
"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."
"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."
I didn't realise I hadn't posted a new chapter since mid-December! Sorry for the late.
This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]
«Look, friend, all I'm trying to tell you is that big trouble is coming, and it's aimed straight at your guy. Cut him loose.»
Sombra made a little frustrated noise as Flores didn't answer immediately. He'd been fighting her on Morrison since she first contacted him about it. «Look, Olivia, this isn't...»
«Don't call me that.»
«Sombra, this isn't - you aren't with us anymore. We all know it.»
«But I'm still your friend, friend. Or aren't I?»
He sighed. «No, no, you are... I just... he really, really knows what he's doing. Militarily. We're so much more effective now, we've thrown the Maras completely out of the whole state. The police are starting to think of us as maybe not even so bad.»
«And when he turns on you, like he turned on Laticia and Araceli?»
A moment, and then another moment, silence, over comms. «He didn't... look, we don't know what happened to Araceli...»
«I do. I told you. I've seen it.»
«That - it makes no sense. It's impossible.»
«You want the video? I can see about that.»
«And Laticia, she's turned state's evidence, sold us out to Overwatch! Why shouldn't he...»
«Is that what he says? He's a liar. Well, he was a liar before. Look, have I ever lied to you?»
«About anything important.»
«And I'm not lying to you now. You heard what Talon did to that Mara cell in El Salvador, right? Do you want that? Because that's what you're going to get.»
She could almost hear him thinking.
«...can you get me that video?»
«I think so. Want to clear it with my source, first. Very delicate, you know? Don't want to alienate them.»
«Sure, sure. Let me know.»
«I will. Sombra out.»
The hacker leaned back in her chair. "Well, how 'bout it? I figure we let him sweat for a day or two, then hand it over."
Lena smiled. "Sounds good. I don't want t' have to tear through Los Muertos to get to that bastard. They're just kids, mostly, and none of this is their fault." She fuzzled Sombra's hair.
"Quit it, rapido! This hair takes time!"
"Make me!" Lena giggled, and, of course, made it worse, as she and the hacker got into a hair-messing competition that the teleporter could only win.
Angela looked on, mildly astonished, from the couch across the room where she sat, surrounded by notebooks. Yesterday's meeting of the minds had run late into the night, followed by a massive exchange of documents in the morning, after breakfast and some more personal catching up with Amélie.
She looked around, again, a little overwhelmed. She'd handed over a data chip, and had not imagined getting stacks of paper to read, in exchange. Dr. Marani wasn't so much old-fashioned in her record-keeping, as prehistoric. It looks like so much more, when it's all physically in front of you, she thought. But it painted a crystalline picture, nonetheless.
A burst of laughter caught her attention, and she looked up. Lena's so relaxed, here, she thought, contemplating what she was seeing. And arguing against killing, rather than reminding us she's an assassin over and over. She gazed intently at the roughhousing Talon agents. It's because... she's just Lena here, isn't she? Not Tracer. Just ... herself, and she doesn't have to insist on anything to remember that. She shook her head, and went back to reading lab reports.
"Agh, you win, stop it!"
"Yeah!" The assassin punched the air. "Venom wins again!"
Sombra got out a hairbrush and began working her hair back into place. "You know, it'd go a long way if he heard it from Laticia himself."
"What, get her sprung, you mean?"
"Something like that. It'd carry a lot of weight."
"Hmf," said the assassin. "Somethin' to consider." She glanced over at the Overwatch doctor. "If we have to. Don't quite want t'be asking favours at the moment. Not 'till we've got everything else sorted out."
"What's Overwatch gonna do with her? They aren't police or courts or anything. They have to hand her over to somebody, eventually - why not us?"
"What would happen to her afterwards?" Angela asked, suddenly.
Lena shrugged. "...let her go, I guess? Back to Los Muertos?"
"With what she'd know, by then? How could that work?" She leaned forward, intently. "You could never let her go. Not with her knowing what she would about Talon, combined with what she does about Overwatch. She'd be a threat." She leaned back, and shook her head. "I cannot risk that."
The assassin frowned. "We wouldn't, but... I get your point, I guess."
"What if we kept her at arm's reach?" suggested the hacker. "Your friend, Gabriel."
Venom grimaced. "He's not really..."
"Fiiiiine, your colleague, whatever. When we decamp to Mexico, he goes too, brings her. We co-ordinate at a distance, he lets her go back to the gang when the job's done."
"That's not bad, luv. Whatcha think, doc?"
Doc, she thought. Well. That's an improvement. "I think... Overwatch could go along with that. Obviously, it is not my final decision, but... I think so."
"It'd help. But... y'seem to have got used to the idea we're gonna finish off Morrison awfully quick."
The doctor leaned forward, face in her hands, elbows on the glass table in front of the couch. "He's my fault," she said, resigned. "At least... partly. And I saw - well, I did not quite see it, but I saw the results when you were tried to bring him in alive." Her hands closed to loosely-held fists, forehead pressed against them, carrying the weight of her head, of her thoughts. "If he is willing to do that to you, or worse, to Mei-Ling... then he is no longer the man I once admired."
"Makes it easier, then?"
"I have always been a field medic, and then a doctor, first. But I have also always been a soldier. Just like him. Just like Fareeha. Just like you. But even with that, I am not on a mission to kill him." She lifted her head, and looked Venom in the eyes. "I am here to do my best to save my mother-in-law. If helping you kill him does that... so be it."
"Wow, this got somber," interjected the hacker. "Where's the fun in that?"
The assassin snickered as Angela frowned, and she swatted at her friend's head. "Right, then! It's late. Go flirt with your girlfriend - didn't you say you'd call her tonight?"
"Ah, she's used to it," Sombra said, nonchalantly - but also packed up her physical kit in one quick swipe.
"You complete reprobate - go call her. Now. She hates it when you're late."
"Don't have to tell me twice. And don't disturb me, we'll probably be verrrry naughty."
"Out!" Lena picked a cushion off one of the chairs and threw it at the Mexican woman as she fled, missing, Angela suspected intentionally.
"So... Lena - may I still call you that? Or is it Venom all the time, here?"
"This is my home, doc. You're at my house. If it's not Lena here, where is it?"
"I think you know what I mean."
Tracer managed a half of a smile. "Yeh. I guess I do." She sighed, retrieved the cushion she'd thrown, put it back on the chair where it belonged, and flumped down on it. "Honestly, I wish you wanted to be here. I'm not in love with you, but... bloody hell, doc. Of all the old crew, you were the one I wanted back. You were... you were the one I trusted. Maybe it was London, maybe it was... I dunno why. I just did."
"I have already made my apologies..."
"I know. I'm not lookin' for another one. I'm just..." She waved her hands around. "I want that trust back."
"But that's not why I'm here."
"No," she admitted, "I guess not."
"So then, Lena - why am I here?"
Lena smirked at the Overwatch doctor. "Helpin' us kill Morrison's not enough?"
"All you need is my field suppression device. I could've handed that to you in Geneva." She didn't pretend it would be any less involvement that way, not to herself - but it didn't require a trip to any secret bases. Or, apparently, homes.
"Fair enough. But with us, you've handy, if things go wrong. And, like you said, maybe y'can help us not have to kill someone else."
"Yeh. We take down Morrison, we get any video she might have of that little mistake of yours... she gets to live."
"How would I do that?"
"No idea. That's somethin' for you to figure out with Sombra."
"Lena," she said, leaning forward. "I appreciate that you're trying. But..."
"Again," the assassin stressed. "Trying, again. I hope you get that, luv, 'cause like you just said, last time tryin' it this way got me a hole in my back big enough for Zarya to put her fists through."
"But you would not be trying if you did not have some other reason to bring me here. She'd just be on your kill list. We both know it." She scowled. "Why am I really here? Not my reasons. Yours. You want trust back, between us? Tell me this."
Lena looked around, tapped the surface of the table with one finger, got up, and closed the door.
"All right, then," she said. "Didn't want t'get to this 'till later, but fine." She sat back down. "Remember how you said I didn't look any different, first time y'saw me, back in London?"
The doctor nodded. "You still don't, not really. It's only been a few years, after all - for you."
"Yeh - it's still explainable that way, for me. So far, anyway."
Lena gave Angela a long, thoughtful look. She's not this good a liar, she decided. Not with stuff like this. "Y'really don't know."
"Lena..." the doctor said, confusedly. "Would you please just tell me?"
The Talon assassin bit her lower lip, nodded, and took a deep breath, before continuing. "You're not the only one not gettin' any older, luv."
Dr. Ziegler started, leaning forward. "You're not... Dr. Mariani hasn't talked about work anything like this. If not her, then how...?"
"That's the trick, innit?" She sighed. "We don't know. Somethin' to do with the slipstream, we're pretty sure, but ... no idea what."
"...and Amélie is, isn't she."
"Yep. Nothin' you'd notice yet, particularly not on her - we're both hard to kill, and awfully durable. But... she is."
"That time I asked you about Fareeha? Hoped you'd win that argument?"
"You knew, already? About yourself?"
"That's what you want out of me, really, then, isn't it."
"Yeh," she nodded. "I..." Fear - real fear - flashed across her face. "I... sometimes, when I rewind, I..." She swallowed, hard. "I see things. Other places. Other us. Dunno if it's real, not for sure, but sometimes, sometimes... I see myself... at her grave. It's a hundred years from now, and she's long gone, and I'm still... me. As I am now."
She shuddered, and sniffed a little. Lena reached over, pulling a tissue from her pocket, offering it to her.
"I couldn't take that, doc," she said, taking the tissue. "I won't lose her. I won't. Not to that. Not to anything."
Dr. Ziegler nodded, eyes soft. "That... is something I understand. Fully."
"I still hope y'get it sorted with Fareeha. I like her."
For the second time since arriving at the small Talon base, Angela Ziegler smiled a genuine, broad, reflexive smile. "Then... I have some good news for you."
Lena blinked, and sat up straighter, eyes wide. "She..."
"And it's worked?"
"As far as I can tell, everything is perfect. Her scars started fading within hours. Not so much that she can see it, yet, but..."
Lena Oxton breathed heavily and deeply. "So ... there's hope. It's not just you anymore."
"If you can do this for us... t'hell with all of it, luv. I'd forgive you anything. Forever."
Lena laughed, her old laugh, the kind of laugh that cut straight through to Angela's heart, and the doctor, too, laughed, in kind, so relieved. "I am sorry for what I did, but really, I am not sorry at all," she said, huffing halfway to giggles. "I know what you must have been going through, now, and honesty, it all makes so much more sense..."
"It's been workin' on me, luv, not gonna lie," Lena said, shaking her head, eyes wet, but with a smile. "Maybe... maybe it's made me a little too extra, can't say..."
"Does Amélie know?"
"'Course she does. We don't keep secrets."
"Well. That explains all this," she said, pointing to the stacks of lab notebooks and research notes. "You were so angry that you thought I'd figured you out, then I get here only to have all this thrown at me..."
"In trade. The doc - our doc - has been wanting a colleague for a while."
"Certainly, but still - the dichotomy... well. It is now explained." She shook her head. "My approach will not even have to change. Just the specifics."
"Still killin' Morrison, you know that."
"Don't spoil the moment."
"We don't lie, luv. Not internally. It's somethin' Talon's got over Overwatch."
"Really. It's not just me an Amélie. We are what we are, we don't pretend we're anything else. Secrets, sometimes, sure, y'gotta keep 'em. But not lies."
The doctor let out a little bit of a laugh, a heh sound, almost appreciative. "No wonder you're so... thin, at the upper levels. Well. I suppose there is something to be said for Talon, after all."
"Big step up from the old Overwatch."
"All too true."
"I'll take that as a compliment!" Lena snarked, cheekily.
"You should," the doctor agreed. "You really, really should."
"Oh god, Ange..." She leaned forward, like the doctor had, head in her hands, eyes and smile visible through it. "You'll really do this. You really will."
"If I can."
"Thank you. Oh... I..." She leaned forward, and took Angela's hands, tightly, in her own. "Thank you."
This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]
Angela Ziegler looked over the boxed-up contents of her laboratory, everything safely put away, new access codes on the doors and cases. The last round of prepared auto-aid kits - capable of handling most of the sorts of injuries an Overwatch agent was likely to encounter in the field - were neatly stacked on the cart outside her office, ready for transport up the elevator and across to the Lunar embassy.
She picked up her bag and backpack, and grasped the cart's handle, making her way to the elevator, then up, to the courtyard, where Fareeha and Winston waited for her, at the line marking the boundary between Swiss and Lunar territories.
"One last time, Angela," the scientist said, "Are you sure about this?"
The doctor nodded, firmly. "I care about this project as much as you do, Winston. We are needed, and... we need her. If this is what is necessary to repair the damage I caused, so be it."
"Then... thank you. And good luck." The ambassador took the cart from his friend, and wheeled it aside, well into Lunar territory.
"You look very much like you need a hug. I know I do," Fareeha said.
"Yes, I do. But - think of it as just another mission. We have been apart before."
"Not like this."
"It's just Lena, liebchen. She's not so frightening as all that."
"But it's not just her. It's all of Talon, and you are going into the heart of it."
"I know. But I should not be gone for so very long." The two embraced, kissing both fiercely and tenderly, before Angela broke away and stepped back to the Swiss side of the line. "They want no one else in the courtyard, so..."
"Come back to me," said the rocketeer, as she stepped back, into the Lunar Embassy's entryway.
The courtyard now clear, the doctor pulled a violet hexagonal device from her bag, and placed it on the ground in front of her. "The beacon comes in two parts. I don't know why, but I know they will respond quickly," she said quietly, knowing her wife could still hear her nonetheless. Then, from a small, round, metal box, she extracted a smaller, round, black device, clicked its power cell into place, and depressed the top button until it beeped, twice. "That's all there is to it." She looked up, looking for a ship. "See you when I see..."
And then she vanished.
Gabriel almost let himself laugh a bit. "Talon has a top-level software and hardware hacker - I don't know her real name, but she's head of the Sombra collective, the one behind that hacking spree last year. That teleporter trick has to be her work."
Hana flipped the image showing Angela's disappearance onto her personal padd, examining it curiously, as Winston said, "An extraordinarily powerful tool, regardless."
"I wasn't worried," said Fareeha. "Not any more than I already had been. If Talon had wanted to kill her for what she did, they'd've already done it." Or, she thought, at least, tried. "They wouldn't hide behind special effects."
Winston shook his head, no. "I wouldn't've cooperated - ever - if I was afraid of anything like that. Widowmaker is very strange, in some ways, but she is also very rational." And still Amélie, he thought, but could not say. "There are confidences I'm keeping, but it comes down to one thing: they trusted us, and we blew it, and now we have to trust them."
Fareeha nodded in agreement. "Exactly."
"So what are you worried about, Ree?" asked Gabriel.
The rocketeer's expression grew sober. "I worry about... what Angela might decide she needs to do."
"Yes," she heard the unnamed woman reply, the one who had blindfolded her, the one with the Talon patch on her shoulder. "The way forward is flat. Follow my lead and the direction of my voice, please."
The doctor stepped carefully along a hard-surfaced walkway. It sounded like concrete, but could've been stone, or anything like it, really. She heard the sounds of seagulls, nearby, and sandpipers, in the distance. "When may I remove the blindfold?" she asked, nervously, when she suddenly felt the sun fall away from her skin with a last pair of steps, and she stopped, at a half-height metal gate. Behind her, she heard a door close.
"Now," said the pilot. "Here, I'll do it," and she removed the cloth.
After the blindfold, even the inside seemed bright, bright like midday. Behind her, a grey metal door sat framed in a small concrete entry leading back, presumably, to the aircraft. Directly before her, the gate, unlocked. And ahead, a stairwell down.
"Don't worry," said the pilot, "it's quite safe. Please proceed."
Through concealed camera feeds, Venom and Widowmaker watched Dr. Ziegler walk down the cement stairs. Everything was being recorded, of course. Perhaps they couldn't entirely trust Angela Ziegler on her word alone, but having just a bit of leverage changed the situation entirely. And if proof of active cooperation with a globally-notorious terrorist organisation didn't count as leverage, well - what would?
"I'm surprised she went along with this, honestly," the teleporter said. "But I'm glad she did."
"I am, as well," said the spider. "But I am... less surprised than you, given what I remember, and all you've said. I do not think she is as much of a rationalist as she likes to believe."
"Wot," she said, a small smile quirking up on one side. "You sayin' she's doin' all this just 'cause she's fallen for me?"
"No," her wife replied, "but... that is part of it. She has strong emotions."
"She's married! And - the doc? Strong emotions? You serious?"
"The first," smirked the spider, "I do not think has to matter so much. And the second... I suspected, even in the old days, but is it not obvious now? Everything she's done screams it. Particularly at the end - she didn't even try to triage you, she just swept in like a goddess and rebuilt your body." Her smirk relaxed into a smile, almost sympathetic. "As one who controls her own passions tightly, I recognise it in another. It is part of why I am not so angry at her... poor decision-making."
"Oh, yes. Seeing her again, even if in video - it is enough to confirm it. She may hide it from you, and from her current friends - but not from me."
Venom shook her head, and grinned a little. "Y'know... knowin' that... I almost wish it was returned."
"I have always found her quite attractive. And I suspect she is an absolute beast in bed."
"Oh, now, don't you start."
Widowmaker laughed. "Do not worry, cherie, we were only friends - if close ones. And... one time, perhaps a little bit more. I think I will remind her of it." She squeezed her wife's hand. "But it was not serious. I have already fallen, I have no need to fall again."
"I wouldn't mind tho'. As long as y'always came home."
Amélie leaned over and kissed Lena. "J'adore."
"Aw," said the junior assassin, blushing just a little. "I love you too."
"Doctor Ziegler!" said the grey-haired woman, motioning to a chair, as the pilot disappeared quietly back out to the hallway. "It is an honour. Please, sit down. Would you like anything to drink?"
"Some water would be lovely," said the Swiss woman, as she sat. The older woman nodded to her companion, who scooted over for a bottle of water, and two cups of hot tea, from the sidebar.
"I am Dr. Geanna Mariani, and this is my nurse assistant, Taviano Bonsignore. And it is a pleasure, finally, to meet you."
"I suspect I am familiar with your work?"
"More than you should be, I think? But yes."
"Not actually so, but what I know of it is miraculous," Dr. Ziegler said, sincerely. "You have been described to me as a fan of mine - I am, I think, an admirer of yours. But... amongst other tasks, I have a data delivery to make. Will anyone else be attending?"
"Ah, I'm flattered. Thank you. Yes, and they should be here any moment," she said, as the second set of doors opened, and Venom and Widowmaker - both in full Talon field gear - stepped out. "Ah, there you are!"
"Venom," said the Overwatch doctor, nodding, carefully neutral, getting a small but polite smile in return. "Widowmaker," she said, nodding again, a little wary despite herself.
The senior assassin smiled. "It has been a long time, Doctor Ziegler, has it not? Perhaps too long." She reached out her hand to the Swiss woman, who offered her own only to find her fingers brought to cool, blue kips, and gently kissed. "But there is no need to be so formal. Surely, Angela, you have not forgotten Tripoli."
She remembers, thought the doctor, relief cascading through her. It is you. It was always you, the whole time. I knew it. "Of course I haven't," she whispered, smiling, and kissing that cool blue hand, in turn. "It truly is wonderful to see you again in person... Amélie."
I'm writing this thing and even I'm being surprised at how much Pharmacy milage is in this chapter.
Fareeha read the letter again, face grim, shaking a little, enraged. How dare she. How dare she?!
"Angela! Come here, please!" she called into the other room. This will have to go to all of Overwatch, but... she should know, first.
"Fareeha? Are you all right? You sound..." Her wife leaned around the doorframe and saw that, in fact, her wife was tightly, rigidly angry. "Oh, no. What is it, liebchen?"
"Come here, and hold me, while you read this."
Angela stepped quickly forward to the flying agent's chair and wrapped her arms around her neck, reading over her shoulder. "...I... I... this has to go to the entire team."
"I know. I wanted you to see it first."
"Do not hold any of it back, send it unedited."
"That is not why." The Egyptian turned in her chair to face her wife. "I've decided. I will do it. I want to do it, now. How long will it take to prepare a set of nanites for me?"
Angela gasped, and covered her mouth with her left hand, her heart leaping, and she stepped half a step back, then threw herself around her wife, holding her tight, so tight, so unready for that declaration. "I... That is not the reaction I..."
Fareeha held her wife gently, pulling her head against her strong shoulders, her eyes closed, brushing her fingers through her wife's hair. "I know."
"But... why? I am..." The doctor took a long, deep breath, and pulled back. "I... have committed a serious ethical lapse - it was not my first - and ... I have wanted this for too long. I, I have to be sure. I have to know. You are not doing this just to spite your mother?"
Fareeha laughed, a little bitterly. "No."
"Have I put pressure on you? Have I been..."
Fareeha chuckled and smiled. "No."
"Then... why? Why now?"
Her wife grew quite sombre, quite quickly. "I..." She pursed her lips and looked at the floor, and did not speak for a moment, and then not for another moment, and not for another moment after that. She covered her eyes with her hands, then covered her entire face, sliding her palms slowly down, collecting her thoughts. Softly, looking up, but to the distance, she began, "I was always taught life had phases, and that it mattered to go through all of them." She bit her lip. "That they all have a purpose. That everything has a time, and a place, and that all the phases of life are equally valuable, in different ways. Part of that is... that age brings wisdom."
"I do not disagree," said her wife, softly.
"Mother - Ana - believed in that, particularly. That the wisdom of age is important to humanity. That there is value - and knowledge - in understanding the decay of time, in understanding" - she looked at her own strong arms, and her own strong hands - "that this does not endure."
Angela Ziegler nodded, and her expression subtly changed, as her thoughts raced ahead of her wife's speech.
"I have lived long enough to understand that, at least, a little. But - if she... if this is what she calls wisdom..." She glared back to the screen, with its softly glowing text, anger in her eyes. "This is not wisdom, it is insanity." Her gaze whipped back to her wife, and she looked deep into her eyes. "Is this what awaits me in old age? This... paranoia? This capriciousness? This... madness? I will have no part of it. I beg you to save me from this."
Angela met her wife's sight, falling into the dark pools of her eyes, reaching across to her wife, touching her cheek and chin and hair. "I have wanted nothing more in my life." She closed her own eyes, for a moment, and opened them again. "But ... I have to do this correctly."
"Whatever this is," she gestured to the text on the display, "it is not genetic. If it is environmental, it is not in you. You carry nothing that makes this inevitable, or even likely. I do not know what has happened to your mother, but ... I do not think, not even for a moment, that you would share her fate."
Fareeha nodded. "Good." Slowly, she looked down again, contemplating Angela's declaration carefully for seconds, then for a minute, then for another, before looking back up. "But it doesn't change my decision. The only reason - the only true reason - I have said no, is my belief in what she taught me." She reached over, and touched the display, with its texts, with its threat. "I no longer have good cause to think it has value."
"I'm sorry," said her wife. "I'm so sorry."
"I'm not," said her lover. "Illusions do not suit me." She shrugged. "Besides, it's not like you can't turn the nanites off."
"No," acknowledged the doctor. "But they will begin repairs immediately. You will lose your scars, over a period of weeks. They are part of your life, your experience, and they will fade completely, over time."
The younger soldier nodded. "They are mostly hidden, anyway."
"Not from me," smiled the doctor. "I treasure them, as they are a part of you."
The flying officer snorted. "They hurt in rainy weather, you know that. They bother me every time we visit my father. This one, in particular," she pointed to the left side of her ribcage, "I will be most glad to see this one gone."
"You will look younger. Not very much, but somewhat. Overwatch ignores it, in me - but they may not, in a field soldier. In you."
"I will demonstrate to them that I do not care what they think."
"Then you are absolutely sure?"
"Yes," she said, mind clearly made up. "I have no idea what it takes to start the process. If I could take the first dose, receive the first infusion, whatever the procedure might be - if I could do it right now, this very instant, I would."
Angela laughed, just a little - "I have been waiting to do this for so long..." - and sat in her wife's lap, and kissed her, breathlessly, tightly, hard. Her lips tingled against her wife's, like electrics, but without the shock, and Fareeha felt her pulse quicken, and it felt to the rocketeer almost as if their hearts were moving into sync as the electrics moved across her skin, and her eyes widened as the low, persistent, ignored ache in her left shoulder faded, and she realised... Now. And she pulled her wife against her, harder, and they kissed until neither could avoid breaking away for a breath, as hard as they fought against it, and so they broke away, both panting, both shaking, just a little.
"That... was not what I expected... in a nanite delivery system." She laughed, in little huffs, feeling somehow light, somehow bubbly, all over. "But I approve of it."
Her wife took a deep breath, giggling throughout, no, more than that, but she did not have words for the kind of burbling elation running through her mind. "I," she laughed, "I thought it would be a gift on our honeymoon, but I've kept it to myself until you were ready... I am so happy... but... how do you feel?"
The Egyptian laughed, and pulled her wife back against her body. "I feel, doctor, like I need another dose."
Angela grinned broadly, eyes alight like stars. "You don't, but - isn't it convenient I just happen to have one ready?" She leaned in, and they kissed again, 'till nothing else mattered at all.
Two hours later, Fareeha forwarded Ana's message to the rest of Overwatch, flagged "Mission Critical - Urgent," recommending most strongly that regular Embassy staff be warned, that Swiss and UN authorities be notified, and that Athena step up security on all exterior access points. "If Ana Amari has decided to play it like this," she said, in her forward, "we need to take her seriously. I will do what I can to talk her back to sensibility, but this is a threat, and it should be treated as such. And so, unfortunately, should she."
The assassin hit [Acknowledge Signal] on her padd, and jumped in first, saying, "Fine," exasperation in her voice. "I'm here. First things first tho', did Angela tell you..."
"Check your mail. Right now. I'll wait."
Lena glared, angry again. "No. First. Did Angela tell you what happened?"
"Yes," said the scientist, "We know. The whole team. We know all of it, I'm pretty sure. She offered her resignation, I refused to accept it. Lena, check your mail right now. It's important."
Lena looked sideways at Winston, anger in her eyes, but pulled up her Overwatch mail in another window. "That's quite the thread you've... got..." She blinked. "...oh."
The scientist nodded. "That's why I haven't been letting you cool down. I'm sorry, but you can see why."
"Wow," said the Talon assassin. "This is bad." She read Ana's mail - and Fareeha's commentary and recommendations - again. Or maybe, she thought to herself, it's good. Maybe now they'll just step aside. She looked back towards Winston. "Do you know what this means?"
"Fareeha is trying to talk to her. No luck so far, but she's still trying."
"Do you know what this means? Winston, I need to know."
"...yes. I do."
"Good." She sighed and shook her head. "I tried, luv. I really did. I could've solved this weeks ago. But I was nice, and I played it your way... and look where it's got us."
"We don't know that. And I don't like your way of handling these things. I'll never like it, and I'll never not prefer our way, and I'll never stop insisting we get first shot, when it's our jurisdiction. But..." he looked down and to his left. "You had a right to know about this mail. Even if I knew how you'd react. Even if I knew what you'd do."
You made sure I was informed, the assassin realised. You didn't delete the mail. You even called my attention to it. She breathed. Bloody hell, this has to be hard on you.
Lena's face softened a little, and she smiled a sad smile. "Thanks, big guy." She closed her eyes. "I need to talk to Angela - using my codes. I'll drop a new set of keys in the usual place; she'll need access to that drop, or you'll need to ferry the files." She looked back at her old friend. "Will you do that for me?"
The ambassador nodded, deciding not to ask why. "I will."
"No, you're not. You're glad you've got a reason."
Venom snorted. "Fair cop. I really am sorry, though. Not for what we're gonna do, but for how hard it is on ya."
"This is not the first time I've had to be a little complicit... but it may be the most difficult."
Lena nodded. "I didn't want..." Damn you, Morrison - do you have to destroy everything you touch? "I didn't want to put you in that position again. That's all."
"Look, Lena," said the scientist. "Just don't go out of your way. Not with Ana. I know what Jack's done, that's one thing, but Ana..." he said miserably, "Do what you have to, just... don't be extra about it. Can you at least do that for me, if not for Fareeha? Please?"
The Talon agent thought about it, hard. If we can get the video, if we can get that damned gun of hers before she hands off imagery... then she's just another batty old conspiracy theorist who doesn't make any sense. And we don't risk losing Pharah. She gave Winston a dubious look - the most dubious of looks - and set her upper lip, but nodded, just a little. "I'll try. No promises."
"None expected," he said, knowing it was the best he'd get.
She pressed a few buttons on her padd. "I've dropped new codes for Angela. You'll relay 'em?"
"She'll have them in a few minutes."
"Thanks, big guy. For all of it, but... particularly for not trying to hide this from me."
"These were colleagues of mine once, Lena. Yours, as well. Don't make me regret this any more than I already do. Please."
"Gloves off, luv. We're gonna do what's needed." She shook her head, and tapped the tabletop in front of her. "But I'll do my best t' keep it to that."
"Thank me when it's over - if y'still want to. Y'may not. But right now..." She put her hands on the table. "I need to debrief my team."
"Good luck," Winston said, "...I think."
Lena smiled, ruefully. "Best I'll get?"
"Best I've got to give. Winston out."