solarbird: (widow)

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

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

solarbird and bzarcher

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

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

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict
Fragment e14,1: Memories of Ice and Snow

solarbird and bzarcher

Mei-Ling Zhou became a goddess to fight for the people under her protection. But now she must decide if fighting is always what would be best.

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

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

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

solarbird and bzarcher

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

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

That Mei tho'. What even. "don't notice me don't notice me don't notice... fuck." I guess. (⌒▽⌒)

(gfycat) (tumblr)

solarbird: (tracer)

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Fragment e13,5: you're right about that

solarbird and bzarcher

A vignette - Mei-Ling, and Lena; Mei-Ling, and Hanzo; Mei-Ling, and Snowball, and Jack Morrison, before, and after, becoming a goddesses of Oasis.

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

solarbird: (tracer)

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Edda 13: Sapphire-eyed Mei

solarbird and bzarcher

As the Concordat and their allies prepare to move against the Siberian omnium, Mei-Ling Zhou finds that a decision once made - even rashly, even under poor circumstances - is not so easily unmade, particularly when everything suggests it was the right one.

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

solarbird: (tracer)

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Fragment s11,1: Believe In Me (As I Believe In You)

solarbird and bzarcher

Sometimes being the Goddess of Compassion means asking for someone else's help, because Mei is in no shape to do this alone.

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

solarbird: (tracer)

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Saga 11: A Little Bit Stranger, A Little Bit Better, A Little Bit Worse

solarbird and bzarcher

The fragile peace is truly tested for the first time, by an agent outside either side's control - and as a result, Mei-Ling Zhou finds the weight of the world squarely on her shoulders.

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

solarbird: (tracer)

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

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

solarbird and bzarcher

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

...if she says no?

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

solarbird: (Default)

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

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

solarbird and bzarcher

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

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

solarbird: (Default)

Of Gods and Monsters
Text s2,1: 18 April 2077
solarbirdy and bzarcher

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

Angela Ziegler - Moira's wife - still hopes to reconcile with Mei-Ling Zhou, at least on a professional level, sending both her personal and her Institute's congratulations on the publication of Dr. Zhou's groundbreaking climate paper.


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

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

solarbird: (tracer)

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

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

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


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

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

solarbird: (Default)

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

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

...Angela feels exactly the same way.


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

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

solarbird: (Default)

I remind everyone - for the final time - that the AO3 archive warnings and tags are there for a reason. Please consider them appropriately before continuing. [View warnings and tags]

As these final chapters form the climax of the story, they will all be placed below cuts. This does not indicate anything about whether they are worksafe, though some will not be.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]

against your first and better judgement )
solarbird: (tracer)

Shit is getting real.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


Winston sat, quiet and unhappy, as the transport piloted itself back into the Watchpoint. That... could not have gone worse, he thought, as the vehicle rumbled quickly down the Gibraltar city streets. Lena had emerged from the washroom, given them the news, warned them about the Reaper, and had taken off just as quickly, Angela's attempts at an apology largely brushed off, an issue to be settled later.

At least she seemed to be in a better mood, he thought, as the gate closed behind them and the vehicle floated towards its garage, stopping just outside to let everyone disembark. I hope that's a good thing.

"Keep an eye out," he said, as the side doors folded back and the storage bay rattled open. "We have no idea where... uh... hello there."

Reyes stood, unhidden and unarmed, beside Morrison, who called, "Stand down, team. We have a truce."

"Nuh-uh," Hana said, pulling her pistol from the transport's small armoury, and aiming it at the hooded former Blackwatch commander. "Not 'til we're all ready to play."

Reaper shrugged. "The more time you waste with that, the more time you lose."

"I'll take that chance. You make one funny move, smoke boy, I'll blow your head off! Everybody, out of the transport, get inside and gear up."

"Whatever. I'll wait. Where's Oxton?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

"Oh, give me a break. I know she was with you."

"Jack, are you okay?" asked Mei-Ling.

The soldier nodded. "I'm fine, Mei. I've got this covered. Go on in with the rest of the team, gear up as much as you need to. We'll meet you in the conference room under the launch pad."

"Okay!"

-----

Reyes looked wistfully around the table. "Man, it's been a while."

"Since you came in shooting and tried to kill me?" asked Winston. "It hasn't been that long."

"I'm a heavily-trained special-ops super-soldier, and you're a research scientist. If I'd wanted you dead, you'd've been dead." He snorted. "But I have to admit, I made it look pretty good. Finally got you to issue the recall, too - that was a bonus I didn't expect."

"...what?" asked said research scientist. "You're joking, right?"

"None of you ever understood my plans," he replied, only so patiently. "I'm going to reach into my jacket, pull out a sheet of paper. Don't shoot me, that shit stings."

"I'll be watching you," said Angela, staff at the ready, Fareeha armoured and beside her.

Reyes nodded, and reached into his jacket, as promised, and pulled out a sheet of paper, which he unfolded, and slid over to Winston. "Ask Athena for Blackwatch arms inventory record 20680524b1640. It's encrypted. That series of words forms the decryption key."

"Athena, does that record exist?"

"It does, Winston," came Athena's voice. "It is indeed encrypted. Checking for payloads and other inappropriate material..." She paused, several seconds. "Apparently clean."

"Does this series of words form an encryption key?" He held the paper up to one of the cameras. "Can you read it?"

"Yes, Winston. Scanning keywords for payloads... clean. Decrypting record and analysing for payloads..." Athena, in her own way, made it very clear didn't trust Gabriel any more than anyone else did. "Clean. Result is... a text file, last edited 24 May 2068, author Reyes, G., Commander, Blackwatch. 75 pages."

"To save time," Reyes grumbled, "it details my... belated... discovery of the key members of Talon, and my intent to go underground inside their organisation, in order to take it apart. I left it in case things went badly. I did not think I'd be using it like this."

"Athena?"

"The summary of the text is brief, but reasonably accurate."

"Last Blackwatch agent standing?" Hana mocked. "What kind of n00b do you take me for?"

Jack squinted, and tilted his head. "Agreed. Reyes, are you seriously trying to tell me you've been undercover this entire time? After all that's happened? After Geneva?"

"Bullshit," Winston said. "Pardon my language, but - bullshit! You had devices plugged into the mainframe for several minutes. Adding a minimally-restricted file like this wouldn't've taken a microsecond."

"True, and I'd be the one able to do it. But the transaction logs, not so much - and particularly, not the offline transaction logs from '68. Still got those?"

Morrison snorted dismissively. "No."

"I almost hate to say it, but... we might," Winston said. "I'd have to check long-term storage. There are several older archives left over from the investigations that we never destroyed."

"Really?" Morrison asked. "After that explosion?"

"Offsite backups are the best backups," Winston shrugged.

"This is stupid. What do you want, Gabe?" Song demanded. "You're here for a reason."

She's the one who keeps them on track, the former Blackwatch commander thought. Good to know. "Yeah. I am. What the hell are you doing assassinating Talon board members? I didn't think that was your sort of thing, or Oxton's - but that photo makes it pretty damn clear she's involved."

"Putting it all on the table, then?" Morrison asked, and Reyes nodded his confirmation. "Good."

"Fine," Song said. "We're not the one p0wning your bosses. But we know who is, and we're staying out of the way."

"Oxton's not. She's involved. Where is she?"

"She's trying to stop your war!" Dr. Zhou interjected, immediately regretting it.

"What?"

Song nodded. "Akande wants to start a second Omnic War. He's been planning it for years. We know."

"That's... true," Gabriel said, "at least, in part. Growth through conflict."

"So you admit it."

He shrugged. "Lesser of two evils. That's always been the game. I pit faction against faction, wasting money, whittling them down. It's why I got him put in jail, and it's why I broke him back out."

"But the world will not survive it," Mei-Ling said. "My paper on the climate anomalies will be in Nature in another few months, but the data are clear now. The world cannot survive another Omnic War on the scale of the last one. Not even half."

"I... what?" Reyes's surprise looked genuine to the scientist.

"Besides," the doctor continued, "What would be worse than another Omnic War?"

Reyes laughed, just a little. "O'Deorain. Who else?"

-----

"The operation is simple," the armourer said to her living weapons as the chartered transport took off from Dublin with its payload. Officially, they carried sub-Omnic level processors for automated assembly devices, along with a crew of four.

She projected an image against the cargo hull wall. "This is Antonia Rizzuto, the current leader of the Rizzuto crime family, and, through a variety of shell corporations and private investors who exist only on paper, the largest stockholder in INCAS, an arms manufacturer of some note. She is also the last target before we take on Akande and Gabriel directly."

"More spy action?" Tracer asked, brightly. "Liked that. That was fun!"

Moira smiled the least-ungenuine smile Tracer had ever seen her manage. "I'm afraid not - I don't know how much Reyes knows, but we must assume the worst. This will have to be a direct assault." She flipped to another image, a three-dimensional display of a wood-and-stone mansion on open ground, surrounded by forest. "Fortunately, I know she is at the family compound outside Laval, Quebec. It is more heavily fortified than it looks, and security will be heavy."

"Good!" Oilliphéist said. "I need a real fight. Anyone special?"

"No, unless Reyes beats us there. Otherwise, only ordinaries - but a large number."

Widowmaker smirked, and Oilliphéist shivered a little, excitedly. "Oh, all the better. I haven't been able to give myself really free rein since the chateau."

"Any... non-combatants in the mix?" Tracer asked. "If it's a family compound..."

"Crime family, not family-family, dear. They've controlled Quebecois organised crime for nearly a century. We'll be doing the honest local police - insofar as there are any - a favour."

Tracer bit her lip, nodded, and flipped through the satellite photos on a disposable padd. "Snipers likely ... here, and here..."

"And here, and here," Widowmaker added, pointing. "Less obviously."

"How far into the building were you taken when you were last on mission in Quebec, Danielle?"

"Only to the first rooms on the ground floor. The left room off the main entrance is a library and office. There are central stairs up in the foyer, which is two storeys tall, and has hallways leading left, and right, in back with two doors visible. The right room on the ground floor is a salon, and is where we discussed the mission. There are double-doors from there to another room, further back, but they were closed. Also, there were exits back and out on the ground floor, on either side of the stairs."

"Good memory, love," Lena said, appreciatively.

"For some things, at least," the assassin replied.

"Neither Emily nor I have ever been there, so unless Lena has any surprises..."

"Sorry - never even heard of it before now."

"...then we will be operating on far less ground data than I would like. I apologise for that, but it is what it is."

"This is a terrible idea," Tracer said, frowning. "We need more about the interior layout, at least..."

"We lack options. Reyes knows what's going on - and he may well know of your involvement. At the moment, we are ahead of him; we must stay that way, for the final stage to have a solid chance of success." She flipped the padds to another document. "For what it's worth, building plans were on file with the provincial offices, and I have included them. We should assume they are incomplete and at least partially out of date, but they are more than nothing."

Lena frowned, but nodded. "I don't like it, but ... I guess so."

"Memorise all of this, then get some sleep. I'll awaken you before we land, we'll scout the situation, and plan on site. Any questions?"

"Yeh. Do these seats fold out?" She fiddled at the attachments. "Oh, they do. Brilliant!"

"Memorisation first, sleep later," Moira said, sternly.

Lena glared at the doctor. Bloody hell, you're irritating, she thought. "Thin dossier, doc. Already done," she said, finding a blanket, and rattling off the building's key points as she lay down. "Well, mostly. I'll get the rest of it before I'm asleep."

"You also have a good memory," the Widowmaker said, approving.

"For some things," Tracer replied, grinning wickedly, "at least."

By the time Widowmaker curled up against her back, she was already mostly asleep, but woke just a little, and smiled at her lover's cool touch. Ohhh, that's better, she thought, barely even forming the words in her mind. Much better.

-----

"...and you let her out of confinement?! Didn't you learn anything from Lacroix?"

"Her brain was not altered. We did full-time intensive analysis and simulations for over two weeks, and found nothing. Her peripheral nervous system, her eyes, yes, and we have been studying those changes ever since she returned, but her memories have checked out, her psychological profile has checked out, and her mind shows none of the Widowmaker markers - and we had Widowmaker to compare against directly."

"Look. I don't care what your scans say, I don't care what your tests say, she's not Lena Oxton anymore. Not the same Lena you knew. Not if O'Deorain's had her." Reyes cradled his head in his hands. "You've given Moira the most dangerous weapon she's ever had, and on a silver platter."

"And why should we believe you?" Song snapped. "You've killed dozens of people that you say were generally Talon agents or founders - how can we know that? We can't! Even if Winston and Mei-Ling find that old data set, and even if that file turns out to be from '68 - you've been in Talon for years! You could've gone over to their side three months in. This could all be you just trying to distract us, throw us out of the game. Save Akande, get your war."

He nodded, slowly. "You're right. All that could be true."

"What's your real goal, Reaper? Whose side are you really on?"

Reyes leaned back in his chair, and for a moment, looked not only human, but old - genuinely old, and very, very tired. "Ogundimu wants to force humanity to improve," he said, slowly. "To put it to a test. To push growth, but not dictate its path. O'Deorain, on the other hand... she just wants to 'improve' humanity - to her ideas - directly. Reform it to her model. To perfect it, all at once."

He closed his eyes, head back. "Can you picture that world, with her ideas of perfection? One of her favourite sayings is 'stupidity is not a right.' People laugh it off - even within Talon - but she has very narrow ideas about what's smart, and damned few people make the grade. Imagine that world." He looked back up, eyes open. "Where is Oxton?!"

"Winston to conference room C - uh, guys? We found it."

A holographic projection of Winston's office appeared in the open area between the stairs down to the conference centre. Winston held up a storage pack, Mei-Ling beside him, looking very unhappy.

"What'd you find?" Song asked.

"Backup datapak with all the logs from 2068. It's had evidence tape across the access port since it was sealed in '70, and it was still in place. I'm afraid..." he took a deep breath. "I'm afraid it backs Gabe's story. The file existed, same checksum, same last-modified date."

Gott in himmel, not again, Angela thought, hands raising to her mouth. She looked at her wife. "I... I think Fareeha and I should get back to Oasis right away. Awaken everyone, bring in the whole staff. See if anyone can find what we have missed."

"I'm not a biologist," Reyes interjected, "but I know know a few things about her work over the last few years. Most of it's been focusing on the idea that you don't need to control someone's will - or even rebuild their mind - if you can just make them want the same things you want, on a very low level. Change them so they like the 'right' thing, and they'll just do the 'right' things - creatively, even - all on their own. I don't know if that's any help, but..."

"It might be. Thank you. Athena, is the Sparrowhawk prepped for return flight?"

"Affirmative, Dr. Ziegler."

"Hold on, Angela," Morrison said, "we don't know that any of this is real, yet."

"The best lies," she said, side-eyeing the once-Blackwatch commander, "are at least partially true. I'm not panicking - Reyes gave me an idea, and you cannot do everything by remote. I need to get back to my labs."

"Fair enough. You can send Jesse back via the Sparrowhawk, and Lúcio if he's available - we need a medic on site. Everyone else should stay, I think." He paused for a moment. "Hana, can you call in a replacement mech here? We need to be in operational condition as quickly as possible."

"No sweat," the once-pro-gamer replied.

"Athena?" Winston asked. "Contact Genji; update him, see if he can come in. And bring the Watchpoint out of standby and up to full operational status."

"Acknowledged, Winston. Beginning wakeup."

"We have to try to recall her," the scientist continued. "I insist."

"That'll tip her off," Gabriel said, "and that'll tip off Widowmaker, and that materials engineer she was sleeping with, what'd you call her, Oilliphéist? And Moira."

"Her niece, Emily," Winston said, and Gabriel blinked, momentarily confused.

"Yeah, it might," Song said. "Don't care. Do it. She's one of us," ...I hope... "and she needs to know what's going on. But she'll be in radio silence 'til..."

"Where is Lena?!" demanded Reyes.

Song bit her lower lip, and gave him a long, hard look before deciding. "...we dunno. Not specifically. She's with O'Deorain. On another mission."

"Shit. Well... we're already at maximum alert. I'll have to tell Akande that Oxton's involved, but otherwise - I guess we're as ready as we can be."

"We?"

"Talon."

"Of course." She glared. "You need to make a call, and we need the room. Reyes?" she continued, "Out. Athena, watch him. Close. And listen in on his comms - no cheat codes for you."

"Decided to believe me?" he asked, standing.

"Don't get cocky," Morrison replied. "I know you. It's probationary, at best."

Reyes snorted, and even managed a hint of a grin, before jogging up the stairs. "Good."

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter is worksafe. Also, it's the second longest chapter I've written so far! [AO3 link]


"Really?" she said, leaning forward with her phone. "The Wembley, back in Gibraltar? That's nearly five hours away - bit far for a night out, innit?"

"That's true," Winston replied over the line, "unless you go suborbital."

"You serious, mate?" Lena blinked. "You've got a Sparrowhawk?"

"We had to get here before you did. How'd you think we managed that?"

"...didn't think of it, I guess. We were a bit distracted." Some pilot I am, she thought. Should've realised. "Seems a bit much for a night at the pub, though."

"Well, it is. But it is our usual hangout, and we've been in Oasis for weeks now, for the most part, and we were thinking it's about time for something a little more ... routine. See if we can get a little more back to normal."

Tracer considered that. "Doctor O'Deorain's signed off? She's supposed t'know if Em leaves Oasis - y'know, the agreement and all that rot - and really..."

"We... weren't thinking about including Widowmaker or Oilliphéist. Just the Overwatch gang, like usual. Like old times."

She frowned, but could see the point in it, so let it go for the moment. "Does this mean I'm cleared for Gibraltar? Me spending the night there, I think that's..."

"You are, but we'll come back here, as agreed. If we're... how do you put it? A little too much in our cups? Athena can fly us back as well as I could."

Lena smiled a little at that. "Who else is coming?"

"Almost everyone who's here. Jack isn't - he's going along to give the Watchpoint a look-over, make sure nothing's been disturbed, but won't be out with us. It'll be you, me, Mei, Hana, Fareeha, and Angela."

Tracer felt a little frisson of fear run up her spine at the last name in the list. No, that's not fair, this isn't another test, it's just a night out, she thought to herself. Just that. I think. "Even Angie? She doesn't usually come along, not unless it's a special occasion..."

"Well, it is - first night out since you got back."

Lena nodded, pointlessly, and frowned again, thinking. Won't leave Oilliphéist here alone. Can't take her with us without breaking the agreement, least not without Moira's approval. Means Widowmaker has to stay here. Really don't like leaving them behind, though...

She took a nervous breath. "Let me... let me think. When d'ya want to leave?"

"We were thinking we'd head out at 17:00 - the flight won't take too long, but we'll still have to deal with clearance and landing and everything else."

"Makes sense. Um..." she gave it a thought, "...pencil me in, I'll meet you up half an hour before. But I'm gonna check with Danielle and Em, make sure they're comfortable with it, and I'll call y'back."

The hesitation on the other end of the commlink was small, but definite. "Sure thing. Talk to you soon."

Tracer broke the connection, and looked unhappily at the phone, before looking back up to her counterparts. "I..."

"Go," said Oilliphéist, from her seat across the living room table, Widowmaker nodding her agreement. "They're worried about you, luv, and trying to make it up. So go."

Danielle sipped at the tea Lena had made a few minutes earlier, a pleasant tippy assam which had become the teleporter's favourite. "They want to make sure you're all right, and get you somewhere away for a little while from... everyone they consider dangerous."

"You," Lena said, dejectedly.

"Yes," said Widowmaker, raising one eyebrow amusedly. "And Oilliphéist. Correctly so, let us not pretend."

"Don't like the way they're dancing around it. Makes me nervous."

Emily grinned. "Ah, don't worry, Lena! We'll be fine. I can handle my aunt."

"It's not that, luv, it's... well..." She shrugged. "Well, it is that, partly. But also, Angela's gonna be there, and I don't like... bein'... alone? That isn't right, Winston'll be there, I know he won't let anything happen, but..."

"You do not like being the only person there who has been through what we have been through," Widowmaker said, voice quiet. "Particularly not a gathering with someone so capable, who fears us so very much."

Oilliphéist nodded to her lover, picked up her phone, and made a call. Her silver eyes flashed to Tracer, and she said, "Y'won't be alone."

She heard the other end of the signal connect. "Hullo, Aunt Moira! It's Em." She nodded her head back and forth, a yes, yes, I know you're busy motion. "Yes'm. But mind if we step out for the night? We're thinking of going to a pub in Gibraltar." She smiled, as a quiet voice on the other side of the line made noises unintelligible to Dani and Lena. "Yes, Gibraltar. Yes, it's far. We'll be quite late, but certainly back before tomorrow morning. And I'll keep a locator beacon turned on." Some more voice over the far side of the line. "You're so good to me. Thanks, auntie." A little more voice. "Love you too. Bye!"

She put the phone down and grinned as Widowmaker smirked. "Now," she said, "was that so difficult?"

"But you're not..."

"I know, luv. We'll just be..." She waved her fingers in the air. "...around. Go, relax, have some fun, let them feel better. We'll keep watch."

Tracer huffed out a little bit of a laugh, and felt herself calming down a bit. "Thanks, luv." She stretched, big, in her chair. "Might do me some good, I suppose. I could use a night out." She reached over and took Widowmaker's hand. "I'll make it clear, though. Next time - it's not just me."

"I do not mind." Widowmaker took Lena's hand, nuzzled, and kissed it. "We are not joined at the hips, ma chérie."

"Well," chirped Tracer, wickedly - "Not all the time" - and Widowmaker almost giggled a little in return.

"C'mon, Widow," Oilliphéist said, rising from her seat, picking up her Breath. "If we're gonna beat 'em to Gibraltar, we need to leave right now."

"Ah, yes," Widowmaker replied, picking up her Kiss. "We should." She kissed Tracer's hand again before rising. "See you soon, ma petite contrariété."

-----

Tracer's smile flashed as she teleported directly out of the Sparrowhawk at Watchpoint Gibraltar. "Hooo, I'd forgot how much fun those are!" She teleported around more a bit, apparently for no good reason other than she could. "We should use these for everything!"

She's certainly high-strung this evening, Angela thought, unstrapping herself from her flight seat, stretching out from the high-G transit. I hope that's a good sign.

Tracer teleported around the control tower and looked towards the north in the not-so-darkness, out of sight of the others for a moment. Where are you, I know you're here... ha! In the mid-distance, she spotted a familiar silhouette, and then a second, and she waved, and both waved back, and she grinned, broadly, relaxed. Then she rewound, appearing back at the ramp amidst the Overwatch crew, grin still intact. "C'mon, slowpokes! That lager won't drink itself!"

Winston punched in an access code, a large door opened, and the larger civilian transport floated out onto the tarmac. Morrison checked security systems, verifying no detected intrusions, and nodded as he ducked inside to do a manual sweep. "See you when you get back," he said, gruffly. "Apologise to Blair for me."

"Will do," Fareeha replied. "He's not going to be happy that you're working tonight."

"He'll live."

Fareeha smirked, a little.

"He's not my boyfriend."

Fareeha eyes narrowed, and she smirked a little more.

Morrison scowled, but with a hint of humour in it. "With all that's going on, I can't not run a full check. But... I'll join you later, if I can."

"Much better," Fareeha said, as Angela giggled and pulled her away to the transport. "Come on, dear, stop trying to fix the soldier's love life. It's impossible."

"I'm coming!"

-----

"Yeah, I was afraid of that," Lena said, as she walked in through the antique front door.

"What's wrong?" Winston asked, following in behind her, the large scientist a tight fit in the frame.

"Ah, not much - this place is pretty dark, yeah?"

"Sure! But it's comfortable."

"It's a lot less atmospheric when you can see all the dirt and th' holes in the plaster. That ceiling's a mess."

"Ah," said the Lunar scientist. "I'll have to take your word on that. Nothing's going to fall down, is it?"

"Nah, it's just old. Most of it's been painted at least once. I mean, why fix it if y'can't see it, right? I get that, but... c'mon." She snorted. "Well, beer's still beer."

"And darts are still darts."

"Won't be fair now, luv."

"It will be if we handicap it right."

Lena smiled as Hana ran over and grabbed their usual corner booth, the big one with the movable bench, and Mei-Ling followed closely behind. "We already had t'do that once, big guy. Can't compete with a Brit at darts, not on level ground."

"Sure - we'll just do it more." He grinned.

"Well..." She took a big sniff of the room. Smelled like old times, mostly, but with a little bit of an odd tang, like cleaning fluid in the w.c.. Ventilation system must be off, too, she thought, shrugging. "We can try. We'll figure it out, somehow."

"Get enough bitter in you and we'll be even!"

She chuckled, and hopped next to the table as Fareeha called over from the bar - "Everybody's usuals?" - having just relayed Jack's apologies. Blair waved at the chorus of yes-please and thank-you from behind the counter and filled a large tray with an assortment of beers and wines, and a separate, smaller tray with a brownie and glass of sahlab.

"Thanks," Fareeha smiled, with a small nod, as she took her own tray to the small individual table Angela had placed by the end of the booth. Blair followed, serving the large tray of drinks. "Good t’see you lot back in town! Chip order's in, I'll be right back with the munchies."

"Brilliant, luv," Tracer chirped, and the barkeep looked, then started, surprised. "Yeh," she said, a little tiredly. "I know. They're new. Long story." He nodded, and kept his smile as he retreated to the kitchen.

"Guess I'm gonna have t'get used to that all over again," she said, taking a pull from her pint. Mei-Ling poured half her Tsingtao pilsner into a glass, leaving half in the bottle, to go back with the tray.

"I don't know why you just didn't wear your contacts," Hana said, sampling her lager. Ah, yeah. Nice to be back, she thought, relaxing into the padded leather bench.

"Don't like 'em," Lena said, shifting a little on the bench seat. "They bug me."

"We can take some time tomorrow for a new fitting, if you'd like" Angela said, brightly.

"Nah," Lena replied, taking another drink. "Rather not, luv."

"Well, it's either that, or get used to his kind of reaction."

Lena glared, expression sharp. "I like my eyes, doc. You got a problem with that?"

"Of course not, it's just that..."

"I like them too," Winston interrupted, Lena turning to look at him with a quick smile.

"Y'do?" she said, surprised.

"They're pretty. And you like them, so, I like them, and that's all that needs to be said about that," he stated, firmly.

"Of course," Angela replied, just as quickly. "I'm sorry, Lena, I am sometimes too much a doctor."

"It's true," Fareeha said, having taken another bite of her brownie. "She really is."

Lena leaned a little against her best friend's arm. "Thanks, luv." She downed the rest of her pint, all at once. "Y'wanna have a go at those darts? Only double and triple scores count for me, and only for regular value."

"Sure!" The gorilla pulled himself out of the way, and Lena wobbled a little as the alcohol hit her bloodstream in a rush. "Woah! That's..." She laughed. "That's good. Let's do this!"

-----

Lena picked at the fish. They'd finally figured out how to make a competitive game at the dart board, but it involved spinning the target, and it hadn't taken too many rounds of that nonsense to bring Blair over full of all-right-all-right-none-of-that. But he'd agreed to let them install a second, spinnable board, later.

"You okay, Lena?" Winston asked.

"Yeh, I'm good." She popped a chip into her mouth, and finished off the third pint. "A little bored, tho', t'be honest."

She looked over at Fareeha and Hana playing at the snooker table, Angela watching from the opposite side, Lena not entirely able to convince herself that she was watching the game and not her. "And a little paranoid. Angie's not taken her eyes off me all night."

"I know what you mean," her friend said, quietly. "I think you're right."

"Not just me, then."

"No. We talked about it earlier, she's ... worried."

"Doesn't trust me anymore, y'mean."

"She trusts you. She just doesn't trust what might've been done to you."

"Yeh," Lena muttered. "Not much difference from this side, though."

"I just wish all this was over," he said, quietly. "Over, and we could go back to normal."

"I wish Wids was here," she said, quietly, staring into her empty glass. I know she's just outside, but it's not the same. "She could be stared at too, and at least it wouldn't be just me."

"I got stared at a lot, when I first landed," he said, sipping at his lager. "Still do, most places. It's not fun."

"No," she agreed, squeezing his hand. "It's not."

-----

"But what're y'gonna do when all this is over?" the MEKA pilot demanded tipsily. "This isn't a game you can play from both sides."

"I dunno - we'll figure it out!" Lena replied, frustration in her voice. "We're still gettin' t'know each other properly, yeah? It'll be fine."

"Lena, please - haven't you thought this out at all?" Angela asked, a little too crisply.

"Course we have, luv - we're gonna buy that condo, live on an island..."

"Lena, please, I am serious! Emily is... how can I put this?"

"She's a psycho killer," interrupted Hana Song, definitely one too many into her cups. "That's what I don't get. I get it with Widowmaker, kinda - she didn't ask to be what she is, you're a sucker for a nice ass, and that is one nice ass. But Oilliphéist did."

"I'm not certain Danielle is so very different, defection or not," Mei-Ling opined, on her third pilsner.

Tracer glared, copper eyes hard. "I thought this was supposed to be a nice night out at the pub, not a fucking intervention."

"It's not an intervention!" Hana huffed. "I just thought maybe you'd've thought his out a bit by now."

"Or at very least," Fareeha noted, "had a plan. You've got to have some kind of plan in place for when this is over. I'm good at plans, I'd be happy to help with..."

"Happy t' help with ganging up on me, apparently."

"That's not fair," Angela retorted. "Yes, we have all wanted to know how you're intending to handle the situation after this one, but I think we have a right to know that, given the people involved."

Lena looked around the table, eyes widening. "This whole thing was a setup, wasn't it?"

"I wouldn't go that far, no," Angela replied, warily. "We've always talked about problems on these nights out."

"Is this another one of your simulations?" Lena snapped, fear in her stomach. "Am I gonna remember this in the morning?"

"Woah, woah, Lena, no!" Winston insisted. "No. I swear to you, no. This is real."

"Is it?!" She spun in place, and her gaze softened, a little. "...Yeh. Okay. I guess I don't really mean that, but..." She rubbed her face with her hands, breathed out raggedly, and put her hands back down on the table.

"I need a mo'. I'm takin' a trip to th' loo. Don't follow me."

As she left, Winston looked back to his tablemates. "Well, that couldn't've gone worse. What were you thinking, ganging up on her like that?"

"She needs to face reality!" Hana insisted. "She needs to deal with it, or we're all in trouble!"

"We are already in trouble," Mei-Ling said, sadly. "But we don't have any choice in it."

"I just wanted to help her analyse the situation tactically," Fareeha said. "I honestly didn't mean any more than that..."

Angela rubbed her temples, frustration in her forehead and eyes. "I should... I should apologise. I should follow..."

"No," the Lunar scientist said, firmly, "you should not."

-----

Lena stepped into the washroom, and into a stall, and sat, shaking, on the commode. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. That was... oh god, that was bloody awful... She pulled some tissue off the roll, and blew her nose into it, hard. What's going on, why are they so... so...

She shuddered, eyes wet. It's all right, Lena. It's all right. Pull yourself together. You've got this. They'll, they'll, after this is over, they'll... understand. Eventually. They have to.

She was about to pull out her padd and bring up the private commlink she and Oilliphéist had set up with Widowmaker, when her phone vibrated. "Cherie," she heard Widowmaker's voice say, "I hate to break into your evening, but..."

"Oh love, you have no idea how glad I am to hear your voice right now."

"Perhaps not. We have had an urgent summons - Moira believes Reyes has discovered our operation, and we need to move quickly."

Tracer blinked her eyes clear, swallowed hard, and smiled broadly, already feeling better. "Some action, then?"

"Yes. The timetable must be advanced. We're to leave at once, and rendezvous with Moira en route to North America. Warn your friends."

"Right! Will do. Where do we meet up?"

"In front of the casino by the airport. You know it?"

"Absolutely. See you in a few minutes."

Tracer stood, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, before exiting the stall. She pulled a sheet of paper towel out of the dispenser, wetted it, patted down her eyes and face, and dried, with a second towel. There, she thought, looking at her copper eyes, famous half-grin spreading across her face. Much better.

-----

Morrison closed the last door behind him, sealing the auxiliary entrance. He nodded to himself, satisfied - no sign of intrusion anywhere, all safe and secure. I'm really looking forward to getting back here, he thought. Oasis is beautiful, but... I just can't trust it.

He brushed off his hands - even a locked-down facility gathered dust - and was about to signal Angela, see if there was still time to catch up, when he saw an all-too-familiar column of smoke coalesce at the foot of the launch pad, next to the Sparrowhawk. He pulled his rifle and aimed as the Reaper appeared, maskless, glare visible in the pad lights, even at range.

Gabriel Reyes dropped his shotguns, dramatically, to either side, and made no move towards the Soldier, who held his fire as his former compatriot raised one arm, slowly, a large, clear photograph of Lena Oxton serving drinks to the wealthy in São Paulo hovering in front of his hand.

"What the fuck," he said, "do you idiots think you have been doing?"

solarbird: (widow)

I forgot to mention, last time, but Dr. Ngcobo is based on concept-art Mercy, for those familiar with that.

This chapter is worksafe.

[AO3 link]


"Oh, I know this," Lena said from inside the sensory isolation chamber, as the song played. "You used it last time, too."

"You know it?" Angela asked by microphone, watching peripheral nervous system reactions in real time. Dr. Ngcobo, also watching by remote, noted that the ring didn't shift, but Lena talked through it, so of course it didn't. He queued the sample for replay again, later.

"Yeh. Always have."

"That's interesting," Dr. Ziegler replied, pausing the stimulus set. "It's a fairly obscure traditional tune, a lullaby - how do you know it?"

Lena shrugged, mostly relaxed and floating in the dark. "Just do, that's all. Makes me think of my mum."

"You... I did not think you remembered your mother."

"Don't, love. Pop, either, not really. But, y'know..." she waved her hands around a little in the small space. "Y'have impressions, doncha? Ideas? I do."

She's never mentioned this before, Angela thought, but when has there ever been cause? I should check her psychological profiles. Aloud, she replied, "I suppose one may well. I'm going to repeat it, later - when you hear it again, I'd like you not to talk. Let your body react to it, but nothing else. Is that all right?"

"'Course it is. I like it - particularly the tune, yah?" A little 'heh' came over the speakers. "Shame the singer sounds like, well, you know. Her."

"...Moira? Does she? I didn't notice."

"T'me she does. Particularly in the low notes."

Well, Angela thought, that's interesting. She added two more, similar snippets she had identified in advance to the queue, randomly interspersed. Let's see if that repeats, as well.

Oilliphéist and Widowmaker watched from behind glass, sitting in a viewing room, able to see the chamber and both doctors at work, and hear them as well. Lena had insisted on that in the strongest of terms, and Angela did not push back, but certainly noted it for discussion later.

Danielle considered what she'd heard. "Did... that sound like Dr. O'Deorain to you?"

Emily snorted. "Aunt Moira can't carry a tune in a bucket. But if she could - maybe, a little?" She smiled, calm but deeply aware and ready, her arm around her lover's shoulder. "I really don't know what Ziegler's chasing, here."

"Perhaps some sort of keyword, some sort of..." She tapped the armrest of the chair. "Some sort of activation phrase?"

"What, like in those old movies?" Emily laughed, a little. "Doesn't work that way. Even I know that."

"Doesn't it?" the Widowmaker asked, one eyebrow raised. "I received a 'go' code."

"You were already all there, sweet. I know, I was on the team."

"My first kill," the senior assassin sighed. "And I felt nothing at all."

"I'm sorry for that. The doctor and I both wanted it to be different for you, but..." She shook her head. "That... reminds me... of something. What... was it... oh!" She sat up straighter, silver eyes bright. "In your office at the chateau, you have a framed picture from Amélie and Gérard's wedding. It's the two of them cutting the cake."

Danielle blinked, surprised, something not easily done to the spider, and she looked directly at her counterpart. "...I do? Really?"

Emily nodded. "Yes! It's on the bookshelves, to the left of the desk. I was so confused. Why?"

"I..." She shook her head. "I suppose it was already there, and I never thought to throw it away," she replied, not as entirely convinced of that as she wanted to be. "I imagine you smashed it?"

Emily chuckled. "'Course not, sweet. It's yours! Why would I do that?"

"Because you hated him! Fiercely. I may not have felt anything yet, and I know not to entirely trust my own memories, there have been too many changes, but... I still remember how you hugged me when I returned. How happy you were that he was dead." She gave the other woman a soft smile. "That... I did feel. Just a little."

"Aw. Love you too, pet. And I remember that. But it's all water under the bridge, these days." She grinned, freely. "He's gone, you're here, we're together, I'm..." she hugged herself, and shivered a little with pleasure, "...oh, it's hard to describe, but I feel so... complete, at last."

She looked back through the window, keeping an ear out for any additional conversation from the doctors on the other side of the glass. "I really think she's starting to settle in, too. I was thinking about it a couple of nights ago, I thought it'd be such a struggle, but... no. She's become a brilliant weapon."

"She already was," Widowmaker noted, a little quirk up at the side of her mouth. "That's what got my attention at the start."

"And so easy to like! I told her back at Auntie's place that I'd never kill her, because you love her, but..." she smiled broadly, "I don't even want to!"

"I like our new sleeping arrangements," the spider said, quietly, gaze focused on the chamber.

"So do I," replied her beloved.

"We should talk more seriously about the future, you realise. Not here, of course, but..."

Oilliphéist nodded, agreeing. "Yes. I love Aunt Moira, but..." A bit of a grimace. "She's a tricky one. We'll have to stay a couple of steps ahead of her if we can, for all of our sakes."

Danielle reached over and took Emily's hand back into her own. "I'm... relieved to hear you still agree."

"Don't worry, sweet." She grinned, nuzzling at Widowmaker's hand. "I've got you. We'll be fine." A glance back up, through the window. "All three of us."

-----

"I am increasingly worried," the doctor said, sharing documents across the table to the subset of Overwatch personnel present. "But I cannot give you a firm reason why."

"She's not... acting entirely like herself, is she?" Winston said, nervously, flipping through pages of data he was not reading. "I've worked my entire life to understand human body language, and it's not always easy, but I've got a pretty decent grip on it. Hers is different, now."

"It is," Morrison nodded. "Has been since the eyes, but it's getting worse."

"She was always very tactile, very physical," Dr. Zhou said. "But you see her with them, and they're always touching. Over and over again. It's a little off-putting."

"It's a little creepy, you mean," said Hana Song, back from Korea only a few hours before. "No, it's kind of a lot creepy. And that palm nuzzling thing is just bizarre."

"She is not changing any more, not physically," Angela said. "Some of the body language, I think, is more getting used to a very different nervous system than she once had. But I have also noticed the... nearly obsessive need for physical contact with Widowmaker and Oilliphéist. With everyone else, she's hardly touch-averse, but it is different."

"That part seems pretty normal to me," Winston noted. "She still sneaks up and gives me a noogie at least once a day."

"I could fly in after the show tomorrow," Lúcio said, over comms. "I haven't seen her in a while, I could tell you how much she's changed, or hasn't..."

"If you can manage it, certainly," Angela replied. "The more data I have, the better. But I am far more concerned with the reactions in her nervous system."

She brought up a set of charts that wouldn't mean anything to anyone not a research doctor, but they gave her something to point at while speaking, and that made her feel better, like she had more of a grasp on the situation than she really had. "There is a hint of a pattern to sensory input reactions. It is not a pattern I can yet identify, it is not anything easy to find - she does not react, for example, to video samples of Moira, with or without sound." The doctor switched to paired video of Dr. O'Deorain and Lena's data, placid and nonreactive.

"It would be very tempting to make assumptions and be led seriously astray... but... there are... agh," she spat the word. "I do not like speaking in such terms. It is very un-Swiss of me, but there are... rumours and innuendoes. There are inferences in these numbers, barely outside margin of error, but... I cannot even say they are statistically significant. I simply do not understand them yet."

"She clearly hasn't been programmed to like Dr. O'Deorain," Winston said.

"No, clearly. Similarly, not Talon. It is entirely possible that it is just biases in the way her nervous system works, and it could turn out all to be something as trivial as your love of peanut butter, which is, for the record, complex in similar ways." She glared at the shifting data. "But - I am convinced something is here."

"You heard her at the debriefing," Morrison said, flatly. "Would the Lena Oxton we know - we knew - smile at Widowmaker relishing a kill?"

"That's unfair, Jack. You know how she scored on psych exams back in '68. It's why..."

"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But..."

"Look, n00bs," Hana Song interjected. "You're all missing the obvious. Spiderbitch is one thing, okay? She's a defector. She's a merciless assassin, but she's also a victim. So I can just about see Lena going for that, particularly given her looks. Everybody with me so far?"

"What are you getting at, Hana?" asked Lúcio.

"C'mon - Oilliphéist? Really? Oilliphéist?! She isn't a victim. We don't know much about her, but we do know she wanted this. And Lena is apparently... okay with that? And we're supposed to be okay with her being okay with that?" She crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair. "I don't think so."

"She and I have talked about it," Winston said, "She's aware..."

"And she's still doing it. Watch 'em touch. I'm not sayin' they're in love, it's not even sexual, they're touching just all the time. Watch them. It's weird."

"Should we cancel this operation? Talon has already taken a real body blow. The governments are finally starting to set their operations in motion..." asked Winston.

"No," said Mei-Ling, firmly. "Absolutely not. The risks are too great."

"Even if it means we lose Lena to... whatever this might be?" If it's even anything, he prayed to himself.

Mei-Ling looked down at her padd, eyes haunted, and did not reply.

"Look," Winston continued, "why don't we just... get her away from them for a few hours. See how that goes. We could have an Overwatch Night Out tonight, like we used to. Hana, you come; Angela, you bring Fareeha. All of you, me, Mei, Lena... see if we can't just remind her who she's always been. She if she snaps back."

"That would be wonderful," Mei-Ling said, wistfully. "I miss those days very much. It seems so long ago already."

"The pub back in Gibraltar?" Angela asked, a bit of a smile. "It has been a while."

"Why not? It's a bit of a haul, but at least they're used to me," Winston noted, "And Athena could fly us back if we stayed up too late."

"It would be worth a try, at least," Angela said, thoughtfully tapping her chin. "We are in an alien and stressful environment, particularly for her. If she reverts to normal in a comfortable, normal situation, then perhaps... we are all just reading too much into everything."

"She is not the only one under stress," Dr. Zhou noted.

"I can't believe we're having an executive meeting to decide to go out for drinks," Morrison snarked, shaking his head.

"You have forgotten the old days, Jack." Dr. Ziegler snorted. "I absolutely can."

solarbird: (widow)

I have changed the tags on AO3.

Previously, this story had the "hurt no comfort" tag attached, but that was always a bit of a caution, because I didn't want anyone going in without warnings that this is in many ways not a happy story. But having written the ending, and the coda, I have been told: while it is not a happy story, there is too much comfort - important comfort - in amongst the hurt, and so, I have removed the tag.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


Oilliphéist rolled over in her bed, alone. She could sleep, if she really pushed herself into it, and it would be adequate sleep - but that's all it would be, and she wanted better.

She missed Widowmaker's presence. She missed her counterpart, her companion, her other self, and having been apart for so long, to have to split time like this... she didn't like it.

She wasn't even mad at Tracer. Who wouldn't want to be next to her? How could anyone not want that? Lena just had the good sense to go for it, that's all. Emily smiled a little as she thought about that, and rolled over again.

She's already become everything I'd hoped she'd be, the assassin mused, the boat dual a few nights before flashing across her mind, and well on her way to who she could be, without even any real remaking. She took a long breath. I can't wait 'till we really all get to fight together properly, it makes me want to...

She shivered and then laughed to herself, softly, thinking of the night after São Paulo, when she and Lena both decided to entertain their common lover, suddenly falling on each other as well, ravenously, not love, just need, just lust, but none the less so satisfying for it...

I know what I want, she realised. I didn't mind... so... maybe she won't, either.

All but silently she rose out of bed, crossed the hall, and entered Tracer's bedroom in the temporary apartment that already felt so very much like home. Lena had left the door open, as she was wont to do, and Emily knew already that somehow, none of them set of each other's defences, not as long as they were calm and quiet, and she was rewarded with the view of her spider holding her pet, big spoon and little spoon, calm, at peace - a small hold of serenity in the middle of a mad world.

Ever so carefully, she stepped over and onto the bed, under the covers, nuzzling against the back of Widowmaker's neck, and her lover rolled, still mostly asleep, onto her back, nuzzling into Oilliphéist's hair, breathing in reflexively, and stilled again, at peace.

And Emily slept deep, and well.

Some hours later, Lena woke, slowly, eyes still mostly closed, sun not yet risen, but the first hints of morning light just peeking their way past the blinds. She opened her eyes the slightest bit more, then blinked, seeing Emily across from her, on Danielle's right, asleep.

Her eyebrows furrowed for a second as she wordlessly took the sight in, unalarmed but briefly wondering if maybe this is why she was awake before either of the others, for once. She bit her lower lip and nodded, just the tiniest bit, an unvoiced assent, a silent yes, before closing her eyes again and going back to sleep.

An hour later, Lena woke again, the room a little brighter, Emily stirring, her eyelashes fluttering open, as Lena's eyes opened as well, copper meeting silver, halfway.

"Hiya," Lena said, softly - not a challenge, not even a question, just a greeting, with a a small but genuine smile.

"Hey," whispered Emily, smiling in return. "G'morning."

"G'morning." Lena reached over, gently and without active thought, and ran her hand through Oilliphéist's hair. Emily's eyes closed again and she breathed out, a long, slow exhalation of pleasure. She nuzzled gently into Tracer's hand, the cool touch of her lips soothing against the teleporter's palm, and together, they waited for their beloved to awaken, before - again, together - they would face the day.

-----

Hana Song frowned across visual comms, having read Tracer's mission report overnight. "This is not 'protecting Widowmaker,' Lena. This isn't being 'backup.'"

"I seem t'recall sayin' from the start it wouldn't be just that," Lena retorted, irritation in her voice.

Morrison nodded his agreement with the MEKA pilot. "You weren't supposed to take the lead."

Song scowled, encouraged to hold her ground. "You're supposed to be an observer and maybe support, not DPS."

"I think it sounds pretty durn good," McCree interjected. "Nice improvisation, good use of the landscape..."

"Thanks, luv," Tracer said, with a little grin and salute.

"That's exactly what I don't like about it," Morrison snapped, as Lena leaned back, frowning, across the table, with one of her two counterparts, the other, outside, in the next room, waiting. "You seem awfully happy about having killed this man."

"Kinda the point, wannit? I'm RAF. You see a way to complete a mission safely, with no risk to civilian life - you take it."

"Yeah. You do. But..."

"I didn't hear you complaining about those Omnic troopers."

"Hardly the same thing."

"Exactly the same thing."

"They were in violation of treaty - and they attacked you," Song pointed out.

Lena's mouth twisted a little bit between sadness and defiance. "Just as dead either way."

Jack nodded, "That's the first hint of regret I've seen out of you for any of this."

"Don't regret it, luv. None of it. Unless Mei's data's changed..."

The climate scientist looked up. "It has not," she said, wishing very much that it had.

Lena nodded, gratefully. "...then we don't have much choice, do we?"

"Lena, I'm..." Soldier: 76 rubbed the bridge of his nose, high, between his eyes, "I'm not angry. I'm worried about you."

"Worried I don't know what I'm doin'? Worried I'm too good at it? Worried I'm taking that Blackwatch patch too serious?"

Morrison put his hands together, and his elbows on the conference table, and leaned forward, eyes closed. "I've killed a lot of people, Lena. A whole lot of people. Too many."

Tracer paused, and frowned a little, but not angrily.

"I've been glad I did it. I've been convinced it was the right thing - the necessary thing - and for the most part, my conscience is pretty clear." He leaned back, eyes open again, looking at Tracer's copper eyes. "But I've never enjoyed doing it. It's never been... fun."

Oxton nodded, chewing for a moment on her upper lip, as Danielle smirked dismissively beside her. Your emotions make you vulnerable, echoed the remnants of her conditioning, as she mentally batted it aside.

"Don't cross that line, Lena. Reyes did. Ogundimu did. I came... closer than I want to admit."

"I remind you," said the Widowmaker, "that I am the one who took that particular shot."

"And enjoyed it, I bet," Hana said.

"It was exquisite," replied the assassin, her voice warm. "Perfect."

The small smile Lena flashed her lover made Winston flinch just a little, and he reached across the table and took Tracer's hand. "I... Lena... don't lose yourself, okay? That's all we're talking about. We are working with some..." she hesitated a moment, looking at the Widowmaker, who arched an eyebrow amusedly, "...pretty frightening people, and doing some pretty questionable things. Just don't forget who you really are."

Widowmaker chortled at the softened word choice, but Tracer smiled. "Aw, luv - you know better than that." She squeezed Winston's hand, a wistful expression on her face. "There'll be time to sort all that out soon. Get this stashed away, then afterwards... anybody know a good therapist?" she joked.

"Yes," nodded the Ecopoint survivor. "I do."

Ouch, Lena thought. "Sorry, Mei, didn't think about that..."

"Oh, it's okay. I'm sure she will accept you as a referral. And she follows very strict medical privacy rules."

Tracer snorted a short laugh. "Also didn't mean it literally, luv, but - if it'll make you feel better, I'll give her a call once all's said and done."

"You could even do it before that. I will call her today, to let her know," she replied.

Winston nodded. "I think that would be a very good idea."

Lena rolled her eyes. "Really?"

"Yes," said Winston, firmly.

Lena smirked a little. "All right, big guy. Fine. I'll give her a ring tomorrow. Happy?"

"Not really," he said, "But it's a start. Thank you."

"When's the next mission?" Morrison asked, a hint of reluctance in his voice.

"A few days. Don't know the details yet. But now we've reached the board, everything's gonna move quickly."

"Good," nodded the former Strike Commander.

"Yeah," echoed Hana Song. "This sooner this is over, the better."

[An hour later]

"I know they mean well, but cor blimey, that was grating," Tracer complained, over lunch - curry on chips, of course, courtesy the only English takeaway in the city, picked up and taken home. She leaned back, into the sunbeam shining through the western window.

"They didn't appreciate your work?" Oilliphéist said, poking at a reasonably convincing Cornish pasty, from the same location. "Philistines. I thought it was bloody marvellous. You looked brilliant out there."

"Aw." She smiled, a little, sipping from her water. "Thanks."

"So - y'gonna do it?"

"Do wot?"

"Call that therapist," Emily reminded.

"Right, that." Lena shrugged. "I suppose. No harm in it, yeh?"

"Not the most fun people in the world, therapists," Emily replied. "But it's up to you."

"I wasn't going to bring this up," the Widowmaker added, amused, spreading cheese across another piece of baguette. "But I must say, their reactions... I still enjoy being - how should I put it... I enjoy being..." she waved her knife around, a pointless motion, "...a little bit feared? Perhaps you should consider the value in it."

Tracer laughed, despite herself. "Mei did jump a bit every time you said something, didn't she? Kinda funny. But... you're gonna have t'let that go, love, leastways within Overwatch. S'bad for teamwork." She picked up another chip, and threw it into her mouth.

"But not in public!" Oilliphéist insisted, with a grin. "You're a legend, sweet - you've got a reputation to maintain! And, of course, scared people don't aim so well."

"I know," the spider replied, smiling wickedly. "Believe me - I know."

-----

Angela Ziegler rubbed her eyes, or, at least, around them - being a doctor, she knew better than to rub them directly. This is brilliant work. But so complex.

She cycled through sets of responses, tracking Lena's enhanced nerves through her body. So much interconnection, and yet, still so fast. I can't imagine how much faster it'd be if all this wasn't...

She blinked - Oh! - as the pieces fell together, the realisation tingling down her spine. Oh, this is brilliant, why do you have to be on the wrong side of everything, Moira? This is... it makes a self-stabilising cycle! Of course! And every perturbation is felt almost instantly across the whole system, because each one upsets the entire cycle, so reflex actions and analysis are also distributed, shared...

"Ahhhhh," she breathed, leaning back in her chair. "Moira... you are a genius."

"You found something?" asked Dr. Ngcobo, her lab's peripheral nervous system specialist.

Ziegler nodded. "I've figured out the basic operating structure. It's... oh, it is very good. This is... so clever. It is breathtaking."

Knowing, now, how it worked, she could filter data to show the system in action, and did, both in physicality and abstraction. "Do you see, do you see, the stimulus response? How it's shared, spread across the entire structure?"

"That is astounding," he replied, in all seriousness. "There's... not even really a periphery anymore, it's so integrated - at least, on this level. All of this is unlike anything I've ever studied."

"Well," she said, cheerfully, smiling. "I think I know where to start, then - right here."

"Good a place as any."

Angela leaned over in her chair, pulling up the armrest, watching the abstracted system move in time with the physical system, replaying the session from the beginning, through the new view, seeing reactions spread, so quickly, so cleanly, cycles building upon cycles, forming curves, settling back down, stabilising themselves.

It's beautiful, she thought, as they watched the cycles form and dissipate. Genuinely, just... beautiful.

"May I add another layer of abstraction?" Dr. Ngcobo asked. "There's a differentiation function that's useful, sometimes, when studying self-stabilising feedback systems like this. It was developed for studying vertigo problems, but I think it might..."

"Please - do!" replied Dr. Ziegler, and he did, on the station next to hers, and they brought the three displays together. The third display formed a ring that rotated in three dimensions as Lena's nervous system reacted to stimulus. She started the replay over, watching the ring vibrate, shimmer, moving slowly around its axes.

"It's memorising," she said, aloud, as they watched the abstractions play out.

Huh, she thought, as the ring reacted sharply to one particular stimulus, throwing itself sharply along one axis, before drifting back, and a little past, where it had been before. "...I don't know this particular filter... what was that?"

Dr. Ngcobo leaned in, confused, and replayed that segment of data, watching more closely. It only showed up in the second abstraction layer - at least, as an obvious phenomenon. He stood up, and scratched the back of his head. "That is very strange. My first guess would be that the filter was not designed for this sort of application, and it is just noise. But if it is not that... then..." He put his left hand to his mouth, playing with his lower lip, "...I have absolutely no idea. What's the stimulus?"

"Already bringing it up." She played the short audio track - a snippet of traditional song in Irish Gaelic - in synchronisation with the collected data, watching the ring react when the singer hit her low notes, and she frowned.

"I'm not getting it," said the specialist. "It's just singing. What is that language?"

"Gaelic. And I'm not sure I get it either," replied the head research scientist, "but I have some ideas that I do not like. Not one little bit."

-----

"The police have ruled Korpal's death an accident, and Deshmukh's, a murder. They're looking for a mugger, but..."

"You've got to be kidding me," Reyes growled in his deepest hiss.

"I'm just relaying the police reports," the Talon field operative replied. "Don't kill the messenger."

"They don't know who was piloting the Brazilian boat and there's no second body and they're still calling it an accident?"

Across comms, the agent shrugged. "Everybody knows Sanjay had a lot of enemies in São Paulo, but nobody wants an assassination on record at the Grand Prix, so..."

"So everyone involved has reasons to keep this quiet. I just didn't expect they'd be so blatant about it." He covered his eyes with his right hand, and rubbing his temples for a moment, before speaking again.

"Get me every piece of video and every still image with a face that you can find from that party. Particularly of the boat launch, but cover the whole area. Also, throw in whatever you can find from outside, nearby, starting about an hour before."

"Yes, sir."

"And get me anything and everything you can from inside the Paddock Club the previous two days. Whoever did this probably cased them in advance, and we'll start there."

"Sir. I'll forward material to the facial recognition database as I get it."

"Copies also to me directly."

"Acknowledged."

"Reaper out," he said, cutting the channel.

Photographs began arriving in under a minute, and the former head of Blackwatch sat down in his chair and began flipping through them, one at a time, sorting the known from the unknown in his head, looking for faces, for body shapes, or any part of anyone he might possibly know.

You're in here somewhere, pilot, he thought, leaning back as pictures flickered by. And I will find you.

solarbird: (Default)

[AO3 link]


Lena looked in the mirror, blinking, tilting her head back and forth, looking at her brown eyes. She frowned, a little. The coloured contacts fit well enough, but she could feel them, just a bit, and didn't like it.

"Whaddya think, love?" she asked, calling over to Widowmaker.

The defector walked over and examined her lover's reflection carefully. "They look very much like your old irises. They will pass ordinary inspection, I'm certain. But not a more careful check - anyone who knows your history should wonder why you are wearing contacts, if nothing else."

Lena nodded. "They feel a bit funny in my eyes. And I think..."

Widowmaker raised an eyebrow, and hummed, inquisitively.

"...I think I'm not seein' as many colours, with 'em in."

"That is possible," the assassin agreed. "Seeing into ultraviolet changes other colours, as well, and those lenses almost certainly filter UV."

"And they itch." She took care not to rub her eyes, not with lenses in, but squinted a little. The lenses settled further, and she felt them less. "Nah, that's not right, but I feel 'em. Don't like that part."

"Are you sure they're properly fit?"

"Yah. The doc said I'd get used to 'em pretty quick."

"That would be for the best, for operational purposes."

Tracer pursed her lips, and stared. The truth of the matter was that they didn't itch. She barely felt them, now, and could tell she'd lose the feeling entirely in less than an hour. And they'd be useful if she had to go anywhere undercover, or where Tracer's brown eyes were known. But...

"...I don't like 'em," she said.

"Your new eyes - they look very much like your old irises, you know. Copper, rather than brown, but the patterns are much the same."

"I know," the teleporter replied. "Angela talked about that."

"And brown, or copper - both are lovely." She leaned forward, brushing her lips against the curve of her partner's ear.

Lena nuzzled back, then emptied the contacts case of its old fluid, replaced the sterile solution, leaned forward, and took out the coloured lenses, one at a time, putting them away. She dabbed her face, a bit, with a damp towel, blinked a few times, and looked back up in the mirror, seeing herself, and Widowmaker, standing just behind her.

Copper and gold, she thought, and nodded. That's much better.

"We match," said the blue woman, pleased.

Lena leaned back against her counterpart. "Yeah," she said, relaxing into her body. Reaching up and around her lover's head, she smiled a gentle smile. "We do."

-----

"Since you're just across town, I thought I could demonstrate my good faith by meeting with our common friends at your own facility," Moira O'Deorain said, over comms. "I could call it an inspection, Dr. Ziegler, if you feel an excuse is required - or I could simply refer to it as a courtesy call. I don't make them often, but with someone of your stature, it wouldn't cause surprise."

"I assure you, we are fully current on our inspections," replied the Overwatch researcher, "but I can't imagine how a visit from the minister herself wouldn't be an honour." She did not say it would be welcome, of course. "Perhaps that."

"That'd be lovely, then. A private meeting of the minds. Brunch at 10:30 tomorrow, perhaps? My staff could cater."

"I already have a service I quite like, and would prefer to use," the doctor demurred. "Amongst other things, they already know where and where not to wander."

"Of course," replied the minister. "They make those lovely little Swiss-style chocolates, don't they? A bit fussy, but in the good way."

"Yes, that's them."

"I've hired them myself, in the past. Tomorrow, then?"

"We will see you in the morning."

Angela dropped the connection, and looked across the room, out of camera range, to the table around which the gathered Overwatch core staff sat. "Well," she said, "That's that. We have a date."

"Here, huh?" asked the cowboy. "Goin' out of her way to be friendly, isn't she."

"She better!" Song interjected. "She better at every step."

Morrison nodded his agreement. "I presume you'll want us out of the picture tomorrow, too?"

"On site, but not in sight, I think so. I will be there, of course. Mei-Ling, are you willing to be present as well?"

"Absolutely!"

"...and Lena and Danielle. Emily is en route, and I presume will be at the table. Everyone else should... be ready. Just in case."

-----

"Do not take our cooperation as unconditional," Dr. Ziegler stressed, as Dr. Zhou nodded her agreement. "It is not. The primary condition of Overwatch's agreement to stand aside is that all three people involved must be allowed to step away once this is over."

"If that is what they wish," Dr. O'Deorain replied. "My primary interest is always the advancement of knowledge. I've already learned what I can from the Widowmaker project - nothing personal, Lacroix - and..."

"Do not call me that," the senior assassin interrupted.

"Guillard, is it, then?" Moira raised an eyebrow. "Regardless, my techniques were only somewhat advanced by the Oilliphéist refinements. That research track has run its course."

Ziegler nodded, slowly. "Insofar as that goes, it is sensible. But..." She looked over at Widowmaker and Oilliphéist. "You are both extraordinarily effective at what you do. You have to understand my hesitation to accept your freedom at face value."

Moira shrugged. "I can't argue with that."

Mei-Ling nodded. "So you see why we have to ask - you created them. How can we trust you to let them go?"

"I could give you is my word, if you'd accept it, but..." the Minister of Genetics smirked, "I know what you'd think of that. But look at it this way - if they decide to leave... well, as you've just noted, they are both extraordinarily effective at violence. Stopping them would be a difficult exercise, at best."

Widowmaker looked smug, and Tracer snickered a little, at that last bit. Got that right, she thought.

"I might suggest," said the Swiss doctor, "that they would not be the only ones demonstrating capability for violence."

The edge of Moira's mouth quirked up. "Well. Haven't we changed."

"Times change us all. I presume we have an understanding?"

"I think we do."

"I'm sure you already have a plan," said Dr. Zhou.

"Of course. And I've already been at it myself. Emily's been kind enough to come along, when some light field work's been necessary."

"It's been dull," the newer assassin said, "to be honest."

"Now, dear, not everything has to be violent."

"No, but it could be."

Lena suppressed her giggle and kept her separate annoyance to herself, as best she could. "F'instance," she said focusing her copper eyes on the doctor, "what?"

"Oh, starting at the bottom, like you'd expect," O'Deorain replied. "One of Akande's key sources in Shanghai suddenly contracted cancer. She'll live, but will be ... unavailable, for some months. Another, in Numbani, developed rather serious heart problems. She is, unfortunately, very loyal - and won't pull through. An accountant in Ukraine has a confusing neurological condition; she'll be fine but won't be able to work for three months, at least. The man I refer to as Mr. Butterpot - I believe Widowmaker has told you about him - just got arrested in Belgium. And so on."

Widowmaker smirked, and Moira nodded her head in her direction. "Thank you for that, by the way. They're calling it tax fraud, but don't let's pretend."

"That on purpose, love?"

"No, cherie," the sniper replied. "Coincidence, honestly."

"But thank you, nonetheless," the Irish doctor insisted.

Lena looked back to the minister. "So - remove the eyes, the whole body goes blind, that sort of thing?"

Moira looked ever-so-slightly amused. "Yes, precisely. Exactly that sort of thing."

"So if you've been so busy already - what'd ya need us for, then?"

The Talon board member laughed. "Field work, particularly at the next stage, once we're done laying the groundwork. I don't like doing it myself, but I'll see it done."

"And we start... where?"

"First, we need to shift the allegiance of a particular pair of analysts. They need to be persuaded to take a sudden but temporary leave of absence. I don't have the hard evidence for blackmail, but I know it exists, and where it is. I need Widowmaker and Oilliphéist to acquire it - and I'd like you along, as backup, to keep them safe."

"Just a bit of thievery, then? Doesn't sounds like something requiring our particular talents, t'be honest."

"It doesn't. Think of it as putting on your trainers - unless you'd rather I threw you in together in a firefight first."

"We could, y'know," Tracer said, annoyed. "Don't underestimate..."

"I'd like the chance to work together a few times, first," Emily interjected. "You and Widowmaker have history, but you and I don't." Her smile returned. "Honestly. I'd really like to get some field time together, before taking on the bigger guns."

Lena humphed, but couldn't argue. "Fair cop."

"Once blinded and deprived of analysis, we'll move a rung up, to his higher level staff - and from there, to his inner circle, and then, to him."

Lena looked around at her lover, and her lover's lover, and back to Moira. "Looks like overkill t'me, doc. Why not go straight to the top?"

"Allies matter, dear," Dr. O'Deorain said. "It may be a bit pre-emptive of me, but I don't want anyone left who will cause the wrong kinds of trouble afterwards. Talon will end this in a fair bit of disarray; I want to be able to reassure everyone quickly, without having to do cleanup work later. If you're going to do a job, do it right the first time."

"Also," said Dr. Zhou, "I imagine his allies support his war plans?"

"Of course," nodded the Irish doctor.

"Then they need to be gone," agreed the Chinese doctor. "This war cannot happen." She'd already explained why.

"Right, then. A bit of thievery to get this thing moving." Lena snorted. "Takes me back t'my youth, t'be honest."

Emily blinked and turned her head. "You stole?"

"War orphan, luv. Things got dicey 'till I got picked up, sorted out. How d'ya think I know nobody likes a thief?"

Emily just giggled. "That's hilarious. Can't wait to find out you also ran numbers."

"Hey now, none of that!" Lena replied, a little embarrassed. "I was just hungry."

"Weren't we all."

-----

Gabriel Reyes sat alone late at night in his office, cowl back, mask set aside, looking over personnel and source reports from the last few months.

Cancers, brain tumours, sickness, heart conditions... none of this smells right, he thought, sorting through the lists of the affected. Outbreaks happened, including of strange diseases and conditions, in this between-wars world, and the contagious cases had civilian co-cases around them, but something about this one just felt a little too... focused. A few too many outliers in the odds.

He leaned back in his chair, reminded himself of his paranoia, and ran the list - and their politics - through his mind anyway. Some of Moira's agents, some of Doomfist's, some of Maximillian's, a couple of his own, a few without particular allegiance to anything but money. Most would probably survive, but... Someone's making a move. Or getting ready to make one.

He considered the possibilities. Moira, of course. Always suspect number one, no matter what. Maximilian could hire the right talent, if he'd decided Akande's plans were too grand. Angela Ziegler could do it, certainly, but it's not the sort of thing she does - or did. People change. Geanna Mariani, perhaps, but it's not her style - she enjoys playing with people, but not with diseases. Several covert government agencies, all capable.

I see you, he thought. I don't know who you are. But... I see you.

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter is worksafe.

[AO3 link]


"Are you ready?" asked Oilliphéist, over audio-only comms.

"I am," replied Widowmaker.

"Château," said Emily.

"Châteauneuf-du-Pape," responded the sniper.

"Vaucluse."

"Signal de Saint-Pierre."

"Lavande."

"What're they doing?" asked Winston, quietly, leaning to Lena, as the two assassins continued to exchange words.

"They did this before, Widow explained it to me," the teleporter replied, leaning to Winston, equally quiet. "It's a kind of integrity check? It's a series of trigger words that key other words. It changes on its own, over time, so if one or two words change, it's no big deal, right? But if it changes a lot, quickly - somebody's mucked with her."

The scientist nodded. "Handy, given where they came from. Emily's English, though - why's it all in French?"

Lena just shrugged, focusing on the word series. The sequence sounded the same as before, to her, but she wasn't entirely sure - she'd tried to remember the list, but there were so many words. She heard Emily say, "Livraison," and immediately thought, Metro.

"Metro," said Widowmaker, and Lena smiled.

"Centre météorologique canadien," replied Oilliphéist.

"Armoiries."

"Exactly the same as last time."

"Your side, as well," said the spider, "to my distinct relief."

"So," said Lena, "you both basically... check out?"

Widowmaker nodded. "Yes. I wish you had this facility, as well. It is... reassuring."

"Talon didn't build that into you, did they." It wasn't a question. "I wouldn't think they'd want you t'know."

"Spot on," said Emily, over comms. "I think it's a side-effect. We found it ourselves, in her, first - and now I have it, too!"

"Nothin' personal, but if the ability to checksum my brain comes only as part of gettin' my brain rebuilt, I'll opt out."

Widowmaker allowed her lover a small smile. "Understandable."

"Em, you still hiding out at the safehouse?"

"Yes, and it's incredibly dull. Have you talked to Overwatch's council yet?"

"About to - we wanted to check in with you, first. Let you know we were alive."

"I do appreciate that - but Aunt Moira's getting pretty impatient."

"Yeah, well, she can wait - this is our first day out of quarantine. We'll be meeting up after lunch."

"I'll tell her you're out of Overwatch jail, at least... oh! How is, um, the cowboy?"

"Embarrassed," said the defector. "Deservedly."

"Don't be mad at him," Emily replied over comms, "Auntie's good with those darts. They're self-guided. She even got me, once!"

"Before, or after?" asked Widowmaker.

A laugh, over comms. "Before, obviously. But still."

"She wouldn't get me now," said Tracer, as Widowmaker nodded in agreement. "Nor me, I think," her lover added.

A giggle. "I'm pretty sure she'd love another chance to practice those upgrades, if he wanted to come by..."

"No," interrupted Tracer, firmly. "Now that we've checked in - we've got some prep work to do on this end, and I need to get some workout time with those pistols you made."

Widowmaker agreed, humming quietly. "Cherie, do you mind? We will contact you again after the meeting."

"I'll be waiting. And tell me how it goes, on the range! I'm so glad to hear your voices again - both of you."

"I know," replied the sniper, eyes half-closed, "it is the same, for me."

"Oilliphéist out."

"Widowmaker out."

"I don't remember giving you clearance for your pistols," Dr. Ziegler said, sternly, as the comms went quiet.

Tracer shook her hands. "C'mon, doc, we've both been locked up for days. I know I need a workout."

"As do I," noted the spider.

"You must have something we can use..."

"This is a research facility, not an Overwatch station. We have a weights room, which you are both welcome to use, but we have nothing like you're requesting." The doctor considered. "Fareeha uses a Helix Security facility when here, perhaps," she thumbed her comm. "Perhaps we can work something out. I'll be right back." She walked to her private office, and the two women talked, quietly, over comms, for a few minutes, before returning.

"Good news; we have a site. She'll meet us there," said the scientist. "No sniper rounds, I'm sorry. But we do have clearance for pistols, supervised, as long as they're kept unloaded outside the range."

The assassin shrugged. "I could, I suppose, limber up with my chain, and re-establish targeting. It is better than nothing."

"Yeah, love," smiled her partner. "Maybe you can even keep up with me now!"

A derisive snort. "I always could."

An hour later, Tracer jinked from target to target, faster than ever, four to five teleports at a time. This is... this is wizard, she thought, as she unloaded entire clips into targets in patterns - smiley faces, outlines of airplanes, her initials, whatever came to mind.

Widowmaker watched from a level above, tracking her lover with her empty Kiss, and finding it difficult at first - until her own quickness started to settle in, overriding old habits, old limits, and as it did, she purred. Ooh la la, she thought. This is better. This is... this is wonderful.

Pharah, in turn, watched from above, astonished at their raw speed, occasionally exchanging words with Winston over comms, Winston, who worried - deeply - for them both.

-----

"So that's basically the situation," Lena explained. "We can intervene on one side of this civil war Talon's got going. If we pull it off, we tip the balance back to where it was before Akande got sprung. Moira continues to be terrifying and awful, Talon continues to be a pack of wankers - no offence, love..."

"None taken," replied Widowmaker. "I defected for reasons, after all."

"...but we stop Talon's attempt to start a Second Omnic Crisis. Millions of people - both omnic and human - don't die in the next couple of years just 'cause Doomfist and Reaper have some kind of fascist hard-on for 'struggle.' Both sides of Talon lose a lot, and come out weaker."

"And all Overwatch does is... stay out of the way?" Winston asked.

"Pretty much. I'd be the intermediary, and ... I'd be involved, up close, and unexpected. Mostly to protect Em and Wids - but not just."

"There are reasons I kept you out of Blackwatch, Lena," Morrison said.

"Think I'm not suited for it, then?" she glared just a little, copper eyes glinting.

"Too well suited for it. It's corrosive. You saw what it did to Rayes."

"Someone from Overwatch has to see what happens, dad. Unless you just wanna take their word on it."

"Preventing another war has to come first," said Mei-Ling. "The data I have is all very bad. I do not think the ecosystem could handle another conflict like the last one! There is already so much damage, and everything is so unstable now... another war like the last one would push us over several different edges, the results would be catastrophic. Millions dead is far too low an estimate."

Angela nodded. "I have served as a wartime medic and surgeon in enough wars. If we could preempt one - particularly one so large as that..." She shook her head.

"Not to mention, with Talon busy, we could really go to work on Vishkar," added Lúcio, no longer in Brazil, but at the table, stopping by while on tour. "With an Architech on our side, pointing out where we should investigate - we could do a lot of real good while Talon's busy having their little showdown."

"It's almost too good." Hana frowned, skepticism in her voice. "If I saw this in a game, I'd be all 'ha ha no not fallin' for that, n00b.'"

Lena nodded. "Too right. We'd have to be on the lookout for some kinda betrayal at every point."

"Sure," the Korean replied. "But - we're missing something. And here you are, talking about working with" - she gestured at the smirking French Talon agent, who had the sense not to talk about her finest kills - "Mondatta's assassin..."

"I'm already sleeping with her, luv, this isn't a big step," Lena snipped, shifting the rifle on her back, just a little. She missed her new pistols already - but the Kiss being there helped.

"...and maybe she got better, okay, but you're siding up with the mad scientist who made her, and her crazy niece, all to pick a side in their civil war? I'm not the only one seeing bait here, am I?"

"No," said Morrison. "You're not."

"Not trying isn't an option, though," said Mei-Ling.

Oxton nodded, and sighed. "I'm not sayin' I don't see the possible traps. I do. At best, it's messy and it's awful, but I ... I know that Mondatta would want this war stopped. He'd care about how, it would matter, but most of all, he wouldn't want this war to happen."

"And we're not just going after both sides, because...?"

"Because that is probably the one thing that would force them to mend their fences," interjected the blue assassin. "They would go back to working together, rather than fighting each other."

"Nothin' creates alliances like a common enemy," added Lena.

"I still don't like it," said the Meka pilot. She turned to Dr. Ziegler. "I don't care what you think about her personally, doc, but as far as I can tell, Moira's a psychopath." She heard Lena snicker, to her right.

"I never said she wasn't," replied the Swiss woman. "Many psychopaths are personable, when they want to be."

"If she decides she wins by turning on us, she will," Song insisted.

"Absolutely," Lena agreed. "That'll have to be in every decision we make."

"It will be," insisted the soldier. "Assuming we're foolish enough to try this."

"We have to," insisted Dr. Zhou, again, before being interrupted by Lúcio, objecting, "I don't see how you can even think about working with her, after the way she grabbed you like that. No way I would."

"T'be honest, I'm scared of her. But... not even for a prize this big?"

Lúcio had to think about it, and didn't immediately answer.

"What if it would take down Vishkar?"

The DJ took a long, deep breath, and nodded, slowly once. "...yeah. Maybe."

"There y'go. That's why."

"We have to try," interjected Mei-Ling, again, with surprising vehemence. "Are none of you listening? If they are trying to start this war, if that is Doomfist and Reaper's plan, we have to try. We also have to tell every agency who will listen to us, so they can work against it as well."

Winston nodded, but Morrison and Song started to protest, but Dr. Zhou raised her voice over them, "Did you not hear me? The biosphere cannot take another Omnic war! Look, I have made projections." She threw a set of charts and graphs up over the centre of the conference table. "Carbon stability is only the start of it. Do you think the megastorms of 30 years ago were bad? I have been preparing a paper with the data collected while I was in cryogenic suspension. Imagine one covering half a hemisphere!"

She flipped another set of graphics up. "Now imagine 62-plus degree weather across North Africa, and 65-plus degrees in South Asia."

Another set. "Now imagine the oceans - barely recovering now - essentially devoid of life. There would be no recovery path."

Another set. "Here are agricultural projections. Ignoring war dead, we can project global crop collapses and multiple pandemics resulting from malnutrition and other knock-on effects. This projection - I would expect two to three billion dead. With extremely aggressive use of genetic modifications on a yearly basis, in a best-case scenario, we might cut it to one billion. The first year."

The room had grown silent as the reams of data had shuffled past. "The paper on which these projections are based is going to Nature next month for peer review, but I am confident of my numbers. Do you understand, now? Another Omnic war kills civilisation. Maybe the entire planet. For anyone biological, this war would be a death sentence."

She turned back to the copper-eyed Overwatch agent. "I'm sorry, Lena - if this is what he is trying to do, then Akande must be stopped. If there is any chance, any chance at all, you must take it."

"I... had no idea it was so bad," Oxton managed, after a few seconds.

"It isn't, now, but... it would be."

Morrison flipped through smaller versions of the images on his padd. Hana Song did the same. "Wow," she said, after a few minutes. "Okay, I guess... we have to."

"I think we do," Winston agreed. "The rest of us can dedicate ourselves to analysis - and to other actions against the more militant anti-Omnic groups. This is too important for a single approach. Governmental intervention is critical, but it will take them weeks or months to respond."

Lena frowned. She'd won, but it didn't feel like winning, not at all, as the weight of the situation fell on to her shoulders. "Then, I guess... we're in. We're doin' this."

"I'm sorry," said her best friend, as Morrison and Song both nodded their reluctant but clear assent. "I'm very much afraid we are."

April 2019

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