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: (widow)

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Saga 12: Russia, and the Omnium

solarbird and bzarcher

The long, warm, peaceful summer has - as was inevitable - come to an end. But no one, really, could have imagined how turbulent autumn might become.

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 e12,2: White Bim Black Ear

solarbird and bzarcher

Michael insists they make time to pet the doggo. It is important.

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 12: The Crucible

solarbird and bzarcher

As the war in Siberia escalates, the Concordat begins the first stage of their plans to assist the Russian people against the Omnium. But as the temperature rises on all sides, what will rise to the challenge - and what will, inevitably, be burned away?

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

solarbird: (widow)

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Ascension
Fragment e9,3: The Very Purple Adventures of Widowmaker and Sombra

solarbird and bzarcher

As the Weapons enjoy an afternoon off, Sombra is reminded of a little story from their shared past, and Widowmaker reflects on some of the differences between the old Talon and the new.

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 e9,2: It Would Be Quite a Change

solarbird and bzarcher

Angela is a little surprised Michael hasn't taken one particular upgrade already, and suggests that this is, in fact, a pretty good time for it.

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

solarbird: (tracer)

Of Gods and Monsters
Edda 8: Quicksilver-Eyed Moira
solarbird and bzarcher

And then, one day, one simple suggestion changed everything.


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
Edda 7: Palladium-eyed Michael
solarbird and bzarcher

Innovation never stops, and the medical research community is always happy to meet and discuss the latest advances on someone else’s expense account. Dr. Angela Ziegler, though, is more looking for one particular lunch date - but Dr. Michael Ngcobo would rather not stay for dessert.


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 3/Edda 6: Sombra, the Self-Made
solarbirdy and bzarcher

Satya Vaswani offered Sombra a chance to become a member of their elite - a 'Goddess,' alongside her. Widowmaker has promised that there is a place for her within Talon. But Sombra won't accept any offer blindly. Not without knowing exactly what is going on first.

This work is three chapters long, but all three have been posted at the same time.


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

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

solarbird: (Default)

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

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

...Angela feels exactly the same way.


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

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

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


"Lena, what's wrong?" Olliphéist asked, as Tracer burst into the room, holding her padd.

Tracer looked around the rented resort hut. Emily. Danielle. "Where's Moira?"

"Out in the spa. She loves the hot springs here. I was thinking of joining her. Why?"

"Let's... go to the restaurant. Get a bite."

"Hungry again already?" She laughed, as Widowmaker shook her head, sharply, no, and raised her finger to her lips. "I could use a bit of an after-dinner snack myself," she said, pleasantly. "Why don't we?"

Oilliphéist nodded, quickly, catching up. "Sure! I'll come along for the company."

"Good! Let's go."

The three women made their way carefully through the extraordinarily discreet resort complex, seating themselves in a corner of the only open bar.

"Emily, can you keep a secret? I know Danielle can - but can you?"

"'Course I can, luv."

"From Moira."

She newer assassin laughed. "Well, yeh. From her, particularly."

"A big one. You need to know something, and I need her not to."

Oilliphéist turned her head a little, silver eyes still looking at bronze, considering. "...I think so."

"Even if she made you telling her into a mission?"

Emily took a deep, hard breath, looking inside herself, and closed her eyes. "Unless... unless she made revealing this specific thing my mission, yes. If she did..."

"If she did that," Widowmaker noted, "she'd already know."

"Yeh," Tracer agreed. "Good enough." She took a deep breath. "Smokey showed up at Gibaltar, after we left."

"What?!" hissed Widowmaker, leaning forward.

"Yeah. I don't know what kind of double-agent rubbish he's trying to play, but he's got 'em convinced I've been..." she fiddled with the cocktail napkin in front of her, "...adjusted. I think. They tried to recall me. Get me back. Get me separated off."

"That's not good," her lover replied. "He knows what's happening, then."

"Yeh, which is why you two need to know. I'm not a secret anymore."

"Why can't we tell Aunt Moira?" Oilliphéist asked. "This is important."

Tracer shook her head. "If we tell her, she'll want t'know how we know. Can't give her that - who knows what she'd do? This is too delicate as it is, we can't muck it up."

"Does that mean you refused the recall?" Widowmaker asked.

"'Course I did. We have to finish this mission, you know that."

Oilliphéist nodded, relieved. "Yes. We must."

"But Moira can't know I'm AWOL. It'd be..." She shook her head. "It'd be awfully... tempting. I'm not wrong, and y'know it."

Widowmaker snorted, and Oilliphéist's silence served as agreement.

"So I figure, right, we can't rule anything out - not even me having been... changed somehow that we can't tell. She did a lot to all of us," Lena acknowledged, as Oilliphéist smiled happily, hugging herself just a little. "But we also can't go back to Oasis in the interim. They'd try to grab me, get me off somewhere alone for Angela to work on, and we - we can't let that happen."

"I agree wholeheartedly," Widowmaker frowned, took Tracer's hand, and held it, tightly. "I, too, have had enough of being taken."

Lena smiled, and squeezed Danielle's hand in return, picking it up, nuzzling against it. So nice, she thought, anxiety falling, just so. "We need to go somewhere else, instead, 'till the next opportunity comes in. And when we're all done - when this is over - we need to be ready to run somewhere else together - somewhere all our own."

Oilliphéist looked uncertain. "Are you sure? Talon has been so very good to me, and with Aunt Moira in charge, it will be..."

Widowmaker put down her glass, picked up Emily's hand, nuzzling it, in turn. "I love you, but she is right, ma chérie. We need to have an independent position from which to negotiate. I'm sure you can appreciate that."

"And like I said, we can't be sure Moira didn't pull something on us," Tracer continued. "You've had the same questions I've had, Em - I want that cleared up before we do anything after this mission. If all this is just side effect, then, I'm grateful and happy. But if it's not..."

Emily hesitated, but nodded, decisively, once she made her choice. "Quite. Auntie can get a little," she waved her free hand back and forth, "enthusiastic, it's true."

Lena blew out a little bit of a breathy hoo. "Good. I'm thinkin', we get our condo, whatever we call it, yeh? We let Angela and Moira come to us and do their examinations or whatever, once all this is over. They keep a check each other's work, you two watch them, make sure neither of 'em does anything, just like like we did when it was just your aunt, yah? Then we'll know for sure - where it's safe, and it's under our control."

"I agree - this is critical," Widowmaker nodded. "If O'Deorain honours the terms of our agreement, we can use the chateau. But if she does not..."

"And what'll we do 'til the next mission?" Oilliphéist asked. "I've got a fair bit of savings from before, but not enough to waltz in somewhere and buy an island..."

Tracer grinned. "That's th' easy part, luvs - you think I don't have a couple of safe houses all my own? Got a little place in Edinburgh a while back, when I was an adventurer. Got a place in North America, too, and one in New Zealand. I'm thinkin', I'll say I've got some business t'sort out, y'both insist on coming with me, and we'll lay low in Scotland 'til we get our chance at Akande."

"No more separations?" Oilliphéist asked, happily, a little dreamily.

"Yeh," Tracer agreed, smiling. "Not again."

Widowmaker smiled in turn. "Good."

It might, Oilliphéist thought, be about time. "Hm. Tracer, can I get a look at your pistols before we go to bed?"

"Sure - what's up?"

"It's been about long enough since I gave them to you, I want to give 'em a look-see. Might need to make an adjustment or two."

"No problem." She looked at the drink menu. "Well, that's sorted. Anyone else actually want to get anything? I want some chips."

"Just water for me," Emily said. "Wouldn't want to muck up your guns. Might steal a chip, though..."

Lena laughed. "Course y'will, luv, you're English."

"I think I will try the birkir," Danielle said, looking over the menu. "Have you ever had it, Lena? It has hints of malt, you might enjoy the flavour."

Tracer grinned, feeling a little better with a plan at least partly in place. "New t'me, love - but if y'think so... why not? Yeah! I'll give it a go."

-----

"I'd like to take some readings of your nervous system," Dr. O'Deorain said, pulling a piece of equipment from her baggage, as Emily worked with the electronics inside Tracer's pistols.

The teleporter glared at the device. "No."

Moira's head tilted, just a little, eyebrows furrowed. "It's important, Lena. All the other instances of this nerve work have been in much more heavily-modified bodies; I need to insure that your more conventional genetics are continuing to agree with the modifications." She turned the device, showing the opposite side; a flat plastic panel. "I assure you, it's just an integrity scan, and completely non-invasive."

"Sick a'bein' prodded," the teleporter growled. "Had enough of that already, from Angela, don't want to get it from you, too. Which, by the by, reminds me - we're not goin' back to Oasis. Y'need to drop us off in Glasgow - all three of us."

"What? We absolutely cannot do that," Dr. O'Deorain replied, surprised. "It is in direct violation of our agreement with Overwatch." She looked at the teleporter, studying her intently.

"Seems t'me I'm the only Overwatch here, and if I say it isn't, it isn't," Lena snapped.

"Perhaps - but I do not think the rest of your organisation would agree," the doctor said, hand raised to her chin, index finger tapping beneath her nose. "What's going on, Lena? Something's changed."

"Not your concern, doc," she said, firmly. "What matters is I'm still onboard, Em and Danielle are still onboard, we just need to be... somewhere else for a few days. In Scotland. For a bit."

"Fascinating," Moira muttered, and looked over to Widowmaker. "I presume you'll be no more illuminating than her."

"Non," the senior assassin smirked.

"Emily?"

"She has things to do, and we're not splitting up 'till this is done, auntie. I'm goin' with, and that's all there is to it." She hit a couple of final test points with her logic probes, and nodded, satisfied. That'll do.

"How interesting," the Talon board member said. "Lena... would you be willing to tell me exactly what happened, when you and Widowmaker returned to Overwatch, after your upgrades?"

Tracer started, just a little, and Moira nodded. "Ah, so, I'm in the right neighbourhood, aren't I?" She held up the handheld scanner. "Please, let me scan you - I'll show you it's harmless by using it on myself, first. Here, you may even hold the scanner."

The Overwatch agent took the oddly-shaped device by its grip, looking askance at it. "Wouldn't know what t'do with it, mate."

"You'll see for yourself," she said, turning it on. "Run it along my arm - or, really, any part of my body. See?" A set of screens appeared, filled with data and a holographic display of nerves. "I want to check several things, starting with the electrolyte levels in your cerebrospinal fluid and moving further down. You're agitated, and I need to make sure it's not related to my work. You should see my numbers in the right pane - not that I imagine they'll mean much to you."

Lena huffed, skimming the data, which was exactly as meaningless to her as Moira had suggested it would be. She looked over to her counterparts, who glanced at each other, than nodded back. "Fine," she said, handing the scanner back, and sitting on the edge of the bed. "This work?"

"Perfectly," the scientist said. She began running the device slowly along Lena's arms. "What, exactly, did Ziegler do?"

"Huh? Oh. Put us through a lot of tests."

"Physical and psychological examinations?"

"Yeh," she nodded. "And simulations we don't remember."

Dr. O'Deorain stopped, for just a moment, but she did not turn off the device. "How... interesting. Why don't you remember them?" she said, resuming her scan, moving to the other arm, then down the spine. Angela has become more aggressive in her methods. Good, she thought, she needed to be. It will improve her work. For just a moment, she found herself imagining working with the Swiss woman again, but forced herself to put it aside.

"She blocked us from forming long-term memories," Widowmaker said, from the other side of the room. "We have seen recordings made of the test sessions, they were... essentially harmless."

"How many of these simulations did she run?"

"Twenty-eight," said the sniper.

"I see. And you remained cooperative?" She moved the device along Lena's right leg.

"Yeh, 'course. Didn't know they were simulations 'til they ended, and then she'd always say it was the last, even though it wasn't..."

"One time, in the video, you asked her how many times she'd said that, and she said she'd lost count," Widowmaker noted. "I'd wondered what had prompted that."

Lena shrugged and Moira did not smile. And there we are, the doctor thought, watching a spike of fear cycle echo though Lena's nervous system. You may not remember, but your body does. Angela's done some of my work for me. I'll have to thank her for that once this is all over... though I don't think she'll appreciate it.

"Good news," she said, brightly, briefly passing the scanner along Lena's left leg. "You're doing well. Physically, everything is exactly as I'd hoped. Glasgow, you said?"

"Yeh," Lena nodded. "Downtown, if y'don't mind."

"Not at all. Just be ready to go at any time - we will have our opportunity soon, I'm sure of it, and we will need to respond at once."

Lena nodded, with a bit of a grin. "Brilliant."

-----

"Do you see it?"

Dr. Ziegler nodded to Dr. Ngcobo. "Scent," she sighed, tiredness in her voice. "So deeply tied in with memory, and so evocative of memories. I am a fool."

"That is why, I think, none of our tests revealed the mechanism. It simply wasn't activating completely."

The senior researcher ran her hand through her hair. "The isolation tank was counter-productive."

"I am very much afraid it was. A bad call, on my part."

"Don't blame yourself, Michael, it was mine as well." She shuddered. "So, a bias, a shift in reactions to... something. A quick, sharp reaction against whatever it is" - or, she thought, whoever - "then a return to baseline, and a slow climb towards preference, over time."

"Over and over again," he agreed. "Built to fool us - and her."

"That... oh, no, that visceral reaction she kept having to O'Deorain..." She slumped. "We've been seeing it at work and never knew."

"If I am understanding this path correctly," he highlighted a series of seemingly-trivial reactions in the spinal column, "she's been getting a dopamine reward flood, as well. I can't tell when, without her here."

"But," she said, straightening, slapping her hands on her knees, "her memories are her own. Moira didn't lie about that - or about altering her base personality. We can, I think, work with this."

"Can we?" he asked, pointedly.

"I... I believe we can," she insisted. "I have to. After all - it may be the only hope we have left."

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.

February 2019

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