solarbird: (widow)

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

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

solarbird and bzarcher

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

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

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

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

solarbird and bzarcher

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

Of Gods and Monsters: The Arc of Conflict is a continuance of The Arc of Ascension, The Arc of Creation, and The Armourer and the Living Weapon. It will be told in a series of eddas, sagas, interludes, fragments, texts, and cantos, all of which serve their individual purposes. To follow the story as it appears, please subscribe to the series.
solarbird: (tracer)
The renegade Jack Morrison has bolted, with Ana Amari, to a hidey-hole he thinks no one knows about. Laticia Delgado thinks he's wrong - but wants something in return for her knowledge.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]

"He's gone?"

Laticia Delgado frowned as Gabe nodded.

"Surprised?"

"A little. I... it's..." She scratched at her head, concentration clear on her face. "He always acted like he was going to be... like he wanted to make us into something. I didn't think he'd just ... bolt, like that."

"He was always good at building a team," the former Blackwatch commander agreed. "Maybe he hoped to build one with you?"

"Maybe," she granted. "He..." She looked down, to her left. "He had a way of making you feel like... he was in charge, sure, but that he cared. That he'd take care of you." She looked back up. "But he was never one of us, you know? He..." She grunted, frustrated. "He always stood back, a bit. I thought it was just being a commander, yeh?"

"Some of it's exactly that," he confirmed. "You have to keep some distance."

"I know, but..." She stopped, and shook her head, clearly conflicted. "I kind of... liked him. But he... but then..."

"But then, Araceli."

"Yeah," she muttered. "Then that."

"Not having second thoughts, are you?" The old soldier gave her a sympathetic look. "You don't have to be there. Our friends can take care of this. They have," he chuckled, a bit grimly, "...experience."

She shook her head. "No. I'm just..." She set her expression and hunched her neck a little. "I guess I'm glad he's run. I mean, he's... away from my gang now. He's away from my friends. We can take him down and it's..." She stood up, suddenly, pacing. "They're good. They've, we've got ourselves out of all kinds of scrapes. And they can take care of themselves, believe me. But..."

She thought of Araceli's face melting, dissolving, into the monster that was Jack Morrison.

"...not against somebody like this. With them out of the picture... I know they aren't gonna get hurt now, you know? I might, but they..." A scowl crossed her face, and she stopped pacing. "This is out of their league."

Gabriel Reyes gave her a considering look. "Yeah," he said. "It is."

"It's out of my league, too. Isn't it."

"A week ago, I'd've said yes," he granted. "Now... honestly, I'm not so sure." He leaned back on the bench, with more than half a grin. "I like the way you think, kid, you know that?"

Laticia Delgado snorted. "I'm not a kid."

He raised an eyebrow - "When you're as old as I am, everybody's a kid" - and checked his watch. "They're gonna call us, soon. Brainstorm, try to figure out where he might've gone. I'm supposed to keep some distance between you and them, but I could push back if you want in on this."

She looked back and forth, a little, as she thought.

"Yeah," she said. "Push back. I might have some ideas."

-----


"Amélie?"

Widowmaker turned to the doctor, and gave her a little bit of a smile, perhaps a little bit more than she meant to, or thought she would, particularly given that not the slightest bit of it was anything less than entirely genuine. "Yes, Angela?"

"Do you have a moment?"

"For you?" The assassin gestured to another seat in the small room she and Lena had taken up as a remote office. "Of course."

"Thank you," Angela replied, as she closed the door behind her and sat down.

"Have you and Sombra had any breakthroughs in determining how to find and destroy that unfortunate video of the Captain's?"

"A little," the Swiss woman replied. "Now that I've given her better images of Ana, she's able to search more effectively for any sightings. But..."

She frowned.

"Have you considered how we got here?"

"I consider everything," the assassin answered, a you-know-better smirk on her lips.

"Of course. And I know that - if you're right - this has become important, now. But..."

"But... it didn't have to be?"

Angela hesitated, and then frowned her agreement, looking down, looking up, nodding at nothing in particular. "If... if Gabriel hadn't brought in that photo, if Lena had... just left Jack alone... none of this... none of this had to happen, did it?"

The spider smirked, but there was fondness in it. "If everything was completely different, then everything would be completely different, I think you are asking, no?"

"No," Angela replied, sharply, reconsidering it even as she did. "But... fine. Perhaps. But it's still true. Jack could've still been dead, as far as the world knew. Ana, as well. Eventually, he would've actually died - what he is would not prevent that, I don't think. Honestly, I am astounded he is still alive. The mice and rats did not last very long, but... well. He is human, and I cannot be sure of everything, regardless."

"I see," Amélie said. How... interesting, she thought. Perhaps that would solve our problem, eventually. But he'll last long enough, despite that.

Angela plowed ahead, heedless of Amélie's thoughts. "Instead, the Overwatch project is endangered almost as soon as it's been reborn. Jack has almost killed Lena in view of Ana, who almost certainly recorded both that and her revival, and might expose Talon and Overwatch both, and has... what she said to Fareeha, it is unforgivable, and..."

"And Lena is entirely willing to kill both of them, and eager to kill one, and you don't like thinking of her as being... like that. Like me."

"I..." The doctor sighed, and closed her eyes. "I... do not. I do not deny what she is - what you are. And I've never denied that I have also been a soldier, of sorts."

"It is not the same," the assassin stated, knowing it was not.

"It isn't. I like to... play one, with Fareeha. I joke about the Swiss military, and how we are all trained - and we are - but... now, we are here, and almost ready to move, and..."

"I understand, I think." Améliie gave her a thoughtful look, and leaned back, a bit, in her chair. "I can't tell you if he would never have begun to matter, eventually, even had none of this had happened. But..." She allowed herself a little bit of a laugh. "How many people would Jack have... absorbed... keeping himself alive, until he died? How many would he kill, or would Ana kill, trying to kill him?"

"We can't know."

"Similarly, we cannot know this. We cannot know how it would've gone, had Gabriel, and Lena, done nothing."

The doctor frowned. It seemed valid to her, but...

"And most of all, as far as I'm concerned - had none of this happened, would Fareeha have accepted your gift? Would I have received mine?"

Mercy shuddered, and closed her eyes. "...I know."

Ah, the spider smiled. There it is. She stood up from her small desk, walked around it, and knelt beside her friend, and, once, a little more. "Angela?"

The doctor looked up, eyes open, again.

"You do not need to feel guilty that you have benefited from this."

"But I do. I'm... all this has..." Angela shuddered again. She was so happy about everything Amélie mentioned, but the reasons, the why it had happened... it hurt. "It all hinges on killing - on assassinating - someone, Amélie. Someone who... used to be a friend, even if he has become something else. It's not what I am. But... Lena, and... you..."

"It depends upon assassinating someone - stopping someone, permanently - who has killed hundreds. Many, many people would consider it no less than overdue justice. You seemed to agree with that, back in... back at our previous stop."

"I did. I thought. As... as far as it goes. As long as we can spare Ana. But even if it's just him, I can't look away from what I'm doing. I won't."

"Knowing what Jack is, can you live with there being only one way, really, to stop him? Can you not live, after all, with that? Does benefitting from it make it so much worse?"

"It's hard. Everything I've ever done has been about stopping death, not about... dealing it."

"I know. But you will save lives, by helping us end his."

"That's different than... perhaps it is hypocritical of me," the doctor granted, "but it is different to helping do it."

"And yet, you were a field medic for Overwatch."

"And not for Blackwatch. Ever. That was why."

I see, Amélie thought. So she did draw that line, before. At least, insofar as she knew.

She reached over, and took Angela's hands in her own. "I wish," she said, after a moment's hesitation, "I wish... our world was more... compatible, with your ideals. I wish the lines could always be so clean. That my art, and Lena's art, were not so necessary."

Angela managed a sad little smile. Somehow, she thought, that helps. "Thank you. So do I."

"It is nothing. Talon is... pragmatic, in our own way. Gérard and I were even more so, which is why I know he would've understood what I did." She sighed. "This is the world we have, and we do what we think we must, for the best. But that doesn't mean I can't admit... sometimes, I wish, perhaps... that it wasn't."

"Even though... it is."

Amélie nodded, resolutely. "Even though it is."

"I've missed you," the angel said, looking into those golden eyes.

"I've missed you," her friend replied, those eyes soft, and warm.

"Let's not let it happen again, shall we?"

The blue assassin smiled a most un-spiderlike smile. "Never."

-----


"So you think you might know where he's gone, then?"

Lena looked at the young gangster sitting next to Gabe, across the display, her own image and voice disguised via software. Amélie sat across from her, at the same table, at her own display, her voice and image similarly distorted; Angela and Sombra watched, out of camera view, across the room.

"Not exactly. But he's got someplace down south." Laticia leaned forward, her image and her voice not disguised at all. "He never said where, but it's somewhere people won't go, and won't be found, at least, not easily."

"People stay away on their own?"

"I think so. And he can't be spotted from above."

Sounds about right, the junior assassin thought. "Well, it's a start. I don't suppose you have any more specific ideas..."

"'Course I do. But I want some promises."

The younger assassin smiled. "Fair enough. What?"

"I want in."

Lena blinked, surprised, face quizzical. "Wot? You want in with us? We're not recruiting, luv."

"No," the gangster dismissed, "I want in on taking him down. I want to be there. I want a shot."

Oh, Lena thought, unhappy at the suggestion. "Nope. That's for me. I've owed him for more, and for longer."

"You owe him for more? What do you know about it? He was on my side, and killed my last family."

Venom growled, now angry. "Yeh, well, he killed my..." she started, before biting her lip, stopping herself. No. She looked up at Amélie, across the table, who'd tilted her head just a little bit, her hands under her chin, giving her one of those looks, and Lena understood, Professionalism, she thought, and nodded. Control.

"You aren't us, and you aren't going to be - so you have to stay with Gabriel. Got that?"

Laticia nodded, knowing that few people who saw Talon agents in the field ever lived to tell about it. "Got it."

"But if your information checks out... then... if you get a shot... we won't stop you from taking it."

"If we're both there, I want to fire first."

Then I'll have t'make sure that doesn't happen, Venom thought. He's mine. But aloud, she said, "Then you can fire first. Deal?"

Lena watched as Gabe leaned in, and spoke, quietly, off microphone, with the Los Muertos gangster. She tracked Laticia's eyes as they flicked nervously from Gabriel, back to the camera and screen with Lena's distorted image, and back, and eventually, she nodded.

"Deal," she said, a little reluctantly. "Okay." She straightened a bit in her chair. "Here's what I know."

-----


"What," Venom asked, eyes alight, "is that?!"

Angela snorted, adjusting the 'horns' on her headset, securing them down into place. "You don't like it?"

"Gordon Bennett, there's a tail. There's a tail!" The assassin turned, calling down the hallway. "Amé, Sombra, c'mere - you have got to see this!"

Amélie arrived first. "What is the matter, aren't you..." She blinked, seeing, and smiled. "That... is a delight."

Sombra trailed in, behind her, and beamed. "Ah, la ángel - a demon? Or..."

"A devil, if you are to be particular about it," the Swiss doctor said, thinking, and if I am to be honest about it, as well. "A surprising amount of this is my basic kit, with the camouflage modes reprogrammed."

"I adore it," Lena said, finally finding her voice again. "Didn't think y'had it in you, luv!"

"I did," Widowmaker said, a knowing smile on her face.

"I could hardly go into this with my Overwatch colours, now could I? I can at least pretend someone has..." - she whirled her staff around, careful not to scrape it against the ceiling or floor - "stolen, or perhaps reverse-engineered, my technologies. It's far from a perfect solution, but..."

"I think it's pretty great, luv. And absolutely, I get it."

"You know, conjita, I have a lot of makeup, including temporary hair dye... want me to make the eyebrows match the rest?"

"Would you?"

"We have time, rápida?"

"Can you do it in ten minutes?"

"I can make her into a completely different person in ten minutes."

If only, Angela thought.

"Brilliant!" Venom chirped. "We'll finish loading up, and meet you outside!"

Angela almost nodded, but stopped, as Olivia grabbed her chin. "No, no, none of that. Let me work!" The hacker grinned. "Trust me. You're going to look amazing."
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 s11,2: Vesuvius, Alight

solarbird and bzarcher

Angela helps Lena and Fareeha put up a comms tower, and Lena learns something Fareeha wishes she hadn't.

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

solarbird: (Default)

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

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

solarbird and bzarcher

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

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

solarbird: (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
Fragment s4,2: January 1st, 2078
solarbird and bzarcher

The Weapons and their friends are hanging out together late on New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day, waiting for the ball to drop in New York, when Sombra starts asking a lot of very carefully considered questions.


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: justice rains on your face (pharah)

Of Gods and Monsters
Fragment e6,2: Mid-November, 2077
solarbird and bzarcher

Moira O'Deorain kept a lot of data secret, and separate, even from her wife, Angela Ziegler - and has no idea why, anymore, really. So she stops.


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: (widow)

Of Gods and Monsters
Edda 5: Rose-Gold Efi
solarbirdy and bzarcher

Even as Talon makes plans for its new world, Angela Ziegler has come to Numbani to demonstrate new medical diagnostic techniques - and to speak with the Oladele family. Efi Oladele - latest winner of an Adawe Foundation Genius Grant - is a candidate for a groundbreaking medical treatment.

But will her parents agree? And why, far from public view, has the Widowmaker taken an interest in the young genius?


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
Fragment e4,2: Mid-July, 2077
solarbirdy and bzarcher

Talon board member Angela Ziegler is in Numbani, preparing for an event where she will show a new technology, and, hopefully, meet a certain young and brilliant woman. Fareeha and Moira have remained at home, in Oasis, and - for the first time - are sharing a bed without her there.


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 3: Platinum-eyed Satya
solarbirdy and bzarcher

A new and better world needs a new and better architect to help design it, and Moira and Angela - and Tracer - know precisely who that should be. To Oilliphéist's disappointment, this acquisition doesn't involve violence - because at least this once, Talon has a much more enticing alternative to offer.


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 2: Opal-Eyed Pharah
by solarbird 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.

Talon is ready to reshape the world as they - as she - sees fit, and with Angela Ziegler newly at her side, no one can stand in their way...

...except, perhaps, themselves. For Angela has discovered a recently filed piece of paperwork and is enraged - and determined to undo it, no matter the cost.

Because this is a co-written work, I'm not reposting the text here. You'll have to read it on AO3.


This is the first edda in a side-step/alternate-ending sequel to The Armourer and the Living Weapon, but you do not need to have read Living Weapon to read it. We are treating it as a standalone work.

The overarcing story will be told in a series of separate eddas, sagas, texts, fragments, and cantos, each of which will serve a specific purpose. To follow it in order, you'll need to subscribe to the series, not any individual work.

solarbird: (tracer)

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

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


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

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

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

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

"Thank you, Strike Commander. Departing."

«How long a ride is this?»

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

"Anything fragile nice and sorted away?"

"Yes, I followed your instructions carefully."

"Been to the W.C.?"

"Just now."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It took me months."

"I understand completely."

-----

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

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

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

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

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

"No doubt. Lacroix was probably the testbed."

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

"Exactly. See how it all fits together?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What?"

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter contains a scene some readers may find disturbing.

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

[AO3 link]


[Geneva — 2070]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

"Morrison."

"Amari."

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

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

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

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

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

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

«I do, too.» She glared. «Obviously.»

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

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

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

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

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

«Yes. It regards Overwatch, as well.»

«And? What's the price?»

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

He nodded. «I know. None of us were.»

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

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

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

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

"I suppose so."

«But... you were about to say?»

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

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

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

«Please!» He leaned forward. «Go on!»

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

«Ana, I'm...»

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her eyes widened. «So, that's how...»

«I can't be sure, but - I think so.»

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

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

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

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

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

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

«That's... grotesque.»

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

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

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

«That's a tall order, Jack.»

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

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

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

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

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

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

«Guess not. You still like corn cakes?»

«I do.»

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

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

solarbird: (tracer)

I didn't realise I hadn't posted a new chapter since mid-December! Sorry for the late.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


«Look, friend, all I'm trying to tell you is that big trouble is coming, and it's aimed straight at your guy. Cut him loose.»

Sombra made a little frustrated noise as Flores didn't answer immediately. He'd been fighting her on Morrison since she first contacted him about it. «Look, Olivia, this isn't...»

«Don't call me that.»

«Sombra, this isn't - you aren't with us anymore. We all know it.»

«But I'm still your friend, friend. Or aren't I?»

He sighed. «No, no, you are... I just... he really, really knows what he's doing. Militarily. We're so much more effective now, we've thrown the Maras completely out of the whole state. The police are starting to think of us as maybe not even so bad.»

«And when he turns on you, like he turned on Laticia and Araceli?»

A moment, and then another moment, silence, over comms. «He didn't... look, we don't know what happened to Araceli...»

«I do. I told you. I've seen it.»

«That - it makes no sense. It's impossible.»

«You want the video? I can see about that.»

«And Laticia, she's turned state's evidence, sold us out to Overwatch! Why shouldn't he...»

«Is that what he says? He's a liar. Well, he was a liar before. Look, have I ever lied to you?»

«Yes!»

«About anything important.»

«...no.»

«And I'm not lying to you now. You heard what Talon did to that Mara cell in El Salvador, right? Do you want that? Because that's what you're going to get.»

She could almost hear him thinking.

«...can you get me that video?»

«I think so. Want to clear it with my source, first. Very delicate, you know? Don't want to alienate them.»

«Sure, sure. Let me know.»

«I will. Sombra out.»

The hacker leaned back in her chair. "Well, how 'bout it? I figure we let him sweat for a day or two, then hand it over."

Lena smiled. "Sounds good. I don't want t' have to tear through Los Muertos to get to that bastard. They're just kids, mostly, and none of this is their fault." She fuzzled Sombra's hair.

"Quit it, rapido! This hair takes time!"

"Make me!" Lena giggled, and, of course, made it worse, as she and the hacker got into a hair-messing competition that the teleporter could only win.

Angela looked on, mildly astonished, from the couch across the room where she sat, surrounded by notebooks. Yesterday's meeting of the minds had run late into the night, followed by a massive exchange of documents in the morning, after breakfast and some more personal catching up with Amélie.

She looked around, again, a little overwhelmed. She'd handed over a data chip, and had not imagined getting stacks of paper to read, in exchange. Dr. Marani wasn't so much old-fashioned in her record-keeping, as prehistoric. It looks like so much more, when it's all physically in front of you, she thought. But it painted a crystalline picture, nonetheless.

A burst of laughter caught her attention, and she looked up. Lena's so relaxed, here, she thought, contemplating what she was seeing. And arguing against killing, rather than reminding us she's an assassin over and over. She gazed intently at the roughhousing Talon agents. It's because... she's just Lena here, isn't she? Not Tracer. Just ... herself, and she doesn't have to insist on anything to remember that. She shook her head, and went back to reading lab reports.

"Agh, you win, stop it!"

"Yeah!" The assassin punched the air. "Venom wins again!"

Sombra got out a hairbrush and began working her hair back into place. "You know, it'd go a long way if he heard it from Laticia himself."

"What, get her sprung, you mean?"

"Something like that. It'd carry a lot of weight."

"Hmf," said the assassin. "Somethin' to consider." She glanced over at the Overwatch doctor. "If we have to. Don't quite want t'be asking favours at the moment. Not 'till we've got everything else sorted out."

"What's Overwatch gonna do with her? They aren't police or courts or anything. They have to hand her over to somebody, eventually - why not us?"

"What would happen to her afterwards?" Angela asked, suddenly.

Lena shrugged. "...let her go, I guess? Back to Los Muertos?"

"With what she'd know, by then? How could that work?" She leaned forward, intently. "You could never let her go. Not with her knowing what she would about Talon, combined with what she does about Overwatch. She'd be a threat." She leaned back, and shook her head. "I cannot risk that."

The assassin frowned. "We wouldn't, but... I get your point, I guess."

"What if we kept her at arm's reach?" suggested the hacker. "Your friend, Gabriel."

Venom grimaced. "He's not really..."

"Fiiiiine, your colleague, whatever. When we decamp to Mexico, he goes too, brings her. We co-ordinate at a distance, he lets her go back to the gang when the job's done."

"That's not bad, luv. Whatcha think, doc?"

Doc, she thought. Well. That's an improvement. "I think... Overwatch could go along with that. Obviously, it is not my final decision, but... I think so."

"It'd help. But... y'seem to have got used to the idea we're gonna finish off Morrison awfully quick."

The doctor leaned forward, face in her hands, elbows on the glass table in front of the couch. "He's my fault," she said, resigned. "At least... partly. And I saw - well, I did not quite see it, but I saw the results when you were tried to bring him in alive." Her hands closed to loosely-held fists, forehead pressed against them, carrying the weight of her head, of her thoughts. "If he is willing to do that to you, or worse, to Mei-Ling... then he is no longer the man I once admired."

"Makes it easier, then?"

"I have always been a field medic, and then a doctor, first. But I have also always been a soldier. Just like him. Just like Fareeha. Just like you. But even with that, I am not on a mission to kill him." She lifted her head, and looked Venom in the eyes. "I am here to do my best to save my mother-in-law. If helping you kill him does that... so be it."

"Wow, this got somber," interjected the hacker. "Where's the fun in that?"

The assassin snickered as Angela frowned, and she swatted at her friend's head. "Right, then! It's late. Go flirt with your girlfriend - didn't you say you'd call her tonight?"

"Ah, she's used to it," Sombra said, nonchalantly - but also packed up her physical kit in one quick swipe.

"You complete reprobate - go call her. Now. She hates it when you're late."

"Don't have to tell me twice. And don't disturb me, we'll probably be verrrry naughty."

"Out!" Lena picked a cushion off one of the chairs and threw it at the Mexican woman as she fled, missing, Angela suspected intentionally.

"So... Lena - may I still call you that? Or is it Venom all the time, here?"

"This is my home, doc. You're at my house. If it's not Lena here, where is it?"

"I think you know what I mean."

Tracer managed a half of a smile. "Yeh. I guess I do." She sighed, retrieved the cushion she'd thrown, put it back on the chair where it belonged, and flumped down on it. "Honestly, I wish you wanted to be here. I'm not in love with you, but... bloody hell, doc. Of all the old crew, you were the one I wanted back. You were... you were the one I trusted. Maybe it was London, maybe it was... I dunno why. I just did."

"I have already made my apologies..."

"I know. I'm not lookin' for another one. I'm just..." She waved her hands around. "I want that trust back."

"But that's not why I'm here."

"No," she admitted, "I guess not."

"So then, Lena - why am I here?"

Lena smirked at the Overwatch doctor. "Helpin' us kill Morrison's not enough?"

"All you need is my field suppression device. I could've handed that to you in Geneva." She didn't pretend it would be any less involvement that way, not to herself - but it didn't require a trip to any secret bases. Or, apparently, homes.

"Fair enough. But with us, you've handy, if things go wrong. And, like you said, maybe y'can help us not have to kill someone else."

"Ana, again."

"Yeh. We take down Morrison, we get any video she might have of that little mistake of yours... she gets to live."

"How would I do that?"

"No idea. That's somethin' for you to figure out with Sombra."

"Lena," she said, leaning forward. "I appreciate that you're trying. But..."

"Again," the assassin stressed. "Trying, again. I hope you get that, luv, 'cause like you just said, last time tryin' it this way got me a hole in my back big enough for Zarya to put her fists through."

"But you would not be trying if you did not have some other reason to bring me here. She'd just be on your kill list. We both know it." She scowled. "Why am I really here? Not my reasons. Yours. You want trust back, between us? Tell me this."

Lena looked around, tapped the surface of the table with one finger, got up, and closed the door.

"All right, then," she said. "Didn't want t'get to this 'till later, but fine." She sat back down. "Remember how you said I didn't look any different, first time y'saw me, back in London?"

The doctor nodded. "You still don't, not really. It's only been a few years, after all - for you."

"Yeh - it's still explainable that way, for me. So far, anyway."

"What is?"

Lena gave Angela a long, thoughtful look. She's not this good a liar, she decided. Not with stuff like this. "Y'really don't know."

"Lena..." the doctor said, confusedly. "Would you please just tell me?"

The Talon assassin bit her lower lip, nodded, and took a deep breath, before continuing. "You're not the only one not gettin' any older, luv."

Dr. Ziegler started, leaning forward. "You're not... Dr. Mariani hasn't talked about work anything like this. If not her, then how...?"

"That's the trick, innit?" She sighed. "We don't know. Somethin' to do with the slipstream, we're pretty sure, but ... no idea what."

"...and Amélie is, isn't she."

"Yep. Nothin' you'd notice yet, particularly not on her - we're both hard to kill, and awfully durable. But... she is."

"I see."

"That time I asked you about Fareeha? Hoped you'd win that argument?"

"You knew, already? About yourself?"

"Sure did."

"That's what you want out of me, really, then, isn't it."

"Yeh," she nodded. "I..." Fear - real fear - flashed across her face. "I... sometimes, when I rewind, I..." She swallowed, hard. "I see things. Other places. Other us. Dunno if it's real, not for sure, but sometimes, sometimes... I see myself... at her grave. It's a hundred years from now, and she's long gone, and I'm still... me. As I am now."

She shuddered, and sniffed a little. Lena reached over, pulling a tissue from her pocket, offering it to her.

"I couldn't take that, doc," she said, taking the tissue. "I won't lose her. I won't. Not to that. Not to anything."

Dr. Ziegler nodded, eyes soft. "That... is something I understand. Fully."

"I still hope y'get it sorted with Fareeha. I like her."

For the second time since arriving at the small Talon base, Angela Ziegler smiled a genuine, broad, reflexive smile. "Then... I have some good news for you."

Lena blinked, and sat up straighter, eyes wide. "She..."

"Yes. Finally."

"And it's worked?"

"As far as I can tell, everything is perfect. Her scars started fading within hours. Not so much that she can see it, yet, but..."

Lena Oxton breathed heavily and deeply. "So ... there's hope. It's not just you anymore."

"No."

"If you can do this for us... t'hell with all of it, luv. I'd forgive you anything. Forever."

"Possibly, literally."

Lena laughed, her old laugh, the kind of laugh that cut straight through to Angela's heart, and the doctor, too, laughed, in kind, so relieved. "I am sorry for what I did, but really, I am not sorry at all," she said, huffing halfway to giggles. "I know what you must have been going through, now, and honesty, it all makes so much more sense..."

"It's been workin' on me, luv, not gonna lie," Lena said, shaking her head, eyes wet, but with a smile. "Maybe... maybe it's made me a little too extra, can't say..."

"Does Amélie know?"

"'Course she does. We don't keep secrets."

"Well. That explains all this," she said, pointing to the stacks of lab notebooks and research notes. "You were so angry that you thought I'd figured you out, then I get here only to have all this thrown at me..."

"In trade. The doc - our doc - has been wanting a colleague for a while."

"Certainly, but still - the dichotomy... well. It is now explained." She shook her head. "My approach will not even have to change. Just the specifics."

"Still killin' Morrison, you know that."

"Don't spoil the moment."

"We don't lie, luv. Not internally. It's somethin' Talon's got over Overwatch."

"...really?"

"Really. It's not just me an Amélie. We are what we are, we don't pretend we're anything else. Secrets, sometimes, sure, y'gotta keep 'em. But not lies."

The doctor let out a little bit of a laugh, a heh sound, almost appreciative. "No wonder you're so... thin, at the upper levels. Well. I suppose there is something to be said for Talon, after all."

"Big step up from the old Overwatch."

"All too true."

"I'll take that as a compliment!" Lena snarked, cheekily.

"You should," the doctor agreed. "You really, really should."

"Oh god, Ange..." She leaned forward, like the doctor had, head in her hands, eyes and smile visible through it. "You'll really do this. You really will."

"If I can."

"Thank you. Oh... I..." She leaned forward, and took Angela's hands, tightly, in her own. "Thank you."

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


Angela Ziegler looked over the boxed-up contents of her laboratory, everything safely put away, new access codes on the doors and cases. The last round of prepared auto-aid kits - capable of handling most of the sorts of injuries an Overwatch agent was likely to encounter in the field - were neatly stacked on the cart outside her office, ready for transport up the elevator and across to the Lunar embassy.

She picked up her bag and backpack, and grasped the cart's handle, making her way to the elevator, then up, to the courtyard, where Fareeha and Winston waited for her, at the line marking the boundary between Swiss and Lunar territories.

"One last time, Angela," the scientist said, "Are you sure about this?"

The doctor nodded, firmly. "I care about this project as much as you do, Winston. We are needed, and... we need her. If this is what is necessary to repair the damage I caused, so be it."

"Then... thank you. And good luck." The ambassador took the cart from his friend, and wheeled it aside, well into Lunar territory.

"You look very much like you need a hug. I know I do," Fareeha said.

"Yes, I do. But - think of it as just another mission. We have been apart before."

"Not like this."

"It's just Lena, liebchen. She's not so frightening as all that."

"But it's not just her. It's all of Talon, and you are going into the heart of it."

"I know. But I should not be gone for so very long." The two embraced, kissing both fiercely and tenderly, before Angela broke away and stepped back to the Swiss side of the line. "They want no one else in the courtyard, so..."

"Come back to me," said the rocketeer, as she stepped back, into the Lunar Embassy's entryway.

"I will."

The courtyard now clear, the doctor pulled a violet hexagonal device from her bag, and placed it on the ground in front of her. "The beacon comes in two parts. I don't know why, but I know they will respond quickly," she said quietly, knowing her wife could still hear her nonetheless. Then, from a small, round, metal box, she extracted a smaller, round, black device, clicked its power cell into place, and depressed the top button until it beeped, twice. "That's all there is to it." She looked up, looking for a ship. "See you when I see..."

And then she vanished.

-----

"I was not expecting that," said Winston, from inside the building. "But we have the promised proof of life." He threw the image up on the wall of the conference room - Mercy, in a small, featureless cabin, holding up a padd with the latest news headlines as of half an hour before. Mei-Ling let out a big breath. "Thank goodness!"

Gabriel almost let himself laugh a bit. "Talon has a top-level software and hardware hacker - I don't know her real name, but she's head of the Sombra collective, the one behind that hacking spree last year. That teleporter trick has to be her work."

Hana flipped the image showing Angela's disappearance onto her personal padd, examining it curiously, as Winston said, "An extraordinarily powerful tool, regardless."

"I wasn't worried," said Fareeha. "Not any more than I already had been. If Talon had wanted to kill her for what she did, they'd've already done it." Or, she thought, at least, tried. "They wouldn't hide behind special effects."

Winston shook his head, no. "I wouldn't've cooperated - ever - if I was afraid of anything like that. Widowmaker is very strange, in some ways, but she is also very rational." And still Amélie, he thought, but could not say. "There are confidences I'm keeping, but it comes down to one thing: they trusted us, and we blew it, and now we have to trust them."

Fareeha nodded in agreement. "Exactly."

"So what are you worried about, Ree?" asked Gabriel.

The rocketeer's expression grew sober. "I worry about... what Angela might decide she needs to do."

-----

Doctor Ziegler felt herself being led off the small transport ship. She'd been blindfolded since the photograph, but felt now the heat of what she suspected was a Mediterranean sun. "Are we there?" she asked the pilot, a woman she did not know by sight, and who did not identify herself.

"Yes," she heard the unnamed woman reply, the one who had blindfolded her, the one with the Talon patch on her shoulder. "The way forward is flat. Follow my lead and the direction of my voice, please."

The doctor stepped carefully along a hard-surfaced walkway. It sounded like concrete, but could've been stone, or anything like it, really. She heard the sounds of seagulls, nearby, and sandpipers, in the distance. "When may I remove the blindfold?" she asked, nervously, when she suddenly felt the sun fall away from her skin with a last pair of steps, and she stopped, at a half-height metal gate. Behind her, she heard a door close.

"Now," said the pilot. "Here, I'll do it," and she removed the cloth.

After the blindfold, even the inside seemed bright, bright like midday. Behind her, a grey metal door sat framed in a small concrete entry leading back, presumably, to the aircraft. Directly before her, the gate, unlocked. And ahead, a stairwell down.

"Don't worry," said the pilot, "it's quite safe. Please proceed."

Through concealed camera feeds, Venom and Widowmaker watched Dr. Ziegler walk down the cement stairs. Everything was being recorded, of course. Perhaps they couldn't entirely trust Angela Ziegler on her word alone, but having just a bit of leverage changed the situation entirely. And if proof of active cooperation with a globally-notorious terrorist organisation didn't count as leverage, well - what would?

"I'm surprised she went along with this, honestly," the teleporter said. "But I'm glad she did."

"I am, as well," said the spider. "But I am... less surprised than you, given what I remember, and all you've said. I do not think she is as much of a rationalist as she likes to believe."

"Wot," she said, a small smile quirking up on one side. "You sayin' she's doin' all this just 'cause she's fallen for me?"

"No," her wife replied, "but... that is part of it. She has strong emotions."

"She's married! And - the doc? Strong emotions? You serious?"

"The first," smirked the spider, "I do not think has to matter so much. And the second... I suspected, even in the old days, but is it not obvious now? Everything she's done screams it. Particularly at the end - she didn't even try to triage you, she just swept in like a goddess and rebuilt your body." Her smirk relaxed into a smile, almost sympathetic. "As one who controls her own passions tightly, I recognise it in another. It is part of why I am not so angry at her... poor decision-making."

"F'real?"

"Oh, yes. Seeing her again, even if in video - it is enough to confirm it. She may hide it from you, and from her current friends - but not from me."

Venom shook her head, and grinned a little. "Y'know... knowin' that... I almost wish it was returned."

"I have always found her quite attractive. And I suspect she is an absolute beast in bed."

"Oh, now, don't you start."

Widowmaker laughed. "Do not worry, cherie, we were only friends - if close ones. And... one time, perhaps a little bit more. I think I will remind her of it." She squeezed her wife's hand. "But it was not serious. I have already fallen, I have no need to fall again."

"I wouldn't mind tho'. As long as y'always came home."

Amélie leaned over and kissed Lena. "J'adore."

"Aw," said the junior assassin, blushing just a little. "I love you too."

-----

Dr. Ziegler walked ahead of the Talon agent, down the well-lit stairwell, once her eyes adjusted to the light. A storey down, and then an elevator with an access pad and locks, and then a hallway, empty of people, at the end of which stood two metal doors, the left of which lead to a comfortably-appointed room, with a set of wooden french doors on the far wall, a couch, a large, round, wooden table, a set of chairs, and an older, Sicilian woman, accompanied by a younger man with a broad, pleasant smile.

"Doctor Ziegler!" said the grey-haired woman, motioning to a chair, as the pilot disappeared quietly back out to the hallway. "It is an honour. Please, sit down. Would you like anything to drink?"

"Some water would be lovely," said the Swiss woman, as she sat. The older woman nodded to her companion, who scooted over for a bottle of water, and two cups of hot tea, from the sidebar.

"I am Dr. Geanna Mariani, and this is my nurse assistant, Taviano Bonsignore. And it is a pleasure, finally, to meet you."

"I suspect I am familiar with your work?"

"More than you should be, I think? But yes."

"Not actually so, but what I know of it is miraculous," Dr. Ziegler said, sincerely. "You have been described to me as a fan of mine - I am, I think, an admirer of yours. But... amongst other tasks, I have a data delivery to make. Will anyone else be attending?"

"Ah, I'm flattered. Thank you. Yes, and they should be here any moment," she said, as the second set of doors opened, and Venom and Widowmaker - both in full Talon field gear - stepped out. "Ah, there you are!"

"Venom," said the Overwatch doctor, nodding, carefully neutral, getting a small but polite smile in return. "Widowmaker," she said, nodding again, a little wary despite herself.

The senior assassin smiled. "It has been a long time, Doctor Ziegler, has it not? Perhaps too long." She reached out her hand to the Swiss woman, who offered her own only to find her fingers brought to cool, blue kips, and gently kissed. "But there is no need to be so formal. Surely, Angela, you have not forgotten Tripoli."

She remembers, thought the doctor, relief cascading through her. It is you. It was always you, the whole time. I knew it. "Of course I haven't," she whispered, smiling, and kissing that cool blue hand, in turn. "It truly is wonderful to see you again in person... Amélie."

solarbird: (tracer)

[AO3 link]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

"Understood."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[three hours later]

"You're certain she's well?"

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

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

"Yes."

"Was it necessary?"

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

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

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

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

"I am not so sure about that."

"Really?"

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

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

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

"Thank you."

-----

"You what? " said Winston, disbelieving.

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

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

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

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

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

"She says it was not necessary."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I will leave you to it, then."

"Do you want to try?"

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

"You sure?"

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

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

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

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

The doctor grimaced, embarrassed. "Oh."

"Does Fareeha know?"

"Of course."

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

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

"That does make everything more complicated."

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

"Can you handle it?"

"I'll have to."

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

"I think so."

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

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

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

"Good luck."

-----

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

Fareeha -

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

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

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

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

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

Your mother,

Ana

-----

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

Jack -

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

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

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

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

Capt. Ana Amari
Overwatch

solarbird: (tracer)

[AO3 link]


"I would kill for a tissue sample right now," Angela said, looking over old, old notes.

Mei-Ling laughed. "Oh, I don't think you would!"

"No, but I would think about it." Dr. Ziegler leaned back from the screen. "At least I have some idea where to start. But there are so many variables..." She started a third batch of nanosurgeons, the variant least likely to have been in her lab at the time - but she couldn't rule it out.

A timer dinged, and Mei-Ling reached over to the results display. "First production batch is ready!" She looked over the properties data, comparing the theoretical characteristics against sampled. "Wow, it's been so long - these were so much less effective! But they match the old data very well."

"Thank goodness for offsite backups," said the senior researcher, leaning over to check the results herself, and nodding approvingly. "Let's hope the others match so closely."

"What's this other set of nanites over here?" Dr. Zhou brought up the other batch's synthesis input panel. "These are... very different! Much smaller!"

The medical doctor nodded. "And, at the time, highly experimental. If there's any way my work is causing what we've seen... it will involve those."

-----

Fareeha wandered into her wife's lab at oh-two-hundred, finding her exactly where she expected she would, after four days of work - out cold, asleep, at her desk. Mei-Ling, at least, had managed to make her way over to the couch, but did not look that much more comfortable. The rocketeer laughed a little, softly, and roused the environmental scientist.

"Dr. Zhou?"

"...wha...? Oh! Good morn..." She looked around, seeing the overnight lights. "uh... What time is it?"

"Two a.m. - otherwise known as the middle of the night, when none of you should be awake. I'm getting Angela to bed. You should go sleep in your own quarters as well, unless you enjoy neck cramps."

Mei straightened her glasses and blinked her bleary eyes. "Yes." She shook her head. "She was supposed to awaken me at midnight when the latest test run completed! I wonder what happened?"

Angela stirred at the desk, at most half awake. "'S running again," she muttered. "G'back t'sleep, Lena."

"...Lena?" giggled Mei. "Dr. Ziegler, this is Mei-Ling!"

"Please, Dr. Zhou," said Fareeha, "Go get some rest. I will take care of this blonde mess."

Mei laughed, sleepily. "Blonde mess? You're so mean!" She yawned, a very big, and very deep, yawn. "That is probably a good idea though. I will be back in the morning. Good night, Angela!"

"...what?" said the medical doctor, finally awake enough to know who was in the room with her. "Oh, hello, dear. Good night, Mei."

"Come to bed, wife. Now." Fareeha pointed towards their quarters, as Mei made her way sleepily out the door.

Her wife shook her head, no. "There is another test running, it will finish up around four..."

"And it can sit there happily until nine. You do this every time you get into a big project, and your work suffers for it, and you suffer for it, and I suffer for it. And we agreed, I do not have to suffer for it anymore."

"This is only the third day," she guessed, with faked confidence.

"This is the fourth day, and is when you made me promise to stop you."

"I did not!" she insisted.

"You are a terrible liar," said her wife, "and you know it."

"I'm not, really," the doctor said, with a little sad smile. "Except to you."

"Bedtime," said the flying agent. "Now."

"Oooooooh - fine, then. You are correct, the quality of my work does suffer." She rose from the desk, and stretched so tall. "And this is important. I should get some better sleep." She shut off the lights, leaving the systems running.

"Any progress?" asked Fareeha, as they walked out into the hallway together.

"I'm..." Angela sighed, frowning a little. "I'm afraid I think so. This refined test will tell me for sure. We were getting nowhere until Mei-Ling suggested that he'd probably thrown down one of his old biotic field grenades, and if he activated everything all at once... I can't anticipate all the interactions. But I can make some guesses." She yawned, hugely, and stretched her arm across her wife's shoulders. "Carry me."

"You know what? I will." And she lifted the doctor off the floor, in her arms, effortlessly, like she had three years ago, and the Swiss woman laughed, delighted.

"What was that about Lena, though?" asked the Egyptian, as she continued down the corridor, apparently unburdened by carrying her wife.

"What?"

"When you were still half asleep, you heard us, but you called Mei-Ling 'Lena.'"

"I did?"

"Yes," confirmed the rocketeer. "Are you still worried about her?"

"Honestly?" She put her other arm around Fareeha's neck, helping carry some of her own weight, or at least transfer it. "I am. I didn't know her so very well before, back in the sixties, but over the last year... she's done so much good, and yet, she's..." She fiddled with the words in her head, dancing around the simplest ones.

"An assassin," said her lover. "A political killer. Not the kind of career change I'd've expected, given her old records."

"It hurts, a little. I... I kind of adore her, when things are not so bad, when she's being Tracer and meaning it. Seeing her shift like she does, in the eyes, when she's set off..."

"The golden irises?"

"No. Those - you know, those are pretty. She's absolutely gorgeous, a person who is also an artwork - you haven't seen her accelerator when she's really showing off, artwork is the only word - and to me, the gold completes her. No," she shook her head, "it's the anger."

"Should I be jealous?" joked the rocketeer. "I can be angry, too."

"Never," said the doctor, smiling, patting her wife's chest.

"And her rage frightens you."

"It saddens me." She nuzzled her head up against Fareeha's neck. "We lost her once, to the Slipstream, and everyone mourned - I don't want to lose her again, to anger, to rage, or... to... whatever might kill someone in her line of work. I don't know if I could handle it." She let her eyes close, but tried not to fall asleep. "I can't accept death, not the way you do."

"I'm not convinced I can accept returns to life. You're handling her being back much better than I'm handling my mother's sudden return."

"Am I?"

"Yes."

"Well - I've had more time." She shifted a bit as her wife turned down the residential corridor. "I've become quite fond of Lena, you know. Even if I don't let myself show it."

"You do, to me."

"Of course! But to her - I'm her doctor, that's all I can be. It's all I should be, ethically. Anything else is just asking for trouble."

"And you never do that."

"Never," giggled the doctor. "Not ever."

"Well," said the rocketeer. "Here we are. If you'll open the door, I'll carry you across the threshold again."

"You are so good to me," said the doctor, smiling, and undoing the lock.

"I know."

-----

At 10:01 hours the next day, a mouse squeaked in tiny outrage as it suddenly lost an ear.

At 10:01:01, it had that ear again, as if never lost, and it blinked, and groomed itself, and, finding everything in place, went back to running around in its cage, as if nothing had ever happened.

"Well," said Mei-Ling, quietly. "I think we've found it."

"Yes," whispered Angela. "Now, all we have to do is... find a way to make it stop."

solarbird: (tracer)

[AO3 link]


"I'm pretty sure I know what we're gonna see on this video," Venom said, back in her Tracer garb, but still more than a bit blue at the edges and entirely gold in the eyes. "'Cause I'm pretty sure I know what I saw." She gave Angela Ziegler a pointed look. "But... I might be wrong."

Most of the current members of Overwatch Lunar Embassy sat around a table in the ambassador's workshop - even Fareeha, though her thoughts clearly chased rabbits elsewhere. Lena glanced over with more than a little sympathy - she hardly even remembered her mother, and couldn't even imagine what it would be like to have one return from the grave.

"If everyone's ready, I'm going to start with Ana Amari's recording," Winston said, to general assent. "I haven't looked it yet - Athena's just finished deep-scanning the media for anything... inappropriate... to our systems."

-----

Jack Morrison looked at the drive containing the video. He didn't really want to play it again - it scared him. He had some ideas about why, but he didn't like them. Being a super-soldier was one thing. Being... whatever this implied... was another entirely.

He sat quietly in his temporary quarters on the small Los Muertos compound just south of the New Mexico border. He could hear Delgado outside, running her fighters through the training regimes he'd taught her, with that new man, Arturo, acting as her second. Jack smiled to himself, hearing the noise. If we're not careful, I'm going to end up with a pretty good strike team here. Already got one that's not half bad, he thought.

The former - and, arguably, again - Strike Commander looked at the drive a third time, thought, the hell with it, and linked it to his padd. A notice came up, saying the file system was damaged, and he let it repair itself, which took only a couple of minutes, and produced a slightly larger video file.

-----

Winston hit play. The large wall display showed a view through a sniper rifle - a conventional firearm, not Talon make - and Venom chuckled a little to herself. Still using the old-style scopes, grams? Good to know. Through it, from above and from two alleys situated a town that looked hot and had signs in Spanish, a group of Los Muertos fighters spilled out, led on the far side by one all too familiar white-haired super-soldier, on the near side by a woman clearly his lieutenant mirroring his actions, and through upper windows by a set of three sharpshooters. Military tactics against cheap street thugs means a battle that would end quickly, until blam, blam, blam, and all three sharpshooters were down, and there was chaos.

Morrison dodged into view, and the sniper fired, again, quickly - Venom could see Jack all but centred in her sight - and again, that blur, and then, Morrison is fine, and dodging away, and one of the fighters with him is dead on the ground.

"What th'..." said Reyes, as Mercy blinked, and looked confused. Mei looked at the screen, and back to the doctor, similarly confused. "What just...?"

-----

Morrison saw himself spill out of the passenger side of the lead vehicle, face bloodied, just as he remembered. He stopped the video, and zoomed in as far as the footage would allow - the resolution wasn't bad, but the lens wasn't great, and the image could've been shaper. Then, the blurriness got much worse, before returning to sharper focus, and his tactical visor was intact.

What the hell, he thought.

He stopped the replay, and backed up the video, and ran it again, in slow motion, frame at a time, zoomed in as before, tracking his own movement manually.

-----

"Winston, stop the replay?"

The scientist nodded, and motion stopped.

"...re-run that last shot at Morrison, slowly."

The sniper's scope tracked the soldier, a second fighter next to him, close by, but not unduly close. The shot rang out, just behind the former strike commander's motion, but still clearly a headshot. Then the blur.

-----

His visor had definitely been wrecked. Whoever took the shot had hit it perfectly, sheering right across his eyes, ripping most of it off his face without touching his skin. Hell of a shot, he thought, complimenting whoever - or, knowing Talon, whatever - had taken it. Then the blur.

He stopped the video, and studied the frame carefully. The compression wasn't too bad, but the resolution could've been better. He zoomed out, and saw the side of the truck in as sharp a focus as it had been a few frames before - just the upper part of his face became an indistinct mass.

-----

"Stop," said Venom. The video froze in place, blur still covering most of the field. She walked up to the screen. "See these?" She pointed at the sniper scope ticks around the frame, still in perfect focus. "And this?" She pointed at a perfectly-focused truck lamppost base, in the upper left corner. "This isn't recorder artefact."

Winston nodded. "I agree. Whatever this is, it's a real effect."

"Sorry luv, but the news gets worse. I saw exactly this happen," Venom said, "though my sight. I didn't talk about it yet, 'cause I figured maybe I blinked" - though she knew damn well that was impossible - "or maybe someone ran between me and Jack right as I took the third shot. But I know I had him dead in my sights, and when I fired, somebody else was dead on the ground."

"You took a kill shot?" asked Reyes.

"Third time, in that mess? Bloody right I did."

Mei looked unhappy and Gabriel frowned, but found couldn't really argue. "...fair enough."

Venom nodded. "Step through, frame at a time?"

-----

Several more frames of blur, and then, one where it seemed to thin, and then form a line along the horizontal centre of the visor, and there the visor was, again, intact, and Morrison saw himself reaching up and activating it, without a second thought, just as he remembered, during the battle.

He flipped through the last set of frames. Nothing more than what he'd already seen - a broken visor, a blur, and an intact visor, in that order. It didn't make any sense. Nothing in the Soldier Enhancement Programme could do anything like that.

Unless.

Unless it wasn't the SEP.

-----

Several more frames of blur, and then, one frame where the blur, the fog, seemed to coalesce on the right side, and then the soldier's head was to the right, apparently unharmed, and the fighter whose head had been all but out of frame was dead, on the ground, a large section cut out, almost scooped, mostly missing, and Mei made a small choking sound as the view through the scope swept from the dead fighter's body, back to Morrison's intact and dodging head, and back to the woman, and back to Morrison, before the shooter took another shot just too late, into a wall, as Morrison dove down an alley and behind a skip.

Winston blanched, and spread the key frames across the display. Gabriel looked more than a little ill, himself. "I have seen some fucked up things in my life, but that..."

Venom looked over to Dr. Ziegler, her anger controlled, but not entirely concealed. Angela said nothing, staring intently at the images. "Doc? You gonna say somethin'?"

-----

Morrison thought back to the failed defence of Overwatch Geneva, when everything came apart, falling into Angela Ziegler's lab, badly hurt, bones broken, stumbling around in the dark, the only light the emergency exit signs and his biotic field, as he grasped around, looking for the aid kits he knew had to be down here somewhere.

He remembered finding one, no, two, and applying them both, and passing out as another blast hit the base.

And then he remembered nothing until he awoke, having somehow made his way outside, having scavenged a UN uniform from one of the Talon soldiers, and feeling more than a little out of joint, like he didn't fit back together quite right, like everything was just a little off, or a little more than a little off, and he remembered putting it out of his mind and concentrating on getting away, getting as far away as possible, before Talon's UN puppets could get ahold of him, and make him pay for his defiance.

What were you working on down there, Angela? he thought to himself.

-----

"I... this cannot be happening," the doctor said.

"Pretty sure we just saw it," replied Venom.

"What are you talking about?" asked Winston.

"Angela?" the assassin prompted.

The medic shook her head. "I know what you are thinking," she said to Venom. "But you do not understand. My experimental nanosurgeons were not capable of doing what we just saw. Not even the most advanced ones."

Mei jumped in, supporting the doctor. "It's true! I knew that generation, this was not in their operating parameters."

-----

Jack pulled out his knife, pulled up his sleeve, and cut a long gash in his arm - nothing too deep, just enough to test his enhanced healing. The skin knit itself back together, normally, like it had ever since the treatments all those years ago back in California.

He cleaned his knife, put it away, and pulled out a pistol to replace it. He stared at the medium-caliber firearm, not sure he was ready to do what he needed to do, then chided himself for not being enough of a soldier. Enough of a man. It worked.

"Delgado!" he shouted.

"Yeah, Spooky?" she replied from outside.

"Pistol's acting up. Gonna fire a couple of test rounds in here, clear it. Don't freak out."

"Sure you don't want to go to the range for that?"

"It's fine, I've got a fire box."

"Oh, okay. Thanks for the warning."

"No problem."

-----

Venom pressed the point. "You're sayin' that's not some kind of experimental nanosurgeon swarm? 'Cause it looks to me like Ana made that headshot, and then somethin' stole some parts from whoever was nearby to fix it."

Dr. Ziegler rubbed her temples. "I agree that is what it looks like. But it cannot be what I made. If nothing else - I am careful! None of my experimental versions will, or even can, remain active for so long. The last time he could've had access was when the UN moved against the Geneva watchpoint, and nothing from that generation could survive."

"The evidence," said Winston, "indicates otherwise."

"It can't be!" She slammed her palms atop the table. "None of the experimental models from that era could!"

Venom narrowed her eyes at the doctor. "None of 'em? You sure about that, doc?"

Dr. Zhou leaned over to Dr. Ziegler. "I don't think you should rule it out, I could help you go over the old records, over everything that was in there when the fighting happened..."

Angela looked over to Mei-Ling gratefully. "I really don't think it's necess..." and she blinked at a thought, and looked back to Venom. Is... that what you think? Venom's face caught the doctor's surprise, as she realised that the researcher hadn't actually put it together herself yet, and the Talon assassin just nodded, and the doctor bit her lip. "...I... it has been some years, and that was a tremendously hectic - even chaotic - time. It... we should investigate. I would very much appreciate your help in that, Mei."

"Sure, Dr. Ziegler," confirmed the eco-biologist.

"Thank you," Venom replied, nodding. About time.

"God damn," said Reyes, "Could it be more than just him? Could others be... infected?"

"Absolutely not," said Angela. "My nanosurgeons would've impressed themselves with the initial contact DNA, it would be impossible for them to spread successfully. All" - she stressed, pointedly - "of my technologies rely on that. All of them."

-----

Morrison pulled up a trouser leg, pulled off his left boot and sock, and aimed the pistol at the outer edge of his foot. It'd hurt, but it wouldn't kill anybody - particularly not him. But he hesitated.

Do it, you coward, he thought to himself. God damn it, just do it.

And he fired.

The pain was brilliant and sharp, more than he expected, but muted itself quickly. He felt suddenly almost like he was in a dream, half asleep yet fully awake, as he watched his foot splatter, then turn into a greyish and pink mist, and reform, in front of his eyes.

-----

"Meanwhile," said the Talon assassin in Tracer orange and Overwatch white, "I don't think there's any safe way to bring him in alive now. I think our friends should get the next shot."

"No!" interjected Mei, with unexpected force. "That's not what we agreed!"

Tracer, or Venom, looked over to the Chinese scientist. "We agreed Overwatch gets first shot, then..."

"No!" she insisted, even more forcefully. "I will not go along with that!" She looked straight into the assassin's gold eyes. "You are not the only one he abandoned to her death. He abandoned my entire team and I want him tried for that. I want it exposed! I want my friends to be..." she choked a little, and suddenly she was crying, "I want my friends to be remembered! I want justice for them! In court, with it all exposed for the whole world to see him for the monster he is!"

Lena blinked, and blinked again, shocked by the intensity of the normally cheerful woman's outburst, and leaned forward, "Oh wow, Mei, I'm sorry, I know what..."

"No, you don't know!" The small woman shouted. "You know what it's like to disappear for years and wake up in the future but you do not know what it is like to wake up and find all of your friends dead because he couldn't be bothered to send a rescue ship! He knew we were in cryogenic suspension and still alive. At least with you, he thought you were probably dead, but with us, he knew we were alive, and just decided to let us die!"

She continued in a small, quiet voice, "And most of us did. Slowly. In the cold. As the power ran out."

Nobody knew what to say. Gabriel and Winston knew it wasn't that simple, but knew better than to open their mouths. Angela just leaned over to the smaller woman and offered her hand, and Fareeha just sat quietly next to her wife, comforting her in turn. And then Venom found her voice, at last. "I'm... I'm sorry, Mei. You're right."

Lena "Tracer" Oxton took a long, slow, deep breath, and let it out. "I withdraw my motion. Our friends will remain on stand down. Overwatch will try again."

-----

God damn you, Ziegler, the stroke commander thought, staring at his perfectly intact left foot, which moments ago he'd shot through for a second time. He shook with unreasoning fury. What the hell did you do to me?

February 2019

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