solarbird: (tracer)

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

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


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

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

This was neither of those sorts of day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

"Anything?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Let him try," she sneered.

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

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

"Not wrong, now. Ironic, innit?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

"How...?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

solarbird: (tracer)

Of Gods and Monsters
Fragment s1,2: Mid-March2077
solarbird and bzarcher

Lena Oxton hasn't been flying the kind of aircraft she used to fly - the kind she loved to fly - since the Slipstream accident. Sure, she's handled the personal light flyer once in a while, that's been fine. But anything with complicated aeronautics - or that reminded her too much of the Slipstream test aircraft - has been off limits. But one day, when she's out supervising Oasis Security forces, a fighter jet flies overhead, and suddenly, everything seems to have changed.


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
Fragment e1,1 - Mid-February, 2077
by solarbird and bzarcher

Wherein Danielle "Widowmaker" Guillard - who is, along with wives Lena "Tracer" Oxton and Emily "Oilliphéist" Gardner, the Weapons of a victorious Moira O'Deorain - contacts a friend who may and may not be on Talon's side.

Note: This takes place between the first and second sections of Edda 2.


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: (Default)

Well, here we are, at the end. My first complete novel.

As with all the final four chapters, this one is below a cut for spoilers avoidance.

There will be a special announcement in the next post.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]

everything we wanted, but nothing we deserved )
solarbird: (Default)

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

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

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]

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

Hover over French text for English translations. They are a little awkward because span titles apparently disallow apostrophes in some browsers, so I couldn't use contractions.

This chapter contains a scene some readers may find disturbing. I have accordingly put it behind a cut.

[AO3 link]

cw: violence )
solarbird: (tracer)

Shit is getting real.

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

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

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

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

"Okay!"

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Athena, does that record exist?"

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

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

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

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

"Athena?"

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

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

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

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

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

Morrison snorted dismissively. "No."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What?"

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

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

"So you admit it."

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What'd you find?" Song asked.

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

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

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

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

"Affirmative, Dr. Ziegler."

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

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

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

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

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

"Acknowledged, Winston. Beginning wakeup."

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

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

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

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

"Where is Lena?!" demanded Reyes.

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

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

"We?"

"Talon."

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

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

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

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

solarbird: (widow)

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

This chapter is worksafe.

[AO3 link]


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

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

"Yeh. Always have."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"So do I," replied her beloved.

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

solarbird: (widow)

I have changed the tags on AO3.

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

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Emily slept deep, and well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yeah. You do. But..."

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

"Hardly the same thing."

"Exactly the same thing."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lena rolled her eyes. "Really?"

"Yes," said Winston, firmly.

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

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

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

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

"Good," nodded the former Strike Commander.

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

[An hour later]

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

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

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

"So - y'gonna do it?"

"Do wot?"

"Call that therapist," Emily reminded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Good a place as any."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, sir."

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

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

"Copies also to me directly."

"Acknowledged."

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

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

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

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter contains canon-level violence.

[AO3 link]


The brown-eyed woman raised her right eyebrow. "Oxton."

"Last name only? A bit formal for a waitress, don't you think?"

"Lena Oxton," replied said waitress in her formal black-and-whites, with a bit of a nod. "Mum." Her curly walnut hair - a reasonably convincing wig - bobbed a little with the rest of her head.

"Well then, Lena," said the older woman in her dark business suit - a bit out of place in the grandstand, but layered with enough of the right kind of jewellery to make it up - "why don't you be a good girl and see what you can do about a better version of this." She handed over a lightly-sampled vodka martini, which the waitress took and gracefully placed atop her tray. "I'll be out on the terrace - I'm sure you can find me."

"Right away, mum."

The woman turned back to her colleagues as Tracer slid away, through the crowd, drink on a small tray. "Any sign of 'em yet?" she subvocalised over comms hidden in her ear.

"Non, ma chérie," came Widowmaker's reply from the roof of the recently-rebuilt Maternity Hospital, less than a kilometre south. "If they're outside, I do not have them."

"They're here, somewhere. I've spotted the driver," came Oilliphéist's voice, from atop a fully-rented B&B on the hill to the northwest. "No sign of targets yet, though."

Trader handed the glass over to the Canadian bartender working with the English-speaking waiters. "She says she wants a 'better' one," and the mixologist nodded. "I saw. More vodka?"

"Given how she's been drinkin'? Probably."

"Gimmie a sec, there's a rush." She dumped the glass and queued a double as Tracer turned around and leaned back against the end the bar, coolly surveying the £11,000-a-seat crowd, a mix of celebrities, the 'rich,' and the actually-rich, some few actively caring about the Brazil Grand Prix - those, mostly out in the heat of the pavilion overlooking the track and pits - mixing with a larger number there more to party on their parents' money. The rest hustled and toadied, currying favour with all of the above.

All these bloody 'luxury grandstands' look the same to me, Lena thought, still scanning the glittering crowd, as her supervisor stepped up with tray full of cocktails. "Oxton, do a circuit. I'll take care of the outdoor delivery."

"Gotcha," she said, looking over the drinks. Damn, she thought. No mojito. As her supervisor vanished with the double martini, she leaned back to the bar. "Chloe, priority mix me a mojito for this tray? Please?"

"Why?"

"I've had a bloke on me for one, he's really annoying." A small lie, but only a small one, and she absolutely wouldn't do a circuit without Sanjay Korpal's favourite drink. "Heavy on the mint."

"Right."

"I have him," came Emily's voice in Lena's ear. "Oh, better - I have them both."

"Where?" breathed Widowmaker.

"Behind too much glass. Tracer, second tier, third window from the north."

Lena smiled at Chloe as she added the drink to her tray, and stepped back from the bar. "Thanks," she said, to both the bartender and her counterparts. "On my way."

-----

"I really don't know what we're going to do about this," Kishori said, as quietly as could be said as the F1 automobiles roared by, outside the windows. "The board is on lockdown, neither of us know why - and you're sitting here watching noisy antiques being driven around in circles."

Sanjay smirked, the right side of his mouth twitching up, as he watched the action on the track, actually interested despite himself. He wasn't sure what he liked about it - the noise, the smell, the chaos, everything so utterly unlike everything Vishkar stood for, at least, in theory.

"Reyes has always been volatile," he replied, eyes not leaving the cars tearing their way down the track. "This is not the first time his paranoia has run away with him."

"Half my agents have gone quiet. I don't think this is paranoia."

Sanjay shrugged, having seen it all before, when Akande went to prison. "I don't pretend nothing is going on. I just know the best way not to be involved is... not to get involved. It will blow over." He wondered whether what really kept him on edge was the possibility of a fiery crash and explosion. Even the qualifiers - like the race in front of him - were more than their fair share of dangerous, and his pulse quickened a little as two cars bumped tires during an attempt to pass.

"Boisson, madame? Boisson, monsieur?" A brown-eyed waitress with curly walnut hair and a fleet of cocktails stepped to the small serving table between and behind the box seats, and Sanjay looked back at the tray. "I don't suppose you..."

"English? Of course, my apologies," Tracer said in her carefully-coached French accent. "Cocktails, sir? Madame?"

"Water," said the older woman. "If you have it."

"Of course, madame." She reached forward and across, her hand on the back of the woman's chair, and placed a small cocktail napkin on the table, along with iced water. The small tracking device attached to her collar was as complimentary as the drinks, of course.

"You wouldn't have a... oh, is that a mojito?"

"Yes, sir. But if there is something specific, I would of course be happy to fetch..."

"No, I'll take that." He reached and leaned over to grab it himself, and Lena insured the tray toppled in a way that made it clearly his fault, the drinks cascading into their chairs.

"Oh, for... Sanjay!" Kishori glared at the other Talon board member, as she dodged alcohol, extracting herself from her seat.

"Monsieur, madame, I am so sorry, it is entirely my fault! Please, allow me..." She dabbed carefully with a large cloth napkin, leaning forward as she had with his viewing companion, tracker number two attached as had been tracker one. "It appears that for the most part the... damage is to the chairs. I will summon cleaning staff at once. Would you like me to bring your drinks to your outdoor box?"

"That," Sanjay said, embarrassed, "might be the best idea. Kishori?"

"My seat is soaked, thank you - I'll be outside." She picked up her glass. "But I'll take my own water."

"Very good, madame. Monsieur?"

"Just get me another goddamned mojito," he snapped.

"Vous avez renversé de la vodka sur, ah, I, there is a bit of vodka on your sleeve, here, I have remover..."

"He's fine," Kishori interjected. "Let's go, before you embarrass yourself any further."

"I will bring your replacement drink to you. Would you like an escort to the outdoor grandstand?"

"No," he snapped. "I know where it is. Extra mint."

"Very good, sir," she smiled contritely and bowed a bit, backing away. "I will bring you your drinks presently."

She watched from the bar - cleaning staff already alerted, replacement mojito queued - as the two Talon board members fussed a bit more at themselves, and at each other, before picking up and heading towards the terrace. "Packages en route," she subvocalised. "Trackers," not tracers, she thought, amused at herself, "in place."

"Your accent has improved," Widowmaker said, into her ear. "But you would not fool a native French speaker."

"Yeh, yeh," she subvocalised. "Good thing they're from India, innit. You got 'em?"

"Signals are clear and locked..." said the Widowmaker. "Movement tracking verified. Both trackers confirmed live and functioning."

"Nice work, luv. How much vodka you dump on him? He won't change before going out to the afterparties tonight, will he?"

"Nah - he'll be fine. Everything else ready?"

"We can go as soon as you slip away."

"Gotta get 'em their drinks first," Lena smirked. "Wouldn't want 'em t'go thirsty."

"'course not," Oilliphéist snickered.

"Very well. I will watch for your departure at the gate."

"See y'soon."

-----

[São Paulo Yacht Club, some hours later]

"I'm not going to waste any more time with this stupidity," Kishori snapped. "The cars are bad enough, now you want to go boat racing?"

"I don't expect you to come along for the ride. You're perfectly welcome to stay inside and be grumpy at potential backers."

"You promised ... ah," she dropped a small hologrammatic card, made a frustrated noise, picked it back up, and glared at it. Even at a distance, Tracer could clearly see the yacht club's logo. "This nonsense is a complete waste of my time. I am leaving."

Bugger all,, thought Tracer, now all in black with the wig long gone, backing the slightest bit away as Sanjay ran after his ally. "You hear that, luvs?" she asked, over comms. "She's leaving early. Should I track 'er?"

"No - stay with Korpal," the Widowmaker replied from her position in Parque Guarapiranga, across the water, but with an excellent view of the club's boat launch. "Oilliphéist, do you have her?"

"Not yet, but I certainly will," replied her counterpart, chuckling, from the playfields to the south.

"Are you tracking her?" clarified Widowmaker, dryly.

"Tracking signal clear and strong," Oilliphéist confirmed. "Mind if I have some fun? Different methods would cloudy the picture..."

"I cannot imagine you doing anything less. Go."

Tracer worried a bit at the idea of Emily letting herself have fun. "Don't let's make a mess, Oilliphést."

"Oh, Tracer, don't worry. I'll be careful."

"I don't mean, that, I mean, just..." She felt conflict rising inside her as opportunities began to realise themselves. "...don't draw it out."

"What do you... oh!" She heard a bit of laughter over the comms. "Don't worry! I'm not going to torture her - though it's not like she hasn't directed her own fair share of that. No, no, I'm just going to make it... interesting! For me. It's not as much fun without a challenge, is it?"

"Ricochet shot?" asked the senior assassin.

"Maybe! But we'll see. I'll improvise."

"As long as she goes down," Widowmaker stressed.

"I'm on mission, sweet. She'll go down."

"Perfect."

"I don't care!" Sanjay shouted, regaining Tracer's attention. "Just... send the car back to pick me up when you're done." Lena watched as he waved his arm after Kishori, frustration clear in the motion, before turning back towards the yacht club, where he presented an invitation to the tuxedoed man at the door.

"Don't suppose we've got one of those holograms?"

"I'm afraid not, cherie."

"Right. Long 'way 'round it is."

"Be careful not to wake the capybaras on the beach."

"I'll do my best, love."

-----

Tracer made her way all but silently through the wetlands to the club's south, dance music and boat engines masking her approach. Huh. Didn't think he was the thrill-seeking type, she thought, as she watched Korpal walk towards the boat launch. Is he actually going t' get in one of those?

As it turned out, he was not. Instead, he presented a small teleporter-like device, which projected a hardlight foil racer, similar in size and shape to the two traditional boats already in the water. She could see him grin and nod at other two pilots, who argued with him noisily, one in Portuguese, the other in Mandarin.

"Please tell me you're gettin' some of this," she said, quietly, in comms.

"I have a little of the Portuguese - I believe they're saying he cannot be an entrant, but he may demonstrate his, I think, toy?" She snorted. "From their tone, they have decided he is... gauche, I think."

Tracer smirked, but kept it quiet. "Looks like a closed cowl from here. Can you shoot through that?"

"Almost certainly, though it is difficult to be sure, with hardlight. It would be better if I could get him on the water, without so many close witnesses. He may have many enemies in this city, but it is still worth complicating any investigation, if we... ah, look."

"Yeh, I see it." Korpal guided his craft into the water, climbed aboard, the ship's cockpit sealing itself as he settled into the pilot's seat. He rolled the little boat, foils retracted, demonstrating that he could, and gunned the quiet - but not excessively quiet - engine. The Portuguese-speaking woman made a disgusted noise and walked away, back towards the club, but the other man laughed, jogged over to his racer, jumped in, and cast off.

The two boats roared towards deeper water, and the glittering crowd in the catering tent turned to look at the two sleek ships slicing through deeper water, matching manoeuvres one to one, and Tracer grinned, wickedly.

"...I've got an idea," she said, and, carefully but almost impossibly quickly, made her way to the second launch.

"I... hm, yes. You can...?"

"I can pilot anything, love," she replied, slipping into the Portuguese racer and casting off, following the first pair. "I think it's time for a boating accident."

-----

I knew she couldn't resist, Sanjay thought, grinning, as he saw the third racer, with its São Paulo Yacht Club flag, charging up from behind. Too much pride involved - so easy to manipulate. He gunned the hardlight engine, making it roar - an illusion, of course, the engine was all but silent, but appearances matter - and the São Paulo boat responded in kind, foils out, coming up on his port side, riding very, very close - and bumping, hard, hull to hull.

Oooh, playing rough? I like it, he thought, grinning and bumping back, before spinning round, already past the park, heading northeast, both carbon-fibre craft slower than his 'round the turn.

I'm faster in the straights, Lena thought, calculating. He's got the edge in manoeuvrability, but I'm faster. As she caught up, she shoved him west, port flank against starboard, hard. The Shanghai craft caught up as well, getting into the game, standing off just a bit before gunning past them on the starboard side, the pilot apparently quite happy to let the other two slow each other down. He reached the third buoy in the clear lead, and spun tightly and precisely around it, back down the temporary racing lane, off again before the other two could even get 'round.

"Enjoying yourself, cherie?" came Widowmaker's voice over comms.

"Honestly?" She grinned like a madwoman. "Yeh. I am. This is fun. Think you can do something about the SYC's steering?"

"I believe I can damage the starboard foil. If you could make that engine roar again..."

She did, and there was a little bit of an extra bang, but nothing that sounded like a gunshot, and the Shanghai Yacht Club-flagged craft slowed, veering just a little, slowing to compensate. The Vishkar and São Paulo craft closed, quickly, then passed, as the Shanghai pilot veered off the course, heading back towards the launch.

"I like that," Tracer said. "Ready for your shot?"

"I am, as always, ready."

"I'm gonna ram 'im again. See if you can nick his foil at about the same place?"

"I understand." As they rounded the southern buoy again, Tracer slammed her ship hard into Sanjay's hardlight craft, sending it west, towards the park, where Widowmaker waited, and fired, and Korpal's craft veered the slightest bit further to port, almost exactly at the same point.

He bhagavaan!, thought Sanjay, as his craft shook, and he moved to reset the foil. Something's in the water. Or is it that damned...

"Well, guess that's answered. I'm gonna hit 'im again. You ready?"

"Of course," the assassin purred, as Tracer threw her ship's prow directly into the Vishkar foils. Sanjay's ship flipped, rolling, and as he panicked, Widowmaker sighted, targeted, and fired, the hardlight canopy dissolving like so much candy floss in the water, and Sanjay Korpal's head with it.

"Perfect," she purred into comms, as Lena spun her craft around.

"I think we made a bit of a splash tonight, don't you?"

Widowmaker chuckled, darkly. "Agreed."

"Care to shoot this one's engine? It's combustible..."

"Acknowledged," she said, firing, seeing the craft catch fire, slowing, as light flashed from the cockpit and then beside her, copper eyes now glinting in what would be the darkness. "Oilliphéist, target one down. Check in."

"Oooooh, I saw," came Emily's voice, liquid, thick with ecstasy. "Beautiful. That was lovely work, hon. You too, Tracer - gorgeous."

"Thanks," Lena said, still grinning, for just a moment, before not. "I... I..." she shook her head. "Uh. How's your... target?"

"Oh, she's taken care of. A mugging gone bad, I'm afraid. The area around the track is awfully sketchy, and always has been... really, she shouldn't've gone back there on her own like that."

Emergency sirens blared in the distance, as the burning SPYC craft drifted, sinking, following the Vishkar boat underwater. "We should go," said Widowmaker, sternly. "Rendezvous point one, immediately, yes?"

"On my way. This has been the best date. I'm so happy."

Tracer's smile returned, as she replied. “Yeh. See you soon.”

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter is worksafe.

[AO3 link]


Lena's face lit up as Winston lumbered into the small conference room, carrying a box of Lena's clothes, some photos, and a small number of other personal items from her London apartment. "So here you are! I've been looking all over."

"Aw, brilliant! Thanks, luv!" she said, pulling out an orange and yellow tank top. "It's nice to have some things from home."

Her best friend grinned, and nodded. "Send Hana a thank you note, if you get a chance. She's the one who flew over and picked it up."

"She's not here?" she asked, picking out matching running shorts. "She was here when we left for Russia..."

"Afraid not - she got called back to Korea to lead some exercises. She'll be back as soon as she can, though."

The teleporter rummaged through more of her clothing and held a bundle of it up to her face, smelling at the pile. "Oasis isn't bad, but I miss London, it's been..." She put the pile back down. "...huh."

"Huh?"

"Think I need t'give these another wash," she said, rubbing at her nose. "Hey, what's..." She reached into the box, and pulled out a small spherical object. "Oh, right, that bath bomb I bought!" she said, unwrapping it a little, then making a face. "Ugh! Well, there's the problem. This smells terrible! What was I thinking?"

The scientist chortled. "Smells fine to me, but..."

"Stinky or not, thanks again for bringing all this. Like I said - it's just... reminders of home," she said. Reminders of before, she thought. "Nice to have." She wrapped the bath boom back up in its plastic before placing it discreetly into the trash, then put the clothes back into the box to carry back to the neutral ground apartment once Dr. Ziegler was done looking over Widowmaker. So many scans. She shook her head, tired of lying on tables, surrounded by beeping equipment.

Winston sat on the large chair, the one Angela's brought in especially for him. "How're you doing, Lena? Really?"

"Not so bad," she replied, sitting down beside him. "I mean... everything's a little crazy - what we're doing, who we're doing it with - but..." She bit her lower lip. "S'funny, tho'... I like her."

"Moira?" the scientist asked, dubiously.

Lena snorted. "No."

"Emily."

She nodded. "Yeh. It's weird, luv. She's... really easy to get along with. She's, she's, nice. When she's not out to kill you, anyway. It doesn't even seem forced, it's just how she is."

"I find that very surprising, given who she is..."

"I guess I have a thing for murderous women in blue?" she tried to joke.

"...and that she helped kidnap you both," he continued, not letting himself be deterred. "I know we've talked about this already, but I'm still so sorry..."

"We don't have to talk about it again, luv," she said, reaching out and putting her hand on his. "It's not your fault, and I don't blame you. But..." She let out a frustrated sigh. "Ugh, how do I even say this? With her, with Em, it's like... it's like there's just no friction between us, right? Ever. We even fought in Russia like we'd been fightin' together for years, and it just happened. I don't even know how to describe it."

"Does she fight like Widowmaker?"

"Wish she did, that'd explain a lot." She poked around at one of her shirts, shaking it out a bit. "But it's not just fighting, yeh? After, in Latvia, we're eating together and laughing it up like best mates at th' pub, and it just feels so nice. And back here, we're..." - she decided to skip detailing their sleeping arrangements, and just ran her hands through her hair. "It's like there's no work to bein'... nnnnngh!" She stopped, and let out a big huff of breath. "I shouldn't like her. I know that. I really shouldn't. She's an entire stack of crazycakes covered in murdersauce. But... I do. I really do."

Winston chuffed, sympathetically. "And you wonder if that's Moira's work?"

Lena nodded, reluctantly. "Em's said the same things about me, and... kind of wondered that too. Only, y'know, the other 'way 'round."

"She expressed those doubts herself - in words?" I'm surprised about that even more than the rest, he thought, most of all that she'd share that suspicion with you...

"Yeh. She rang up her aunt about it this morning. O'Deorain denies she did anything, of course - says it's about how we got the same things done to our nervous systems, so all our little social movements match better now, so of course we get on, so blah blah blah algorithms, blah blah blah science."

Winston couldn't stop himself from a small bit of a chortle, but shook his head, negatively. "That strikes me as both something very much like she'd say - and complete bunk. There's more to friendship than that."

"Yeh," nodded Tracer. "I think so too."

"But you do move differently, now. You have since you came back the first time."

"Believe me, luv, I know."

"You seem used to it."

"Oh, it's worse than that, luv - I like it. It's fun. Here, watch this." She picked up a set of pens from the holder in the centre of the table, and spun them all, on their long axes, on her fingertips, adding speed with her thumbs, and then started juggling them, moving them from fingertip to fingertip, apparently without effort. "If this whole Overwatch thing doesn't work out, I could be a magician!"

The scientist laughed. "The dice trick is more impressive, if you want an honest review. At least, to me. But I'll reconsider if you add fire to the routine."

"Is ink flammable? Might be fun!" Lena bounced all the pens onto the tabletop, where they formed a large letter T and an exclamation point. "T-racer the Magnificent!" she said, before leaning back and looking up at the ceiling, spinning back and forth a little in her chair. "Maybe I'm overthinkin' it. Maybe we'd've just got on like this anyway, if we'd just met, and she wasn't with Talon, and what's goin' on just balances that out. Maybe it's just that simple."

"I wish I knew," said her best friend.

"I wish I did too, luv. I wish I did too."

-----

"Damn," Widowmaker said, looking through her bag, having settled in to the small chartered flyer's second row of seats, between Tracer and Oilliphéist.

Tracer fiddled with the windowshade, wanting to open it, but knowing not to until they were off the ground and out of camera range. "What's wrong, love?"

"Nothing important. I forgot my novel, that's all."

"That French thing you started last night?" asked Oilliphéist. "I thought that was an ebook."

"I bought a physical copy to bring along. I've been... revisiting some of Amélie's choices in literature, as of late."

"Really?" asked Emily. "That's new."

The senior assassin shrugged. "I find I react differently than she did - but not always. Not completely. Some of it... I even find I like."

"Expandin' your horizons, a bit?" Lena asked.

"I like the violent ones," she said, pointedly.

"But not much. Gotcha."

Emily hummed, sympathetically. "I've just started something myself - it's in English, but you can read it with me, if you'd like."

"New Alloys in Firearms Production Monthly?" asked Lena. "Latest issue?"

"Quite probably," Danielle smirked.

"Oh, no, we're not starting that," Emily insisted. "No," she smirked, "I'm saving that for my alone time."

"...there's actually a...?"

"She is joking, cherie."

"If there were, I'd subscribe to it."

"Quiet, the lot of you," came Moira's voice, from the row ahead. "Honestly, you're like children. I've got a lot of work to do before we reach São Paulo, and I'd like not to be distracted."

"Okay, mom," Tracer snarked, rolling her eyes. But she did quiet down, as the craft took off and she could open the shades, looking out into the not-so-dark night.

I wish I was in the pilot's seat, she thought, as the craft gained elevation. View's even better when you can see where you're goin'.

-----

Hey, Chica, long time no see|

The words appeared on Widowmaker's PADD, next to the novel she'd been reading, a French classic from the previous century, spelling themselves out slowly, but at an exactingly specific rate, as if being played back, rather than typed.

Sorry I didn't just put something in one of your usual drops, but I wanted to make sure you'd see this whether you checked or not. I'm wheedling this in through some _very_ obscure side-channel bullshit, so good luck tracing it, Oasis secret police.

Anyway, something's going on, and I don't know what, but I do know Edgelord has gone about six more kinds of silent and brooding in the last couple of days, and I'm pretty sure it has to have something to do with you, Two-Tone, and your girlfriend. Girlfriends. Whatever. It's not so much what he's saying, but who he's killing, you know?

(Are your girlfriends girlfriends with each other, too? You have to tell me, later. Also, how do you find the time?)

So yeah, things are getting pretty scary around the home town. I don't know what you're planning, I don't know what Grumpy's planning, none of my usual sources are talking to me, I'm freaking out because it feels like something big is about to happen and I don't know what, and that shit is never, ever good. The most relevant thing I've found is that Two-Tone had some serious side-project in progress until her funding started getting yanked around about a year or so ago, and right about then, she started getting super extra paranoid in new ways.

Whatever it was, though - not all of it got flatlined. Consider yourself warned about that. She's been getting orders from some of the same suppliers, and money is still moving too, just... less. Don't know what it is, she knows about me and keeps absolutely nothing online - at least, nothing I can reach, and believe me, I've tried - I just know it's some sort of really major project. I'll put what I have in the usual drop.

But that's all I got. After this, I'm doing what I do best - surviving. So I'm laying low, getting the fuck out of dodge, going to ground, pick one, or maybe several, not sure. I'll try to keep an ear out if you need help, but can't make any promises... I just wanted to let you know what was happening first.

Be careful, chica. I like you, okay? You're weird, but I like you. I always have. I hope you survive... whatever this is. If you do, look me up in the aftermath, okay?

Your favourite chupacabra

- S.

solarbird: (widowmaker)

This chapter is most probably worksafe, but contains brief discussion of past sexual activity. [AO3 link]


"Heya...?"

Lena's uncharacteristically quiet voice came from the bedroom door, as the two blue assassins lay curled up with each other in Emily's bed, tired from lovemaking, but not quite taken by sleep, not yet.

"Mmmm?" said Oilliphéist, rolling over, just a bit, looking towards the sound.

"What is it, cherie?" asked Widowmaker, scooting up a little, propping herself up against the headboard. "Is something wrong?"

"Nah, it's..." The nightshirt-clad Overwatch agent looked down, not at her feet, but not entirely not at her feet either, and hesitated.

"We keeping you up, luv? We're done in for the night, if we have, so..."

"Yes," added Widowmaker. "If you wanted to join in, I can't say I'd object in general, but you're a bit late. I think we're both fairly well sated," She smirked, but affectionately. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait 'til tomorrow."

You absolute tease, Lena thought, snickering. "Nah, that's not it either. I'm... just..." She make a little noise, one made of air, and embarrassment. "I'm... lonely."

"Gordon Bennet, you're worse than me!" Emily giggled, softly. "Lonely? Really?"

"I know," she said, hastily, "I sound like a bleedin' five year old kid, don't I? I'm just... I'm used to hearin' people. To people bein' around, either at Gibraltar, or my apartment, or on mission..."

"These apartments are very well soundproofed," agreed the Widowmaker. "I find it relaxing."

"I can see that, but I just can't, I just can't... not tonight." She steeled herself. "Can I sleep with you? Just, y'know, sleep? So it's not so..." she waved her hands, a little. "...isolated? I don't like feelin' alone. S'got bad associations for me."

"Sleep, you mean... with both of us?" Emily asked.

"Yeh, just... ah, this is daft, I didn't realise how quick I'd get used to not bein' in bed by myself. I'm fine." She made a little noise of frustration pointed at no one but herself. "I'm sorry, luvs, I don't even know what I was thinkin', I'll..."

"No," her lover said, quickly. "Come, cherie," Danielle continued, moving aside the bedcover on her left. "Please - sleep with us."

Lena blushed a little but hopped immediately over to the side of the bed. "Y'sure? You don't have t'say yes, I..."

"I am fully aware of that, and yet, I am saying yes. Get in."

"This all right with you, Em?" Lena said, sliding under the covers as Widowmaker rearranged pillows.

"Not afraid I might kill you in your sleep, then?" Emily needled, shifting over just a tad to make more room.

Tracer snorted softly, a single, small laugh as she settled in. "Nah, luv. I'm..." She looked a little amused at the idea herself. "I'm really not."

"We've already been through that once," Widowmaker interjected, quietly, settling back down between them. "She is, I think, over it."

"Yeh," Lena said, softly, laying her head by Danielle's shoulder, kissing it once, a gentle touch. "I think I am."

Emily smiled less euphorically than was her wont, and reached over, running her hand through Lena's hair, petting her. "Good. I'm..." She thought for a moment. "...I'm glad."

"I am, too... oh, that feels really nice," She breathed, nuzzling, a little, at Oilliphéist's fingers and palm.

"I know."

"Hoooooo, this is better," she said, tension draining from her voice as she settled in. "Thank you."

Widowmaker hummed, a satisfied sound. "You are welcome. Now, both of you - it is late. Go to sleep."

"Good night, Lena."

"G'night, Em."

Emily snuggled in against her lover, and looked across at the copper-eyed woman opposite her, as her eyes closed. I was ready to kill her just a few weeks ago, and yet... she's so easy to get along with, like I've known her all my life... she's so much like...

She opened her eyes again, suddenly not quite so sleepy, not quite so asleep. She is, isn't she. It's subtle, but... she is like... me. Just a bit. Is that why Widowmaker fell for her? Or...

She reached over, gently cupping Lena's face in her palm, and Lena, already asleep, nuzzled into her hand, again, reflexively, just a little.

I wonder... how long that's been so.

-----

"Of course she does," Moira replied, matter-of-factly. "I'd be surprised if she didn't."

Oilliphéist frowned, something she didn't do often, not anymore, but gave her aunt a chance. "Explain that."

Moira smirked. "It's entirely straightforward. I wouldn't think you'd need an explanation."

"Humour me," said the assassin, still frowning. She didn't like how it felt, but that didn't stop her, either.

"My, you are annoyed, aren't you? Come on, dear, think it out. What do you and she have in common?"

"Widowmaker."

"...true, but, not what I meant. What else?"

She thought about it. "Being English?"

"Half, in your case, but..."

"Raised in England."

"Wrong track, dear."

She thought about it again. "Eyes."

"Ah," came the reply, "now we're heading down the correct road. Go on..."

"...eyes..." Oh, she thought, realising. "...and nervous systems."

"See?" Her aunt smiled. "Hardly so complicated after all, is it?"

"They're that similar?" she asked, surprised.

"It's the same set of upgrades, and I can't imagine why you think I'd vary the parameters for no reason - at least, not beyond the obvious changes for medical compatibility with her individual physiology and genetics."

"Huh," said her niece, neutrally.

"It's not surprising in the least you're seeing similarities. All of her smallest movements have certainly shifted, just a bit. Yours did, and in the same ways... so of course you're now just a bit more alike. Widowmaker, as well. You're seeing things in each other that you'll never see in anyone else - at least, anyone else who hasn't been similarly upgraded."

"And that's all it is," Emily replied, uncertainty in her voice.

"Well, I can't speak to that. But anything else you're seeing, I'd have to think you'd've seen it before."

"That's..." And suddenly, she thought back, to that night in Lena's apartment, those weeks ago, with Oxton unconscious underneath her. I see what you see in her... she remembered saying. "...huh. Maybe... maybe I did. A little. When we took her in, I remember..."

"Exactly. And now, you're just that little more alike. The burrs everyone has on their edges smoothed off, I suppose, just for the... three of you. The slightest bit - and please don't relate this to your sex life, I have no interest in hearing about that - additionally compatible. Complimentary, even."

"Yeh," nodded Oilliphéist. "I remember, when I..."

"You said how well you thought you'd work together, as a team - as a triad. You told me about it, and I complimented you on your vision."

"Yeah," she nodded. remembering. That... yes. I remember that.

"If there's a little smoothing out of abrasive edges as a side-effect of the upgrades, and that smoothing helps... so much the better, wouldn't you say?"

Emily looked deeply thoughtful, contemplating. It all makes sense, she agreed. But... it's just... awfully neat, isn't it. Awfully, awfully neat.

"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered the possibility this might happen. Truth be told, I'm glad it did - I've told her outright she'd make an excellent agent on our side, after all this is over, and being friendly with you wouldn't exactly hurt anything in that effort. You'd like that, I'm sure, wouldn't you?"

Emily smiled, and chuckled. "I'd ... yeah. I would. I wouldn't want to be on the opposite side of a fight with her. Not if I could help it."

"Well, she turned me down flat, of course - as you'd expect. But who knows - over time, she may revisit that decision."

Oilliphéist snorted. "I doubt it. I just hope we can work something out amongst the three of us."

"Fair enough," nodded the Oasis minister of genetics. "Well, then. That's answered. Is anything else bothering you?"

She shook her head. Aunt Moira's always been there for me, she thought. Why not here, as well? "No, I... no. I think I'm fine."

"If anything else bothers you, niece, bring it to me. I'll always want to know."

"Of course, auntie. Absolutely."

Dr. O'Deorain shifted in her chair. "On my end, I have good news - our analysts have seen the wisdom of some rather substantial time off. They've been working so hard for so long, it seems they've decided they've earned a vacation."

"Oh? Where are they going?"

"Bora Bora and Tahiti. They're going to spend a month and a half sailing around the islands and exploring tropical beaches. It should be lovely."

"Well, good on 'em, then."

"Indeed. I'll have your next mission plan ready by the end of the week. Tell your ... counterparts to be ready."

"I will."

"Good. Moira out."

The research doctor arched her fingers against each other, leaning back in her chair, frowning, as the connection dropped. She shouldn't've noticed that, she thought. It's too soon. I've underestimated her... but fortunately, she's on my side.

She closed her eyes and thought deeply about the next six weeks. I'll need to accelerate the rest of this plan, but I can do that. I'll need to inform Kamaria... and Jabari. They will both need to know. Everyone else should not be a problem.

Nodding to herself, she reworked actions in her head, thinking about what could, and could not, be moved, stacking the many individual pieces into a slightly new, and slightly more compact, order. It's all for the best, regardless. Emily will be entirely happy about it, once all's said and done.

Yes. Yes. That will do. She opened her eyes, new changes all thought out, and gave herself a thin smile. They'll all be very, very... happy.

solarbird: (widow)

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


"Didn't know there were good restaurants in Latvia," Lena said, bemused, standing outside the little blue-walled building in the heart of old Riga. "Or... d'ya just really like blue? 'Cause I can see how y'would."

Emily snickered and Danielle raised an eyebrow and smirked as Moira tutted at the Overwatch agent. "We have a layover, we may as well enjoy it. And Latvian cuisine is under-appreciated." She opened the door, and gestured. "Ladies?"

The four agents had smuggled themselves back out of Russia via the cold compartments of slow cargo planes, much the same way as they'd smuggled themselves in. From here, they'd depart at 3am in yet another hold - this time listed as network infrastructure equipment - which left them several hours to kill.

The restaurant's interior consisted of several rooms with vaulted ceilings in white plaster. Graceful full-width brickwork archways connected each section, pillar sconces providing warm and decorative light.

"I wonder what this would've looked like before," Lena said, quietly, copper eyes revealing every detail, even in the darkest shadows. "I bet the ambience would've been fantastic."

"A bit old fashioned for me," Emily said. "Warm, though, and the food's good. It's nice."

"Been here before, then?" Lena asked, receiving a nod of confirmation.

"I think it's lovely," Danielle said. "Is it real?" she asked, touching the brickwork. It felt old, and sturdy.

"I have no idea," said the Oasis minister, as the maitre d' escorted them to a reserved table. "I'm not sentimental about such things - or about much at all, really." Moira ordered for the table, of course, in surprisingly fluent Latvian.

"How many languages you speak, mate?" Lena asked, over her Valmiermuižas, once the beer arrived. Emily took a drink of her Brenguļu and smiled, while Widowmaker found herself presented with a small amount of Riga black balsam liquor, and water.

"As many as I need to," the doctor replied, sipping her Kvass. "I imagined you to be a beer person. How is it?"

"Not bad," she admitted, reluctantly, watching Widowmaker sample her liquor. "Don't know much about Latvian brewing, but..."

"I've gone a bit in, I admit," Moira replied. "But it's hardly anything I can't afford. You all performed very well yesterday, and I think we deserve a bit of indulgence, don't you?"

"This is ... extraordinary," Widowmaker said, eyes closed, savouring the dark liquid in front of her. "I've never tasted anything like it."

"The water's there for a reason, love," Emily noted. "There's a lot more vodka in that than you think."

Danielle gave her lover half a smile, reopening her eyes. "Thank you."

"Buckle in," she continued. "It's a Latvian restaurant, so there's going to be a lot of food."

"Given your metabolisms," Moira interjected, "normally, I'd order for two. But with Lena here, I've gone ahead and ordered for four."

Oxton frowned, then noticed exactly how hungry she was. "...the accelerator core." She had her vest with her, carefully tucked away inside a backpack, power left on - the advantages of separate pieces had not been lost upon her.

"I imagine it's been working overtime. How you haven't noticed before now is beyond me."

"I've been hungry, just not... hoo, yeah."

"Drink your beer," the scientist said. "You'll need it. Oh, good, look - here come the pirāgi."

"Ooooh, Lena, you'll love these," Emily chirped.

"Pirogi? Sure, love 'em..."

"Pirāgi," she stressed. "Better! Y'like bacon?"

"Oooooo."

"Yeh, then," she grinned. "These are good."

"You want to, I dunno, help guide me through this? Never had all that much eastern food before... least not eastern Europe..."

"Glad to!" She held up one hand, sticking up fingers as she went. "Rule number one: drink a lot. Rule number two: eat a lot. Rule number three: y'don't need to like beets. But it helps. I'll be skipping the soup. Rule number four: see rule number one. Got it?"

Lena's grin mirrored Emily's own. "Got it!"

[an hour later]

"So I told Jack, I told Jack," she said, a bit in her cups, but not too much more than she realised, "this is bloody happenin' mate, and that's all there is to it. And it did! So if I won that argument with him - a bleedin' American white guy - I'm sure not gonna lose it w' you!"

Emily laughed, a little bit in hers as well. "Sorry, luv - not tryin' it next time, either. Beets are rubbish."

"You even said yourself - you said it - how good the aukstā zupa looked," Lena said, finishing off the last of her kartupeļi ar siļķi un biezpienu, as the rupjmaizes kārtojums arrived. "And how good it smelled, and you're stickin' by that? Won't even try it?"

"I'm afraid have to side with Lena, cherie. And I am both French and very picky."

"Sorry, but, sorry, no. Beets are gross. You're both wrong, and that's all there is to it."

"Fffft," Lena articulately opined. "Barmy."

"At least we agree on the herring," smirked the senior assassin.

"Oh, yeah, no, this is the only way I'll eat cottage cheese. That's true. Tho' it's funny... I think I like it more, now. Normally, I don't mind it that much, and it... kind of rounds off the fish, doesn't it? But this time I think I actively liked it."

"Really?" asked Moira, meditating on the last of her karbonāde, waiving off dessert. "That is new. I didn't do that. At least, not intentionally."

"It's been a while," Emily shrugged, smiling. "Maybe my tastes just changed. Or I'm just misremembering."

"Right, then!" Oxton exclaimed. "Shopping list amended. Cottage cheese in the fridge is fine, but beets? Right out."

"Well, they can be around... I don't want to... I don't know... kill all beets... tho' they'd probably explode nicely... they're just..." She shook her head, nope, nope, nope, nope, "Not food!"

Lena laughed, tipping over almost but not quite into her newly-placed dessert plate, overwhelmed with giggles. Oooh, that smells good! She sampled a piece of the cranberry, rye, and whipped cream confection with her finger. Ooooh, it is!

She looked back up at her tablemates. Bloody hell, she thought, how am I enjoying this so much? She leaned back, took another drink of her Valmiermuižas, and smiled softly as Widowmaker and Oilliphéist continued to debate affectionately about vegetables.

Must be the company, she thought, a little dreamily, while expertly ignoring Moira on her left. Must be that.

-----

Dr. Ziegler pulled the full-body scanner head down from the ceiling, centring it over Lena's body. "Now, we're doing a different type of scan than anything we did three weeks ago. This is an experimental device, very new. It makes a series of process images, so we'll be here for - oh, a good 45 minutes or more. Do you need to use the facilities?"

"Nah, I'm good. I went before I left." Tracer had come directly over from the short-term leased apartment she was sharing with Oilliphéist and Widowmaker. A compromise neutral ground agreed to by the two doctors, monitored by both, it would be their joint residence throughout the operation. And possibly after, if all went well.

"But..." she added, "how'm I gonna stay still that long?"

"You shouldn't," the research doctor said, pertly, adjusting controls. "I will be showing you several images - they'll appear above you, you won't need to turn your head - and occasionally asking questions. Say whatever comes to mind at any point, and if you feel like moving, do not suppress it except to stay on the table. Don't make extra motions, but anything spontaneous - just let it happen."

"...am I gonna remember this?" Lena asked, nervously.

The doctor blinked. I hadn't anticipated that. I should've. "I... suppose that is a very good question, given what we did the first time, isn't it? Yes. You will remember all of this."

"That's good," Lena said, nervousness still in her voice. "I didn't like that. Not rememberin'."

That's not good enough, the doctor thought. "No. I... no. This will not do. May I drop medical privacy protocols for a moment?"

"...I guess so? Why?"

"Because - given everything that has happened, and is still happening - I think you should have someone here you... more fully trust, in this matter. May I invite Danielle to observe?"

Lena smiled, and relaxed, visibly. "I'd like that, doc. If y'don't mind. She's right outside with Emily anyway."

"I am not surprised." She touched a few buttons and the room became ever so slightly less quiet. Stepping over to the door, she opened it, and spoke quietly with the former Talon assassin, who, after a few moments, stepped into the small room, whispering her assurances to her lover, who remained just outside.

"I apologise that it's a little cramped - we don't normally have a third person present. But I appreciate your cooperation," she said, reactivating privacy protocols.

The Widowmaker nodded, as the room went ever so slightly more quiet. "I appreciate you thinking to ask for it." She looked to her left, noticing her rifle's presence. "I am standing next to my Kiss. Does that violate security protocol?"

Dr. Ziegler looked - strictly speaking, it does, doesn't it... but I think... - and shook her head, no. "Thank you for alerting me. It... you do not need to move either yourself or, ah, her."

"Thank you. It makes me feel more comfortable, this way. Hello, cherie."

"Could y'leave privacy off, luv?" asked Lena. "Em... there may not be a lot of room in here, but I don't mind Emily hearin' stuff. And she and Widowmaker..."

"I would prefer to keep them on. I value confidentiality highly. Unlike in Switzerland, it is not mandatory, but..."

"It is fine," the senior assassin told the doctor. "We discussed this possibility earlier, and she does not object."

"You absolutely sure?" asked Lena.

"Yes. She's largely just relieved that I'm allowed in here - for obvious reasons."

"Aw," Lena blushed the tiniest bit. "Can I hold your hand? Is that all right?" she asked, looking over to the doctor mid-query, and taking her lover's hand anyway.

It will take a very long time for me to get used to that, the doctor thought, a little nervous, now, herself. "For the moment only. During the session, I'm afraid not - your arm needs to be under the scanner, like the rest of you. I'd let you hold hands on the table, but I don't know how your two nervous systems would interact, and I do not want the readings intermixed."

"Ah, yeah, that makes sense." She squeezed Widowmaker's hand, briefly, and moved her arm back under the scanner.

"Some of these questions may be fairly personal. Please just respond however comes to mind, regardless of Am," she corrected herself, "Danielle's presence. Can you still do that, with her here?"

"Absolutely," responded the teleporter, and the assassin smiled.

"Do you mind that, Danielle?"

"Not at all."

"Then let us 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 was going to post another chapter of Old Soldiers today, but this is ready, and that chapter needs to sit a little more, so you get this instead.

This chapter is worksafe. Canon-level violence, at most. [AO3 link]


"Well well," the doctor said, as the door closed, muffling the sound of flight engines revving up. "It's been a long time since I've seen that particular emblem on anyone's shoulder."

Lena, all in black, smirked. "Seemed fitting, mate, if I'm workin' with th' likes of you."

They'd found the old Blackwatch armour Tracer now wore while looking through storage at Gibraltar. Tracer had gone looking for her locker not long after the recall, and found it empty, but the storage closet at the end of the row had held all sorts of surprises.

"It won't slow you down, will it?" Oilliphéist asked, already settled in next to pallets of boxed cargo. "All that extra weight..."

"It's not so bad, luv," Tracer replied, "Lighter than it looks."

"But not as light as mine," pointed out Widowmaker, making room next to Oilliphéist, and further room for Tracer, on her opposite side. "We should find a way to get you something made of the same material."

"Might do," Tracer nodded, sitting down next to her lover, "later. But," she smiled at Widowmaker, "maybe somethin' with a bit more to it. Maybe you don't feel the cold, but I sure do. Particularly places like where we're goin'..."

"Be glad it's autumn," Widowmaker noted, "and not winter."

"Got that right." She felt the aircraft launching forward and up. "Hup, we're off!"

"I brought blankets," Emily said, smiling while pulling one over.

The pressurised - but not entirely climate-controlled - cargo hold in which the four women sat wasn't the worst transport Tracer had ever been on, but it wasn't a day in Spain, either. Officially, all four of them were "machine parts," which Emily in particular found strangely funny.

"Well, we're all here now - let's hear it," the Overwatch agent said. "Where're we going, other than 'north'?"

Moira tipped her head in acknowledgement. "Tiksi. It's the closest remaining inhabited city - if you can call it that - to the Siberian Omnium. From there, we're going to Kyusyur, which is both uninhabited, and closer still. It was held as military outpost early in the previous war, before being abandoned. If my information is correct - and I'm quite certain it is - there will be a small cluster of abandoned computer storage devices containing files showing how our analysts stole a rather substantial portion of defence data for resale." She handed out three disposable PADDs. "Maps, with all routes and relevant locations. Memorise them."

"How'd y'find out about this?" Lena asked, dubiously.

"They ended up selling it to us, dear. I've met the charming couple. Unfortunately for them, they like to tell stories - including the one of their daring escape from the Omnics."

"'Course they did," she snorted, flipping through pages on her device. And now you're betraying 'em. "So if you've got the sale, why not... oh, I get it, y'need proof of theft, 'cause that wasn't you."

"Proof of a high crime connected in no way to Talon," the doctor nodded. "Exactly."

"And you're along 'cause..."

"Because I'm the one who can confirm the data. But surely you wouldn't turn down a field medic on assignment, would you?"

"If it's you, I might."

"Well, then, also consider me an observer. I need to see how the three of you work together in practice, not just theory."

Emily smiled, hopefully. "We might see some action?"

"I'd be surprised if we didn't. Kyusyur is officially abandoned and demilitarised, but I think we all know better than that."

"Omnics, then?" asked Tracer.

"Better than nothing," said Emily.

-----

Widowmaker scanned the remnants of the former military outpost, once the administrative centre of the Bulunsky District, back when such a district existed more than just on paper. "There are definitely a small number of Omnic forces active and on site. I scan what appear to be three OR-14 variants, but the outlines are different - heavier armour, or perhaps insulation, I cannot say - and... ten NT-5s, presumably support."

"NT-5s? Really?" replied Tracer. "Null Sector had a lot of those on their side in London. There're still up and running?"

Widowmaker nodded. "Running well enough to appear in my sights, at very least." She touched the side of her headdress, transferring the data to their PADDs.

Oilliphéist chortled. "Do you think they're aware the war is over?"

Tracer snickered. "Good question. Guess we'll find out!" She shook her head. "No, wait. These... aren't actually in the way?"

"No," said the sniper. "If we are stealthy, we should be able to retrieve the data without alerting them."

"Then we ought," said Tracer.

"Ah, well," sighed Oilliphéist. "Another boring mission. Omnics aren't as much fun as humans anyway."

"You weren't there for Null Sector, mate. Don't underestimate 'em," Tracer warned, but Oilliphéist just shrugged.

"I will take this tower," Widowmaker indicated the highest point on the map. "It will give me a good view of the building on the two sides closest to the Omnic presence. Oilliphéist, you take the other side, on the roof of the low building just northeast. We'll maintain tight contact. Tracer, you and Moira can enter the facility together and acquire the data, yes?"

"Gotcha," said the teleporter. "I can jump ahead, make sure the coast is clear before the rest of you move in."

"Then let's not waste any more time," Moira said. "Go."

Tracer teleported ahead, jinking faster than any eyes other than Oilliphéist's, Widowmaker's, or her own could follow, reaching the back of the target building in under half a second. "Nothing on the southeast side," she said, waiting for recharge. "Tower looks clear and sound."

She jinked around the building, verifying ground level all around. "Wids, move in?"

The quiet chain of the Widowmaker wasn't quite silent, and Tracer watched as her lover launched herself up, onto the top of the abandoned lookout tower. "Tower clear," she said, scanning the surroundings. "No additional Omnic activity detected. Northeast building appears clear; Oilliphéist, move in."

Oilliphéist ran half the distance, than teleported the rest of the way to her designated rooftop, laying low to the surface. "Position clear and held. Moira, clear to move in."

Tracer jumped as Moira appeared next to her from a small cloud of black smoke. "That's even creepier when you're the one doin' it, y'know that?"

"I should add sulphur to my field kit to complete the impression, don't you think?"

Lena grimaced, and pointed. "Door. Open."

"Of course." The Talon director pulled a small device from her coat pocket and placed it over the disabled lock and hit a small red button. Coils inside induced power to the circuit; the lock reactivated, and she punched a very old security code into the keypad, and the door politely opened just enough to slip inside.

"Neat gadget," admitted the teleporter, looking into the darkness. "Widowmaker, anything?"

"Not yet. Still watching."

"Follow me," said Moira, lighting a very dim lamp as she stepped into the hallway. "This should not take very long."

The two women walked quickly down the empty corridor. Most of the doors remained closed, as Tracer presumed they would've been at abandonment. A left turn, then a short right. Another closed door, a replay of the previous lockbreaking, and they were in.

"This should be it," said the Irish woman, looking at the small workspace, with its sensor equipment, radio gear, desk, rotting chair, and most importantly, Omnic War-era computer system, sitting where it had been abandoned, all those years before.

Tracer stood guard at the doorway and watched over the corridor back out as Moira worked to take apart the antique computer. "So, Lena - how do you feel?"

"No time to feel anything, mate. Guarding a hallway. Creeped out, a little, maybe."

"No difficulties with your vision, then?" She pulled open an access panel. "You've clearly adjusted to your improved reflexes and nerve speed. You haven't encountered any problems?"

Lena frowned, eyes flickering back to the Talon doctor for just a moment, before turning to her primary task. "...nah. Everything works fine."

"Good." Moira pulled a set of storage elements from the case, and started plugging them into her padd's special interface, one at a time, as it scanned for data on each one. "Is Angela satisfied? She was always so conservative. It has always held her back."

"Most of Overwatch is a little afraid of me, thanks to you," the teleporter replied, quietly, with a hint of a hiss. "If this wasn't so damned important, I'd probably be helping hunt you down right now, not Akande - Ministerial position or no."

"So suspicious, all of you! You'd think I'd sent you back cold and blue, not copper-eyed and warm." She flipped through more storage elements. "Even we wouldn't've kept you locked up so long - Talon knows a good thing when it sees it."

"Y'mean, like you saw Amélie Lacroix?" Tracer did not hide her hostility.

"Exactly like we saw her - and who she could become." She smirked. Ah, there's the first half... She pocketed the card, and moved to the next. "It would have been so much easier to condition her to assassinate first Gérard, and then herself. But we saw who she could be. You see it, too, or you couldn't be in love with who we made."

"Dangerous ground, mate. Watch it. I could still change my mind about all this."

"I'm sure you could," she agreed, a hint of amusement in her voice, "but our purposes are aligned, so why would you?" She moved to yet another card. "It's too bad, though - you'd make a wonderfully effective Talon agent. Should this work out - and once we've eliminated the threat of war - I'd hope you'll consider it. Humanity does need to improve, and you'd fit in well."

Ugh, Lena thought, shuddering. "Now you're just bein' mean. You done yet?"

Ah, the doctor thought, there we are, as her padd confirmed the missing data's integrity. "Yes." She pocketed the second matching card.

"Movement," said Widowmaker's voice over comms.

"Did we trip something?" asked the teleporter. "A silent alarm?"

"I do not think so. They are moving out, but not quickly."

"I've got them - heading northeast, away from us," reported Oilliphéist. "Maybe just a patrol..."

"Possibly. We should evacuate immediately, nonetheless," continued the senior assassin.

"Yeh," Tracer replied. "We got what we came for."

"That we did," agreed Moira, packing the last of her toolkit, and heading for the hallway. "Let's make for the flyer."

Widowmaker's voice appeared again on comms as the two women slipped through the exterior door. "Drone incoming! Omnic. Armed. RO-12." She shot it out of the sky with a single shot as it approached Oilliphéist's position. "Move!"

Oilliphéist appeared beside Tracer in a puff of black smoke. Somehow, it didn't seem as creepy to Tracer when she did it. "C'mon, girlfriend-in-law, let's don't dawdle..."

Tracer nodded, pistols already out, scanning the sky for another drone. "Looks clear, but eyes up, people. Wids, join us at your..."

"Patrol has changed course. Incoming hostiles." She threw herself over the tower railing, then reached back with her chain and launched herself high into the air just before touching down. At apogee, she fired. "First OR-14 down."

The three women on the ground jogged towards their flyer which lay hidden in the wide, frozen ravine to the southwest. "The OR-14s aren't fast, but they have good range, and those troopers can make pretty good time..." Tracer said, as bullets flew overhead, and all three women teleported further along, catching up with the landing Widowmaker.

"Nice shot, love," Tracer said, as the sniper fired another round.

"Second OR-14 down, but the troopers are closing upon us."

Moira frowned at Oilliphéist. "I said you should've let me give Widowmaker teleportation."

"Sounds like now's the time to see how we fight together, Em," Lena said, and Oilliphéist grinned broadly. "About time! Moira, you and Wids keep going."

"No. There is a third OR-14, I will continue to provide cover."

"And I am your field medic." Moira launched a strange, yellow sphere towards the oncoming troopers. "I will take care of you."

Oilliphéist and Tracer nodded, and separated, left and right, flanking the incoming group of NT-5s as single-person pinchers, dividing the group into forward and rear halves, five a person.

They're so much slower than I remember, Tracer thought, as she emptied clips into Omnic heads, smashing sensor arrays, destroying processors, dodging lagging fire. Must be the cold.

At least these old models explode prettily, Emily thought, smiling, as she smashed chassis with the hilts of her fangs, alternating rifle shots with body blows. Smell awful, though. Must be the electrics.

The two women met, back to back, in centre, unharmed, and finished their last remaining opponents almost simultaneously, Oilliphéist with a shot to a primary sensor array, Tracer with a set of shots separating a head from its body, and they turned their heads and looked at each other.

"Wow," Tracer said. "That was..."

"...fun," grinned Oilliphéist. "Nice shooting, by the way."

"Nice punching. Didn't know you had that."

"It's nice to get up close once in a while."

Lena found herself smiling back at Emily. "Yeh. It is."

Widowmaker smirked, rifle at her hip, not so far away. "Third OR-14 down, if you were wondering," she said, over comms. "We should still not dally, reinforcements are almost certainly en route."

The two younger fighters teleported back to the group, and Moira smiled a thin smile as she bathed them in her biotic healing field. "I admire your efficacy. Do you realise that took you all of 18 seconds' time?"

"18... seconds?" blinked Tracer. She'd felt unhurried.

"I know, coulda been faster," Oilliphéist grinned. "I was just enjoying the dance."

"I enjoyed seeing it, as well," replied her creator. "But fun time is over. Widowmaker is correct, we have accomplished our mission." Oilliphéist relaxed, subtly, at those words. "We should depart."

Moira watched out of the side of her eye as Oilliphéist and Tracer joked with each other, and Widowmaker smiled, almost softly, at them both. That went well, she thought, as she quietly disabled the omnic intruder alarm she carried in her coat pocket. No need to bring in any more enemy troops - not now that I really do have everything I came for.

solarbird: (widow)

This is the seventh story of the It's Not Easy To Explain, She Said collection of short stories. It takes place about six months after the previous ("It's not easy to explain how she felt," said the Widowmaker, about Amélie Lacroix), and about a year and a half before the third story ("It's really not easy to explain," said Emily Oxton).

All of Widowmaker's thoughts are translated from the French.

I wanted to end a very bad year on a very happy story, so - here we are. May 2018 be better. [AO3 link]


Emily worked outside, in the sun, laptop on hand, references up on PADDs, watching her wife and her wife's girlfriend dance, from afar, on the Overwatch practice range. They called it battling - or more correctly, battle training - but one careful glance put the lie to that. They danced, and anyone looking - really looking - could tell it.

They're awfully good together, she thought, a little bit disgruntled, a little bit envious, a little bit uncertain about how she felt. She'd got what she'd joked she'd be fine with, six months before, and really, she was fine with it - glad, even, to have the world's best sniper on her wife's side, rather than as an enemy.

But she couldn't lie to herself. She felt a bit left out. Lena tried, and it helped - they were all still trying, even Widowmaker, in her own way, and it helped - but all that help made it no less true, just the same.

If only she wasn't so damned remote all the time, even when she's trying not to be. What's it take to get through to you, woman?

The two Overwatch agents mopped up the last of the target robots - cleanly and efficiently as always - and Emily waved as they both made their way back up to the starting platform for another run.

"That seemed to go well," she said, making the effort, as Widowmaker landed not two metres in front of her.

The former assassin shrugged noncommittally. "It was too easy." Her frustration - and some boredom - surfaced into her voice. "The robots..." - she frowned, shaking her head a little - "they are not a worthwhile challenge. I have requested substantial upgrades." She cycled her rifle, cleaning the barrel, and reloading. "At very least, they should return fire."

She paused, and hummed, a little. "I am surprised you are interested."

"Of course I'm interested."

"Why?"

"It's important to Lena, and also, to you. And so, I'm interested."

The spider puzzled at that, for a little bit, wondering why, as Tracer teleported up next to the aeronautics engineer, kissing the top of her head. "How's the design rev goin', luv?"

"Oh, it's all fine - this is just iterative, for the most part." She looked up and kissed Lena back. "Regulations compliance updates, really. I'm just finishing up."

Lena looked over to Widowmaker, and back to Emily. "We've got another couple of runs - don't think you have to wait for us, if y'don't want to."

Emily smiled. "Of course I want to. We've got dinner in town after, remember? All three of us." Another date night. The last one ended up with Emily and Widowmaker arguing at each other for no particular reason, about everything and about nothing, two slightly-wary cats picked up together and made to go HUGGY HUGGY HUGGY. They'd talked about it, after, and hopefully, tonight would go better.

"You sure? Y'don't have to. We'll catch you up, if you want t'go on ahead."

"I think it's..." She looked over to the blue woman. "I think it's important to know your work."

Widowmaker puzzled at that, as well, just a little bit. She didn't know anything about aeronautics, and did not really care to. But she thought on what her lover's wife said, tasting it, almost, trying it against what she had of an emotional range, and found that it resonated, somehow. Something is there, she thought. Something I think I would like.

"Besides - it's a lovely day, both my girls are out in it, I'm almost done with work and I've got a side project I want to play with. What else could I need?"

"Brilliant," replied her wife, beaming, as the warning timer sounded and she moved back to start position. She turned to the former Talon assassin. "This one has me starting first - I get 30 seconds head start."

The blue spider nodded affirmation to Tracer, and then blinked, as the confusion of emotions in her head fell into place. She looked at Emily, first mostly with one eye, then mostly with the other, saying, "You are..." She is trying to... empathise? with me? Not just to be friendly, but to... empathise, and her expression relaxed, opening up, just a little, and she nodded, slowly, her eyes a little more open, her voice softened, ever so slightly. "I understand."

Lena took it to mean the exercise, but Emily caught the expression, and the tone, and tried to figure out exactly what it meant, as Widowmaker brought up her rifle, pre-evaluating the new range configuration through her sight, so calm, so cool, so much the same as last time, but something about her ever so slightly different, ever so slightly more present to her, ever so slightly more... real...

Emily started, looked closely, and looked again, her head tilted, just a little, and her breath caught in her throat. She's... it's like she's... almost... glowing, in the sunlight.

She shook her head as the starter buzzer sounded and Tracer blinked ahead, then looked back down to the design rev on her screen, and then back up to the sniper, and a layer peeled back, almost, of reality, and sunlight or no, it didn't make any sense - they'd even been sharing a bed, occasionally, for a while, and it had been comfortable enough, but she didn't really feel anything, even if the Frenchwoman was a quick student of, of, of, and then Emily couldn't think at all, she could only see, see the spider, the sniper, her wife's lover, the woman, just standing there, and yet glowing, eclipsing the entire world, and everything else, everything, everything else, even Emily's breath, fell away to nothing.

My god, she's beautiful, she realised, the thought electric across her skin. How have I never... is this... is this what Lena sees, looking at her? She dropped her stylus, as time slowed to a stop. Is this... how does she do anything, if this is what she sees?

"Twenty five seconds," said the counter.

Widowmaker lowered her rifle, and looked to her left, seeing Emily's eyes, locked on to her, her mouth, slightly open, and she raised an eyebrow and smiled, just a little.

"How..." Emily whispered, "...have I never seen you like this, before?"

"Quoi?" asked the spider, friendly, but bemused.

"This is mad, but... no, it's not, but..." She put her face in her hands for just a moment, and looked up again, past them. "I've... never really seen you this way, before. You're always gorgeous, but... when your rifle is up..."

"Twenty seconds," said the counter.

"...you're stunning."

Something unabashedly lethal deep inside Widowmaker rose and preened, and the sniper smiled, broadly, despite herself. "That... I should be conflicted, in some ways, about that, but mostly, I feel..." She thought, looking around for the word, an emotion she did not often experience, "...proud? Honoured? Perhaps both. That you see me for what I am, and are not afraid." This is a strange combination of emotions. I will have to process them carefully, she thought. But, softly, she simply said, "Thank you."

"Fifteen seconds," said the counter.

"But, but, but, it's like, it's like..." Emily knew the spider sometimes needed brutal directness to understand. Normally, that meant discussion of negative emotions, but this time... "It's like you're... the only thing in the world. Is this how she sees you?"

"I have no way of knowing," Widowmaker answered quietly, fascinated. "She has not said so, not in those words... but, of course, the first several times, she mostly saw me down the barrel of my rifle. So, perhaps, she does."

"Ten seconds," said the counter.

"May I... touch you?"

The spider's head tilted, a little unsteady, a little uncertain. "Yes. But... now it is different. Why is it now different?"

"Because... I don't know. Because I don't know." She set aside the laptop and stood, stepping over to the woman she'd seen and held so many times before, but never like this. "May I?"

"Yes."

"Five seconds," said the counter.

She reached across, stepped close, and touched the blue woman's chin, cupping it in her right hand, and looked into those bright gold eyes as the spider unepectedly leaned forward, and kissed her, gently, as the start timer sounded, and as she raised her rifle towards the range, and shot the first two target robots, disabling both with one shot, without even looking.

Emily looked in the direction of her fire, a little stunned.

"Perfect," they both said, in unison.

Widowmaker's head jerked back to Emily, and Emily's gaze flashed back to Widowmaker, just in time to see the assassin's wide-eyed astonishment. "Perhaps... we have more in common than I once thought."

"I'd like that." It felt like a prayer.

The sniper smiled wickedly, eyes bright. "So would I." She raised her rifle again, and fired, taking out the next three targets in rapid succession, before launching herself into the arena with her chain, leaving the engineer behind.

Emily watched her fly out over the range, thinking, How does she do that? as the sniper took out two more targets from midair. It frightened her, more than a little, but excited her, more than a little, too.

She sat back down at her laptop, still watching her wife and her wife's lover, teleporting and chaining around, closed the main project, and opened another - a design for a new type of antigrav airfoils, all her own.

Wow, she thought, dazed, gaze flipping between the airfoils and the range. ...I think we finally did it... She shivered, breath quick. And, she laughed, quietly, a little out of control but she didn't care, I think... I may've just fallen in love with a spider.

solarbird: (tracer)

This chapter is worksafe.

[AO3 link]


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

"I am," replied Widowmaker.

"Château," said Emily.

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

"Vaucluse."

"Signal de Saint-Pierre."

"Lavande."

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

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

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

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

"Metro," said Widowmaker, and Lena smiled.

"Centre météorologique canadien," replied Oilliphéist.

"Armoiries."

"Exactly the same as last time."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Before, or after?" asked Widowmaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oilliphéist out."

"Widowmaker out."

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

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

"As do I," noted the spider.

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

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

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

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

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

A derisive snort. "I always could."

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

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

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

-----

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What if it would take down Vishkar?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 2019

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