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Coexistence Alpha: a responsive mobile and desktop overlay for Dreamwidth
[28 Apr 2018|04:15pm]

[ mood | ambitious ]

You Want Mobile Dreamwidth, Artie? You Got It:

Coexistence Alpha: a Neutral Good CSS patchset v0.842 BETA 1

As of 7 May 2017, *** WE ARE NOW IN BETA ***

This is a fully-responsive mobile-ready theme modification layer intended to make Dreamwidth's default style fully functional on both mobile and desktop devices wherever it can be applied. Features include journal and reading pages with near-zero horizon scrolling on mobile, including in long comment reply cascades, and more-comfortable comment creation, including on iOS.

To install: Choose style "Neutral Good" for "Practicality" in the journal style selector. Copypasta all of the linked CSS into the Advanced Seettings Custom CSS box, and save. (This may require a desktop device.) Apply "your style" to everything you can.

This build includes Navbar 2, which is mostly cosmetic but somewhat mobile-aware upgrade of the Navbar.

Revision history and bleeding edge code (there will be a beta2)Collapse )

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

well, it's official
[16 Nov 2017|10:17pm]

[ mood | surprised ]

Something true I never thought I'd say: I've written over 100,000 words of fiction this year.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

The Armourer and the Living Weapon, Chapter 2: the emptied chamber
[15 Nov 2017|08:06am]

As before, CW: this story is going to get pretty fucked up. Archive tag: violence. Also note: I categorically do not write non-con/rape or underage. [AO3 link]


And then, one day, she was gone.

Emily howled like a banshee when she heard. A perfectly ordinary mission, a perfectly ordinary encounter with a decidedly, almost determinedly predictable opponent, and - gone? Just like that? No. Refusal, in purest, distilled form.

She spent an evening raging on the training grounds, injuring half a dozen opponents, all but killing one in her fury.

She spent a night barely sleeping, barely thinking, being apart so different now, so much worse because suspicions or not, she had no true idea where her lover might possibly be.

She spent a morning raging at Akande, demanding the right to follow, to retrieve, and was, again, refused.

She spent an evening demanding the same from the greater council, and was yet again, refused. "Impossible!" she shrieked, bursting out into the hallway. "I will not have it! I won't!"

Quietly, at the back of the table, one member of the council smiled, as the armourer stormed back to her workshop, ordering everyone out, and grabbed her rifle, enough standard rounds to kill an army, all the experimental rounds she'd made, every single one of them, and the chain grapple she'd made for herself, knowing that her unenhanced body would be wracked with pain, injured every time she used it.

She did not care, not at all. If they won't try to retrieve her - I will. And I'll make them stop me.

She made it further, far further, than she should've, then she could've rationally expected.

She made it past the therapist, and her security escort, roused to talk her down.

She made it past the security cordon, roused quickly to sedate and jail her.

She made it past the soldier ring, who weren't expecting anyone like her - certainly, not coming from the inside.

And, shoulder aching, exhaustion creeping up her spine, she made it 20 metres outside the base entirely - just short of her waiting flyer - when her neck suddenly stung, and her vision turned grey, and her skin turned numb, and her arms turned leaden, and the ground came up to meet her, fast, too fast, far too quickly for her even to say hello, before the world snapped hard to black.

-----

[Oasis]

She floated, freely, in the haze, slowly becoming aware of that, slowly becoming aware of her own existence. So calm. So still. So bright. So quiet. So unlike herself, and yet, so familiar, so like herself, so right.

Is this death? she thought. No... that can't be it. Death is... death is... peace, but not questions... and that was a question...

She didn't move. She didn't feel any urge to move, either. But if she listened, listened with her body, and not her ears, she could feel, she could feel motion, she could feel... what? She could feel her blood flowing. She could feel her heart slowly beating, she could feel everything in the little world that was her own.

What? What is... that?

A whisper. The faintest of whispers, a voice she knew, but not the one she wanted, a voice familiar, but not the one she loved, but... a voice. And words - "Ah, my lovely, do you feel it? Starting to rebuild in there, are we? Good."

She could feel so much, and yet, some things, she could not feel at all. With a beautiful clarity, she felt every strand of muscle, every shaft of bone, every length of tendon, every fibre of carbon and metal, every drop of blood, and oh, blood, there is so much of it, but so little past that, nothing outside...

Outside. There is a boundary? Yes. Of course. Skin. She has skin. Of course, she has skin, and she can feel it. So obvious, and yet, somehow, now, so novel, as though she'd never truly realised it before, not even before before, and she knew there was a before, even if she couldn't quite say what it must have been.

"There was so much," said the voice, "that we had to burn down, with Lacroix. So much to suppress, so much to rebuild, to form into your image - and ours." Fingertips, suddenly, along one arm, like electricity, like fire, and she felt as if she screamed, but didn't scream, and didn't even want to, but should have, all from the intensity of the touch.

"All that, when we already had *you*. We even knew it - well, I knew it - that's why you were the perfect template. You were already so completely, utterly prepared. And yet, we wasted so many months making a muted copy... but, well, you know that, or you will, again, in a few minutes. After all, you were there." A small laugh, and the touch vanished.

"And all you have to do is bring her back to us," the voice cooed. "Bring her back to me. Something you begged us to let you do. Then we can take all the things we've learned, making you, and give them to her, too, just like we've given them to you. And then you will both be together, and all - all will be forgiven."

I get to bring her back, she thought, and smiled, at least, inside. I have... I have a task. I have a mission. How... wonderful...

"Ah, almost there," said the voice. "Are you ready to be standing?" She realised the voice was louder now, and had been growing so, the entire time. She'd focused on it, so intently, so completely, and yet missed that most obvious point.

Moira, she knew, feeling herself take a long, slow breath. Moira O'Deorain. I know her. She found herself knowing many more things, many more things she'd already known, as if lights were turning on, one at a time, inside herself, her ability to conceptualise expanding, growing. The doctor. The one who...

"Ah, your first breath entirely on your own. How does it feel for you to be alive again, I wonder? It's been twelve weeks, you know - or, well, you know now."

Balance, she thought, feeling being poised, ready, in an effortlessly familiar way, and gravity, the pull of gravity, aware of it, at last. I'm not floating, I'm... standing.

"Are you ready to see?"

She was. She opened her eyes, spotted a running, ducking human target, and reflexively, without thinking, without needing to think, sighted that target with the metal and carbon extension of herself she held in her arms, and shot it down. She felt the bullets fly, so pure, so fast, so quick; blood spilled from the shattered skull as the body which had supported it slumped to the ground, heart still beating, at least, for a moment, spurting blood, and she admired the splatter, from her stance, not needing to move, watching the blood pool, so bright, so red, and felt it, through every cell of her body, through sinew and bone, through nerve and steel, through heart and soul, and it took what was left of her breath completely away.

"Beautiful," said the voice, by her side. "Superb."

She licked her cool, lavender lips, with a cool, violet tongue, shivered with pleasure, and turned to the good doctor beside her, appraising her anew through brilliantly silver eyes. "Delicious."

"Do you know your name?" asked the Talon doctor, the one who had given her everything she ever wanted, for a price she did not yet know. "Tell me who you are."

"Oilliphéist," she said, without thinking, just knowing, having never said or heard the word before, yet she knew, it was a great, ravening beast - as was she. "I am Oilliphéist."

"Perfect."

-----

[London]

Widowmaker lay next to a sleeping Tracer, gazing at the foolish girl's head, amused by the insanity of that hair despite the swirl of thoughts keeping her awake. This entire plan is falling apart, she thought.

What else could go wrong? she asked herself. It'd seemed so simple, at the time. So obvious. Pretend to fall in love with the irritating teleporter. Arrange a "defection," and get away from the abusive mess that is Talon. They'd finally accept Emily's petitions to upgrade, and send her out to bring her back. She'd help Emily break the conditioning, as she learned so well now how to do, and then Emily would have everything she ever wanted, they'd be together, and Widowmaker would be free. They could freelance. They could buy an island with a condominium on it. It would be wonderful.

Instead - nothing. Emily hurt, badly, trying some sort of mad run to retrieve her without upgrades, after being refused yet again. No concerted recall effort - just an "acquire if encountered" order, according to Sombra. And worst of all - worst of all - discovering she'd actually fallen for the hyperactive little idiot across from her in bed.

Disaster. Complete disaster.

Ah, well, she thought, at least it makes the acting easier. She smirked at herself. Acting is trivial if you don't actually have to act.

She rolled over, facing away from her new lover, and checked her dead-drop boxes again. Nothing... then, she blinked, and there was something, something new, appearing as she watched.

Hey, Chica, it's your best friend -

I'll keep this short. The official story? It was bogus. Most of the club haven't figured that out yet, but turns out Doc Two-Tone's been working on her out of town, and from what I hear, looks like she got your present after all.

But watch out, she's not a backup copy, she's a version two. Keep your eyes open. I don't know what new features have been bundled in, and you know what Two-Tone is like when she really gets going. She might not know either.

Good luck.

She'd signed it, "your favourite chupacabra" - one of Sombra's many running jokes the spider didn't understand.

"Mmmm?" she heard, from the woman next to her. Damn, she thought. The light from the screen woke her up.

The Overwatch agent rolled over and nuzzled the back of her neck. "G'morning, love. Whatcha lookin' at?"

The spider took a long, deep breath. I think... it is time to come clean.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

Old Soldiers, Chapter 15: that which we must not do
[13 Nov 2017|09:24am]

[ mood | calm ]

Special thanks to bzarcher for feedback on this chapter, particularly regarding the need for the first section to exist at all. [AO3 link]


"Still no sign of him?"

"Nope. Not a word. He's laying low - real low."

Tracer leaned against the table set off to the side of Gabriel's office, against the north wall. "It's been weeks."

Gabriel shrugged. "Intelligence is like that."

"I know, I know," she said breezily, but not without a hint of irritation. "So were the Forces."

The strategic advisor snorted knowingly. "It's no coincidence that 'Hurry Up and Wait' has been a running joke in every army ever."

"There's got to be some reason, though. He won't just have buggered off."

The Angelino nodded. "Most likely. Who knows what it is, though."

"It bothers me, luv, it really does." She fiddled with the buttons on her grapple, a nervous habit. "He's doing something. Don't know what, but... it bothers me."

"Me too. But Morrison'll surface when he's good and ready." He flipped through more pages of intel, some from his own sources, some from Lena's friends. "We just need to be good to go when he does."

-----

[three months later]

"So that's how it's going to be, is it, Oxton?" Morrison said, still feeling strange, still feeling sluggish, still feeling as he had since the beginning of the assault when Ziegler had let fly that flare, that burst of light, and his convoy fell under assault again, for the second time in three months. But he kept dancing, around and away, low on ammo, lower on allies - at least, ones still standing - and he wasn't going to go down. Not if he could help it.

He'd broken away from the main corps, trying for high ground to launch his grenades, but this time, the tactical visor had stayed off, thanks to Ziegler's new toy. "The last Overwatch survivor, finally brought down by Talon?"

"Damn you, Morrison - don't tempt me," Lena Oxton snapped back before thinking, pistols aimed but not firing, still circling her target - but as Tracer in orange and tangerine, no matter how much she wasn't wanting to play that part right then. She gestured to the patch on her shoulder. "We're Overwatch, not Talon, and we're here to take you in for charging and trial. We're not here kill you."

"You? Overwatch? Don't make me laugh. There's no real Overwatch, not anymore. Not since the attack. Not since '70."

"Jack, please! Just stand down!" shouted Mei-Ling, peeking around from behind her ice wall. "You'll have a chance to defend yourself. The ICC will hear your case. You will have your day in court!" And I can't wait to testify against you, she did not add aloud.

Where the hell is Delgado's team?! the former Strike Commander thought, stalling for time, running for distance. He snarled at the scientist. "A show trial in front of that puppet theatre, before I have all the evidence of what's really been going on? I don't think so." He fired another few rounds at Oxton, trying to conserve his remaining ammo. "Of all the people - of all the people, Mei - you? Working with Talon, like the rest? I thought you were better than that."

What the bloody hell does he know?! thought Venom, dismayed. He must be bluffing. Got to be. "What is it with you and Ana, anyway? Is everything Talon to you, now?" She glanced around, the briefest of looks. C'mon, Gabe, I can't do this forever. Where are you? Rally the rest of the troops, already!

-----

Dammit, thought Reyes, down the bottom of a very long hill, crouching along the edge of a gully in the face of heavy Los Muertos flak. "Tracer, Gabriel - we're under pretty heavy fire here, you still have eyes on the target?"

"Roger that," came her subvocalised reply over comms. "But it's me and Mei against him and he's not being talked down. How long you gonna be?"

"It's a proper strike force on their side. We're wearing 'em out, and we'll win this, but it's gonna take a few minutes. Keep him entertained 'til we can bring the party to you?"

"We'll do our best, but he's getting away from us."

"From you? "

"I'm holdin' back, luv. Playin' my part."

"Right." He rolled between boulders, firing suppression rounds, getting closer to the front line as D.va - who had finally responded to the recall a week before - charged in on their the right flank with a round of minirockets. "We'll get there as soon as we can."

-----

"It's all Talon! It always was - that was the whole damn point, after the Omnic Crisis!" the one-time Strike Commander retorted, dancing away again, with good speed. It was mostly him and Oxton, now, Mei falling behind, despite doing her best to keep up. "They subverted the UN, just like they subverted you."

Wow, he's just... out on his own somewhere, isn't he? thought the teleporter. "Jack, this is barmy - what are you even on about?"

"Like you don't know." He threw a volley of gunfire at the teleporter, hitting her arm, and she let out a little "yipe!" before rewinding the damage. "Like that," he said. And like they did to me, he thought. But I'll turn it back against them. I'm the one who can. He backed away, again, further and further from the main fighting, and felt a little better, a little faster, a little less stuck.

"This," she said, teleporting behind him and clocking him hard on the back of his head with the butt of her pistol, wanting to do so much more, but being so very, very good, and hating it so very, very much, "is your fault. Or the Slipstream's. Or both." She teleported away as he turned and fired, calling, "And being stuck there for five years? Definitely on you." She punctuated the 'definitely' with four rounds of fire, two on either side of his head, bullets whizzing just past his ears.

Mei-Ling ran as fast as she could, and as hard as she could, throwing up walls to slow him down, catching up just a bit. "Jack, you must stand down! You can outrun me, but not her, and the rest of the team will be here in very soon. You have no chance!"

"I always have a chance," he growled. "I survived your entire assault force - this? This is nothing." I just need to get a little further back, he thought. Almost there. I can feel it.

And then, suddenly, he was there. His tactical visor reappeared, materialising, as if formed from nothing. Tracer saw, and jinked to the side, shouting, "MEI! GET DOWN!" and she threw her stinger, sticking it to his left arm, all but reflexively...

...and the soldier's whole body turned to mist, not as, but just before the bomb exploded. She teleported away, last one...

...and the mist followed, and she ran, ran like she'd never run, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, seven seconds, just give me seven...

...which was when the the solder's grenade hit her back, hard, followed by the solder's last clip of assault rifle rounds, and she fell, limp, onto the ground, and did not get up.

"LENA!" shrieked Mei, and she charged, throwing spears of ice at the Strike Commander, who sneered, but retreated, choosing the better part of valour, being out, finally, of both grenades and ammo, at least for now. "MERCY!" she shouted into comms, "GET HERE RIGHT NOW, TRACER DOWN AND NOT GETTING BACK UP!"

"We're en route," said the combat medic over comms, "they're retreating and we are on our way!"

Dr. Zhou looked with growing horror at Tracer, who seemed to be struggling to reach something, and not bleeding out, at least, not quickly, and she didn't know how that was possible with a hole that big in her back, How are you alive?! How are you moving?! she thought, but she fired, and fired, and fired, after the Strike Commander, missing, putting up a wall at the end, as he ran out of sight. "MERCY!" she called again. "SHE IS DYING!"

Lena struggled, trying not to black out and succeeding, reserves draining but there is time, there is more than enough time, reaching for one of the hidden venom mines in her pouch but her shoulder wasn't quite working, looking at Mei, mouthing something Mei could not understand. "No! Don't try to move, Angela is on the way!" the researcher said, grabbing Lena's arm, and Lena fought her, getting stronger, not weaker, no, Mei, no, let me, let me get... but she could not draw air, so she could not speak, and then...

"Helden sterben nicht!" shouted the doctor, arriving, as the look in Tracer's eyes screamed No! as loudly as she could make it scream, before she was taken by fear, terrified of what could...

...it was cool. So cool. Unexpectedly so, but not cold, not painful, not like tearing and shifting flesh, nothing like pain at all. She tingled, all over, and somehow, she found herself still aware though it, still awake, still thinking, floating, weightless, glowing, and then suddenly, it was over, and she was standing, and whole. She grabbed at her chest in panic, where some of the rounds had exited, and teleported, successfully, and rewound, and teleported again, and everything - everything - just worked.

She looked around through golden eyes, seeing the world in sniper-sight, and that's when she knew, and again, became cold.

"...you perfected it?!" said Mei, and Angela nodded, briefly. "Yes. A couple of years ago. But... Lena, please!" she shouted, "Do not teleport any more! I need to get you back to the ship at once, for an examination! Please!"

The assassin froze, stopping in place, perfectly still, and tested her web, tested her systems, and found everything right back where it should be - for Mockingbird, anyway.

She hit a set of buttons on her grapple, flipping her armour back to Tracer tangerine and white, but left her eyes gold as she said - with very little inflection in her voice at all - "Yeh. Clearly. And, Mei, luv... you witnessed all this... you need to tell the rest of the team. Fill them in, tell them what he can do now."

She popped the sight off her rifle and separated it back into its component pistols - Tracer wouldn't have that - and re-holstered them both. "Let's go."

-----

"So," said the Talon assassin. "That was... different."

Medical data flashed by on the panel over the ship's examination table, and Dr. Ziegler looked at it, but without enthusiasm, or even her regular focus. She knew it all already - she knew that Lena was in perfect health. In every way. She just prayed the woman didn't know...

"I didn't think you could do your resurrection trick without a deep scan," Venom said, in a pointed but quiet voice. "Much less invoke all... this."

The doctor considered the monitor readouts, intently, but Lena did not let it lie.

"That is what you said, isn't it? That's what I seem t'remember."

Angela closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and exhaled, shuddering. Well. This is it, then. She swallowed, hard. "That's right. I can't."

Venom's face set, grimly, into an angry frown. "Yeh. That's what I thought. When?"

"In my office. When you agreed you were still my patient. It was automatic, but that is not a defence - I knew it would happen, and I let it."

Lena nodded. "Antineutrino entanglement scanner, maybe? Ordinary scanners won't work."

Angela blinked her eyes open, surprised, looking towards her patient. "Yes. Still considered experimental. How did you know?"

Lena smirked. "Had a hunch."

"I see."

"So." The assassin propped herself up, carefully, on her elbows. "You lied to me."

"Yes. No. Yes. It was part of the paperwork you signed, back in London, technically, but... yes. But I never looked at the data. Not even once, I swear to you. I have no idea how you work. I did not violate that confidentiality. I swear."

Venom coughed, a mockery of a laugh. "If that's true, luv, then how did...?"

"I wanted to violate it," she broke in, looking down though wet eyes. "So much, I wanted to. But I didn't. I couldn't, I knew how you'd..." - she finally thought about the question - "I... I compiled it all into the Mockingbird revival database, destroyed the original, and prayed I wouldn't have to use the result. Or that you'd agree, before I did."

"Why would you do that?" Oxton looked down, towards the deck. "Dammit, doc, you know what I said I'd have to do."

"I did not touch your tech," the doctor insisted, desperately clinging to that technicality.

"I am my tech," refuted the assassin, "and you know it."

"Please, no, you don't have to do this, I truly do not know," said the doctor, an edge of fear in her voice.

Oxton shook her head, no. "Don't think that's good enough... 'cause it's not."

Angela shuddered, surrendering to the inevitable. "...I know."

"Well, then."

"Well, then." The Swiss woman set her chin, but it was wobbly. "I will quit Overwatch."

"Ah, no, mate, they need you." Lena sat, swinging her legs over the edge of the table. "More than they need me, t' be honest."

"That's a lie, and you know it."

"Is it? I don't think so." Venom rose from the medical bunk. "They've got a tactical planner, now - one who isn't me." She spun her pistols, just trying to feel normal again, and re-holstered them. "Winston can keep the team together just fine. Tracer..." She shook her head. "She's just an act, s'far as I'm concerned." Flipping her armour back to black and violet, she continued, "One I'm not sure I'm comfortable playing anymore."

"Please don't do this."

"Give me a reason not to, doc," she said, finally pushing the gold from her eyes. "I've put a lot of work into this project, I've really wanted it to fly, but it's become pretty clear that it's..."

"Please don't punish all of them because I decided I'd rather see you hating me than lying dead on the ground," whispered the doctor. "They didn't know." Sobbing all at once, the damn breaking, she looked over to the smaller woman, entire face wet. "It's not their fault."

Venom froze in place, hand just short of the Talon retrieval beacon, and Angela desperately kept talking.

"I swear to you, I do not know how you work. No one does. The data is gone - completely - except within my nanosurgeon farm, and even it doesn't understand, it's not intelligent, not really, and the data is too enmeshed with other data to retrieve. Even I couldn't do it. Hate me," she begged the assassin, falling to her knees in front of the smaller woman, "hate me, if you must, I have betrayed your trust to keep you alive, I freely admit that and I will accept your hate - but I could not bear accept death a second time."

Venom felt dismay at the outburst, confused, ...what is going on...? and the doctor stared back down, down, down at the floor. "Just... don't leave. Don't do it. Please. Don't."

Please. Don't. The words rang through Venom's head like a shot not fired, and, unwanted and unexpected, a tear fell from her own eye, as it dawned upon her to ask, "Are you in... lo..."

She did not finish the word. She didn't have to. "...I'll..." she swallowed, shocked, and wiped her face with her hand. It was still cool to the touch, even to her own. "This is really bad. I'll have to tell Amélie what you've done."

"I do not care. I will confess everything."

"I can't tell you what she'll decide to do. I don't honestly know. But whatever decision she makes, I'll accept it."

"I understand."

"For whatever it's worth, doc - I do believe you, when you say you don't know how we work."

"You do?" Angela looked up at Lena, blinking, surprised.

"Yeh. If y'did... you'd know you didn't need to do that."

"...what?"

"We are bloody hard to kill. And... y'did think you were saving my life. With Mei being in the way, stopping me from healing myself... maybe you even did." She bit her lower lip, thoughtfully. "I don't hate you," she said, as she stepped back outside, "...but now I know I can't really trust you, either."

Mercy's gaze dropped back down to the transport's deck. "I'm sorry."

"I want to believe that," Venom said, regret in her voice. "I really do. I think I even might."

"Thank you."

"But... for the record? I want it logged. You are no longer my doctor."

Angela Ziegler just nodded, accepting the fact.

Lena Oxton stepped down past the end of the boarding ramp, spotting the rest of the assault team returning from the ambush, not at all far away now, with prisoners. Mei-Ling waved, the scientist's broad smile sharing her relief, and the assassin bit her lip and turned back to Dr. Ziegler, quickly, without acknowledging it. "Tell everybody the truth about what happened, 'cause I will if y'don't. And probably will even if y'do. But for now..." She pressed the retrieval beacon's activator switch. "I'll see ya... when I see ya."

And with that, she teleported away.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

The Armourer and the Living Weapon, Chapter 1: ten standard sets
[12 Nov 2017|11:24am]

[ mood | mischievous ]

Sure, I needed another AU, why not?

Someone had to be the template for Widowmaker, and that someone is an armourer, materials engineer, and former field sniper, all for Talon, named Emily Gardner. The ginger loves her work, just as her blue counterpart does, and together they make one of the more formidable weapons in Talon's arsenal.

But good things can't last forever, can they?

CW: this is... gonna be pretty fucked up. [AO3 link]


"Ten standard sets of combination rounds, please."

Widowmaker stood at the equipment requisition window, order chit laid neatly in front of her. It was not necessary - she wasn't to be refused any request for compatible ammunition. But she went through the motions, regardless, as she did for most things.

Emily leaned out the door from her workroom - "I'll handle this, Jax." She rose from her workbench, shooing the ordinance clerk off off to his filing. "Hey, Blue," the armourer said, warmly, leaning forward onto the counter. "How're you doing?"

"Very well, thank you," the sniper said. Of all the rank and file, only Emily Gardner ever asked. But then - she was the only one who didn't fear her. The only one not of the medical staff who had been involved in her creation. The one who built the metal and composite extension of herself - the Widow's Kiss.

"And your counterpart?"

The assassin placed that extension of herself onto the counter.

"Ooooh, yes," Gardner said, pulling out the special silk cloth she used when handling the rifle. "How is she?"

"As beautiful, and deadly, as always."

"Lovely." Emily purred. "I'm looking forward to the overhaul next month."

"As am I," replied the assassin, with a small, special smile.

"I've got something new. Wait here." The armourer ducked back from the counter, and jogged over to the racks, pulling the requested ten sets - then back to a cabinet by her workbench, where she pulled another two.

"Here're your standard rounds," she said, placing them into a neat pile. "Thumb?" She held up a padd, and the assassin confirmed receipt. "And here..." - she placed two other, unmarked boxes, beside the first - "...is something special."

Widowmaker looked at the other boxes, with interest. "So... what are these?"

"Experimental. Take a look." She pulled one box open - standard set configuration for Widowmaker's rifle - and the second box - standard set configuration for her own.

The sniper smirked. "I take it you would like to go out to the range?"

"Yeh," said the weapon's creator, "but that's just part of it. Check the casings."

Widowmaker picked up one of the rounds, freeing it from its holder. It felt fast. She blinked. "...what is this?"

"Hard light. Vishkar-type technology, made very, very small, and very, very hard."

"Incroyable," she breathed. She rolled the round in her palm. Her standard rounds - really, there was very little "standard" about them, not in a real sense, they were all made for her. But this... she could almost feel the kill just holding it. It excited her. "How did you get this?"

Gardner grinned, wickedly. "Little side project of my own. I'm not just an armourer, after all - I'm a materials engineer." She picked the round out of the Widowmaker's palm, rolling it around with her fingertip a little bit, first. "How 'bout it, Blue? You're not on base that often, we don't get many chances - is it a date?"

Widowmaker looked at the hand-built rounds, and felt... warm. "You designed these, all on your own. Just for me."

"I most certainly did," she smiled. "And a set for myself, so we can try them together. If they work out - I can make more." She boxed the two special sets of rounds back up. "My duty shift ends at 16-hundred. I've scheduled two distance lanes. You in?"

The living weapon's golden eyes glittered. "Of course."

-----

"Now," said the armourer, "they are, as you've already guessed, faster. That's the first difference."

The assassin purred, and leaned against the ginger. "How much faster?"

"Muzzle velocity, 1100m/s. About ten percent faster than you're used to.

"Faster than the Finnish arctic rounds. Ooh la la."

Emily leaned up, and nuzzled into the Widowmaker's ear. "But better - they chamber faster. We could adjust the mechanism speed up nearly twenty percent."

"I like you."

"I know. And you haven't even seen the best part."

"Oh?"

"As much as I hate to say 'hands to yourself,' love - let me show you."

Emily brought up the most lifelike target dummy - the one used to show splatter effects - and brought up her own rifle. The testbed for the Widow's Kiss, it was largely similar, but different in small details - including the faster chamber rate, but she didn't see the need to rub that into her beautiful weapon's face.

She fired a single combination shot, into the dummy's head. It did not so much explode, as vaporise. Her breath caught at the beauty of it, and she fired another into the target's chest, and it exploded, target marker flying red everywhere. She shivered at the sight, thrilled - as she knew her counterpart would be, and she looked back over her shoulder, to her left, just in time to see Widowmaker already back against her.

"Give," she demanded. "Now."

"I knew you'd like them."

The blue woman took her cartridges, discarded her current set, and loaded the new rounds. Even without the increased chamber rate, she could feel them moving like ice through her rifle, cold, and fast. She fired three times, instantly feeling alive, reducing the target both to precisely tailored vapour. "...manifique..." she whispered, visibly moved. "We have to get these on live targets."

"I know." Emily put her arms around her blue perfection, resting her head upon the back of her neck. "It's - strictly speaking, it's a distortion, not an explosion, but it has the same effect, and you have none of the downsides of explosive rounds."

"That is a large number of words to use to say devastating."

"Devastating rounds" - she blew gently against the back of Widowmaker's neck - "for a devastating weapon."

"So few, though - shall we make good use of them?"

"Yes," the armourer purred. "Let's."

-----

Emily nuzzled Widowmaker's bare shoulder as they lay together, exhausted, but oh, so deeply satisfied. "I wish I could be out there with you."

Widowmaker raked her fingernails along her lover's breasts, watching her shudder from the roughness of her touch. "They refused, again?"

"Of course." The Englishwoman sighed, after catching her breath again. "I knew they would. I am 'too valuable where and as I am.'"

"The process... would change you. It certainly changed me."

The armourer laughed. "It would change me less - after all, I was part of the template."

"The best part of the template," said the assassin. "But they fear losing your engineering skills?"

"Yeh. I just... oh, love, I miss it. I miss being a field sniper. And knowing how much better I could be, than I was, as you are..." Her hands formed into tight fists, raised to her mouth. "I want it, so much."

Widowmaker took the hands, and opened them, and soothed her lover's brow. "I know. I know. Be calm. I know. Remember - you create me. You are part of every kill I make."

"I know," sighed the ginger. "I just wish we could be together. We would be utterly unstoppable."

"I wonder, sometimes, if more than anything else," murmured the assassin, "that is why they do not allow it."

Emily smirked. It made sense. But she also knew that of all the places in the world she could be, Talon was the best. Talon let her do so much, do so many amazing things, gave her access to so many resources - and paid her well, atop everything else. And she loved it, she truly did. And then, she was able to help create her...

She shook her head. "I have so much. You call that Overwatch girl foolish, but I think I'm the foolish one. I should be happy. And I am."

"But it is not the same."

"No. But it's awfully, awfully good, more than I thought I would ever have, and... it's the best I'll get." She shifted around, resting her head on that strong shoulder. "Kill for me, and I will be satisfied."

Windowmaker laughed, a soft, rolling sound. "I already do. I always, always kill for both of us, ma cherie."

"I love you, so much."

"I know."

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

Old Soldiers, Chapter 14: ten oh one oh one
[08 Nov 2017|09:00am]

[ mood | calm ]

[AO3 link]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-----

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

"Dr. Zhou?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I did not!" she insisted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What?"

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

"I did?"

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

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

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

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

"The golden irises?"

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

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

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

"And her rage frightens you."

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

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

"Am I?"

"Yes."

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

"You do, to me."

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

"And you never do that."

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

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

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

"I know."

-----

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

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

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

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

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

oh my gods
[06 Nov 2017|10:45am]

[ mood | ecstatic ]

AW YEAH HERE WE GO

These are the kinds of comments you pray for when writing a story like this. I hope some people will take Angela Ziegler's side - not because I agree with it but because I want it to seem reasonable.

For now.

muah ha ha

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

And just like that, she was down, Chapter 6: the blind eye
[06 Nov 2017|08:19am]

[AO3 link]


[Incheon, Republic of Korea]

"Cor blimey," Lena said. "I wish she'd picked a more touristy part of town. We're too bloody conspicuous down here."

"You think you're conspicuous," her wife replied, "try being tall. At least I can check the layout."

The two of them - in carefully-chosen "hello, I am a confused European tourist" civilian clothes, with only Lena's bulky, accelerator-concealing jacket standing out in the July heat - made their way towards the front of a small restaurant in a busy commercial district not far from the industrial port.

Emily moved forward first, and looked sideways through the glass front window, spotting a small woman in very familiar colours and facepaint out of the corner of her eye, sitting in a booth near the back, facing away from the street. "I see her. She's... in her kit? Weird. But she's alone."

As Lena caught up to her, she heard a familiar voice quietly pipe up from behind. "N00bs," said the MEKA pilot, behind her, in perfectly ordinary business clothes. "That's my decoy. You gotta get good or you're in trouble. C'mon. This way. Right now, or it's off."

"Hana?" said the teleporter. "No. What's going on?"

"Come on," she repeated. "We're just going up the street. Things have changed. Follow me, or leave town, it's up to you."

Emily looked to Lena, uncertain, and her wife gave her a small shrug. "Like working for bloody MI6..." she whispered, following the woman they hoped was still their friend.

They followed her three blocks mostly east and two more blocks mostly north, settling into a booth in a nearly-identical business-worker restaurant, with nearly-identical booths. This one had a karaoke section, in back, but neither woman felt much like singing.

"What was that about, then?" asked Emily, as she and Lena slid into their side of the booth. Hana ordered a big pot of barley tea and naeng myun for everyone, and the waitress scooted off.

"Okay," said Hana, looking carefully at both of them. "We've got half an hour before the old school show up at the other restaurant. They don't want to grab you, but they want you to hand over the spider if you still have her. Do that, all's forgiven, you can come home."

"...you told them?" Lena said in a hiss, leaning forward.

"Bloody hell," breathed Emily. "It was a trap."

"You're here, not there, aren't you? And it's not a trap, they just wanna make an offer. I'm on your side, I want you to know what's coming."

"An 'offer,'" said Emily, "while unarmed, surrounded, and outnumbered. That's not how you have friends over for chat." She covered her face with her hands, looking down. "They're making all the same bloody mistakes they made last time, aren't they? Of course they are. What next, bringing back Blackwatch?"

"Well, then," said Lena, as the tea arrived. "An offer. What's the sweetener supposed to be?"

"They'll hand la blue girl over to MI6, DGSE, or CIA as-is. Nooooooo hacks required."

Lena glared at the gamer. "That a joke, luv? MI6 and the French will shoot her on sight. CIA... probably the same. Why not the Hague? Why not the ICC?"

"We tried. The Hague and the ICC won't even touch her. You picked a really unpopular spider to save."

"...yeh," conceded the teleporter, sipping at the unfamiliar tea. "I can see that."

"And the stick?" asked Emily, dreading the answer.

"No stick."

"No stick?"

"No stick. I don't like what they're doing, I really don't like what Ziegler was doing... none of the younger crowd do, we won't stand for it. We've put our... foots? down? Feets down? Whatever."

"Right," said Lena. "Thanks, for that. You've worked out some kind of entente, then - that include what Ziegler's doing?"

"We're still working on it. It's a fight and I don't know who's winning, but everybody will be in the game."

Tracer shuddered. "Well... I hope you win."

The gamer sipped at her tea. "So if you won't hand spiderbitch over..."

"Not happening."

"Then the fallback is, we can still be friends, but there's rules."

"Go on," said the teleporter, as the waitress returned with their bowls of noodles.

"Noooooooo working for her old bosses. None. You work with them, at all, you're all with them. We shoot on sight."

Emily snorted a laugh, but Lena frowned, angry. "I'm... gobsmacked. I can't believe they'd... after all we've done, they think we'd do that? The whole point of this was getting her away from..."

"C'mon! You and your wife ripped the walls off medbay to free Talon's deadliest assassin. They don't think they can make assumptions anymore."

"Bloody wonderful," Tracer snapped, not wanting to admit they kind of had a point. "They know why we..." She stopped, and shook her head - rearguing wouldn't change anything. "Fine. What else?"

"You're not Overwatch. No Overwatch logos, no Overwatch gear, don't raid Overwatch supply points, don't use Overwatch safehouses."

"Whatevs," Lena shrugged, dismissively.

"Not so whatevs," Emily said, overriding her wife. "Most of it, fair enough. But Overwatch is using my antigrav tech, free of charge. We can let that go on - if we can use empty safehouses when we need to."

"I can ask."

"It's one or the other. I don't want to get shot at by Overwatch agents in an Overwatch safehouse. If that's on the menu, I'm not eating."

"I can ask."

"Fine," interjected Tracer. "What else?"

"No team-ups with the spider when we're around. You're both out of Overwatch, but nbd, rite? Officially, you dropped out, nobody has to say why, you're fine, we're fine. We'll team up with you, we might even hire you - but not with her. Work with her where we can see it, that makes you accomplices to a world-number-one terrorist, bang. We treat you like her."

Tracer grimaced. "Oh, that's funny coming from Morrison - sorry, 'Soldier: 76.' How's that supposed to be any different? He's a wanted criminal himself, and labelled a terrorist."

"That's not fair," Song replied. "She actually is one."

"Was," interjected Kestrel.

"Is," insisted the gamer, "'til we know better."

"This is... PETRAS hasn't been repealed. Overwatch is just as illegal as everything else."

"Yeah," acknowledged the gamer, "but we get a pass. To a point. You don't. It's not fair, but that's the game."

"Unlike Overwatch, I am a security contractor, operating legally on six continents..."

"Not if they know you've got the spider," Hana said in a little sing-song.

Lena sighed, frustrated. And that, she thought, is the stick. "Fine," she said, tiredly. "What else?"

"That's it."

"You lot gonna be spyin' on us? Lookin' for a chance?"

"Nope. Blind eye. If we don't have to know, we won't know."

Lena nodded, and poked at the noodles. They didn't taste like much, but she couldn't tell whether that was the food, or the reality of the situation setting in. Even an amicable divorce was still a divorce, with all that implied - and this wasn't even all that amicable.

"There really wasn't a trap, was there?" Emily said, suddenly. "Or... was there? Is this the trap?" Kestrel looked around the restaurant. "Where's Ziegler?"

Tracer looked up at her wife. "Sweet?"

"Listen," said the flying agent.

Lena listened, and heard a soft, familiar ringing hum. "...oh. Fuck. I hear it too."

"What?" asked the gamer, already knowing the jig was up.

"Dammit, Hana - stop!"

Song put down her chopsticks. "I had to make sure you weren't under anybody's control!"

"When the bloody hell did we go missing for months?!" Kestrel demanded.

"You didn't, but I didn't know! Not for sure! I told Lena in chat - I had to know! For sure!"

"We gonna get darts in the neck now?" Tracer's gaze darted around, looking for Ana Amari, not finding her.

"What's in this tea?" asked the ginger, glaring at her cup.

"Nothing! It's just barley tea! It's good! And no! It's... I brought Mercy in. She brought a big scanner. That's it."

"You trust Dr. Ziegler to tell you the truth here?"

"I... I think she's wrong. But she's not a liar and I couldn't get anyone else qualified. Not who'd keep a secret."

"Hana's telling the truth," said Angela, closing a padded door behind her, and walking up to their booth. "I was going to appear at the other restaurant, if you chose to negotiate, but - this saves the walk. Here I am."

"Doctor," said Emily, stiffly. "Who else is with us today?"

Hana scooted over, making room, and the medic sat next to the young MEKA pilot, ignoring the question. "Hana brought me in on this meeting yesterday. So that you know, I came here early to scan you for the sorts of things I... missed... with Amélie. I did not find them."

"Why the double-bluff?" asked Lena. "Why move us down here?"

"Karaoke booths," said the doctor.

"...soundproofing," Kestrel realised.

"Apparently, inadequate."

"I have very good hearing," said the hawk.

"Amari and Morrison?" asked the teleporter.

"Ana and Jack are in Prague, at the moment, responding to rumours of a Talon action. They send their regards."

Emily let out a little heh at that. "No 'thanks' for removing Talon's best sniper from their arsenal?"

"Is she removed?"

"Yes."

"But alive."

"'Course." She did not say, "luv."

"I will relay both of those."

Lena Oxton gave the doctor a sharply pointed look. "What if you'd decided we had been... compromised?"

"Plug suit fits under regular clothes juuuuuuust fine." Hana pulled at her collar. "Hot, tho'."

The doctor smiled. "And you'll note - I haven't said anything about Fareeha's location."

"That's not what I meant, mate," said the teleporter, grimly.

The doctor raised an eyebrow. "It would... depend."

"Would it, now?" asked Emily.

"Can you honestly say you would not want me to undo the effects of Talon brainwashing upon you? Truly? "

"Not if it meant just applying another round of brainwashing," Lena snapped. "It's one thing to get somebody detoxed, sure, that's fine. Therapy, that's great - I know from PTSD. But throwing your own stamp on their brain - that's not 'undoing' a bloody thing, that's just changing the hands on the leash."

The doctor rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Lena, Emily, please, all of this has been ... far too much cloak and dagger. I apologise for that, but we did have to know. Can we stop this? Please? I am here to negotiate with you, not fight you."

"Sure, doc," said the flying agent. "Stop trying to turn people into other people, stop delivering ultimatums, stop repeating Overwatch's old mistakes, and we can all be besties again. Just tell me one thing."

"What?"

"Why'd you lie to us about your 'sedatives?'"

"I most certainly didn't!"

"'Sedative' doesn't imply 'made suggestible.' You'd already started your work, and you hid that from us."

"Oh," said the doctor, surprised, "you figured that out? I am... honestly, I am impressed. But I did not lie," she said emphatically. "I had not started my work."

"Then why that drug?" demanded the flying agent.

"Because you are both fools and I was giving you the best chance I could!" The field medic stood in the booth, hands on the tabletop, jarring the dishes. "Do you know how many of her bullets I have pulled out of our people? How many I have declared dead by her hand? I did not want you cut down, these... mistakes... or not, and if you did something truly reckless, I wanted to make sure you had a chance of surviving the night." She looked back and forth between the two former Overwatch agents. "She is not a person, she is a mechanism. A complex one, but a mechanism nonetheless. Give the correct set of orders, she kills, and you are on her kill list. But..." she said, slower, more thoughtfully, gesturing with her left hand, "I thought if she could be impressed upon you..."

"Dammit, doc," Lena interrupted, quietly, "You were wrong."

"I am not wrong, I..."

"She'd broken it herself. That's why she's never really tried to kill me, or Em. That's why Talon tried to kill her," Lena interrupted, again, rubbing her face with her hands. "That's how we know you're wrong."

The doctor blinked. "...what?"

"She wasn't supposed to get captured in Egypt," said Kestrel, picking up where Tracer left off, "she was supposed to die there. She was subverting her own reconditioning, and they'd figured it out."

"That is impossible. I have recreated some of what they did, in simulators, to learn how to undo it. It cannot just be..."

"Oh for the love of... it was. She'd done it, and Talon's termination order proves it. We were right. I was right. You were wrong," said Emily. "None of this would've had to happen if you'd just listened to me." She waved her hands around in the air by her head, wanting something to throw. "When you captured her, she was set to defect in a week. To us. In Prague, in fact. Today."

"Then the suggestibility ... did it...?"

"Make everything much harder? Yes. Thanks for that. Naught for two on those calls, Angie. Try not to go naught for three?"

Angela Ziegler sat back down, slowly. She looked at the tabletop, and at the teapot, and the noodles, and poured herself a little bit of the barley, sipping at it tentatively, in silence, for several moments. She bit her lip, put the small cup back down, and, eventually, said, "If it means anything to you... my 'three' is that neither of you show any sign of foreign neurochemical or neuromechanical influence on your brains. And I will report that back to Overwatch."

"Kinda figured that," replied Emily, slowly, "from the lack of shooting. That's one for three, then. Well done there."

"Hana," asked Lena, "how much of the rest was a lie?"

"None of it! 76 is pretty mad, Ana is real mad, we're all kinda fruck out, but some of us are more sympathetic than others. Particularly Lúcio. Particularly me."

"So," Tracer said, sadly, "a velvet divorce. That's the real offer, then?"

"The rest of us want to stay friends, but from a team standpoint... pretty much."

"Balls," said Emily.

"What?"

"Balls! I'll take the deal, but it's shite, Hana, and you have the sense to know that. Angie, I don't think you do, you were this close to wiping away a person to replace her with your version of somebody else and it's pretty clear you haven't even budged on the ethics of that..."

"'Widowmaker' was dead, either way," Zigler interjected, angrily. "She almost certainly still will be soon, you might well join her, and you have just as certainly taken my only chance of returning Amélie to her own mind. If you want to argue ethics, soldier, I am more than ready to defend my position."

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, then a longer one, and then, "I can't believe Winston is going along with this..." said Lena, shaking her head.

"He's... still of the opinion that Widowmaker should be convinced to go along with it," Angela disclaimed, acknowledging the difference.

"Good. It's not... it's not good enough. It's just not." said Lena. "But... good. And... we'll take your terms - it's not much different than we'd do anyway."

"I do not imagine the safehouse usage will be difficult to sell to the rest of the team. Particularly," said the doctor, sipping at her tea, "if you continue to forward useful information."

"Did you raid those caches?"

"No. But we will, now."

"Probably too late, we'd hoped you'd cover our tracks, but - thanks anyway, I guess. Hana, will you tell Winston - please, please, please, just talk to me? "

"I will." She leaned forward, regret plain in her face. "I'm sorry. I had to know."

"Thanks, luv. I ... yeh. I guess I can see why." She took a deep breath, and let it out. "But if we're all done now," she said, standing, Emily just a moment behind, "we're going. Don't follow."

"We won't." Dr. Ziegler reached into her bag, and pulled out her commset. "Pharah, Mercy - Kestrel and Tracer are about to leave. We have an agreement. When they're out of range, come inside and... join us, for lunch. It's quite good. I'll give you the details in here."

As the two women walked by the table, Hana stood, saying, "Lena, please - talk to me on my chat again. Please! Okay? Please!" Then she watched as the two women left the restaurant without answering, her stomach now uninterested in the previously-delicious noodles.

«We did this wrong», she thought, sitting back down in the booth. «This wasn't how this should've gone.» She stole a glance as Fareeha walked up to Angela, helmet off, exchanging a brief kiss, and frowned. «Now I just gotta figure out how to fix it.»

-----

Widowmaker watched Tracer and Kestrel depart the restaurant, and, seeing Pharah take no offensive action, lowered her rifle away from the kill shot. She moved to discreetly track her partners along street level, to their rented vehicle.

Her comm unit clicked on. "Widowmaker, Tracer here. We're out, and en route to rendezvous."

"Tracer, Widowmaker, acknowledged. I sighted Pharah, tracking you across the venue change. I told you we should've kept in full contact."

"You didn't engage, did you?"

"Of course not. But I was ready, if needed."

"Widowmaker, Kestrel here. Thanks, love. Glad you weren't needed out there. You heard everything?"

The sniper felt a little cold, thinking of the doctor's words. "I did. I... regret it did not go better."

"No one is happy, so it's probably as fair as we were gonna get. See you back at the ship."

"Acknowledged. Widowmaker out." She hummed, thoughtfully, as she engaged her chain, heading towards the meeting point. It probably will not last, she thought, but it is good enough, for now. If I can just convince our... friends... to join us, then we will have a real chance. She smiled, for herself, and there was much more than just a breath of truth in it. I will save us, she swore. I will save us all.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

And just like that, she was down, Chapter 5: LENA WHAT THE HELL
[02 Nov 2017|10:10am]

[AO3 link]


D.va > LENA WHAT THE HELL?! Σ(゚Д゚;≡;゚д゚)
D.va > LENA
D.va > LENA WHAT IS GOING ON TALKT O ME щ(゚Д゚щ)
D.va > LENA
D.va > LENA
D.va > LENA DO NOT MAKE ME (ง'̀-‘́)ง YOU
D.va > LENA
D.va > LENA
D.va > LENA
D.va > LENA TALK TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
D.va > LENA
D.va > LENA LENA
D.va > LENA LENA LENA LENAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Tracer looked at the chat log - hundreds of lines of it, all more or less the same - from their Yukon safehouse, a room behind a little supplies store on the side of the Dempster Highway in the Yukon tundra, halfway between Dawson and nowhere. 23 hours a day of sunlight would make her even more hyperactive than usual, but it still paled before the unlimited energy force which was Hana Song.

She checked the time. Well, it'll depend on where she is right now, I suppose... And then the text scrolled again, on its own.

D.VA > LENAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA TALK TO MEEEEEEEE
Tracer > Hey, Deeves.
D.va > LENA LENA LENA LE
D.va > LENA!!!1
Tracer > Hiya
D.va > ARE YOU OK? DOES /╲/\╭ºoꍘoº╮/\╱\ HAVE YOU?! ARE! U! OK!
Tracer> I'm fine. Kestrel's fine. Widowmaker is... as fine as she ever is.
D.va > WHAT THE HELL?! DID U RLY RIP THE WALLS OFF OF MEDBAY?

Lena laughed, quietly. "Hey, Em, you impressed Hana!"

Emily leaned over and looked at Lena's screen. "...you're on chat? They didn't block your account?"

"This is Hana's personal server. She gave me a login there for when she's in Korea. Thought I'd check it, since Winston hasn't answered any of my messages." She'd hoped he would. He might've voted for deprogramming, but - like Tracer and Kestrel - he'd also argued that Widowmaker should at least have a voice in it.

"They've closed ranks, at least 'till they see what happens. I was afraid of that." Emily put her hand on Lena's shoulder, gently. "I'm sorry. But I still think he'll come 'round eventually."

"I gotta hope so."

Tracer > Nah
D.va > ???!
Tracer > That was Kestrel.
D.va > (╬ಠ益ಠ) WHY?!
Tracer > Because we made a promise and we meant it. For better or for worse.
D.va > A promise? To whom?
Tracer > Widowmaker. Don't you know about this?
D.va > /╲/\╭ºoꍘoº╮/\╱\ KIDNAPPED YOU?!

Widowmaker saw Lena's sudden smile, and looked over onto her screen. "How does she type those character graphics so quickly? I... like that one."

"She doesn't," replied the teleporter. "At least, I don't think she does. She keeps 'em all in big text files, hundreds of 'em."

Tracer > No. We... you don't know about this at all, do you.
D.va > NO I DON'T BUT YOU BETTER TELL ME RIGHT NOW
Tracer > Kestrel and I ... we promised Widowmaker, a couple of months ago, in London, if she wanted to get away from Talon, we'd help her.
D.va > ...OKAY
Tracer > Part of that was, nobody's changing her again, not against her will. That includes Overwatch. We swore that wouldn't happen. Capturing her, that's one thing, doing to her what Talon did to Amélie, that's another. 'Cause she's a person, too, even if the doc don't think so.
D.va > Okay...
Tracer > D'ya see what I'm saying? We swore we wouldn't do to her what Talon did to Amélie... or let anybody else do it either.
D.va > ...okay...
Tracer > And Angie... didn't agree.
D.va > ...oh
Tracer > She said Widowmaker wasn't really a person, couldn't really consent or not consent, that the only way t'fix that was "reversing her conditioning," and so it wasn't the same thing.
D.va > ...
Tracer > Like she was on some kind of hallucinogen or drunk or something like that
D.va > ᕙ(⇀‸↼#)ᕗ
Tracer > but I'll be snookered if I can see a difference
D.va > ...
Tracer > since either way the person we made a promise wouldn't exist anymore once she was done.
D.va > (・A・)
Tracer > so we stopped it. We kept our promise.
Tracer > sorry about the mess.
D.va > ...
Tracer > It was kinda spur-of-the-moment.
D.va > ...
Tracer > We kinda figured, we talk Widowmaker out of Talon, we might have to quit Overwatch
Tracer > We didn't really think we'd have to break her out. Not really.
Tracer > But ... we did what we had to. I don't regret it.
D.va > ...
D.va > So... you're saying Angela was going to ... undo spiderfication ... and turn her back into Amélie?
Tracer > Try to, anywya.
Tracer > anyway
D.va > But Widowmaker didn't agree to it.
Tracer > If you were her... would you?
D.va > ...
D.va > ...
D.va > ...no
Tracer > So there y'are.
Tracer > That's why.
D.va > ...
D.va > (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
D.va > WIDOWMAKER IS A MONSTER BUT tHAT's STILL NOT OKAY
Tracer > Not even sure she's a monster
Tracer > A killer, sure, that's all she's ever known
Tracer > But you and me, we're both military, we both have death counts
D.va > ...
D.va > it's different
Tracer > it is
Tracer > but i can fight in a war and still oppose the death penalty
Tracer > cause that's different too
D.va > ...
D.va > ...but you're okay.
Tracer > Yeh.
D.va > Kestrel's okay.
Tracer > Yeh.
D.va > Talon doesn't have you.
Tracer > Heh - no. Talon's after us too.
Tracer > but they don't know where we are
Tracer > and they're mostly after Widowmaker anyway, they've always been after us
Tracer > what's one more kill-on-sight order between friends?
D.va > ...they want to kill the spider now?
Tracer > Yep.
Tracer > Don't trust her anymore.
Tracer > If our intel's good, it came down from the top.
D.va > ...
D.va > Where are you?

The three of them had left the Oregon desert safehouse after a round of showers, the chance to enjoy some food outside of a moving vehicle, and a day of proper sleep. Widowmaker had even complimented their choice of mattresses, proving again that the spider had some interest in creature comforts.

There'd been no Interpol notice - or anything similar - about any of them yet, the key word being "yet." Nothing on Lena "Tracer" Oxton, or Emily "Kestrel" Oxton, or even anything new about Amélie "Widowmaker" Lacroix, or any combination thereof. Emily's current consulting contract with BAE hadn't even been voided; she still had access to their network. But the plan was to keep moving anyway, until they felt a little more comfortable about what Lena hoped, desperately, was an olive branch from their old team.

Tracer > Sorry, luv.
D.va > ...
D.va > ...I gotta think.
D.va > You're not in ROK. You close?
Tracer > Sorry, again, luv.
D.va > meet me in Incheon?
Tracer > ...
Tracer > ...maybe. In a week. If things stay settled down.
Tracer > Talking of, we gotta go.
D.va > okay
D.va > stay in tuch
D.va > touch
D.va > I wanna see you in person. I need to know you're you. I need to be sure. Incheon. Next week. You and Kestrel. Alone. Noooooooooooo spiders.
Tracer > If we can. I'll check in... when I check in.
D.va > k. let me know.
Tracer > Bye

Lena dropped her way back through several anonymous VPNs and re-routers, and shut down the encrypted chat client. Incheon, she thought. Port city, easy to get to... it could work.

"Hey, Kes, Wids - y'want t'go out for Korean next week?"

Widowmaker looked across the table where she had just been shutting down her own communications array, reaching out to various specialised, no-questions-asked chemical synthesis specialists. "...you like Korean food?"

"I can take it or leave it, luv. But Hana Song sure does."

Kestrel looked over at her wife with a curious look. "...oh, really?"

Tracer shrugged at her wife. "Maybe."

"Brilliant. We could use some allies. And while you've been doing that - I've got your old contacts alerted that we're back in business, as freelancers. We'll need the money."

Widowmaker threw Kestrel a look of caution. "You aren't telling them about my particular skillset, I presume."

"Course not," she said, taking the blue woman's hand and squeezing it. "Not 'till you want in. Until then - well. I think of you as our ace in the hole."

The blue assassin wasn't entirely sure what to think of that, but she did think she found it satisfactory, and, possibly, just the tiniest bit pleasing.

"That," she said, with the hint of a spidery smile...

"...will do, for now."

-----

"Winston," said Athena, a chime ringing behind the word. "Relevant activity detected."

Winston looked up from his console, where he had been re-reading Lena's messages, wanting so much to reply, but holding off until they knew where Tracer and Kestrel might be headed. The locations of several Talon weapons caches had been welcome, and gave some hints, but could just as easily be bait, and they couldn't take the wrong kinds of chances.

"Thank you, Athena. Throw it down here?"

It wasn't much, and it wasn't personal - but it was familiar. Lena Oxton had listed herself as available again for private security contracting work, under her old company name. Same terms as before he'd initiated the Overwatch recall, but higher rates, and the added services of an experienced flying operative - battlesuit included.

He carefully checked over each version of the notice Athena had found. None mentioned sniper capabilities, and all carried the same sets of legality and indemnification conditions as before. She'd always played the game well above-board - and, at least in these listings, that had not changed.

I ... I pray this is real, he thought, allowing himself a hint of relief. If it is, they won't be in Talon uniforms the next time we see them. An image, a vision, flashed into his mind, of Lena Oxton, golden-eyed, blue-skinned, half-grin a sneer, leaning against her wife, Emily, silver-eyed, pale violet skin and purple and violet hair, tall, cold, and cruel.

He shuddered, and put it out of his mind - it won't happen - as he forwarded Athena's findings to the rest of Overwatch. We won't let it.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

whelp
[01 Nov 2017|05:06pm]

[ mood | pissed off ]

definitely a kill everyone day

isc-dhcp-server isn't relaying packets properly after the power outage. why? WHO THE FUCK KNOWS, IT'S LINUX. (current Debian, to be specific.)

* Packets to door (the server) from DHCP machines get there 100% of the time. (Also true for packets from the fixed-IP LAN.)
* Packets originating on door get to all destinations 100% of the time.
* Packets to the fixed-IP LAN from DHCP machines (going though door) get there about 50% of the time.
* Packets to the modem itself (which has a fixed IP address on the same subnet as the fixed-IP LAN) from the same sources get through 10%-20% of the time. This is also the same card as the fixed-IP LAN. Why one address on the fixed-IP LAN is getting special treatment? FUCKIN' GOT ME. I presume it has something to do with being the gateway. But if we take out the exceptions in the router table for the servers, and send everything through said gateway, nothing changes. Packet failure at about the same rate across the same classes.
* No DHCP client packets get past the points described. (Zero packets to internet, even ones that reach the internet modem.)
* All servers (fixed-IP LAN) talk to the internet just fine.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

eta: It gets stupider. door drops half of DHCP-sourced packets to newmoon (fixed-IP lan), but drops none to lodestone (web server). Didn't think to play with that there is zero reason for them to be different. And yet.

eta2: it's not the NICs. or the switches. don't ask. yes, three hardware iterations later, I'm sure. It's not hardware.

eta3: apt-get remove and apt-get install of isc-dhcp-server changed NOTHING. what. the. fuck.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

breakthough
[01 Nov 2017|12:15pm]

it's just annabots. it's just annabots. it's just a training mode, albeit a custom advanced one with everything turned all the way up.

offence, route 76. two quadruple kills. six? team kill equivalents. a ... lot of triple kills, I lost count. 292 critical hits. 302 kills. 87% scoped shot accuracy through the first two checkpoints, both achieved without going into overtime, one vs. six. 67% scoped accuracy in overtime (final stage overtime, when the bots seem to get more aggressive). payload delivered. one after another.

i am literally shaking, just a little.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

And just like that, she was down, Chapter 4: Our North American Home from Home
[30 Oct 2017|09:52am]

[AO3 link]


"Well," said Emily, "Here we are. Our North American home from home."

She unlocked a grey metal box and threw a large physical switch found inside. Hallway lights lit, and the sound of a motor emanated from behind the walls. Tracer jinked up to the elevator at the end of the hall as its doors opened, and she checked the interior. "All clear!"

Widowmaker could feel the positive air pressure from the elevator shaft as she stepped over the threshold into the oversized car. "This is your safehouse?"

"One of 'em," Tracer replied. "It's ancient! Built during the Cold War, last century. Things go well, we'll end up back here on the regular."

Widowmaker frowned, sniffing at the air - it, at least, did not smell so antique. "It has been updated, I presume."

Kestrel laughed - "too right" - and Lena grinned. "We kept the architecture vintage, though. It's... somethin' to see."

"Does Overwatch know of this facility?" asked the assassin.

Lena tilted her head back and forth. "I might've mentioned it to Winston, but I didn't give directions. He's never been here. Officially, it's an investment."

The control panel's round hard plastic buttons shone black, with white letters reading M, G, OPEN, and CLOSE. Tracer stepped over in front, and pointed. "Right! Overloaded panel controls. M is this floor - mezzanine, right? G is the underground garage and storage for the aboveground house. The cover story is, it's supposed t'be a cargo elevator. And it is! It all works. OPEN and CLOSE are for the doors, like it says on the tin. But to get to the safehouse..." She punched a sequence of buttons - G and OPEN at the same time, M and OPEN at the same time, G, OPEN, CLOSE, OPEN and CLOSE, CLOSE.

On the final close, the doors shut in front of them, and the elevator started down.

"How far are we going?" asked the spider, looking about at the brushed metal walls as they slowly descended.

"Not too far - only about ten metres," said Kestrel. "As far as we can tell, the builders wanted a bomb shelter that'd do double duty as a guest house."

"Which is it more like ..." Widowmaker went silent as the doors opened upon a lawn. She stepped forward, onto the ground, looking up at the very low sky, or very high ceiling - depending, she supposed, upon one's point of view. To the left, a two-storey mid-century modern home, brown-tiled "roof" jutting into the "sky," the sky a ceiling from which artificial daylight shone evenly across the underground chamber. Around the outside of the "house" and "yard" stood concrete walls, covered in a mix of sculpted trees, murals of mountains, and artificial sky.

"Yeh - that was my reaction too," chirped Lena, with a grin.

"The friezes are... hideous. But the light, it is not terrible." She looked towards the building within the building. "It is a... they called it a split-level? They built a..." She shook her head. "C'est bizarre."

"The lighting's this good 'cause we replaced that bit," nodded Emily. "C'mon, it gets better." She stepped out of the elevator, onto the crazy-paving path. "And the house is nice."

-----

Kestrel picked up a pleasantly modern control padd as soon as they stepped inside the front door. Holograms applied themselves over the mural and sculptures outside, rendering a far more naturalistic appearance. "Much better. We kept them, but... that doesn't mean we want to look at them," she said, wryly.

Tracer jinked over and grabbed another padd. "Security system's up - no intruders, no alerts, water supply's good, HVAC normal, and best of all..." She pulled off her accelerator, popped it on a stand, and plugged it in for charge - turned off. "Ahhhhhhh. That's better."

"You do not have to wear it?" asked the Widowmaker, surprised.

"Whole house is an accelerator chamber, luv. 'Yard,' too. I'm free as a bird down here. Ironic, innit?" She shook her shoulders and stretched. "Hoo. So nice. I'm gonna bring up the network, see if Winston's answering yet," said continued, "an' check on home accounts. See if Overwatch's said anything to Interpol or th' like."

Emily nodded - "good idea" - as she opened first curtains, then a couple of windows - why? thought Widowmaker - and she received her answer as a light breeze wafted through the living room.

"The illusion wasn't bad, even with the vintage kit." The ginger shook her head and smiled. "We improved it, though. We don't get to show it off, much - what do you think?"

Widowmaker slowly looked around. Century-old couches, chairs, table lamps, a sunken living room, a... dining room, a kitchen, a washroom visible down the hall, stairs leading to... bedrooms? Workrooms? She did not know. Outside the large windows, a... lawn. Artificial, but not terribly unconvincing. Trees, beyond, and low mountains in the distance that looked... almost... like...

She looked at Kestrel, confusion clear across her face, and tried to speak, but stumbled over words, and then stumbled over herself, and almost fell, before being caught by Emily, and then a moment later, Lena, who was a little less sure about how safe she was to touch. "Woah, woah, Widowmaker, woah, it's, um... what's wrong?"

The blue woman looked around, disoriented, dissociated, and the two Oxtons helped her to a couch. "Are you... my..." she said, to Emily, in a bit of a daze, "no, that can't be... could you... how much... is real? Are those curtains? Are they real? Please, close them?"

Lena dashed over to the curtains and triggered them to close. Why are there curtains? thought the assassin. This is... She blinked, slowly. Ah. A little better. She stood, suddenly, and walked up to feel them - real? Real.

She began walking around the living room, touching objects, rifle forgotten on the couch. Everything she saw that she could reach, she touched, and having touched it, moved on.

"All of this is real, luv," said Tracer.

"Most of it's vintage," added Kestrel. "The upholstery is new, and some pieces are re-creations. We had the money, so we wanted to preserve the..."

"...why would ... someone ... make this? Was... is this a conditioning facility?" She looked at the ginger, head tilted. "Are you my... handler? Are you?"

"Oh my god," said Emily, horror in her voice. "Is something about this part of how they work on you?" Lena looked at Emily, similarly shocked. "No! No, I swear!" the teleporter stressed. "It wasn't anything like that! It was just a bomb shelter built by some boffin with too much dosh. If bombs fell, they wanted t' ride it out in style."

"Widowmaker," interjected Emily, not yet moving, but tensed. "I think this is important. I am not your handler. You are your own handler. You have no handler other than yourself. Do you understand?" The sniper stopped briefly, and nodded, eyes just a little bit more focused.

Emily walked up to the blue woman, carefully, who walked slowly around the main rooms, touching objects, making sure they felt the same as they looked. "Did that help? Do we need to leave? Do you need to be somewhere else? I swear to you, we did not know you'd have this reaction. This is just a ... strange old house. That's all it is. This is not a reconditioning environment of any kind," she repeated. "It's just a very well hidden safehouse." She looked over to Lena. "Love, turn off all the holograms, she was fine 'till then."

The upper windows, which had still shown the holographic sky, now showed mural instead, smooth light sheets with occasional chiaroscuro clouds. Widowmaker shook her head, and held her hands up to her eyes for a moment, covering them - then, she looked back to the room, and to Emily, beside her. "Thank you."

"Right then," said Emily, taking a deep breath and turning towards Lena. "We're relocating! Yukon? It's small, but it'll do for a day. Or, we'll need to refuel, but New Zealand should be..."

"No," said Widowmaker, grabbing Emily's hands. "No. Thank you. This will do nicely." She looked around the rooms, focus completely returned. "I... like this space. The upper level, there are sleeping facilities?"

"Yeh - and baths. Workroom, armoury, weights room below. But - you sure?" asked the teleporter. "You... kind of lost the plot there for a bit..."

"I'm still worried about this," interjected Emily, still feeling the other woman's cool blue hands in her own. "Do you want to talk about what you said? Are you... you?"

"No. Yes. Yes." Widowmaker looked back and forth between the two women. "You did not attempt to create any directives, when I entered maintenance mode - except to hand me to myself." She looked at Kestrel, before her. "I am... I am..." she blinked, trying to parse the feeling. "I am... grateful."

"We didn't know that was possible."

"That I could be grateful?"

Tracer snickered, and Emily said, "No, that you could be ... put in that state."

"It should not have been possible. There is... something, I think, in my system, still. Presumably from your doctor. But you did not try to take advantage of it. Thank you."

"She just told us about sedatives, that's all," insisted Emily. "We asked."

Widowmaker smirked. "It is possible she did not lie. Some sedatives have... relevant secondary properties."

Lena frowned. "Y'think she left somthin' out? Some details? Intentionally?"

The blue woman nodded, considering. "Possibly. I have felt..." She looked to Emily again. "...easily trusting - of you both, but you in particular."

Emily's face twisted into a snarl. "Dammit, Angela... you did lie to me." She felt like hitting something, but... those hands. She looked back to Lena again. "We really should move on. Or - at very least, let's disable the hologram projectors. We can do that."

"No," said the assassin. "Turn them back on."

"What?" chorused the two Overwatch exiles, looking back towards the assassin.

"Turn them back on. If you can do this accidentally, Talon could do it on purpose. Open the curtains and reactivate the holograms."

Lena and Emily looked at each other, nervously. Well, Emily thought, the whole idea was she's a person, and people can make their own decisions... She shrugged an I-guess-so at Lena, who nodded, and the curtains opened and the holograms phased back to life, taking the artificial landscape from laughable to convincing.

Widowmaker's gaze remained focused this time, as she took in the projected vista. "It is... almost like the view from the Chateau's upper levels. No lake, more evergreens, taller mountains in the distance. But, in the foreground, not unlike... that."

"The chateau?"

"A family property of Amélie's, in France. Also, my home."

"You have a house?"

"A chateau," she stressed. "It's where I live. Talon knows of it, or I would've taken us there." The blue assassin smirked. "Did you think I lived in a barracks? Or that they... put me away, somewhere? Boxed me up, between missions?"

"Well," Lena coughed, a little embarrassed, "...kinda, yeh..." and the assassin... chuckled.

"That similarity good or bad, luv?" asked the teleporter. "Did they use that against... her?"

"I do not know," she said, and shook her head again. "This is foolish... no, it is not foolish. It is important." She turned to Emily, again. "For whatever reason, my conditioning has responded to you as my handler. I am trusting of you, but it has been years since any handler could truly control me. I demonstrated that by killing my first - but I have no urge to kill you. Do you understand?"

"No," said Emily. "I do not. I - I don't want this. Can you ... undo it? Somehow?"

The blue assassin shook her head. "No. Not immediately. But that you do not want it makes me feel... secure." She thought about diving over to the couch, grabbing her rifle, and aiming it at Kestrel's forehead, just as a demonstration. She also flashed on embracing the woman, picking her up, running her fingers through her hair... and had no idea why. I... could I do... that? she asked herself, not knowing which she meant, before deciding, yes, she could - and that therefore, there was no need, quite yet, to do either. Instead, she turned her golden-eyed gaze to Kestrel, eyes to eyes, and smiled, and for once, there was a breath - no more, but a breath - of truth in it.

"I will do everything in my power not to use this," Kestrel said, returning the blue woman's smile with solemnity. "If I do, on accident - tell me. Teach me how not to use this."

"I will," whispered the assassin, lifting the hands she still held to her lips, kissing them lightly, sealing a vow. "I promise."

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

well, that was pleasant
[28 Oct 2017|08:32pm]

[ mood | sleepy ]

I haven't posted much about gaming for a week or so because it's been total ass. At least, my Widowmaker play has been. My aim just completely fell apart and I still don't know why.

The last few days I've played nothing but here, because I decided the only way out is through, and that seems to be holding up. It does mean losing a lot (a lot) of Deathmatch games (where I kind of suck), but my aim is pulling back together.

So there have bean a few highlights of the recovery period. First being a Play of the Game domino shot - one shot, two kills. (I also took out enemy Pharah as she was in her ult, but it took a couple of rounds.) That wasn't the breakthough game, where I started turning it around? It was the game after I could feel something shift, and my aim started coming back.

It's still not where I want it to be - not close. But my scoped percentage is back up to my old average, and more importantly, my criticals per game is meaningfully up. I can still feel the mechanical problems with my trigger pull, though - if I can get that worked out, I should come out ahead.

Oh, and tonight, I had fun with back to back games in King's Row; on defence, where I decisively won an extended duel with enemy Widowmaker (including headshotting her out of the gate); and then, on the turnaround, seeing that enemy Reaper thought it would be funny to hang around on the edge of the upper door, and, again, doors open, headshot. Go to sleep. Because honestly... what kind of goddamn amateur do you think you're dealing with here?

We won both. Of course.

Oh yeah, I also punched a Reaper to death in deathmatch. Not as fun as punching Doomfist to death, which I've had the pleasure to do, but... fun.

I am worried, though - I think part of what brought my shot down so badly is going back to playing more Pharah. And that, of course, is hitscan vs. tracking shots, which are very different, and... hopefully, I have room in my head for both. I like playing Pharah. I'd hate to have to pick one or the other.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

And just like that, she was down, Chapter 3: do not make me confess it
[27 Oct 2017|05:39pm]

[ mood | calm ]

[Thoughts in «chevron quotes» are translated from the Spanish, if Sombra's, or French, if Widowmaker's.]

[AO3 link]


Sombra waited with her locator beacon, watching, scanning the pre-dawn dark skies in the mountains on the outskirts of Castillo. Cached nearby, hidden, the critical combinations of medications needed to keep Widowmaker healthy, and instructions on how to synthesise more. She just wished they'd thought to kidnap a chemist on the way out.

«Of course», she thought, «that assumes they actually managed to get her out in one piece...»

Finally, she spotted a glint of light - a civilian cargo ship bearing her direction low and slow, slotted in between the mountains. «About time.» She waved, unnecessarily, as the craft approached and landed on the only flat spot on the entire side of the mountain, five metres further below. She scrambled down to meet it, as its engines wound down.

"Hola, idiots," she called out, with a cheerfulness she didn't yet entirely feel. "Chica, you in there?"

The crew door opened, and Widowmaker stood in it, alone, in her usual sniper kit, but without her rifle. "I am here."

"And the twins?"

"Behind me. We decided it good for you to see me, first. I am... I believe I am unmodified. Do you have my supplies?"

«Straight to the chase», thought the hacker. «That's a good sign.»

"Yeah, chica, I do - but I gotta be sure, first." She threw the EMP trigger, grounding the ship's electronics, and trained her machine gun at the door. "Tracer, Kestrel - get in sight. Don't try to take off, you're on a buried pressure plate loaded with explosives which I'll disarm as soon as I'm satisfied. Chica, I'm not taking you far, but I want you far enough away from them to know you're not bein' coerced."

"Sombra, you absolute knob cobbler, I'm gonna..." Tracer bolted towards the door at a full run, and Kestrel cursed at her reduced mobility but made her best attempt at the same. Widowmaker stopped them both at the opening, saying, "No. No. Do not. I understand what she wants."

"EMPs don't last forever - you try to betray us," shouted Kestrel, "I will launch you so far into the ground you will never dig your way out!"

"Kestrel, no," said the assassin. "You both know full well I am more than capable of handling myself. I will go to her."

The flying agent all but snarled at the hacker, who smirked from behind the sights of her submachine gun. "Back away from her, both of you, got it? I've been very nice so far, I'd hate to have to be rude."

The Widowmaker chuckled mirthlessly. "You have not changed. Very well. I will follow." She turned to her rescuers. "Tracer, Kestrel, wait here - I will remain in sight at all times, and I will return. I swear it." She looked back up at Sombra. "That is non-negotiable."

"Fine by me, chica. Get over here. You two - stay behind the doorway. No further out."

Widowmaker stepped forward, and threw her chain grapple against the exposed rock beside Sombra, winching herself higher up the hill. "Stand right there," the hacker said, before waving a scanner wand around the assassin's body. "Huh. Looks like you got all the trackers. Even the passive one in your back tattoo." She examined the little red hourglass on the spider's back. "No sign of a scar. Nice work."

"Overwatch was thorough," replied the spider, "...and, apparently, careful."

Sombra gestured left, and the two women hiked slowly further up from there, side by side, following a trail clearly visible from the landing pad, staying in sight as promised.

"Okay, chica - now, for real... how you doin'?" She kept one eye on the ship.

"I am... I believe I am whole. Did Vialli really order my execution?"

"'Fraid so."

"For one failure? For one capture? " She snorted. "Fool."

Sombra shook her head. "No. For poking too hard at your conditioning. For figuring out how to limit recon."

The Widowmaker spun around, facing the purple-haired woman directly. "What?!"

The hacker nodded. "They finally put all the little pieces together. You've been declared unreclaimable - and to be retired." She gave her taller friend a sympathetic look. "You were supposed to die in Egypt, chica, not get captured. And," she let out a single laugh, "you're welcome."

"...what did you do?" she said, returning to the smaller woman's side, resuming the slow walk.

"Does it matter? You're alive."

"Alive, and in the de facto custody of two..." She shook her head. "...annoyances."

"Annoyances you haven't killed yet, I noticed."

Widowmaker glared at the hacker. "Do not presume to know my thoughts."

"Don't give me that crap, hon. I know your thoughts better than anybody outside the lab that made you. You wanted away, you'd be away." She glanced down towards the water, and the breeze coming from it. "Thought you even were, for a minute, when you showed up in the doorway alone. Thought maybe you'd killed 'em, dumped their bodies in the Atlantic."

The blue woman shook a little, and closed her eyes for just a moment, as though bracing herself. "I... we have had... a truce."

"Seems to me you have a lot more than that."

«Do not make me admit it», thought the blue assassin, gaze tilted down.

"You're feeling something, aren't you? C'mon, chica, you know you can talk to me..."

"Isn't their survival confession enough?" she said, in a quiet voice.

"No," she said, almost kindly. "But that question, on the other hand... it kind of is."

"Thank you."

The hacker kicked a rock on the trail, forward, along the path. "You'd decided, hadn't you."

"Yes."

"How much longer were you going to wait?"

"Another week."

"So really, you're just leaving a little early."

"Yes. But in a way that has... cost them both, dearly. I am... I find myself... disappointed, by that."

Something in the assassin's voice twigged in Sombra's mind. Disappointment, she knew the Widow could feel that, and did - at failed missions, at botched raids, at missed kills. But at someone else's loss? That was new.

"Any loose ends you want me to tie up?"

"No. I was ready. The Prague assignment would've merely been convenient."

"Got your equipment?"

"We raided two caches on the way here. We will raid more, after leaving."

"Any idea where you're going after that?"

"Their plan was inadequate. I have improved it."

"Do you know my personal blind drops, just in case?"

"A few."

"Good. Well, that covers just about everything... and here we are," said the hacker, looking down at a large rock next to the trail.

"This is a rock."

"C'mon, chica." She brought up her control system, cleared the lock, and flipped the cover over with her toe. "You know better."

"Of course - I just wanted to give you your reveal. I'd hoped it would be more dramatic." She looked down at the black case, the one with her own sign on it, the one with the Widowmaker logo. "How much?"

"A favour, that's all. Let's stay friends."

"I meant supply, but under the circumstances, the price is acceptable."

"Oh - I cleaned out the production lab, Made it look like a drug heist, a lot of it will appear on the black market, courtesy my old friends in Los Muertos. With proper care, you've got a year. But even better..." She flipped open the black case. "Separates. You've probably only seen the combined serum." She pointed to one set of vials, labelled in blue. "The components to keep your blood chemistry together, maintain your... unique... metabolic balance." She pointed to another set, in red. "The components to keep you conditioned - and compliant. Combine 'em one to one... or don't. Your call."

"...or don't..." said the Widowmaker, considering the implications. "...my call." She struggled, looking for the right word and not entirely finding it, "I feel a strange... confidence, in Kestrel."

"Confidence?"

"Yes. A bit like towards my handlers, originally, but different. Could I have been modified, without my knowledge?"

Sombra thought about that, and the disappointment, weighing them carefully before answering. "I don't think you'd be asking that question if you were. Could be your standard conditioning's trying to apply itself to new people."

"Can that happen?"

Sombra didn't know biowork, but she knew software, and she juggled what she understood of the Widowmaker protocol from that perspective. "Yeah, maybe, particularly if your old attachments were... violated... badly enough. A death warrant probably counts."

Widowmaker hummed, considering, uncertain, as Sombra closed the case. "Anyway, prep, care guide, synthesis instructions for more, it's all in there." She stood, picking up the case, and handed it to her friend. "And it's all yours."

"You realise," the assassin said, as she took the package, "I do not have to be the only one to leave, right now."

"Ah, you do care!" grinned the Mexican woman. "I can leave whenever I want, I'm just a contractor. But I'm not done with Talon, not yet - Akande should be breaking out of prison, soon, and if that happens, I'll learn all kinds of new secrets."

The assassin nodded. "Consider it, nonetheless."

The hacker in purple smirked. "Why d'ya think this costs you a favour?"

Widowmaker snorted. "You always want more friends, big mouth. Why should I be different?"

"You know me so well!" chirped Sombra, pleased. "But this time, I actually do have something specific planned. For later."

The assassin nodded, once, looking at the case, and the rising light around her. "The sun will be up soon."

"Make sure to tell your gullible gal pals I was lying about the explosives. And good luck, chica... hard times are coming. Don't go soft on me. Or them." Then the hacker vanished, translocating away.

"That is always so disconcerting," said the assassin, to no one at all. She looked down the steep climb, back to Tracer and Kestrel looking up, out through the doorway. As she made her way down the trail, she found herself humming a tune she knew well, and yet could not name.

But she was pretty sure it had something to do with swans.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

the web of time: talon sends a message
[26 Oct 2017|10:38am]

[ mood | silly ]

A local MS-13 cell made a very, very big mistake - they stole from a Talon research lab. Lena "Venom" Oxton and Amélie "Widowmaker" Lacroix go to retrieve the stolen goods, leave a message, and decide to bring along a lunatic with explosives just to make the point a little more emphatically. And also because it's fun.

This is the mission mentioned in Chapter 13 of Old Soldiers ("feeding the spiders"), and is canon in the on overcoming the fear of spiders continuity. But all you need to know really is that Lena and Amélie are both with Talon.

All dialogue in «chevron quotes» is translated from the Spanish. [AO3 link]


Venom laughed despite herself as the little truck with her bomb on it plowed into the garage and exploded, sending MS-13 enforcers flying for cover - at least two of whom were dead, and three of whom were on fire, which was, of course, absolutely hilarious.

"Steering's overrated!" she quipped in a terrible Australian accent, as she teleported after one straggler - finishing him with a single round of fire - and Amélie took the others before they even landed. That weird little Aussie's enthusiasm, she had to admit - it was contagious.

"Discipline, cherie," she heard in her comms, and snickered. Amélie's voice didn't entirely hide her own amusement, even if she did have a point. These guys may've been stupid enough to steal from Talon, but that didn't mean they couldn't be dangerous.

"Acknowledged," she said, in her best imitation of her spider's voice, before giggling. "No. No. Yes. Right. Discipline. You're right. These guys do have guns. Even if they don't seem t'be so good at using 'em."

Said weird little Aussie's voice joined in the mix. "You two sheilas always this much fun? IiiiiiiiiiiI love it! FIRE IN TH' HOLE!"

"Woah!" Venom had just enough time to jink away as one of Jameson's motorised tire explosives spun into the motor pool and detonated, briefly lifting the building up off its concrete-slab foundation. It stood just long enough for one survivor to come stumbling out the front door, before it fell, landing on said survivor with a flump, crushing him to death immediately.

"It's the little things..." said the explosives expert, and Venom giggled and giggled and giggled.

"Don't do that to the main building," came Widowmaker's voice, stern. "We have stolen material to recover."

"I know, mate - I'm a professional! That's why I did it here!" replied the Aussie, and she heard Venom laugh again.

Widowmaker shook her head from her vantage point in the trees above. Well, we needed to make a statement... "I see no signs of life. Are we all clear?"

"Think so, love," responded Venom, from the ground, snapping back to seriousness. "Nobody left but the bunker."

"Y'know," said the Aussie, "if whatever you're grabbin's not too fragile, I could toss one of those over their HQ, make an air burst. It's real disorientin'. They'll never know what hit 'em!"

That... thought the spider, ...is not a terrible idea.

-----

There they are, thought Venom, finding the last three guards hunkered down behind a metal desk. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, who'll be the last t'go? Oooh, they've got a turret!

"Got 'em," she subvocalised over comms. "End of my hallway. Three and a turret. Junks, back off, we need one of 'em alive."

"But I've got another rip-tire ready!" Jameson protested. "This one's a beaut! "

Venom glanced towards Widowmaker. "It would be hilarious..."

"No," said the senior assassin, flatly. "We can't risk collapsing the building. Jameson, stand down."

The junker made a little frustrated "nnargh!" sound over the comms, and Venom tried not to giggle - she could almost see him rolling his eyes and flumping down along the floor, instantly relaxed. The man could sleep anywhere, honestly.

"Jameson, if you like, you may blow up the building when we leave - but not before. Venom - I have them in my sight," said Widowmaker, as she brought tactical up, both for herself and in Venom's vizor. She snorted. "Too easy. I'll take the turret and disarm its operator. Venom, I'm sure you can handle the other two."

"Done and done," said Venom, and the two women leapt into action, Widowmaker silencing the turret and destroying its operator's right shoulder with a single round, Venom teleporting between the other two fighters and unloading one full clip from each pistol into each of their heads. Blood and viscera splattered everywhere as the last survivor dragged himself into the corner, panicked, trying, desperately, to grab his pistol with his left hand.

«Ah ah ah, none of that,» Venom said, smiling, pistol to his forehead. «You're our lucky winner! Don't be stupid, and you get to live.»

He dropped the pistol. Venom kicked it away, and backed off a bit. No reason to take chances. «Wh... wh... what do you want?» he said.

«Not much, luv - we just want our stuff back. That's all. Well, that, and a message delivered.» She looked back and grinned as Widowmaker walked menacingly down the hall and into view.

«What?» Already pale, he spotted the Talon insignia on Venom's collar, and went even paler.

«...don't you know who you stole from, luv?»

«Oh no.»

«Oh - yes. You stole from us. You seriously didn't know?»

«I swear, we didn't! None of us!»

«Fair enough. So, where's the stash?»

He shut his mouth and shook his head.

«Oh, do not be tiresome,» said the Widowmaker. «Let me guess - 'It's worth my life!'»

«It is! And my family's!»

«You don't think we know how MS-13 works, mate?» Venom fired a single round to the left of his head. «You don't got family close enough to care about, you took care of that - and we know it.»

«This is not a negotiation," Widowmaker said, gold eyes coldly fixed on the last survivor. «You tell us, immediately, and we bind your shoulder and leave you here, alive, to tell your compatriots what not to do in future. Otherwise, we will find it anyway...» - she looked around at the bloody mess everywhere - «...and I think our message is clear enough without you.»

«Bored now,» said Venom, raising her pistol to the man's forehead. «FIVE. FOUR. THREE. TWO.»

«BASEMENT! Hidden door.»

«Pathetic,» scoffed the senior assassin, as Venom smiled and flipped her pistol back away.

«C'mon, then!» The smaller assassin hoisted the man up off the floor, and he sucked in air, trying not to scream from the pain. «Let's get that shoulder stabilised, then we'll go get that door open together

«...together?» gasped the man, afraid.

«Aw, it's trapped? That's fine. You can disarm it for us!»

-----

"That," said Jameson, as he stepped down the gangway, "was a corker. You ever need anythin' else blown up, you just give me a call."

Widowmaker nodded politely, and handed Jameson the keycode to a small deposit box in La Barona. "I believe you will find everything to your satisfaction."

"Your reputation precedes you," said the Junker, and he handed Widowmaker a small gold token. "Courtesy of the queen 'erself!"

"An honour," the Talon assassin said, taking it into her hand and bowing, just a little, "Thank you."

Venom watched as the weird little Australian outbacker roared off on his motorbike. "Y'know... he reeks, but... I kinda like him."

"I think he is allergic to water," said her wife, stepping over to wash her hands, and the token she'd been handed, before removing her nose filters. "Certainly to soap. I can barely be in the same room. And not at all, with his partner."

"Hoo, got that right!" exclaimed Venom, as she set the flyer's air system on flush, before hopping over to hug her wife tightly. "Thanks, love. After all that Overwatch mess, and Morrison... this was exactly what I needed."

The elder assassin smiled, dried her hands, turned around, and held her lover tight before leaning back to kiss her gently on the nose. "Happy birthday."

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Old Soldiers, Chapter 13: feeding the spiders
[24 Oct 2017|09:30am]

AO3 link


"Good girl," Amélie cooed to Ourson, her little black tarantula, a surprise gift from Lena the previous Christmas. "Back into your habitat. I will give you two crickets, one at a time."

She'd spent an hour cleaning Ourson's tank, replacing the soil, cleaning the little shelters where the spider liked to hide, scrubbing the shallow water dish, making sure the spider-safe plants were healthy in their hidden pots. The curlyhair didn't really need, or care, about the plants - but Amélie liked how it made the enclosure look more real, more like the Costa Rica from which the species originally came.

"I think you will be moulting soon," Widowmaker said, quietly, more to herself than to Ourson, who surely knew the truth of it better than her keeper. "I should make sure you are happy before you begin." The large spider did not need very much care, really - as pets go, Lena picked a nicely low-maintenance animal - and Amélie did more than really necessary, and enjoyed it.

"Go on," Widowmaker said, prompting the spider to the ground. It took a moment, but Ourson figured out that this was her home, and stepped lightly onto the new bedding. A moment later, and then there was a cricket, and she pounced, frighteningly quick, surrounding it with her legs and stinging, venom paralysing her prey in moments. Amélie cooed again, "oh, you were very hungry, weren't you? Well, there will be another once you are finished with the first."

When she was very young, Amélie had a fear of spiders, which she now found a little embarrassing, and more than a little ironic. But that was long ago, before she knew herself how to sting.

"Amélie!" shouted Lena, bursting in from the landing pad's exit corridor. "I'm home!"

The Widowmaker replaced the habitat's lid and turned to her lover, smiling the broad smile reserved only for her, and spread her arms wide. "Come to me, cherie!" The two women collided and spun around in the common room that they'd started thinking of a little bit as the family room, which is fairly silly for a Talon base, but not untrue despite it. "I am so happy to see you again." She leaned back and looked into Venom's brown eyes. "I see you've been dropping the sniper kit - have you checked in with Dr. Mariani yet?"

"Nah," said the junior assassin, "I wanted to see you, first." She kissed her wife, gently. "I've missed you so much. Overwatch is wretched. Please tell me we have a mission this week, I want somethin' to go right."

The spider chucked. "Oh, no, I'm so sorry." She returned Venom's kiss, and pet her head gently, running her fingers through that mop of hair. "A mission - pleasantly, we do, and it should be stimulating. I was saving that news for tomorrow, but... what happened?"

"Lemmie get checked out by th' doc first," said the occasional sniper. "It's a long story."

-----

"You're doing well," said the Sicilian doctor, from behind her scanner console. "Could you shift your eyes the rest of the way back, please?"

"'Course, doc." Lena pushed the last of the gold out of her iris. "How's that?"

"Very good. Dilate your pupils, let me check the cornea? Thank you." The doctor had Venom look across eight compass points as small white lights danced around Lena's vision. "All very good. No visual centre confusion around the lack of blind spots?"

"Nothin' I've" - she chuckled - "...seen..."

Dr. Mariani smiled. "Yes, yes, your jokes are terrible. But your eyes are not. Shift dilation back to baseline? Thank you. Yes, everything looks very good."

Venom blinked a bit - shifting her iris felt like nothing, but somehow, dilating and undilating her pupils still felt just weird.

"Well, this is all, ah, very healthy," she said. "There is one thing, but - do not worry, this is not a health question, you are fine. Did you use your chronal accelerator as Mockingbird?"

"Yeaaaaaaah," said the assassin, stretching the "a" sound. "Sorry. I knew it might mess up your data collection, but when Angie pulled that little demonstration of hers, I just... wasn't ready for it. I teleported across the room."

"I thought so. Quite understandable, from what you described." She smiled wistfully. "I wish I could've seen it myself."

"Some of the data got messed up?"

"Eh, there is a... very small bias shift. I can, ah, compensate, yes. It is probably from the slipstream - unless you happened to be near a powerful antineutron entanglement array at some point."

"Wot's that then?"

"A big hummy thing, might make you tingle."

Lena laughed. "Amélie didn't go with me on this one, doc."

The doctor smirked. "I didn't think so. But I understand, your ambassador friend, he is a scientist, yes? He might have one."

"Might do. Want me to ask him?"

"Eh," she waved her hands, "it is not important. I will remember it can happen." She closed the padd and shut off the scanner. "Your blood chemistry is perfect, your metabolic tests are exactly on track - you'll feel warm for a little while, like usual, eh? And hungry in, ah, probably a few hours. Drink extra water until you feel the hunger. Good?"

"Yes'm. And... thanks for comin' out on such short notice."

"It is no problem, I want these readings for my own work, you know. Thank you for letting me take them." She backed away from the examination table and motioned to the door. "Now, shoo, get out of here - I want to make the last ferry home."

"Roger that. Thanks, doc!"

-----

Venom fanned herself as she sat on the couch, back up to her normal temperature, and feeling it. "Terrible, yeh?"

Widowmaker - sitting across the low driftwood-grey coffee table, apart from her wife until she fully recovered - frowned, and shook her head. "I do not know where even to begin." She cast about, and picked one topic of the many. "I would not think one of Gabriel's plans would be so fragile. I know that no plan fully survives first contact with the enemy, but still."

Lena nodded, and drank from her rather tall glass of water. "It's not all his fault. The intelligence wasn't accurate, and those weren't ordinary Los Muertos street rats, but t'be honest - we were sloppy. And y'can't be sloppy like that."

"I hope you, at least, hit your shots," the elder sniper said with sardonic amusement.

The younger assassin snickered. "'Course I did, luv."

"So now, it is our turn?"

"Nope. I've agreed to give 'em another shot."

"When you voted against even the first?" She gave her wife a thoughtful look. "I am surprised."

Venom frowned. "I... I didn't want to. I moved to hand it over, in fact. But..." She ran her hand through her hair. "Y'shoulda heard Mei. You'd understand if y'did. Her whole team got left to die in Antarctica..." She shivered. "I'm not the only one who wants t'see him pay. She just wants it done all out in the open."

The spider hummed, and sipped at her afternoon glass of wine. An Italian table wine, a bit sweet, but not so far as a dessert wine, with hints of almost apricot. "Public justice, courtroom justice - but there is no small amount of revenge to that, as well."

"I dunno?" Lena said, sipping again from her water. "Mei..." She looked over at her wife with half a smile, not sure how to put together the words, realised she was trying to say two things at once, and picked one. "She's not like that. She reminds me of... who I used t'be, y'know? I used to believe in all that a lot more than I do now - and I don't want to be the one to take it from her."

Amélie gave her a knowing look across the top of her wineglass. "You know the only justice he'll face is whatever we deliver ourselves."

"Oh, yah, I know." Lena leaned back against the couch. "If I thought tryin' him would do any good, I'd maybe have different ideas - no matter how much I hate him. But they'll rehabilitate that bastard in nothin' flat. You and I both know it. People like him never get what's comin' to them."

The spider smiled. "Which makes this exactly the sort of job you like us to take on."

"Not so sure of that, either. You haven't seen the video yet. Lemmie show you."

She replayed the Amari video, highlighting the key points, and then her own, more recent video, showing the identical outcomes. "We'll need Angie's help to take him down - keep him from doin' this trick - and even she doesn't know how to make that happen yet. Figurin' it out's gonna be hard work. I don't think she'd do it to help us kill him - but for Overwatch, for a capture? She'll sort it in a week."

Widowmaker frowned. "That is indeed a complication. But I can't imagine even the best nanosurgeons could restore an adequately pureed brain, and I have some delightfully messy rounds."

Venom's grin returned, this time properly wicked. "Maybe. I like the idea. But I'd rather not risk it - you didn't see her revival demonstration." She frowned, and maybe even shuddered a little. "That was scary, and I know from scary. If he can do that..." She shook her head, and put it out of her mind. Why ask for trouble?

"It sounds to me like we should get her and Doctor Mariani together sooner, rather than later." She pointed with her wineglass in the direction of the base's medical laboratory. "Even if it's not on our preferred terms."

Tracer took another sip of her water. "I did get her to admit she's not ageing."

Amélie hummed, a little pleased sound. "So, at least, that much was accomplished."

"Yeh. Baby steps."

"So. The plan is that we let Overwatch fail again..."

"I'm gonna do my level best to help 'em succeed. I have to. But yeah, assuming..."

"...then we know how to kill him. But if we're wrong, and they take him into custody? Can you live with that?"

"Then..." the junior assassin scowled. "Then... I suck it up. Overwatch hands him over to the ICC, they score big political points, which'll help keep PETRAS act pressure down to a simmer. He gets off light - least, for a while, 'till he's out of the news." She smiled a very hungry smile, "And then, when everyone's forgot him again, we take him out for good. On the quiet. Everybody wins."

Widowmaker smiled. "Ah - the best of both worlds. Finesse, across time."

"I can in fact time-travel, love." She took another big draw of water, and felt her stomach shift. "Oooh, there we go. There's the ol' appetite. I am peckish. Feel like dinner?"

"I thought you would never ask."

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

And just like that, she was down, Chapter 2: I sure hope you remember me
[23 Oct 2017|09:54am]

[ mood | surprised ]

Surprise! Guess what has a Chapter 2. And a Chapter 3, already a complete first draft. I did not know about any of this until the most words I have ever written in a single day (I think) came pouring out of my brain yesterday.

[AO3 link]


[Two months later. Watchpoint Gibraltar.]

With a tooth-shatteringly loud screech, the outer wall of the medical bay peeled away and fell towards the ocean, just as Dr. Ziegler's nurse assistants finished prepping the Widowmaker's first treatment.

"Sorry, luv," Tracer shouted, appearing in the void, one pistol aimed straight at the doctor, as the ringing, clanging metal fell, its sounds fading in the distance. "Can't let y'do that. We made a promise. Back off."

"Lena," said Angela, half-deafened, clinging to her composure, thinking, this shouldn't be happening, but backing away carefully towards her staff. "You lost this argument. I know how you feel about what's going on, but it's better than a death sentence. Do not do this."

"Can't not. I keep my promises, you know that." She fired a shot over the doctor's shoulder. "And stop moving towards your staff. Can't have that, either. What's she on?"

"A twilight sleep sedative, voluntary muscle paralysis, and saline I.V., that's all. We wanted her partially responsive and were about to administer the first dose of treatment. Lena, you do not know what you're doing, this is not a..."

"Stow it. I know she didn't consent and I know this ain't right." Tracer glanced at the closer nurse assistant. "Pull her off the drip. Right now." The assistant looked nervously at Dr. Ziegler, and Tracer decided to make it less optional by shooting the saline unit with her other pistol. "I said now, luv," and the nurse moved to work.

"She can't consent," said the combat medic. "She will murder you in your sleep, and that's if you are very, very lucky."

Kestrel swooped in, a wary eye still attentive to the skies outside. "What's the hold up? We don't have time for chats."

"I have this under control, can you get her up off the table?"

Kestrel waved her gravity blade at the nurse assistant - Odion, she thought - who moved away quite rapidly. Stepping forward, she snapped her fingers in front of Widowmaker's half-closed eyes, and saw those eyes track her fingers, just a little - somebody was in there. "Widowmaker, I'm Kestrel, I sure hope you remember me, we're getting you out of here, just like we said we would, back in London." She pulled the blue woman off the scanning bed, and onto her back. "Let's go, while we still can."

"Emily," warned the doctor, as the flying agent carried the Talon assassin towards the light transport hovering outside, "reconsider. You can't come back from this."

The flying agent paused at the gap, and nodded grimly in return, watching as Tracer backed slowly towards her, one pistol still aimed at the doctor, the other at the two assistants. "Neither can you."

Buggery hell, this isn't how I wanted this to go, thought Lena. "Sorry, doc. Just how it has to be, I guess."

The flyer's loading door closed in front of her as she stepped onto the main deck. She could see Angela diving for the alarms before it sealed, and teleported to the pilot's seat as Kestrel got Widowmaker into the crash couch. "CLEAR!" the flying agent shouted, bracing herself for evac - and Tracer lit the engines up bright.

-----

Widowmaker opened her eyes, but not too much, examining the ceiling. Another Overwatch transport, she thought. Not the same one back from Egypt. Smaller. I am no longer at Gibraltar. How long have I been unconscious? Other than a deep legsrthy, she did not feel different - but then, how would she know? She compared her thoughts, and how they felt, to memories of previous thoughts, and how they felt, and they seemed very much the same, very much unlike Amélie's, her only other reference. It would have to do, for now.

She struggled with half-aware half-memories of being in a... medical unit? And being prepped for something. And voices, some unfamiliar, some... not.

"We've lost the last of 'em," she heard Tracer say. Tracer, who had not been in Egypt, who had not been at Gibraltar... or had she been, at the end? "I'm gonna keep us in the soup, but it should be smooth enough 'till we change ships at Iwik."

Change ships? Iwik? Why would they need to...

"I'm going to check on Widowmaker." Another voice, the flying one, Kestrel, who had also been missing when she'd been taken, taken again, this time, by Overwatch, no doubt to be remade yet again, if not just killed, but whose voice she knew...

"Widowmaker, can you hear me?" The assassin heard the voice, but could not see its source - keeping some distance, perhaps. She let herself smirk, internally. Even sedated, she invoked fear. Good. "You're safe, and you're unchanged. We kept our promise. We broke you out before Ziegler could do anything. You're safe."

What?! The assassin's eyes popped open, all the way open, all at once acutely aware of her situation, before her mind snapped back to promises made some weeks ago in London, promises she did not want to believe, but couldn't quite not. Then Kestrel's face appeared over her, and she was talking, saying, "Hi. We've kept our word. Do you remember being captured in Egypt? We got you out of the Watchpoint. You're safe. Well, as safe as any of us are, now - we're all in real trouble, but since when's that new?"

The words confused her, memory of promises or not. Is it a... no, it makes no sense, this cannot be a trap, they already have me, why would they... She did her best to move, but her arms, so heavy, why...

"Oh," Kestrel breathed, "you're definitely awake now, aren't you? Probably a little panicky, too. I'm sorry, it's the muscle relaxant. They had you pretty well sedated before we reached you, but that's all, as far as we know - they were still prepping the first course of reconditioning meds when I ripped the medbay's walls open."

Widowmaker's eyes locked on Kestrel's, and she shivered, an involuntary action, and the flying agent saw it, and reached to touch, to comfort - but thought better of it. "I... wish I knew whether you found touch comforting."

I wish I did too, thought the spider, a little dismayed by her own reactions as they span round and round in her head. You... kept... your... you... kept your... you kept your... you...

"We've just got away from pursuit craft, and we're heading towards a little nature reserve in Mauritania, where we'll be swapping ships."

"...ah..." Widowmaker managed, and she remained locked on Kestrel, Kestrel, who she barely knew, Kestrel, who'd kept her word, Kestrel, who had... saved... her...

"You're tearing up a bit, can you blink for... oh, good, there y'go. Can you follow my fingers with your eyes?" Widowmaker looked at the Kestrel's fingertips and watched them trace a rectangle, slowly, around her field of vision. They were strong hands, solid, a little square, chunky, much like the rest of the hawk. Strong, and unexpectedly beautiful. Well, I suppose I know who is more butch in their arrangement, she thought, and a "heh" popped out, to as much her surprise as Kestrel's.

"She just laugh?" she heard Tracer say from outside her field of vision. "Hey, luv, you just laugh a little?"

"I think she did, yeah."

"Well, tell her after this, we're headed towards... oh, bugger..."

"What?"

"It's official. Bulletin just went out. We're listed."

"Surprised it took this long. Can they shut down the transport?"

"Nah, I changed the codes and blew the interlock, we'll be fine."

Widowmaker grimaced. Intentionally. And it worked. She tried moving her mouth, and managed, focus back on Kestrel's face, "...liffsted?"

Kestrel sighed, and sat, next to Widow's bunk, leaning close. "Word's gone out. Our personal IFF codes have been invalidated. Overwatch may be illegal, but we had a few privileges within it to revoke... we're now 'foe', not 'friend'."

"Ah." said the blue assassin. Slowly, carefully, she looked into Kestrel's eyes, and whispered, "Je... regrette."

"Don't," replied the hawk. "If Overwatch is gonna start doing things like this, I can't be a part of it anymore anyway."

"And just so y'know," called Tracer, "Talon put a termination order out on your head once Overwatch got y'to Gibraltar. No goin' back there, either."

"...how?"

"Friend of yours let us know. We'll be seein' her in a bit."

"...big mouth...?"

Tracer laughed. "Yeah, she said you called her that."

The spider tested her arms. A little movement at the shoulder, not much yet. But fingers - yes, those, those were free. She tapped at the bed, experimentally, and saw Kestrel smile when she noticed, bright like cloudbreak. "It is, then..." managed the spider, "...us, against the world?" She tried her wrists. Yes. Wrists. More quickly, now. Almost to the elbow.

Us, Kestrel thought. Already? "Sounds like."

A louder heh, and the spider found she could move her head. "Then... a challenge. Good." She gave Kestrel a fierce look; it excited the flying agent in ways she did not expect, as did the spider unexpectedly - if weakly - taking her hand in her own. "We will destroy them both, cherie," the assassin said, with utter conviction. "We cannot lose."

-----

"As far as she knew," said the Swiss doctor, some hours later, "it was just sedation." Power had not yet been restored to the medbay, but the wall had, at least, been braced and covered, and structural stability insured. She sat at a small table in medbay's small consultation room.

"So you told her nothing about the enhanced receptivity effects?" asked the hirsute scientist sitting opposite and to her right, snacking on his favourite peanut butter, with oatmeal cookies and lactose-free milk. Hoisting girders about - that was heavy labour. He deserved a treat.

"Of course not," said the doctor, sipping her coffee. "But I didn't lie, we hadn't undone anything Talon did - and it really was a sedative, just one that leaves patients a little more..." she waved one hand back and forth, "...open to ideas, while under its influence. It would've helped with our treatments of her, helped her return to who she really was."

"Nicely played," said Jack Morrison, nursing a judicious amount of Tennessee bourbon. "Hope this doesn't come back to bite us on the ass any more than it already has."

Dr. Ziegler smiled warmly at her old friend, sitting opposite and to her left. "I'd suspected Lena might do something she'd come to regret. I'd hoped she wouldn't, or if she did, I'd hoped I could talk her down. But if push came to shove... she might as well have that thin chance." She shuddered. "I think she has made a grave mistake. I do not think that... construct... is a person or can be reformed, and I wasn't lying about being killed in her sleep, either."

"You did what you could," said the soldier. He put down his glass and rubbed at his eyes. "She's always been impulsive, but this is another level. If they come at us... we'll have to assume the worst. They might as well be Talon." He put the drink down, and rubbed his eyes.

"That will not be difficult," smirked Angela. "I am quite angry, both about being held at gunpoint, and at losing my best chance to recover Amélie. And Kestrel," the doctor snorted, "she made a strongly negative impression on Gina and Odion. Gossip will insure everyone knows."

"I know their hearts are in the right place," Winston insisted. "Particularly Lena's. I think they're both being extremely foolish - but do not doubt their hearts."

"Just their judgements. And maybe their sanity," said the soldier.

The three sat quietly, for some moments, letting what happened today finally settle in as the sun went down. Morrison, thinking maybe they should've just handed the Widowmaker over to legal authorities; Winston, wishing he'd found a middle way, something to keep everyone happy, while knowing no such path existed; and Ziegler, angry, but still afraid for the two women who had, to her mind, made such a terrible mistake.

"To absent friends," Winston lifted his glass of water. "May they not become present enemies."

"I'll drink to that," said Morrison, raising the last of his bourbon.

Angela lifted her coffee cup, touching it against her friends' drinks. "To absent friends," she echoed. May they not be dead come morning.

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this was a new one
[20 Oct 2017|02:13pm]

[ mood | pleased ]

So normally these gaming posts lately have Widowmaker's icon, but today is definitely a Tracer icon day. (I've also been playing around with my Widowmaker sight/targeting settings, now that linear tracking mode is working as it should on PS4, and I'm still getting used to it but I like it.)

Right. Offense. Junkertown. We're inside, but haven't been inside for long, on the last leg. I am in full-bore Manic Pixie Murder Machine mode, I end up with some very large and enjoyable kill streak that I card for, all that. That's all fairly normal.

But I've never been the greatest with Tracer's bombs, right? They're everybody's weak point because they're so damned random and often just won't deploy and even when they do sometimes they just don't go off. This has been seen in pro play, even. But today was not that day.

'Cause I've just killed their Mercy and their Hanzo and somebody else in their backfield (maybe their Junkrat? I forget who, I was doing a lot of backfield killing and they were not picking up on it) and their D.va comes charging by out of the shortcut just as I'm looking back towards my team and the payload to see what's up.

So I empty both clips into the back of her mecha a couple of times, getting her about, eh, 60% down or so? And just as she jets away, I follow it up with my Tracer bomb.

As I'm doing this, she hits her nerf. Her mech goes flying forward, into the rest of my team, and...

...my bomb goes off, and her self-destruct doesn't.

That's right. NERF THIS CANCELLATION MOTHERFUCKERS. She lost the ult completely, straight up cancellation, had to earn it back from scratch. In other words: nerf this? No, nerf this.

I didn't even think you could do that. I didn't know it was possible.

They didn't even give me play of the game. WRONG. I know who had play of the game. It was me.

eta: IT SHOWED UP IN MY HIGHLIGHTS AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA :D

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so very streaky
[18 Oct 2017|02:40pm]

[ mood | sick ]

I've still got this damned head cold or whatever it is and it's awful and won't go away. I was feeling better yesterday but that didn't last.

I was fuckin' terrible today in lunchtime Overwatch. Well, as Widow, anyway. I was good as Tracer as always, and the weird thing is, the one time I wasn't terrible as Widow, it was in deathmatch, where I was surprisingly competitive against a pretty heavy set of enemies including three Pharahs and a D.va, which is not normally a recipe for competitiveness but I was.

So I was feeling pretty okay in warmup. But christ, go into quickplay and suddenly it's WHAT IS SNIPERS? and I can't hit a shot to save my life. (And that included while winning. So.)

This is in huge contrast to yesterday where I was not just playing well, but had another entire game of being the Widowmaker I want to be. Defence in Hollywood, 70% scope accuracy, eight criticals, golds in objective kills and objective time and silver in total kills, enemy Bastion got so sick of me that he tried being enemy Widow and yeah that did not help, enemy Pharah kept trying to go over the gate wall and I just kept one-shotting her out of the air until she got so mad that on their last serious push she apparently decided "y'know what, fuck the objective, fuck the game, I'm killing that fucking Widowmaker at least once" and went through the security office while I was busy with other people, jumped me from behind and let loose her one and only ult at point-blank range just for me.

Honestly, I felt quite flattered.

I guess the short form is I am still a work in progress, and it shows.

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"It's not easy to explain how she felt," said the Widowmaker, about Amélie Lacroix
[17 Oct 2017|10:34am]

[ mood | calm ]

Widowmaker brought herself in from the cold, one day, exchanging a list of Talon agents for sanctuary, and at first couldn't or wouldn't say why. Her first breakthrough in explaining herself came in a talk with Lena Oxton, who then helped her break through Angela Ziegler's insistence that Widowmaker was not really a person, and that Amélie Lacroix could yet be recovered. But despite that truth, sometimes, some of Amélie's last memories - mostly but not always tightly compartmentalised away - trouble the spider, and this is one of those times.

This is the sixth in a series of stories set in the It is Not Easy to Explain, She Said continuity, a timeline largely compliant with known canon as of July 2017 (pre-Doomfist/Masquerade), which is when I wrote and posted the first story. It is not part of the on overcoming the fear of spiders AU.

This story follows "It's not easy to explain, said Lena Oxton" in chronological sequence. [AO3 link]


"Do you remember what it was like?"

Lena held Widowmaker's hand, gently, as they sat together, otherwise alone, mid-afternoon, in the smaller canteen at Gibraltar. She drank tea, cream, two sugars. Her counterpart drank obscenely hot coffee, unsweetened, strong, and dark.

For the most part, Amélie's memories stayed safely in their place, out of Widowmaker's way, but there were a few, occasionally, at the border between her birth and the previous woman's death, that picked at her, at times. Dr. Ziegler suggested that was because of the emotions around them - emotions could, perhaps, last long enough, even if the thoughts themselves didn't, to become Widowmaker's emotions as well.

"A little," said the former Talon assassin, after some delay. "Not very much, thankfully. I do not think she was making new memories very well, by then. But there are some."

Lena shuddered a little. "I can't even imagine it."

Widowmaker shook her head. "For her, it was not even the fear of it happening. It was..." She pondered a moment. "It is not easy to explain."

"I can't imagine it would be."

"She would feel, and think, one way, one thing, and then, she would find herself thinking another way, a different thing, a thing like I would think, sometimes, but she would be thinking it, and not me. And sometimes it would be something neither of us would think, but something they very much wanted her to think. And she would believe what she thought, and what she felt, but she would know, she would remember, moments before, thinking very differently about the same thing."

"And she'd fight it," assumed Tracer, "and that would hurt."

"No - but yes? Both would feel like it was her. There was nothing for her to fight. But the difference in the two... that, she found horrifying."

Lena let out a long breathy hoo sound, and took another sip of her tea, before continuing. "So they were making her think... their thoughts, then."

"My thoughts, at least, at times." She leaned her elbows against the table. "Or, to be more correct, the kind of thoughts they wanted me to think. About... how lovely, how beautiful, how perfect it would be when they put her back, and she killed Gérard. And she would believe it, because she could already feel it." The assassin smiled. "As I do, when I kill."

Tracer shuddered. She knew, she knew that the assassin enjoyed her kills - that for a long time, it had been all she lived for. But making Amélie feel that, and Amélie knowing they made her feel that... "Was it you, then? When they did it?" she asked, hoping for an unlikely yes.

The blue assassin laughed, a sound that still made Lena's heart ring every time it happened, no matter the context. "No. I could hardly have imitated Amélie so well for so long. I'd've been discovered, almost immediately. No - it was still her." She took a sip of her coffee. It had cooled a bit, but remained hot enough for her tastes. "That's why it took her two weeks to strike."

"So in the end..." the teleporter said, voice distant in her own ears, "Amélie killed Gérard. And enjoyed it."

Widowmaker nodded. "In a way. They were never above to achieve everything they wanted with her, but they were able to recondition her enough to kill - at least, for a time. And so, she assassinated Gérard, but being torn between the grief and the guilt and the ecstasy..." She shook her head. "That all but shattered her. When she returned, as programmed, they took her apart completely. And built me."

"But you feel some of her... emotions, from then? Her conflict?"

"I do," she said, a tinge of sadness in her voice. She put down her cup. "It was the only death about which I felt conflicted, until Mondatta, and the fight with you."

Lena put a third sugar in her tea. She needed something sweet right then. "D'ya ever wonder," she said, as she refilled her cup from the teapot, "if they'd done a better job sealing her off, if you might not've started to, y'know, think on your own?"

"Internal conflict as the source of self-awareness? Dr. Ziegler has suggested that idea as well." She shrugged. "I do not know. But let's say it's true - in which case, Talon did me yet another favour. They..." she picked her cup back up, sipped at the coffee, and put it back down, "left me open, on accident, to you." And she smiled again, just a little, at the side of her mouth.

The Overwatch teleporter let out her breath, and her eyes softened just a bit, as she looked into those metallic eyes. "Aw, luv. That's..."

"May I kiss you?"

Lena blinked, putting down her tea. "...you... care about..." She shook her head, just a little. "...things like that?"

"I don't know." The spider shrugged again, this time with something artificial in the nonchalance. "But I am finding I... may. At least, with you. Shall we find out?"

Lena wasn't sure what she expected. Would she be cold? Would she feel wrong, would she feel like some dead - and then no, she did not, she was not, she was none of those things, she was cool, yes, but not cold, cool like the first breezes of autumn, like the first hints of snow off the mountains, not chilling, but invigorating, and Lena returned the kiss, almost involuntarily, herself warm, no, hot, like summer sun, like the last day at a Spanish beach before the turning of the weather, and Widowmaker was just as surprised, finding herself melting just a little bit more, and she gasped, pulling away, panting, looking down at her coffee, thinking, How can she be so warm?, before looking back up at the one who had reached past her eyes of molten gold, and finding she had no words then at all.

"Blimey, luv..." managed Lena, after a moment. "You're... only the second woman ever to make me feel like that with a kiss."

"For me, you," breathed Widowmaker, eyes wide, "...are the first."

"I hope it don't make you feel like killin' someone," Lena half-laughed, half-serious, half-joking, a lot nervous and a little afraid, and if that made more than a whole, so be it. "Chiefly, me."

"Never." Widowmaker reached across the table, grabbing Lena's hands with both of her own. "Do you understand? Never. I could not."

She pulled Lena forward, close, quickly, knocking the teacup across the table, shattering it on the floor, and the smaller woman gasped, startled, but did not flee.

"I do not know why, and I do not know how, but..." The spider kissed the teleporter, again, the meeting short but intense, "...I have found someone I could never kill."

Hooooooo, thought a part of the teleporter, unexpected emotions swirling around her mind, throwing her into responding before she even knew she was doing it. This is not gonna be easy to explain, to... to anybody.

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