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The Armourer and the Living Weapon, Chapter 9: the safest way

This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]


Lena strapped herself into the pilot's chair and hit the fastest takeoff sequence she'd ever hit, jetting away from Oasis airspace at the best speed her flyer could manage. She checked tracking on Oilliphéist's flyer, headed towards Vienna, and found it still en route, as promised.

Next to her, Widowmaker sat, contemplative, calculating silently for several minutes. Finally, she turned to Lena and said, "I agree. It is the safest way."

Lena reached over and touched her hand, gently, then took it in her own. "I know this is a lot to ask. I know what it means. Thank you."

She pulled up Overwatch comms, and gave her lover another worried glance. "They sure aren't going to expect this..." She hit transmit, and thumbed the manual microphone switch. "Overwatch, Overwatch, this is Tracer Delta Echo Four Five, declaring emergency, do you read? Overwatch, this is Tracer Delta Echo Four Five, declaring emergency, do you read?"

Nothing. She repeated the call. Nothing again, until, "Tracer Delta Echo Four Five, this is Winston, Lena - is that you? Really you?"

Lena took a relieved breath. "At least he's answering." She hit comms again. "Winston, this is Tracer Delta Echo Four Five, we are declaring emergency. We are outbound from Oasis at best speed with good fuel supply. We have just got away from Moira O'Deorain and we need..." She swallowed. "We need destination and arrival protocol for any facility capable of immediate force quarantine on touchdown. Something that could hold me... and Widowmaker both."

"Understood. Do not approach Gibraltar under any circumstances. Please confirm - do not approach Gibraltar. We will fire. Can you provide a locator beacon?"

"Locator beacon active. Do not approach Gibraltar... confirmed and understood."

There was a long wait, and they were almost to Greek airspace when they finally got another response. "Tracer Delta Echo Four Five, this is Winston. Prepare to receive destination and approach information."

"Winston, Tracer Delta Echo Four Five ready."

The data streamed in. She looked at it twice, and then again. "Overwatch from Tracer... Winston... this takes us back to Oasis."

"Tracer Delta Echo Four Five, that destination is correct."

"But..."

"Tracer Delta Echo Four Five, this is Mercy. I have special facilities at Oasis."

"But... Moira!"

"You may not like to hear this, but... she was with Overwatch, once. We have an agreement. She stays on her part of town; I stay on mine."

Lena didn't like it - but the channel was valid, and the encryption was solid, and she swallowed, and accepted it. "Overwatch, Tracer Delta Echo Four Five acknowledged. Setting course and flight plan."

"Thank you," replied the doctor. "Now - tell me everything you know about the last two weeks."

-----

[day one]

Tracer and Widowmaker stepped out of their flyer, both with hands behind their heads, fingers interlaced, the unloaded Kiss on Lena's back, Lena's accelerator turned off, Lena's new pistols - and her old ones - in plain view, leaning on the wall next to the hatch behind them.

"Are you unarmed?" they heard, from behind the bright lights greeting them. Lena couldn't help but smirk a little, as she discovered Moira hadn't lied about her new vision - she could see everything, bright and dark, even if it was a bit low-contrast.

"We're unarmed, as agreed," she replied, looking directly at Dr. Ziegler. She leaned a little to her lover, and asked, quietly, "You always seen the world like this?"

"I imagine so, yes," Widowmaker replied, just as quietly. "Despite everything, it is... pleasant that we now share the view."

"Please stop talking, and walk forward single-file, Tracer ahead of Widowmaker. You will be sedated but will not be harmed. Do not resist, or we will open fire."

Winston watched the two women walk forward from behind the shields, catching the copper glint of Tracer's eyes in the spotlights' glare.

I failed you, Lena, he thought, shuddering. I guess the only question is... whether anyone in there will let me beg your forgiveness.

-----

[day two]

"Physically, we're focusing mostly on the brain and nervous system changes, of course. Both of their nervous systems have been extensively reworked - my staff and I think that would've required that week they're missing."

"And... psychologically?" Winston asked, trying to keep himself as clinical as possible, and only partially succeeding.

"Tracer" - Angela wouldn't call her 'Lena,' not yet - "has been taking a series of psychological profile tests and memory examinations. So far, she's giving the same results she gave before. But these would also be the easiest to fake."

"And Widowmaker?"

"We know far less. Obviously, she doesn't score similarly to Amélie at all, and biologically, she's ... not human. But we have the scans I took when we granted her sanctuary, and those are fairly detailed. We're seeing changes, but so far, nothing out of line with what they both described."

"Well, that's good, at least."

The doctor shook her head. "It's expected. No, if they've done anything not obvious, we'll have to dig for it. Probably quite deeply."

-----

[day three]

Widowmaker - very much not Danielle, not here - nodded. "So, physically, I seem to be largely the same as I was two weeks ago?"

"Yes," concurred the doctor, through 20cm of transparent barrier. "Other than the nervous system changes. Are you noticing any differences I have not yet found?"

The assassin smirked, and reached over for a pair of dice from one of the board games they'd been allowed in their room - at least, she thought, they're letting us be together - and rolled the numbers two through 12, then 12 through two, then odd numbers, then even, all in rapid sequence. "I could already do this, before, but it's much easier, and more reliable. They'll never allow me at the craps tables in Monaco again."

-----

[day four]

Tracer looked at the doctor and her friend Winston through copper eyes. "So I'm not bugged?"

"Or in any danger of vanishing," Winston replied. "I'm still studying what she did, both to you and to the accelerator vest, but on the whole, it's still all my work, just componentised." Keep it clinical, he reminded himself. Nothing... personal. Not yet. "I'd even thought of moving the core like she did, after Numbani, but I'm not certified for medical devices."

"Much of it is surprisingly conservative, for her," added Dr. Ziegler. "The lung function improvements are meaningful, but known technology, already applied to people with damaged brachial systems - the only advancement is that it's now part of your genetics, and will grow back if damaged. The eye work..."

"What she said about my retinas, was that true?"

Angela snorted. "Not entirely untrue - statistically, with your history, there is a ten percent chance of what she described. But I could repair it, outpatient, in under an hour - and grow you an entirely new retina in a day. It was an excuse."

Tracer nodded. "I could see everything, at landing. Even in the bright lights. I could see the lenses in the lamps, and I could see you, and the guards, in shadow... so... there's that, at least."

"That work is largely her own. But it's much the same as Widowmaker's - and you aren't 'bugged' there, either."

"Well, that's a start."

"As for the nerve conductivity... we're still studying that. Can you do Widowmaker's dice trick?"

The pilot smirked, picked up a bunch of dice from one of the games, and threw them into the air in front of her. She bounced them around on her fingertips for a couple of seconds, fingers moving at blinding speed, keeping them all airborne, until she let them land.

16 dice from a Boggle set landed in a line, spelling TRACER OWNS THE SKY.

"Luv," said the former test pilot, "You have no idea."

-----

[day five]

Lena and Widowmaker looked up from their dinner at a soft knocking at the clear glass wall.

"I thought they were finished with us for the day," said the sniper.

"So'd I," replied Tracer, nervously.

"Relax - it's just me," said a familiar voice - Winston's - over the speaker. "I'm not really supposed to be here, but I'm not really not supposed to be here, either, so..."

"Hey, big guy," Lena said, turning to the window, surprised when the room behind it lit up fully. "What's up?"

"I couldn't..." Winston looked at Lena's copper eyes, and managed not to flinch. I'll never get used to that, he thought. "I couldn't go another day like we have been," said the scientist. "I had to talk. Just... talk."

Widowmaker raised an eyebrow. "I would offer privacy, but obviously, I cannot."

"No... Am... Widowmaker, you're included. I failed you too, after all. McCree and I both. We were your backup, and we weren't there when we needed to be... in your case, twice."

"No," said Widowmaker. "Only once, for myself. Once also, I suppose, for Amélie, but - that was her."

The gorilla nodded. "Either way - an apology won't cut it, it's not good enough. I reached the apartment ... not even a minute too late. Maybe not even 45 seconds. But still too late."

"Wouldn't've helped," said the teleporter, "if you'd got there sooner. The video from Guillard wasn't even half of it. She and Moira would've taken you down in a second flat."

"Maybe, or, maybe not," he insisted. "I'm pretty hard to knock out - all this hair has some real advantages. A neck dart wouldn't even reach my skin."

"In which case, Oilliphéist may well have killed you," said the assassin. "She's fully capable, and was on mission - with her current conditioning, that would've overruled everything else."

He frowned. "She could try."

"Don't underestimate her, luv," said the teleporter. "We did, and, well, here we are."

Winston's head fell, and he chuffed, quietly. "I saw the flyer leaving - not clearly enough to get a registration number, but I knew you both had to be on it." He closed his eyes. "I tried to pursue, but..."

"Diplomatic vehicle?" asked the assassin.

"Yes."

"Figures," nodded the teleporter. "Given where we ended up."

"There's so much I'm not supposed to say... so much I wish I could say. But I can't. Not 'till Angela's team is done with you. But I can say I'm sorry."

Lena walked over to the window, and put her hand against the glass. "I know, big guy. It's not your fault - we all underestimated them both. But... thanks."

Winston put is hand up opposite Lena's, and said nothing.

"So... how's Jesse? Wids told me Moira left him alive."

"Or so she said, before I was sedated."

Winston did not grimace, or frown, but also did not smile. "Can't talk about that, yet. Sorry. I don't know why, but it's off limits."

"Well, for what it's worth, I have t'tell ya, from my end... I feel same as I ever was."

"As do I. I choose to think Emily's protection had weight. She certainly thought it did."

"I am desperately hoping all three of you are right."

"So'm I, luv," Lena murmured. "So'm I."

-----

[day seven]

"This is actually the eighth time we've let you out," the doctor said, breezily.

"Wot?" said Lena, confused. "I don't remember..."

"You wouldn't. I've been keeping you from making long-term memories. I'm sorry, but... we had to see how you'd react to a variety of scenarios. Just because I couldn't detect anything..."

Lena nodded, glancing over at Widowmaker, who was just putting on her boots.

"This time's for real, though. We've got a welcome-back dinner..." she looked at the woman who had been made from Amélie Lacroix, "...and in your case, a welcome dinner. You've helped bring Lena back to us, and we are grateful."

The blue assassin smirked, and then, relaxed just a little, and almost smiled. "I... admit I am surprised. But thank you."

The three women made their way outside the cell, and down the hallway, towards the dining hall. Angela's personal research institute wasn't an Overwatch facility - not technically - but it had a lot in common with one.

"Lena!" Winston bounded over to the small woman as she lead the way into the mess hall. "I'm so glad you're finally out. We've been so worried."

She hugged the big gorilla and fuzzled his hair. "Oh, us too, luv. When we found out we'd been out of it for over a week... hoo."

"I've gone over and over what she's done to your accelerator - particularly the distance-teleport functionality. It's not a bad solution, I have to admit. I could build a variant of it into our drop ships. As an area effect with main drive power behind it, you could teleport at will, as long as you stayed in range." He scratched his ear. "I wish I could've done it myself. But trying to rebuild the core into a medical-safe housing - well, like I said. It's not my area of expertise."

Lena grinned and noogied her friend, and looked around the table. Wow, everyone turned up! She ran from person to person, as Widowmaker stood in the background, a little afraid to come forward until Lena made her. "I can't believe you've all made it all the way out here - Ana, you too?"

"We're not so far from Egypt, and it was worth the trip," said the older sniper. "Hello again, Widowmaker. Or may I call you Danielle? Your codename has... unpleasant associations, for me."

"I am well used to it, so..." she shrugged. "If it makes you feel better, then I do not mind."

Halfway through dinner, Widowmaker realised she couldn't remember what she'd had to drink. She looked over at Tracer, externally calm, and asked, "...do you remember the first course?"

Lena blinked, and looked down at her food. What had she eaten? Wait. How'd we get here from containment? What... She blinked, scared, and looked around.

Dr. Ziegler sighed. "Ah, you've noticed. I'm sorry, Lena. I lied. This is the eighth scenario. You won't remember it either, but if it helps, it was the last. The next time will be for real."

-----

[day 11]

Over dessert, Tracer realised she couldn't remember what she'd had as a main course. She looked over at Widowmaker, suddenly afraid. "...do you remember the entree?"

Widowmaker blinked, and looked down at her wine. What had she eaten? And what is this wine? "...how... how did we get here from our cell?"

Dr. Ziegler nodded. "It took longer for you to notice than usual. I'm sorry, Widowmaker, but - I lied. We're testing your reactions to various Overwatch personnel in various situations, and this is the fifteenth scenario. You won't remember it either, but... if it helps, it was the last. The next time will be for real."

-----

[day 14]

"We've definitely beaten them back on our side," Tracer said into comms, Talon agents retreating to their ship. "They're in full retreat. Widowmaker took out their... uh... when they... um..." She shook her head and looked up to her sniper, three stories above, who was looking just as confused. "Hey..." she looked around. "How'd we get out of..."

Mercy flew over in full Valkyrie mode, healing field enveloping them both. "Tracer, Widowmaker - I see you've started dropping memories. I'm sorry; I lied, before. This has been a simulation; we're testing your reactions to various situations, and this is the 21st scenario. If it helps... we're done. The next time you wake up, it'll be for real."

-----

[day 15]

Over her latest pint, Tracer realised she couldn't remember how many she'd had. She didn't think it was that many, and she looked over at Widowmaker, confused. "...how much have I had to drink?"

Widowmaker blinked, and looked up from her sherry. She didn't usually drink sherry, but this wasn't bad. But... "...how... how did we get here from containment?"

Dr. Ziegler, sitting next to them, leaned across. "I'm sorry, Lena, but - I lied. We're testing your reactions to various Overwatch personnel in various situations, and this is the 24th scenario. You won't remember it, but... if it helps, it was the last. The next time will be for real. And this time, I actually mean it."

"...how many times have you said that?" asked Lena.

"I've lost count."

-----

[day 17]

"I've got a few more scenarios to run, but after that, I think I've done everything I can do."

Winston nodded. "She seems all right to me, given everything. Same old Lena." He'd started to let himself hope.

Angela leaned forward, looking down a little, and tapped a finger nervously against the conference table's white surface. "To me, as well... I think... But there is something my grandmother used to say, from when she worked in computer security, and it is - what is the expression? Chewing on me?"

"I thought your whole family were biologists or doctors," said Mei-Ling, surprised.

"Most of them," Angela replied. "It is something of a family tradition. But my father's mother was an early computer developer. And a long time ago, in the old days of the Internet, they had a saying - "you can never know, for sure, that you haven't been hacked. You can only know, for sure, that you have."

"And you think that applies here." Morrison pondered the implications of that.

"It clearly does. At least they were not held long - that limits what could've been done. I can say that I am confident they will not turn on us, at least, not quickly, but... we should not take ours eyes off either of them. Not for some time."

-----

[day 18]

Ugh, thought Lena, waking up on her and Widowmaker's bunk. At least it was shared. She reached over and touched her lover's shoulder. Two weeks. As cells go, it's comfortable, but I'm goin' nuts.

She heard a knock outside the cell, and the chime of the intercom. "Are you awake yet?" Winston said, over the speaker. "Or, I guess, really, are you... decent?"

Widowmaker blinked herself awake, and had the presence to reply, "Never, Winston - at least, not if I can help it. Are you bringing breakfast?"

"Lena, Danielle, please be serious," came Dr. Ziegler's voice. Danielle? thought the Widowmaker. "I am Danielle again?"

"Yes," returned the intercom. "You don't remember, but you said that was acceptable. I apologise for that - and shouldn't've used it before showing you the video. May we enter?"

Lena sat up, slowly, shook her head, and pulled on a tank-top. "Wids?" The blue assassin still had her bedshirt from last night, put it on, and nodded. "C'mon in - not like we could stop you anyway..."

The door unlocked, and it opened, and Winston and Angela did not step in. Instead, Winston had a big grin, the one he used when he was trying to be happy, and was, a little, but not as much as he wanted to be, contrasting against Angela's smaller, but more genuine smile. "Get your clothes and come on out. You're cleared."

"...What?" blinked Lena. "We've... checked out?"

Angela nodded. "I've done everything I can, and we've run you through ... a lot of scenarios that you do not remember. But I have video of all of them, so you can know all of what happened."

"Why... why don't we remember them? What'd you do?" asked the Overwatch agent.

"Kept you from forming long-term memories, so we could run each trial fresh. Welcome back dinners, nights out at a bar with the team and with individuals, emergency situations, even a few combat trials, to make sure you wouldn't change targets... a lot of tests. But nothing else was blocked - just the tests."

Widowmaker scowled, as Tracer nodded, slowly. "Hoooooo... that's scary, luv, gotta say it. But... if it's what y'had to do, it's probably for the best y'did it. Particularly," she said, stepping out into the hallway, "...given what I'm gonna to propose we do." She grimaced. "Despite who we'd be working with."

"You just viscerally dislike Dr. O'Deorain, don't you. It's a physical repulsion. I've never seen you react like that to anyone else."

Tracer snorted. "As soon as I met her. Can you blame me?"

"No." She shrugged. "I've always found her rather personable - it's her ethical standards I can't tolerate - but had she put me through the same things, I'm sure I'd feel the same way as you."

"I've never liked her," Winston added. "So I'm on your side of this one."

Lena grinned at her friend and exchanged a quick fistbump with the gorilla as Widowmaker appeared behind her at the doorway. "Must Lena still retain custody of my Kiss, while on site?"

"I'm sorry, but yes, and it remains unloaded." Tracer reached over, and squeezed Danielle's hand, as the doctor continued. "Also, Lena... for the moment, your pistols need to stay on the flyer. It's not that we don't trust you, it's that... well... we want to give that more time before deciding there won't be any surprises."

"Na, luv, I get it. S'long as nobody shoots at me if we get raided by Talon and I grab my guns."

"Do we have authorisation to resume contact with the outside world? Emily - Oilliphéist - is expecting to hear from us."

"Absolutely. Except for weapons, you're cleared for the facility. You may use the same transmitter as you used before."

"Thank you. Lena, we should do that."

"Yeh. Winston, you comin'?"

"Sure," said the scientist. "Breakfast first? The whole team is here. Everybody's waiting in the dining room."

Lena shook her head - that sounded almost familiar, somehow - and looked at Widowmaker inquisitively, and her partner shrugged. "Why not?"

"Then - yeah!"

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Tags: angela ziegler, emily "oilliphéist" gardner, gingerspider, oilliphéist, overwatch, overwatch au, talon!emily, tracemaker, tracer, tracermaker, widowmaker, widowtracer, winston
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