"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."
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."
"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."