[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. 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..."
"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?"
"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.
"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?"
"'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."
"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.
"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.»
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.