Ana Amari blinked, and looked again, more closely, zooming her sight further in.
Same woman, before and after. Unquestionably the same woman. I knew it. She shuddered a little, despite herself. Knowing, that was one thing - seeing the transformation happen, that was another. Tracer is Mockingbird. And most certainly the Talon assassin 'Venom,' as well.
How many ways have they split her? How many people is she? And... Angela is her controller? She can trigger the changes? That, I did not expect. The sniper held her position as Mockingbird flipped her costume back to Tracer, and disassembled her sniper rifle into her paired pistols.
It's all true, she thought. He's not mad. He's a monster, but they're all monsters - he's just been the one talking about it.
She scanned the distance as Morrison retreated, trying to regroup with the rest of his strike force. What do I do? What do I do, now? She looked towards the small number of Los Muertos fighters being taken in by the "Overwatch" strike team, and then, towards the distance, where Morrison and his cadre had retreated.
Those poor prisoners, she thought, looking back at the captives. 'The Dead' is all too apt. Who knows what demons they'll make out of you? But the numbers were bad, and the range was worse. She might, she knew, put them out of their misery, but would most certainly be taken herself in the aftermath. Unacceptable.
In the other direction, Morrison, Jack Morrison, her personal demon, surviving by stealing others' lives, consuming the living to fuel himself and his quest for vindication, to prove everything he's ever said about 2070 was true.
She weighed the options as both groups receded further into their relative distances. Scylla or Charybdis, Scylla or Charybdis, she thought. There are no good choices. But one cannot hide from duty. Oh, Fareeha, my poor daughter, knowing you are mixed up in this... She swallowed, hard. But... better the devil you know. And if he's been right about this much... maybe he's been right in other ways, as well.
I will send a message to Fareeha, warning her off. She'll listen, she has to.
She pulled up her sight, and slid discreetly back down the little slope on which she'd lain. Morrison, then. God help me.
"Yes," nodded the medical doctor, trying to force herself back into a semblance of her normal self. "I have made a terrible mistake. Lena is... Lena is perfectly healthy. But I must ... I have to ... I ..." she rubbed her temple with her left hand. Get yourself together, doctor! She took a deep breath and fortified her nerves. "I will explain, once we are back to Geneva, and the prisoners are safely secured away."
"But you saved her life! What went wrong?"
"I swear, I will tell you everything, I will tell everyone everything, but - prisoners."
Mei nervously nodded as the slower-moving assemblage of captives and Overwatch agents made their way to, and up, the hatchway ramp. Winston, Pharah, Reyes, and D.va looked around, seeing no sign of Tracer, and Fareeha looked at the doctor first, concern in her eyes.
Ziegler set her chin. "Tracer is well, but has departed via her own transport. I will debrief everyone once we have returned to base - but not before. Also, I must examine the Los Muertos personnel once we are underway." She looked at the angrier of the two fighters. I know her, she thought. I've seen her before. Somewhere. Where?
Winston nodded, a little sad, but accepting what he mistakenly thought he understood. "Athena, prepare for immediate liftoff. I'll be piloting us home."
"No military trouble?" asked Svetlana, Taviano's security escort, who did not drop anything.
"No military trouble," she acknowledged. "Security trouble, but - not that kind. You can stand down. And strap in, for that matter, we're boosting off right now."
«Then it's not a medical emergency?» the combat nurse asked, as Lena dashed past him, onto the primary deck.
«A bit of yes, a bit of no. Once we're in the air, I'll have you check everything you can, but I need a full workup as soon as possible.»
«Dr. Mariani will be waiting for us on arrival. Is it safe to take off?»
«Yes,» she said, hopping into a crash couch, and slipping on the internal comms headset. «First priority is to get out of here. Who's piloting?»
«van Vliet» he said, strapping himself in, in turn. «Combat experience.» "Svetlana," he called over to his escort, in English. "You good to go?" and gave a thumbs up as the Russian signalled her readiness.
"Hey, Clara, thanks for coming," Venom said, into comms, as soon as the nurse secured himself down. "Patch Amélie into the onboard comms and burn the boosters, I need home right now."
"Rockets first, patch-in later. Emergency launch in five, four, three," said the pilot, "two, one," and the ship threw itself up and forward at the usual four Gs.
«Tell me what's going on,» said the medic, over headset comms.
«Ziegler did what we were afraid she might,» the assassin replied, grimacing. «And worse. One minute, I'm injured but still playing Tracer, the next, I'm healthy, but all in black and green and sniper-style. Sure hope nobody on the other side saw it.»
«No wonder you want a workup. Are you feeling normal?» he asked, quickly. «Are your internal systems reporting anything atypical at all, no matter how small?»
«I feel fine, and no, all clear. I'm hoping you can verify that once we're back in international airspace.»
Nurse Bonsignore nodded. «I'll hope there's nothing interesting to find.»
[three hours later]
"You're certain she's well?"
"If there's anything wrong with her," said the doctor, "I can't find it. Her specifications match exactly the, ah, standards we set, the last time we ran them." She tapped her lips thoughtfully with her right pointer and middle fingers. "I should've complained more about the reading drift I saw. The problem, though, it's just so difficult to know, with her unique condition. It complicates everything."
"But meanwhile," said the Widowmaker, "she is fine."
"Was it necessary?"
"What Ziegler did, to keep her safe? Eh. I cannot say for sure, I did not see it. From what she says, it was a bad wound, very bad - emergency, yes - but I think she would have recovered. Definitely time to get her injected, get her stable, call us in. But for anyone with, ah, only experience in more baseline patients? It would seem necessary."
"How do you feel about... Ziegler?"
"Disappointed. I think Lena's right, we can't trust her, not on her word, but..." She shrugged, hands out and up. "But that is not so unusual. Perhaps with some leverage, it would come out all right."
The Talon assassin smirked. "I do not think there is any dirt to be had on the good doctor."
"I am not so sure about that."
Dr. Mariani nodded. "She worked with Moira O'Deorain. No one in Overwatch was completely, ah, clean? Clean. Except your wife, somehow. But... O'Deorain..." She shook her head. "I work with professional assassins, yes? By comparison, I feel I have nothing to hide."
Amélie laughed. "That is... probably fair. When may I see Lena?"
"As soon as this last scan is done. I'm making new images, to be safe."
"I offer my resignation as Overwatch medical officer. It will not, I promise, change your or Overwatch's status in any way, but I have committed a ... serious ethical violation. I have made that kind if mistake before, and have tried to do better, but... failed myself, as much as her... and I think it is necessary to..."
The doctor had explained what she'd done earlier, in an all-hands meeting. It had been difficult - even to an essentially sympathetic audience - but necessary. This was the logical next step.
"Are you out of your mind? Angela, we need you."
Angela smiled a wan smile. "That... was her opinion, as well."
"Look, Ange, I..." he shook his head. "Frankly, I think you were right. You've made the same scans of all of us, and she should've had the sense to say yes, particularly with the security precautions you took. And from how Mei described her wounds, I think you were right to revive her, too."
"She says it was not necessary."
"Angela, it's Lena. Call her Venom, call her Tracer, call her Mockingbird, call her whatever, she's Lena. She was a test pilot and now she can bend time and she literally thinks she can survive absolutely anything."
"She was still moving with a 15 centimetre hole in her back. I'm not sure she's wrong."
"I'm not willing to bet she was right." He slid the letter back across his desk to the doctor. "As far as I'm concerned, you should burn this. I can't force you to stay - if you quit, you quit - but I'm sure as heck not accepting any resignation offer from you."
"Thank you." Dr. Ziegler took back the envelope, and smiled, just a little. "Then... I will need more oversight, and we will need to do something to regain their trust. Even if she and Amélie forgive me... I have damaged our relationship. I must repair it."
The Lunar Ambassador nodded. "There, at least - I agree."
"Has she answered any of your calls, yet?"
"No. I was about to try again, when you knocked."
"I will leave you to it, then."
"Do you want to try?"
The doctor hesitated. Yes, she thought. "I... no. I think it would not be best."
"I... no, I'm not. I... may I sit down?"
"Of course! Pull a chair up on my side of the console. Even if you don't make the call, you should be here if they decide to answer."
"I'm not sure I should do that, either." She pulled over a chair, sat, and rested her face on her hands. "I am emotionally clouded. All of these decisions - they didn't come only from medical determinations, they came because I have become... too fond of Lena."
"But we're all fond of..." A small moment passed. "...oh."
The doctor grimaced, embarrassed. "Oh."
"Does Fareeha know?"
He chuffed a big chuff of breath. "...does Lena also...?"
"I do not think so. It is my problem, not hers."
"That does make everything more complicated."
"You're telling me?" laughed the doctor. "I... have always had a tendency to feel a little too much for my patients. It is what drives me, but it is a problem, and it is why I maintain such strict professionalism, particularly when I do not feel so professional. But... this time, it went too far."
"Can you handle it?"
"I'll have to."
"Maybe I should be the one to make that call again, after all."
"I think so."
Winston offered his hand, palm up. "Thank you for telling me everything, Angela."
"Thank you," she said, taking it, just for a moment, "for not accepting my resignation."
The gorilla laughed. "Never. Now - out of my office. I'll try to contact Lena again."
To: Fareeha Amari
Subject: If you are still you, leave Overwatch at once
I am sorry that I have not written you all these years, but I have been hunting a very particular monster who has been responsible for far more personal evil than I had ever previously imagined, and my silence has been necessary to that end. I never wanted to leave you alone for so long, but I thought I had no choice.
Now, I have found out that I have been chasing the lesser devil all this time - and that you are involved with the greater of the two.
I know who Lena Oxton is. I know everyone Lena Oxton is.
Leave Overwatch at once. If you have any sense at all, leave Angela, as well - I know that is hard, but I know what she's done, and if she is still making the same decisions, there is no redeeming her. While you still can, before you are remade, I beg you - leave her and Overwatch behind.
There is much more I wish I could tell you, but I can't, not yet. But someday, and hopefully, soon.
To: Jack Morrison
Subject: We need to talk.
Don't ask how I have this address, it is not important. What is important is that I have learned that you may not be so crazy after all. I have information about Talon that you want and that you would pay any price to get.
We need to talk, in person, just you and me, like old times. Unarmed, and in public, but where we can speak Arabic and reasonably expect not to be understood - assuming your Arabic is still any good.
(Well, let's be honest, it never was any good. But if it's no worse.)
If you're willing to meet, under these terms, reply within two days. Otherwise... I will explore other avenues.
Capt. Ana Amari