This chapter is worksafe.
"Are you ready?" asked Oilliphéist, over audio-only comms.
"I am," replied Widowmaker.
"Château," said Emily.
"Châteauneuf-du-Pape," responded the sniper.
"Signal de Saint-Pierre."
"What're they doing?" asked Winston, quietly, leaning to Lena, as the two assassins continued to exchange words.
"They did this before, Widow explained it to me," the teleporter replied, leaning to Winston, equally quiet. "It's a kind of integrity check? It's a series of trigger words that key other words. It changes on its own, over time, so if one or two words change, it's no big deal, right? But if it changes a lot, quickly - somebody's mucked with her."
The scientist nodded. "Handy, given where they came from. Emily's English, though - why's it all in French?"
Lena just shrugged, focusing on the word series. The sequence sounded the same as before, to her, but she wasn't entirely sure - she'd tried to remember the list, but there were so many words. She heard Emily say, "Livraison," and immediately thought, Metro.
"Metro," said Widowmaker, and Lena smiled.
"Centre météorologique canadien," replied Oilliphéist.
"Exactly the same as last time."
"Your side, as well," said the spider, "to my distinct relief."
"So," said Lena, "you both basically... check out?"
Widowmaker nodded. "Yes. I wish you had this facility, as well. It is... reassuring."
"Talon didn't build that into you, did they." It wasn't a question. "I wouldn't think they'd want you t'know."
"Spot on," said Emily, over comms. "I think it's a side-effect. We found it ourselves, in her, first - and now I have it, too!"
"Nothin' personal, but if the ability to checksum my brain comes only as part of gettin' my brain rebuilt, I'll opt out."
Widowmaker allowed her lover a small smile. "Understandable."
"Em, you still hiding out at the safehouse?"
"Yes, and it's incredibly dull. Have you talked to Overwatch's council yet?"
"About to - we wanted to check in with you, first. Let you know we were alive."
"I do appreciate that - but Aunt Moira's getting pretty impatient."
"Yeah, well, she can wait - this is our first day out of quarantine. We'll be meeting up after lunch."
"I'll tell her you're out of Overwatch jail, at least... oh! How is, um, the cowboy?"
"Embarrassed," said the defector. "Deservedly."
"Don't be mad at him," Emily replied over comms, "Auntie's good with those darts. They're self-guided. She even got me, once!"
"Before, or after?" asked Widowmaker.
A laugh, over comms. "Before, obviously. But still."
"She wouldn't get me now," said Tracer, as Widowmaker nodded in agreement. "Nor me, I think," her lover added.
A giggle. "I'm pretty sure she'd love another chance to practice those upgrades, if he wanted to come by..."
"No," interrupted Tracer, firmly. "Now that we've checked in - we've got some prep work to do on this end, and I need to get some workout time with those pistols you made."
Widowmaker agreed, humming quietly. "Cherie, do you mind? We will contact you again after the meeting."
"I'll be waiting. And tell me how it goes, on the range! I'm so glad to hear your voices again - both of you."
"I know," replied the sniper, eyes half-closed, "it is the same, for me."
"I don't remember giving you clearance for your pistols," Dr. Ziegler said, sternly, as the comms went quiet.
Tracer shook her hands. "C'mon, doc, we've both been locked up for days. I know I need a workout."
"As do I," noted the spider.
"You must have something we can use..."
"This is a research facility, not an Overwatch station. We have a weights room, which you are both welcome to use, but we have nothing like you're requesting." The doctor considered. "Fareeha uses a Helix Security facility when here, perhaps," she thumbed her comm. "Perhaps we can work something out. I'll be right back." She walked to her private office, and the two women talked, quietly, over comms, for a few minutes, before returning.
"Good news; we have a site. She'll meet us there," said the scientist. "No sniper rounds, I'm sorry. But we do have clearance for pistols, supervised, as long as they're kept unloaded outside the range."
The assassin shrugged. "I could, I suppose, limber up with my chain, and re-establish targeting. It is better than nothing."
"Yeah, love," smiled her partner. "Maybe you can even keep up with me now!"
A derisive snort. "I always could."
An hour later, Tracer jinked from target to target, faster than ever, four to five teleports at a time. This is... this is wizard, she thought, as she unloaded entire clips into targets in patterns - smiley faces, outlines of airplanes, her initials, whatever came to mind.
Widowmaker watched from a level above, tracking her lover with her empty Kiss, and finding it difficult at first - until her own quickness started to settle in, overriding old habits, old limits, and as it did, she purred. Ooh la la, she thought. This is better. This is... this is wonderful.
Pharah, in turn, watched from above, astonished at their raw speed, occasionally exchanging words with Winston over comms, Winston, who worried - deeply - for them both.
"None taken," replied Widowmaker. "I defected for reasons, after all."
"...but we stop Talon's attempt to start a Second Omnic Crisis. Millions of people - both omnic and human - don't die in the next couple of years just 'cause Doomfist and Reaper have some kind of fascist hard-on for 'struggle.' Both sides of Talon lose a lot, and come out weaker."
"And all Overwatch does is... stay out of the way?" Winston asked.
"Pretty much. I'd be the intermediary, and ... I'd be involved, up close, and unexpected. Mostly to protect Em and Wids - but not just."
"There are reasons I kept you out of Blackwatch, Lena," Morrison said.
"Think I'm not suited for it, then?" she glared just a little, copper eyes glinting.
"Too well suited for it. It's corrosive. You saw what it did to Rayes."
"Someone from Overwatch has to see what happens, dad. Unless you just wanna take their word on it."
"Preventing another war has to come first," said Mei-Ling. "The data I have is all very bad. I do not think the ecosystem could handle another conflict like the last one! There is already so much damage, and everything is so unstable now... another war like the last one would push us over several different edges, the results would be catastrophic. Millions dead is far too low an estimate."
Angela nodded. "I have served as a wartime medic and surgeon in enough wars. If we could preempt one - particularly one so large as that..." She shook her head.
"Not to mention, with Talon busy, we could really go to work on Vishkar," added Lúcio, no longer in Brazil, but at the table, stopping by while on tour. "With an Architech on our side, pointing out where we should investigate - we could do a lot of real good while Talon's busy having their little showdown."
"It's almost too good." Hana frowned, skepticism in her voice. "If I saw this in a game, I'd be all 'ha ha no not fallin' for that, n00b.'"
Lena nodded. "Too right. We'd have to be on the lookout for some kinda betrayal at every point."
"Sure," the Korean replied. "But - we're missing something. And here you are, talking about working with" - she gestured at the smirking French Talon agent, who had the sense not to talk about her finest kills - "Mondatta's assassin..."
"I'm already sleeping with her, luv, this isn't a big step," Lena snipped, shifting the rifle on her back, just a little. She missed her new pistols already - but the Kiss being there helped.
"...and maybe she got better, okay, but you're siding up with the mad scientist who made her, and her crazy niece, all to pick a side in their civil war? I'm not the only one seeing bait here, am I?"
"No," said Morrison. "You're not."
"Not trying isn't an option, though," said Mei-Ling.
Oxton nodded, and sighed. "I'm not sayin' I don't see the possible traps. I do. At best, it's messy and it's awful, but I ... I know that Mondatta would want this war stopped. He'd care about how, it would matter, but most of all, he wouldn't want this war to happen."
"And we're not just going after both sides, because...?"
"Because that is probably the one thing that would force them to mend their fences," interjected the blue assassin. "They would go back to working together, rather than fighting each other."
"Nothin' creates alliances like a common enemy," added Lena.
"I still don't like it," said the Meka pilot. She turned to Dr. Ziegler. "I don't care what you think about her personally, doc, but as far as I can tell, Moira's a psychopath." She heard Lena snicker, to her right.
"I never said she wasn't," replied the Swiss woman. "Many psychopaths are personable, when they want to be."
"If she decides she wins by turning on us, she will," Song insisted.
"Absolutely," Lena agreed. "That'll have to be in every decision we make."
"It will be," insisted the soldier. "Assuming we're foolish enough to try this."
"We have to," insisted Dr. Zhou, again, before being interrupted by Lúcio, objecting, "I don't see how you can even think about working with her, after the way she grabbed you like that. No way I would."
"T'be honest, I'm scared of her. But... not even for a prize this big?"
Lúcio had to think about it, and didn't immediately answer.
"What if it would take down Vishkar?"
The DJ took a long, deep breath, and nodded, slowly once. "...yeah. Maybe."
"There y'go. That's why."
"We have to try," interjected Mei-Ling, again, with surprising vehemence. "Are none of you listening? If they are trying to start this war, if that is Doomfist and Reaper's plan, we have to try. We also have to tell every agency who will listen to us, so they can work against it as well."
Winston nodded, but Morrison and Song started to protest, but Dr. Zhou raised her voice over them, "Did you not hear me? The biosphere cannot take another Omnic war! Look, I have made projections." She threw a set of charts and graphs up over the centre of the conference table. "Carbon stability is only the start of it. Do you think the megastorms of 30 years ago were bad? I have been preparing a paper with the data collected while I was in cryogenic suspension. Imagine one covering half a hemisphere!"
She flipped another set of graphics up. "Now imagine 62-plus degree weather across North Africa, and 65-plus degrees in South Asia."
Another set. "Now imagine the oceans - barely recovering now - essentially devoid of life. There would be no recovery path."
Another set. "Here are agricultural projections. Ignoring war dead, we can project global crop collapses and multiple pandemics resulting from malnutrition and other knock-on effects. This projection - I would expect two to three billion dead. With extremely aggressive use of genetic modifications on a yearly basis, in a best-case scenario, we might cut it to one billion. The first year."
The room had grown silent as the reams of data had shuffled past. "The paper on which these projections are based is going to Nature next month for peer review, but I am confident of my numbers. Do you understand, now? Another Omnic war kills civilisation. Maybe the entire planet. For anyone biological, this war would be a death sentence."
She turned back to the copper-eyed Overwatch agent. "I'm sorry, Lena - if this is what he is trying to do, then Akande must be stopped. If there is any chance, any chance at all, you must take it."
"I... had no idea it was so bad," Oxton managed, after a few seconds.
"It isn't, now, but... it would be."
Morrison flipped through smaller versions of the images on his padd. Hana Song did the same. "Wow," she said, after a few minutes. "Okay, I guess... we have to."
"I think we do," Winston agreed. "The rest of us can dedicate ourselves to analysis - and to other actions against the more militant anti-Omnic groups. This is too important for a single approach. Governmental intervention is critical, but it will take them weeks or months to respond."
Lena frowned. She'd won, but it didn't feel like winning, not at all, as the weight of the situation fell on to her shoulders. "Then, I guess... we're in. We're doin' this."
"I'm sorry," said her best friend, as Morrison and Song both nodded their reluctant but clear assent. "I'm very much afraid we are."