Hey, look what I haven't forgot! (Tho' it did take a while because I kind of wished I hadn't had Morrison say something in a previous chapter... it took me forever to figure out what it meant and how to make it work without a retcon.)
This chapter is worksafe. [AO3 link]
[All text in «angle quotes» translated from the Spanish.]
Laticia Delgado strapped herself in to one of the Orca's passenger chairs as Gabriel sat beside her, not strapping himself in. She looked at him, confused, and he smiled. «It's a soft launch. Strap in if you want, but it's going to be a long ride and I'm not sitting here the whole time.»
«Oh,» she said, pulling on the shoulder belts. «Don't you always strap in for takeoffs and landings?»
«On civilian flights, sure.» He shrugged. «You know what, it's never a bad idea.» And he strapped himself in, too. "Athena, we're ready whenever you are."
"Thank you, Strike Commander. Departing."
«How long a ride is this?»
«Don't want to attract attention, so we're flying commercial speeds along a standard route. It'll be a good 14 hours.»
«Huh,» she said, disappointed. «I thought Overwatch would have something, I dunno, more... sciencey?»
«We could get there in under an hour if we went suborbital. But Jesus Mary and Joseph, those Sparrowhawk flights are noisy and uncomfortable. And expensive. And they attract a lot of attention. But mostly... ever pulled four Gs before?»
«Pulled four... oh!» She sat up, excited by the idea. «No. Is it fun?»
Gabe grinned at the Los Muertos street fighter, surprised. «Honestly...? Yeah. It's kind of fun. But if you aren't trained up, it'll knock you unconscious, and I don't want to have to deal with an unconscious passenger if we end up going through customs.»
«Too bad,» she said, slumping back down a little. «Probably never get another chance at something like that.»
«You know it'd probably knock you out and you'd still want to try it?»
«Yeah!» she boasted. «Not many people get to do anything like that, Angelino. I'd do it in a heartbeat!»
Reyes snorted, a little, in friendly way, and as the Orca reached cruising altitude. I keep underestimating you, he thought. I wonder if... and he shook his head, and took off his seat belts. «Well, we have fourteen hours, and I brought some games, and some movies. Also, snacks, and breakfast, for later. What'd you like first?»
"All packed up?" Venom grinned at the doctor, the field medic, Angela Ziegler, all fences mended as far as she was concerned, her beloved spider having received her first supply of nanobots the day before yesterday, laying the foundation for more. Unlike Fareeha, it was in a more professional setting, and unlike anyone else, it was being staged, insuring compatibility with her unique physiology.
"Yes, I am quite ready" the doctor said. "I did, after all, pack lightly."
"Anything fragile nice and sorted away?"
"Yes, I followed your instructions carefully."
"Been to the W.C.?"
"Great. Let's get this thing moving, then!"
Lacroix and a second woman greeted them at the door at the top of the stairs, transport ready, outside. Ziegler stood expectantly, looking at the person she presumed to be the pilot.
"You... want something?" van Vliet said, confused.
"I... presumed I would be blindfolded," the doctor replied.
Clara shrugged, and glanced over to Amélie. "Is this another one of your..."
"No, Clara, she is not," she said, with a slight smug smile. "And a blindfold seems unnecessary." She opened the door to the path, and to the small transport, almost invisible except for the pad lights, black body lost against the 4am sky.
Onboard, van Vliet stowed Dr. Ziegler's luggage and then went to the flight deck, as Widowmaker handed out fake passports. "These are already stamped with dates of entry. Sombra will add them to Mexican border control's systems once we're safely down. But show them to no one, if you can avoid it."
"Course not, luv," Lena said, smirking at "Linda Oxford"'s information, memorising it, quickly.
"I know you know," her wife replied. "But..."
"...what kind of name is 'Angelica Steenbakker'? Why have you saddled me with that monstrosity? It is terrible! And the picture is worse."
"It is a photograph that will, I hope, remind you not to use it," the blue assassin said, and her wife laughed.
"Everyone ready?" Clara called from the front cabin, as Tracer put on her headphones, motioning to Angela to do the same.
Angela smirked back at her. "It is hardly the first time I have been in a military transport, and you know it."
Widowmaker checked everyone, sat down, strapped in, and pulled her helmet's microphone into place. "Passengers and payload secure. You may launch."
"How long a flight is this going to" the doctor said, as the transport shot forward, then up, pulling just under 4Gs.
Oh my, she thought, feeling a bit fuzzy around the edges. It's been a while since I've been on one of these... I'd forgot how... She felt her brain start to fuzz, jut a little, before her nanites intercepted the problem, solving it. She turned her head, as best she could, looking over to Widowmaker, placidly sitting down the row from her, unperturbed, as if between stops on the metro.
"Amélie, do you feel all right?" she asked, with a bit of effort. "Are you feeling any unanticipated effects?"
"I am built for this," she replied. "But I admit... it does feel easier than usual."
"I'm good - thanks for askin'!" Venom interjected, between them, and Widowmaker reached over, and bopped her forehead with one fingernail. "Ow! Careful, love, four Gs!"
"Were I not careful, you would not be conscious, ma petite agace."
"That's funny, normally y'don't like me quiet," she said, leaning over a bit, as if to bite her wife's shoulder.
"Clara," Angela asked, over comms, in German, "are they always like this on missions together?"
"Yes," van Vliet replied, also in German. "You had better get used to it now. They will not stop."
The doctor chortled. "Thank you. I will try."
"It took me months."
"I understand completely."
"It's the only thing left that makes any sense," Morrison said. "It has to be him."
Ana thought her way through the timeline again. It could work... but it requires a lot of very large leaps.
"Who else could've brought in exotic matter? It had to have come from the moon." He gestured with his hands, one by his face, open, the other, in front of his chest, a fist. "You can't generate it on Earth, not safely, not in any quantity, or more countries would've done it by now. He caused the Slipstream failure, to create her, and he brought her back from it, him and Ziegler, when he was ready. He used them both to get back down planetside. This time, of course, with diplomatic immunity - and, no doubt, more exotic matter."
He shook his head, a grim smirk on his face. "If it wasn't so diabolical, it'd be genius."
"He and Angela stayed in contact, doing joint research, while he was exiled, didn't they?" She flipped through parts of her own research, confirming. "And if Angela is Venom's controller," she said, "and his primary contact on Earth, while he was in exile..." She thought, harder. "I remember Lena - the real Lena - as a good woman. She would never have done this willingly. So ... Ziegler took control of Lena... how? Using the same technologies she developed in making Widowmaker?"
"No doubt. Lacroix was probably the testbed."
"And that initial meeting in London was probably some sort of... check, to see that her control systems were still functioning."
"Exactly. See how it all fits together?"
"Loosely, at best," she said. "It's just possible, given what we know. But we'd never be able to prove it."
"I agree. Not without a confession. But I think - I think if he was out of the way, no longer directing everything, Ziegler might be pressured enough spill the beans. And once she broke, we could get it all out in sun. Blow the whole thing wide open. Maybe - maybe - even make her put your daughter back together, if it's still possible."
Ana's anger flared, and she tamped it back down. "If there is any chance for that, we must take it."
"Of course. The question is - how? We'll never be ready to launch an assault on Geneva - no matter how much I train up Los Muertos, they're still a regional gang. Even if I picked a few of the best - if Delgado hadn't been captured - a commando assault would be suicidal."
"If we see her again, we'd probably better assume she's being... controlled the same way."
The soldier's face fell. Damn. She's right. That's one more debt to be repaid. "Maybe. I have no idea how long the process takes."
Ana thought on the news briefing she'd read that morning, eyes darting up. "Jack... Winston's going to be in Northern California next month."
"You should pay more attention to the news," she chided, pulling the article up on her padd. "'Lunar Ambassador Winston to visit Stanford.' He's getting an honourary physics doctorate. If we could somehow get ahold of his travel plans, and better yet, his security arrangements..."
Morrison grinned, fiercely. "Then we'd have a shot at the literal heart of the," he chuckled, "of the literal beast. Great catch, Ana. Let's see if we can reel it in."
"That did not take long at all," Angela said, rising from her seat, almost six hours earlier, by the clock, than she'd left the Mediterranean Sea. "Gabriel will not make Tampico for at least another twelve hours."
"Life's easier when y'don't have t'give a fuck about customs," Lena said, grinning. "This direction's easier - makes leavin' so late worthwhile. Goin' back's not so much fun." She stretched, and yawned.
"Indeed," the Widowmaker agreed, as van Vliet opened the hatch just in time to see Sombra came walking up from the little Tamaulipas safehouse to meet their flyer.
"Hola, amigas!" she called, waving. "'Bout time you got here."
Widowmaker waved back, and checked the time on her grapple. "It is just after 10pm, locally. We have melatonin tablets inside; I suggest that we all use them to get a good night's sleep. We should all be well rested before we begin."