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Old Soldiers

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"Still no sign of him?"

"Nope. Not a word. He's laying low - real low."

Tracer leaned against the table set off to the side of Gabriel's office, against the north wall. "It's been weeks."

Gabriel shrugged. "Intelligence is like that."

"I know, I know," she said breezily, but not without a hint of irritation. "So were the Forces."

The strategic advisor snorted knowingly. "It's no coincidence that 'Hurry Up and Wait' has been a running joke in every army ever."

"There's got to be some reason, though. He won't just have buggered off."

The Angelino nodded. "Most likely. Who knows what it is, though."

"It bothers me, luv, it really does." She fiddled with the buttons on her grapple, a nervous habit. "He's doing something. Don't know what, but... it bothers me."

"Me too. But Morrison'll surface when he's good and ready." He flipped through more pages of intel, some from his own sources, some from Lena's friends. "We just need to be good to go when he does."

-----

[three months later]

"So that's how it's going to be, is it, Oxton?" Morrison said, still feeling strange, still feeling sluggish, still feeling as he had since the beginning of the assault when Ziegler had let fly that flare, that burst of light, and his convoy fell under assault again, for the second time in three months. But he kept dancing, around and away, low on ammo, lower on allies - at least, ones still standing - and he wasn't going to go down. Not if he could help it.

He'd broken away from the main corps, trying for high ground to launch his grenades, but this time, the tactical visor had stayed off, thanks to Ziegler's new toy. "The last Overwatch survivor, finally brought down by Talon?"

"Damn you, Morrison - don't tempt me," Lena Oxton snapped back before thinking, pistols aimed but not firing, still circling her target - but as Tracer in orange and tangerine, no matter how much she wasn't wanting to play that part right then. She gestured to the patch on her shoulder. "We're Overwatch, not Talon, and we're here to take you in for charging and trial. We're not here kill you."

"You? Overwatch? Don't make me laugh. There's no real Overwatch, not anymore. Not since the attack. Not since '70."

"Jack, please! Just stand down!" shouted Mei-Ling, peeking around from behind her ice wall. "You'll have a chance to defend yourself. The ICC will hear your case. You will have your day in court!" And I can't wait to testify against you, she did not add aloud.

Where the hell is Delgado's team?! the former Strike Commander thought, stalling for time, running for distance. He snarled at the scientist. "A show trial in front of that puppet theatre, before I have all the evidence of what's really been going on? I don't think so." He fired another few rounds at Oxton, trying to conserve his remaining ammo. "Of all the people - of all the people, Mei - you? Working with Talon, like the rest? I thought you were better than that."

What the bloody hell does he know?! thought Venom, dismayed. He must be bluffing. Got to be. "What is it with you and Ana, anyway? Is everything Talon to you, now?" She glanced around, the briefest of looks. C'mon, Gabe, I can't do this forever. Where are you? Rally the rest of the troops, already!

-----

Dammit, thought Reyes, down the bottom of a very long hill, crouching along the edge of a gully in the face of heavy Los Muertos flak. "Tracer, Gabriel - we're under pretty heavy fire here, you still have eyes on the target?"

"Roger that," came her subvocalised reply over comms. "But it's me and Mei against him and he's not being talked down. How long you gonna be?"

"It's a proper strike force on their side. We're wearing 'em out, and we'll win this, but it's gonna take a few minutes. Keep him entertained 'til we can bring the party to you?"

"We'll do our best, but he's getting away from us."

"From you? "

"I'm holdin' back, luv. Playin' my part."

"Right." He rolled between boulders, firing suppression rounds, getting closer to the front line as D.va - who had finally responded to the recall a week before - charged in on their the right flank with a round of minirockets. "We'll get there as soon as we can."

-----

"It's all Talon! It always was - that was the whole damn point, after the Omnic Crisis!" the one-time Strike Commander retorted, dancing away again, with good speed. It was mostly him and Oxton, now, Mei falling behind, despite doing her best to keep up. "They subverted the UN, just like they subverted you."

Wow, he's just... out on his own somewhere, isn't he? thought the teleporter. "Jack, this is barmy - what are you even on about?"

"Like you don't know." He threw a volley of gunfire at the teleporter, hitting her arm, and she let out a little "yipe!" before rewinding the damage. "Like that," he said. And like they did to me, he thought. But I'll turn it back against them. I'm the one who can. He backed away, again, further and further from the main fighting, and felt a little better, a little faster, a little less stuck.

"This," she said, teleporting behind him and clocking him hard on the back of his head with the butt of her pistol, wanting to do so much more, but being so very, very good, and hating it so very, very much, "is your fault. Or the Slipstream's. Or both." She teleported away as he turned and fired, calling, "And being stuck there for five years? Definitely on you." She punctuated the 'definitely' with four rounds of fire, two on either side of his head, bullets whizzing just past his ears.

Mei-Ling ran as fast as she could, and as hard as she could, throwing up walls to slow him down, catching up just a bit. "Jack, you must stand down! You can outrun me, but not her, and the rest of the team will be here in very soon. You have no chance!"

"I always have a chance," he growled. "I survived your entire assault force - this? This is nothing." I just need to get a little further back, he thought. Almost there. I can feel it.

And then, suddenly, he was there. His tactical visor reappeared, materialising, as if formed from nothing. Tracer saw, and jinked to the side, shouting, "MEI! GET DOWN!" and she threw her stinger, sticking it to his left arm, all but reflexively...

...and the soldier's whole body turned to mist, not as, but just before the bomb exploded. She teleported away, last one...

...and the mist followed, and she ran, ran like she'd never run, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, seven seconds, just give me seven...

...which was when the the solder's grenade hit her back, hard, followed by the solder's last clip of assault rifle rounds, and she fell, limp, onto the ground, and did not get up.

"LENA!" shrieked Mei, and she charged, throwing spears of ice at the Strike Commander, who sneered, but retreated, choosing the better part of valour, being out, finally, of both grenades and ammo, at least for now. "MERCY!" she shouted into comms, "GET HERE RIGHT NOW, TRACER DOWN AND NOT GETTING BACK UP!"

"We're en route," said the combat medic over comms, "they're retreating and we are on our way!"

Dr. Zhou looked with growing horror at Tracer, who seemed to be struggling to reach something, and not bleeding out, at least, not quickly, and she didn't know how that was possible with a hole that big in her back, How are you alive?! How are you moving?! she thought, but she fired, and fired, and fired, after the Strike Commander, missing, putting up a wall at the end, as he ran out of sight. "MERCY!" she called again. "SHE IS DYING!"

Lena struggled, trying not to black out and succeeding, reserves draining but there is time, there is more than enough time, reaching for one of the hidden venom mines in her pouch but her shoulder wasn't quite working, looking at Mei, mouthing something Mei could not understand. "No! Don't try to move, Angela is on the way!" the researcher said, grabbing Lena's arm, and Lena fought her, getting stronger, not weaker, no, Mei, no, let me, let me get... but she could not draw air, so she could not speak, and then...

"Helden sterben nicht!" shouted the doctor, arriving, as the look in Tracer's eyes screamed No! as loudly as she could make it scream, before she was taken by fear, terrified of what could...

...it was cool. So cool. Unexpectedly so, but not cold, not painful, not like tearing and shifting flesh, nothing like pain at all. She tingled, all over, and somehow, she found herself still aware though it, still awake, still thinking, floating, weightless, glowing, and then suddenly, it was over, and she was standing, and whole. She grabbed at her chest in panic, where some of the rounds had exited, and teleported, successfully, and rewound, and teleported again, and everything - everything - just worked.

She looked around through golden eyes, seeing the world in sniper-sight, and that's when she knew, and again, became cold.

"...you perfected it?!" said Mei, and Angela nodded, briefly. "Yes. A couple of years ago. But... Lena, please!" she shouted, "Do not teleport any more! I need to get you back to the ship at once, for an examination! Please!"

The assassin froze, stopping in place, perfectly still, and tested her web, tested her systems, and found everything right back where it should be - for Mockingbird, anyway.

She hit a set of buttons on her grapple, flipping her armour back to Tracer tangerine and white, but left her eyes gold as she said - with very little inflection in her voice at all - "Yeh. Clearly. And, Mei, luv... you witnessed all this... you need to tell the rest of the team. Fill them in, tell them what he can do now."

She popped the sight off her rifle and separated it back into its component pistols - Tracer wouldn't have that - and re-holstered them both. "Let's go."

-----

"So," said the Talon assassin. "That was... different."

Medical data flashed by on the panel over the ship's examination table, and Dr. Ziegler looked at it, but without enthusiasm, or even her regular focus. She knew it all already - she knew that Lena was in perfect health. In every way. She just prayed the woman didn't know...

"I didn't think you could do your resurrection trick without a deep scan," Venom said, in a pointed but quiet voice. "Much less invoke all... this."

The doctor considered the monitor readouts, intently, but Lena did not let it lie.

"That is what you said, isn't it? That's what I seem t'remember."

Angela closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and exhaled, shuddering. Well. This is it, then. She swallowed, hard. "That's right. I can't."

Venom's face set, grimly, into an angry frown. "Yeh. That's what I thought. When?"

"In my office. When you agreed you were still my patient. It was automatic, but that is not a defence - I knew it would happen, and I let it."

Lena nodded. "Antineutrino entanglement scanner, maybe? Ordinary scanners won't work."

Angela blinked her eyes open, surprised, looking towards her patient. "Yes. Still considered experimental. How did you know?"

Lena smirked. "Had a hunch."

"I see."

"So." The assassin propped herself up, carefully, on her elbows. "You lied to me."

"Yes. No. Yes. It was part of the paperwork you signed, back in London, technically, but... yes. But I never looked at the data. Not even once, I swear to you. I have no idea how you work. I did not violate that confidentiality. I swear."

Venom coughed, a mockery of a laugh. "If that's true, luv, then how did...?"

"I wanted to violate it," she broke in, looking down though wet eyes. "So much, I wanted to. But I didn't. I couldn't, I knew how you'd..." - she finally thought about the question - "I... I compiled it all into the Mockingbird revival database, destroyed the original, and prayed I wouldn't have to use the result. Or that you'd agree, before I did."

"Why would you do that?" Oxton looked down, towards the deck. "Dammit, doc, you know what I said I'd have to do."

"I did not touch your tech," the doctor insisted, desperately clinging to that technicality.

"I am my tech," refuted the assassin, "and you know it."

"Please, no, you don't have to do this, I truly do not know," said the doctor, an edge of fear in her voice.

Oxton shook her head, no. "Don't think that's good enough... 'cause it's not."

Angela shuddered, surrendering to the inevitable. "...I know."

"Well, then."

"Well, then." The Swiss woman set her chin, but it was wobbly. "I will quit Overwatch."

"Ah, no, mate, they need you." Lena sat, swinging her legs over the edge of the table. "More than they need me, t' be honest."

"That's a lie, and you know it."

"Is it? I don't think so." Venom rose from the medical bunk. "They've got a tactical planner, now - one who isn't me." She spun her pistols, just trying to feel normal again, and re-holstered them. "Winston can keep the team together just fine. Tracer..." She shook her head. "She's just an act, s'far as I'm concerned." Flipping her armour back to black and violet, she continued, "One I'm not sure I'm comfortable playing anymore."

"Please don't do this."

"Give me a reason not to, doc," she said, finally pushing the gold from her eyes. "I've put a lot of work into this project, I've really wanted it to fly, but it's become pretty clear that it's..."

"Please don't punish all of them because I decided I'd rather see you hating me than lying dead on the ground," whispered the doctor. "They didn't know." Sobbing all at once, the damn breaking, she looked over to the smaller woman, entire face wet. "It's not their fault."

Venom froze in place, hand just short of the Talon retrieval beacon, and Angela desperately kept talking.

"I swear to you, I do not know how you work. No one does. The data is gone - completely - except within my nanosurgeon farm, and even it doesn't understand, it's not intelligent, not really, and the data is too enmeshed with other data to retrieve. Even I couldn't do it. Hate me," she begged the assassin, falling to her knees in front of the smaller woman, "hate me, if you must, I have betrayed your trust to keep you alive, I freely admit that and I will accept your hate - but I could not bear accept death a second time."

Venom felt dismay at the outburst, confused, ...what is going on...? and the doctor stared back down, down, down at the floor. "Just... don't leave. Don't do it. Please. Don't."

Please. Don't. The words rang through Venom's head like a shot not fired, and, unwanted and unexpected, a tear fell from her own eye, as it dawned upon her to ask, "Are you in... lo..."

She did not finish the word. She didn't have to. "...I'll..." she swallowed, shocked, and wiped her face with her hand. It was still cool to the touch, even to her own. "This is really bad. I'll have to tell Amélie what you've done."

"I do not care. I will confess everything."

"I can't tell you what she'll decide to do. I don't honestly know. But whatever decision she makes, I'll accept it."

"I understand."

"For whatever it's worth, doc - I do believe you, when you say you don't know how we work."

"You do?" Angela looked up at Lena, blinking, surprised.

"Yeh. If y'did... you'd know you didn't need to do that."

"...what?"

"We are bloody hard to kill. And... y'did think you were saving my life. With Mei being in the way, stopping me from healing myself... maybe you even did." She bit her lower lip, thoughtfully. "I don't hate you," she said, as she stepped back outside, "...but now I know I can't really trust you, either."

Mercy's gaze dropped back down to the transport's deck. "I'm sorry."

"I want to believe that," Venom said, regret in her voice. "I really do. I think I even might."

"Thank you."

"But... for the record? I want it logged. You are no longer my doctor."

Angela Ziegler just nodded, accepting the fact.

Lena Oxton stepped down past the end of the boarding ramp, spotting the rest of the assault team returning from the ambush, not at all far away now, with prisoners. Mei-Ling waved, the scientist's broad smile sharing her relief, and the assassin bit her lip and turned back to Dr. Ziegler, quickly, without acknowledging it. "Tell everybody the truth about what happened, 'cause I will if y'don't. And probably will even if y'do. But for now..." She pressed the retrieval beacon's activator switch. "I'll see ya... when I see ya."

And with that, she teleported away.