(15. Until it the bone-house had broken.)
[2070 — Overwatch Headquarters, Switzerland]
The last thing Jack Morrison ever sees is Gabriel Reyes’s anger. The world before him narrows to the image of Reyes’s face contorted in rage, and then light obliterates all but the memory of that snarl. When the base’s power core explodes, it takes everything with it, including Morrison’s eyes; his retinas shrink to pinpricks before the heat sears them near out of his skull.
He loses consciousness. Time slides around him. His ears ring, his thoughts slow and painful like molten glass. Very likely, he’s been concussed. When Morrison opens his eyes, the base is a haphazard blend of color and darkness, indistinct shapes shifting in the haze as if someone had taken a watercolor painting and drenched it in a sudden summer rain.
Morrison understands pain; it’s a symptom of the body. And right now there isn’t a single part of his body that doesn’t hurt: from the bullet wounds in his right arm to the burning agony of his face. It’s not the worst pain Morrison’s ever been in; becoming a supersoldier had been more excruciating, a long, drawn-out, screaming affair. This is just a major explosion; all he has to do is get his feet under himself, walk it off.
Morrison feels the fire more than anything else, smears of blue-orange brightness and a heat so thick it has a sound as the screaming of far away people filters through crackling noise and the dull ring of tinnitus. It’s almost as if he were underwater; dragging himself upright from where he had fallen feels like swimming, or what drunkenness used to. He sways, balance ruined; likely a burst eardrum, if the wet feeling dripping down the left side of his neck means anything.
Morrison tries to run a shaking hand over his face and ends up slapping himself with it instead, coordination utterly shot. Unable to even see his own fingers, just the darkness where they block out the fire, Morrison realizes that a significant part of his nose is damaged (possibly gone) when his fingers don’t meet as much resistance as they should. The contact is so painful he winces involuntarily, shock travelling through him in a bright electrical stripe.
Remaining on his feet is a struggle all in itself, one that he shoves through on willpower alone; training screams at him to take stock, to assess. He was here for a reason— he’d come down into the basement level for a reason, even if he can’t remember it.
‘Something about Reyes,’ his concussion supplies.
Morrison attempts to take a breath, opens his mouth, sucks in scorching air, and gets a chestful of smoke for his trouble, his ribs protesting the motion. He can’t breathe. He can feel his chest seizing as an old nightmare grips him; so many of the dead from the Soldier Enhancement Program had been carted out with bad lungs, organs shrivelled in their bodies instead of granting the increased capacity the Program had promised. Lack of oxygen, pain, blindness, the crippling smoke; in terrified delirium, the body remembers what the mind forgets: Jack’s here for Gabriel. Gabriel knows what to do when Jack gets the shakes; he helps Jack breathe.
“Reyes,” Morrison croaks. Or rather, he tries: he gets as far as the first syllable before the barest motion of his jaw resolves into unbearable pain. His throat burns, his lungs burn; Morrison is burning.
In the dark, he can’t identify anything at all. Morrison reaches out, burned hands scrabbling over superheated metal walls as he pulls himself along, ruined eyes straining for anything of distinction to latch on to. It’s so dark, the base filled with smoke, all the good air gone. Morrison can’t find anyone, no signs of life, no sound past the fire and the distant sirens. He can’t breathe; he can’t find Reyes, can’t even manage to call out for him again. All Morrison has are his dog tags, a present from a lifetime ago in case he manages to forget a number he could recite in his sleep.
Feet giving way, Morrison’s body shuts down. He topples to the floor in a heap of bleeding, abraded flesh, burned hands clawing blindly, weakly for anything he can use. He needs to keep moving; there’s something he needs to do, has to fix, but his lungs won’t work and his legs won’t hold him. He can’t see. He can’t find Reyes.
Buried beneath the windless wreck of Overwatch, Jack Morrison dies.