[prelude - 2076]
"Why'd you do it, Gabe?"
"Send those killers to her house."
"Lena, I don't know what you're talking about. Fill me in."
"Why'd you send those idiots after Gérard Lacroix?"
"I didn't! Hell, they weren't even field agents. It never should have happened. Not the way it did, anyway."
"Amélie doesn't know that."
"Amélie should know that, she has the logs. She just doesn't want to."
"Wot? Why not?"
"As long she doesn't know that, there's someone else alive to blame."
"That's shite, Gabriel."
"It is, and you know it. She blames herself. Always has."
"'Course she does, girl. But she also blames me. I was head of Blackwatch, so she's kinda got a point."
The younger assassin just grunted, a "huh" sort of sound.
"Trust me here, having someone else to blame? It helps."
Venom thought about that, for a moment, sizing up Gabriel Reyes through anger-narrowed eyes.
"I'm not so sure it does."
Old Soldiers, Chapter 1: You Look Good in Black
"Gabe!" Lena shouted, running down the stairs towards the former Blackwatch head. "Hi!"
"Lena!" the tall Angelino replied, beaming. "Wow, you look good in black and violet." He picked the younger woman up like a doll, and she giggled. "I still can't believe you pulled this off," he said.
Venom laughed. "Hold on a mo, I'm on Lunar soil." She pressed a set of buttons on her grapple holster, and her clothes went to tangerine, orange, and while. "There we go."
Gabriel Reyes looked over the Overwatch version of Lena Oxton, and considered. "I like the violet better."
"So do I, luv, but - appearances, you know. Does this mean you're in?"
"An Overwatch where I don't have to run black ops? Hell yeah, girl, I'm in! I've been watching you operate, you need someone who can make some plans that work in the field."
"Ah, c'mon mate, we're doin' all right."
"Sometimes, yeah, when you're there calling the shots yourself," he agreed. "But then you look like badly-disguised Talon, and I don't think either of you need that."
"True 'nuff," Tracer smiled. "So you're here to run strategy for Winston?"
"I'm right over here, you know," said the Lunar Ambassador. "It took some talking, but yes, he's in."
"Hi, Winston!" Lena teleported over and gave the gorilla an enthusiastic noogie.
"Hey! Cut it out!" But he still laughed. "You're in a good mood - I take it you have something for me?"
"Here y'go!" She popped a small memory card out of one of her pockets. "Everything we'd hoped for and more."
"Oh, that's great news!" He knew not to ask how she'd got it. "You'll want to see this immediately, Gabe."
"Excellent. And yeah, if that didn't make it obvious, I'm in," said the former Blackwatch head, picking up the card, all smiles... until he wasn't. "But Lena, there are some things you need to know. Amélie too, for that matter." To himself, he thought, Not that I could tell you and not be telling her, even if I wanted to...
Lena looked down at her scientifically-minded friend. "What's this about, then?"
"It's... Jack Morrison," said the ambassador.
"...oh," said the assassin. "Him." She frowned, an unpleasant coldness twisting in her stomach.
"Yeah," said Gabriel, confirming. "Him."
Lena took a long, deep breath. "Right. Let's get the staff together."
[A Lunar embassy conference room, half an hour later]
"I thought Jack was dead," Lena said, anger, nervousness, and some small dismay in her voice. "I thought he died when the UN moved on him, in Geneva."
Gabriel Reyes nodded. "We all thought he was dead. Everyone. When the UN stand-down order came through, I ordered my chain of command to obey it immediately. We knew it was coming, and frankly, we deserved it. I've been owning up to that since it happened."
"Before," Angela noted, charitably.
Reyes looked down at the table in the direction of the doctor for a moment, left whatever he was thinking unsaid, and continued. "Jack, of course, decided he knew better, and I guess we all know how that went down..." He shook his head. "What the hell that man thought he could get by launching a counter-assault, I'll never know."
"He was bound and determined to keep the mission going, no matter what," said Winston. "Maybe it was the statue, maybe it went to his head."
"Yeah, well, it had all come apart by then, he should've figured that out," Gabriel replied. "Public opinion was not on our side."
Mei-Ling Zhou - present in virtual form, at least, from her satellite research laboratory in the north of China - shook her head, looking down. "I can't believe he changed so much. He used to be so nice!"
"And he really just outright refused the stand-down order?" asked Tracer. "I'd read that, but..." She kept tapping the buttons on her grapple, fidgeting. Winston eyed the device nervously, a little worried she might accidentally launch the hook across the room, but kept it to himself.
"Yeah," said the Californian. "Shouted something about the Talon threat and then flat out said no."
"I agree. I evaced my team as soon as I saw where the show was going, and we mostly got out fine. Some of Jack's side of the organisation got out too, but... a lot stayed with him, for whatever reasons." He shook his head. "He always had a knack for putting together a loyal team."
"Yeah," said Tracer, flatly. "Loyal. One direction, anyway."
"Regardless," Reyes carried on, "the UN response was heavy, and his counter was heavier still, but utterly futile. Nobody could've survived the implosion - or so we thought. I sure as hell wouldn't have."
"It's not just a solid pile of rubble, though," Oxton insisted. "There's big sections still intact, deep enough in. Amélie got pretty far down."
Angela contemplated those words. "That was when she retrieved Winston's accelerator, yes? The medical unit near Winston's laboratory... could it have been reached?"
"No idea, luv. She's never mentioned it." Tracer said, nervously.
"Find out, if you could."
"What're you thinking, Angela?" asked Winston.
The researcher and field doctor shook her head. "We had a full compliment of medical supplies there - including ample stocks of regen gel and nanomachines. More than enough for a badly injured man to repair himself, if he knew how."
Mei-Ling looked over to Angela, her expression uncharacteristically severe. "The research unit versions? Do you think maybe he might've..."
"Regardless of how," Reyes interrupted firmly, "there is evidence he's active again. Not openly, but there have been rumours for a couple of years - mostly in Mexico - of a white-haired American soldier vigilante. And I received this yesterday." He threw an image up in the centre of the table - "It's not the best photo in the world, but I'm pretty sure this is him."
The shot, taken in an alley in Dorado three weeks earlier, was from the back, at night, in fog, a bit blurry, and showed a leather-jacketed man, white-haired, with the clips of what could - with a lot of imagination - be a tactical visor showing over the ears. Really, it could've been anyone of that general build - but the way the figure carried himself, that was familiar, and the gun slung over his back - that was unique.
Mei-Ling gasped at the image. «Halla die Walfee,» exclaimed Angela. "I think you may be correct."
"I'm sure you are," Lena said, voice low and quiet. "That's him."
"And if it is," the Angelino said, "given what went down, I'm pretty sure he won't be happy there's an Overwatch not under his command."
"I have to go," Venom said, suddenly again in black and violet. She hit more buttons on her grapple, and talked into her collar. "Widowmaker, message, urgent: Venom heading back immediately. Will brief en route."
"Lena," said Winston, alarmed, "What are you..."
"I owe him," said the Talon assassin, as she strode to the door, old anger drawn across her face. "If he's still alive, I've got a job to do."
"Lena, don't..." called the scientist, but it was too late, she younger woman was already down the corridor. "Athena, raise Amélie, if you can. Route it to my office, I'll be there in a minute. We've got to try to talk Lena down."
"Wow - she didn't used to get that mad that fast," Gabriel said, confused. "Is this about the Slipstream failure? She still torn up about that?"
"Oh yes," said Angela. "She is. Amongst other things."
"For good reasons," Mei said quietly.
"That wasn't even Jack's fault," protested the former Blackwatch head, "Not at all."
"No, it wasn't," agreed Winston. "But not letting me try to save her - that was."