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Chapter 1

Hana Song handed over her passport for the third and final time, waiting with an outwardly patient expression while the man behind the counter flicked his gaze between the passport photo and her face, back and forth. As though the image somehow didn’t look like her, despite being only a year and three months old.

The man flipped the page to her visa, studied it for a moment. Hana bit her cheek to keep in an annoyed sigh. Patience. Patience.

“What’s the purpose of your visit?” the man asked, still examining her visa.

“Business,” she said.

“The nature of your business?”

She knew that he knew the answer already, since the visa clearly stated the nature of her business. “Military,” she said, keeping her tone carefully polite. It was especially silly because this was the Gibraltar International Airport, where basically the only people who arrived were military personnel. With minimal exceptions, the only thing inside the state limits of Gibraltar were military bases.

“Where will you be staying during your stay?”

She stared at him for a moment, face blank while inside she planned a three minute rant about the absurdity of security theater, and the self-importance of airport security personnel. She blinked. Smiled. “At the Watch Point. On the base.”

The man finally stamped her passport and ushered her through to customs. She retrieved her bag, assured the customs agent that she had nothing to declare, then shouldered the duffel and made her way to transportation.

A woman in Overwatch blue was waiting for her with a sign that said “Specialist Song.” Hana followed her to the car, handed her bag over to the driver, then pressed her nose to the window to see the foreign landscape. Overwatch had been disbanded ten years ago, and reinstated officially some two years ago now. She had started hearing about its unofficial recall when she was seventeen and had just started in the MEKA program with the Korean government, along with six other pilots. Now twenty, she had more or less been traded to Overwatch by her own military in exchange technology developed by Zhou Mei-Ling, the famed Overwatch scientist who had spent nine years cryogenically frozen during the Disbandment.

Hana watched the rocky cliffs pass by and tried not to be bitter about it. When she had given up her civilian life for service to her country, she had never imagined part of that service would be to leave her home and serve the military organization that had failed it.

The view was beautiful.

She missed the skyline of Seoul.

A man wearing something between civies and a uniform was waiting to greet her as the car pulled up to the base. She got out, fetched her bag, and made her way to the strangely dressed man. He wore the dark blue pants of the redesigned Overwatch uniforms but something that she thought was a serape covered the white long-sleeve shirt that Hana presumed would normally go underneath a casual uniform jacket.

“Hey there, Specialist Song,” he said, his English thickly accented with a regional dialect sound that Hana guessed was American Southwest. “The name’s McCree.”

“Oh! Strike Leader McCree, of course. I’ve heard all about you,” she said, shaking his hand. “It’s an honor, sir.”

He smiled, scratching at his chin. “Well, that’s mighty kind of you. You’re something of a legend ’round these parts, yourself. If you’ll follow me, I can show you around, get you situated.”

Hana had to admit she was a little bit flattered. She certainly hadn’t expected Jesse McCree himself to escort her onto base. Or to call her a legend. She had been under the impression that the Korean government had selected her based on its own criteria, but perhaps Overwatch leadership had asked for her specifically.

Or maybe this was just McCree’s legendary sweet talking.

He showed her to her room first so that she could drop off the duffel. It was a simple room, twin bed, closet with a mirror, desk and desk chair in the corner. She shared a bathroom that had two sinks, a toilet, and a shower stall, with another woman, whose bedroom was attached to the other side. “Two people per bathroom?” she said, poking her head in and observing the other woman’s blue and gold toiletries. “Living in the lap of luxury.”

“The GEs share bathrooms and bunks, barracks style,” the Strike Leader responded. “Specialists and low-ranking officers have suites like these, and higher ranking officers have their own apartments. Come on, I’ll show you the mess and then we’ll get your credentials sorted.”

She memorized the route to the mess hall from her room so that she could find her own way, then trailed after McCree down to administrative offices where she was given a “badge.” The badge, as everyone seemed to call it, was really just a glorified ID card with a magnetized strip that granted her access to any of the facilities for which she had security clearance, as well as her bedroom and the common room on her hall.

“You’re to wear your badge clipped to your uniform at all times while you’re on duty,” McCree told her, moving his serape aside to show his own clipped to its underside. “Let’s see about getting your uniforms.”

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing chores and errands, and again Hana had to wonder why they had decided that one of their highest ranking commanders would be in charge of doing this with her. It seemed like something they should have put a sergeant or even just some random civie worker in charge of. She was fitted for uniforms, shown the laundry facilities and the common room on her hall where she could cook for herself if she didn’t want to eat the mess meals, then the gym and outdoor track for running. McCree made sure that her digital ID was in place, too, so that she had access to the holoscreens scattered throughout base, her computer, and her tablet. All standard issue.

Well, that wasn’t true. She had requested, and been granted, a gaming computer. She had sent along very specific requirements, down to the model numbers for individual parts, and her Overwatch recruiter had simply assured her they would see to it. Once McCree bid her good evening (reminding her that dinner was in an hour), she set about checking all of the hardware to make sure she had been given what she had asked for. Sure enough, it was in order.

Hana started the process of installing all of her games and apps that she needed for streaming, then sat back in her chair and looked around her new digs. Honestly, this was way nicer than what she had been given in Korea, but it all just felt so… foreign. To make it feel more like home, she unpacked her bag, hanging up her clothing and situating the few personal touches she had brought to decorate.

She pulled out her favorite picture, relieved the glass in the frame hadn’t cracked during her flight, and set it up on her desk. It featured herself and the six other pilots from the experimental MEKA program, each sitting on their MEKAs in some manner. Hana was laying on hers, hanging down the front of it, while her friend Seungah sat nestled in her MEKA’s arm.

Hana checked the time. 1804 in Gibraltar, so it was 0104 in Seoul. Seungah and the others were undoubtedly asleep, and Hana wished she could be, too. At least her streamer life meant she was used to strange hours and long days… maybe the jetlag wouldn’t be too bad.

Dinner was from 1800 to 1900, so she left her computer to update, changed into her casual uniform (blue pants, white shirt, no need for the jacket or hat since she was staying indoors), and made her way to mess.

She noticed him the minute he walked into the dining hall.

Hana was seated by herself at one of the long tables, facing the door, and wishing she had brought her own chopsticks to eat with. She was perfectly proficient with a fork and knife, of course, but she was maybe a little bit homesick. As she speared a bite of chicken onto her fork, she glanced up and saw a familiar face.

Well, familiar in the sense that it was plastered on posters and advertisements, not in the sense that she knew him personally.

Lúcio Correia dos Santos.

“Don’t freak out, Hana,” she whispered to herself, fork paused on its journey to her lips. “Don’t freak out.”

He was wearing the same casual Overwatch uniform as her and headed straight to the line to get a tray of food. She turned to watch him go by, surprised. Hadn’t he just played a concert in Copenhagen last month? What was he doing in Gibraltar? At the Overwatch Headquarters?

He disappeared behind the wall that separated the kitchen line and the rest of the room, then reappeared a minute later on the other side, tray in hand. He looked around the room doubtfully, and Hana’s stomach fluttered as their eyes met during his scan. He looked past her, then his gaze snapped back to her, his expression surprised. A grin spread on his face and he headed her way.

“Oh my god,” she whispered, turning back to her meal quickly, head in her hands. “Oh my god.”

“D.Va? You’re D.Va, right? The streamer?” Lúcio said, sitting down opposite of her and grinning widely.

“Uh… yeah?” Hana replied, dropping her hands and silently admonishing herself. Act normal, Song. Normal! “That’s me. Hana Song.”

“Oh, man, this is so cool!” Lúcio said, eyes squeezing shut with excitement for a second. “I’m such a fan! I love your streams. My favorite was the night you speed played that retro Mario Kart game all the way through, I watched the whole thing. You got first place every single race!”

Now Hana was grinning, too. “That was wild,” she agreed. “I was so tired at the end of it. Energy drinks kept me alive.”

“You were great,” he said. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t introduce myself. Lúcio—”

“Lúcio Correia dos Santos,” she interjected, cutting him off. “I know who you are. I have your album, I listen to it all the time. Oh man, can I get the rights to play it during a stream?”

“Hell yeah! I’ll contact my lawyers about it tonight, have them get in touch with your legal team.”

“Yes! Thank you! What game should I play with it?”

Conversation flowed easily then as they joked together about the best games to play with his album as the soundtrack, mostly suggesting horror and survival games because they’d be so incongruous with the upbeat, soothing sound of his music.

“How long have you been here? I haven’t seen you around before,” Lúcio said as their laughter at the game suggestions faded.

“I arrived just a few hours ago,” she replied. “It’s my first day here.”

“No way! Well, I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been here for three days and I haven’t really made any friends yet. I mean, I hope I can call you a friend? I know we don’t really know each other yet, but this has been pretty fun!”

“Yeah!” Hana agreed, nodding vigorously. “You wanna guest star on my next stream? New best friend Lúcio Correia dos Santos, suck it world!”

He laughed. “Hell yeah I do! But I don’t play many games, I don’t want to bring you down!” He looked like he was about to keep going, but something over Hana’s shoulder caught his attention. His cheerful expression faded, turning thoughtful, wary.

Hana studied his face for a second before glancing back to see what he was staring at. Lúcio’s gaze was fixed on an older man who was not wearing any kind of regulation clothing, but rather heavy black cargo pants tucked into heavy black combat boots, and a tight-fitting black shirt under a red, white, and blue leather jacket. Most striking was the mask and visor fitted over his face, metallic silver and red, making him look both angry and inscrutable. Above the mask was white hair and the top of what Hana guessed was a long, wide scar that would run right between the man’s eyes.

“Who is that?” Hana asked, turning back to Lúcio before the man caught her staring.

Lúcio shook his head. “Haven’t figured it out yet. He goes by Soldier:76, but I can tell by the way some people interact with him that he’s important. I’ve only seen him around a few times, but last time he was with Dr. Ziegler, Commander Winston, Commander Wilhelm, Strike Leader Oxton, and Strike Leader McCree.”

Hana whistled lowly. Besides Strike Leader Shimada, those were all of the biggest names since the reinstatement, at least in terms of the military operations. There were some famous scientists, too, like Torbjörn Lindholm and Hana’s personal hero, Zhou Mei-Ling. Most of the people who were in leadership positions of Overwatch were returning agents from before the Disbandment era, and were well known as heroes.

“Yeah,” Lúcio said, agreeing with the sentiment behind her whistle. “He clearly carries some weight here. Even with just three days here, I can tell something’s up. But I haven’t really started investigating yet.”

Hana nodded. “We’ll figure it out,” she said.

They said their goodbyes, Hana wanting to get to bed early since she’d been traveling all day and had an early orientation meeting the next day. Lúcio seemed to have the same orientation (or at least, they were both expected to check in to the main training room at 0730 after breakfast), so they agreed to meet up early and go together.

When she got back to her room, most of the installations on her computer were complete and she was able to run a few games, checking on her save data, before throwing a few messages out on social media to let her fans know that she would announce her next stream as soon as she knew her schedule and to expect a very special guest, then she settled into bed with her phone and sent a few quick texts off to her MEKA pilot friends for when they woke up. She made sure to brag about becoming friends with Lúcio, knowing her friend Ju Ho would be very jealous.

Double checking that her alarm was set, Hana finally turned off all her screens and lights, and settled in to sleep. Exhausted though she was, her nerves and homesickness kept her awake for a while anyway. At least she’d made a friend today, and the mystery of Soldier:76 promised to be interesting. These thoughts carried her into a deep, dreamless sleep, blissfully devoid of the usual nightmares.