Ana walked quietly through halls she had thought destroyed years ago, and that she had resolved never to return to even before their destruction. Unsure how it was possible, she let her hand trail along the cool, painted concrete, the chilly feel against her hand sending a shiver down her spine. She felt more like a ghost than ever, haunting the ruined (yet somehow still standing) home of her past.
The old Overwatch Headquarters building was eerily empty, not a soul in sight. This fact more than anything made Ana sure that this was somehow a hallucination or trick. Not once in the fifteen years she had called the Geneva building home had she ever seen it empty. Even at the most unpleasant hours of the morning, the hallways had teemed with field agents, scientists, staff, and visitors.
She was walking an intentional path, straight to the old Command Center, where she, Jack, and Gabriel had spent many a day and night overseeing missions, bickering, and laughing. As time had gone on there had been more of the bickering and less of the laughing; there had also been increasingly frequent absences from the Blackwatch Commander, harder lines on Jack’s face as he growled into comms demanding to know where Reyes had gotten to.
Pausing outside Command, Ana shivered a little. Gabriel and Jack had forged on for years after her supposed death, but even by then she had known things were reaching a breaking point between the two men. She shook her head, remembering what it had been like to read the news stories, to know that almost everyone she knew in the world had been in that building when it had gone down. The obituaries started to come out as bodies were recovered… people she had commanded, soldiers she had fought beside, snipers she had trained personally. Then Jack and Gabriel. Oh, how it hard hurt to read those words, platitudes emblazoned on her mind even now, despite knowing her boys were alive.
Wondering if security measures even mattered in whatever this place was, Ana set her hand against the scanner and waited while it confirmed her identity. A second later the Command door slid open and she stepped inside.
Jack Morrison spun on his heel to face her, eyes and mouth open wide in surprise.
She smirked. “Nostalgic, Jack?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at his outfit.
He glanced down and grimaced, shrugging. He wore the lightly armored blue coat he had worn during his Strike Commander days, his hair yellow like sunshine, face unmarred by the scars he had picked up during the explosion.
“You, too,” he pointed out, and Ana looked at her own outfit for the first time. She was surprised to see herself in her old training gear, gray sweats that gathered at the ankle, tight white t-shirt, dark brown hair peeking out from under a standard issue scarf. All emblazoned with the Overwatch logo.
“Ah,” she said. “How fascinating.”
She scanned the walls to see what Jack was working on. During their leadership days, Jack had always been juggling many impossible tasks, keeping tabs on open missions and investigations worldwide from this, the heart of Overwatch’s management.
“It helps me keep it all straight,” he said, watching Ana look over the screens that displayed names of known Talon agents and locations of known Talon bases, all with information listed underneath in the style of the dossiers they had kept on people and groups of interest during the glory days. Reaper was at the center, his image displayed side-by-side with Gabriel’s face the way Jack and Ana remembered it. Scowling, scarred, precious.
“What is this place?” Ana asked, studying Gabriel’s face sadly.
“You don’t—oh, of course. You ‘died’ right after the install,” Jack said, nodding to himself.
“One of Winston’s experiments,” Jack said, turning his attention back to the screens and frowning as the display changed to show a list of Overwatch agents, most of whom Ana recognized from her time there. At the top were Jack, Gabe, Reinhardt, Angela, Torbjorn, and herself. “Called DREAM, Durable REmote Agent Mediation. You must have gotten the software install but never activated for the actual program.”
“Software install?” Ana repeated, frowning. It had been standard procedure back then, the monthly updates and installs… so many experimental programs and tech, it was hard to keep up with. Everyone was a little bit a cyborg… or a lot. She had the basics, plus her eye. Health nanobots, comm links, GPS. Apparently this ‘DREAM’ program, too.
“Yeah, you probably signed off on it without really knowing what it was, and then next mission was the mission where you… well. You know.” Jack sighed.
“So, what is it?”
He gestured around the room. “Durable, meaning this place endures as a digital context outside of any single agent’s imagination or mind. Remote agent mediation, as in, anyone with the software can dream themselves here for meetings and communication. We used it for a while to facilitate secure Strike Team meetings, but it wasn’t as effective as we had hoped. Too many variables—most pressing of which was we had to all be asleep at the same time. Can’t be in this DREAM without actually dreaming.”
Ana nodded thoughtfully. “So why is this the first time I’ve ever been here? I’ve had the software all along, right?”
Jack looked her over, then shrugged. “No idea,” he said. “Winston might know.”
“And Gabriel? Surely he has used this tech many times. What makes this safe from him?” Her eyes landed on the masked face of Reaper, white owl skull glaring angrily back, accusing.
Jack snorted, folding his arms. “Reaper doesn’t dream.”
Ana watched him for a minute, his face set with a stubborn meanness that had never graced those handsome features when he had actually been that young. No, despite appearances, this was Soldier: 76, not Strike Commander Morrison. Angry, betrayed, cynical.
“What are you doing here, Jack?” she asked, glancing at her feet and not terribly surprised to see her outfit had changed. She felt her age acutely right now, the weariness in her bones and the sadness in her soul. She knew that if she were to look in a mirror at this moment, she would no longer see the young Captain Amari in workout clothes, but the old, weathered woman she had become.
“Monitoring a situation,” he answered gruffly, and a new image appeared on the screen in front of them.
It was a video feed of the medical wing of the Geneva building, nonexistent except in this DREAM state. And in it….
“Is that Angela?” Ana gasped, stepping closer.
Jack nodded. “It is,” he confirmed. “And the Talon agent known as Sombra.”
Ana jerked sharply toward the door, intending to rush immediately to the doctor’s aid, but Jack caught her arm. “Wait!” he snapped, and she froze. It actually kind of annoyed her how quickly and instinctively she still obeyed Jack’s orders.
“Jack,” she said, almost pleading. “Angie—”
“I told you, I’m monitoring the situation,” he said, pulling her gently back to the screen. “Watch.”
Angela looked over the charts that Sombra had handed her. “And you’re sure this is accurate?” she asked, flipping back and forth between two pages to compare data points. “You’re remembering it correctly?”
“Don’t have to remember when you’ve got the right hardware, doc,” Sombra scoffed, tapping the glowing purple metal embedded into her skull. “Nice thing about a digital interface for this DREAM thing. That chart is downloaded data from my tech to tech. No potential for a memory error.”
Angela nodded, tapping her lips. “It’s very fascinating, this data,” she mused. “The treatment seems to be especially effective at targeting the necroplasia but also increases the risk at a malfunction on the cellular level. If we could adjust the configuration of the plasma fusion….”
“English, doc. Or Spanish.”
“Right,” Angela sighed, committing the charts to memory. “I’ll need three days at least to develop the next formula.”
“Three days?” Sombra echoed, frowning. “I don’t know if this round is sustainable for that long.”
Shaking her head, Angela gestured sharply at the charts. “I know that, but this is… three days is already a very fast timetable, you have to understand. You’ll just have to wait it out.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about,” Sombra grumbled.
Angela softened, flicking her gaze up away from the charts, studying the hacker. “I know. I’m worried about him, too.” She bit her lip. “Okay, let’s do it this way. Give him one more of the current dose, then decrease to half for the next two days while I work. If needed, you can increase his painkiller dosage, but….”
“He’ll just build immunity faster that way, I know.”
Angela nodded. “Three days, Sombra.”
Sombra waved her fingers at her, then disappeared.
Angela settled in to study the charts for another few minutes, waiting for the alarm clock to wake her body. As soon as the buzzing startled her awake, she snatched up her pen and paper and copied the charts from her memory. DREAM memories were much sharper and more accurate than the way people remembered normal dreams, but they still faded too quickly. Perhaps she’d have to ask Sombra about those implants that could bring stored information into and out of the DREAM state….
She rubbed at her eyes, and briefly considered another hour of sleep, but no. A friend was depending on her, and she had only three days. She hoped it was enough.
Angela looked up from her work with bleary eyes when someone knocked on her door. Turning, she saw Jack leaning on the doorframe, holding a cup of coffee up in offering.
“Thank you, old friend,” she sighed, rolling her chair back and accepting the coffee as he entered and settled next to her on a stool.
“How’s it going?” he asked, looking at the computer screen with her work on it.
She gave an irritable huff. “As badly as expected,” she groused. “I am working with incomplete data, no current samples, and archaic equipment.”
“And yet you continue to pull out miracles,” Jack said, eyebrow arched over his coffee mug as he took a sip.
She knew he meant it as a compliment, but the work was frustrating and she missed having colleagues who could look at her data and see more than a compilation of numbers and medical terms. Hearing even a beloved friend like Jack call her work a miracle just made it more obvious how little anyone understood of the genius and sacrifice that went into cranking out the life-and-death formulas and solutions.
Still, she forced a smile. “I do try,” she said, sipping the coffee.
Jack eyed her closely, then grunted and drained his coffee. “What do you need?”
“Time, money, and current samples,” she said immediately.
“I can’t do anything about time and money,” he replied slowly, and his tone of voice tipped her off that something was up. She sat up straighter, watching him intently as he gathered his thoughts before continuing. “But if you can wait a few days for the current samples, I might be able to help.”
“How?” she said.
“We got some intel from Ana recently,” he said, eyes not meeting hers. “I know where Talon is going to be in two days’ time. I can meet them there.”
“Intel from Ana?” Angela repeated incredulously. “Nobody has heard from her since the Egypt mission went to shit.”
Jack’s eyes flicked up from his coffee mug, blue meeting blue, before lowering back to study the dregs of the life-giving liquid as if he could read the future in them.
“Jack,” she said sharply.
He sighed and stood, and she didn’t bother to hide the irritation on her face. He clearly wasn’t going to give up more information about Ana right now. “I’ll get you the samples, Angie. It’ll take a few days.”
“Fine. Be careful. Just because we’re collaborating on this little side project doesn’t mean Talon won’t take the opportunity to kill you if it’s presented,” she said, turning her chair around before he could reply and going back to carefully measuring saline solution for the new formula.
Gabe was doing the thing again. The thing she hated. The thing Gabe knew she hated.
The thing where he lectured her.
God. Did he actually think she listened to him at all during these things? She picked at a nail, flicking away a tiny fleck of dirt that had someone buried itself under her immaculately clawed manicure.
Hm, something had changed. She looked up and around, trying to discern what was different. Oh, Gabe was done talking, minutes earlier than anticipated. She filed the data away—perhaps her disinterested slouch and lack of eye contact had actually decreased the length of his lecture. She would try again next time and see if it would work regularly.
Their eyes met and Gabriel rolled his mightily, more sass than when Widow had explained to Akande that no, she would not consider a more “appropriate” outfit for missions.
“So, have you finished the diagnostics?” Sombra asked.
“Did you listen to a single word I just said?” Gabe sighed.
“No, obviously. Don’t ask stupid questions. The diagnostics?”
Gabe stared at her for a minute, then propped his elbow on the table and rested his forehead on his hand, rubbing at his brow. The very image of a put-upon dad, at the end of his patience. She smirked.
“You still haven’t told me what you’re doing with the data, or who this mysterious doctor you’re consulting is,” he said.
“Who cares? It’s working, isn’t it?” Sombra said, wagging a hand in the air to dismiss his concern.
“I care, Sombra,” Gabe said, and something in his tone made her pause, another witticism withering on her lips. He still had his face covered, but through his fingers she saw the wisps of black smoke curling up from his nose. Her heart fell a little. “It’s my fucking body. My life. I’m putting a lot of trust in your hands.”
“I know, Gabe. I won’t let you down. That’s why I need the new data before I meet my contact tonight.”
“Tonight?” Gabe asked, looking up, and Sombra cursed herself a little. Until right then, she had managed to keep the dates and times of her contact with Angela a secret from him, not wanting him to get clued into how she was communicating with her. If Gabe put together that she was meeting the “mystery doctor” while she slept, he would quickly put the rest together about the DREAM state, and from there it would be impossible to keep Angela a secret.
“Just give me the diagnostics data, Gabe, and let me handle the rest.” She held out her hand expectantly and after a long stare, he produced a memory stick from a pocket and smacked it into her palm.
“Tell your ‘contact’ that the pain from this last batch feels like the fuckin’ flu,” he snapped, standing up. “Aches and chills. And I’m so tired.” He was gone before she could reply.
She plugged the memory stick into her cyberbiotic hand implants and began the data transfer. “I know, Gabe,” she murmured. “I know.”
“What? Are you sure this is accurate?” Angela demanded, tracing a finger down the column of numbers that meant very little to Sombra.
“I don’t know why they wouldn’t be,” Sombra answered as she looked at the numbers, wishing they made more sense. Angela had taught her a great deal about the tests and chemicals that Sombra had to manage on her own, but most of it still went over her head. “Is it good?”
Angela tipped her head to the side, eyes widening for a moment as she arched her eyebrows. “It is… interesting. Not good, exactly, but possibly very helpful. I just need those live samples….”
“What live samples?” Sombra demanded.
Angela looked up, startled. Sombra watched as she ran back over her recent words, grimaced at the way she had phrased them, and then tried to think up a cover story. Brilliant as she was when it came to medical research, and despite her quick thinking and exceptional executive skills in combat and high-risk situations, Angela Ziegler remained a very bad liar.
“Did I say… those live samples? I meant, I wish I had some live samples,” she said, looking away from Sombra hastily. “It will be very hard to make sense of this new data without some testing material.”
“Who else would even be able to supply you with live samples?” Sombra demanded, not even pretending to buy Angela’s story. “I can’t, and I’m your only Talon contact. And Gabriel remains in the dark regarding your involvement.”
But the doctor was suddenly very busy not listening to Sombra, putting on a show of being immersed in the data and not listening. Jesus, was this how Gabe felt when Sombra ignored him? It was irritating.
Well, it wasn’t like Ziegler would get her live samples without Gabe knowing. No way to get vials of his, uh, “blood” (did Gabe have real blood? Sombra didn’t actually know) without tipping him off. Maybe he’d be more forthcoming than blondie.
“Alright, doc, I haven’t got all night. Whatcha got for me?”
Angela looked up, suddenly paying close attention again. Sombra rolled her eyes, then forgot her grievance as she noted a new, metallic glint on the inside of Angela’s wrist. When Angela noticed her gaze, she covered the metal implant self-consciously.
“Just a little biomemory,” she said, frowning at Sombra. “Don’t even think about hacking it, or our deal is permanently off.”
“Who, me?” Sombra asked, feigning innocence before cackling at Angela’s unamused look. “Wouldn’t dream of it, prom queen. What’s it for?”
Angela relaxed a little, producing a memory stick from her pocket and plugging it into the biomemory port. “After you told me about using your… enhancements to bring data back and forth from these meetings, I thought it would be wise to do the same.” She handed Sombra the memory stick, a DREAM construct that wasn’t necessarily but helped facilitate interaction in a natural, easy way. Technically, Angela could dump her data directly into DREAM’s RAM, from which Sombra could then draw it out and store it in her own. Ah well, the doc was new to cyborg enhancements; the memory stick would do. Sombra downloaded the information.
“Everything you need for making the next compound properly, as well as detailed instructions on how to respond to possible… side-effects.” At Sombra’s skeptical look, Angela continued. “I’m taking shots in the dark, here. Well, not quite the dark, but it’s like… playing Russian roulette. I’m missing the most crucial information: where the bullet is, but I know Gabe can’t wait for me to find out.”
Sombra nodded. After making sure Angela had downloaded all of the information to her new biomemory implant properly, she booted herself from the DREAM state and woke up.
“Welcome back,” Reaper growled from the corner. “How is Dr. Ziegler tonight?”
“Not sure I can carry a second biotic field, luv,” Lena said, holding the canister out to return to Jack. “I have a very narrow margin of weight that can be transported by this thing, you know,” she continued, tapping the chronal accelerator affectionately. “First time I tried to carry something heavy with me—” she broke off and whistled, shaking her head.
“I get it, Lena,” Jack grumbled, taking the medical field device back and stowing it in a pouch on his arm with the others. “At least you have one. You ready?”
Lena did a quick, patting check to make sure her assorted weapons were in place, then tugged the straps of her various devices and clothing to make sure everything was as tight as possible. It wasn’t comfortable, but having your arm ripped off while trying to teleport because of a loose sleeve was less so. Or so she imagined—she had happily never had to test the theory before, because she was very careful.
Satisfied that her ducks were all in a row, she nodded to Jack—Soldier: 76, she supposed. They were on a mission now. Code names from here out.
“Moving out,” 76 barked into his comms to Winston, and the two of them began the run from the dropship to the abandoned Omnium where Talon operatives would be today, according to Ana. There wasn’t much cover to hide them, but Tracer and 76 were fast and hard to spot.
When they got to the Omnium, 76 guided them around the building to a side entrance, using his tactical visor to read for thermal signatures. Apparently, no Talon agents were guarding the door, because he nodded to Tracer to open it. Still, he stood to the side of the door with his giant pulse rifle held ready, prepared to move in first and clear the area once Tracer got them in.
She mouthed the countdown, then threw the door open and waited for 76 to dash in before following him, guns at the ready. Empty. When 76 gave her the signal, she shut the door and fell in with him, following closely and keeping an eye on their flanks.
When they arrived at a room that gave them a good, defensible position, 76 halted them and pulled out his blueprint scanner. The device whirred for a minute, scanning the building around them, then popped up a basic layout map of the most proximate areas. It could only scan about ten meters out in any direction, which wasn’t enough to get the whole building, but it certainly gave them a better idea of where they were heading.
76’s plan followed the logic that Talon was hitting the Omnium so that Sombra could try to get the mainframe running, based on what they knew about Doomfist’s interest in rekindling warfare. After all, an operational Omnium in Western Europe would certainly throw much of the world into chaos, and there wasn’t much else left in the dead Omniums besides the tech that had supported the AI God programs—and there was not a single casual looter brave enough to touch those scraps.
So they made their way through the hallways toward the heart of the Omnium. Tracer wasn’t even convinced that 76 needed to use the map much; she guessed most Omniums had similar layouts, and Jack Morrison probably had that floorplan engraved on his brain.
Her heart twisted a little, listening to the old man’s leather jacket creak as they continued their stealthy infiltration. Poor Jack. Lena had seen her fair share of fights and battles, but she had been very young during the Omnic Crisis. She couldn’t imagine the life the washed-up vigilante in front of her had lived, even having had the privilege of knowing him before the Fall.
He raised his fist in a signal to halt, and Lena immediately dedicated all of her focus to listening and watching for indications of danger, hands hovering above her guns.
Just as Tracer was about to relax, she saw a glint of metal ahead. “Sniper!” she exclaimed, shoving 76 hard and then throwing herself in the opposite direction. A gunshot cracked and the wall next to where she had been standing exploded with dust and debris from the high caliber round.
“Keep your head down!” 76 called to her. “Meet me ahead at the mainframe. Remember the mission!” He tossed her the mapping device, then dashed around the corner. Tracer, from her spot of relative safety behind a wall, debated. She was already at maximum weight, and the mapping device was heavier than the biotic field she had earlier rejected for weight reasons. She couldn’t carry everything she had and still safely use her chronal accelerator.
“Sorry, Jack,” she muttered, ditching the biotic field. It was the only thing she was carrying that wasn’t absolutely essential now that she was separated from 76 and had to use the map to find him again.
Knowing Widowmaker, she would be setting up in a new nest closer to the heart of the mission. Tracer, more mobile and agile than 76, figured her best option was to try to get Widow out of the way so that 76 could finish the mission. Trusting that the old soldier would keep the rest of the Talon agents distracted, she made her way up, keeping her eyes peeled for any sign of Widowmaker.
Just as she was starting to worry she had made the wrong call, she heard the telltale clicking of heels on the floor above her. Consulting the map, she found the closest stairwell and crept quietly up, heart pounding.
Once she was on the landing, it was clear why Widow had chosen this vantage point. Below her, Tracer could see the computer mainframe, complete with one purple hacker and one half-vaporized ex-Commander. The two were focused on the computer still, so Tracer supposed 76 hadn’t made his appearance yet. Good, there would be time to get Widow off his ass.
Tracer looked around the corner carefully and spotted the sniper on her stomach, eye pressed to her scope, watching a doorway on the far side of the cavernous room below.
Making a quick decision, Tracer hefted the mapping device and hurtled it down the hallway so that it crashed into a wall deep in the darkness to Widow’s right. The sniper snapped her attention to the distraction, long enough for Tracer to dart in with two quick pulses forward. She snatched the rifle out of Widow’s hands while she was still startled, then affixed her pulse bomb to it and pulsed forward once more, then hurled the gun down the hallway, activating the bomb.
She recalled away, reappearing where she had started the whole series of actions, and then heard the explosion of the small bomb and shielded her face from the blast of heat that came from the sudden fireball.
Widowmaker shrieked her rage and was on Tracer in a minute, tackling her to the ground and managing to land a hard punch to her face. “What have you done?” she hissed, raising her fist for another punch. Tracer dodged easily, and Widow yelped in pain as her hand smashed into the ground instead.
Tracer used her moment of stunned pain to shove herself out from under Widow, staggering to her feet and massaging at her sore jaw. “Sorry, luv,” Tracer spat, “couldn’t have you killing another of my heroes on my watch.”
“Pathetic,” spat Widowmaker, on her feet again and rubbing her raw knuckles. “Mondatta was weak, Jack Morrison is weak, and you worhsip them. Silly girl, playing at hero.”
“Tell that to your rifle—oh wait, it’s nothing but shrapnel now,” Tracer taunted, trying to figure out a retreat. Widowmaker was a formidable opponent, not to be underestimated. Simply running left her back unprotected and could make the mission much harder to accomplish. She’d have to incapacitate her somehow.
That problem was solved for her as a new face materialized out of thin air behind Widow. Tracer had enough time to register the sudden appearance of a woman in purple before Widow collapsed onto her from a swift blow to the head.
Tracer shoved the unconscious sniper off of her and scrambled to her feet, guns trained on the new threat. This was Sombra, she guessed, based on the intel she’d been given during their latest brief. But Sombra and Widow were both Talon; why was the hacker helping the recall team?
“You better hurry,” Sombra said, smirking at the guns pointed at her head. “I’m going to ‘find’ Amélie here in a minute or so and revive her.”
“Why are you helping me?” Tracer demanded, biting her lip uncertainly. From below, she heard the blast of a shotgun and threw one last look at the still smirking Sombra, then dashed for the stairs without waiting for an answer to her question.
If he was being honest, Soldier: 76 would have to admit that he went into this mission with a half-baked plan. At best. Maybe more like… quarter-baked.
When he had been Strike Commander, he had been cautious to the point of indecision. Back then, it had been everyone else’s life on the line, and no plan could be too thorough. He had ‘lost’ Ana because of a plan gone awry; for years after her ‘death,’ he had been haunted by the question—had he just planned a little better, waited for a little more intel, sent in a reconnaissance team… would she have lived?
Now, it was usually his own life at risk, and he didn’t really value that enough to worry about making cautious plans.
With Tracer’s accompaniment on this mission, he had tried to be more careful. He’d brought her some extra biotic fields, maybe enough to save her if things went south. He’d brought the mapping device in case they got separated—a decision that had already proved helpful.
But the rest… well, the rest had been disregarded because another life was on the line, one he had never been able to think clearly around. He had to get those samples to Angela. He had to save Gabriel.
Rushing in with a quarter-baked plan was his only option this time, because if he didn’t find a way to get the samples to Angela now, who knew if the next chance to get them would come in time?
He waited outside the Mainframe Chamber, memories of rushes on Omniums 30 years ago echoing around his head, making the halls come alive with remembered gunfire and the grunts and cries of his fellow soldiers. Before Overwatch, he had been on several US Military teams that had tried to get control of local Omniums. He and Gabriel both. Jack could count on his hand the number of soldiers who had survived those strikes—with such a high fatality rate, it was no wonder the government had abandoned attempts at cleaning out Omniums. The fact that he and Gabriel had survived all of the attempts was the impetus for them ending up on the Overwatch team.
76 noticed his heart rate skyrocketing and shook his head, banishing the creeping feeling of panic at the memories. No omnics here today, no God AI waiting inside the Mainframe Chamber to trick and ensnare him and his team.
From above, he heard an explosion. Tracer’s pulse bomb. She must have found the sniper. Well, this was his chance, while the sniper was preoccupied.
He rushed into the Mainframe Chamber, gun and visor scanning together for signs of threats. Nothing. Yet.
Ostensibly they were here to stop Reaper and his team from doing whatever it was they wanted to accomplish at the Omnium, and 76 wasn’t letting that objective out of sight just because he also had an ulterior motive. His best guess was Talon’s plans had something to do with the Mainframe itself, so he started the process of making his way to the control panel, creeping as best he could around the edges of the room to avoid giving away his position. He trusted Tracer, but she wasn’t invincible; the sniper could be ready to take a shot again any second now if that fight had gone badly for the Brit.
Still no sign of Talon agents in the Chamber. 76 approached the control panel cautiously, looking for signs of tampering.
“Find anything you like?” a deep, surly voice asked.
76 turned and raised his rifle quickly, but Reaper had the advantage and blocked the gun’s rise with an arm like steel. The wraith was too close for 76’s preferred tactics, and the left hook he threw just stirred up a cloud of nanites. Reaper had anticipated the blow, phasing his face out of solid form in time to avoid any damage from the blow.
“What are you doing here, Gabriel?” 76 demanded.
Reaper cackled. “Don’t ask stupid questions, Commander,” he sneered. “You know.”
“I know why Talon wants this Omnium, or at least I can guess,” 76 conceded. “But… we fought side-by-side to shut places like this down. To save the world.”
Reaper shook his head. “That’s the thing, Jack. You fought to save the world. I fought… to fight.”
“I don’t believe that,” 76 snapped.
With a shrug, Reaper tightened his grip on 76’s rifle and threw it hard, away from the console. 76 kept a grip on the gun and so was thrown with it, caught off guard by the sudden movement and staggering across the room. By the time he regained his balance, one of Reaper’s shotguns was at his face. He stopped in place, gun pointed at the ground, half-crouched from his stumbling fall.
“What is that?” Reaper demanded.
“What is what?” 76 shot back, genuinely confused and far more concerned by the barrel of the shotgun consuming his field of sight.
Reaper reached out a clawed hand and snatched 76 upright by the front of his leather coat. 76 didn’t struggle; Reaper had, after all, already demonstrated he was not bluffing with his willingness to shoot his former partner.
Reaper’s talons snatched at the empty vials Angela had sent along with 76, hooking them out from the inside pocket where they had been safely tucked against his chest.
“What are these?” he growled.
“What do they look like, Gabriel?” 76 asked tiredly.
“You’re working with them? The doctor and Sombra?”
76 said nothing, just waited.
“DREAM state, huh?” Reaper mused. “It’s an interesting solution to getting around the moratorium on interactions between Talon and Overwatch.”
“Angela needs the samples, Gabe,” 76 murmured. “Please.”
Reaper threw 76 away from him and whipped his shotgun up. 76 flinched, hands instinctively coming up to shield his face even though that would do no good if Reaper actually took a shot. But the gun trained on the control panel of the Mainframe. A loud blast sounded, and when 76 could see again, the control panel was a mangled mess.
Then Reaper was pouring some of his nanites into the vials and capping them carefully. He shoved them back at 76, who took them in shocked silence.
“Do me a favor and shoot this place up a bit with me,” Reaper growled. “Can’t have it looking like I let you go without a fight.”
“Does this look like fun to you?” Reaper spat, gesturing at his own body. “That’s why. If you and the doctor are dumb enough to want to help me, well. So be it. I can wait to kill you.”
This time, Ana walked the halls of the old Overwatch Headquarters confidently, whistling a little. She experimented with making her clothes change and found that she had a great deal of control over her own image in the computer program. She couldn’t make herself look like anyone besides herself; it would have been chaos if people had been able to impersonate other agents, had DREAM actually taken off and been successful.
She chuckled at the thought of how annoyed Jack would have been if they had all impersonated him, a scene of six or seven Jacks standing around bickering about who was the real Strike Commander.
But she could make her clothing into just about anything. She remembered a particularly good Halloween from some time ago and made herself wear the corsair costume that had accompanied Fareeha’s parrot. They had won the duo costume contest that year.
When she opened the door to the Command Center, though, the conscious effort it took to maintain fun clothes became distracting and she let the program return her to the basics, the outfit she felt most natural in. Field clothes—the loose, hooded coat that camouflaged her in the Egyptian desert over light armor.
Jack was wearing his Stirke Commander outfit again, and she wondered if despite everything, he still subconsciously thought of himself this way. Perhaps it was an effect of being here in the DREAM version of their old home that made him revert to this version of Jack Morrison. Regardless, she said nothing.
“How was the mission?”
“Successful,” Jack grunted, barely looking up. He was used to meeting her here, now. They had even started scheduling their meet-ups to exchange intel and make plans.
Ana nodded. “No injuries?”
“No, Lena and I both made it out unscathed.” He paused. “Gabriel gave the samples voluntarily.”
Ana’s eyebrows climbed. Besides being surprised at Reaper, she was also concerned. “Jack,” she said, voice cautionary.
He finally looked away from the screens on the wall to meet her glance briefly, a look of unsettled self-loathing flitting there before he turned away again. “I know, Ana.”
They were silent for a minute. “He wants to be helped. And he destroyed the Mainframe panel. Maybe… maybe he’s not gone.”
“Jack,” she sighed.
He rubbed at his face tiredly. “You know I’m right,” he said, a little desperately, “or you wouldn’t have played along with this whole medical thing in the first place.”
“I agreed to this because I need to clear my conscience, Jack, and so do you.”
To her surprise, Jack snapped upright, a snarl on his face. “Why does everyone have to insist they’re motivated by selfishness?” he demanded, clearly angry. “Why can’t you just admit that you care about him still? That you have hope for him?”
She shook her head sadly. “I don’t, Jack. And you shouldn’t either.”
He looked at her, anger and guilt blazing on his falsely youthful face, and then he blinked out of the DREAM, leaving Ana to her ashamed thoughts.
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