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The Armourer and the Living Weapon

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The brown-eyed woman raised her right eyebrow. "Oxton."

"Last name only? A bit formal for a waitress, don't you think?"

"Lena Oxton," replied said waitress in her formal black-and-whites, with a bit of a nod. "Mum." Her curly walnut hair - a reasonably convincing wig - bobbed a little with the rest of her head.

"Well then, Lena," said the older woman in her dark business suit - a bit out of place in the grandstand, but layered with enough of the right kind of jewellery to make it up - "why don't you be a good girl and see what you can do about a better version of this." She handed over a lightly-sampled vodka martini, which the waitress took and gracefully placed atop her tray. "I'll be out on the terrace - I'm sure you can find me."

"Right away, mum."

The woman turned back to her colleagues as Tracer slid away, through the crowd, drink on a small tray. "Any sign of 'em yet?" she subvocalised over comms hidden in her ear.

"Non, ma chérie," came Widowmaker's reply from the roof of the recently-rebuilt Maternity Hospital, less than a kilometre south. "If they're outside, I do not have them."

"They're here, somewhere. I've spotted the driver," came Oilliphéist's voice, from atop a fully-rented B&B on the hill to the northwest. "No sign of targets yet, though."

Trader handed the glass over to the Canadian bartender working with the English-speaking waiters. "She says she wants a 'better' one," and the mixologist nodded. "I saw. More vodka?"

"Given how she's been drinkin'? Probably."

"Gimmie a sec, there's a rush." She dumped the glass and queued a double as Tracer turned around and leaned back against the end the bar, coolly surveying the £11,000-a-seat crowd, a mix of celebrities, the 'rich,' and the actually-rich, some few actively caring about the Brazil Grand Prix - those, mostly out in the heat of the pavilion overlooking the track and pits - mixing with a larger number there more to party on their parents' money. The rest hustled and toadied, currying favour with all of the above.

All these bloody 'luxury grandstands' look the same to me, Lena thought, still scanning the glittering crowd, as her supervisor stepped up with tray full of cocktails. "Oxton, do a circuit. I'll take care of the outdoor delivery."

"Gotcha," she said, looking over the drinks. Damn, she thought. No mojito. As her supervisor vanished with the double martini, she leaned back to the bar. "Chloe, priority mix me a mojito for this tray? Please?"

"Why?"

"I've had a bloke on me for one, he's really annoying." A small lie, but only a small one, and she absolutely wouldn't do a circuit without Sanjay Korpal's favourite drink. "Heavy on the mint."

"Right."

"I have him," came Emily's voice in Lena's ear. "Oh, better - I have them both."

"Where?" breathed Widowmaker.

"Behind too much glass. Tracer, second tier, third window from the north."

Lena smiled at Chloe as she added the drink to her tray, and stepped back from the bar. "Thanks," she said, to both the bartender and her counterparts. "On my way."

-----

"I really don't know what we're going to do about this," Kishori said, as quietly as could be said as the F1 automobiles roared by, outside the windows. "The board is on lockdown, neither of us know why - and you're sitting here watching noisy antiques being driven around in circles."

Sanjay smirked, the right side of his mouth twitching up, as he watched the action on the track, actually interested despite himself. He wasn't sure what he liked about it - the noise, the smell, the chaos, everything so utterly unlike everything Vishkar stood for, at least, in theory.

"Reyes has always been volatile," he replied, eyes not leaving the cars tearing their way down the track. "This is not the first time his paranoia has run away with him."

"Half my agents have gone quiet. I don't think this is paranoia."

Sanjay shrugged, having seen it all before, when Akande went to prison. "I don't pretend nothing is going on. I just know the best way not to be involved is... not to get involved. It will blow over." He wondered whether what really kept him on edge was the possibility of a fiery crash and explosion. Even the qualifiers - like the race in front of him - were more than their fair share of dangerous, and his pulse quickened a little as two cars bumped tires during an attempt to pass.

"Boisson, madame? Boisson, monsieur?" A brown-eyed waitress with curly walnut hair and a fleet of cocktails stepped to the small serving table between and behind the box seats, and Sanjay looked back at the tray. "I don't suppose you..."

"English? Of course, my apologies," Tracer said in her carefully-coached French accent. "Cocktails, sir? Madame?"

"Water," said the older woman. "If you have it."

"Of course, madame." She reached forward and across, her hand on the back of the woman's chair, and placed a small cocktail napkin on the table, along with iced water. The small tracking device attached to her collar was as complimentary as the drinks, of course.

"You wouldn't have a... oh, is that a mojito?"

"Yes, sir. But if there is something specific, I would of course be happy to fetch..."

"No, I'll take that." He reached and leaned over to grab it himself, and Lena insured the tray toppled in a way that made it clearly his fault, the drinks cascading into their chairs.

"Oh, for... Sanjay!" Kishori glared at the other Talon board member, as she dodged alcohol, extracting herself from her seat.

"Monsieur, madame, I am so sorry, it is entirely my fault! Please, allow me..." She dabbed carefully with a large cloth napkin, leaning forward as she had with his viewing companion, tracker number two attached as had been tracker one. "It appears that for the most part the... damage is to the chairs. I will summon cleaning staff at once. Would you like me to bring your drinks to your outdoor box?"

"That," Sanjay said, embarrassed, "might be the best idea. Kishori?"

"My seat is soaked, thank you - I'll be outside." She picked up her glass. "But I'll take my own water."

"Very good, madame. Monsieur?"

"Just get me another goddamned mojito," he snapped.

"Vous avez renversé de la vodka sur, ah, I, there is a bit of vodka on your sleeve, here, I have remover..."

"He's fine," Kishori interjected. "Let's go, before you embarrass yourself any further."

"I will bring your replacement drink to you. Would you like an escort to the outdoor grandstand?"

"No," he snapped. "I know where it is. Extra mint."

"Very good, sir," she smiled contritely and bowed a bit, backing away. "I will bring you your drinks presently."

She watched from the bar - cleaning staff already alerted, replacement mojito queued - as the two Talon board members fussed a bit more at themselves, and at each other, before picking up and heading towards the terrace. "Packages en route," she subvocalised. "Trackers," not tracers, she thought, amused at herself, "in place."

"Your accent has improved," Widowmaker said, into her ear. "But you would not fool a native French speaker."

"Yeh, yeh," she subvocalised. "Good thing they're from India, innit. You got 'em?"

"Signals are clear and locked..." said the Widowmaker. "Movement tracking verified. Both trackers confirmed live and functioning."

"Nice work, luv. How much vodka you dump on him? He won't change before going out to the afterparties tonight, will he?"

"Nah - he'll be fine. Everything else ready?"

"We can go as soon as you slip away."

"Gotta get 'em their drinks first," Lena smirked. "Wouldn't want 'em t'go thirsty."

"'course not," Oilliphéist snickered.

"Very well. I will watch for your departure at the gate."

"See y'soon."

-----

[São Paulo Yacht Club, some hours later]

"I'm not going to waste any more time with this stupidity," Kishori snapped. "The cars are bad enough, now you want to go boat racing?"

"I don't expect you to come along for the ride. You're perfectly welcome to stay inside and be grumpy at potential backers."

"You promised ... ah," she dropped a small hologrammatic card, made a frustrated noise, picked it back up, and glared at it. Even at a distance, Tracer could clearly see the yacht club's logo. "This nonsense is a complete waste of my time. I am leaving."

Bugger all, thought Tracer, now all in black with the wig long gone, backing the slightest bit away as Sanjay ran after his ally. "You hear that, luvs?" she asked, over comms. "She's leaving early. Should I track 'er?"

"No - stay with Korpal," the Widowmaker replied from her position in Parque Guarapiranga, across the water, but with an excellent view of the club's boat launch. "Oilliphéist, do you have her?"

"Not yet, but I certainly will," replied her counterpart, chuckling, from the playfields to the south.

"Are you tracking her?" clarified Widowmaker, dryly.

"Tracking signal clear and strong," Oilliphéist confirmed. "Mind if I have some fun? Different methods would cloudy the picture..."

"I cannot imagine you doing anything less. Go."

Tracer worried a bit at the idea of Emily letting herself have fun. "Don't let's make a mess, Oilliphést."

"Oh, Tracer, don't worry. I'll be careful."

"I don't mean, that, I mean, just..." She felt conflict rising inside her as opportunities began to realise themselves. "...don't draw it out."

"What do you... oh!" She heard a bit of laughter over the comms. "Don't worry! I'm not going to torture her - though it's not like she hasn't directed her own fair share of that. No, no, I'm just going to make it... interesting! For me. It's not as much fun without a challenge, is it?"

"Ricochet shot?" asked the senior assassin.

"Maybe! But we'll see. I'll improvise."

"As long as she goes down," Widowmaker stressed.

"I'm on mission, sweet. She'll go down."

"Perfect."

"I don't care!" Sanjay shouted, regaining Tracer's attention. "Just... send the car back to pick me up when you're done." Lena watched as he waved his arm after Kishori, frustration clear in the motion, before turning back towards the yacht club, where he presented an invitation to the tuxedoed man at the door.

"Don't suppose we've got one of those holograms?"

"I'm afraid not, cherie."

"Right. Long 'way 'round it is."

"Be careful not to wake the capybaras on the beach."

"I'll do my best, love."

-----

Tracer made her way all but silently through the wetlands to the club's south, dance music and boat engines masking her approach. Huh. Didn't think he was the thrill-seeking type, she thought, as she watched Korpal walk towards the boat launch. Is he actually going t' get in one of those?

As it turned out, he was not. Instead, he presented a small teleporter-like device, which projected a hardlight foil racer, similar in size and shape to the two traditional boats already in the water. She could see him grin and nod at other two pilots, who argued with him noisily, one in Portuguese, the other in Mandarin.

"Please tell me you're gettin' some of this," she said, quietly, in comms.

"I have a little of the Portuguese - I believe they're saying he cannot be an entrant, but he may demonstrate his, I think, toy?" She snorted. "From their tone, they have decided he is... gauche, I think."

Tracer smirked, but kept it quiet. "Looks like a closed cowl from here. Can you shoot through that?"

"Almost certainly, though it is difficult to be sure, with hardlight. It would be better if I could get him on the water, without so many close witnesses. He may have many enemies in this city, but it is still worth complicating any investigation, if we... ah, look."

"Yeh, I see it." Korpal guided his craft into the water, climbed aboard, the ship's cockpit sealing itself as he settled into the pilot's seat. He rolled the little boat, foils retracted, demonstrating that he could, and gunned the quiet - but not excessively quiet - engine. The Portuguese-speaking woman made a disgusted noise and walked away, back towards the club, but the other man laughed, jogged over to his racer, jumped in, and cast off.

The two boats roared towards deeper water, and the glittering crowd in the catering tent turned to look at the two sleek ships slicing through deeper water, matching manoeuvres one to one, and Tracer grinned, wickedly.

"...I've got an idea," she said, and, carefully but almost impossibly quickly, made her way to the second launch.

"I... hm, yes. You can...?"

"I can pilot anything, love," she replied, slipping into the Portuguese racer and casting off, following the first pair. "I think it's time for a boating accident."

-----

I knew she couldn't resist, Sanjay thought, grinning, as he saw the third racer, with its São Paulo Yacht Club flag, charging up from behind. Too much pride involved - so easy to manipulate. He gunned the hardlight engine, making it roar - an illusion, of course, the engine was all but silent, but appearances matter - and the São Paulo boat responded in kind, foils out, coming up on his port side, riding very, very close - and bumping, hard, hull to hull.

Oooh, playing rough? I like it, he thought, grinning and bumping back, before spinning round, already past the park, heading northeast, both carbon-fibre craft slower than his 'round the turn.

I'm faster in the straights, Lena thought, calculating. He's got the edge in manoeuvrability, but I'm faster. As she caught up, she shoved him west, port flank against starboard, hard. The Shanghai craft caught up as well, getting into the game, standing off just a bit before gunning past them on the starboard side, the pilot apparently quite happy to let the other two slow each other down. He reached the third buoy in the clear lead, and spun tightly and precisely around it, back down the temporary racing lane, off again before the other two could even get 'round.

"Enjoying yourself, cherie?" came Widowmaker's voice over comms.

"Honestly?" She grinned like a madwoman. "Yeh. I am. This is fun. Think you can do something about the SYC's steering?"

"I believe I can damage the starboard foil. If you could make that engine roar again..."

She did, and there was a little bit of an extra bang, but nothing that sounded like a gunshot, and the Shanghai Yacht Club-flagged craft slowed, veering just a little, slowing to compensate. The Vishkar and São Paulo craft closed, quickly, then passed, as the Shanghai pilot veered off the course, heading back towards the launch.

"I like that," Tracer said. "Ready for your shot?"

"I am, as always, ready."

"I'm gonna ram 'im again. See if you can nick his foil at about the same place?"

"I understand." As they rounded the southern buoy again, Tracer slammed her ship hard into Sanjay's hardlight craft, sending it west, towards the park, where Widowmaker waited, and fired, and Korpal's craft veered the slightest bit further to port, almost exactly at the same point.

He bhagavaan!, thought Sanjay, as his craft shook, and he moved to reset the foil. Something's in the water. Or is it that damned...

"Well, guess that's answered. I'm gonna hit 'im again. You ready?"

"Of course," the assassin purred, as Tracer threw her ship's prow directly into the Vishkar foils. Sanjay's ship flipped, rolling, and as he panicked, Widowmaker sighted, targeted, and fired, the hardlight canopy dissolving like so much candy floss in the water, and Sanjay Korpal's head with it.

"Perfect," she purred into comms, as Lena spun her craft around.

"I think we made a bit of a splash tonight, don't you?"

Widowmaker chuckled, darkly. "Agreed."

"Care to shoot this one's engine? It's combustible..."

"Acknowledged," she said, firing, seeing the craft catch fire, slowing, as light flashed from the cockpit and then beside her, copper eyes now glinting in what would be the darkness. "Oilliphéist, target one down. Check in."

"Oooooh, I saw," came Emily's voice, liquid, thick with ecstasy. "Beautiful. That was lovely work, hon. You too, Tracer - gorgeous."

"Thanks," Lena said, still grinning, for just a moment, before not. "I... I..." she shook her head. "Uh. How's your... target?"

"Oh, she's taken care of. A mugging gone bad, I'm afraid. The area around the track is awfully sketchy, and always has been... really, she shouldn't've gone back there on her own like that."

Emergency sirens blared in the distance, as the burning SPYC craft drifted, sinking, following the Vishkar boat underwater. "We should go," said Widowmaker, sternly. "Rendezvous point one, immediately, yes?"

"On my way. This has been the best date. I'm so happy."

Tracer's smile returned, as she replied. “Yeh. See you soon.”