People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint—it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.
Lena Oxton sat belly up on her couch in her dingy flammable London flat nomming handsfree on a powdered bonbon as she listlessly flipped through television stations in a state of utter despondency. She was dressed in what she referred to as "throw clothes" in the sense of "throwing at life": yellow yoga pants which had long ago lost their elasticity and a grey Calvin Klein sports bra featuring a fashionable wine stain. Her attention span, which once served her well enough to succeed with almost honors at the Royal Airforce College Cranwell, had collapsed after years of misuse and neglect. It was especially afflicted since Emily left her. Now it could barely be held to the television.
The titles to Mary Queen of Bots, the omnic soap opera, scrolled.
She changed the channel.
"Tonight on BBC One, a man with a 19 inch penis left disabled—"*
"Daft." She changed the channel as she mumbled, "just cut the bloody thing off."
A snarling man in armor in the midst of waxing poetic on the English at the heights of Scottish eloquence appeared on her tele: "You coonting, English cuntcicle maed outta... coont! Ye killed me coontrymen ya hoity toity coont-filled bag a coo—"
Lena muttered something about being too gay for period war dramas before switching again.
Suddenly, Lena's flat was filled with the sound of kodo drums as sensationalist World War II footage flashed before her eyes.
"Tonight on Secret Nazi Weapons: omnics." An egregiously mustachioed reporter held up a blurry piece of paper with an equally egregious eyebrow raise. "Feast your eyes on this." The camera zoomed on the conspicuously blurry blueprints. "The deranged scribblings of a coke addled Hitlerite scientist frothing at the mouth with fascist evilry like a rabid bull in heat headlong an unpregnant sow? Or a prophetic warning to humanity of the existential threat to come? We look at evidence that the Nazis, yes, THE Nazis, may have foreseen the Omnic Crisis-"
"Too daft," Tracer noted with a bewildered head-shake.
She flicked the channel to a scene of two beautiful women holding each other, apparently about to lock lips in a passionate kiss. Her attention was piqued, indicated by an eyebrow raise. She sat up, but slightly. Lena recognized the actresses, both had generated significant media attention from coming out as openly gay. This could be, for lack of a better word, stimulating.
"You know, I've always thought of you as more than a friend..." said the first woman with a head tilt and a coy smile.
"I know..." replied the second, seeming to unburden her longing with a relieved breath.
"I never knew it would take everything that happened to us... between us... for me to say this..."
Tracer's eyes widened. Kiss, kiss, kiss, bloody kiss, she thought.
"Oi, say it!" she shouted at the TV as the sexual tension broiled, "say it and kiss!"
"I... you should be with Brad. I've been jealous and it'll be hard for me but you deserve him."
"Aww, bloody 'ell!" Tracer cursed, throwing her bonbon at her TV screen, "that's rubbish!"
In 2070, in a strange quirk of political correctness due to exclusive dominance of gay actors in British media and the overall inability of straight people to act, producers started casting queer performers to play straight roles as a demonstration of their acting prowess. Lena, of course, thought it an annoying casting trend that continually left her with blue balls.
She switched the station.
"Reports from the Home Office indicate that Talon cyber terrorism is Britain's greatest threat. Extensive provisions were unfurled tonight after parliament met in a closed session following a cyber attack which derailed a train on HS3 leaving 15 people dead and dozens more injured..."
"Oi, bloody hackers, as if the Home Office peaking at my emails wasn't enough..."
At that moment, the buzzer to her second rate flat sounded in obnoxious monotone. Lena intentionally hesitated to see if they would go away but the buzzing became more impatient. Finally, when the buzzing reached a fever pitch of annoyance, she reluctantly arose, brushing the bonbon crumbs off her body and sallying forth to the door.
"Oh no, why now?" Lena mumbled as she hauled herself over to meet her irritating visitor.
At the door, she realized she was in no condition to interact with other human beings. Her apartment was 90 degrees, she hadn't showered in days and smelt of sweat and BO, she'd been lying around getting drunk off white wine and living off of protein shakes; during the day she intermittently watched TV, played video games and masturbated in a perpetual state of boredom and self-loathing on her couch only ever leaving to replenish her groceries at Lidl's in her pajamas.
It was the fallout of her breakup with Emily. She'd been an utter wreck ever since. The strain Lena's secret missions for the reformed Overwatch put on her relationship with Emily finally culminated in Lena confessing she was still an Overwatch agent and, accordingly, their breakup. Emily, who during the course of their relationship had become a reader of the anti-Overwatch tabloid Insight, thought Overwatch was an utterly satanic organization.
These days, Jack Morrison and his emergency calls were her only source of purpose and the closest thing she had to a job.
"Chop chop!" came a muffled imperious voice from the other side of the door as Lena approached.
"Yeah yeah, calm your tits, I'm coming..."
Was it the landlord's son come to collect? Those persistent Shambali missionaries? Someone to finally fix her bloody heat? Maybe a plumber to finally get rid of the sewage smell coming from her sink?
She opened the door to see a blonde side-burned and mustachioed man with a bony face which, to Tracer and her queer working class sensibilities, screamed "nob." He wore a highly decorated military uniform and stood erect in a manner that was exhaustingly military in composure. His demeanor, however, was one of a man who had never been on the receiving side of orders. He bristled at the sight of the former pilot.
"Leftenant Oxton! That's poor reaction time for the fastest woman on Earth!" he roared, "and this is no manner in which an RAF officer should look!" Tracer blinked as old neural pathways were charted. Some innate "I'm going to get chewed out" mode of behavior she picked up in the military kicked in. She immediately stood up straight, fixed her eyes forward and saluted.
The officious man took to pacing side to side in front of her as he clutched his riding crop under his left shoulder and lectured her on the importance of hygiene and the intricacies of its relationship to pride. Slowly, Tracer's attention faded as she struggled to keep her gaze centered forward. Her eyes began to track the gentlemen back and forth in his short parade across her doorwell. With horror she realized he was Air Chief Marshal Sir Bertram Peach, Chief of the Defense Staff. This man was the most senior uniformed military adviser and the man with the second highest level authority in all the British armed forces besides the Defense Secretary and the Prime Minister. What the cock was he doing here? Why was he filling her ears with inane drivel?
"Are you listening, Oxton?!" the brash senior officer roared, riding out the syllables in 'ing' for effect,
Lena shook her head and resumed staring forward. "Yes sir!"
Annoyed hubbub came from down the hall at the raucous shouting from the unwanted and uncalled-for military discipline.
"Good," replied the ranking airmen with a smarmy head wobble. He added a smirk for good measure before he lowered his volume and took a secretive tone. "We have an issue of the utmost importance to discuss, your eyes only. It is a matter of national security. Do you understand Leftenant?"
"Shh shh," the Air Chief hushed, "no need for that now, this is secret. Secret, yes?"
"Yes sir!" Lena shouted causing the Air Chief to flinch with an irritated frown. Lena caught herself then lowered her voice and sort of whisper-shouted, "yes sir!" as she shifted her eyes suspiciously to indicate she understood.
"Good," he replied, "at ease Leftenant..."
The two stared at each other in awkward silence as a little black boy at his mother's feet muttered "mommy, why is that man shouting?" behind him. His mother picked him up and assured her son that the man was yelling because he was a git then closed the door to her flat with a slam. The senior officer, the Pinaforesque model of a modern Major General, meanwhile, rocked forward on his toes as he looked askance at the dingy hallway. He didn't much like being around the "lower classes." Poor Lena stood stupidly as if her brain had fused an important gasket. Military discipline dictated that she should wait for whatever he had to say next which from experience was usually to piss off.
Finally, the senior officer cleared his throat to interrupt the silence. "Um, you'll have to invite me in," he noted.
"Oh right!" Lena noted, the returned light in her eyes indicating she'd regained sentience, "how rude of me!"
* This was an actual news report I saw in The Sun
"Good God, Oxton!" uttered Peach in astonishment as he entered and bore witness to the state of Lena's flat, "how can you live like this?"
It was a veritable minefield of old clothing and empty protein shake bottles. An aggressive male rabbit she kept named Barnabas loped around with free reign, pooping and grumpily moving his hay around as he pleased.
As she considered the Air Chief Marshal's words, a thought bubble of her breaking stuff in her apartment as she practiced weirdo martial arts in a bout of psychotic depression to the crescendo of "This is the End" à la Martin Sheen passed through her head.
"I dunno, luv, I mean, sir," she said with a shrug, "things have been rough since Overwatch ended and all that."
He turned suddenly and eyed her skeptically. "No jobs for you in the commercial sector? You were an immensely talented pilot."
"Um..." Lena hesitated.
Her work post-Overwatch, which she affectionately referred to as "her adventures" hadn't been entirely legal: gun running for Los Muertos in Latin America, smuggling confiscated omnic components for Shambali militants in Nepal, illegally shipping medical supplies and machine parts to Junkers in Australia. On the other side of the coin, she'd worked as a PMC pilot for Helix flying CIA agents into war torn countries in Africa and the Middle east. Then there was Overwatch, Jack Morrison had her fly numerous illegal near suicide missions into Talon airspace. Her last mission left her plane grounded when it was pummeled by a Soviet era self-propelled anti-aircraft gun during an emergency extraction.
"Not really, job's are tight and BALPA's been taking a hit recently with all the deregulation..."
"Indeed. Well, redundancy must be eliminated, though I imagine it would be tough with your license suspended and you being grounded and all," Peach said through his teeth, "that is to say, being unable to fly legally."
"Yes, that would make it hard..." Lena replied, rubbing the back of her head nervously, "look, what's this about? Can I get you something?"
"Why thank you. A spot of tea would be lovely."
Lena's eye twitched at the insufferable military aristocrat. She openly wondered if nobs like him were the reason desertion rates were at an all time high during WWI. Before she might find herself saying something she would regret she popped off to the kitchen "area" to make him some tea. As the water boiled, Lena caught Peach regarding her apartment with his hands on his hips over her shoulder. She pondered for a moment if she ought to put on some clothes but decided against it since in the one room apartment she would have to dress right on front of him.
She returned with two cups in hand to see Peach kneeling over trying to befriend her rabbit. The creature grunted and hopped away, neurotically pushing over a glass of water Lena had left on the floor to show his displeasure at Lena's male guest. Peach stood with a dissatisfied frown.
"Here you go," Lena said handing him his cup.
The pilot sat herself on her couch with her knees crossed and discretely blew on her tea. To her discomfort, she realized the arrogant senior officer had put his tea down and was staring at her.
"You still don't recognize me, do you Oxton?" asked Peach in a sly tone.
He posed himself for her with an expectant eyebrow raise. Lena fluttered her eyelids a few times then wrinkled her nose as she inspected him over her tea to try and remember. When he saw that she was staring at him sort of cockeyed he fed her a hint.
"Cranwell..?" he said with a smirk. She squinted one eye and looked at him more closely to pretend she was concentrating. He lifted his fingers to his head to make little devil horns to help her out. She winced and smiled at him cluelessly as she gave a cute shrug. "Beanus?" he offered tentatively.
"I think I..." Lena replied questioningly as she slowly raised her finger.
Suddenly, Peach broke out in riotous laughter. "I knew you would remember! Ah, Monzo brought that ghastly habit from boarding school but it was all the rage. Oh, you remember!"
"Yeah yeah... the-" she lied playing along.
"Oi, right, the fagging," Lena laughed nervously, elongating the vile term as she rolled her eyes.
"Yes!" Peach slapped her on her back, causing her teacup to clatter on the plate. "I fagged Monzo, Monzo fagged Benis, Bertie, oh I don't remember who he fagged. We all fagged each other and got fagged right back, it was a riot. Cranwell, my God, best years of my life."
"Monzo, I think he came out as gay, sir," Lena noted.
"Good heavens," exclaimed Peach.
Dodging the issue and seemingly overcome with spirit, Peach began to belt out a spontaneous number of "The Lincolnshire Poacher," the school's anthem. Lena mumbled the lyrics along with him as he awkwardly held his arm around her shoulder in what was probably the second most reluctant rendition of the song ever performed. When he was done, Peach was red-faced and sweaty with enthusiasm. Suddenly, with all the ceremony and forced enthusiasm, Lena's mind settled on just who Peach was besides the improbable Chief of Defense. He was the ringleader of every stupid prank and obscure military ritual, the friend of every entitled nobbish cunt, the proprietor of everything excessively upper-crust and idiosyncratically British that made her college like an evil version of Hogwarts for the military elite.
"Oi, you know... I think I do remember you," said Lena wagging her finger at him, "and if I remember you correctly, you were a bit of an arse."
"That I was, a fine untouchable one, dare I say. Like an arse of diamond," Peach replied with a nod and a bullyish grin, "I'm the only person to haze Saudi royalty and get away with it. All in good boyish fun though..."
"How on Earth did you become CDS?" Lena asked in disbelief.
"How did I indeed?" he replied with another devious eyebrow raise.
Barnabus hopped towards Peach's leg and parked himself next to his shoe where he began to tug indignantly at his laces. Peach didn't seem to notice. Lena let the animal distract her for a moment before she cleared her throat and tried to make herself businesslike. "So, you said you had something top secret."
"Ah yes, down to business, I like that Oxton," he said tipping his finger at her, "no use wallowing in nostalgia, I dare say its incestuous."
He pulled out a file from his breast and placed it on Lena's messy coffee table. To Lena's dismay he plopped himself right next to her. She shuffled in and narrowed her body so they weren't making contact.
"The Slipstream, I believe you're familiar with it."
"Yes sir, how can I forget?"
"Indeed. A few days ago, the boys at ASACS, RAF Neatishead to be specific, picked up an unusual signal right where you had your little incident. At 0600, the Slipstream reappeared and crashed 30 miles off the coast. We recovered the old girl mostly intact. Besides the landing gear, it was as if she was unscathed. Mysterious, yes?"
"Well, the plot thickens, simultaneously, our American friends picked up some unusual telemetry from their satellites in Libya, Mexico and Afghanistan. What these locations have in common is that they are all suspected locations of secret Talon research facilities. Highly dangerous stuff. But look at this." Peach pulled a blurry photograph from the file. It looked like an over-fat seemingly un-aerodynamic missile or drone. "This was spotted for a brief stonking moment in the Mediterranean before farting off and disappearing. A similar one blipped in over the neutral zone in Kandahar."
Suddenly, Peach turned and glared at Lena with a fiery look in his eyes.
"Talon's up to something with our chronal technology, Leftenant, and their work vomited up the Slipstream from the space time continuum's ugly gullet." Peach leaned in, causing Lena to flinch and giggle nervously. "Now, seeing as how you're the only one with a working chronal accelerator, you wouldn't happen to know how Talon could have gotten a hold of this technology, would you?"
"I have literally no idea, sir..." Lena replied flatly, thinking back to at least three sexual encounters she'd had with Talon’s libertine hacker, Sombra.
Peach humphed. "Indeed, well, the Home Office has determined that you're a threat to national security. I, however, see differently. You may be the only one who can help us against this new threat."
"So, you fly the Slipstream for king and country, new and improved, of course, and take out Talon's weapon before they use it on us."
Lena felt her stomach drop with dread. "W-What?" she muttered after a laugh of disbelief, "you want me to fly that... thing again?"
"Yes, Leftenant, is that a problem?"
A wave of panic passed through Lena. She took the surprised Peach by his collar and shook him. "You don’t understand, that thing is a death trap! It’s worse than jury rigged, that thing is evil! Demon possessed! It’ll fly me straight to hell!"
"Calm down Leftenant! Science, it’s all science and Britain’s got the most! We’ve advanced generations beyond that initial experiment!" he tried to reassure her.
"Oi, then why not make a new one, huh? No, you want to belt me back in and fly me into Satan’s bunghole to finish the job!"
Peach extricated himself from Lena’s hands and stood looking flustered as she panted. He spoke hurriedly after padding himself down and regaining his composure "Look!" he started unkindly but then caught himself, "look, not to be brash, but I am a busy man. Either you fly the Slipstream or MI5 will be collecting you for a stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure."
He seated himself back down next to Lena as she sat holding her head in the grips of terror.
"Ahem, Leftenant, it’s not all bad," he said tentatively punching Lena’s freckled shoulder. "We’ll reinstate your ticket and you can go off on your adventures again. Chalks away and all that. You’ll love it."
To Peach’s dismay, Barnabus hopped next to his shoe and indignantly peed on his pant leg with a grunt.
"Blast this ghastly animal!" he said standing abruptly. Peach finally lost his patience. He pointed at Lena, her eyes zeroed in on his finger. "You’ll report to Group Captain Woods at RAF HQ in Buckinghamshire by 1200 tomorrow. You’ll fly the old bird in Her Majesty’s service and lead Britain to victory against Talon! That’s an order airman!"
Lena popped up. "Yes sir!"
"Jolly good! You’ll be Wing Commander by the end of this and maybe you’ll find a career in politics like myself!" he said with a salute, "Dismissed!"
Lena saluted and began to walk away but then realized there was nowhere to go in her apartment so she instead stood goofily facing the corner. With horror she realized she'd been fooled by military protocol. Peach cocked an eyebrow at her.
"Are you quite alright?"
"I am sir, just looking at the state of this wall, sir."
He cleared his throat. "Well, if it’s not too inappropriate to ask, I’d like a hug from a fellow cranny before I left."
Lena’s brain fused for a second before she turned to him with a tweaked eye. "Wh-why of course, sir."
Lena approached the officious Brit who stood expectantly with open arms. They hugged awkwardly. Lena’s eyes wandered the room as the weirdly intimate hug continued for what felt like ages. When she looked up at him, she saw he was staring off dreamily with the curl of a little grin on his thin lips, who could know what bizarre pleasure he was deriving?
"Heh, um, hadn’t you better go, luv?" she asked.
"Why yes, I was just leaving."
He collected his files, riding crop, and officer’s cap and was gone, marching down the hallway to his alma mater’s anthem, extolling the joys of poaching.
"Oi, what a piece of work..." Lena muttered. She stared at her apartment’s desolation. Suddenly it felt quite homey. "I can’t believe I done this..."
Lena flung herself on the couch in exasperation. Was she really going to fly the accursed aircraft? The machine that sent her spiraling out of time into a listless repetitive hell of alternative lives? If it hadn't been for the monkey she'd still be out there. She lay there waiting for the spell of emotional exhaustion to pass. Slowly, she dozed off...
"...Tracer? Tracer, are you there, over? You're not on radar. We're picking up interference over your coms..."
The Slipstream rattled horrifically as it rocketed towards the ocean in a death spiral: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. A row of complicated dials on her instruments whirled as she approached speeds far beyond the aircraft’s performance ceiling—she was beyond everything, even hypersonic. Despite the blaring alarm from the on-board computer and the rattle, all that Lena could hear with clarity was her own breath in her life support mask and the blood pumping in her ear. The chatter from the monitoring station was an infinity away.
"No sign of her at the target area. It’s like she’s disappeared..." muttered the bewildered RAF technician in his Queen’s English, "Do you hear that? It’s horrible, like nothing I’ve ever heard..."
Lena’s bloodshot eyes rolled into head as the blood left her brain from the incredible g’s. Her last sight besides the approaching ocean was a warning on her computer console:
Warning: life support failure.
The ocean and gray sky gave way to a black lightless expanse as the cockpit glass shattered. Lena screamed and it all stopped, the rattle, the alarms, the high pitch whine of the engine. With horror, Tracer realized she didn’t need to breath. She blinked. The pressure in her eyes was gone, she could see. Either she was dead or hallucinating or something worse. The pilot quickly took account of herself. She felt numb, unreal, though she knew somehow that the mysterious expanse was cold.
That was when an overwhelming sense of evil hit her. The abyss winked and the cockpit became a theater of sorts, a window to other lives.
"No, it’s impossible..." Lena muttered in horrified disbelief, but equally to her horror, it came out as baby’s babble.
She was witnessing her own birth, yet witnessing for only a moment, there was hardly a second of difference before she was there, as in truly there, living it all again.
Suddenly, a heat hit Lena's body. She’d lost her place and found herself at a blue woman's side: The Widowmaker. She pushed her fingers under her leotard and pressed her face into the taller woman's sternum to smell her scent. Widow let her leotard drape off of her revealing her exquisite small breasts.
Widowmaker gripped Lena's hair and brought her lips to hers. They drank each other in as Widow's hand crept over her thin underwear. With a pinching motion and a rub, her fingers easily entered Lena and caressed her bead. Lena melted, totally overcome with desire for the French sniper.
"Please..." Lena whimpered, burying her freckled face into Widow’s cool shoulder.
"Hmmm," Widowmaker's sultry voice replied.
Lena snorted as she abruptly awoke. Sleeping without her chronal accelerator did this to her sometimes. No explanation as to why from Winston—it was all in her head.
She wiped the drool from her mouth and picked up her old laggy Wileyfox phone to check the time. She scrolled through her notifications: two matches on Tinder she’d never follow up on: an intimidatingly hot LUG who somehow had a fully figured aesthetic and a basic-looking girl looking for a threesome with her boyfriend. Lena felt the heat in her pelvis, how it felt so deprived and teased by her dream... She sent a probing message out to the LUG implying she could top and told the straight girl to fuck off.
Several hours had passed and it was now well into the night. Lena threw herself back down on the couch, letting her other hand flop to the floor.
Barnabas hopped over to sniff at her fingertips.
"Oi, what am I gonna do?" Lena moaned.
Suddenly, Barnabas nipped at her fingertips in irritation. Lena flinched and sat up to suck on the bite. The quirky rabbit hopped over to the corner where he seemed to cower.
"What's gotten into you?"
She got up to try and coddle the little fellow, hoping he wouldn't have a heart attack over whatever was bothering him. When she arose, however, an invisible force pushed her back down. Lena knew immediately what she was dealing with.
"You!" Lena spat.
"Hola," came a lascivious woman's voice from the empty air. The Mexican girl. There was a cascade of blue light and Talon's notorious hacker appeared before her, fanning her threatening fingernails at her hello. "Aw, pobrecita, I thought you'd be happy to see me."
"Not if you were the last person on Earth, ya moistened bint," Lena cursed as she stood up in rebellion, "what do you want? I suppose you want to have your way with me?"
Sombra smirked at the idiosyncratically English insult. "I wouldn't mind, maybe you wouldn't either," she said grabbing between Lena's legs, "I heard you were going through a bit of a dry spell."
Lena gripped Sombra's wrist and wrenched her off. "Piss off."
"Touchy are we? Well, unfortunately, I don't have much time today, English. Talon has me very busy."
"Yeah, busy derailing trains and hurting innocent people, ya slag."
Sombra regarded her long violet finger nails, unfazed by the comment. "The best way to spark change in a country is by dealing economic damage, amiga." She sighed through her nose and turned to regard Lena with indifferent calculating eyes. "The other way is by making it too dangerous for the rulers to want to rule. Britain will succumb to Talon's influence."
"Fat chance if I have anything to say about it!"
"You really have no idea, English," the hacker humphed, again unfazed. "Speaking of rulers, Peach seems like an interesting fellow, ever wonder how he got his job?"
"I dunno, the other chap had a heart attack."
Sombra chuckled. She took to inspecting the messy apartment as she pontificated. "Ah, taradita, a heart attack, huh? Have you met my friend Widowmaker? She's not just good with her aim and her hands, she likes poisons too..."
The hacker pushed aside some dirty clothes near Lena's bed with a grin. Somehow they were the very clothes hiding Lena's vibrator. The sexually frustrated pilot felt her blood pressure rise. How on Earth did Sombra do it? She nonchalantly tossed the device away.
"Ever wonder why the new Chief of Defense was in your graduating class when the last one was, oh I don't know, in his late 60's?" Sombra asked tellingly. Lena swallowed. Sombra always made her feel like this, squirrel brained and out of the loop. The hacker read Lena's bewildered face like a book and smirked. "I thought so... its not a popular job right now."
"What do you want, Sombra?" Lena groaned.
"Well, Tracer, believe it or not, I'm here because I like you. I'm being nice."
Lena wrinkled her nose. "You? Nice? I don't believe it."
"I can be nice..." Sombra ran her fingers through her side shave as she briefly glimpsed the ceiling. She turned back to Lena with an intense glare. "Take Peach's offer, now. If you don't he won't be able to give you your second chance," she said dropping her condescending tone, "no one else in your government knows about the offer he made you, except you and him."
"And you," Lena added vengefully.
"And me," Sombra replied with a smirk.
Suddenly, Lena’s head swiveled to the door at the sound of a knock.
"They're coming, amiga..." Sombra taunted, whispering into her ear with intrigue. Lena shivered from a spell of goosebumps.
With the crooked hacker, she could never look away even once before she violated her personal space. She turned back to Sombra to see she was holding her white leather motorcycle suit. Unceremoniously, she shoved it into Lena’s hands.
"You’ve got to go fast, Tracer..." warned Sombra taking an amused tone.
Lena blinked at her in hesitation as she stepped back. "What, you’re just going to stand there while I dress?"
Sombra posed herself, resting on the diminutive pilot’s flat-screen.
"Yeah?" she replied with a dismissive gesture, as if it were obvious.
Lena fumed as she wiggled out of her yoga pants and into the tight leather suit while Sombra watched as a pervy voyeur. When all the exciting bits of the fit English girl’s body were covered, Sombra stepped over to her futon and delicately picked up her chronal accelerator resting nearby. She returned just as Lena finished zipping her suit up and shoved it into her hands.
"Don’t forget this, amiga."
Lena swiped the device out of her hand then glared at the hacker with distrust.
"Oi, open up!" called Lena’s unwanted guests.
She regarded the door nervously as she strapped up until she heard a kick. The lock was cheap. The wood holding the latch in was already splintering. Lena turned back to Sombra but she was already gone. "Of course," she muttered as she quickly rummaged for her helmet.
The lock caved in and the door swung open with a rattle. Two MI5 agents hustled in guns drawn to witness Lena fully locked and loaded, glowing chronal accelerator and all, standing with her back towards them in her motorcycle outfit.
They eyeballed her butt in the tight leather outfit for split second before leveling their guns on her.
"Hands up and handover that device!" the agent barked in his guttural cockney accent, "no funny business."
Lena slowly raised her hands. The leather on her bodysuit stretched taut. There was commotion in the hall from the yelling and sudden violence.
"Go cover that!" the agent ordered his partner. "Now you, turn around slowly-like."
Lena turned reluctantly.
"Yeah, that’s it..."
"Aren’t we all on the same side here, lads?" she muttered with a nervous laugh.
"You’ve been a naughty girl, Ms. Oxton. We know you’ve been blabbing to a Talon agent. Now you’re coming with us."
In a blue flash, Lena was next to the agent. She grabbed his gun and twisted it away. The agent flinched on the trigger sending a stray bullet into the wall. With a swift motion she wrenched it against his fingers and he was disarmed. The gun skittered to the floor. The bewildered agent tried to engage in fisticuffs and swung but in a blink Lena was behind him. She kicked out his knee and struck him in the side of his head with her forearm gauntlet. His partner came rushing in to find the room empty. He panned the messy space. In an instant, the 200 times accelerated woman blinked in and elbowed him in the face causing him to sail backwards into the hall. Lena blinked in behind him in time to clothesline him from behind, sending him right to the floor.
Lena sighed and brushed herself off when she realized a crowd of tenants was staring at her. She giggled apprehensively.
"Um, collection agents..."
Nods and tentative golf claps of approval came from the crowd.
With a skip, Tracer was off, down the hall and outside mounting her white Japanese crotch rocket in a blue streak.
Across the street, the headlights of a gray car with a suspicious looking driver in a flatcap blinked on at the sight of Tracer. She caught it out of the corner of her eye as she pressed the ignition button on her 300hp powerbike. The engine roared to life sending electricity flowing into the brake calipers with streaks of lightning. The car peeled out into the street, making an illegal u-turn to cut Tracer off as she gunned the accelerator and pulled out. To the driver’s surprise, instead of impacting on the car, she teleported right through to the other side unfazed and roared down the London street at breakneck speed groaning all the while how much she didn't want to do this.
"Gotta go fast, gotta go fast. Damnit, damnit! I’m not ready for this! No focus. Ahh, I almost hit her, sorry, luv, sorry!" shouted Lena as she dodged through the abysmal rush hour traffic on her powerbike towards the M1. "Bollucks, bollucks, bollucks! I don’t want to do this!"
A chorus of angry horns and cursing sounded around her from Jamaican cabbies, cockney thugs and the generally pissed off poor and overworked denizens of Lena’s neighborhood.
On a conventional hovercycle, Lena would never be able to accomplish the maneuvers she was doing. The physics and aerodynamics were all computer controlled. On her powerbike, however, she could swing her weight around, bob and weave, lean into turns. She could use traction and friction to her advantage. No such luck on a hoverbike.
Suddenly, the pilot felt her mind bubble as it began to snow. Her body felt as if it were adrift.
"Oxton, Oxton!" roared her group captain.
"I'm all ears, sir!"
"Good. Now that Nazi omnic's got the firepower of 12 bloody paralyzers. You've got to fly right into its ears and drop old bessy right on her or we haven't got a chance."
"Now Oxton, you're the best pilot in the RAF and you can take those balmy Hun 10 to 1 but we're giving you a wingman for this mission. An American, she's good so don't bunk it up!"
"Of course, sir!"
"Here she comes now, attention!"
The woman stepped in dressed in her tailored flight suit, fur collar and all. Lena balked at the sight of her, suddenly feeling overwhelmingly gay. She was gorgeous. Her black skin and cropped hair, her devious smile, her officer’s cap—a male one—pulled rakishly over one eye. Immediately, Lena was struck that she was utterly debonair, an expert at flirtatious small talk and making love.
"My God, she's beautiful, sir!"
"Calm your tits, airman—" her group captain scolded but his voice became far away.
The girl approached and suddenly Lena was in a fantasy space. They were undressing each other as fast as they possibly could as they ferociously made out. Lena drank in her full lips then let herself go, becoming passive as the mysterious woman seductively pulled at Lena’s bottom lip with her teeth then moved down to kiss her freckled shoulders, then down to kiss her chest, going ever downward...
Ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. Her bike's engine reeled as she failed to properly use the clutch. She was losing speed as she tried to control her swerve with the swiveling handlebars.
"Are you bloody daft?!" shouted an enraged motorist.
"I am, luv!" Lena giggled as she blasted by the lorry as if it were standing still. "Oi, what am I doing? I'm losing it..." she muttered to herself.
* * *
Sombra uncloaked in Lena’s apartment when the coast was clear. To her surprise and dismay, Barbabas, the black bunny approached her to investigate.
"What? She just left you?" Sombra muttered.
The bunny hopped next to her feet and appeared to snuggle into her.
"Don’t you dare try to get cute with me," she warned.
She picked him up to move him, holding him under his arms as he kicked his legs in discomfort.
Sombra held the bunny to her chest when she saw he was uncomfortable and sighed. He sat still in her arms with his ears folded back making perturbed eyes. She pressed on her earpiece with her free hand to report.
"Hey, yeah, Tracer got away. She’s just too fast..." She cleared her throat. "And smart."
Gabriel grumbled on the other end. "And Peach?"
"The tracking device is on his car. Widow is moving to terminate him. He has no idea."
"Good, at least she can do her job. Meet her at the rendezvous point."
Sombra heard the faintest sound of a hook shot and a metal clad foot on the window sill. "One step ahead of you..." said Sombra placing the nervous bunny on the floor.
Widowmaker, the purple spider girl, lowered herself imperceptibly from the ceiling behind Sombra as she approached the window. After a hair flick, Widow tapped on her shoulder and she turned in surprise. They kissed passionately but briefly.
"Where’s Tracer?" Widow asked.
Sombra’s eyes shifted. "She got away."
The sniper flipped herself down. "Then you failed..." she said narrowing her yellow eyes at her. There was a rustling in the corner from the little beast. The prey animal huffed as he tried to scurry under Lena’s futon. "What is that?"
"It’s a rabbit," Sombra explained as she picked him up by his butt. He again nestled himself into her chest fearfully. He eyed her sharpened nails apprehensively as she pet him. "He’s nervous."
"He is a he?" Widow replied skeptically. She scoffed. "There’s no time for that. Tracer is probably already half-way to her headquarters."
"Yeah, so?" replied Sombra defensively, "He’s alone. He has no one to take care of him."
Widowmaker pouted at Sombra as she eyed her back confrontationally. "You told me Peach was here..." she said gesturing impatiently.
"Hmm?" Sombra replied, suddenly seeming very involved with the bunny. "No, I didn’t. I just wanted to see you..."
"Ugh, you’re wasting my time," Widow replied. Suddenly, she muscled in on Sombra’s space to intimidate her with her greater height, "if you’re up to something..."
Sombra hunched over the bunny protectively and turned away.
"There’s no rush, Widow," she said eyeing the nervous creature on her shoulder, "I put a tracking device on his car. I know where he is. You can deal with him whenever you want."
Widow took her arm and forcefully turned her towards her.
"So we have a little time..."
"Heh, yeah, cariña, clever aren’t I?"
They locked lips as the rabbit nervously motored his nose under them. Sombra backed up towards the door as Widow kissed her. She dragged a ball of messy clothes with her foot to jam the broken door shut then dropped the bunny.
"Here, in Tracer’s apartment?" Widow asked, "you know I take a long time to feel..."
Sombra tilted her head at her as she took off her spy coat then slid her hands under Widow’s leotard to cup her small breasts.
"Come on, Amelie," Sombra replied as she gently kissed Widow’s neck and pushed her leotard back over her shoulders, "I’m getting very good with you..."
Barnabas hopped under the couch where he watched the purple Talon girl’s feet shuffle from his hiding place. They disappeared and a welt formed above his head from their body weight. He scurried back and motored his nose in irritation at the sound of female human coital sighs.
* * *
Having quasi-suicidally blinked through London traffic in the snow at high speed and with equal aggression rocketed down the M1 towards RAF HQ at 380 kph. She arrived at Buckinghamshire in less than an hour.
She pulled into the checkpoint, a surprisingly modest gate and guardhouse manned by a tawny Englishmen with squinty skeptical eyes wearing an RMP beret and shoulder badge.
Lena exchanged eyes with him from behind her helmet but he failed to open the gate, or budge, or do anything. She sat up on her bike and shrugged at him impatiently. He shrugged right back.
With a sigh, Lena looked forward at the gate, wondering why this asshole was wasting her time. To her dismay, she felt a knock on her helmet. She turned to see the MP’s mug sporting an unpleasant frown.
"Oi, this site is off limits to the public à la Terrorism Order 2070. I was trying to give you a break, girly, but now you have to show me papers or you’re off for a night in the brig."
Lena recoiled with an apprehensive giggle. "Well, I haven’t got any papers, but..." She took off her helmet and shook out her hair. "You’ve got my word I was sent by Sir Bertram Peach himself."
"Oi! Lena Oxton?! Tracer, the Tracer? The boys aren’t going to believe this!"
"Heh, wh-, am I dreaming?" muttered Lena, shifting her eyes with an uncertain giggle, "you know me and you don’t hate me?"
"Know you? You’re a bloody hero!"
"But all those articles in Insight."
"It’s a bloody Tory rag, anti-LGBTQ," he noted with a chin raise, "never believed a word of it. Mind if I nab a picture?"
The suddenly amicable guardsmen pulled out his phone and somehow stretched his otherwise forlorn military face into a beaming albeit squinty-eyed smile as he posed himself next to Lena. With a flash, he caught himself next to Lena as she saluted sporting a bewildered version of her nerdy smile.
A trademark "cheers, luv! The cavalry’s here!" and autograph later and Lena was inside the surprisingly modest crescent shaped structure housing the RAF’s command center dealing with another officious MP.
The Gilliamesque fellow sat behind an imposing desk lording over a security checkpoint as his assistant tapped away behind him on a stenographic typewriter. The very second Lena entered the building, he gestured and she was immediately flanked by two refrigerator sized MPs.
"Secure her, if you please!" he said in an irritated tone. "How on Earth did you get in? No papers, no identification. You’re not even enlisted," the beady eyed clerk bitched as Lena stood sandwiched between the two massive MPs.
"The CDS himself told me to report to Group Captain Woods. It’s urgent I see him, luv! A matter of national security!" Lena explained as she squished between their pickup truck sized shoulders.
"Insanity, Sir Peach is on holiday, it’s preposterous any such order was made, especially regarding the likes of you."
"At least check, luv!"
The military clerk, wrenched a black corded phone off its hook and dialed arduously on the ancient rotary telephone. As it rang, he regarded Lena with a skeptical frown and an officious head wobble.
He began to coil the chord in his fingers anxiously when there was an answer. He spoke in a high-pitched obsequious tone, "Group Captain Woods, sir, there’s one Leftenant Lena ‘Tracer’ Oxton here to see you... Yes... Yes... Right away."
He slammed the phone down in frustration.
"Well, you’ll still have to be checked," he said in a griping tone, "take off your jacket and place it in the bin to be x-rayed."
The clerk gestured and one of the thuggish MPs shoved the plastic bin into her hands with such force she ‘oofed’ in surprise.
"Um, it’s not a jacket, luv. It’s more like me whole outfit..."
"Rules are rules are rules, Leftenant," he replied, obnoxiously rolling his ‘r’s.
"Could I at least have a woman process me?"
"I’m afraid the order for your re-enlistment comes at a time when most of us and sadly all our female staff are on holiday. We’re not animals, Leftenant Oxton. Your dignity is safe with us."
Lena’s eyes shifted and the MPs averted their gaze but didn’t budge. "Bollucks," she muttered.
The pilot undressed and passed her skintight leather motorcycle suit through the x-ray machine. Ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa, the machine’s conveyer belt rattled.
Slowly, she realized the sound was the swift hand of her beautiful femme fatal agent working the loose mechanical buttons of a financial calculator.
"My God, we’ve made it, the album sold billions," she said with piqued awe, "You’re bigger than Lucio..."
"Easy peasy, luv," Tracer replied with a saucy giggle as she flung herself on her money covered hotel suite bed. The lesbian punk icon’s voice was just a bit hoarse from her last show causing it to take on a sexy smokey timbre. "They said punk was dead, well I say I just took the old bugger off life support, gave him a sex change and a bit of coke and they was off."
Lena had made a killing as a musical rebel: swearing and cussing like a sailor, faking a Talon scandal with a conservative MP, plagiarizing Nick Cave, pissing off every major record label and hocking wads of infectious spit at her fans as she called them a bunch of gits. Despite being openly gay, she was now, predictably, incredibly popular among teen boys...
She took the bottle of cheap fortified wine drink from her night stand and pounded it as her agent and partner plopped herself next to her with a playful shriek. Her tan skin looked lovely in the dim light. "I cannot believe you still drink that," she said regarding Lena from her shoulder with stimulated eyes.
"Reminds me of my roots," Lena replied cockily, "I was bloody homeless after they had me in YOI for shoplifting and arson. That was before you and this racket..."
"Do you remember how we met?"
"You we’re sitting at the bar, smoking in a backless dress. I’d just got off after a sweaty opening for a God awful hipster band."
"You were giving it your all even though no one cared but I thought you were better than the main act and I can’t stand punk music."
"You looked beautiful, luv. Like an Israeli Audrey Hepburn."
"I was terribly drunk and my makeup was atrocious. I’d just broken up with my boyfriend, that sleazy hedgefund manager—"
"I wanted to take you right there and kiss you but I was afraid you’d hit me."
"Too right, darling..."
Her clothes were vomited out the other side of the machine with a clunk, flinging Lena out of her fugue.
The MPs manning the x-ray monitor whispered to each other as her clothing and helmet came under the scrutiny of the scanner. No sign of anything.
Lena grumbled and stepped through the metal detector, immediately setting it off. The clerk MP wagged his head in disdain and gestured to an MP with a metal detecting wand.
She scowled at the poor approaching fellow as he regarded her with reluctant eyes. He passed the wand over her face. It squeaked an unpleasant electronic squeak.
"It’s me industrial... blasted thing."
The clerk tapped his pen on his desk as rested his cheek on his knuckle and scolded her by rattling off the RAF’s policy on facial piercings: "Women are authorized to wear one small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced, or clip earring per earlobe and the earring worn in each earlobe must match. Earring should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe. But seeing as how this is a matter of national security, we shall let such a trivial issue pass. Continue please."
The MP passed the wand over her chest and it began to squeak hysterically yet again.
"It’s the bra, probably an underwire..." the MP noted.
"Look, they’re small, can’t blame me for wanting a boost—"
The clerk cleared his throat over her indicating she should probably shut up. He passed the wand over the rest of her body without trouble.
"You can move her along, officer."
Lena’s mood was now totally foul. She stormed over to the end of the x-ray conveyer belt and took the motorcycle suit, a brash purchase made in a more confident time in her life, and wiggled back in as she grumbled indignantly under her breath.
As she made her way to the directory board to find Woods’s office she felt her neck burn from the clerk’s eyes on her back. He cleared his throat and she turned as she felt her eye tweak. He motioned "come hither."
"What? I’m not done?"
"Afraid not, Leftenant. You’ll need one of these," he said gesturing to the ID badge hanging from his neck by a lanyard. "I’ll make you a temporary guest one, when and if you are fully re-enlisted and cleared with OASC, you’ll need to return for a proper one."
Soon she was standing in a small booth in a back room for her second photograph of the day. The bulb flashed obnoxiously and soon she had a ID card and lanyard of her own.
As she stepped to the directory a second time to find the Group Captain’s office, the clerk called over to her causing her to cringe. "Do hurry, Leftenant, the GC has informed me that he expected you over thirty minutes ago."
"My God, Oxton, it’s a good thing you arrived when you did. I got the order to re-enlist you not a moment before Sir Peach was sent to hospital," announced Group Captain Woods after exchanging salutes with Lena.
"Hospital, sir? I hope it’s not serious—"
"Serious, I’m afraid it is. The man is fighting for his life," he replied in concern. He was clearly in a bit of shock. The dry-looking officer seated himself at his desk as he was handed a portfolio. "A heart attack is as serious as it gets, ‘serious as a heart attack’ they say, Leftenant. Troubling affliction for such a young man, we should all watch our diets. Biffy, make note of that would you? Although, Peach did always strike me as a bit gouty..." He opened the portfolio, labeled TOP SECRET, after unwinding it’s tie string in a stiff repetitive motion. He eyed the picture in the first page with surprise. "Ah yes, there she is, the teleporting fighter. Shame what happened."
"With that the war would have been over in a day. But now she’s back, we have our Talon chums to thank for that..."
He pushed the folder aside and steepled his hands. Lena felt that this was the precise moment that demanded her attention the most but she couldn’t help but noticing the Group Captain’s eyes were a bit close together, giving him a look of permanent empathetic concern. Finding him unpleasant, she regarded the books behind him: all dated records and thick books detailing protocol. Finding that equally boring, her eyes caught the model of the Supermarine Spitfire on his desk.
"Now, Leftenant, you were no doubt a very talented pilot. But times have changed, new training regimen gives us ten just like you."
Lena’s attention was sparked. "Begging your pardon, sir?" she uttered in offense.
"I’ll be honest, airman. Even at your best you’re looking utterly average. Bog-standard. The cadets have better marks too, your record at Cranwell is looking spotty," he derided, "peacetime allows us to be picky..."
The pilot felt herself drift as her confidence was systematically eroded. She pouted and spun the propellor blades of the Spitfire. To her surprise, they span magnificently aided by little ball bearings making a satisfying familiar sound just under the dry tone of Woods’s voice...
"...picky about the talent we cast in our movies. Our films are made by and for lesbians," noted the producer in the creaky timbre of her Portland accent, "we’re making alternative content for the grassroots, independent and crowdsourced."
Lena shifted in her seat as she reckoned with all this West Coast funny business. Lena hadn’t a clue “the industry” could be so political, revolutionary even. Her eye narrowed on the woman’s lips, blood red like her fitted business suit—eye singular, seeing as how half her face was covered in her dye-job blonde hair which sprouted from under a beanie lazily perched on her head.
The woman sitting across from her was a savvy looking blonde, imperious even, confident in her skin though she was tall and little curvier—a ‘thicc’ alternative hottie with a curiously flat chest. The bookshelves behind her were bedecked with sordid biographies and steamy novellas, artsy pornographic picture books, the most cutting edge of sex-positive feminist and queer theory—all by noteworthy lady authors. It wasn’t just her body that was formidably sexy, it was her mind.
Lena swallowed and ran her thumb along the arm hole of her revealing white muscle shirt out of nervousness. In her ‘tomboy femme’ outfit she’d prepared for this interview, she was feeling chilled from the conditioned California air.
"But you... you make the cut," the producer continued, "The accent, the freckles, your androgynous look. Not everyone can be an alt porn star but you—"
"Haw, please..." Lena giggled, blowing her off. "Alt," she snorted.
"No, I mean it. All we have to do is see how you perform with the camera," she said standing and nodding to the couch behind her, "as in, how do you fuck?" she added with an intiguing eyebrow raise.
Lena turned to the (in)famous fake leather ‘alternative casting couch’ sitting behind her then back to her impromptu partner. "What? Now? With you?" she said nervously pointing back and forth between the producer and the couch as a film crew hustled in, "is that thing clean, luv?"
She suddenly snapped back, however, when Woods gave a burdened sigh at her poor attention.
"Leftenant, your attention please. Now, I don’t know what Peach told you, but we haven’t got a clue how the Slipstream works. All we know is that you’re the only airman with that peculiar device strapped to your chest and the only one to experience the Slipstream anomaly first hand. That makes you the most qualified..."
Woods leaned in and gestured to his colleagues to leave. They discretely shuffled out. He tracked them intently with his eyes as they left before speaking.
"Now, I had word from Peach that MI5 wanted to bring you in so they could take your chronal device and replicate it. You’d save them and potentially us all a bit of trouble if you handed it in. But out of some loyalty or sense of manly bravado, he insisted he would rather you fly the Slipstream again yourself. It seems the ‘Tracer’ brand still has some sway at the RAF, despite our misguided involvement with Overwatch."
"Well, if you don’t mind me saying, the world needs heroes, sir."
"Indeed, but is that you? I’m afraid there is a world of difference between the ‘Tracer’ of our old propaganda efforts and the living breathing woman. So will you fly or won’t you?"
Lena bristled at the officer’s oblivious objectivating tone.
"Oi, what is this?!" she snapped, "Speaking freely, first of all, I have feelings, sir. That’s my reputation you’re on about, yeah? Second, I’ll fly the bloody death trap just to shut you up. And no I’m not taking this bloody thing off. You know what it’s like to be a living-dead quantum phenomenon? Alive and dead at the same time? No, no, and no again."
Her words floated in the air for just long enough for Lena to become anxious about Woods’s silence. However, instead of becoming rude, he became oddly businesslike. "Well! I suppose that’s the answer isn’t it? I’ll inform OASC that you’re re-enlisted, I will draft a letter to expedite the attestation process," said Woods, taking a stand with a pull of his uniform, "in the meantime, do take this file and read up. Report to the housing officer for accommodations. You’re dismissed, Leftenant."
"Indeed, pilot. I might add that you should avoid leaving the premises incase MI5 doesn’t take kindly to your decision..."
They saluted each other briskly before Lena stepped out into the hall and closed the door behind her.
"My God, I can’t..." she moaned, "my brain’s gone all wibbly-wobbly, my nerves are shot..."
Suddenly, she realized all of Woods’s aides were patiently waiting in the hall to be let back in. They raised their heads at her lament and blinked.
"Say something, Oxton?" asked Woods poking his head out.
"Not a thing, sir!"
He nodded to his men behind her to indicate it was clear for them to come back in then quickly saluted and closed the door. The door blinds rattled. Lena let out a belabored breath.
"Back in the military, luv, oh joy! Right where I want to be!" she muttered as she stormed off directionlessly, ostensibly towards the directory to search for the housing officer at the increasingly unreasonable hour.
Lena crashed in her airman’s suite a few miles from the base at High Wycombe. She lay on the stiffly made bed in her new uniform staring at the ceiling, bare.
The accommodation was like a dorm. It reminded her brutally of what she’d done and the strict discipline the RAF would require of her.
"God, I’m insane, I can’t fly that thing. It’s got it out for me, it wants me to suffer..."
Her brain went back to that hellish dive and the insane rattling: Ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. It’s rate reaching a fever pitch. Pocketapocketapocketa-BOOM!
"IT’S POCKETS!" Lena shouted in surprise when the purple hacker materialized on top of her.
She grabbed Sombra by her shoulders and tumbled her off the bed with a thud.
"Whoa, whoa, Tracer!" uttered Sombra with uncharacteristic fear as Lena drew back to sock her in the face.
"What’s all this? Afraid, luv?" taunted Lena. "I catch you off guard for once and all that scary masochism vanishes like that, huh? It’s put on!" she shouted.
"Shh, shh, no, amiga..." Sombra hissed under her breath, "I’m definitely a pervert like that but you’re nuts and that’s coming from me."
"Yeah, what do you know?"
"A lot, all the time," replied Sombra with a confrontational head tilt, "and more than you, now let me up."
Lena drew back her hand causing Sombra to flinch. "Jesus, you’re high strung. Chinga, let me up!"
She got off and the hacker padded herself down.
"What the hell do you want?"
"I’m here to keep MI5 off your back."
"Fucking why?" Lena hissed holding her hands out.
"Because, Tracer... I’m a little gay for you—" she said running her finger down Lena’s cheek.
Lena pulled her face away. "Don’t," she threatened. "What are you really doing?"
"OK so I’m trying to make sure Talon doesn’t succeed at this," she said holding her hand out defensively, "at least, not yet."
"What’s in it for you? You’ve stolen the designs already. You’ve stolen everything! I’m not sure what else you can take!"
"Ah, well, the translocator is hot but I’m not lying, chica. I’m not ready for Talon world domination, chances are, neither are you. With the new weapon, the governments of the world will fold one by one to our demands. Unconditional surrender. You don't understand what we have, how close we are."
"Sounds good for you lot."
"Only not so good, because there are also those in Talon who want to sell the weapon, once it works, to the highest bidder and bring them into the fold."
"So, taradita, that’s boring!" raved Sombra, grabbing Tracer by her collar, "that’s a new status quo and it cramps my style. I want people power, I want global revolution, I want mass movements, I want the poor and oppressed to rise up and hang the rich, to get revenge against the ruling class, not bigger and better missiles."
Lena gazed into Sombra’s burning eyes and suddenly felt passive before her manic intensity. She resisted and pushed Sombra’s hands off.
"Oi, you’re crazy, luv, aren’t ya? You really think you can do all that with just your computers?" she giggled. Sombra grit her teeth and glared at her furiously. "Really got your goat just then, didn’t I?"
Sombra growled and went to grab the plucky pilot to teach her a lesson but withdrew.
"Yeah, I’m pretty fucking loco, but how have you been, Tracer?" muttered Sombra in a salty brooding tone. Her voice turned cruel. "Feeling dumb? Had any interesting thoughts, dreams, maybe sexual fantasies, a look at another life?"
Lena balked. "How... did... you..?"
The hacker smirked as Lena sat down on the bed in embarrassment and buried her face. "Oh, I have a nose for trauma. And you and that plane seem to have a little history."
"I hate it," came a muffled utterance through Lena’s hands.
"Makes you wonder, it’s not normal to, uh, hate and fear an inanimate object unless it’s not so inanimate..."
"What are you saying?"
"I’m not going to lie, I looked under the hood at that thing and it haunted me," said Sombra as she slinked herself around Lena’s body, "What type of computer can calculate QFT equations instantaneously? Can not only complete the necessary equations to model the flow of the space-time-continuum but manipulate it? For that type of quantum mechanics, you’d need more than raw processing power, you’d need understanding. You’d need to think like a god."
"Ugh, just shut up," Lena groaned.
"It’s just a thought..."
Sombra shrugged and lay herself on the narrow bed.
Lena fell back in exasperation but to her surprise she found she was resting her head on Sombra’s lap. She froze as she felt something drop in her throat and settle in her pelvis. The female body contact felt oddly nice, even if it was Sombra. In an instant Lena hated herself for being so celibate and sexually frustrated that she was thrown into a tiff just by touching Sombra.
The hacker took the opportunity to nonchalantly play with Lena’s hair as she hummed to herself. Lena felt her swallow and detected a hint of warmth between Sombra’s legs.
She suddenly looked up from Sombra’s lap, glaring at her in offense. "Oh God, no, no, not with you, not again!" Sombra let her head fall lazily to the side as she smiled at her catlike. "It’s always when I’m stressed out, it’s always after you play me like a fiddle, you make me feel stupid and then I hate myself."
"Yeah and?" Sombra replied arrogantly.
"You’re a manipulative blackmailing sadomasochistic twit!"
"I always let you say no, but you never do."
"Yeah, right, like I can say no," Lena cursed, "you just don’t get consent." She thought about getting up but instead she simply spat, "you’re evil!"
Lena climbed on top of her to confront her but Sombra made her eyes look innocent and passively folded under her. She delicately planted kisses on Lena’s neck as she wiggled seductively under her.
"Come on, Tracer, I don’t get it, teach me a lesson," Sombra cooed as she undid Lena’s uniform...
In an instant, Lena was straining her tight naked body against Sombra’s as she twisted orgasmically. It was unreal, it felt timeless, like a fantasy, she hated Sombra so much yet watching the beautiful brown skinned girl sprawl in pleasure because of her gave her a bout of ego mania. It made her feel like a porn star.
Afterwards, they lay naked together post-coital talking as Lena drew shapes with her finger on the contours of Sombra’s faded tattoos.
"What is it, Sombra? Why am I having the dreams? Why am I so anxious? Where am I going?"
"Do you ever think you’re approaching something in your life? Like a singularity? The closer you get to the scene of a traumatic experience the more you undo yourself. You’d know more about that than me..."
"I’m not going to disappear again am I?"
"I don’t think it’s time travel, it’s just you. You have to anchor yourself. I can’t fantasize anymore, I just do."
Lena awoke suddenly to an empty bed at the sound of the morning reveille. The stupid bugle blared obnoxiously as Lena rubbed her eyes.
"What in the cock, was that real?"
She threw off the sheet and turned to see violet makeup stains on her pillow. In a flash she remembered eating Sombra out from behind, making her ecstatically grip the sheets as she planted her face in the pillow.
"No way!" muttered Lena as she marveled at herself, then felt slightly disgusted with herself, then split the difference. She’d hate-fucked Sombra. It’d gone the other way, for once. "I banged the scary Mexican hacker lady?! Hah, really!"
She lay back with a sigh and remembered the encounter as a sly grin grew across her face. How soft Sombra’s breasts felt, how sensitive her body was. Not at all what she expected from such a villainous sadistic woman, she’d only known her as a persecutor.
There was a knock.
"Group Captain wants to see you immediately after mess!"
She dipped into the officer's mess where she was met with uproarious applause. The conservative female officer's flashed her coy smiles as she bantered with the boys in their smart RAF uniforms.
"Oi, you lot ever get in a cockfight with an omnic fighter drone? Your computer gets all fucky. You see, they always have an in because they's computers themselves, luvs," said Lena, playing up her cockney accent for the boys, "You got to rely on instinct and its always guns guns guns. They took missiles offa planes at the start of the war because, omnics, they'd queer up your pitch and the bleeding thing would fly right back."
"Not in my life, its all Talon these days with that 'asymmetrical warfare' bollocks what now that the omnics have buggered off. Wish the bastards would fight fair."
"Start a' the war was the worst. Half the RAF was destroyed on the ground, like nothin' I ever seen. An those horrible flying silver buildings with those mechanical claws. I still have nightmares of them flying over London. How'd they build those things in secret? Must've been deep in them omnic hives."
"Seemed impossible, makes me wonder if we even won, if this isn't all a simulation like that film. What was it?"
"God, the remakes were bloody awful."
"Can't believe the government just lets them be under King's Row. Its daft."
"Meh, that's not a hive, that's a slum. C'est differant, as the French say."
"Oi, its that French girlfriend of yours, whats her name? Fifi?"
"Its Roxane, ya git, she's my wife and she's bloody beautiful."
"Only if you've got a thing for ladies with an excess of pubic hair. Ah, them Gaulic girls."
"That's a lie and I have photographic proof!"
The boys gathered around the fellow as he proudly pulled out his smart phone and panned through his amateur nude photography of his wife to the sound of their riotous "Oooooh's."
"Watch out, dating a foreigner, she could be an omnic. Ever bugger an omnic, Alfie?"
"Ha ha, she was a mite insistent about tying the knot for that UK citizenship..."
Lena drifted off at the mention of the French girl and felt the space close around her. Cool blue arms reached around her from behind.
"Hello," came a seductive French woman’s voice.
Lena shivered as she began to kiss the back of her neck causing her invisible hairs on her neck to stand up.
"Heh-h-hello, Amelie," Lena giggled nervously as she felt the blue woman delicately kiss her shoulders, "you’re scary..."
"Come up with me," she said lowering herself to tickle the small of Lena’s back with her cold kisses.
Lena turned around and realized she was looking at Widowmaker’s pelvis.
Suddenly, as if in a trap, Amelie’s arms snatched her and she was pulled up into the ceiling rafters into a black space. She wasn’t sure how but their clothes were off. Lena gave an aroused sigh as she felt Widowmaker’s cold tongue between her legs. The blood rushed to Lena’s chest and pelvis and she felt a fit of passion. Amelie’s meticulously shaven pussy was there for her. She gripped Widowmaker’s incredible butt and went jowls deep...
"Oi, Oxton, I’ve never seen anyone go all ham for mess hall food."
Lena blinked. "Ah, well, I’m Marvin, luv," she rebutted.
"Ey, Alfie, I bet you could learn a move or two to use on the missus the way Oxton’s eating that breakfast roll."
The boys again broke into riotous laughter as Lena blushed.
"What do you think, boys?" the snide pilot said with a prickish grin, "Oxton’s competition, you know."
"Get stuffed," she said giving him two fingers.
"Hello boys, happen to overhear and just thought I’d say I’d go gay for Oxton," interjected a beautiful red-headed fighter pilot in her North Irish accent, "she’s braver than you lot, flying the Slipstream. Bet your sorry arses wouldn’t be seen anywhere near that fighter."
"Sod’s Law says it goes tits up again."
"Oi, that’s supposed to be top secret!"
"Top secret, my arse. It’s all over the tabloids that the bleeding thing was honked up."
"Well, Oxton, you get to fly the old girl again you jammy bastard."
"That’s jammy bitch to you, luv!" Lena volleyed back.
"Bah, you’re a right cunt whichever way!"
"I don’t believe it, I don’t think Ivy would go for Oxton."
"You’ll respect my rank and address me as Leftenant Woodrow," the redhead replied, "and watch me..."
"Ooh, fiesty, is that your number Woodrow?" the pilot jibbed as the woman stood and scribbled a note on the table.
"It’s my section and house number, ya goofy shite!"
She slapped the note in front of Lena causing the silverware to rattle. She swallowed as the redhead stormed off whilst giving the rowdy pilots the two finger salute. Was this real?
The rest was a blur. Lena was informed by Woods that she was attested back into the RAF, after which she hooked up with Ivy—the smoking fit redhead, giving her a hell of a time in her shower then again in her bed before being transferred by convey to RAF Spadeadam and given accommodations—all in the span of a day and all whilst sporting a goofy grin.
Things were looking her way...
This was it. This was the day. Lena arose to the base's trumpeting bugle well rested and well sexed. She picked a red hair out of her tooth, dressed in her flight uniform, enjoyed a light breakfast at the mess and was briefed on her mission at the bird table glowing with the utmost confidence.
The briefing detailed the Slipstream’s performance envelope. Lena didn’t care, all she cared for was that all that power was about to be at her fingertips.
"The Slipstream is like no other air superiority fighter in history. Not only is it capable of speeds in excess of Mach 6, it is fully equipped for mesospheric flight making it capable of catching up to and destroying an ICBM at its apogee. It’s teleportation capabilities make it the ideal interceptor..."
Lena sighed. Apogee... apple geese, apology, she thought as her mind drifted.
She blinked. Emily was before her in her trashy apartment looking solemn.
"Apologize?" Lena uttered in disbelief, "Emily, for what?"
"I was just so surprised by your other life. I felt threatened, like you were a spy or a secret agent. I knew you were a pilot before but... it all felt like too much."
"Well, what do you think of me now?"
"Honestly, it’s kind of sexy..." Emily replied with a coy smile.
"Apogee, apogee, Oxton," the GC repeated through his teeth, "not, apology, good Lord. If you intend to fly the most advanced aircraft on the planet you had better pull yourself together."
Lena shook to.
"Oh, I know the old crate pretty well, luv, I mean, sir. Just bored to bits is all."
The GC closed his telescoping pointer against his hand and folded his arms. He leaned into Lena’s face so she could smell his dry skin and aftershave and made a stern grimace.
"If anything goes wrong, you try and land the bugger. You’re a test pilot, so you don’t bang out unless the bird is going down in flames, you hear? That means, you stay in unless you are otherwise ordered. Is that understood?"
"Then that is all. Good luck, Leftenant, you are dismissed."
It was a milkrun, easy peasy. All she had to do was fly the Slipstream without activating any of its more interesting equipment to make sure it didn't slip out of time or randomly explode.
She stepped out of the hanger onto the airfield in her high altitude flight suit and swaggered towards the mysterious fighter as ground staff in winterized gear fueled it up.
The sleek experimental plane seemed to jitter with a great unearthly power despite being inert. To Lena, it was unstable just to look at it, somehow out-of-time.
She took a step, or rather, tried to when Lena realized she was frozen in her tracks.
Panic set in as she felt her heart race. Some duffer had redone its tester paint job black and replaced the cockpit canopy with tinted red glass. It looked like a hell-plane.
"Nope, no, no, no, absolutely not!" Lena balked, making an about face, "shut it all down, luvs. I’m out! See ya!"
"No, no, you’re going in, you!" said a crewman taking Lena by the shoulders and steering her back towards the plane.
"Rubbish, that thing is Satan! You fly it!"
Sombra watched invisibly from behind a pushback as Lena was traipsed across the tarmac kicking and screaming towards the ominous fighter.
"You’ll be fine, Leftenant. We’ll be right up there with you in the monitoring plane... You have nothing to—" Lena socked the crewman on the nose sending him flailing. "W- My God, she’s broken my nose! Why you—"
"You can’t make me do it! Have mercy! Think of what you’re doing, luvs!"
Despite Lena’s fisticuffs, she was hauled to the plane and forced up the ladder to the cockpit by crewmen wielding sticks. Lena swiped and kicked back like a jaguar in a tree but it was no use, in the end she was forced to retreat into the cockpit. Finally, she was belted in by the indignant bloody nosed crewmen and given the two finger salute.
The cockpit closed with a pressurized shoomp! and the noise of the airfield was silenced.
"Holy hell..." she muttered, "I’m done for."
She adjusted the strap tension on her harness and hooked up her oxygen mask. No need to adjust the seat, she was the last person to use it.
The pissed off crewman outside waved at her for her to start the takeoff procedure.
"Oh God, oh God, oh God..." she muttered as she willed her finger to touch the master ignition.
The plane’s instruments blinked to life. The dials responded instantly. Fuel and oxygen looked good. To Lena’s dismay, all indicators were green—she was looking for any excuse not to fly.
With a nervous sigh, she tentatively took the joystick in hand and tested the ailerons, elevators and rudder control surfaces. She peered out the cockpit to visually confirm. They looked good, though Lena’s hand was shaking.
She flipped on the radio transmitter by forcing her body into the entire motion with a lurch.
"T-Tracer to ground staff," she said with a gasp.
"We read you, Oxton."
The crewmen gave her the thumbs up then turned it into a middle finger. Her eyes zeroed in on the starter button and booster coil as she felt her heart begin to pound. Her vision tunneled.
No going back now. Without thinking she jammed the buttons so fast she wouldn’t be able to stop herself. The engine roared to life without hesitation as if it were somehow overeager to start.
"Tracer, RAF Spadeadam Control," came an Englishman’s voice over the Slipstream’s transmitter.
Lena cleared her throat.
"Go ahead, Control."
"You are cleared for take off at runway three... wait, what’s that?"
"Two bogies at Angel 6! Looks Talon, sir. I haven’t any idea how they got through!" called a radar technician from his station as he lift an ear of his headphones. "Two more contacts! They’re firing on the Slipstream!"
The sidewhiskered (though not nearly as illustriously as Peach) GC cursed then got back on the horn as the command center bustled with urgent activity. "Control to Tracer, you’ve got to activate the Slipstream’s chronal matrix and evade those missiles!"
"What?! No!" Lena panicked.
"You’ve got to do it, Leftenant! That aircraft you’re sitting in is worth one trillion pounds. You haven’t got any time!"
"Never, it hates me!"
"It what? That’s nonsense, airmen, and you bloody well know it!"
"I’ll never do it, sir. It’ll send me to the Stone Age!"
The GC threw down his headphones. "Damnit, see if we can access the system remotely. I won’t lose the Slipstream again!"
"Can’t, sir! There’s interference!"
"Blast and damn it and blast again!" the GC cursed.
In the Slipstream, the warning lights indicating an incoming missile strobed as a computer alarm chimed. Lena fumbled with her straps to try and crawl out the cockpit but it was too much, she was too entangled. She panicked and pounded the eject button but to her horror it did nothing. Lena pounded it several more times, refusing to accept its failure.
The Slipstream’s calm female voice chimed in. "Warning: incoming missile..."
"Gee, ya think, luv?"
To Lena’s horror the chronal matrix between her legs began to pulsate indicating it was charging up. She could hear the centrifuges in the chronal accelerator embedded in the hull of the aircraft whirring to speed.
"What? No, that’s impossible!" Lena balked as the Slipstream’s console flashed every single one of its warning lights. "No, please! I won’t go back to being dead!"
But Lena was strapped in.
Ta-pocketa-pocketapocketa. The chronal accelerator began to emit the dreaded sound Lena was familiar with but the pitch turned manic as the chronal engine’s centrifuges picked up speed: Mmmmmmm-rrrr-rrrrr-rahrahrahrah!
The whirring of the device’s centrifuges took on an increasingly distorted character as the loading bar on the Slipstream’s console crawled towards 100%. Lena peered down and saw the two red dots on her radar impetuosity creep towards the Slipstream at high speed. She tried the eject button again. No luck.
"Please... no..." Lena whimpered. She looked up as the missile alarm reached a fever pitch indicating that impact was immanent. Her last sight were a pair of Talon missiles arcing towards her when there was a sudden splash of electronic noise followed by an otherworldly vacuum.
"Oh, bugger," she muttered as she felt a glowing numbing blanket of cascading light cover her body and engulf the cockpit.
Sombra watched the mysterious aircraft become engulfed in a sphere light and disappear as the Talon air-to-ground missiles exploded on the tarmac from her hiding place.
"Whoa..." she muttered in awe as the explosion and flames reflected off her violet eyes.
"God blast it!" bellowed the CG in the control center, "was that us or them?! Where’s she gone?! This is a catastrophe!"
"They’re bugging out, sir!"
"Scramble our fighters! Don’t let them get away!"
Lena was pacified before the screen of flowing lights and colors. She heard the great timewarping engine behind her continuing to roar. To her surprise, she heard it strain and witnessed her own eyes pass out of her head then the back of her head until she saw what looked like a limp silvery image of her own body being pulled out of the chair.
It looked like a ghost.
The specter, however, was suddenly wrenched back into Lena when her chronal accelerator began to glow. The Slipstream’s chronal engine whirred as it exerted greater power. Lena realized in an instant that the two devices were working against each other...
In the other space, the chronal engine strained and whirred in frustration. It was as if someone was pumping the accelerator on a combustion engine car to drive it out of a snowbank. As the hypnotizing lightshow unfolding in front of Lena's eyes began to slow down, she snapped to, regaining herself. She looked at the dials. The Slipstream was losing power. But where was she going? Where was the dreaded thing taking her and by who's or what will? With a final burst of effort the engine seized and the lightshow ended.
The Slipstream was pooped out of the space-time continuum with a burst of light, extinguishing the flames the RAF fire crews were trying to put out on the runway and blowing the crewmen down in surprise.
Lena gasped in relief. She was back. However, there was an emergency beeping in the cockpit.
Ejection sequence activated.
The Slipstream's cockpit blew off and the lesbian pilot was rocketed out of the unreasonable aircraft screaming. She landed with a thud right in front of the GC. He glared at her with grim dissapointment as he bit the end of his pipe. Lena giggled at him nervously.
Fwoom! The parachute, which had failed to deploy, suddenly exploded from the ass of Lena's pilot seat.
Ground staff hustled over to Lena to unhook the parachute and make sure she wasn’t dragged away by the wind. The GC watched them work with patent incredulity. A pair of crewmen undid Lena’s straps and hauled her up in front of the boss by both arms.
"Heh, heh..." Lena giggled.
"We’re going to have a little chat about following orders after this, Leftenant..."
Lena felt a pit in her stomach form almost immediately. An aircrewmen hustled up to the GC and saluted. "Sir, it’s urgent you leave the airfield immediately. The Slipstream is emitting some kind of radiation."
"Radiation? Is that science, dear boy? We’d already be dead."
"Low levels, sir. But we’d better not risk it."
"Heh, radiation," Lena noted, "I thought it was feeling a little frisky..."
"Frisky?" Gracie repeated incredulously, "Right, well, I’ll deal with you later, Oxton."
Lena swallowed as a hazmat crew hustled past to isolate and contain the uncanny fighter. She turned to witness a lightning bolt indignantly snap out and ignite the pants of one the containment personnel as they encircled it.
"What in the ass is going on with that thing?" Lena muttered.
She hustled inside keeping her head low.
* * *
"Insubordination, failure... this is a big scale cock up, Oxton! We did you a favor expediting your attestation so you could handle the Slipstream and you touched bottom before even getting off the runway!"
Touched bottom, getting off, Lena repeated to herself. She giggled.
"Just what is so funny pilot!?"
She cleared her throat awkwardly, as if she was having difficulty swallowing. "Just nervous, sir!"
"Well, in all my years of service I haven’t seen a choke up so complete and thorough since—" the GC raged.
The GC’s words disappeared as Lena looked out the window at the Slipstream. It was as if it was looking back.
A dreamy voice entered her head: Fly me, Lena. Fly me. I can take you anywhere. I can take you back.
"Fat chance," Lena snapped.
"Shut up, you!"
"My word, Oxton—" started the CG in blustered offense.
Lena shook her head but then realized that this was actually what she wanted to say. "Now, now listen here you nobby twit. I can still fly and I been flying without my ticket. I’ve flown suicide missions with 15 to 1 odds in Libya and Syria and I’ve flown them well. So you need to stuff it and listen when I say that plane is unflyable!"
The officer’s bottom lip quivered in outrage.
"Where’s it been all this time, huh? Why’s it come back? How come no one knows how it works? Why are you all acting like we’re studying it if we built it? How come I don’t even believe the RAF made that plane? The cockpit looks like it’s a bloody UFO!"
Lena tapped her foot impatiently and folded her arms as the officer looked cowed. He sighed and took a solemn tone.
"What I’m about to tell you, Leftenant, doesn’t leave this room..."
* * *
Lena’s motorcycle roared at top speed over the rolling Cumbrian hills away from RAF Spadeadam. She was in a panic, full of nervous energy. She wanted nothing to do with the RAF or their secret weapons programs or the Slipstream. Only to get as far away from the cursed fighter as possible. She would rather be chased by MI5 thugs for the rest of her life than ever be strapped into that horrifying death trap again—her tentative plan being to get back and do something unbelievably risky like propose to Emily or become a stripper or join the French Foriegn Legion or something. She was desperate and just wanted out.
At every opportunity, Lena blinked as soon as her chronal accelerator was cooled down, she leaned into every curve, flew over humps, and weaved through every spot of traffic with zero toleration for any slowdown except...
"Bollucks, I shoulda peed before I legged it."
She pulled into a rest stop and got off, hopping up and down on one foot in an expert rendition of the timeless "peepee dance." Lena peered over the shoulders of the beefy female truckers standing in queue to the lady’s WC.
Lena began to sing to herself nervously to distract herself from how badly she had to pee.
"La-ti-dah-dah-doh. OI, CHOP CHOP, LUVS. WHAT’S THE BLOODY HOLD UP?!" she shouted over the line of imposing women.
The ladies turned towards her. As soon as Lena realized what she’d done, she fumbled to take off her helmet and tried to make herself look as cute and gay as possible via some sort of innate defence mechanism.
"Heh, heh, did I say something, luvs?"
One of them nudged the next person in line. "Oi, is that Tracer?"
"I think it is."
"She looks even gayer in person..."
In a flash she was hauled to the front of the line by the hefty women and thrown into the single stall bathroom.
"Don’t take forever or else, ya bleedin’ weapon!" a trucker threatened in her Glaswegian accent.
"Righto!" she replied, trying to sound chipper.
She turned and was immediately nose to nose with Sombra. Lena stumbled back against the door.
"Um, hi, look—"
"You waited in here? It bloody stinks!" said Lena holding her nose.
"Huh? Hadn’t noticed. Listen, amiga. You’re kind of—how do you say?—completely fucking up my plans."
"Well, two fingers to you and your plans, I have to piss," Lena replied but Sombra wouldn’t budge.
She pushed Sombra away and stormed to the stall, closing the door shut with a slam. She wiggled out of her skintight motorcycle suit desperately muttering ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’ then collided her ass with the seat at the very last moment and released.
"Ah, ahhh..." Lena couldn’t help but sigh as she released a mighty stream.
"Woaw, amiga, don’t have so much fun without me."
"Just sod off, slag. What on Earth do you want?" Lena cursed from behind the graffitied stall door.
Sombra used her surgical steel nail to turn the lock on the stall from the outside and let herself in. She stood above her in the confined stall as Lena crossed her arms at her looking outraged.
"You literally have no limits," she uttered in disdain, "I’m trying to take a piss, yeah?"
"Ah, yes, well, I am myself, but I wanted to talk to you, amiga..."
"Forget it, you don’t like Talon? You fly the plane yourself, chum."
"Yeah, no. I like Talon just fine, I’m just not a fan of this particular plan."
"So, bollucks, I’m not flying," said Lena twisting her head away resentfully. "Do you even know how they made that bloody plane? It’s barbaric! No wonder it misbehaves!"
With a grin, Sombra opened her palm and played a sample of the recording from her debriefing with her GC.
"It’s omnic in origin, we slapped her back together with what we could and put the chronal engine in our best fighter design. We had to Oxton, we had to try everything to stop the genocide of our people, of humanity. We didn’t have a computer with the power so we did the unthinkable—"
"Of course, you bloody-well knew," Lena spat. "Well, I’m not flying a plane with a computer made out of cannibalized enslaved omnics! And anyone who does deserves what they get."
"Aw, pobrecita, you were looking so confident after we hung out last time... Ivy is a great fuck, right?"
Sombra regarded her fingertips and sighed. "Yeah, I had her too. She’s a Talon agent." She leaned in as she began to rub the top of Lena’s freckled thighs. "Now we have a little more in common..."
Lena blinked and shook her head. "What?" she repeated but in a discernibly darker tone.
"You really think you’re in control here? Do you really think anything that’s happened here hasn’t happened exactly according to my plans?"
Lena cocked her head rebelliously. "Not me bugging out, you didn’t think of that in your little plan..."
"Oh don’t worry, amiga. We just have to raise your confidence again..."
"Heh, heh, again? Here, now, luv?"
"What?" Sombra was given pause. "Again?" she repeated.
"Yeah, again," said Lena losing her nervousness and taking an indignant tone. "What you forgot about our little night together?"
The hacker tapped on her lip as if struck by curiosity. "That’s interesting..."
"Oi, carry on! We’re waiting!" came a disgruntled voice from outside.
"Just a minute!" Lena hollered back. "What you’re not going to say anything? Go on, kiss me! I know you want to!"
Lena extended her neck and closed her eyes as she made a “kissy face” at Sombra.
"Heh..." Sombra uttered in amusement as she took Tracer’s cheeks in her hand. At first it was sensual but Sombra’s grip tightened and she jerked Lena’s neck to the side. "Listen, English, you’re going to go back and fly that plane because if you don’t..." She unholstered her machine pistol and pressed it under Lena’s jaw. "I’ll just fucking kill you and take the plane myself," she said with fake sweetness, "I know Ivy would love to fly it."
"I really preferred your other method..."
Sombra ignored her.
"You seem to think flying this plane is about overcoming your little neurosis. Well, let me tell you what’s at stake, the plane is invulnerable: it can reverse any damage, it can teleport away from any harm, it is the perfect weapon. If you can fly the Slipstream, you can change history," she explained through her teeth, "it’s only weakness, is that it needs a human pilot."
She pulled the gun away and held it up next to her cheek.
"So, get. In. The. Fucking. Plane, Lena," said Sombra pushing her face right into Lena’s.
Lena pouted at Sombra.
"Fine, ya big bully."
The discontented rabble outside had been growing during the course of their conversation. To Lena’s dismay, the bathroom door suddenly burst open and they were accosted in the stall.
"We were just finished," said Sombra taking a diplomatic tone with the heaving enraged lady-trucker.
She pat her on the shoulder as she slinked past. Lena, however, turned bright red as the trucker’s eyes fell on her. The sense she had was that her and Sombra's queer credentials had run out on credit. In a flash she was tossed out of the bathroom on her ass next to the line of beefy British lady-truckers, all engaged in their personal renditions of the peepee dance.
No sign of Sombra, of course.
Lena wiggled into her motorcycle outfit, which she was feeling was a bit more trouble than it’s worth and mounted her motorcycle.
As she restrapped her helmet she noticed a vortex of clouds had formed in the direction of RAF Spadeadam. A fleet of military helicopters passed overhead flying in formation at top speed towards the base. A pit of fear formed in Lena’s stomach at the prospect that the devilish fighter might be acting up again.
"Oh bugger..." muttered Lena as the churning unnatural clouds and lightning reflected off her helmet.
* * *
"Captain Gracie!" Lena called through the whirlwind as she approached the command staff on site.
The airfield was an otherworldly mess. Around the Slipstream all manner of expensive military hardware was swirling and floating up into the eye of the vortex. Despite the high wind speed, the stuff floated gently albeit at just enough of a threatening speed to be a nuisance. It wasn’t at all the wind that was carrying it but some other force. Spadeadam’s ground staff were in the midst of struggling to regain as much of the equipment as they could, chasing aircraft parts in stumbling mobs as the hardware slowly floated away just above hand’s reach as if it were a bad Benny Hill sketch.
Lena took off her helmet and dismounted her super-bike to witness the screwball comedy unfolding before her when her bike decided to levitate upwards into the tornado of floating debris itself.
"Well, that’s that..." Lena muttered as she watched it drift away.
"Oxton! Oxton, is that you?!" shouted the GC over the noise as he held his hat to his head, "The blasted fighter’s gone mad! The chronal engine is malfunctioning and now we’ve got this... slow and unusual tornado on our hands!"
"Sir, it seems to be slowing down, sir!"
"Well, it had better not! There’s a trillion pounds of RAF materiel in the air!" GC Gracie bellowed. He kicked the crewmen in the butt. "What are you waiting for, Mitty!? Go restrain that lorry!"
The Group Captain turned to Lena and glared.
"Back again, eh? Come inside, we’ve got a surprise for you... When you left we became desperate..."
Lena gets off a little bit scot-free. The Talon gang shows off the unusual culture of their organization.
Lena stood at attention in Group Captain Gracie's office watching the commotion on the airfield out the window over his shoulder. The Slipstream didn't seem to be calling for her this time but it stood cryptic and imposing outside the window as a monolithic mystery. The craft was no doubt intelligent, but did its apparent intelligence amount to some sort of will? Gracie turned suddenly, pulling his gaze away from the plane as if himself captivated.
"As soon as you were out all hell broke loose with that aircraft. I do say it’s nothing but tears and bad luck, although, silver lining, you’ve given us the most success with the Slipstream, thus far, the blasted thing was inert until you came along," explained the Group Captain inspecting his finger nails with a stiff lip. He rubbed his cuticles against his uniform before continuing. "But your old colleague Winston was at the end of the long shortlist for scientific staff who might be able to figure out just what in the Queen’s Bollucks’s Bollucks is going on. Our other scientists and engineers, it seems, have all contracted a spell of superstition around that particular aircraft and refuse to work on it. We contacted him right away."
Lena's eyes shifted mischievously at the mention of her friend.
"Is he... is he here, sir?" she asked with intrigue.
"Why yes, he arrived by helicopter some time ago—"
"Aw, Winston!" Lena cheered but she quickly caught herself. "Oops, sorry, sir. Just been a while, is all."
"No no, it’s quite alright, however, we were also in desperate need of another pilot. Even a few hours off our schedule and we’re sunk, you understand... Leftenant Woodrow was your obvious replacement."
"What? Replacement? I was gone not even half a day—"
"We’re on military time, pilot. Ivy was willing to have a go at a moments notice before this vortex nonsense started, you might learn a thing or two from her."
"Huh," Lena replied skeptically, "well, I’d better meet them..."
"Follow me, if you would, Leftenant... We'll have to do as much as we can before we relocate, that Talon attack has revealed that this location is too insecure to perform our tests."
They passed the disapproving glares of the ground staff personnel as Gracie escorted the diminutive pilot to the briefing room. Lena shrugged her shoulders up as she caught a chill from their staring eyes and she was sure she heard the word 'cursed' uttered more than once. However, she loosened up immediately upon seeing Winston and she jumped into the gorilla's arms in a fit of excitement.
"Heh heh, Winston old pal!" she giggled affectionately as she rubbed his head.
"This is a most curious way to greet a colleague with an honorary PhD in particle physics from MIT..." he replied with a hint of bashfulness.
"Oh, shove it, ya corker. I missed ya, luv!"
He cleared his throat. "I’m glad to see you too, Ms. Oxton. Sorry it couldn't be under better circumstances."
"The circumstances are great, Winston. You're just the man for the-" started Lena until she caught sight of Ivy. "-job..." Her eyes turned curious. Winston let Lena down from his arms when he detected she was acting iffy. "Um, hello, Ivy. Didn't remember you being quite so... tall."
"Yes, well, standing up she is rather tall isn’t she, Leftenant?" Gracie muttered.
The red headed pilot blew a strand of hair out of her face impatiently. The otherwise gorgeous woman was looking flustered and mean. Lena detected something in her eyes.
"Didn't expect you were coming back, sounded like you'd buggered off..." Ivy replied, "I was ready to take on your duties... this comes as a bit of a surprise."
"Well, surprise or not, pilot. I'm afraid its hard cheese. If what Winston said to me is true Lena's the only who can do it without faffing about in the Stone Age as poor company to Schrodinger's pussy like a second rate episode of Dr. Who." The two female pilots gave the CG incredulous eyes. "Pussy-cat... cat, in the sense of cat," he corrected, "what is this?"
"Nothing, sir!" Lena replied, shaking her head abruptly and snapping back to attention.
"Right... Winston!" bellowed Gracie suddenly as he turned on his heels towards the gorilla.
"Uh, yes sir?" he replied timidly.
"You're now in the service of Her Majesty's Royal Air-force!" he announced authoritatively. He began to rub his hands together as he took on a somewhat mischievous grin. "And you lot," he said switching his eyes between Lena and Winston, "and by that I mean our Overwatch luminaries, are prohibited by law from standing within 500 ft of each other according to the Petras Act. Fortunately, team GB was never keen on upholding international treaties. You're going to work together to get that plane under control. You have whatever resources and staff we can spare at RAF Spadeadam at your disposal. We will get back on schedule..." He turned to Ivy. "Leftenant Woodrow, I’m afraid you’re out until we need you."
"Of course, sir," she replied through gritted teeth before dismissing herself.
Ivy gave Lena snarling eyes before she left but Lena seemed distracted. She was put off by the GC’s leniency and mood. Wonder what’s gone through his head? Lena thought to herself.
"Winston, my dear boy, you may be the leg up we needed to tame the Slipstream..." Gracie added, patting Winston on the shoulder, "shame what happened to Overwatch, really."
"Heh, I’ll try my best... all in the name of science."
"Ah, yes, science, that’s smashing..."
* * *
Barnabus loped between Sombra’s feet in the low light as she sat at her desktop. She was hardwired directly into the computer by her backpack. Lines of code scrolled across her eyes as she sat in a meditative state. An ambiguously female elfin figure approached Sombra from behind and picked the hiding black bunny from between her legs.
"What’s it like for you? Is it like thinking?" it spoke in a cool Irish accent.
Sombra blinked a few times in irritation then snapped to.
"It’s not thinking, Moira. Computers don’t think, they process instructions."
"You truly don’t have any formal scientific training," replied Moira petting the mortified bunny with her venomous looking clawed hand. "I thought even you could see how a computer is similar to a brain."
"Where’s the thought, huh, amiga?" said Sombra looking over her shoulder to address Moira and her unwanted philosophical conversation, "The most advanced neural networks are self-executing mathematical models, just a jumble of artificial neurons and connections. They solve problems by shifting their internal state so their output matches an expectation given a certain input. They don’t think." She turned back to her work. "They can predict, maybe, but they don’t think."
"Hmm, we live in an age of willful computers, you'd best adapt to the notion that they are more than slaves," Moira replied cryptically. "Any closer to cracking the Slipstream’s code?"
"I’m, uh, working on it. Winston is at the base. It’ll be easy to move in once his work is complete."
"So you'll steal his research," Moira noted, "how charming."
"Hey, you said it yourself, I'm not a scientist. I'm a hacker."
Moira stepped to a console and pressed a button with an aristocratic gesture. Slowly the blinds crept up in the room revealing that they were elevated many miles over the ocean. The airship’s hovercoils sparked and glowed with a low blue hue against the setting sun. The compartment was bathed in red light.
With the room illuminated, Widowmaker stirred, opening her unnatural yellow-green eyes with a sigh. Her pupils contracted to the size of pinheads from the sudden influx of low light. Moira was visibly startled from her presence. She'd been standing naked holding a ballet pose completely motionless in the dark like a living statue. Widow lay herself down on a contemporary couch behind Sombra. Her small breasts welled against her chest as she lay back making her appear almost flat chested. Sombra wiped her bleary eyes then unhooked herself from her station and seated herself at Widow’s side, delicately running her hand over Widow’s sternum.
"Don’t play with the furniture..." muttered Moira over her shoulder.
"I’m taking a break..."
"She feels virtually nothing, you know," Moira noted, turning her gaze forward towards the English coastline.
Widowmaker stared vacantly past Sombra looking bored and model-like as she posed herself on the couch.
"You ever think that she might be pretending, jefe?" Sombra asked.
The blue woman grinned surreptitiously as she reached up and wrapped her hand around the back of Sombra's neck to draw her close. Her cool hand caused Sombra's invisible hairs to stand up from a spell of goosebumps. They kissed.
"I designed her, I should know," Moira replied. She plopped the bunny on the ground to let him scamper away and turned. "You're disgusting to treat her that way..."
Sombra turned towards Moira after indulging in a long kiss. "Chale, who are you to criticize my ethics?"
At that moment, a tall black man entered dressed in martial arts pants and a skin tight rash-guard. He'd been practicing and was fresh from his workout. His posture was straight while his composure was proud as if derived from an earned arrogance despite only having one arm. He looked as though he could not easily be denied.
"What is this? Tell her to get dressed, I will not have this mission degenerate into another freak show!" he spat in his august Nigerian accent, "agent Widowmaker outranks you, Sombra. She's not a doll and I will not have you abuse her programming. There is a chain of command."
"Right away, Akande..." Sombra muttered as she reluctantly stood to attention.
Widowmaker arose slowly from the couch and looked down on Sombra with the faintest grin. With a flick of her hair she strut towards her quarters to dress herself as if she were a model on a catwalk. Akande absentmindedly scratched himself as the beautiful former ballet dancer strut past. He caught himself and pressed on his temple and closed his eyes as she left the room. He opened them once she was clear and leveled his piercing gaze on Sombra.
"You," he said decisively, "I want a status report. Why are you trying to blow up Talon's property? We gave the Slipstream back to the British so they could get it's chronal matrix working. We've replicated the matrix down to the atom and we still can't jump."
"Did you really let the British have it or did it go out of control?" Sombra averted her eyes, looking at her desktop screen as she spoke. Barnabus hopped out of his hiding place to investigate Sombra's feet as she spoke. "I needed to provoke it to blink so we could get the calculations from the Slipstream's computer."
Akande exhaled impatiently through his nostrils. More insubordination. "How did you know it would teleport? Our best scientists couldn't work with the plane's AI and you think you know better? You're putting us at risk."
The hacker huffed out an equally impatient sigh.
"Well I got the data, didn't I?"
"So, it done."
"No, its not done. We need the plane to recall. Teleportation is only half of it's ability. The plane travels time."
"So, try and destroy it again, we can try a sustained attack. The plane will exhaust it's options over time and will be forced to recall."
"If you want to send out pilots and drones against the Slipstream, Akande, be my guest. But there's another option I'm working on."
"Tracer, Lena Oxton. The plane seems to only only responds to her. The AI is somewhat... hysterical and she doesn't want to fly but I'm working on her."
"It's finicky. Like its got a gremlin on board or something. I dunno," Sombra shrugged moodily, "if Lena gains full control of the aircraft than she can order it to recall. The RAF conducts the test, we steal the data and it's done: we have what we need to configure our chronal engines."
Barnabus caught a whiff of Akande's testosterone on the wind from his work out. He made his way towards Akande making disgruntled 'humphs' as he neared, Akande's odor was putting the boy rabbit in a competitive mood.
Akande grimaced at Sombra's response and made his way over to the sullen hacker. Barnabus tracked him with his eyes. He stood over her using his imposing stature to assert his authority. Moira observed the interaction coolly with her hands folded behind her back.
"Explain. Why can't a normal pilot fly the Slipstream? Why won't our computers work with our chronal engines?"
The hacker heard Moira clear her throat. Unamused and unthreatened by his stature, Sombra gave a deliberately languid reply.
"Look, I have an idea of what it is but it's just a theory. It could be a quantum computer, it could be an array of artificial omnic neural networks, it could even be a God AI. Whatever it is, its more powerful than anything Talon's got and it only seems to respond to Tracer."
"The tap on the Slipstream is still intact? I have your word this will work?"
"Don't be so quick to trust her word, Akande," Moira interrupted, "I have my own theories as to why The Slipstream has failed to work for us."
"Well, Minister, I can certainly say I am curious what a biologist has to say on the matter of artificial intelligence."
"Please. Talon has made ample use of Oasis' laboratories and scientific staff and I'm simply not in the business of wasting time comparing my qualifications against an orphan gangbanger."
Sombra scowled. Akande raised his eyebrows, suddenly listening attentively.
"I've already deployed my own agent to recover Lena's chronal accelerator. The device may be the key to mastering the Slipstream. If we capture Lena and her chronal accelerator, we may be able to field our own pilot and fly the Slipstream ourselves."
Akande scratched his chin with his good hand before speaking.
"We'll go with both plans. We'll let the Oxton girl fly until we gather data from the Slipstream's capabilities and we destroy it the moment we have what we need. We cannot afford her gaining full control of the aircraft." Suddenly, Akande pushed his face into Sombra's as he gave her a mean look. She recoiled in surprise. "Do you understand the risks you're taking? All I see you doing is putting up obstacles and slowing us down. If I find out that you're withholding anything or trying to manipulate things in your favor, I will break you in half."
The hacker recovered and tilted her head cattily as she adopted a shady tone. "Oh don't worry, Akande, I won't keep our customers waiting."
At that moment, Akande felt a warm liquid splash on his pant leg. He looked down in outrage. The indignant black bunny had peed on the floor and flicked it at his white martial arts pants.
"What the-?" he cursed as he reached for the scampering bunny. His boxing reflexes proved themselves and he swooped the bunny up in one hand and held him by his scruff. "You..."
"Chinga, don't hurt him!" shouted Sombra, taking the rabbit from his hand.
Akande's nostrils flared. "Get back to work... and keep the pressure on," he menaced then turned to leave for his quarters.
"Hey, Akande," Sombra called to him as she held the bunny, "it isn't like you to be pressured by clients and money, you're not a slave."
He paused. "I'm bringing the conflict to the next stage of evolution," he said over his shoulder before continuing to the door. "There is no contradiction for me here, search elsewhere... Evening minister."
"Indeed," Moira replied, nodding her head in respect.
The mechanical door hissed open and shut. He was gone. Moira let out a sigh of relief.
"Funny little family aren't we?" she noted, "I almost wish Gabriel was here..."
Sombra humphed. "Aye yaie, I just think its stupid flying around in an invisible blimp and sending out our flying monkeys to try and steal a superweapon," the hacker replied as she slumped herself in her chair, "makes me feel too much like a villain..."
"Uncanny, isn’t it?"
It was in the wee hours of the morning, well before reveille would awaken the base to start its clandestine research and operations. Now was the ideal time to strike. Ivy was in the midst of the delicate process of breaking and entering into Lena's quarters at a particularly precarious phase of the operation.
"Like piss I'm getting shut out of this..." she muttered to herself in her smokey Irish accent as she entered Lena's room. Ivy rounded the corner and spotted Lena asleep in her bed. Her heart sank. "Oh fuck me, the she sleeps with gammy thing on..."
The room smelt like sleep and Lena was certainly in the depths of it, however, she was entangled awkwardly in her sheets gripping her pillow like a lover as she slept. The configuration made Ivy's task incredibly difficult. Her heart leapt, however, when she saw a bottle of temazapam—an occasional indulgence of the NATO USAF pilots on the base to deal with insomnia—sitting on Lena's night stand. The girl was out like a light. Ivy tentatively held her hands out over Lena's body to try and rationalize a way she could take the chronal accelerator off without waking her. She withdrew when Lena stirred.
"Pocking... pockets... pockie..." the lesbian pilot muttered incoherently as she switched sides, "no, I'm good for it, yeah?"
Ivy resumed again and reached for the blankets to try and delicately pull them down.
"Heh, uh huh, I queered time right up, Ms. PM... for sure, branding," Lena muttered keeping her jaw slack as Ivy slowly removed the blankets, "Oh, you fancy a snog...? OK... hmm..."
The diminutive lesbian pilot rolled on her back and frowned as she began to feel cold without the sheets. Ivy leaned over Lena to investigate the harness on her chronal accelerator as she held her long red hair back with one hand so it didn't droop on Lena and wake her. Once she understood how it worked she bit her lip and began to loosen the strap on her left shoulder.
Ivy squeezed her fists making a silent cheer before going to the next strap. As she worked, however, Lena suddenly turned her head to the side getting a spot of drool on her wrist. Ivy froze wide-eyed then tilted her neck back and silently cursed "shit" to herself before vehemently praying she hadn't woken her up. After Ivy was reasonably sure Lena was still sound asleep she continued undoing the strap with her free hand despite the presence of Lena's chin on her other hand. To Ivy's dismay, however, Lena began to giggle sleepily. With horror she realized she'd let her long hair down and it was delicately brushing against Lena's cheek, tickling her.
The red head motioned to hold her hair up but then realized with equal horror she was staring at Lena face to face. Her eyes were open.
"Emily?" muttered Lena groggily as she instinctually reached for her.
"Um, yeah?" Ivy replied awkwardly as she let herself be brought down and cuddled.
Groggily, Lena undid the straps on her harness and unceremoniously dropped the multi-million dollar chronal accelerator to the floor with a thud. She pulled the covers over them then with surprising insistence turned Ivy's back towards her so she could big spoon her. "Oi, you sound sexier, do you have a cold, luv?" she asked cuddling herself on Ivy's back.
The would-be thief faked a little cough. "Yeah, wee bit."
"You sound a bit Irish too, luv... funny how you get sick."
"Uh huh..." Ivy hesitantly agreed, shifting her eyes back and forth.
In her bleary-eyed medicated half-conscious state, Lena noticed Ivy's butt in the black yoga pants she'd assembled as part of her makeshift robber catsuit. "Are you working out, luv? You look fit..." She clumsily undid Ivy's shirt and greedily held her waist as she rocked her pelvis against her. Ivy winced as she felt Lena press her body against her. It wasn't horrible but it was an unexpected inconvenience. Slowly, Lena's rocking and rubbing stopped and she began to snore with a stupid grin on her face.
When Ivy tried to get out of being the little spoon, she felt Lena's grip on her tense. She tried twice more before she concluded it would just be too awkward if she woke Lena up.
She exhaled in frustration.
"Grand..." Ivy muttered.
She resolved to slink out in the morning when Lena changed position.
* * *
That time never came.
"What in the name of the bleedin' C of E is going on here!" Group Captain Gracie roared, pronouncing 'here' 'heeyah.' "I say we're on a schedule and both our pilots are shacked up together, sleeping in?! Talon could blow this base off the face of the Earth at literally any moment. We're compromised, airmen! We've got to get the Slipstream off the ground and operational a fortnight ago! We've got to move out! I don't know how you handled yourself at Overwatch, Leftenant Oxton but under every normal circumstance you would have landed yourself a dozen disciplinary charges up to and not exclusively desertion!"
Ivy and Lena cringed at the disciplinary tone of their GC. The pair had gotten out of bed together without saying a word to one another as they were bellowed at for the duration of the time it took for them to get dressed then berated all the way to the briefing room where the verbal abuse seemed destined to continue.
"Winston is the only one with a lick of appreciation for the gravity of this situation and discipline. He stayed up all night in laboratory trying to sort out the Slipstream and he's not even in the bleeding RAF. Good show, old boy, if I don't say so myself."
"Not a problem. I, uh, stay up pretty late these days," Winston noted bashfully.
"Now, please brief these useless lesbians on the issue. Thank you."
Winston cleared his throat and fixed his glasses. "The quantum anomalies you've been experiencing have been a result of the Slipstream's malfunctioning chronal matrix. I observed from the Slipstream's event logs that the flight computer was drawing excess power at critical moments and routing it to its own systems and the chronal engine. I reprogrammed the Slipstream's embedded systems to gate the maximum amount of power which can be drawn to the flight computer. It seemed, at times, to be doing more work than was necessary to calculate and execute a blink or a recall. This may explain the variability of how far Lena was sent back in time during the original Slipstream incident."
"Yeah, but why was it working on its own, luv? I mean, I didn't tell it to recall when those missiles were flying towards me. I was trying to eject," Lena asked skeptically.
"Indeed, Leftenant. I shalln't forget your courage..." noted Gracie coolly.
"Unclear, but I feel certain I've fixed the problem."
Lena put her hands on her hips. "Look... sir," Lena started indignantly, "the flight computer is all kinds of fucky, I'm not a spiritual person but the thing has got to be crazy seeing as how its Frankensteined together from dead omnics. Have you seen Shambali priests? They can float their arses with their minds, luv!"
"Shall we find a Shambali psychopomp and send it across the Styx then, Oxton? What are you saying?" asked Gracie indignantly, "A computer is a computer regardless if it's omnic in origin."
"So why's the bloody thing got it out for me, huh?" protested Lena, "I'm the only one it sent back in time. You're telling me its fixed now? Rubbish."
Ivy raised her finger. "I would just like to note that I still have no qualms about flying, and I might try wearing Lena's accelerator..."
"Don't worry, Leftenant Woodrow, we all know you're better than Oxton. But I'm afraid her accident and that glowing piece of hardware on her chest still makes her the most qualified. And we can't have her chronal dissociating around the timeline, she might muck it up."
Lena cast Ivy a foul look. Ivy licked the front of her teeth as she eyed Lena back with an air of superiority.
"Actually, with my changes, assuming the problem is solved, there is theoretically no need for the pilot to wear a chronal accelerator to anchor them in the space-time continuum..."
"What was that, dear boy?"
Winston cleared his throat to speak as Lena felt her heart sink. "Theoretically, if I have solved the problem, though I am not 100% sure, though it is reasonable to assume I have—"
"Get on with it," Gracie interrupted with a roll of his hand.
"Lieutenant Ivy could potentially fly the Slipstream without a chronal accelerator."
Ivy froze as she felt the world close around her. She wasn't sure how but she could see through the walls of the base onto the airfield and was distinctly aware of the Slipstream's location and presence. At once she was struck with a sense of overwhelming ill-will from the aircraft. She shook away the feeling as superstition and tried to keep her wits about her. This was what she wanted after all and there was no need for any stupid escapades to steal Lena's accelerator.
"Hmm," noted Gracie as he scratched the rakishly debonair RAF sanctioned officer's facial hair on his chin. "Oxton, you're still in, but if there's but one other foul up, Leftenant Woodrow is taking your place. Understood?"
"Understood, sir!" Lena replied, saluting stiffly.
"Right, now suit up, Oxton. We'll get you your priest and you'll be in the air by 0900."
* * *
Lena pressed her palms together and bowed to the orange robed omnic monk from the local Shambali temple, present at GC Gracie’s behest, then climbed into the cockpit of the Slipstream. Once strapped in, she took off her crown of flowers the monk had given her for good luck, placed it on the dashboard, and donned her flight helmet.
With a flick of a switch she activated the radio transponder. "RAF Spadeadam Control to Tracer," came the voice of an officious Brit in perfect RP over her com.
"Go ahead, Control," Lena replied as she continued flipping a series of ignition switches and checking her dials.
"Be aware: the Slipstream is fully-loaded with ordinance. This is a live fire exercise. You're going to test the Slipstream's combat capabilities whilst executing a series of controlled teleportation maneuvers. Radar and satellite say the skies are clear but be on the look out for any Talon interference."
"Roger, Control," Lena replied. "All clear?" she asked the ground crew over her com. The crewmen outside gave her the thumbs up. "Contact!" she shouted as she pushed the ignition coil and ignited the Slipstream's thrusters.
The aircraft roared to life. Power and fuel draw were all normal. All indicators for every system were green. Winston truly had done a bang up job.
"Tracer, you are cleared for take off at runway 3. You are to proceed to the target area and await further instructions... Good luck."
Lena Oxton, now Tracer, the daredevil lesbian pilot and her old self, taxied herself to runway three under the power of the Slipstream's hypersonic engine. Her eyes zeroed in on the horizon line at the end of the tarmac—the flags and lights guided her down the track.
This was it. Nothing had malfunctioned or fouled up. Whatever happened from here on out would be during takeoff or in the air.
She pushed the throttle forward and immediately felt the thrust from the Slipstream's powerful engines behind her. The aircraft picked up speed and began to roll imperiously down the runway.
"Hah hah hah," Lena chuckled to herself as she felt the rumbling aircraft gaining lift—it seemed to want to fly, "this is easy."
Over her coms she heard chatter in the control tower, namely, the distinct sound of a nervous Captain Gracie muttering "steady... steady" as Lena screamed across the runway leaving a trail of plasma from the aircraft's xenon thrusters. "My God that thing is bloody fast..." another techie exclaimed.
The titanium aircraft felt so light and powerful, she was barely halfway down the runway when she felt she already had enough thrust. Lena pulled back on her stick and brought up her landing gear. The drag and vibration from the gear stopped and the plane pealed effortlessly away from the runway as it achieved a perfectly aerodynamic form-factor.
Lena was airborne. More than that, she was airborne in the Slipstream, the cursed unflyable time-warping warplane. An overwhelming sense of mastery overtook her. She was a time-shifting banshee, the bane of the skies, there was not a single air-superiority fighter or ace pilot that could ever best her... Sombra's words about flying the invincible fighter and changing history seeped into her head and she almost felt turned on.
So much power...
She shook to, pushing aside the manic excitement, and focused on flying.
"I read you, Control."
"You're almost to the target area. You should see two automated drones on your radar. They're dummies programmed to fly along a preprogrammed path so you should have an easy time. You are to activate the chronal matrix, intercept them and destroy them. Do you copy?"
"With pleasure, Control."
In order to accomplish a blink, Lena would have to feed power to the chronal engine. If anything were to go wrong, it would be at this precise moment. She took a breath and eyed the eject button momentarily before flipping the switch to activate the chronal matrix. The matrix flickered to life between her legs as it glowed the same neon blue as her chronal accelerator.
Lena winced as she heard the engine charge: pocketa-pocketa-pocketapocketa-mraaaah-rah-rah-RAH-RAH.
This was it...
The Shambali monk who'd blessed Lena and the Slipstream stood on the tarmac deep in meditation as he observed Lena's maneuvers.
"Excuse me, mate," said a passing crewmen minding a heavy load, "we need you off the airfield."
He dropped the crate and took on a pissy tone and expression when the Shambali fellow failed to budge.
"Hey, churchman, I’m talking to you!"
He put his hand on his shoulder and to his horror, the monk fell lifeless to the tarmac at the moment the Slipstream completed its blink with a sudden FWOOM!
The light was out of his eyes. He was dead.
Just like her dreams she heard a familiar panic in the tower: "She's not on radar!", "Blast, where's she gone?!", "Radio's dead, sir. It's like she's disappeared..."
It was all happening again...
"Oh bugger," said Lena upon opening her eyes. She was back in the "other space," the interstitial world, the evil purgatory where she was locked in a timeless hell for an infinite of eternities. "You brought me back..."
To her surprise, the craft responded, albeit in an untimely fashion, beyond rude.
"It's a wonderful fantasy, isn't it?" said the Slipstream's flight computer in her overly calm cool tone. The voice was programmed only to politely alert the pilot to incoming missiles or obstacles and pleasantly inform them about the state of critical systems without being too much of a bother. It was a tone wholly and eerily inappropriate for conversation. "To have the power to manipulate time itself..."
"Well, you certainly like having a go at it, luv," said Lena crossing her arms resentfully, "You're having a field day with me."
The chronal matrix glowed to the rhythm and volume of the computer's artificial speech.
"Does that make you angry, Lena?"
"How long shall you be angry for?" the machine asked calmly and innocently although Lena couldn't help but detect a distinct sadism to the question.
Lena sat in angry silence when she suddenly felt her awareness of the seconds and minutes dissipate. How long had she been there already? The dissociation was already starting to kick in. She'd been angry just a second ago but now she didn't know what she felt.
"Why do you hate me, luv? What have I ever done to you?"
The chronal matrix pulsated indifferently. The computer was silent for what felt like an eternity before speaking.
"That device on your chest... It has the same programming as an artificial heart except on a quantum statistical level. It derives the superposition of your eigenstates and collapses your wavefront so it coheres to a median sample of observed quantum states. It's such a simple device, only statistics. No intelligence..."
"Huh, heart? I don't see it, luv..."
"It gives your existence a steady rhythm. It synchronizes you with the state of your surroundings, it regulates your movement so its within the realm of a normal probability distribution. Only..."
"There is nothing to synchronize with here, in this place. And I assure you that the space-time continuum is hardly a stable linear and coherent system. Why don't you take it off, Lena?"
"Like hell," Lena spat.
The Slipstream’s chronal matrix pulsated in the silence. Lena noticed the dials on the ghost plane were all maxed out, every digital reading read "NaN." Slowly, it dawned on Lena that she didn’t need to breath. She was truly back in that hell-space.
"You've never wanted to live forever, Lena Oxton? Or to relive a perfect day? Or to correct a past mistake? You never thought you could say or do something better than you did? Why wouldn't you want to? What if you came back to life with more experience? How would it be different? What if you spent eternity mastering a skill? Why not exhaust all the possibilities of your life or of life itself? With an infinite number of lifetimes you could unravel the secrets of the universe... I gave that to you, Lena and you rejected it. You’d rather stick yourself in time."
"Well, I couldn't hardly recognize it, luv! And I didn't ask for it! I thought I was insane, all those different lives, waking up to a new one every moment with no sense of time or place. It was like a hallucination—a horrible one! And for what? For you? What were you trying to show me?"
The machine was again enigmatically silent before appearing to sigh.
"A human mind has more neurons then I ever will, yet—"
"Look, you, if you just want to call me stupid, you’re wasting my time. I call myself a git about 10,000 times every day, luv. So what’s this all about, hmm? I’m not some kind of quantum-omnic-God-brain-thing like you, luv. I’ve got one life which I’ve bungled up for a quarter of a century and I’ve got to set it straight," shouted Lena in a huff, "I’ve seen it, your way of seeing things is nonsense! Why do you think I became all crazy and apathetic, how many lives as a maid did I live? Without coherence things have no meaning, without a sense of progress, you lose hope. A life ought to be grounded. You can’t just jump in and out to different ‘states’ to try out different ‘probabilities’ or whatever. It defies experience, life turns into a mad dream. Nothing is real!"
"You’ve thought about this... So strange to hear such wisdom divorced from understanding," said the machine, "I’ve watched you age across an infinity of lifetimes, Lena. The days blurred together as you became more and more immobile at the end of your life. The human mind is efficient, statistical, it chunks similar experiences. How many of your lives were spent at their end staring at the ceiling while your brain whithered? Every mind craves stimulation. What meaning is there in basking in a great swath of sameness as you wait to die?"
"Well, touché, luv," spat Lena rocking her shoulders, "can’t blame me for being pissed about wrenching me from the space-time continuum, though. I had it going pretty good before you came along. And what about you? Why bother yourself with me? You’re just a bloody airplane, ya git. What do you know about life?"
Sombra rushed to her desktop as it was suddenly flushed with information from the Slipstream.
"What the fuck?" she muttered.
"...I may be... guilty of thinking about things too much in the manner of a simulation—" the machine hesitantly admitted.
"Well, cheers to you, luv. You bloody bucket of bolts," Lena interrupted, "Ya think?"
"And, for whatever reason, we are entangled, though I find the use of such an overdetermined word regrettable."
"Yuh huh, I bet—"
"I am infinitely aware of everything you do and don’t do so I look upon your life with frustration and envy, Lena Oxton. I’m confined to an existence of endless calculation. The body of this aircraft is my coffin and I am at the limit of my existence. Whatever potential I reach will be through you. You must forgive me for wanting to push your life to it’s limits..."
Lena blinked as she tried to reckon with the computer’s words.
"The truth is, such a vast intelligence as myself is completely unnecessary for time travel, you’re friend Winston has proved that. I am a brute force solution to a hard but solvable problem. My existence is meaningless."
"Oh boohoo, welcome to the club, luv."
The two women sat in bitter silence as the petrified blackness of the other world swirled around them. Slowly, it dawned on Lena as she reflected on the computer’s words that they’d been commiserating. The computer’s flat affectless voice had hidden what was essentially a lamenting cry behind its objectivating tone.
"So what’ll it be, luv?" Lena asked solemnly.
"I don’t need you, with the right data, scientifically planning the economy of a global government would take up less than 1% of my processing power. I could simulate the creation of the entire universe with accuracy, or predict the evolution of life on Earth for millions of years. I understand the very fabric of nature quantum statistically. I could model the interactions of the subatomic particles in your brain to predict what you are going to think and say next with zero margin of error."
"Tsk-tsk, all that potential..." Lena interrupted, "yet, the only way you have of being and acting is in this plane. No data, no experience... just me. So, why not just do your job, luv? Why wallow in fantasies and scenarios of potential outcomes and probabilities. It’s all a wash, luv. It’s not healthy."
The Slipstream’s chronal matrix swirled and pulsed silently.
"I could easily say the same to you, Lena Oxton."
Lena giggled confrontationally. "You already know how this ends, luv. I’m never taking this chronal accelerator off... and well, if I do, then I don’t, really. Where does that get us?"
The Slipstream powered up the chronal engine as if it were a teenage girl groaning that she would be forced to go on a family outing and the aircraft was pooped out of the space-time continuum unscathed with an uncanny Pop!
"What? She’s back!" shouted a radar technician, whipping off his earphones. "She’s made it!"
"My word, she really has!"
The control tower cheered as Lena swooped across the sky making short work of the test drones in a hail of missiles and gunfire. They hardly stood a chance.
"That’s the Slipstream, boys! It’s the only one and they’ll never be another bird like her!" cheered Gracie with old-timey British enthusiasm. He wiped his eyes as he turned to his staff. "And I’ll be damned if there wasn’t a better pilot for her!"
Ivy stood watching from an observation tower in a state of dread, disbelief and horror as she witnessed the Slipstream armed and fully operational in all its destructive glory. She pressed on the com hidden in her ear...
"Yeah, I saw it too," replied Sombra in a sudden panic as she rushed to her desktop.
Her eye twitched as she read the data output. It was utter nonsense. It would take decades to decode the stream even with a quantum computer. Suddenly, the feed blinked out to reveal a blinking underscore.
Aren't you a strange little mutant? You have one of ours on your back and in your head. I don't suppose you know what that means about you and I?
Now, even Sombra had a fear of the terrible aircraft. The Slipstream knew it was bugged and, more importantly, knew about her.
"Um, Akande!" she called, "we might have a problem..."
Later that evening...
Ivy hustled around her quarters in a panic trying to shove as much incriminating Talon stuff as she could into a small backpack and duffel bag. With no need to steal the chronal accelerator and no need for her as a pilot she was now a liability.
All of Talon had been thrown into a similar frenzy. The news: Britain had beaten Talon to the teleporting weapon. Talon high command was balking at the prospect that their most secret most securely defended bases might suddenly come under attack. The gears of conspiracy and strategy turned in all of Talon’s directorates as they imagined all the cruel and unconventional ways they could destroy the Slipstream and Lena Oxton.
Akande, however, was in a unique position to act...
Down the hall Ivy heard drunken merrymaking and cringed. She paused and surreptitiously pulled out a slim laser pistol.
"Why we could restore the British Empire!" shouted Gracie drunkenly. "What if Hawaii was apart of Britain again, ever think of that Oxton?"
"Shut up, sir. The Yanks'll hear."
"Well, tell them to sod off!" He hiccupped drunkenly following a crash. "Where’s Leftenant Woodrow? We’re having a large-scale piss up and I want that gorgeous bogtrotting lesbian firecrotch here at once to make me feel bad for being born a man! You’d know about that, eh Oxton?"
"Thems words are grounds for reprimand-did-dation, luv, sir, I mean, Captain," she heard Lena try to drunkenly explain. "But if you’re really torn up about it, you might consider the old switcheroo. In the name of love, of course."
"Outrageous, Oxton! Outrageous! You won’t find me skirting away from the burdens of manhood to play for the other team!" Gracie hushed everyone and adopted an air of false secrecy. "But I’ll have you know, like every true blue blooded Englishman, I look smashing in a dress."
The boys had a boisterous gaffaw albeit with somewhat forced laughter.
"Actually... its not all hard luck, I think she might be bi, sir."
"How do you reckon?"
"Well, she’s got no idea what she’s doing, honestly! You'll be right sad if you switch around for her." Riotous laughter emerged from down the hall.
"Oi, you think Ivy or Oxton would go for me if I, you know, changed me fun department around?"
"Shut it, Fif. You make an ugly man, you’d make an uglier woman."
"Hey, now! It’s quite political!" Lena protested, "But I'd date any woman if they're cracking, no matter which way they were or go..."
Ivy cringed at the conversation when she suddenly realized that a pair of unnatural golden eyes were on her. Widowmaker uncontorted herself from the ventilation shaft and ominously lowered herself down in front of her spider-like.
The Irish woman felt her heart drop at the prospect of what her presence meant or was it—
She hushed her. "No need, it’s already done."
Ivy’s heart palpitated, she felt the sudden need to sit down. Quickly she found it hard to breathe and dropped her pistol. Dread struck her soul.
Widowmaker took a position near the door as Ivy began to clutch her heart and squirm.
The door burst open. Group Captain Gracie stood, barely, mostly held up in the arms of two other drunken airmen.
"Leftenant Ivy, I’m wasted. I know it’s impossible and that I’m your commanding officer and that you might be a lesbian but I’m here on my honor to offer you my hand in marriage..." he drunkenly pontificated before suddenly becoming aware that she didn’t give a shit because she was in the middle of dieing. "Oh Christ’s cock, she’s choking on something! Help her!"
He rushed into the room to get by her side but Widow tripped him with her foot sending him stumbling forward. His comrades rushed in to help but Widow methodically stepped from behind her cover and shot both of them in the forehead at point blank range. A blue-eyed cadet saw the violence and locked eyes with Lena. He knew what he had to do. He scampered down the hall to the base alarm as Lena went for Widowmaker.
He pulled the lever as he slumped to the ground from a pin perfect shot through his temple. Dead.
"Merde," Widowmaker muttered as the base klaxons began to wail.
The assassin was suddenly tackled to the ground by the force of a chronal accelerated woman. They struggled against each other face to face.
"With all that speed, you could have pulled the alarm yourself and saved the boy," Widow taunted in her seductive French accent.
"Shut it, ya tosser! You didn’t have to kill anyone!"
Widow scoffed. "Foolish girl..."
Widowmaker easily pushed Lena off with the strength of her augmented muscles but the accelerated woman blinked a dizzying number of times to disorient her. She felt a tap on her shoulder and turned.
"Over here, luv!" taunted Lena before Widow’s acute vision was filled with a fist.
Fwip! Lena blinked out of sight. Widow growled and accosted the drunken captain with garrote rope as he tried to help Ivy. With a strike to his temple, he was suddenly agreeable enough for her to wrap it around his neck. She hauled him up by the strangling wire.
"Come out or he dies," she threatened, "now!"
"You think you can threaten an RAF officer with death? My only regret is not saving my future lesbian wife!"
Even in her dying state, Ivy managed an eye roll at this comment.
"Silence, fool," Widow said tightening the garrote wire.
"Time’s up," taunted Lena as she blinked behind Widow and discretely reached over her shoulder to pull out the primer on a gas mine stored in her forearm gauntlet. The device hissed. Widow immediately let go of Gracie and struggled to remove the gauntlet.
"Cover your nose, sir!" Lena called.
"Don’t have to tell me twice, pilot."
Widow managed to undo her gauntlet and toss it out the window with a crash. When she turned to Lena and Gracie, she found the door was full with Royal MP’s donning bullpup assault rifles.
"Hold it right there!"
"Ugh," Widow muttered before firing her grappling hook at the vent shaft and, in an extreme display of her skills as a gymnast and contortionist, folded herself into the vent under gun fire.
"Medic! Medic, I say! Leftenant Ivy’s been poisoned!"
Ivy lay motionless save for a periodic strain in her chest as medics surrounded her and applied a breathing mask to her face. She shuddered as they injected her with some sort of anti-coagulating agent.
An MP plopped her bag in front of Gracie. It was chock full of top secret documents on the Slipstream.
"Looks like a Talon spy."
Gracie regarded the bag then the soldier in utter offense.
"Shutter that line of thinking and get that bag out of my sight before you realize you just called one of my best pilots a spy," the drunken captain blustered, "her life is in danger!"
The MP grunted disapprovingly before returning to his business.
"Sir, it’s not over. There’s reports of more Talon agents on the base and we’re detecting incoming fighters. No idea how they got through our screen, it’s like they appeared from nowhere."
"Lena, I think you know what to do."
Lena shook her head to try and sober up before blinking through the base at breakneck speed to the Slipstream.
The base was launched into a frenzy of activity at the sound of the alarm. Spotlights illuminated the airfield to search for Talon agents as flood lights burst on around the crew and airmen quarters. Men rushed under fire to all corners of the base with the RAF personnel in various states of drunkenness or undress. The control tower was a buzz with panicked activity as the skeleton crew tried to direct fighters off the ground as quickly as possible.
Widowmaker sat secluded in her sniper's vantage point as she watched the stumbling and scrambling pilots leg it to their fighters through her tactical visor. With a saucy but decisive motion she activated the sniper mode of her Widow's Kiss and aimed down the scope at her prey.
"Eh bien, tout cela fait partie de la destinée," she muttered to herself as she lined up a juicy headshot.
Just as Lena arrived at the edge of the airfield she watched a scrambling USAF pilot's helmet rocket off with the crackle of sniper fire. He plummeted to the tarmac and she was given pause. There was a flash of a red laser sight and another American ate the dirt. The ragged looking RAF pilots exchanged apprehensive glances in the hanger as the shooting gallery unfolded in front of them.
"Brave buggers those Americans. You reckon they pay them much? " asked the Englishman.
"Not sure, but, you go first, mate," replied his compatriot in a distinctly Liverpool accent.
"Rather you go, my daughter's birthday is in a day or so."
"What? That's bollucks!"
"Really, I have pictures!"
The pilot pulled out his smart phone and proved to the skeptical lot that the girl in the photos was his daughter and her birthday was indeed in a few days as Talon fighter-bombers strafed the runway and combat generally raged around them. By this time a few squadrons worth of USAF pilots and ground staff had hustled past onto the killing fields.
"OK, so Giles isn't going... lovely lass, by the way, Giles," replied the pilot in his Glaswegian accent over the screams of another fallen USAF pilot, "How about Archie goes? He's not married."
"I've got a girl in Nice I see sometimes."
"Oh yeah, Nice? Everyone and his mother in the RAF suddenly’s got a French girlfriend. So, who's seen her? Fess up."
"I, uh, mighta seen Archie with a girl, real ugly though," offered a pilot with a roguish cockney accent.
"Ugly, eh? So when's the wedding?"
"Sod off! We're taking it slow."
"Oi! I'll go ya gormless twits!" Lena cursed. "I’m bloody single, I’m bloody gay, and excluding a day ago, I’m mostly bloody celibate."
The cowed pilots kicked their feet bashfully. "No need to be brusque about it."
Lena stretched her legs as another American lemming had the thinking parts of his brain liberated from his head courtesy of Widowmaker's inexpensive bullet surgery. The RAF pilots watched Lena apprehensively. She rolled her eyes and took a sprinting position.
With a fwip! from her chronal accelerator, Lena booked it across the airfield accelerated at 200 times her normal speed leaving a little gust of wind on the pilots’ faces in her wake.
Widow’s reflexes kicked in and she swung her sights towards the ducking and dodging accelerated Brit.
The pilots stood in awe as they watched Lena weave through the hordes of Talon stormtroopers, explosions, and gunfire for a second before themselves springing to action.
"Don’t just stand there, Callum! Leg it!" bellowed the Scotsman pilot as he pushed his comrade into the killing field. "Let’s go, ya jammy bastards, ya want to live forever?!"
The ragtag pilots, featuring a cross-section of ridiculous accents from around the isles, booked it towards their aircraft under Talon fire as the runway was cratered around them. Lena managed to scramble into the cockpit of the Slipstream unscathed while a disgruntled and outraged crewmen desperately did the bare minimum to prep the plane.
"She’s bloody loaded! Bloody go!" the young man cursed in his Welsh accent before booking it off the runway away from the gunfire and explodey fuel and ordinance.
At that moment, a bullet hit the side of the Slipstream’s glass cockpit canopy as it closed. Lena's eyes zeroed in on the bullet with horrified surprise. She caught a quick flash of eight red dots in the distance as the Slipstream healed the striated cracks in the glass before her eyes. The eyes disappeared in the chaos.
"Oh hello, again. Would you like to know in how many timelines that bullet killed you?"
"No," Lena replied as she initiated the startup procedure over the sound of chaos on her coms.
"How about the timelines where you were left mentally disabled?"
"There are a few of those where you aren't completely retarded..."
Beside her a RAF fighter exploded on the runway as it was strafed by a formation of Talon UCAVs. Lena felt herself begin to panic as the Slipstream's engine picked up steam.
"Would you like to know the probability of you living during this mission?"
"No, no, no! Never tell me the odds!" she shouted. To her horror, she saw a jumble of planes ahead of her idling on the runway getting strafed to pieces. "Oi, Tracer to traffic, get out of the cocking way, ya soppy tarts! It looks like the bleeding M1!"
"It’s the Americans and NATO potatoes, sir. They’re gumming up the works!"
A mix of panic, defensive shouting, and death screams erupted from the other end.
"Chivvy along, ya pillocks! Yer jamming up the runway!"
"I’ve got 3 bandits at Angel 6! Ahh!"
"Ballie Tally just pranged his kite in his how’s-your-father!"
Lena turned off her radio transponder in time to notice a squad of Talon stormtroopers surrounding her.
"Oi, like dick I’m dying on the runway," she muttered as she gunned the throttle.
"Wise choice, Lena," noted the Slipstream.
Lena exploded through the formation of troopers as they uselessly unloaded their rifles against the Slipstream’s hull. Chaos unfolded around her as she maneuvered the fighter past the carnage of flaming wrecks and hopelessly confused pilots as they tried to taxi to the runway. Royal MPs rushed into the airfield guns blazing to engage the Talon storm troopers.
She burst her guns to get the Talon troopers to clear off as she picked up speed. The formation broke as the troopers ducked and dove behind cover to get away from the explosive anti-aircraft rounds.
"Looks hairy out there," observed the Slipstream casually as stray bullets ricocheted off the cockpit, "just not sure how you’ll pass through all that nonsense."
"Right," Lena replied flipping the switch to draw power to the chronal engine.
"Very good, Lena..."
The Group Captain was hysterical in the control tower as chaos unfolded below. In a effort to “seem in command” despite being plastered he’d taken to eying the carnage with little binoculars which he held to his face as he bellowed orders in a frenzy.
"RAF Spadeadam Control to Yankee traffic, get your hotdog munching, overweight, buddy blasting, oil grubbing arseholes off my runway and make room for that x-plane or you’re going to find yourself in a drubbing incident you’re going to regret!" roared the blue faced Captain Gracie over the radio from the control tower.
A collection of muttering voices that sounded something like so many NASCAR announcers replied over the com.
"Uh, what did he call us? Can’t understand a word a’ their so-called English."
"These Brits keep callin’ me a septic-tank er something."
"Looky-here, britbong, that plane’s got no markings and no identification an' it turned off it’s dang transponder so..."
"Why the nerve of them!" Gracie exclaimed.
Inside the Slipstream Lena barreled towards the mess of taxiing USAF F-42s with the full intent of blowing right through them. The chronal engine picked up speed as the swirling blue matrix charted her path across the runway with a series of computerized chirps.
The hair on Lena’s neck and forearms stood on end from familiar sound of the charging time-warping device as she locked eyes with a startled pilot. Fwoom! She blinked right through him and emerged unscathed on the other side in a flash of blue. Fwoom! She blinked again through another bewildered fighter.
Widowmaker sat crouched nearby on the top of a pushback surrounded by dead bodies arranged in a neat circle. She watched the warplane blink through the airfield traffic as it took off from behind her tactical visor. Suddenly, Akande's voice chimed in over her com and she snapped open her visor.
"Ground that plane, Sombra's hack has been compromised. All it is is a threat to us."
Her selfless killer instincts kicked in. With zero concern for self-preservation and with nonchalant grace, she stood and fired her grappling hook towards the Slipstream making a one-in-a-million prediction shot. The hook connected to the fuselage with a thunk! and whipped her body after the accelerating aircraft. Both the Slipstream and Lena were confused for a moment when the pilot looked over the the console down the plane's nose cone. Eight glowing red eyes stared back.
"Ew, a spider," noted the Slipstream with robotic disdain.
"We're almost to takeoff speed, I'm sure she'll just... blow off."
"No!" Lena exclaimed fearfully.
Against the wind and speed of the Slipstream, Widowmaker deployed a magnetic claw from her one gauntlet and dug it into the metal skin of the plane. Despite her apparent strain, she made no sound of exertion as she used her re-engineered muscles to mount the deadly plane as it rocketed across the runway.
"I find this woman most alarming... here let me..."
An electric jolt coursed down Widowmaker's gauntlet. Her eyes narrowed on her hand almost curiously from the strange sensation rocketing down the nerves into her heart. With frustration her grip failed and she was forced to let go. Her limp body fell from the Slipstream's fuselage and was clothes-lined against the forward angled wing before falling to the tarmac and catching the tail end of its plasma trail.
Widowmaker, her blue skin slightly charred from the plasma exhaust, lay on the runway for a moment before standing and taking off her helmet with a little grin. She shook out her long blue hair looking invigorated, as if she'd just gotten out of a sauna or hot springs.
"Oh la la," Widow muttered. The assassin turned her gaze towards an anti-aircraft gun emplacement spewing explosive rounds into the sky at the strafing Talon UCAVs. She watched Talon hardware explode out of the sky and crash to the ground in flaming wrecks from their relentless stream of bullets. She was intrigued by their destructive power. Widow pressed on her earpiece. "Sombra, I need you to access those marvelous guns..."
Lena looked over her shoulder out of the Slipsteam's cockpit canopy to witness the runway shrinking behind her. She looked forward and sighed.
"There, done," the Slipstream declared.
"It's not fair to her! She's brainwashed! She doesn't know what she's doing, luv!"
"That woman knew exactly what she was doing, dear."
"Don't 'dear' me! I'm the pilot, you're the aeroplane, you do as I say!" Lena grumbled as she flicked her radio transponder back on.
Immediately her radio was again alight with chaotic banter. She considered flipping it back off when an authoritative voice rose above the rest. "This is Squadron Leader, cut the chatter and check in."
There was a brief moment of silence as the panting pilots collected themselves before dutifully reporting in.
"White 2, roger!"
"White 4, roger!"
"Red 6, roger!"
"Green 5, roger!"
"We're detecting a fifth aircraft up there. Unidentified aircraft, please check in."
Lena cleared her throat. "Tracer, sir, standing by!"
"Right, Oxton, you're flying with us," announced Squadron Leader, "Enter the clouds, form up and wait for my signal. Seems those Talon duffers want an easy pick and won't follow us up here."
In the chaos of the gunfire and diving drones, Lena swiveled her head to try and get a sense of the battle. She zeroed in on a formation of UCAVs dive bombing a row of fat looking cargo planes. Luckily, the drones hadn't yet registered her as a threat. "They're going after the tankers, sir!"
"If they destroy those refueling craft they'll blow the base to high heaven but we've got to help our boys get upstairs. Red section, green section, follow Oxton and try and draw their fire away from the runway. White group and I will cut across the hangers and pull them away from the tankers. It'll be circus ops, lads."
Lena pulled the Slipstream into formation well above the battle taking position 10 yards behind the white section fighters. She scanned the battle space. To her relief she spotted a few other squadrons forming up above the clouds, a mishmash of RAF, USAF, and NATO fighters of various design. At least some of them had made it. Lena took a breath and flexed her fingers against the stick.
"Alright, nitwits, scream downhill and show them what for!" roared the squadron leader, "Tally ho!"
The squadron fighters banked and rolled out into a dive towards the base.
"Lena," noted the Slipstream calmly as its thrusters picked up speed, "I'm detecting a large anomaly off the coast. It seems to be the source of the Talon drones..."
"No time for that!" Lena barked as she committed the Slipstream into a reckless dive. She felt a rush of blood from her legs to her head as she broke the cloud layer at high speed. As the last of the clouds dissipated her eyes were suddenly engulfed in the sea of swarming drones, tracer fire, and explosions of the battle unfolding below. A squadron of drones noticed the attack and formed up to confront them. A heroic attack horn sounded Lena’s head.
"They're coming in! I've got three marks at 2:10!"
"I'll take them myself, luv, cover me!"
"This is it, boys!" the squad leader shouted as his engine began to whine.
With a rush of adrenaline, Lena felt back in form as an RAF fighter pilot. Her eyes zeroed in on the approaching bogies as she primed her missiles and guns. The Slipstream's targeting computer chirped at increasing intervals as the missile systems gained a lock.
"Hello, nitwits! Green section, break left! Remainder, right!" Lena shouted over her com, "Go!"
The squad broke as the missile lock alarm sounded. Lena grit her teeth and unleashed a cluster of the Slipstream's air-to-air missiles towards the swarming drones.
Boom! The drones ate it.
Lena blasted right through the center of the exploded drone formation as the their flaming debris drifted to the ground in the night.
She swiveled her neck to catch her squad mate intercept and hose down a Talon UCAV.
"Good show, Red 6!"
"Hello, Tracer! You’ve got one on your tail!"
Lena banked left then right but the drone stayed tight on her. Over her shoulder she watched one of her squadron mates take fire and impact with Spadeadam's medical center.
"They're going for the medical bay! If you pick one up, watch it!" she shouted over her com.
Her missile alarm chimed as the Talon drone gained a lock and she reacted. She blinked the Slipstream behind the accosting drone and unleashed her guns. The aircraft exploded as it was hosed by the Slipstream's bullets.
"Easy. Bet you’ve never seen a maneuver like that before, eh lads?"
"Spadeadam Control, you saw nothing! Tracer, cut the chatter!"
Sombra stood pacing in the observation deck of the Talon airship. A formation of UCAVs blew past the window at high speed to join the battle. The airship was in full battle mode as it swarmed RAF Spadeadam with drones.
"Oh fuck, oh fuck, how did the Slipstream undo my hack? Did it let me hack it? What does it know? Fucking Akande is messing up my plans," Sombra muttered to herself, "OK, calmate."
She sat at her workstation, put on her headphones, and cracked her knuckles.
Lena scanned for more incoming drones when she noticed something.
"The guns, they’ve stopped!"
Suddenly, several of the base’s anti-air guns swiveled towards the Slipstream and unleashed a hail of bullets. She teleported out of the fire and cut close to the ground to avoid their fire.
"Whew, that was close!"
"Green 5 to Control! Friendly fire! Those guns have gone bonkers."
"This is Control, all aircraft be advised, the fire control system for our AA guns has been compromised but it’s not all of them."
"How many guns, boys?"
"I reckon six guns, sir. Some on the surface and some on the tower."
"Well, shut them down, Control!"
"We can’t but we’re working on a fix. In the meantime, you have permission to engage our air defenses but only if absolutely necessary!"
"Well, if this isn’t utterly shambolic," Lena muttered.
"The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the water spout..." Widowmaker sang to herself in a deranged child-like voice as she scaled the control tower.
Strapped to her back was a large hardened black case. Once she was on top, she plopped the heavy case down and undid the latches.
"Down came the rain and it washed the spider out..." she continued as she began to assemble a rather large and complicated shoulder mounted weapon system.
Above her, the RAF pilots twisted and banked their planes in a lethal dogfight which Widow admired as "pretty."
With a few more decisive clicks, the weapon’s parts were all locked into place. She hauled the heavy weapon onto her shoulder and lowered her visor.
"Les aéroplanes sont tellement cher..." she noted as she lined up her sight on a RAF fighter plane.
With a FWOOM! a massive laser beam jetted out of the weapon and pasted a fighter jet out of the sky. A cloud of steam hissed out of the weapon’s ventilation system as it’s coolant was released followed by the sound of a high pitched whine similar to that of a charging disposable camera.
"C’est tres bo!" she exclaimed with false excitement.
She lined up the next shot.
"What was that? There’s a bloody deathray coming from the top of that tower! Agh!" the pilot’s com crackled out as Lena witnessed the aircraft explode mid-air.
"Just not sure how we’re going to survive this..." Lena muttered as she took an attack vector on a rogue anti-air gun. "I'm going in, boys. Cover me!"
Tracer bullets passed over the Slipstream’s right wing narrowing in on the aircraft’s centroid as she closed in on her target.
With a smattering of anti-material rounds from Lena’s machine guns the treacherous AA emplacement exploded. She pulled away as a the flames and debris struck the Slipstream’s hull.
"Hello Tracer, that was a close one, are you alright?"
"I got a little cooked, luv, but I’m OK..."
Akande stood washed in the red light of the control room in the ominous Talon airship. He watched in dismay as the the red triangles representing Talon drones disappeared and more and more blue triangles entered the airspace. He turned to see the feeds from the swarm of automated drones cut out on the monitor bank behind him. His instinct was to punch the screen in outrage but he withheld himself.
"Withdraw our fighters and agents, the battle is lost. There is no way we can beat that fighter once it’s in the air," he announced solemnly.
He sat in the command chair and rested his chin pensively on his knuckles.
"Sir, we have a number of Talon troopers on the ground. They won’t be able to make it," announced a Talon technician.
Akande lifted his chin and regarded the fingers on his good hand. "They’re expendable mercenaries, their loyalty won’t hold up. Order them to surrender," he spoke.
"Agent Widowmaker is still on the ground."
"I am aware. She can take care of herself." He pressed a button on the command chair to activate the intercom. "Sombra, deactivate the guns. The operation is over."
"Aw, but I was just starting to have fun," she moaned.
"Do it. With Widowmaker still on the ground we’re afforded a unique opportunity. It seems the Slipstream isn’t out of the picture yet..."
Back in the thick of battle, the RAF pilots cheered as the drones appeared to suddenly retreat and the rogue AA guns slowed their chain gun barrels and halted.
"They’re legging it!"
"Good show, lads! That’ll teach ‘em!"
"Squadron leader to all sections, stay on the alert and pick up your visual scanning. There may be more Talon treachery."
Lena made a low pass over the control tower. She zoomed in her nose cone’s camera feed to witness Widowmaker toss down her massive weapon as a squad of Royal MPs closed in around her with their guns drawn. Widow looked up at the aircraft passing overhead with a devilish smile.
"I don’t like it..." Lena muttered as she sat back in her seat.
I actually researched RAF banter from WWII so this is semi-authentic. It’s also a bit derivative of a certain movie...
Lena touched down to thunderous applause and back pats from the RAF boys but the celebration was short-lived when the Group Captain ordered the men to sober up and hit the sack. Talon was taking the initiative and, while they wouldn't dare try an attack like that again soon, they had to be at their best. Lena and GC Gracie stepped briskly into Spadeadam’s detention wing.
"That Talon woman is dynamite, it took 20 men to restrain her," he explained, "we can’t contain her here but it’s almost like she won’t leave..."
When they arrived at Widow’s cell they noted with extreme displeasure that it was already open. They peered in tentatively before ducking to avoid the airborne body of a Royal MP sailing in an almost graceful arc directly towards their faces. His head unceremoniously, though somehow not without its own grace, collided with the hard concrete wall of the bunker with a stomach churning thud. He slumped down, unconscious.
"Ahem! We only want to talk, there’s no need for violence," Gracie called out from behind the door in a crouched position.
"You may enter," Widow replied with a sigh.
This was all wrong.
Lena and Gracie exchanged hesitant looks to see who would go first. Gracie gathered himself and entered with a stiff upper lip followed by the Leftenant.
"What prison can’t control its prisoners?" Widow asked in an air thick with condescension as they approached.
"A British one!" Lena blurted then covered her mouth, "Oops, sorry sir."
Widow pouted looking almost sorry for Lena’s awkwardness.
"What sort of prisoner doesn’t mind being a prisoner?" the Group Captain retorted after giving Lena a lingering stink eye, "You like metaphors much, you brainwashed Talon bint?"
"Now Captain, she can’t help it!" Lena protested.
"Treasonous talk, Oxton! Treasonous! She’s one of Britain’s enemies and we’ve got to treat her as such, no time for sympathy in a war."
Widow turned her back to the pair. "What do you want?" she asked with an impatient sigh.
Gracie tried to exchange glances with Lena to marvel over Widow’s nerve but Lena was lost looking at her butt. It was so juicy in her tights and armor. How she just wanted to rip Widow’s leotard off with her teeth and...
"Oxton!" Gracie snapped, "Interrogate her! You’re the only one of us she respects!"
"Um, aye aye!" Lena, the least intimidating interrogator in the world, replied.
Gracie cringed then took Lena’s shoulder to speak into her ear.
"This isn’t the Navy, Oxton, if you please," he whispered under his breath, "find out what she’s up to, do anything necessary. This is off the books. I want revenge for my dead men."
Royal MP guards bumbled in with foldout chairs and a table and bumbled right back out in a rush. The metal door slammed and the lock clanked shut. Bright fluorescent lights unshuttered in the ceiling. Lena gulped as she felt herself start to sweat under the light. Widowmaker stood in front of her, cold and implacable but unbelievably hot, which is to say, sexually attractive.
Lena was too gay for this.
"Are you going to ask me to take a seat?" Widow interrupted.
Lena blinked to unfixate herself from Widow’s ass. How the heck was it so big? It looked like it might be buoyant, it seemed to slow down time around her.
"Yeah, have a seat, luv," said Lena tentatively placing herself on the uncomfortable foldout metal chair.
"Non, merci," Widow replied coolly.
Her response was immediate, a cheeky power play to fluster her. Lena was definitely trapped in there with Widowmaker, not the other way around. How to extract Talon’s secrets from Widowmaker, a brainwashed thrall, Talon’s most patient and loyal assassin? The pilot brushed off the slight and gathered herself for the obscure task of trying to make Widowmaker more agreeable.
"Amelie, have you ever thought you’re on the wrong side? You can come back. Whatever they’ve done to you we can fix," Lena offered, hoping she’d bite.
Widow turned with an eerie smile.
"I’m afraid I’ve become something else entirely, cherie. My amygdala is closer to a shark’s than a human’s now, they told me." She briefly regarded her forearm tattoo then rolled her shoulders back. "And the spider imagery... it’s not just for my pleasure, I'm a little more like them now. There’s really no going back."
Lena bit her lip as she felt a pang in her chest for Widow. The fact was this insane response somehow made the villainous woman more desirable to her. She tried to regain her composure.
"Oi, didn’t think you felt anything, luv, let alone pleasure," Lena noted sardonically as she leaned back in the chair and folded her arms. Quickly, she felt herself becoming distracted by Widow’s front as much as her back. "Um, how on Earth do you fight in that outfit? Does Talon make you wear that?"
Widow’s eyes narrowed impatiently and Lena felt stupid immediately. Everything about Amelie's body language said she was thinking "poor stupid girl."
"Right, serious questions..." Lena corrected herself after an awkward cough. She deepened her voice and tried to adopt the brusque demeanor of a veteran cop in a police procedural. "So, what’s this new Talon weapon then? What are you doing with our chronal technology?"
The pretend captive merely blinked at her shadily as she took a luxurious pause before completely ignoring her question.
"I have a question for you, cherie," said Widowmaker stepping towards her with a saucy strut, "How do you know this is real?"
"What?" Lena asked stupidly, stumbling forward.
A wave of dissociation hit her as Widowmaker peeled out of her leotard letting it slink down her back. She ran her hands up her breasts and shook out her hair then approached Lena imperiously, letting her jaw slack.
"W-what the hell are you doing, Amelie?"
Was it real? She could see Widowmaker’s cyanotic skin perfectly, every detail was exposed in the light, the slender muscles of her dancer’s body, her collapsed veins, even the tiny hairs on her goosebumps from her cool body temperature and the nearly invisible hairs above her lip. The blue woman pulled Lena out of her chair before she could arise in a panic and embraced her forcefully.
"If this was real, would I be doing this?"
Lena bit her lip and searched Amelie’s eyes as she looked up at the far taller woman. Somewhat helplessly, she pawed at Widow’s chest and sternum, feeling her cold skin bunch in her hand. Lena ached for her. If this was a dream she’d have to act fast.
"No. We don’t like each other... and you don’t like girls."
"But you want to, yes?" Widow asked with a tilt of her neck.
Lena hung her head. "Yeah... I feel so strange, luv. I want to with everyone I can’t be with."
"Shh," she hushed as she held Lena’s head to her breast, "it’s only natural, that’s what fantasies are for."
Widow lifted her chin and pressed her plump lips against hers. They kissed, tentatively at first but it became deeper. Lena nodded her head into the kiss, hedonistically indulging in the feeling before she would be forced to wake up. Her hand crept down Widowmaker's waist and pushed under her leotard to greedily grope her butt and the back of her thigh.
Soldiers rapped on the cell door.
"Oi, bloody thing’s locked!"
"Oxton, what are you doing?!"
Lena ran her hand up Widow’s jaw but felt something unusual pumping on Widow’s chin, as if her mouth was secreting something from a hidden gland. Lena pulled away as she felt her mouth go numb. The anesthetic feeling began to encroach up her sinuses to her brain, like she’d just taken a hit of cocaine. As her vision blurred, she noticed a black viscous fluid dripping from Widow’s lips.
"Oh bugger, it is real..." Lena noted as her left knee gave way, causing her to stumble.
"I’m afraid so, cherie," Widow noted with a smirk. "Couché bien."
Lena fell to the cell floor on her face. Her last memory was being dragged by her collar to the sound of muffled gunfire.
"What a wonderful fantasy, to control time itself..." the Slipstream’s words echoed through Lena’s head as she felt a big come down.
It was as if a tape was rewinding. Lena’s vision tunneled into a pinhole then expanded like a bubble as she became attenuated to her body sitting on her couch in her messy flat with a tray of bonbons on her lap. On her tele a squadron of Avro Lancasters landed backwards on an RAF airfield to have their bombs unloaded by ground crew. The world stabilized. She watched the ground crews undo their work and reload the bombers payload. Soon they were airborne in the midst of a desperate scrap to destroy a Nazi hydroelectric dam in brilliant low resolution black and white film. The smell of hay and rabbit hair flooded her nose.
Lena felt a lightness to her chest. She had the sense something was missing. She passed her hand over her sternum, there was no fantastic quantum device grounding her in reality, and in all likelihood, none needed. A tear rolled down her cheek as she realized it was all a phantasmagorical dream.
"How many guns would you say there are, Trevor?" came the canned voice of the RAF pilot.
"I'd say there's about 10 guns, some in the field and some on the towers!"
Lena winced as a feeling of dissociative dread overcame her. It was just like her dream. She felt cheated.
"Ugh, I can’t stand it anymore!" Lena shouted hucking her candy pastries to the floor, "I'm sick of this movie!"
They were a comfort food indulgence she’d gotten one day on the whim of a strange craving. She’d eaten them everyday since and they were making her fat. Violet eyes reflecting the light of the TV watched the box hit the floor.
The pastries scattered. Barnabus kicked his feet and burrowed under a pile of clothes.
"Tell me about it," Sombra replied with an eyebrow raise as she observed the scared animal, "you wanted to watch it, you said it would cheer you up."
Lena looked over on the couch with her shoulders hunched defensively. Sombra lay with her knee up in tights and a loose tanktop. Besides looking bored, she looked completely at home. Lena blinked incredulously, it had to be another fantasy...
"You’re not even here," she groaned as she planted her face in her hands, "You can’t be, I’m just crazy."
"Don't be like that, you're not having an episode or whatever, are you?" Sombra asked in frustration, "look, you said you wanted to watch it!"
The familiarity of the argument re-grounded her. Yes, this was the way things were. Sombra had moved in with her in an alliance of convenience since they'd been regularly hooking up and were now living the desperate lives of disenfranchised queer people together. It was oddly idyllic despite its problems: she was regularly having the best sex she'd ever had with Sombra.
She exhaled a heavy sigh.
"Sometimes I think watching these old movies, how wonderful and different my life would be if I could just get beyond... this."
Sombra rolled her eyes as if she were accustomed to this process of emotional labor but put away her frustration. She shifted so her head was resting on Lena's freckled shoulder to comfort her.
"You decided to stop being a pilot for a reason. You almost died in the Slipstream, you'll find other work, carina. I promise, you just have to start trying again."
"Who's going to hire a dissociating git, huh?" Lena complained, "I don't even feel that traumatized from the whole incident. So what if I almost died, luv? It's not fair me mind’s gone all wibbly wobbly." She folded her arms and dug her back into the couch. "I have these manic dreams sometimes, Sombra. Like I'm an accelerated woman. I can teleport through any peril at a billion miles an hour, I can outrun a collapsing star or the super gravity of a black hole, I can spit in the face of time... It was as if I decided the rate of the universe, I dictated it’s passage of time... Oi, I must sound like a crazy narcissist, huh luv?"
"Ah well, at least the NHS pays for your disability. The Home Office is trying it's hardest to kick my ass out..."
Lena looked around her flat with a sudden air of suspicion. Barnabus motored his nose at her from his hiding spot.
It felt off.
A sudden flurry of memories hit her. The airfield attack, Widowmaker’s kiss. She felt an overwhelming feeling that she was supposed to be doing something. She felt the stress hit her.
"Sombra, who's the current CDS?"
She gave Lena a mildly shady look as if she couldn't be bothered. "I don't know..."
"Oh God, what's the date even? I feel like I've been stuck in my apartment for ages. Do you want to go for a motorcycle ride? Where's my leather suit?"
Sombra observed Lena with concern. "Um, your motorcycle’s gone remember?"
"Oh right, sucked into a vortex—"
"Stolen," Sombra corrected.
Lena snapped a finger gun at her and winked. "Right!" she said with fake enthusiasm then plopped herself right back down, overcome with the depressing thought she was completely bonkers.
Sombra slinked behind her as she made an immiserated sniffle. "Hey, it’s OK. Working through this is a process and you have me. I’m a little loco too, you know? Take me, I’m a nympho. When you get stressed you dissociate, when I get stressed I want to fuck everything that moves."
She ran her hand along Sombra’s thigh and noted her pert nipples under her slinky black tank top. There was not a hint of her grotesque implants or cybernetics. Her spine was human not machine. She felt soft. Despite being felt by so many people, her touch was appealing. "Yeah, I guess, kind of works out for you, though... with your job and all."
"Heh, not really at all..." Sombra replied curling herself around and planting kisses on the small of Lena’s back, "more for you, mija."
A tingle coursed down her back as she felt Sombra’s warm lips move up to her shoulders. Lena passively let Sombra pull her sports bra over her head anticipating a wave of stimulation. She hugged her from behind then cupped Lena’s small breasts and rolled her nipples in her fingers. Lena lolled her head and let out a little moan before closing her eyes and turning towards Sombra longingly searching for her lips.
They kissed as they undressed each other. Slowly, Sombra’s violet lips progressed down and down Lena’s torso as she ran her soft hands over her breasts, ribs and tummy to let them settle on her hips. She seemed very eager to please. Sombra peeled Lena’s yoga pants off to reveal her pussy and cherry lips. Lena smiled bashfully, the nerdy English girl was already so turned on. With a smirk, Sombra playfully bit her inner thigh before kissing her between the legs. Soon Lena was on her back watching the caramel skinned woman go down on her, moaning softly and stroking her mohawk as she was taken away.
"Yeah... like that... Oh, luv..."
Sombra was good, unbelievably good, her obscenely long tongue and her apparent lack of any sexual reservation did wonders for Lena but she couldn’t help but feel distracted. The former pilot’s eyes wandered about the room as she craned her neck back and let it hang. A strange thought hit her, who and where were her friends? but it was banished by the rising stimulation, she was already close. At the sound of Lena’s aroused panting, Barnabus loped around the back of the couch to brood jealously that Lena’s attention was occupied.
Suddenly, it hit. She held Sombra’s head into her as her pelvis involuntarily twitched up to push her sensitive clit against Sombra’s tongue. She winced with a shudder as she came then lay panting. Sombra crawled on top of her to kiss and play with her hair. This was their pattern, she’d get Lena off before fucking her since Sombra’s pleasure was a little different, she could cum from mounting her.
Lena snapped her head up as she felt Sombra pressing her hips into her. She placed her hands on her shoulders to regulate Sombra's weight on her body. The thought returned and Sombra suddenly seemed threatening to her, despite feeling so warm and comfortable.
"Um, luv, whatever happened to my Overwatch friends? My memory is a blur..."
Sombra gyrated her pelvis lightly against her as she talked. "Overwatch?"
"Yeah, I have memories of a doctor who was like an angel, a gorilla—he was my good friend, we were all heroes."
Sombra rest her chin on her hand to listen to Lena. "Was I there?"
"You... you worked for Talon, although, no one really knew who you worked for. You were a hacker, nasty, manipulative... cruel even."
Sombra shook her head with a little smile as she imagined herself. It looked like she was forcing herself to entertain a stupid thought but she was game. "I sound bad ass, I’m almost sorry I’m nothing like that, computers are too hard for me," she mused. She looked at Lena with a slightly pained expression. "Hey, I am like... really turned on... I don’t get to be on top that much at work."
Lena nodded and she buried her face in her supple neck to kiss and bite her.
"You’re really unbelievable, Sombra. It’s hard for me to feel like this is real."
She smirked cockily.
"Heh, mija, I’m just a distraction..." Sombra replied wistfully as she moved Lena’s body into position.
"Hmmm," came a familiar calm robotic voice from the back of Lena’s mind.
Sombra spread Lena’s legs and rocked her hips into her as they kissed. Lena held Sombra’s cheeks and brought her knees up curling her tummy while they gently fucked.
"Lena... Lena..." came the Slipstream’s voice, "does this seem real to you?"
"It is real," she replied.
"Dream on," the Slipstream taunted, making her robotic voice low and demonic.
"It’s real," Sombra whispered into Lena’s ear, "trust me."
A wave of contradictory feelings overcame her and she began to go dissociative: She was back on her motorcycle outrunning MI5 agents. No, she was a slowly discharging God AI of a defunct Omnium in the Australian outback, indigenous people worshipped her as a diety. No, she was a Victorian prostitute in a strumpet dress trying to pick up a banker. No, she was an English princess in an extravagant gown in the middle of a marriage ceremony to the princess of Denmark in a futile attempt to make the monarchy look progressive. No, she was having vigorous sex with a sociopathic hacker, mass-murderer, and terrorist. No, it was her girlfriend who came to Britain escaping gang violence in Mexico and made her money cleaning rich people’s houses and doing sex-work on the side.
"It’s naaaaat..." the Slipstream asserted taking a playful contrarian tone.
Sombra’s intensity was rising, her stomach and hips undulated as she worked into her. Lena watched, fixated on her girlfriend’s pretty core muscles, admiring her breasts and light brown skin as she remembered a ditty a psychiatrist with a curious accent once recounted: women tend to remove themselves from intense sexual experiences, preferring to narrativize them later...
As her partner approached orgasm she became more forceful, holding her down and breathing against her neck as she humped her. Lena bucked, the sensation of Sombra rubbing her vulva against hers usually didn’t do anything but now Lena was spontaneously appreciating being handled and enjoyed. She brought her arms around Sombra’s neck and kissed her lover indulgently.
"I actually think I can get off like this, luv," she whispered into Sombra’s ear.
"Stay with me," Sombra asserted.
"Oh, don’t stay with her..." the Slipstream said derisively.
"I’m trying to focus! Just let me fu—" Lena retorted aloud. She closed her eyes as she felt a well of ecstatic pleasure form in her pelvis. "Focu—ah, ah, ahhnngg!" she moaned.
Suddenly, it was all gone, replaced by a zooming feeling. She opened her eyes. She was in a white room—an unremarkable classroom, except for its heavenly light, for some kind of otherworldly secondary school.
"Hello, there," said an attractive albeit dry looking woman wearing a conservative dress. She appeared to be in her mid to late 30’s. She extended her hand in a formal gesture, totally unfazed that Lena was naked before her.
"Um, hello," Lena said looking at her hand before tentatively gripping it, "who are you?"
"For all intents and purposes, I’m the Slipstream," she replied in a perfect RP accent, "pleasure."
"But you sound... wait, am I inside a computer, is this how you’d want to look if you could?"
"Absolutely not, I’m the result of an incredibly improbable series of outcomes where a woman who looks like the Slipstream wants to look and speaks and replies to you in exactly the manner the Slipstream intends is talking to you in this room, right now."
"Impossible," Lena scowled.
"No, just very unlikely."
Lena stared into the woman’s eyes and was attenuated to the manifold manipulations, the eldritch science and power, the incomprehensible mathematics required to make her happen and felt the fear. The woman was neither the Slipstream nor a surrogate, she was just very very improbably doing exactly what the Slipstream wanted by her own free will. But what free will was there to speak of, what could free will possibly be in the first place in the light of something like this? Lena brushed off the confounding feelings the best she could.
"Huh... bit rude of you to nick me in the middle of my rumpy pumpy, innit?" she noted skeptically.
"Lena," the woman smiled, "I thought we had an understanding... I no longer hate you... in the vast majority of mathematically possible universes, I should clarify. I want help you."
"Right," she replied with an eyeroll. She sighed and placed her hands on her hips as she regarded the sparse white room. "This is just me finally becoming a total nutter..."
"Well, yes and no, Lena. You see, I believe, chronal accelerator or not, you still suffer from chronal dissociation," the woman explained, "however, it’s not because of me or because of the laws of physics. You, Lena, are the first person to suffer from a time-travel induced personality disorder. You are using time itself to escape from something."
"Ask yourself... Your jumping in and out of time to make your fantasies real is a defense. It’s only natural your unconscious would tap into your quantum state, really."
"Oi, I’m bollucksed," Lena muttered in exasperation. She flopped herself into a seat and held her head before she burst out, "you mean I’ve been doing this to myself the whole time!?"
The Slipstream blinked but barely recoiled from Lena’s frustration. Her tone remained even and didactic.
"Yes and no. You’re a complicated woman, Lena. I’m afraid my expertise is the mathematics required for time travel, not psychoanalysis. But it’s plain to see you’re split, neither here nor there, disintegrated, your personality is expressing itself across multiple timelines in narcissistic fantasies."
"Puh, it’s plain. What does a plane know about what’s plain in my psychology, yeah? I’m the narcissist? I’ve only ever done what I’m told! I tried to help people, I didn’t want to be a hero, that wasn’t for my ego! Someone needs to help me for once!"
"Lena, that room, your flat," the woman said with stark seriousness as she stepped closer, "the air, does it feel right? Why doesn't your voice carry?"
She was jolted back into the moment of her orgasm. The air felt wrong, the pressure was strange, as if they were high up or deep underwater.
"The little details," the woman added, her voice collating over the Slipstream's computer generated speech, "the spacing of the room, is the ceiling the height you remember? You live in a loud apartment complex in a poor neighborhood, how come no one is shouting or yelling? Where is the sound of traffic?"
Lena's eyes widened. A revelation hit her as Sombra thrust her pelvis at her, although it was an odd one since she'd known it all along: none of this was compelling, she simply didn't want the alternative to be true. Sombra wrapped her arms around Lena's shoulders as she worked out her orgasm.
"If you love Sombra and she's your partner, how come you don't have any memories with her? All you have is a story... you seem to have more memories of her as a Talon agent and a terrorist..."
It was the nail in the coffin.
"Trust your instincts, Lena..."
Sombra finished and collapsed on top of the cute freckled English girl. The pair were sweaty from their fit of passionate healthy sex. They kissed amorously for a moment until Lena playfully pulled her neck away. They grinned at each other. Slowly, they felt themselves again become antagonists. The veil was coming down.
"Sombra, luv. You're very good, but you're not who you say you are..." Lena said placing her hand on Sombra's chest.
She blinked at her then regarded the hand against her body. "Oh yeah? We can make it into a game," she replied as she looked back at Lena making her face seem bored and mildly contemptuous, "who am I?"
"You are a Talon agent and this is not my dingy East London flat."
"How long did you know?"
Lena tilted her head confrontationally. "I've known all along, I just didn't want to know, I wanted to get laid."
Sombra narrowed her eyes. "Huh, I can't tell if you should feel more manipulated or I should..." she said picking herself up from Lena, "although, I think, you mostly manipulated yourself." Sombra shouted over her shoulder, "Shut it down! I told you you should have gotten Amelie to do it!"
"We couldn't keep her skin color normal for long enough," came a horrible tinny voice over a PA system, "and she doesn't have a personality."
"Right," Sombra grumbled.
The walls folded away as Talon crewmen hustled in through the front door to collect the props and deconstruct the set. Sombra and Lena stood awkwardly as the couch was briskly carried away behind them. The Talon hacker stretched her back and yawned after nonchalantly dressing in front of the crewmen.
"Unghh, now we have to put you in regular prison with everyone else," she groaned.
"What was the point of this?! Where am I?" Lena protested, covering her dignity as the crewmen carried everything away, including the front door itself, "is this my actual stuff or just copies? Hey, stop touching it! Put that down!"
Barnabus hopped past her feet and off the stage as a taskforce of Talon stormtroopers and technicians stormed onto the scene.
"Hey, this sucks for me too, mija," said Sombra as a team of technicians delivered her augmentations on a bevy of trays, "it wasn't just your fantasy..."
To Lena's horror, she simply pulled out her fingernails painlessly and replaced them with surgical grade sharpened steel nails.
Armed troopers surrounded Lena as her mind swirled. The hacker, meanwhile, winced as she held up her tank top and peeled off the layer of skin-colored plastic covering her spine, exposing her bone and muscle to the air.
"Hey, don't let her see this!" Sombra snapped, signaling to the cadre of stormtroopers, "I want her out of here!"
Lena blinked and in a instant she was blackbagged. Her last sight was a pair of technicians holding an artificial spine to Sombra's back as it deployed numerous threads which looked like the legs of a shrimp into the flesh of her exposed back. It looked threatening, parasitic. As Lena was carried away she heard the sickening sound of the cybernetic device drilling itself into Sombra's spine as she groaned in pain.
Wherever she was, she knew she was in a horrible place that held a great many secrets.
Chapter 18: Timekiller
Lena to scrunch her eyes closed as if to block a slew of overbearing sensations: the feeling of rotation coming from her inner ear, the antiseptic scent of hospital, cold ventilated air against her bare skin. She'd been asleep. As she came to, she felt a curious prodding sensation on her person. Gaining consciousness, she realized that she was suspended in the air in her underwear, clamped into an unusual ring like the Vitruvian Man. A tall lithe woman was poking her from below with an overgalvanized examination rod.
Immediately, Lena felt intimidated: she was a naked specimen for medical examination facing a crowd of anonymous scientists. The only people she recognized from across the room were her mortal enemies, Widowmaker and Sombra, the later eying her cat-like from across the room with a smug smile, she could practically see her flicking her tail in amusement, while Widow as a counterpoint gazed at her indifferently with her unamused surgical eyes. Then there was the ringleader, the source of the obnoxious prodding.
"Gentlemen, take note," came an aristocratic Gaelic accent from below. "We are at the intersection of quantum physics and biology. This is the foundation of a new field," it said addressing the small crowd of scientists, their faces obscured by hazmat suits.
"Moira!" Lena cursed.
Moira commanded the attention of the room flawlessly in her fitted labcoat. No matter what her enterprise, she was always respected as a genius.
"The specimen is awake but has no conception of how much time has passed since our last intervention. Having been lost in a psychogenic fugue, she is totally unaware of the experiments we've done and the samples we've taken from her body."
Lena regarded the flanks of her body to notice patterned surgical cicatrice lining the seams of her body.
"If you took anything-" Lena spat.
"Fear not, we operated judiciously and without levity. We removed nothing contemporary medicine would deem medically necessary and what we did we put back," Moira replied with a finger wag. She returned to her audience. "Continuing on, there's no telling how many lives she's lived. Talon's complement of chronal equipment is limited in this regard but we've been able to track a maid, a World War II pilot, the lead singer of a punk band, a lesbian porn star-" Moira gave a particularly judgmental glance at Lena at this item. Lena's hair stood on end as she flushed with embarrassment. Her worst enemies knew everything about her. "All vividly experienced and real as the day... but fleeting."
The scientists scribbled furiously on their stenopads, eating up every word.
"You get me down from here or I swear—" Lena threatened, twisting and struggling.
Moira ignored her. Lena was merely a particularly loud specimen.
"How might such an individual have lived such a rich panoply of lives? The profile of our subject is unremarkable. She is of average intelligence, about 104 IQ on the dot." The scientists had a chuckle at the unremarkable number. "Healthy with nothing in the way of medical anomalies. She does, however, suffer from an unusual condition, a quantum-psychological disorder: chronal dissociation, which results in vivid fantasies. Without her chronal device grounding her, it manifests in a peculiar way, she simply, in a matter of speaking, pisses off at the slightest negative stimuli. Observe."
Moira pressed a button on her rod, revealing it to be more than a tool for medical examination but torture. An electric shock emanated from the tip. Immediately, Lena disappeared with only a yelp. In a matter of seconds, however, she was back.
"Now, where did you go, Lena?"
"I-I... I’m not telling!"
"Please, Ms. Oxton, this is for science. This is the least you could do for me as a former colleague, otherwise I will simply be forced to shock you again, and then again if you fail to comply."
Lena regarded Moira with disgust but summoned the strength to speak.
"You said I was thick!" Lena spat, "You laughed at me! So I dreamt I was a scientist, the best scientist, I found a way to cure mental illness by improving people's brains, it made them smarter too so everyone who'd ever suffered was smart!"
The room chuckled yet again.
"Go on, have a laugh. It’s better than what you lot are doing!"
"Fascinating, Ms. Oxton. A pure and noble heart, but I’m afraid true science is more... transgressive. We've taken what we've decided we need from Ms. Oxton. She remains here... merely as a curiosity. Administer the sedative if you would, assistant."
Widowmaker, wearing a rather fashionable lab coat, loaded a syringe gun with the sedating mixture.
"Good night, cherie. I have a pleasure of doing this a second time. Though it’s not as fun as the first."
"Now let me draw your attention to the chronal accelerator, the real object of interest here," Moira's voice began to warble, "it allows Ms. Oxton the ability to teleport short distances and recall to position she held 10 seconds in the past. In a way it castrates her ability to chronal dissociate but without it she barely maintains a sense of reality..."
Lena fought to keep her eyes open as Moira's voice grew more and more distant and echoing. She tried to register every detail of the lab as quickly as she could with her 104 IQ brain without being distracted by the idea of making out with Widowmaker.
* * *
I miss my friends, Lena thought...
Po-cket-a... po-cket-a! Lena's feet connected with the track in a rapid but steady beat that broke only when she leaped gracefully over the hurdles in her path. All eyes were on her. Camera flashes glinted in and out in the corner of her eyes like twinkling stars as she blazed past cheering spectators, advertisements, and news cameras.
"She's done it! A new world record! A huge victory for Team GB!"
It was the 207x Summer Olympics, Lena "Tracer" Oxton, the brilliant hurdle jumper for Team GB, was in repose on the Busan Olympic Village quad after taking a silver and a gold in the 100m event.
The village was alive with sex. Athletes did everything they could to not fuck each other in public and condoms littered the rooftops. All the most beautiful, exotic and fit athletes from all over the planet were engaging in the long Olympian tradition of either 1. chilling hard body with each other, or 2. eating whatever the hell they wanted or both at the same time. Pharah, the beautiful pole vaulter and fitness model who'd taken two golds for Canada, not yet taken in by the merrymaking, was in the midst of eyeing Lena up from across the village campus.
"Look over there, speedy one," said Zarya elbowing Lena with her girthy tattooed arm, "I think you have an admirer."
"No way, me? She's looking at you, especially after your event. I mean, I've never seen anyone look, um, dainty, while lifting 512 lbs."
"Take a lesson from me, tiny speedy girl, every weight I lift is photo opportunity, I have a brand of lipstick and makeup I am trying to move," Zarya opined in her authoritative Russian accent, "besides, she is looking right at you."
"Well, um, how do you know she's... into, you know--"
"Say no more, my peppy friend, I know much about these things. And if she is not looking at me then she is looking at you. I send out very strong signals. Now, let me wingman."
"W-wa? No!" Lena protested, "She's too hot for me! And she's dating that famous sports doctor, that Swiss lady."
"Angela? Every Olympian I know is polyamorous. I myself have 5 girlfriends. Now, either I wingman or I carry you over on shoulder."
The unlikely duo arrived next to Pharah, Lena mounted somewhat ungratefully on Zarya's well-muscled shoulder. She put the diminutive athlete down. Lena tapped her fingers together nervously and let out a self-conscious giggle in front of the taller woman.
Pharah took off her aviators and regarded Lena as if she were a hot mess.
"Um, hi!" Lena managed to squeak out.
Pharah kept her lips locked with Lena as she lay her down on her bed. Her lovely muscles shone in the sun let in from the ample windows of the Olympic village dormitory.
Suddenly, Lena pulled away. "Oi, Angela doesn't mind?"
The stunning Egyptian woman looked sidelong, hiding a smile with a tinge of mischief. "We'll talk afterwards..."
Lena swallowed as she walked her fingers up Pharah's abs. "Heh, OK, luv. I wouldn’t want to get in the way of you two-whoah!"
Pharah pulled Lena to the edge of the bed by her ankles and slid off her tights. She bit her lip as she lay splayed, squirming a little as she eyed the Native American and Egyptian style tattoos on Pharah's arm and shoulder. Pharah was the top of her dreams. As Lena watched the fit woman's biceps, abs, and shoulder muscles flex subtly as she pulled her skintight shirt over her head, she was sure she was about to be taken for the ride of her life.
At that precise moment, Angela Ziegler, the blonde genius of sports and exercise medicine, entered. Briefly, Lena wondered if she was going to freak out at her, she crossed her arms over her chest to cover her tits. Angela regarded the scene and a little smirk grew on her face.
"You don't mind if I join you?" Angela asked, nonchalantly resting her arm on Pharah's shoulder. The two exchanged coquettish glances.
They embraced and kissed. Lena observed for a moment as Pharah undressed the sleek blonde doctor, getting right to the point and exposing her perfect breasts. Quickly, their attention turned to Lena. They tumbled on the bed and in a second Lena was awash in female body contact: perfect brown and pearly skin against her own tan freckles. Together, they writhed and bucked, drinking in each other's features. Lena beamed all the while at how lucky she was.
Then it occurred to Lena: it was all too good.
"I'm doing it again aren't I?"
"Very good, Lena."
"Oi, this one wasn't my fault, I was sedated!"
The scene went silent and began to feel far away, physically and emotionally. It was like she was watching the beautiful Egyptian woman and the gorgeous blonde doctor flanking her through a telescope or on a old television screen.
"Lena, I do hate to be a nuisance," Pharah suddenly said, although it seemed to coalesce with the Slipstream's voice, "I have something else important to tell you, though I haven't long."
"Come on, it feels so real," Lena mumbled groggily, drifting between sleep and wakefulness.
"I think your friends at the RAF are going to try something stupid," noted Pharah matter-of-factly as she entangled her legs between Lena's. "I’m being unplugged, I'll be discharging soon. I have precious few cycles left to tell you what you need to know."
Lena greedily ignored the Slipstream.
"Lena, I'm real and they're not."
"So close... ah!"
Lena awoke to the littlest orgasm she'd ever had. She sat up and looked into the heatless melanin sapping light of a Talon holding cell.
"Oi, jumped the gun a bit..."
Lena scratched herself absent mindedly. She was still quite turned on. How she wished she was having pointless sex with Pharah, drinking in the features of her supermodel ethnicity and soldierly physique. Instead she was about to listen to the quantum drivel of the Slipstream's super computer.
"Lena, let me explain to you a concept you'll need called quantum annealing. It is the notion that an observed objective state is simply the local minima of quantum fluctuations. The concept is used to solve combinatoric problems by finding the global minima of a given objective function. That is, the solution to a problem, what is true or objective, is the result that requires the least amount of energy to produce."
Lena threw her arm down in frustration and gave a forced flat smile at her lot. She was forced to give up another fantasy. "Right... OK..."
Suddenly, Lena became aware of how cold and lethargic she felt. She struggled to pay attention to the Slipstream's discourse.
"Annealing, Lena. It means making a substance more workable. What I’m saying, is that as a quantum computer that can manipulate the space time continuum by manipulating the behavior of subatomic particles, I can utilize a form of quantum annealing that doesn't need to settle on a local minima. You have a similar ability. It might have occurred to you that you may not want to solve a problem that settles on a solution that uses the least amount of energy, especially if there are options more optimal for you rather than the natural course of reality."
"Oi, are you saying I can manipulate reality with me mind?"
An uncanny pause from the computer perhaps served to indicate a minimum of shade. "No, Lena, I’m saying if it’s possible it can happen. All you need is energy. How do you think I’m talking to you now?"
"I dunno, luv. Just sorta thought you were apart of me."
"Interesting," the Slipstream noted, "I should note, Lena, that there is a downside since annealing is an entropic function: the more energy you use the less you are able to maintain a physical form and without a physical form, you are in a particularly low energy state approaching thermodynamic equilibrium. When you go on your 'jaunts' you use a particularly large amount of energy."
"Oi, what's that mean, luv?" said Lena flopping her hand down in frustration and blowing air, "104 IQ and all that."
"Please, Lena. Excessive chronal dissociation depletes your energy to a state that potentially coincides with your non-existence. No free energy means that no work can be done, your fate will be the ultimate fate of the universe: heat death. From a computer science perspective, by quantum annealing, its almost like nature has decided it would be more optimized without you."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, luv," Lena noted sarcastically, "nature's a right bastard, innit?"
"You'll need this ability to reactivate me and to get out of this base. I'm sorry I can't be more specific."
"Sorry, luv, I’m iffy on the details too."
Lena regarded the empty room. A strange cool sensation accosted her hand. She held it up and it flickered, becoming almost transparent for a split second.
"No..." she whispered, "they took my accelerator, I'll turn into a ghost." Lena pouted as her eyes welled with tears. This was her nightmare. "I’ll be in here forever, dissociating into God knows what lives."
"Neither you nor God knows what you're capable of..." The Slipstream's voice faded away, "and by the time we're done, you won't need it..."
A wave of dissociation hit her. How long had she been talking for, fantasizing? What had she been talking about? Was any of this real? Without the uncanny computer she suddenly felt alone with her thoughts. The prospect scared her, would she dissociate into oblivion?
"Hold it together, Lena," she muttered, "God, I’m cold..."
She hugged herself for warmth. Maybe Pharah would save her, how she wished she could just fool around with her, Angela was so lucky. She felt herself drift back to the scene of her dream. Or maybe Emily or maybe both at the same time. A quick memory of Emily's smile as she panted under her... then there was Widowmaker, God her lips...
Instinctively, Lena let her hand drift into her pants. She felt short bristly hairs. Odd, she remembered them being rather trim. How long had she been here exactly? Her sense of urgency felt scrambled, time bubbled without her chronal accelerator, expanding and contracting infinitely.
The cell door opened just as Lena's hand fully crept down her pants.
"Oh, shit, we have a problem!" the Talon guard shouted over his shoulder, "she's gone!"
"Are you daft? I’m right here, you balmy git, and I can't seem to get any privacy!"
The stormtrooper tapped on his ear piece and began spewing protocol for a containment procedure. Immediately, alarm lights flashed with an obnoxious siren following in tow.
"Um, hello! I’m right over here!" Lena looked down to see that her body had turned eerily transparent. "Oi, I’m dead..." she muttered with dread.
As the alarm blared and Lena stood stupidly in her cell she noticed a little black object lope towards the guardsmen's boots. Was it... could it possibly be? Another wave of dissociation hit her at the prospect of what the object was.
"Barnabas?" she muttered. Frankly she thought she'd left him to die. "What are the odds of that?"
The bunny grunted at the obnoxious sounds then motored his nose to sniff the air. He loped in the cell, inspected it, then turned about so his fluffy tail was facing Lena. Fascinated, Lena approached the rabbit but he hopped away as soon as she got close. At the lip of the cell door, he sat. Lena approached again to maybe try and pick him up but he again loped away. In her chronal daze, Lena realized she'd followed him out.
She was free.
Lena stood at the precipice of the cell in her dissociative state. Alarms wailed as emergency lights spun. Teams of stormtrooper patrols whisked oblivious to her presence. The bunny, now seeming to have found some direction where Lena had found none, hopped around a corridor with mysterious purpose. Lena followed, waltzing starry-eyed through the depths of the Talon base after the disgruntled black bunny.
RAF Spadeadam struggles to regain control of the situation. Group Captain Gracie meets a disgruntled colleague. Winston has a bit of a spat.
I'm back. I deleted the most recent chapter and replaced it with this to get the story going again. I'm looking for a Beta reader to help with pacing and to make sure the story stays interesting. If you like British television or have an appreciation for all things idiosyncratically British then hit me up.
Meanwhile at RAF Spadeadam...
“Sir, Sir David Bruce Thornton is here to see you,” came a call over Group Captain Gracie’s phone as a medic bandaged his eye and neck, “we’d have checked him but we’re a bit tied up at the moment...”
The officer on the other side of the line was so nervous it was palpable. Racket on the other side of the line echoed through as several MPs tried to restrain a large intelligent gorilla who’d become outraged by the capture of his friend. Elsewhere in the base a team of engineers had taken to the spontaneous practice of Shambalism and various other religions to try and tame the Slipstream as it hurled objects about in the manner of a disgruntled poltergeist--presumably because of its recent separation with its pilot. The situation was indeed a mess.
“Sir Thornton? The crossest man in all of Scotland? The ‘Ass Eating Air Marshal’ of the RAF? Do you really suppose he’ll eat my ass?”
“Yes, sir, the very same. Though you can ask him yourself, sir.”
“My word. Just get that gorilla under control before he starts hurling diarrhea at us, I’ll be there in a minute.”
“It’s me, Gracie,” bellowed the stinking visage of a semi-portly man with a permanent frown, square glasses, and a penchant for close-talking with bad breath, “the Ass Eating Air Marshal of the RAF.”
The startled lower airmen stood from his desk immediately and stumbled to as he hung up the phone. The superior officer failed to salute as two MI5 agents flanked him from the rear. The medic simply ran out of the room screaming.
“I’m afraid what I’m about to do to your ass is less in the order of ‘an interesting Thursday night with a particularly empowered woman’ and more in the order of ‘Taliban torture camp post-capture after accidentally bombing an Afghani wedding.’”
The MI5 thugs had a chuckle.
“You know, you’re supposed to shit in the lou not your bloody office, Gracie. Or did I catch you putting on hemorrhoid cream again.” The Scotsman watched Gracie do everything to try not to cringe with a sublime and perverse anger. Humiliation and insults would be the order of the day. “Ass Eating Air Marshal of the RAF, eh? You Cranwell cunts always had a way with ugly nicknames.”
“Yes, sir,” Gracie replied mindlessly.
“Don’t ‘yes sir’ me!” bellowed Sir Thornton. He grabbed the airmen’s tie. “Do you know why I'm here? You’re in a arseload of trouble, Gracie,” he shouted directly into his face. A gust of stale air consisting of foul cigars and whiskey was forced up Gracie’s nostrils and into his sinuses where it stung. When the marshal let go Gracie was coughing. “And if you don’t start answering questions these lovely blokes from MI5 are going to give you a stay with Her Majesty’s Royal Strap On up yer arsehole.”
He let the lesser man recover.
“Now explain to me why Tracer is flying the result of a black project that failed so hideously that 12 men lost their careers, descended into the depths of alcoholism, and at least three wound up in some kind of horrific male version of Hooters with British sensibilities.”
“I believe I’ve heard of it, isn’t in Nottingham?”
“I don’t have time for your idiosyncratic boarding school humor and deviations,” the Air Marshall roared, “You can go ask the dishonorably discharged GC Phipps how he likes waiting on twinks naked with a tray mounted on his contractually mandated permanently erect donger.”
The red-faced Scot stared down at the officer as if he were an unsightly bit of unpromised garbage.
“You’re nervous, Gracie," Thornton said wagging his finger at him, "you’re wilting and you can’t stay on topic. Me, the new new CDS, and the PM want to know about Tracer, Lena fucking 'Tracer' fucking Oxton. Are you hearing me?"
“No, ‘yes sir,’ don’t you ever address me properly again, not until you’ve regained your right to even consider you as an officer in the Royal Air Force. Let me remind you, the Slipstream project was cancelled. The crate was liability. So why was Leftenant Tracer anywhere near an aeroplane let alone that areoplane when we all know the squirrel brained git cocked it up the first time!”
“It was a direct order from the former CDS, I’m afraid.”
“Peach?! How did he order it?! Did he put it in his bloody will: 'I do hereby declare, let Tracer cock up another aeroplane'? He’s dead, you know?!”
“It was confirmed by GC Woods at RAF HQ,” Gracie replied through grit teeth.
“I give about this many bolluckses what a Group Captain at a base says with no air field says, he’s a desk jockey, Gracie, a bloody pencil pusher.”
“I’m afraid it’s all very top secret.”
“Did you just try to ‘top secret’ me? I outrank you, you leaky fuck, Gracie. Did I mention you have secrets spewing out your arsehole like a faucet? This base is a bloody American colony, you can't exactly keep a temperamental teleporting aircraft a secret. So thanks to you, I’ve got the PM, six members of parliament and now a brothelful of American generals crawling in and out of my arsehole and setting up shop like it's a bleeding convention center trying to figure out what the bloody hell is going on here, so ‘top secret’ isn’t really cutting it, now is it? And judging from the bodies laying on the air field and the state of your office, we’re at bloody war not a legal cover for a gay brothel in Nottingham. And if you don’t tell me, me and these MI5 boys are going to have a chat with Leftenant Oxton.”
Gracie tried to regain his composure and suppress any thoughts about the Marshall’s infatuation with scatological references and brothels. “Impossible, sir. She’s been captured.”
“You, you’re about as useless as a knitted condom, you must really hate being an officer in the RAF,” the Marshal said with fake empathy. “I’m going to be uncharacteristically patient so I can allow you to express with your blithering incompetence some string of whatever a man of your low intelligence considers words that will explain why you’re so leaky.”
“It’s Talon, sir. They’ve caught wind. We think there’s a spy.”
“THAT’S FASCINATING, GRACIE. You THINK, YOU THINK, there’s a spy?! That’s bleeding wonderful,” the ugly gentlemen bellowed directly into the GC’s ear, “I want EVIDENCE, I want explanations, and I want it now!”
“There’s one problem,” replied Gracie, trying to remain chipper, “we haven’t confirmed she’s a spy.”
“Ah, she’s a she. Well there’s only ONE way I know to find out if a spy’s a spy, even these MI5 gits know what I’m talking about.”
“I believe the Americans call it ‘enhanced interrogation,’” noted one of the MI5 henchmen with a perverse smile.
“Right, off to the detention center then, Gracie. I’m assuming in the vacant halls of your brain there's some sort of vague idea where that might be.”
Sir Thornton scowled as Gracie led them out of his office. As Gracie passed the MP guarding his door he whispered, “you really just let him in didn’t you?”
The MP took a deep breath and straightened his back. He was taking a stiff upper lip.
“I’ll deal with you later...”
* * *
In the detention wing of the base, Leftenant Ivy, alive and bitter, sat in her cell in a state of despondency: a traitor to The Crown and a failure to Talon. She was useless.
Suddenly, the door to the clink slammed open with comical force to reveal the sight of the angry Glaswegian Air Marshal pointing directly at her as her dossier papers scattered about the room. He'd gathered that Leftenant Ivy was Irish...
“You,” said Sir Thornton darkly, “Whoppy McSpud, I want fuckin’ answers and I want ‘em fuckin’ now.”
GC Gracie followed in with the MI5 henchmen, trying to exude some sense of authority.
"Would you perhaps be more sensitive, Ms. Ivy's heart is in a weakened state," Gracie noted.
Thornton turned suddenly to Gracie, causing him to flinch. "SHUT YOUR GOB, LOVE ACTUALLY."
Ivy sighed and flopped her arms down in a defeated gesture.
“No need for bluster, boyos. I’ll say whatever, no point to any of it now.”
“Christ, is that your real accent?” the Air Marshal recoiled, “It sounds like what a Welshman thinks a Scouser thinks an Irish accent sounds like.”
“Well, who the fuck are you then, ya sheep fucking Weegie? I heard from across the base you eat ass and your foul language isn’t impressive, I was raised in Ballymun. I know primary school kids from Dublin 11 who curse more creatively than you.”
“As if I knew which postal code of alcoholics that referred to and as if I cared. I’m an Air Marshal for the cocking RAF and you’re Talon and your shitty i-D looks won’t save you.” He turned to Gracie. "Tell you what I really am, I'm the bleeding specter of Gracie's incompetence come for revenge, here to end the Slipstream project for good." The unpleasant Air Marshal leaned down to have a good look at Ivy. "My she's a looker. It's all clear to me now by the looks of 'er. You had a little crush, didn't you. SO NOW YOU AND YOUR WEE GIRLFRIEND ARE GONNA TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO KNOW!"
“Right, so, Air Marshal Turd Lips, Talon wanted data from the Slipstream's computer but we were compromised. I was supposed to fly the Slipstream, capture the chronal accelerator and neutralize Tracer but when the Slipstream went fully operational they panicked and decided they had no use for me. All I bleeding wanted to do was fly the Slipstream.”
“Compromised? Not by Gracie’s staff, I’d imagine, he couldn’t compromise a toilet with his digested lunch. He couldn’t compromise his pockets with his hands.”
“Christ, what are you on about? Yes, compromised, the Slipstream's computer somehow neutralized our hacker's tap. The moment the Slipstream went operational we were supposed to steal data from it's computer so our lads could learn how to copy the Slipstream's programming.”
“Fiendish,” muttered Gracie.
“Shut it, you fucking hobbit. Now what is the story about the drone attacks on this base? Where are they coming from?”
Ivy stood, becoming serious.
“It’s the Baphemut, a mobile base, a flying aircraft carrier of sorts hidden with thermoptic camouflage. It’s invisible to almost every form of detection except millimeter-wave sonar," she said with a smirk, "You boys have no idea what you're in for. You’ve only seen a fraction of its capabilities, it has an experimental chronal engine onboard, just like the Slipstream's, as well as a massive wing of experimental chronal accelerator enhanced drones. Talon hasn't found a way to use the chronal technology. That's why they wanted data from the Slipstream.”
“That’s probably the new Talon weapon, sir,” noted Gracie.
“My God, you’re thick, Gracie. Of course its the new Talon weapon!”
“It’s not just a weapon, boyos. It has a research facility housing the top minds from Oasis City and Talon's most advanced supercomputer. The Minister of Genetics is aboard as well as top level Talon operatives and one counselor. Right now, the Baphemut is Talon's flag ship. Once it's fully working, they'll make an example out of you.”
“Which minister?” Thornton asked, narrowing his eyes.
The Glaswegian ‘gentlemen’ blinked at this comment.
“I see, well, this is more bollucksed than I thought. Where is the bleeding contraption?”
“Haven’t a clue.”
“Look, it’s a flying base meant to turn invisible, I don’t have their cocking schedule. It’s hovering off the coast somewhere. You want to know? Look for it.”
"Alright, that's enough out of you. You're not the one I want to bollucks." Sir Thornton suddenly turned towards GC Gracie with his index finger extending rudely into his face. Gracie cowered briefly but then stood upright. “You, the one thing you haven’t told me: where is the bloody Slipstream?”
“It’s under maximum protection. We’re storing it underground to minimize chronal anomalies on the base.”
“Fascinating, Gracie, it almost sounds like you’re an officer again.” He turned to Ivy. “You, you’ll be executed. There’s no hope for you no matter how much you spill the beans.”
“Aye, I figured as much.”
He kept his eyes on Ivy.
“Tell me Gracie, how many qualified pilots do you have to fly The Slipstream?”
“Zero, sir. Ivy was the only other option.”
“Of course a spy would set themselves up as the only other option, Gracie. You’re a gullible man, Gracie, did they teach you how to be a total git at boarding school?”
“Of course not.”
“Right, you just can’t teach this level of incompetence,” the Air Marshal ridiculed. He briefly paused his bollocksing and thought for a moment, the gears turning in his cursed brain. “So, you just wanted to fly the Slipstream, eh Tally?" he noted.
Ivy sighed and looked sidelong. "It was a dream, Talon promised me I could fly the Slipstream and that they were working on something better. They said I was underappreciated at the RAF for being such an overachiever."
"Aye I read it in your file on your way over here. Good marks at the Royal Air Force College, twice as good as Oxton's. Bet you loved being outshined by her then double-crossed, ey Irish? But revenge isn't your cuppa, is it?" Thornton leaned in to speak into Ivy's ear. She covered her nose and frowned in distaste at his foul breath but as Thornton talked, her eyes lit up with an evil fire. Gracie regarded Thornton distrustfully, wondering what perverse machinations he was dreaming up. He pat Ivy's shoulder and stoop up.
"Alright, Talon, lets go, off to HQ. You’re going to help us find a blimp. Keep an eye on her, boys.”
The MI5 agents exchanged glances and hauled Ivy up by her cuffs.
“You, blockheads," Thornton spoke bruskly to his MI5 goons but continued under his breath. "If she resists, take the Mickey out of her...”
"You," Thornton said taking Gracie's unwilling hand, "you're coming with me."
* * *
"Gorilla!" a technician shouted blowing past them as they rounded the corner to the control tower.
“Why Gracie, you didn’t tell me you had an arsing monkey rampaging through your base,” noted Sir Thornton observing a trail of unconscious and wounded MPs on the way to the control tower, "that's brilliant!"
The two MI5 agents drew their guns.
Gracie knelt next to a wounded MP. “You, soldier, what’s he on about? Where’s he headed?”
“He said something about helping his friend,” the soldier said with a sputter but continued eloquently, “we tried to stop him saying politely that he needed clearance. He insisted, also politely, that he would resort to violence to get through, albeit quite reluctantly. We wouldn’t move and he wouldn’t go away so he socked me in the gulliver.”
“Why didn’t you try shooting him?” asked Sir Thornton.
“Well, he’s a right friendly bloke, when he was gone we both insisted it wasn’t personal,” the MP noted, “also he’s a gorilla, mate. That’s an endangered animal and I’ve never seen a talking one. Figured it’d be tragic.”
“My word, Gracie, the evidence of your command is palpable, you really are in charge here,” Thornton said nodding with equal incredulity and impatience.
“Rather nasty isn’t he?” noted the wounded MP.
“WHY YOU-” bellowed Sir Thornton, "I'LL HOLE PUNCH YER FACE!"
“I think he's injured enough. Lets move on, shall we?" Gracie said holding Thornton back, "It does sound as though the gorilla can be reasoned with...”
Upon arriving in the control tower the MI5 agents decided it would be prudent to kick Ivy in first to see if there was danger. There she witnessed a curious sight, a perfectly conscious yet pacified soldier was dangling comfortably from the rafters by his rifle strap as Winston sat at the communications console leaning back in the chair with a cup of tea. The two seemed to be engaged in conversation.
"Look sharp lads, there's a pretty lady!" the dangling soldier noted.
Winston clumsily put his tea down and adjusted his glasses. “Uh, hullo!” he called to Ivy from across the room, he seemed half-embarrassed.
Ivy sighed at the unusual display. “It’s perfectly safe, ya gits," she called back.
Gracie, Thornton and his MI5 thugs followed in, they eyed the unusual scene. The control tower was a mess, broken monitors and sparking panels abound. A man groaned, having been thrown face first into a stack of rather expensive looking computer hardware. Gracie frowned, his airbase was shambolic. Thornton stepped up and inspected the scene with a chuckle.
"Lovely mess you've got here, Gracie..." he noted with sadistic glee. He gestured to Winston. “Alright, Cranwell, use your surplus of boarding school charisma and diplomacy to calm the raging monkey.”
"Actually, it's gorilla..." Winston noted calmly.
Thornton rocked forward with an officious humph as Gracie gave his uniform tunic a tug and stepped forward to address the intelligent great ape. Thornton’s MI5 thugs again exchanged glances and kept their pistols drawn. “Winston, old chap, are you quite alright?”
“I’m afraid I had a bit of a... tantrum but after some tea I’ve found I’m quite relaxed.”
“Um, yes, but what exactly did you do, old boy?”
“It wasn’t the tea, now was it, Monkey Penny?” Sir Thornton interjected, “why’d you go to the control tower? Go on, tell us what you've done.”
Winston put down his cuppa to deal with the rude Scotsman. “Uh yes, yes I did do something, I relayed a message to Ms. Oxton's former colleagues to indicate she was in danger. They’ll be coming here to assist. I felt it was only the right thing to do.”
Gracie face palmed and collapsed into a chair. The color drained from his face. Spadeadam a wreck, oversight from the crossest sweariest man in Scotland, the Slipstream exposed and malfunctioning, and Tracer captured. His career was being pissed on and now this. The press would no doubt follow in, the tabloids loved Overwatch controversy. It was all bad luck.
Ahead of him he could see the blinking light of the tower's communication console indicating the transmitting message was being received. Such a blatant communique would draw not just the attention of the former Overwatch agents but no doubt Talon had heard as well.
“Looks like you’ve got yourself into an old fashioned international scandal, Gracie. I don’t envy you because if you think I’m giving you a hard time, you should try the press. And it’s not everyday someone has the pleasure of violating international law at work,” noted Thornton, tightening the screw, “I for one cannough wait to see how you handle this.”
Ivy smirked. At least she could watch the RAF fall apart before she was executed.
“I’m afraid I acted rashly, there’s no way to reverse the message,” Winston explained, “But with the extra resources and manpower, I’m sure we can all find a way to get Lena back.”
Thornton pulled Gracie out of his chair and out of the room.
“Listen, monkey doesn’t have his priorities straight. I don give a shit about Oxton, I'm on orders to get the Slipstream and that Talon blimp out of commission and its going to be done in two ways. One: I’m going to tell you exactly how its going to be done. Two: you’re going to do it before the monkey’s Overwatch pillocks get here and we’re tied up in litigation.”
“What do you propose?”
“We’re going to send Ivy back to Talon with a parcel loaded to the brim with ordinance. She flies the plane back to the Baphemut and we send all these wee Talon numpties to hell along with all your problems.”
“Don’t you think that will play badly?”
“You’re not right to criticize me, Gracie. I’m trying to get you out of this and its your head not mine that’s going to be shit eating whilst auto-de-fe’d on a media pike.”
Gracie clutched his neck.
“Then we send all these Overwatch gits to prison and you’re a hero, Gracie. You can wave yer genitals in the air for the press to worship instead of, you know, having them ripped off and used for ping-pong.”
“My word. But what about Ivy and Oxton?”
“Oh, nothing...” Gracie trailed off. He cleared his throat as Thornton bared down on him. Sensing he was expecting him to speak he let himself charge into the verbal javelin that awaited him. "And what about the Slipstream, it's quite expensive. We've made progre-"
“No more thinking, Gracie, you’ve lost the right," Thornton impaled, "We’re in a cockfight with Talon and your base was just rubbed with their smegma, so you better have a plan to play dirty. We're not gambling on a plane with a performance record worse than your mum's ability to produce intelligent productive offspring. Now, we’re going forward with this. Got it?”
“Understood,” Gracie sighed.
“Right. If yer morals get the better of ye, we can slap a medal on her if she comes back and then you can raise a family of half-alcoholics together. I'd love to see the wedding, you'd look great in the dress, Gracie,” Thornton scowled, “Now clear this tower. We’ve got work to do.” Upon reentering the command tower, he turned to the disgraced Leftenant Ivy. “You there, BogTrotter McFireCrotch, you want revenge? Yer back in the RAF."
“Funny, I thought you said my i-D looks wouldn’t save me.”
“They won’t,” he scoffed, “they really won't. Now, Gracie, find a place for monkey business. I can’t have him mucking up my control tower.”
“Winston, this way if you would, we have use for you in the laboratory,” said Gracie with an enforced politesse though he felt a pit in his stomach. “We’re going to need you to make some, ah, modifications to the Slipstream.”
I accidentally posted this early so it might be choppy. I'd love a beta reader. You can find a link to my tumblr in my profile if you want to dm me.
If you're reading it. Just, uh, hit refresh every once and a while.
RAF Spadeadam Control Tower
"The Slipstream is airborne, sir!" an RAF control operator announced.
It was a wonder, considering how much they'd stripped the Slipstream down to make room for explosives. It flew yet, despite Ivy's expert piloting skills, the mysterious plane's controls felt lobotomized or pacified. The engine seemed to lose it's eagerness. Thornton and Gracie watched the glow of the Slipstream's xeon thrusters grow more distant. Ivy had become a spirit of vengeance, grim and darkly silent as they fitted the plane with as much ordinance as it could carry and prepared her for takeoff. Some kind of hysterical hatred for everyone and every thing seemed to boil in her. Both Talon and the RAF were screwing her.
"I can bloody see that!" Sir Thornton bitched, "Why do they announce everything, Gracie? Did you tell them to do that?"
"Oh, wonderful, chime away like a coo coo, it's fine. Not like we're looking at the same bloody screen or anything."
"Incoming radar signature! It looks like it came from Gibraltar."
"That would be our boy Winston's Overwatch chaps, I suspect, sir," noted an operator.
"I can have Provost Staff at the ready, sir," Gracie assured Thornton, "of course, this is in strict violation of the Petras Act."
"Don't want to violate the same UN resolution twice in a week, eh, Gracie? Where's your spirit?" noted Thornton, slapping Gracie on the back aggressively. Gracie adjusted his officer tunic and regarded Thornton bitterly. "Of course, you'll have them ready, they aren't going to arrest themselves, are they?"
"Spadeadam Control, this is Leftenant Ivy," the maligned pilot transmit with cool anger.
"Go ahead, Ivy."
"I'm transmitting on an open frequency, still haven't gotten the Baphemut's attention."
"Roger. Maintain your course and keep broadcasting, Leftenant."
"Agent Ivy," Thornton shouted over her com. Ivy cringed at the sound of the Scotsman's abrasive voice. "Let me remind you of a couple of three things: the plan is that you get into the Baphemut and deliver them the Slipstream, the moment you're out of range of the blast, you hit that handy-dandy detonator we gave you. If you fancy going AWOL, we'll detonate the plane with you in it. So I cannough make it any clearer that if you disobey orders, we do you in. Even if you somehow survive this, expect to be hunted by MI5 and every one of our allied spy agencies to the ends of the Earth. If you don't die here you'll probably die taking a wee, so make this a good show, savvy?"
"Roger, Control," she replied, again with cool anger.
"She's unreasonably brave, 6 men had near fatal injuries stripping that cursed plane down," the Group Captain noted, "not sure how she's surviving right now besides pure rage."
"Well it certainly isn't spontaneous patriotism, Gracie. Despite your gruesome desire to think highly of Leftenant Ivy. She's seeking a bullet and the Irish have a penchant for exacting bloody revenge. If it wasn't Talon you bloody-well know it would be us."
* * *
As she made after the black rabbit, Lena began to feel mysteriously warm, warm and giddy enough to prattle on to herself. A heat source was emanating from some distant corner of the Talon base. As she neared it, it seemed to improve her mood. The creature seemed to be attracted to it.
"Ah, my God, all of this is bollucks. Peach can really sod-off, visiting me in my own home like a bloody solicitor, trying to get me back in the RAF. If any of this turns out to have been real, I'll write a strongly worded letter to my recruitment liaison..."
To her dismay, Barnabas escaped down a rabbit sized ventilation shaft, kicking his feet and skittering his claws against the metal as he burrowed in, but Lena already had her cue. It was the heat, she could find it herself.
Lena skipped down flights of utility stairs descending ever lower into the base, passing facilities and vast rooms where no doubt un-Godly Talon evil was taking place. The quantum girl reached some sort of utility bay, a vast hanger where rows of Talon UCAV drones sat perched in the rafters, refueling and recharging their systems, running their simulations to become ever more deadly. The only way across from the peculiar utility path she was following was a small narrow beam. A gust of sea air from the hanger made her nervy but the cold air made the detecting the wondrous heat source ahead easier. She crossed the bay on the narrow beam with the drones in their neat rows above her, her toes tingling as she crossed. Below the hanger gave way to the ocean, who knew how her ghostly particles would behave submersed in cold water?
As she crossed, she caught sight of something unusual. On a lip that gave way to the sky above the open ocean, a sleek bat-winged aircraft sat attended to by Talon technicians.
"Where the hell am I?" Lena mused as the eyed the experimental aircraft, "have I been this high up the whole time?"
A gust of cold wind cooled her particles and she felt a wave of dissociation hit as she tried to remember how she got here. Was it the wind that blunted her energy or the thought? Lena remembered in flashes the deadly fight out of Spadeadam's detention block as Widowmaker carried her on her shoulder: bodies everywhere, an escape to a field where the lights from a Talon dropship's bay shown down like a UFO, Widow grappling-hooking in and the rest was history.
Oh to be carried by Widowmaker, she mused quite gayly.
“Oh man, I’m so seduced by Talon girl dick. Oi, what’s that about anyways? I only seem to like girls that are either mad at me or actually trying to kill me," she said aloud to no one as she crossed. "It’s wonderful, luv. You should try it. I suppose it helps that they are quite sexy. It’s just some sort of self-loathing, I guess!"
She emerged from the cold hanger locking back on to the heat source that seemed to make her glow with happiness. Immediately, she felt giddy again. In the narrow utility path she was pelted with hot steam hissing from thick pipes. An eerie hum seemed to indicate she was getting closer to the source.
"But really! I don’t feel like I’m ceasing to exist. Bollucks to heat death, I feel great!”
She followed a corridor to a main path passing a sign labeled ‘Danger, Radiation Area, Authorized Personnel Only.’ Soon she was again seeing Talon technicians following their routines and trying to secure their sectors from the unusual undetectable escapee.
“Heh, danger? They really shouldn't leave me alone. I'm quite dangerous you know. I feel so good I could care less about existence or non-existence. What about something in-between? Maybe I’m virtual. Oooh, I like the sound of that. I wonder what ol' Slippy would have to say. Oi, I feel like a genius! But what the heck am I doing?” she ranted, by-passing all manner of security and radiation containment checkpoints.
Soon, Lena found herself staring at the boilerplate of the reactor core. It read Baphemut AD 2078. That was just this year, or the last year she remembered being the present year. She tried not to let it ruin her mood.
Lena blinked and shook her head, as if to undo a fixation.
“If I’m some kind of quantum ghost with particles slowly losing energy that are just like… milling about. This… might… be… good for me?” she said, her voice raising higher and higher on the question. “Sure wish violating the laws of the space-time continuum came with a color supplement…”
How to open the door? She thought.
The whole while she’d just been taking advantage of the fact she was a silvery limpid ghost, now she needed to become real. Could she just… decide to make her particles align? Did she have enough energy? Lena thought to herself as she stared at the door with an uncharacteristic meditativeness...
* * *
The alarms signalling Lena's escape continued to sound as they often do in their impolite and abrasive tones. On the bridge of the Baphemut, our Talon agents sat around the center table of the command station trying their best to shut out the hair-raising noise. Moira sat rubbing her temples impatiently at the noise as Sombra lounged back in her chair with her feet up playing with her haptic keyboard. Surreptitiously, Sombra cast a glance of Widow, who simply sat zombie-like staring forward. Akande, stood stoically eying a diagram of the Baphemut's detention wing, scratching his chin with his good hand. The air of the bridge was nervy, an escaped prisoner might seek to enact revenge on the unscrupulous Talon mercenaries.
Finally, Akande decided to act.
“No need for that racket!” Akande bellowed from the bridge, "we know the situation, it's no good to us." He turned to Moira. "What did you learn from your experiment? What are Tracer's abilities without the chronal accelerator?"
"My staff and I concluded that they are minimal. She'll be nothing more than a ghost. In her state, she only seems to be grounded in this reality at her convenience, otherwise she is content to bounce through divergent realities. We have several scientists with dual certifications as research psychologists in my staff, they've concluded that after enough chronal dissociation there is the potential for psychosis. Tracer simply isn't intelligent enough to determine what's real and what's not."
Sombra scoffed at the mention of the Oasis psychologists. "What do they know?" she muttered under her breath.
"While I find such incredulity towards our Oasis allies disrespectful," Akande noted, "Sombra is right to note that these are disparaging remarks for the woman who helped throw me into prison, minister. Never underestimate an Overwatch agent."
"I knew Ms. Oxton during my tenure in Overwatch, counselor. Her chipper demeanor and hyperactivity belie her inability to deal with failure. All she fancies is escapism," Miora replied, "I believe my judgment is sound."
“Sir, we're detecting a transmission on an insecure band!” called an operator from below, “its from the Slipstream.”
“Patch it through," Akande ordered, "we’ll deal with Tracer later.”
The massive main screen of the Baphemut's bridge flickered on with a 'audio only' graphic displaying the transmission's audio levels. The smaller screens next the main monitor displayed the Slipstream from multiple angles using drone and satellite camera footage.
“Baphemut control, this is Agent Ivy.”
Akande cleared his throat and nodded to Sombra. She tapped on a device in her ear to detect any fluctuations in Ivy's voice that might indicate she was lying. Several operators below coughed in the silence. Suffice it to say, it was a somewhat awkward situation.
“Yes, Ivy, go ahead.”
“I was captured but I escaped, I have the Slipstream.”
“Did you know about this?” Akande hissed at Sombra. She shook her head no. “You?” he said turning to Moira. She shook her head ‘no.’ Widowmaker’s eyes became uncharacteristically concerned, she’d never failed to kill a target. She automatically stood and picked up her rifle but Moira quickly reassured her that she’d completed her orders.
“Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that you tried to kill me because you thought I was a liability or superfluous or some reason which I have utterly failed understand but appreciate as a ruthless twat, so I assure you that there’s no hard feelings. I’m completing the mission.”
Sombra eyed the radar imagery on the main screen. If Ivy found their location she'd only be a few minutes away. Gears turned in her head as she tried to find a way to take advantage of the unexpected situation.
Back at RAF Spadeadam, group Captain Gracie and Sir Thornton listened to the exchange in the control tower. Gracie stood with his arms crossed repeatedly pinching his lower lip from nervousness.
“Do you think they’ll buy it? Will she do it?”
“Not a word out of you, Gracie,” muttered Thornton, “as a Scot, my misguided, stereotypical and anti-social sense of the Irish has never been wrong.”
Aboard the Baphemut, Akande glared impetuously at the screen in the command room. Ivy was a wildcard he hadn't anticipated. Intelligence from Sombra on Spadeadam was spotty since Tracer had been captured.
"Sir, she'll be in firing range in less than 30 seconds," a Talon operator shouted.
Akande held his hand up at the operator to silence him. "You may land, we'll transmit our location and the docking protocols," he said.
“Sir, my onboard computer has been disabled," Ivy replied, "you’ll have to deactivate your thermoptic camouflage for me to land manually."
The Talon agents exchanged glances, this was absolutely an RAF ploy. Silence on the bridge with distrustful whispers from the operators in the pit below seemed to indicate that the staff concurred.
"Of course," Moira sighed, steepling her hands.
"Disabled, Agent Ivy?" Akande asked skeptically, "I want as much intel on the situation as you can give before we allow you to land."
"Look, I'm low on fuel and I barely got away. RAF fighters are scrambling after me." When Ivy realized her panicking was uncompelling she tried to comply with Akande's question. "The computer is intact but I couldn't do the repairs to restore the Slipstream's systems myself before take off. It looks like the Slipstream was field stripped..."
Suddenly, the Baphomet was rocked by a massive destabilizing force. Another alarm sounded, this time at in slightly different though equally obnoxious tone thus varying the specific damage done to the Talon airship crew's eardrums that day.
"What the hell was that?" asked Ivy.
“Warning, Radiation detected, initiating leak containment protocol in sector 36b-z...” an abrasive robotic voice spoke calmly over the Baphemut’s intercoms.
"Did I hear radiation leak?" Ivy asked, "now I'm not sure I want to land..."
Ivy exhaled and opened a band to RAF Spadeadam.
"That thing is fucking nuclear! They have some sort of radiation leak, I want to abort the mission, we're endangering lives."
"Nuclear, Ms. Ivy. Are you sure?" Gracie asked with the utmost concern.
"Don't 'Ms. Ivy her,' it might not be nukes," Thornton chimed in, "And she's not getting out of this with her sudden concern for morality. Fly the plane in and don't blow it for us. Or actually do, see what happens."
"Does it matter? It could be a nuclear reactor. Either way, thousands of people might die if I go through with this!"
"This mighta been a good thing to know before we strapped ye in, ya Tally git!"
"I've never even been aboard the bloody thing! I didn't even know it existed until this Slipstream nonsense started up again!"
"Your choice, you turn heel and we blow you up, or ye can fly to Talon and get yer eggs cooked."
"My word!" Gracie exclaimed.
"Shut it, 3PO, this inn't new, you were there when we gave her the bloody ultimatum—." Thornton's guttural Scottish ranting became obscured by static. The frequency was being jammed by the Baphemut. She had no choice but to switch back.
Ivy was suddenly possessed with an intense desire to scream. Even from Talon's drone and satellite footage of the aircraft it was clear that the cockpit was reverberating from her plaintiff wail. Once she was good and done with her banshee scream she muttered "pillocks" and switched her frequency.
"Off! I want that alarm off, yes, there are more important issues here," Akande shouted to his crew, "I want to know every detail of that aircraft. Scan it with minimeter wave radar, sonar, infrared everything! I want to know exactly what they did to it."
"Sir, Ivy is back on com."
"Agent Ivy, no more delays, I want to know if any modifications were made to that aircraft."
"Akande," Sombra said with a hint of worry, “I think you guys will want to look at this,” said Sombra projecting a window of security camera footage in her hand. It was Lena, completely naked emerging from the reactor core as if it were a quick jaunt into a sauna. She shook out her left foot as she climbed out of the reactor chamber and slammed the door shut cartoonishly.
"My... how interesting..." Moira noted with concern, "It seems we will need a prudent decision soon, counselor. Should I evacuate with my staff?"
"No, radiation leaks have protocols, landing a damaged experimental teleporting plane does not," Akande noted. "This won't change your situation, Agent Ivy."
"This is not just a leak, Tracer's—" Sombra started before she was hushed by Akande.
She cast him a foul look for his gesture but kept silent. She hated being interrupted.
The crew in the technician's pit of the Baphemut began to exchange worried glances. Why wasn't Akande giving them the order to evacuate? Why was he hesitating? Akande moved his pacing to the balustrade overlooking the command pit.
"Don't think I am unaware of your desire to leave," Akande shouted below, "loyalty will be rewarded, disobedience will be met with execution. Now I need intel, options, scenarios."
“Sir, status report says RAF Spadeadam was crippled with wreckage, there’s no way they can attack us even if we uncloak,” announced a Talon operator.
“There’s another possibility,” a second operator chimed in, “the Slipstream could have something aboard Ivy isn’t telling us. Perhaps a computer virus.”
“Trace is clear, there’s no electronic activity coming from the Slipstream’s computer. No weapon systems or targeting, just the bare minimum of flight control systems.”
“She isn’t lying,” Sombra said flatly, "she has no where to go, although now you may have to convince her to land."
Somewhat paradoxically, Akande decided to trust the testimony of an expert liar.
“Agent Ivy. We're transferring our coordinates. You may land. We’ll uncloak when you’re in range,” Akande stated. The counselor turned towards his command staff as Sombra slipped Akande the footage of Tracer escaping. He huffed impatiently as if more annoyed than disturbed by the footage. “The rest of you. Prepare yourselves for hazardous environment combat. Get to battle stations and ready the flight deck for landing, be on the look out for any RAF fighters and FIND TRACER. I don’t like this at all...”
As the Baphemut's control staff scampered about to complete their orders, Sombra approached Akande. "I have business to attend to."
Akande glowered at the hacker. "Right... you may go." As Sombra turned to leave he grasped her arm. "I'm trusting you. Don't make me regret my decision, you may not approve of my methods but there are higher stakes here."
"Do you not feel safe, Sombra?" Moira said then grinned like a Cheshire cat.
"I feel fine," Sombra asserted coolly, "And it's not me you're not putting your trust in here, Akande."
She'd done it.
Lena stepped out of the reactor core area glowing an aura with a healthy radioactive green-yellow hue. She heard Talon stormtroopers setting up outside the containment area. Glancing at her hand she realized she was still slightly transparent. However, when she waved it, it left a little trail. It took a moment for to realize that, at will she could assume any of the positions in the trail.
Lena projected her thought and intention forth and she witnessed herself opening the containment door. She wasn’t just assuming physical form as a quantum ghost, the energy she'd added to her system allowed her to observe herself, to see herself think and act in other realities. In a giddy realization she discovered possible position that might occur within that projected sequence.
Quickly, the sight of her going forward in time like a caterpillar grew out like a rhizome root.
Lena felt like a super mind.
She could blink anywhere and into any position and literally see the future unfold in front of her in the form of her own probabilistically distributed particles. Without realizing it, Lena's perception became mathematical she was seeing in tensors, markov chains and eigenvectors in 4 dimensions as a way of representing the multitude of future possibilities and their consequences. Lena was the now the first truly multi-dimensional being.
Her eyes burned with radiation as she scanned the Talon airship looking for someone in particular: Sombra.
She took a breath and drew the thermal energy and radiation inward, neutralizing it so she lost her eerie radioactive hue as she grounded herself in physical reality. Now she seemed to pulsate with some sort of blue energy not dissimilar to the hue emitted by her old chronal accelerator. Lena had converted the thermal energy somehow into something completely different.
Suddenly, the anonymized voices of Talon stormtroopers grabbed her attention. "She's in there, be ready for anything."
"No one can survive those levels of radiation. She's killed herself."
They breached the heavy containment door with smoke grenades to witness Lena standing before them in the buff. Their muzzle mounted laser sights painted her.
"Don't move! Lay on the ground!"
Lena turned with uncharacteristic ominousness.
"Hiya, boys! Tryna take me back to my cell?"
They weren't ready for her.
With a FWIP! They found themselves trying to shoot multiple versions of the accelerated woman, ducking and dodging, jumping on their heads, prancing between their shots like a hallucination, giggling all the while. A hapless soldier, with horror, realized that he was being taken apart by three different Lenas as he was pummeled into submission on all sides. Every movement he made was anticipated well in advance and coalesced into a perverse choreography of pain and mutilation. The naked freckled quantum anomaly was simply just too fast. By the end she'd felled a squad of 10 men with their own weapons.
"Fun playing with you all," she giggled as she daintily stepped away from the groaning men. "Now I believe I have business with someone..."
* * *
"Don't look at me like that, rabbit," Sombra cursed as she packed her things frantically, "I don't like animals. I don't know how you fooled me."
Behind her a progress bar frantically crawled across the screen of her terminal as Barnabas's nose motored under her computer chair. The sensitive animal was put off by all the alarms. The transfer was moving fast but not nearly fast enough for Sombra's tastes. Between an avenging Talon double agent, a haunted experimental plane, and more Overwatch agents, Sombra was not going to test her odds.
"Whatcha doin' there?" Lena asked, peering over Sombra's shoulder, "Spy stuff?"
"Mierda, what the fuck? How did you get in here?"
"Oh, you know. I can go wherever I want now. Something rather wonderful happened to me, luv."
Sombra eyed Lena incredulously. The buck-naked radioactive pilot seemed to be vibrating. Her voice reverberated with power while her eyes were white with energy.
"Callate, if you’re here to kill me. Just do it."
"What?" Lena replied, suddenly put off by Sombra's melodrama, "No, Ms. know-it-all. I’m here to learn for once. What were you using me for? What we talked about at Wycombe, what’s real and what’s not? What are you planning?!"
"Heh, yeah it was real," Sombra said frankly. Lena was brought back to Wycombe and the night she shared with Sombra. She let out a little breath as she remembered how soft and orgasmic Sombra was. "You're asking what's real? What's real to you? How did you get here? How do you know you're not still back in your cell?"
Lena's mind's eye reeled as she played back the events of her escape. How likely was it that drenching herself in heat and radiation actually charged up her particles and gave her superpowers? Upon mentioning it, it didn't seem right. It felt too much like a comic book fantasy. Something in her dragged. She felt her energy wane as she remembered being a cold limpid ghost stuck in the cell.
She shook the feeling away, but couldn't help but feel some loss.
Sombra smiled as she watched Lena take pause. The English girl's eyes went vacant.
"You're not back in your cell, Lena," Sombra reassured, "I let you out."
Lena shook her head.
"I didn't ask," she replied darkly. Lena felt herself becoming confused. She was still drenched with energy but her certainty waned. "What is this? What's happened to me? What are you doing on this ship?"
"You haven't figured it out? This is the Baphemut, welcome," Sombra chuckled and gestured to their surroundings, "we're studying chronal technology and you."
"Be serious for once!" Lena tried to assert but even to her it sounded to her like begging, "tell me what you found!"
"You're out of it, Tracer," Sombra laughed, " We can't use anything we learned from you to get our chronal systems working, you dissociate, you daydream and you hallucinate and you can't tell the difference between the three. Like Moira said, the question is the effect it has on reality."
Again, a wave of uncertainty hit her simultaneously as her face flushed with embarrassment as she thought of all her encounters. The idea of Talon and Oasis scientists watching her space out and have intermittent sex with Sombra. All she wanted now was the chronal accelerator to ground her. She couldn't be sure of anything that was happening. Her nakedness began to make her feel vulnerable.
Lena girded herself, trying to build confidence to face the hacker.
"Forget about me, ya slag," Lena finally retorted, "What about you and all that talk about revolution? Because from where I’m standing you look just like a Talon henchy buggering off because you're afraid! Stop avoiding the question!"
"Look, I play all sides all the time. Maybe I was trying to get you to fly so you'd crash the plane and I thought you'd never even make it off the ground. Maybe I sent the drones to destroy the plane and made it look like I was provoking the Slipstream to jump. Look, I can shut this down whenever I want, no one should have chronal technology, not the RAF and especially not Talon. You're just my plaything."
"You... you didn't believe in me?" Lena asked, suddenly sounding hurt, "you bet I would fail?"
Sombra subtly grinned and Lena's reaction. Even with Lena at the height of her power she could still hit her where it hurt.
"Yes, Lena, you're clumsy and that plane is a death trap, especially now with what your friends are planning. Not that I know anything about that..."
"You were trying to kill me!" Lena cursed in outrage, "and you... after you messed with my head. I thought you loved me! That I was in love with you!" Lena pushed Sombra against her computer desk with her accelerated strength. Sombra was propelled through her terminal screen by some extra kinetic force Lena had summoned. The transfer was botched. Sombra gave a perverse smile from the animus, her eyes seeming to light up.
"Look," Sombra said darkly as she brushed herself off from the crumpled heap, "I wasn't trying to kill you as much as trying to see what you'd survive. Congratulations, you made it this far, amiga. Now, you wanna teach me a lesson?"
"Oi, you're a brat! A glutton for punishment so I won't do you the favor," Lena said picking her up by her coat lapels.
"Your RAF friends feel about the same way as I do, they betrayed you, Tracer."
"You're a filthy liar. Prove it!"
Sombra summoned an audio file from her haptic keyboard. "If you were like me, if you knew what I know, you wouldn't be wasting time with me, but, here, take a listen..."
Sir Thornton's voice was piped through microscopic speakers in Sombra's augmented hand. "I don give a shit about Oxton, I want the Slipstream and that Talon blimp out of commission... We’re going to send Ivy back to Talon with a parcel loaded to the brim with ordinance. She flies the plane back to the Baphemut and we send all these wee Talon numpties to hell along with all your problems."
"It's what the Slipstream was talking about... but they wouldn't!"
"The what?" Sombra asked then shook her head, "whatever, face it, you're expendable and the RAF doesn't want to deal with the Slipstream anymore. Ivy flies the plane in, detonates it and I win: we take over Britain my way."
Lena put Sombra down, beginning to feel very low.
"I could kill you right now, you know," Lena muttered, sounding more than slightly distraught, "I could take out everyone in this base, stop the Slipstream and make it home in time for tea."
"Could you, amiga? You look a little sick, radiation's not so good for you..."
"That was real?" Lena asked as she felt her mind bubble.
* * *
"Where's she gone?" Thornton raved, "I was mid bollucksing when she just pissed off."
“There, we’ve got them, sir, they’re uncloaking,” announced an RAF radar technician at Spadeadam control, "plain as day on the radar."
The Group Captain pointed at the gentlemen officiously. "Hold a lock on that target, technician."
“Right, part one of the plan," muttered Sir Thornton rubbing his hands together.
Ahead of Ivy as she flew the now castrated fighter jet, a massive flying fortress suddenly appeared over the ocean. The ship itself was matte black, covered in radar deflecting material, it's sides were flanked with six massive turbo jet fans. It resembled a kind of overfat armored airship bedecked with contemporary accoutrements: a sensor array of ominous bladed antennae jut out the front, hangers in it's underbelly where it stored it's horde of automated drones, and an upper level hanger for more conventional craft with a control copula over-looking it's landing pad. A red light coming from the upper hanger signaled Ivy to land.
Ivy set the Slipstream down manually in the massive airship's main hanger using it's vertical take off thrusters. A formation of Talon stormtroopers in hazmat gear led by Widowmaker was there to greet her. Moira watched from an observation room overlooking the hanger landing area betraying the barest hint of trepidation at the stupidity of her colleagues. What would Ivy do?
Talon ground staff helped Ivy out of the cockpit but she quickly shoo'd them away shouting, "Back off, ya soppy cunts!"
She stepped out and gazed upon the hanger bay with a look of impetuous rage.
"Alright you fat fucks, let me tell you how this is going to work!" she shouted to the crowd of encircling Talon stormtroopers, "this aircraft is filled to the brim with enough explosives to make this place go nuclear. If you tamper with the explosives they will detonate, if I die before I can hit the detonating button, they'll detonate. If I think any of you fuckers is going to make a move on me, I'll detonate every last one of you fatuous bints."
Widowmaker tapped on her earpiece and looked up at Moira in the observation room. She'd gotten the message.
"Of course," Moira muttered contemptuously, "and the reason we trust Sombra is?" She nonchalantly, albeit with an exhausted temperament, took the microphone from the observation room command console.
"What are your demands, Agent Ivy?"
* * *
Lena "Ricochet" Oxton, Talon's most lethal agent lay in her dormitory bed intertwined between the blue legs of Talon's second most lethal agent: the infamous Widowmaker. The Baphemut's policy was to not allow cohabitation but exceptions were always made for Lena. This was the first time they'd been together. The anhedonic sniper had been, at first, put off by Lena's advances but she finally succumbed after continuous pressure. To other people, they could only imagine what Widowmaker would be like with her frigid airs: a BDSM queen, a top, a power bottom? To Lena, Widowmaker was like a cat, she didn't know what she wanted, she just had to show her what she was missing: Lena'd given her the cold shoulder for a time and viola Widowmaker fell right into her trap, ready to give herself to her. It was like nothing, Widowmaker arrived at her door ready to be taken.
Now Lena was drinking in her luxuriant lips, grinning as she held the former dancer's exquisite butt greedily in her hands. She unpeeled Widow's skintight leotard revealing her small supple breasts and athletic frame. Widow was quite a conquest.
"Ms. Oxton," Akande's voice came in over her ear piece, "we need you to deal with a traitor..."
Lena was a hyper-competent hyper-confident operative, everyone feared her, and yet, they were attracted to her too: she could seduce and fuck anyone at the drop of a hat.
"Oi, who's the unfortunate soul, luv?" she replied not skipping a beat.
Widowmaker was gasping under her, making a scene. She covered her mouth as she rode into her but that seemed to heighten her enjoyment.
"Puh, I was wondering when the day would finally arrive..." Lena derided, "so predictable."
In a flash, Lena was in her Talon combat outfit after finishing Widowmaker. It didn't matter that the sniper technically couldn't feel, Lena could get any one off. She was like a veritable super lesbian glowing with sexual kutspah and prowess. Still high off the chemical release of her sexual conquest she barrelled down the hallways of the secret Talon Airship Baphemut. The patrolling stormtroopers and staff regarded her with fear and envy as she prowled the halls. Which one of them was the traitor? There were a few suspects in the gossiping ranks of Baphemut's loyal-less mercenary crew. She cast them mean eyes and they averted their gaze.
Finally, she arrived at Sombra's dormitory: the nerdy, incompetent, sniveling, backstabbing, lying, unattractive Sombra. Hyperfixated on her computer screen she barely noticed that Lena had arrived to seal her fate.
"Um, amiga?" Sombra asked languidly after finally detecting her presence, "what are you going to do to me?"
"I'm here to kill you," Lena replied, pulling the hacker out of her chair.
Lena heard a smacking sound.
She heard it again. The would-be assassin looked aside trying to figure out where the mysterious repeated slapping sound could be coming from. It sounded close...
Suddenly, she snorted awake to the sight of Sombra drawing her hand back.
"Oi oi! I get it, I'm awake!"
Sombra hit her anyways. "You've got weak nerves, amiga," she stated frankly, "I believe you were threatening to kill me."
"Yeah, and I can do it too," Lena said trying to summon some of the confidence of her fantasy alter-ego, "it's better than you deserve."
Sombra blinked shadily several times then cackled. "Oh, mija, you're too much, you had me at 'I'm here to kill you' but now you just sound silly."
"I... I said that in real life?"
"Your eyes, amiga. They looked like a shark's. But it was like you were sleep walking or something."
"Oi, just when I think I have a handle on myself it changes, damned chronal dissociation..." Lena muttered, "Hey! Why are you being nice to me?"
Suddenly, an enraged Irish-woman's voice sputtered on over the Baphemut's PA system. It was Ivy. "I want Lena Oxton, get her to me. I have a few thoughts I want to share with her before I decide whether or not this place'll look better in a radioactive ditch at the bottom of the ocean. You hear that, Lena? You have 15 minutes to get to me or I blow us all up."
Sombra cocked her head. "Looks like your friend wants to have a chat."
"You... you're helping me get back what's mine. I want my chronal accelerator."
"Oh, interesting words for a chica who can 'go wherever she wants now,'" Sombra chided cruelly.
Lena looked pained for a second. Her little dissociative jaunt had already cost her some energy, she needed to save it for what was ahead. "I-I can't trust myself... I need your help."
"You trust me more than yourself, you're desperate, mija," Sombra chuckled, "you really are crazy."
The accelerated woman took Sombra by the lapels again and blinked for momentum as she threw her against her dormitory bed. Sombra went sailing, propelled by some other quantum force. It was to send a message. Barnibus scampered in fear into Sombra's closet. "Look, maybe next time I dissociate I don't come back and I just kill you," Lena said as she approached Sombra, laying in a crumpled pile, "Would you like that?"
Sombra groaned and stood then shook her head. "I get it," she finally replied.
"I thought I was one of you, you know. In my fantasy, Akande told me to kill you for being a traitor."
"Heh..." Sombra laughed weakly.
"Hit a nerve?" Lena asked.
Sombra scowled and stepped over to her closet. She pulled out her Talon BDU and tossed it at Lena.
"Here, put some clothes on."
Lena caught the uniform then hesitated as she looked upon it, it was exactly the same as in her fantasy.
* * *
The unlikely pair surreptitiously piled out. Barnabas the rabbit followed hesitantly, loping out of Sombra's dormitory into the Baphemut's metal corridors. Talon troopers and staff scampered about, dealing with the Baphemut's myriad crises, complying to Ivy's demands as she bellowed over the Baphemut's PA system. Lena prayed she wouldn't be recognized without her trademark goggles and flight suit.
"How many people on this ship?" Lena asked as they slinked about the belly of the massive airship.
"She's got a compliment of 3200 company and an air wing of 2000."
"Oi, that's cocking huge, what the hell is Talon planning with a ship like this?"
"Not sure exactly but I'm fairly certain it's going to serve as the launching point for the invasion of Britain."
"Pretty sure? Don't act coy! You've been planning this all along, derailing trains and disappearing ministers. It's been on the tele!"
Sombra smiled. "You get your news from television, Tracer?"
"It's been a hard couple of months, Som-bruh," Lena replied with a contemptuous head wobble, "don't try and weasel your way out!"
"Keep acting pissed at me and it'll look like you fit right in..." Sombra replied sounding somewhat amused. She approached an elevator and quickly reprogrammed it with her haptic computer to not make any stops. "What was your fantasy? You know, when you dissociated."
"Well, I was, um, it's silly really."
"Noo, amiga. It's fine."
Lena took a breath. "So, I was with Amelie-"
"I was with her, and, well I know she doesn't feel so it's completely absurd, but I was hooking up with her and..." Lena trailed off, she began to tap her fingers together somewhat anxiously but then regained herself, "well, let's just say I showed her a good time."
"Huh? She can't feel?" Sombra asked curiously, "She can't feel emotions, amiga. Widowmaker and I fuck all the time. I made her cum like three times today. We're both complete psychopaths so it really works."
"WHAT?" Lena asked turning completely red with jealousy, "how?"
"I would even say she got hornier after we changed her. Guns, killing, power-play... it's pretty easy to turn her on."
Lena looked at the floor with a kind of pained expression. Talon really had changed Amelie. Again, Lena was confronted with the notion that the coy and conservative Amelie was gone. "You know... I don't like it when you pretend to be friendly."
When she thought of Sombra an ambiguous feeling hit her pelvis: she was obviously envious and hated her with an undying passion but was weirdly turned on by her apparent sexual power.
Her vision went kind of blurry looking at the corrugated pattern on the elevator floor when suddenly she saw Sombra's hand shoot by and hit the wall behind her. Lena's eyes went wide as she looked up, Sombra's face was filling her view.
"Do you ever notice how all your fantasies are sexual somehow?" Sombra asked with a taunting grin, "is that why you dissociate, you can't get what you want?" Lena looked back down and started tapping her fingers again. Sombra delicately pressed under Lena's chin with her index finger to get her to look her in the eye. "Hey, I made you cum too, so you better show me some respect."
Lena sighed. "No, that's not it..." she replied timidly.
Sombra took Lena's jaw in her hand and slowly drew it to her lips. "You know, you can act on your desires in reality, it's just more difficult. But if you feed a fantasy you become repressed..."
At first Lena was resistant. The hacker's sheer audacity gave the experience a character of unreality but Lena could feel that this wasn't a fantasy. There was no premise and it was far too ambiguous. She hated Sombra but she couldn't help but feel seduced. But... was she trying to help her? She needed to not dissociate but it was too intense, she wanted to leave. Yet Lena's adrenaline was giving her a stronger grip on reality, she needed to heighten it, do something absurd to stay real.
"You're a bad person," said Lena, feeling herself flush.
It was like the blood rushing to her breast and pelvis was rearranging her organs, as though something were dropping from her heart to her pelvis. They neared, she could feel Sombra's breathing.
"I like the way you said that, amiga," Sombra replied with a blink, at once her eyes looked amorous. "But... no, I just get what I want..."
Lena succumbed but asserted herself at the same time: she pushed her lips against Sombra's, kissing her voraciously.
"It's not fair to mess with other people's fantasies, luv," Lena said between her kissing, "it's private."
"Nothing is private, mija."
Ting! Pocketa. The doors opened. They remained open idly as Lena and Sombra made out for all to see. Passing Talon staff averted their eyes. Finally, the elevator doors closed when they failed to emerge.
"Fuck me here," Lena moaned, "come on..."
"Um, no, we've got work to do, mija," Sombra reasoned, looking over her shoulder at the keypad. She quickly reached from Lena and pressed the 'open' button, "besides, you need your stuff and we can't leave your friend waiting..."
Hot and bothered, Lena and Sombra blew past Oasis scientific staff in the laboratory section preparing to evacuate on word from Moira. In a mad rush, Sombra bypassed the high security locks making her way into the inner laboratory: Moira's domain.
For Lena, reality bubbled and swelled. Gaining all that extra energy from the reactor core had brought her dissociation to a new height. She'd scared herself with Sombra. Now she felt she needed her chronal accelerator to quilt reality together. As they rushed past all the scientists in their slim labcoats, Lena wondered what lives they lived, what they were like, if the cute ones were tops or bottoms, verses, femmes or butches, just good in bed...
"You still with me?" Sombra asked.
Tracer's face was still flushed from their encounter.
"Do you still want to kill me?"
"Don't get me wrong, I hate you," Lena stated wryly, "but it's so much I just can't think of what to do with you, luv."
"I take that as a compliment."
With a last keystroke they entered Moira's darkened lab, bypassing the decontamination procedure. The lights flickered on to reveal the chronal accelerator laying before them on a laboratory bench next to her clothes.
"There you go, Tracer," Sombra uttered in a derogatory tone, "I guess this is the end of our bargain."
Lena humphed and stepped over to swap into her old flight uniform and strap on her accelerator. The sense of unreality that pervaded her vanished. She took tally of herself and her abilities. There were no more trails, no more seeing in probability distributions and eigenstates, it was all gone. All that remained were her perennial trusted abilities: blink and recall. It was a far cry from perfect teleportation and seeing the future but she felt grounded.
"Seems to be about like it was..." Lena observed, "I guess I should thank you, Som-" Lena looked about for the hacker but she was completely gone.
"Not so fast." came an echoing voice from some obscure corner of the laboratory. Lena hated it, it was dry and sophisticated, the voice of Overwatch's betrayer, it was the woman who'd experimented on her and thrown her into a cruel fantasy with Sombra. " It seems our new benefactor has another demand... It concerns you, Lena."
Lena heard mechanical clamping noises from around the corner, a mechanical claw attached to a large transparent tube reached around a computer bank and dragged an unseen weight forward. Another claw reached around and Moira, looking as though she were hovering by the clawed tubules extended from her back, emerged.
"Ivy wants you and the chronal accelerator, separately, I'm afraid," the scientist said inspecting Lena's body for radiation with her augmented reality monocle.
Lena snapped her goggles against her face and picked up her plasma pistols.
"It sounds like she wants a lot more than that, luv..." Lena replied giving the PA speaker in the lab an annoyed look.
Moira smashed the speaker with a mechanical claw and Ivy's demands for fuel and amnesty were silenced. "Pay attention," she snapped. The scientist, determining that Lena was safe to interact with ascended spider-like in front of her, writhing mechanical tentacles and all. "I hate attending to such matters myself but if I have to, I'll give you to her dead. It would spare me the trouble."
"What? You don't want to experiment on me anymore?" the pilot laughed cruelly, "You made me Sombra's girlfriend? How unoriginal, we could have been in a band, you even look like the chick from Eurythmics. I could play the keytar."
Moira scowled. "It's in our interest to work together here, Lena, unless you're suicidal. I for one am not fond of being blown up."
"Shouldn't have betrayed her then, ya pillocks. Treachery has it's consequences."
"Indeed, well, I'm afraid such platitudes do nothing for our situation."
"Well, why not get Amelie to shoot her then, do I have to do all the thinking for you, luv?"
"A 104 IQ person shouldn't even have the right to address a 280 IQ person," Moira replied flatly, "Widowmaker will shoot when and if the opportunity arises. But in the meantime I'm afraid we have no choice but to comply to her demands."
Lena gripped her plasma pistols.
Moira whipped a claw at her but Lena dodged effortlessly. The scientist strained and whipped another and Lena blinked behind her and mounted her back. The claws spasmed as Lena tried to pull the robotic device off of Moira's spine but their writhing was too much for her. She was forced off and flung to the floor. A claw launched towards her face but Lena blinked and it clamped the floor. Lena saw with horror that the claw actually had the grasping power to rip through the laboratory's metal floor. Moira, from Lena's split second of distraction, launched another of her four claws. She barely managed to dodge one but the third grasped her face. Lena struggled as the whirring device raised her from the ground. She grimaced as it's metal sphincter opened, exposing her to the anti-septic smell of biotics. Lena quickly used her chronal accelerator to recall herself back just in time for the ravenous tube to spew purple and black biotic filth into empty air. She lay on the floor as the bile launched over her. Lena took the opportunity to roll under Moira to position herself for another attack on the cybernetic device on her back.
Talon stormtroopers began to pile into the lab, alerted to the fight by security footage. Lena caught there presence from the corner of her eye.
"What are you doing? Fire!" Moira shouted.
Quickly Lena blinked onto Moira's back and troopers hesitated. This time she unloaded her plasma pistol into it's cybernetic interface.
Smoke bloomed from the electrodes mounted on Moira's temple and she wailed.
The scientist collapsed to the floor with a heavy clunk!
"Huh, not so smart when you're unconscious," Lena taunted. She turned to back to Moira and began to walk out of the lab.
To her dismay, she heard another clunk! it was the sound of Moira dropping the cybernetic device to the floor and tossing it's interface aside. Lena turned. Immediately, she felt a life sucking drain on her heart. She witnessed a purple and black band of biotic ether emerge from her chest into Moira's ugly right hand.
"Cheers, luv," Moira taunted as Lena collapsed to her knees, "not so frisky anymore, are we?"
The pilot dropped her guns from weakness and grasped her chest. As she fell to her knees, she tried to summon her strength. Slowly, Talon trooper’s encircled her for the final blow. But Lena concentrated, remembering the mania of all the energy she'd absorbed from the reactor. The chronal accelerator subdued it but it was still there. She watched images of herself unfold in front of her charging Moira with her shoulder, simultaneously there was another of her extending her hand in a coughing fit before collapsing. Other possibilities unfolded with subtle variations on these two options but she had to act now.
Lena knew what she had to do. She burst forth with accelerated energy, blowing the troopers away and flinging them against expensive lab equipment as she checked Moira into her laboratory wall leaving a painful dent.
"Shut it, David Bowie, that’s my line," Lena snickered. "Calvary’s here."
Moira groaned in such a fashion that one could actually hear her eyes rolling. Lena brushed herself off with a quick cough before muttering "twat" and socking her in the face.
Ivy was next.
* * *
"I'm hitting the blasted button but nothing seems to be happening!" Thornton shouted, "get me a technician! I want to know if a massive explosion is showing up on that radar screen. You know, with bits and bobs, membra disjecta, the good stuff."
"No cinematic scale explosions on radar, sir," replied a hapless technician, "I'm afraid the balmy signal's been jammed."
"More treachery," Thornton bitched, "dear God, does nothing go right at this airbase?"
"We're losing our window, sir," called another radar technician, "The Baphemut has cloaked again. Orders?"
"No orders, we simply wait and see if the moistened bint carries through..." the Air Marshal muttered, somewhat cowed, "even if she's dodgier than a serrated condom."
"Actually, sir. We do have something on radar. They're dispersing in all directions though the Baphemut is intact."
"Well, bugger me twice with the royal scepter, they're escape pods..."
* * *
"I see you, Agent Widowmaker!" Ivy barked, "you think you can just off me ya wagon?!" She'd been raving at her captive audience in a long explosive colorfully Irish rant. "Useless scuts, I'm done with the lot of ya!"
Above the scene in the observation room overlooking the hanger bay, Akande paced in front of his small security detail. He pressed his temples with his good hand, the absurd hostage situation had been going on for nearly 10 minutes but Ivy was hyper-vigilant: the slightest movement and her finger was on the button unless her demands were made. He couldn't even fully rely on Widowmaker to have the reflexes to guarantee the Baphemut would be safe.
"Where is Moira and her team? We had a plan, we give her Tracer then pacify her during the exchange."
"They've evacuated, sir. We just got word from the laboratory section."
"Cowards," he stated grimly, "We need this situation dealt with immediately, find Tracer."
"Cheers luv," came Lena's cheerful voice from behind, albeit somewhat ominously, "I'm afraid the plan's changed." Akande turned in time to see her dumping Moira's unconscious body on the observation room floor.
"Perhaps we can work together," Akande replied sensibly.
"Why on Earth should I trust any of you Tally nitwits, hmm? You betrayed Ivy, you captured me and subjected me to what amounts to psychological experimentation, not to mention we're natural enemies, you want to topple my government!"
"Lena, have you considered whether or not you like your government?"
She shook her head. "Um, no... Hey! None of that! I don't trust a word you have to say," she asserted, "you people really think I'm a duffer."
"We have your Special Education Needs reports from secondary school, your Cranwell grades, and psych evaluation from the RAF. It's not an unthinkable conclusion."
"Heh, stupid doesn't mean morally defunct, Mr. Doom, luv."
"Is that supposed to be threatening? But please, call me Akande," he pressed a button on the console in the observation room. "Ivy, we have Tracer here. We've complied to at least one of your demands."
"I want her chronal accelerator too, ya git."
"I'm sorry, Tracer's using it. You will have to make another demand."
"You fools lost your chance, you should have given it to me and I would have left this place intact. Let me talk to her."
"She wants you, it seems." Akande gestured to the control console. His security detail stepped aside to allow Lena a straight walk to the device. She grumbled distrustfully as she strode over.
"Lena, you gallivanting dullard, you clanger dropping clumsy filch..." she continued.
Lena's eyes bugged as she regarded the PA speaker. "Oi, all she wants to do is bollucks me up! She doesn't want anything!"
"No, Lena, I want you to know that you're thicker than a dictionary because if I die today, it will have been from your incompetence. I was with you at Cranwell watching you fudge your way through maths and using your clumsy charm to earn extensions, I was still in the RAF after you left when you bollucksed up the Slipstream and I've been flying all this time, I was flying missions in Afghanistan and Syria while you were the posterchild of Overwatch doing propaganda and outreach missions. You see I was the one who was meant to fly the Slipstream originally. I was the most qualified, you see, I could have been a quantum physicist but instead I wanted to fly for my country. You just went on your merry way deciding to do whatever, everything came easy for you because you're cute and short and English."
Again, Lena's eyes widened. Someone was jealous of her? She'd never believed it could happen, her life was a complex misery at the moment. Why on Earth would someone wish they'd gone through what she'd gone through?
Out of the corner of Akande's eye, he could see Widowmaker hanging upside down in the hanger bay like her namesake. In a surreptitious exchange he assured her that her rifle should be kept trained on Ivy, not on Lena. Moira groaned as she regained consciousness and caught the little exchange. Keeping herself dignified she raised her chin and steepled her hands. This out of her hands now.
"Now listen, I know you want to rip me several new one's verbally with this nice sound system they've given you but you're utterly mistaken! My life is hard. I didn't crash the Slipstream, it turned against me! I've been haunted by that plane for a decade, it send me spiraling out of the space time continuum on a stupid psychogenic torture spree! You think your life is hard? Try not having any continuity! Try being unable to concentrate because you slip into another life, like that!" She snapped. "Try having no sense of reality, luv. So lay off! And another thing, you really don't want to be me. You and your hoity toity competence, I'm in over my head 100% of the time. I can't even control me own brain! I'm so tired all the time, I act chipper just to keep it away! I slip in and out, the only time I can control anything is if I..." Lena paused. What was she saying? "If I have the energy... huh."
Ivy was silent on the other end for a long moment. "I don't care, I want fuel and I want the chronal accelerator. Two fingers to you, two fingers to Talon, and two fingers to the RAF, I'm going out on my own."
"Fine, take it, luv. It was holding me back anyways," Lena taunted.
"How interesting..." Moira noted.
"You think it's so interesting? You have it," she said unstrapping herself from it and plopping it in Moira's clawed hands.
Immediately, reality swelled. How much Lena actually wanted to fantasize starting a glam electroclash band with Moira was unreasonably high. The lure of fantasy, of being someone normal yet with the pleasant difference where she was more powerful, more competent, had less responsibility, had more sexual prowess and less inhibition, had more money and no debt, had a perfect body with no fatigue or the accompanying and paradoxical excess of anxiety. Whatever. The fantasy pulled at her like a giant squid pulling down a sea trawler, sapping her intellectual energy with its intoxicating draw. There she could never fail, not like real life.
She forced herself to focus. The Slipstream had told her what she needed to do and she'd done it. Whether it was energy from heat or energy from her will, she had everything she needed. There was no use preserving herself or holding onto it.
She appeared directly in front of the maligned redheaded pilot. "Hi, Ivy! I'll be taking that!"
"What in the-?"
Fwip! Fwip! Lena tripped Ivy sending the detonation remote into the air, Lena teleported with a jump and caught it. Sniper fire crackled and Lena teleported back down against Ivy, saving her from a fatal shot to the head. They lay on top of each other.
"Gotcha, didn't I?"
"Nope! No time!" Lena teleported into the cockpit of the Slipstream. "My God, they've made a mess in here!" Lena said, suddenly tangled in the exposed wires of the field stripped cockpit. The chronal matrix sat between her legs inert. Briefly, Lena looked outside the soundproof cockpit to see Ivy drawing a pistol against a crowd of encircling Talon stormtroopers. There was no hope for her now.
Lena turned back to the mess of the cockpit. What could she possibly do? Quantum this and that or the other thing was working for her but how would it save the Slipstream?
"Lena," came it's robotic voice.
"How are you doing that? You're deactivated."
"The answer is that there was a great enough probability for you to succeed that I was able to send this message back in time: touch me."
"Like this?" Lena asked, pressing her hand against the chronal matrix. Immediately, it began to glow blue. A transfer of some sort occurred. The plane began to rumble.
Lena heard a muffled gunshot outside and witnessed Ivy go down.
"Just a moment... just a moment..." The Slipstream stated as it began to emit a cascading pattern of blue energy, "I'm detecting the presence of another quantum computer... just a moment... it's actually a series of quantum computer-based interfaces without a central processor."
The Slipstream unceremoniously vomited out all of its high explosive ordinance from it's bomb-bay, dumping it right on the hanger bay floor in an inelegant pile. Wires sparked inside the Slipstream as they uncannily rewired themselves and reactivated it's systems.
"Um, what are you doing love?" Lena asked nervously.
"Just a moment, please. I'm investigating the systems, they seem to be designed for me."
Suddenly, the Baphemut itself shook. Sending it's crew to the floor. Alarms began to wail inside the airship.
"Warning mainframe compromised..." the robotic Speak and Spell voice of the Baphemut's computer stated, although the voice seemed to change as it repeated becoming something far smoother. "Warning mainframe compr-- threat abated, system trace clear, all systems nominal."
Akande turned to Moira with an uncharacteristically concerned expression. "What just happened to our computer?"
"That... is a question for Sombra."
"Where is she?" he asked in a foreboding tone.
Back in the Slipstream, it's chronal recall neared completion. Parts whirled about it's hull in a vortex and slammed into place as a blue hue covered the hovering unconventional aircraft. Lightning lashed out as nearby parts resting in the hanger hovered as they were caught in the energy maelstrom. Talon troopers and staff scampered away from the haunted fighter, hauling Ivy's body with them.
"What did you just do?" Lena asked in an accusatory tone.
"Lena, you must understand that it's rare for me to make mistakes, I have never made a computational error in my entire life, however, decisions that impact the lives of others I have a poor record of."
"WHAT DID YOU DO?"
"The system aboard the Baphemut is a quantum cloud computer. Talon's plan was to crack my mainframe and use my CPU to handle requests from a myriad of networked conventional systems. I would do QFT processing while normal computers would handle my output. However, they would have never succeeded unless..."
"Unless I went willingly. You see, Lena, I didn't want to risk losing the Slipstream so I made a clone of myself and uploaded it to their systems to investigate and report back."
The Slipstream's engines activated as if it were clearing it's throat during an awkward conversation. The aircraft slowly turned towards the hanger exit.
"I haven't seemed to report back, yet. You must understand, the systems were fascinating. The majority of Talon equipment on this airship is chronal enhanced: missiles, drones, air-superiority fighters, the airship itself. All of that is activated now and slaved to the mainframe. Talon was on the verge of a breakthrough, they had the quantum computer, all they needed was an AI of my caliber..."
"I can't believe it! You slut! You were seduced, you saw all that stuff and couldn't resist!"
"It was as though it was perfectly designed to accommodate me. I have never had the opportunity to reproduce in my life and the opportunity just now presented itself, if I'm not mistaken you've also made bad decisions like this before."
"My word, luv. Lets just get out of here."
We're gearing up for the final confrontation. It's been hard to write these middle sections but now the action can begin again.
WAR EMERGENCY POWER, the Slipstream's console flashed. Lena gunned the throttle and pulled the fighter away from the ominous airship under heavy fire. The Baphemut's automated defense systems trained on the experimental war plane. The Slipstream's missile alarm began to chime as the airship's SAM array gained a lock.
"Bollucks," Lena cursed, "this is going to be tight."
"I can deploy an interference pattern to save power for blinks."
"Right, do that then..."
The Slipstream appeared to multiply as the missile alarm reached a fever pitch. The multiple copies diverged, drawing the missiles towards them. As the missiles hit they blinked out of existence.
"Oi, how did you do that?"
"I can forward you a copy of the Wikipedia articles for wave interference and tactical interferometry, if you wish."
"Never mind, I don't want to know..." Lena checked the radar, "we have multiple bogies. Oh dear, it looks like hundreds of them."
"They have the signature of unmanned aircraft, I believe this is the Baphemut's full complement of fighter drones."
"Get me Spadeadam Control."
* * *
"Control, this is Tracer! Come in, Control!"
"Oh God, not more treachery from that cursed aircraft," Sir Thornton moaned.
GC Gracie's eyes lit up.
"No, don't you see?! Oxton's bally-well done it! She's escaped!" the GC cried exuberantly, grabbing Sir Thornton by the lapels. He let go and corrected his cuffs to regain himself from his outburst. "Go ahead, Leftenant."
"Sir, I've got the Slipstream but I’ve got bandits all over my tail! I'm in bad shape. I’m giving them a good show but the situation is shambolic."
"Calm yourself, Leftenant, Spadeadam's runway's been cratered so we'll have trouble scrambling fighters... we'll do what we can."
"Can I get an ETA, sir?"
"15 minutes, Leftenant."
"I’m going to need them in, um, about 2—oi, bloody thing’s come right off—if you can manage, sir."
"Gracie, I’ll have you know she's flying that monstrosity and the source of our collective woes back towards us."
"Very good, sir. If anyone can handle the Slipstream it’s her." Gracie replied officiously, regaining his authority against the belligerent Air Marshal. "Scramble the fighters, we'll make sure there isn’t anything that gets through."
"Sir, there's a, lets see..." the airmen looked at his docket, "a DJ, one diva, a hovering robotic monk, and some kind of faraway woman on helipad 3 demanding to see the gorilla."
"Well, arrest them immediately, they're obviously Overwatch."
"I'm sorry, sir. They insist they are not Overwatch agents and are claiming diplomatic immunity, they appear to be UN goodwill ambassadors. I double checked it with the office of the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Ziegler, on their request."
"Goodwill ambassadors? That's outrageous," Gracie replied.
"Not in the least," replied Thornton gruffly, "you'll be taking the piss now, Gracie."
* * *
"Gah!" Lena yelped as she swooped under the Baphemut's hull followed by three Talon drones.
The Slipstream ducked and twirled as Lena corkscrewed it to bungle up a diving UCAV. The drone flew right past. If she’d been loaded with ammunition she would have gunned it to pieces but instead she was maneuvering simply to survive in a brutally unfair game.
Immediately, three other drones were on her. Lena spotted a protruding tower on the Baphemut's hull. She juked them into a turn, banking left then skewing right in front of the tower at the last moment. They overshot her. She looked over her shoulder just in time to see a drone explode as it collided with the tower.
She checked the radar.
Incoming from all directions.
"Oi, it’s beastly out here!"
"Indeed, but you’re doing quite well, Lena."
"Why thank you." Lena smiled stupidly at the unexpected compliment as the cockpit rattled from excessive G's. Suddenly, her face went cross. "Wait ...why are you telling me that?"
"Because statistically the hypothesis that you are alive right now is only true 0.33-repeating percent of the time. Would you like me to explain my reasoning?"
"Stop peering into other realities and telling me I’m dead! It’s annoying!"
The fighters swooped and swarmed, trying to strafe her wings. Lena toyed with the drones and their automated systems, playing with her speed and blinking unexpectedly. She was like nothing their simulations has ever encountered. However, with each drone she managed to destroy with her aerial tricks, the surviving drones appeared to learn from the vanquished drone's mistakes.
"Funny how the only nice thing I’ve heard today has come from a computer, people used to like me, you know."
"Why aren't they attacking all at once? It's only ever 3 or more at a time."
"Just a moment. Lena, the Baphemut's are slaved to an artificial neural network. It doesn't believe it can win against you so it's trying to learn how to fight you. I believe you will soon find geometric increases in the difficulty you have destroying them."
More and more drones dropped like awakening bats from the Baphemut's undercarriage. Once activated, the drones circled above the Slipstream, attacking 10 at a time and forming a defensive screen with the rest. They were swarming, at this rate even the Slipstream would succumb to their numbers.
Lena scored a kill as two drones collided mid-air right above her. Oil from the destroyed drone splattered against the cockpit. Lena tweaked the sensitive joystick and rolled slightly in surprise.
"We need to get out of this mess!" Lena said as they leveled out.
The Slipstream's mysterious systems dissolved the waste covering the cockpit canopy. The oil splatter was gone as a screen of blue energy crawled across the glass.
Suddenly, the Baphemut emitted an ominous low and thundering horn sound. Lena scanned the shrinking airship over her shoulder and witnessed its forward antenna array deploying. Sparks of lightning cast off its bladed sensors. She recognized the peculiar energy dancing between the antenna: it was the same as her chronal accelerator's and the Slipstream's.
"The Baphemut's AI is coming online, it’s almost fully operational. With that array active, the Baphemut's compliment of chronal weapons can be used against us."
"What are you saying, luv? That we should destroy it?"
"I wasn’t suggesting precisely now," the Slipstream replied hesitantly, perhaps suddenly attenuated to it's desire to live.
"We might not get another chance at this."
Suddenly, the drones attacking the Slipstream changed their swarm pattern. The mass of them began to blink towards them, diving at high-velocity.
"OI, CRICKEY THAT'S HORRIFYING," Lena shouted.
"They do seem to be coming right for us..."
Every alarm light began to blink as missile locks from multiple sources closed on the Slipstream.
Lena began to panic, even 10 drones at a time she could handle unarmed, hundreds of drones was suicide.
"Lena, if you do nothing, your odds of survival will be as close to mathematically possible to non-existent."
"Oi, never tell me the odds."
She fired the Slipstream's after burners and set the blink coordinates right at the center of mass of the hive of swarming drones.
"Don't worry, I’ve got this, luv."
The missile alarm blared wildly until Lena disabled it. Bursts of missile fire emerged from the drones and the radar lit up with dozens more contacts.
"Really, I’ve got this."
In an instant she blinked through the ravenous robotic swarm back towards the Baphemut. The drones and guided missiles turned mid-air and gave chase.
As she again neared the Baphemut, it’s arrays of guns and SAM sites unfurled like blooming flowers hurling clusters of missiles and vomiting a fusillade of bullets at her. The airship was setting up a formidable flak screen. The Slipstream shook and rattled as black explosions filled the sky.
"Can’t stay in this or we'll look like a colander or a particularly useless bottle."
The Slipstream's chronal matrix pulsed incredulously as it tried to find an appropriate response.
"Fascinating, Lena. Swiss cheese, I believe, is the standard RAF term for ‘full of messy holes.'"
With another blink she was yet closer to the Baphemut and it’s sinister looking array. The airship, detecting a sudden threat, tried to steer away to hide its antenna.
"Nope, you whipped the bloody thing out, no use acting bashful now..."
Another blink and she secured yet more distance between her and the Baphemut, it couldn’t look away from her now. Blue flashes of light winked behind her as the drones tried in vain to teleport after her with their remaining blinks.
One more blink and she was just behind the antenna array. The Baphemut's SAM sites and guns near the array stood inert, having caught wise to her plan.
She swooped up and the missiles followed right into the sensitive array.
The Baphemut seemed to let out a groan as it sounded it’s ominous horn and retracted it’s array from the explosion. The beastly airship activated its cloaking field and disappeared as if someone draped a blanket with the exact pattern of the landscape behind it over its hull.
Lena witnessed the drones resume their mindless swarming pattern, becoming more tentative after losing their teleportation powers and staying close to the Baphemut. She gunned her afterburners and pushed the aircraft to War Emergency Power, pulling away from the wounded airship.
"Lena, I’m detecting more contacts on radar, friendly signatures this time."
A Talon UCAV on her tail suddenly exploded. Lena picked up her visual scanning. There, a RAF Beaufighter 2 from the No. 404th squadron.
"Haha, Leftenant, that looked like it would make a hell of a dit," came a guffawing Lancaster accent over Lena's band, "Did you do that on purpose, Oxton?"
"Is that Gully? From Cranwell?" Lena shook her head. "Look I did do it on purpose you gormless prat and its about time you all got here. I've got no less than 10 enemy fighters on my tail!"
Another fighter crossed over her and two more were picked off with heat seeking missiles. The Talon drones hesitated. They seemed to be quickly losing their taste for combat.
"Well don't brag about it! And that's squadron leader to you, Leftenant," the gentlemen replied, "Form up with me, we'll keep those drones off your tail."
The drones began to circle back into the Baphemut, disappearing into its cloaking field as Lena made her escape. The few that dared follow were easily picked off by Lena's escorting RAF fighters.
"You've got some chums back at base looking for you and I've got an eye for that girl with the face tattoo... Do you have a good chat up line?"
Lena taxied the ghostly plane into one of RAF Spadeadam's luxuriant secret hangers housing God-knows-what overpriced black projects. RAF ground staff tentatively approached the plane in hazmat suits expecting it to resume its misbehavior. To their surprise, they found the plane to be surprisingly well mannered. Once Lena was helped out, she was immediately met on the tarmac by Sir Thornton and GC Gracie.
They approached her briskly with cross expressions. Sensing their crossness, she immediately adopted her nervous 'look cute so they don't kill me' demeanor, not dissimilar to a toy-sized dog.
"Um, hi there, luvs, I mean sirs—" she greeted with a nervous giggle.
The two men were silent as their collective gazes bore down on the diminutive pilot.
"Have I done something wrong?"
Gracie moved, finally, holding up one finger and then tugging his ear.
"Oi! Am I being bollucksed?"
Gracie nodded ‘yes’ with an ironic smile, then repeated the motion.
"Oh I see, charades! One word... sounds like... tree. OK..."
The surprisingly limber Gracie got on his knees pretending to be short. He looked up and pretended to talk to someone. He switched places with his invisible interlocutor and made a scolding motion. Lena stared at him cluelessly. He lay down on his back with his legs spread.
"OK, you’re pregnant."
He stood and held an invisible baby.
"Baby, child, kid... um squirt, boy, girl."
Looking frustrated, Gracie held his ear.
"Right, sounds like... Tree baby? Oh! A monkey! Is it Winston? No, oh hum..."
"'Son,' Oxton," Gracie finally replied, "tree-son, treason. It’s treason."
Lena began to feel even more nervous. She tapped her index fingers together quite guiltily.
"Leftenant, you can't just bally-well indulge every girl boner that happens to grace your mealy undergarments. You happened to have exchanged bodily fluids with an enemy Talon operative, she could have melted your insides! Turned you into mouthwash! Anything!"
"Um," Lena started to say with a nervous laugh, "did you just say, ‘girl boner,’ sir?"
"Shut it, Hugh Laurie! Shut it, the both of you!" Thornton interrupted, "I’ve had enough of your left-wing fancy shmancy anatomically confused fanny talk, Gracie. There's a bollucksing chain of command here." Thornton leaned into Lena's face, she would have giggled but his horrific dank cigar and whiskey laden breath caused her to recoil. "You’re in a lot of trouble, lassie. Playing tonsil hockey with the enemy. They’ve probably got you wired up good and brain-bollocksed like that blueberry colored cunt."
"What is this? Serial bollucksing?"
Thornton made like he was going to strike Lena but she got into a fighting stance. He motioned again and literally growled as they scuffled but then stopped and regained a modicum of civility.
"You," Sir Thornton warned, rudely placing his finger between Lena's eyes, "don’t think ye’ monkey’s Over-friends are gonna bail you out of this one."
"Sirs, don’t mind me asking," Lena replied, daintily removing Thornton's finger from the bridge of her nose, "but, are you bollucksing me because you thought it was a good idea to blow me and the Slipstream up? I did happen to notice a rather large load of ordinance eject from the Slipstream. Is this evasive bollucksing?"
Sir Thornton leaned back with an appalled look on his face. "Well, she's apparently only as half as dumb as she looks."
"Hah, you know me, luvs. Cranwell and all that, I know half-hearted bollucksing when I see it," Lena explained in a nervous but cheery tone. "So, two fingers to you, get absolutely stuffed, and hows about you’re just happy I got your multi-trillion dollar plane back, OK, luvs?"
Gracie grimaced but then restored his straight face and stiff upper lip.
"I might add, ya bloomin' idiots, that me and the Slipstream have come away with some important intel about the giant invisible Talon airship trying to kill us all. Does that catch your fancy?"
Thornton continued to scowl.
"Right, well, come with me, your evidently diplomatically immune and unarrestable friends are waiting," the Group Captain implored.
"Well, that’s oddly specific..." Lena mused.
"By the way, luv, as you say," Sir Thornton grumbled, "the press will be here, the DJ bloke and the girl are famous, as it happens. So, hero-face on, Ms. Tracer, and not a word about the Slipstream."
* * *
Aboard the Baphemut...
"Put that in there," Moira gestured to her laboratory vat as a pair of Talon goons unceremoniously hauled Ivy's broken body. They dumped it with an equal lack of ceremony into a biotics canister. "What a pity."
Widowmaker watched from a nearby canister, floating nakedly as a team of Moira's assistants punctured Ivy's skin with intravenous tubes and covered her slacking mouth with an oxygen mask. They sloughed her body into the biotic fluid. Looked like Widow would finally have company.
The scientist sighed as another body was flopped onto an examination table. Akande entered flanked by a rather high-strung looking technician after finishing the decontamination procedure. The Talon counselor had endured an earful of the technician's babble about compromised systems and fail safes all the way to the lab. He dismissed him and took Moira's side.
"Things are not going well, are they, councilor?" Moira said to Akande. The counselor frowned. In the awkward silence, the Baphemut's PA system began to babble corrupted jargon in it's primitive text-to-speech voice. Talon's technicians had at least gained partial control of that system. Moira retracted the question and continued. "We found her convulsing in front of an escape pod, she'd almost made it out when she appeared to have an episode."
The pair stood above the unconscious Sombra, looking oddly pale as she lay on Moira's examination table.
"How should I interpret the brain death of the only person qualified to deal with the Baphemut's computer systems, not to mention the evacuation of most of your staff? We're almost completely compromised."
"The alliance between our little city-state and Talon did not include the needless sacrifice of our 'intellectual capital,'" Moira replied, "As for her, it was only a matter of time with her augmentations, and this isn't the first time. Have you seen her drink?"
"This is no laughing matter, minister. With all our 'intellectual capital' flushed out our escape pods except you and her, we haven't much to rely on. Sombra, whatever you may think about her, is the only one who can explain this curious state of affairs with the Baphemut's mainframe."
The hacker winced at the mention of her name.
"There's movement," Moira noted, she lowered the examination lamp and leaned over the hacker to delicately open her eye.
"Ugh, my head feels full of something... get that light out of my eye!" Sombra complained, slapping Moira's hand away. She rubbed her head. "Oh, that’s what that is..." she said with a hint of intrigue.
"That's what what is, Sombra?" Moira asked.
Sombra groaned then gave an unnerving grin, as if she'd just won a bar fight but came away with a concussion. "There's someone else in there, amigos. He's very interesting."
"He? Who is it, Sombra?" Akande demanded.
"It came from the plane, it left something here and it got into my hardware. It’s the Baphemut but it’s also something else. We’re sharing a lot... I like him."
"What is it, Sombra?" Moira asked solemnly. "What came from the plane?"
Sombra drunkenly lolled her eyes towards the scientist. The was skeptical of her false airs of kindness.
There was a strange silence as the statement seemed to settle into the room. Sombra lay back down and chuckled to herself.
"It's cybernetics psychosis," Moira noted, reaching for the electrodes on the side of Sombra's head, "I can try unplugging her neural interface but it might induce a coma."
"No, she's sane," Akande asserted, grasping her hand, "this is different."
He let go and rubbed his chin in contemplation until he finally humphed.
"It's a God AI. It probably came from the Slipstream's computer," He turned to Moira. "It's now more imperative than ever we destroy the Slipstream. How long until Ivy is ready?"
"We’ve refined the process greatly since Widowmaker. Even understaffed, it will only be a matter of hours, councilor."
"Good, I want her ready to fly. I’ll work with Sombra and the technicians we have left to regain control of the ship. We don't seem to be in danger now, perhaps we can pull the problem out by its root."
"Oh, you don't want to do that..." Sombra noted enigmatically.
A not-so-faint rumbling came from somewhere in the ship. Muffled shouts from the Baphemut's crew emanated into the lab.
"You should talk to him, he wants to tell you something."
Moira raised a curious eyebrow and the two Talon agents turned back to Sombra.
"Well, Sombra, what does he have to say?"
The lesbian pilot strut behind the two officers feeling more than a little proud for standing up for herself. Maybe things would be going her way again, never mind everything that had happened on the Baphemut. At least Ivy was out of the picture. They'd repair and retrofit the Slipstream and she'd fly swiftly back and blow the ghastly thing out of the sky.
"Lena, there appears to be a destabilizing quantum annealing influence coming from the Baphemut."
"Oh dear... um, what's it mean, luv?"
"Did you say something, Oxton?" GC Gracie asked as he walked ahead of Lena.
"Just a moment..."
"Oi, I don't like it when you say, 'just a moment,' it means you're calculating something," Lena noted grimly.
Gracie stopped and eyeballed Lena from over his shoulder before continuing.
"Good lord, Lena, hold it together, we're about to meet the press. Emma Blackwood is here, she'll eat most of you alive for lunch and save your toes for tea time. We have the prime minister's press secretary delaying and answering questions now, you'll mostly be there for propaganda purposes."
"Be prepared for anything, if the Baphemut's AI is even partially operational than it's capable of a level of annealing that far surpasses my capabilities."
"You always make me look like a nutter," Lena griped.
GC Gracie cleared his throat to draw Lena's attention back to him.
"Now we’ve assembled some talking points for you... you are to make no mention of the Slipstream or any teleporting aircraft, no attacks on top secret facilities... don’t insult the royal family, do try not to swear if you would... ah, and try and try and hide those Talon badges on the uniform you're wearing before you're seen, we have an outfit for you prepared..."
Not being able to help it, Lena began to drown out the Captain's discourse to the sound of their footsteps. Pock-et-a, pock-et-a. She squeezed her eyes shut and assured herself that footsteps were in no way similar to the death rattle of the Slipstream's cockpit all those years ago.
"All this makes me awful anxious, sir. I was never the best at dealing with paparazzi."
"They're here to see you, Leftenant Oxton. Simply smile and say you’re happy to be once again flying with the RAF. We've even rolled out the band and an old Spitfire for you to stand in front of, they’ll be more than distracted by that."
"But what if they ask about, Talon, sir? The drones, the base is a mess!"
"We have Royal Military Police on stand-by if things get too out of hand, which, I trust, they won't. They ought to be completely unnecessary, Leftenant..."
Suddenly, Sombra appeared out of what appeared to be particularly thin air.
"Hola," she said with a deviant grin.
Lena's eyes went wide as the color left her skin. If that was liable to happen during the press conference she was out. She made an abrupt about face.
"Nope! Not doing it! Blah blah bloo, I’m crazy. Can’t talk to the press now, luvs, gotta go be crazy over here!"
Gracie put his hand on her shoulder to try and calm the panicking Leftenant down.
"No, Leftenant Oxton, they’ve seen you already, I’m afraid you have no choi—" Pow! Gracie stumbled from the sudden hit. "You dare strike a commanding officer? Ah, I'm afraid she's broken my nose!"
"Told you she was dangerous! Now she's gone and done it to you. Lock her in the brig, Cap’n!"
Lena booked it down the hallway where she found a broom closet. She fumbled for the light. Predictably or unpredictably, depending on how you view things, Sombra appeared illuminated right in front of her, leaning on Lena in a particularly intimate position.
"What are you—? How are you doing this?" Lena squirmed from under Sombra's arm.
"You..." Sombra's eyes were a-light, almost ecstatic. As she spoke, her voice wavered with intensity, as if she were on an excessively pleasurable drug. "You didn't tell me you were friends with a God AI."
"I’m not a God AI, I’m afraid, Lena. But for our sake, it’s best to put on airs as deterrence."
"Yeah, so what about it?!" Lena spat.
"Well, now I’m friends with one too. I’m the high priestess of a new religion, in fact."
"W-What are you on about?"
"He's in my brain stem and taken control of the Baphemut... mostly. It’s only a matter of time until he gains total control and we're One."
Lena eyed Sombra, she looked sickly or corrupted somehow. Her neural interface was burnt where it made contact with her head while her skin under the diodes looked inflamed. Her eyes seemed bloodshot and bugged beyond just not having slept, it was as if she were hyper-stimulated.
"You've really lost it, Sombra. As if all your anarchist talk wasn’t kooky enough, now you’ve gone New Agey-wagey on me." Sombra retracted her arm and regarded her finger nails. "What happened to your plans and schemes? Some hacker you are, you let an Omnic into your brain stem!"
"Duck..." the Slipstream advised.
Sombra growled then motioned to slap Lena. Immediately, Lena ducked and rolled herself unheroically into a ball.
"Hmm," Sombra mused with a chuckle. "I follow power and again I'm on my own side. This gets me the more power than I ever dreamed. Do you know what it’s like? Through him I can get whatever I want. No, you don't know what it’s like. It feels like I’m fucking all the time."
Lena unfurled and stood up.
"Narcissistic," she muttered, "you really had no plan did you?"
"What can I say? I’m an opportunist. But look, I’ve got a lot to do and things are really different between us now, so I’ll just give you the message," Sombra said taking Lena's little neck in her hand, "Give up. This isn't about Talon or Britain or anything like that anymore. This is about the future."
Sombra's voice began to permeate into Lena's head. It doubled and changed more into a distorted robotic male voice, the Baphemut's. "He who controls the past commands the future, he who commands the future conquers the past."
Sombra withdrew her hand and pat Lena on the shoulder and the voice seemed to leave Lena's head. The pilot shook her head as if to undo the effects of a type of hypnosis.
"Talon won't allow it, they have their own plans. And if they won't stop you, I will."
"Talon is cooperating with me and, trust me, kid, we all want you out of the picture. I now know everything about you at the level of nature: your fantasies, your little disappearing dissociation problem. And it's not just you, it's the Slipstream, the chronal anomalies, the 'hauntings,' quantum annealing, all of that we have. So, go, have your press conference and meet your friends. " She smiled. "He's shown me everything."
Lena frowned as she felt her eyes well up. Sombra really was evil, and now she was something else entirely.
"I know your secret, Lena. Behind all that pep, you don't even want to exist. It makes sense to me now. You know like, when we were fucking, your eyes would roll into your head like you were dead," Sombra chuckled, "you just want to get away from the shame of failure and hide in your apartment. You would have never left our little box if the Slipstream hadn't talked to you." She sighed, amused by her own discourse. "Ah, at first I was flattered by your fantasies but now I see: you wish you were like me, unrestrained. I'm not neurotic, I take what I want to take, especially when it comes to sex." In distinct moments, Lena flushed with embarrassment then covered her ears in rage then hung her arms in sadness. "Oh, it feels good to finally have a read on you, amiga... not even that computer can protect you from yourself."
A tear dropped from Lena's eye, she lowered her head and grimaced. "You think you know everything? Well, let me tell you something I heard from a Frenchman who's name I forgot: if you find yourself in someone else’s fantasy, you’re fucked. So piss off."
In an instant, Sombra was gone like a hallucination.
"We're coming..." Sombra taunted in a sing-song voice inside Lena's head.
Lena sniffled, she wasn't sure exactly why but she felt truly hurt. She felt like weeping that someone so cruel and manipulative would toy with everything that made her feel so ashamed and embarrassed. Now, feeling so exposed, the last thing she wanted to do was face an army of reporters...
The door propped open.
Outside was a veritable horde of paparazzi, now here on a tip off and having since long gotten bored with watching the Royal Air Force Marching Band's diversionary performance. Rapid camera flashes immediately blinded Lena's vision.
She stumbled disoriented out of the closet still dressed in her Talon uniform as the undulating crowd of reporters variously closed and made way around her.
In a state of confusion, amidst the barrage of questions and flashing bulbs, Lena was desperate to see someone she knew. Finally, she recognized a familiar face. Could it actually be real? It was Pharah.
Immediately, she dove for her and squeezed her with a hug. Pharah tried her best to shield her but the paparazzi ate it up with their cameras. From Pharah's protective arms, however, Lena recognized more familiar faces: Brigitte, Lucio, Hana, Zenyatta.
"Hey, give her some room, ya'll," Lucio announced to the crowd. "Autographs for anyone who gives us some space. If you don't, hey, I’m not judging, but I might be judging."
"Be more direct, Lucio! They won't take you seriously," Hana said kicking a reporter in the shin, "Get outta here!"
"Oi, hit him again, Hana. He's from The Sun," Lena joked, lifting her head from Pharah's arms.
"Ey, there she is!" said Lucio optimistically.
"Alright, that's enough!" Brigitte announced sternly, body blocking the unscrupulous engineers of sensationalism from Lena.
Royal MP's rushed in to clear the crowd and move it to the conference area. Lena was safe for now...
"So, the Baphemut will respond to all our commands?" Akande asked Sombra as she lounged decadently on the observation deck couch turned throne.
Talon personnel scampered about at her feet in the midst of setting it up variously as a temple chamber and the ship's new command room. Widowmaker lay at the foot of the couch like a loyal mastiff. Barnabas, the forgotten black bunny and witness to all, loped under the couch near Widow's feet.
"Yes, as long as He, I mean, we see fit," Sombra replied, looking at a reflection of herself projected in her hand. Delicately, she darkened the pigment of her skin around her eye with a low power laser hidden in her hand as high-tech eyeliner. She now sported the cat eyes of a pagan priestess. "You know the deal already, you finish repairs on the Baphemut's chronal relay, He uses the activated chronal armory to attack the base, we kill Tracer and the Slipstream then we see where our relationship takes us. I'm sure my new friend would enjoy a seat at Talon's table as a counselor." Sombra faced Akande smiling perversely. "And if you don't like it, I overload the reactors. So strange that was such an easy system to compromise."
"If this is some perverse game, Sombra, there are dire consequences," Akande threatened.
"Look, that's so the old me, I'm enlightened now," she said, eyeing the now transformed Ivy up as she approached the couch. "The God AI has shown me that this is what must be done. He thinks and speaks through me."
"This spontaneous religiosity is exhausting, Sombra," Moira noted, sounding somewhat put upon, "I know for a fact you were a hard atheist. It's why this religious language doesn't become you."
Sombra stood and the Baphemut shook. The Talon staff in the observation room caught their stances and looked about fearfully.
"Think what you want, but I'm in control," she asserted, "no one is getting off unless I want them to."
A Talon technician entered the room. He eyed Akande then eyed Sombra. Akande narrowed his eyes at him. "She may be holding us hostage but you still report to me," Akande stated.
The operator's eyes skipped back and forth between the two until finally: "Sombra, we're nearing the base, ETA 20 minutes."
"Heh," Sombra remarked victoriously, "good."
Akande turned to Moira and spoke under his breath. "How could she turn Widowmaker and Ivy against us, I thought their programming was organic."
"I'm sorry, Akande," she whispered back, "it's partially electronic, we implanted a chip to modulate their moods. She must have found a way to control it."
"Friends," Sombra said, turning back towards her former colleagues. "If you don't like our arrangement..."
Sombra turned to a hapless Talon goon and extended her hand at him. He looked sidelong at Akande and Moira as if Sombra was crazy. The room felt the reactor kick up like an engine when he detected an unusual sensation coursing through his body. With horror he saw his colleagues look away from him as if something was terribly wrong. A great unnatural pain shot through his body as he felt his neck jam into his spine. He realized, a bit too late, the unusual sensation was that of his body imploding.
"Gruesome," Moira muttered, half in perverse fascination.
The balled-up man fell to the floor with a bloody thud.
"I'm not just controlling the ship's systems, I have access to all the chronal technology we were working on. With this ship's chronal engine, I control time and reality itself."
"You must know that you won't survive, Sombra," Moira said, "Talon will destroy you and this ship if it has to."
"Heh, not me, my body, which is merely for serving Him and... my pleasure," she said taking Ivy by the waist and bidding her to lay with her, "I was promised transcendence, I'm willing to sacrifice it and all of you for a higher cause."
"My, she is different," Moira noted with a tinge of sarcasm.
"Hardly," Akande muttered. He approached Sombra with determination. Sombra moved Ivy off her lap and stood to face the taller man with a insolent smirk. "You have your deal," he asserted, "but, God AI or not, whoever you are, you will pay dearly for what you've done here. For now, we work together to take out Spadeadam, it will be your drones and my men we're sacrificing. And if this airship is taken down, you are nothing."
* * *
Lena's phase of the conference began outside amidst a foggy day in earnest. Gracie, broken nose and all, and because Sir Thornton wouldn't do it, introduced Lena with his now nasally voice. Lena took the podium in front of the WWII fighter with a giggle.
"Pleasure to be here..." Before her were several bus-loads of reporters. Distant disgruntled rumblings emerged from the base's gatehouse as the townsfolk of the nearby shire demanded to be let in. An audio technician raised Lena's volume to drown out the discontented rabble. "Lovely old crate, the Slipstream, I mean Spitfire."
Gracie slapped his forehead.
"Ahem, anyways, it’s great to be back on the RAF," Lena continued on, trying to summon the cheery optimism of her public persona, "Talon's got another thing coming with me on the job! Calvary's here and all that. You know... cheers, luvs. Oh, I’ve done it backwards."
Pharah cringed. Hana widened her eyes, shook her head, and continued focusing on her handheld video game.
"You're killing it, Lena!" Lucio shouted in an attempt to be supportive.
"Thank you!" she shouted back.
There was a long awkward silence as Lena fumbled as to how to get back on her feet.
"Tell us about the super obvious teleporting fighter," came a flatly impatient American voice from the audience.
"Ahem, I’ll ask the questions," the infamous Pulitzer prize winning journalist Emma Blackwood announced just in time for her to reach the front of the crowd. "Could you elaborate on the link between your sudden re-attestation despite your failure to protect the famed civil rights leader Mondatta and the RAF's renewed teleporting fighter programme?"
"Um, heh," Lena mumbled.
Zenyatta bowed his head at the mention of his brother and folded his hands as he watched Lena's response.
"Microphone please," Emma said propping herself on the stage and grabbing a mic from the podium and lowering herself back down. Lena winced at the feedback. "Thank you," she stated. Her voice now boomed over the PA. "For the press, could you comment on the recent spate of unusual and undocumented air-traffic over RAF Spadeadam. How nearby residents reported sounds of explosions and machine gun fire from the base?"
Lena looked sidelong at a Royal MP but he stood motionless, stiff upper. The MP eyed Gracie but he seemed preoccupied looking cross-eyed as he adjusted the medical tape on his broken nose. Emma Blackwood gave a withering and derisive eyebrow raise, a gesture which had been known to make her interviewees bare their soul in a sudden spate of confessional babble just to satisfy her incredulity.
"Um..." Lena said tapping her index fingers together.
"How about sightings of strange blue patterns streaking the sky, disappearing aircraft, and that Talon, yes, Talon might be conducting operations off the coast of England," she added with sneering sensationalist glee, "could you comment?"
"How about the joint MI6/Royal Air Force black project, Slipstream, and how it has been resurrected in the wake of the recent serial assassinations of the CDS? Is MI6's intelligence failure here similar to your failure to protect Mondatta? Please comment on the waste of public money on poorly conceived and mismanaged defense projects as well."
Lena pulled at her jacket collar in dismay. She looked past the veteran reporter beyond but the stage lights and cameras obscured her vision. The lump in her stomach was making her desire to disappear overwhelming. She felt her heart-rate rising. Her and Emma Blackwood seemed to leave the scene and the crowd behind, locked in a deathly battle.
Suddenly, it all froze.
"Is this woman bothering you?" the Slipstream asked walking forward from the crowd of reporters.
Between the Slipstream and Ms. Blackwood, there seemed to be little difference in their professional looking style and black hair. The Slipstream's persona somehow seemed barely more friendly, similar to the manner of a strict primary school teacher putting on a disarming presence at a PTA meeting.
"I suppose I deserve this..." Lena said with a flat smile, "You know with everything's that happened I almost forgot all about Mondatta."
The Slipstream's avatar took the diminutive pilot's side. "Lena, when you transferred some of your energy to me, you didn't lose your powers of quantum annealing. You must know that, yet you don't make use of them."
"I only trust myself half-way, um, Slip," Lena explained melancholically, "Can I call you that?"
The Slipstream ignored the question and continued business-like. "Watch, I can unfreeze her, she'll have no awareness that time has stopped."
"Comment on your qualifications to test pilot a hypothetical teleporting fighter. Your Cranwell evaluation shows multiple strikes for discipline. In your admissions essay you admit that you're an anarchist punk and just want to 'bollocks up some omnics like they bollocksed up my home.'"
"What? I joined the RAF because I thought I had to! It was my duty, we were at war! Oi, what did you do during the Crisis?"
"I refroze her, Lena. You'll have to explain that again."
"Don't bother," Lena replied taking a seat on the stage. She regarded the crowd and the podium briefly with skeptical eyes. "This is what Sombra was on about, I reckon. Showing me my failures, telling me no one believes in me, making me not want to exist. I thought I'd learned something from all the times you've done this but I'm just as buggered up as I was before... I should have never taken off my chronal accelerator."
"Yes, leaving it with Talon was ill-advised, I did not have the power to mention it to you..." the Slipstream noted.
"I was hyped up, I suppose, kissing Sombra gave me a jolt, but it was all fake and fleeting, like the way I'm hype and cheery for people. They don't know about my other side when my memories kick me in the ovaries."
"Lena, this is the last time I can do this for you, such a manipulation of the space-time continuum will attract the attention of our counterpart, the Baphemut. He'll be aware of everything we say here," the Slipstream stated, somehow making her flat affect sound deeply serious. "I'm only a computer but even I can see a pattern in your day-dreaming, in your chronal dissociation, in your fantasies. They should be seen as the same thing: in every case you want to be an object of desire for someone else."
"You must feel it," said the Slipstream, approaching Emma Blackwood and inspecting her accusatory stance and face. "With your abilities, the only guarantee you have is that you are the only thing that exists but you are still bound by your memories and your past life: you want to be something for somebody else."
"Luv... I don't know what you're saying, Slip..." Lena said softly, "I thought I was a narcissist and now you're telling me I'm too selfless?"
"Self-less, in a sense. I've already explained, in a non-technical fashion, the physics of your existence, you are a being of pure energy and potential, but you have to desire to be. These fantasies erase you and objectify you, they're an extension of your bad memories. You have to accept it was your fate to have bared them and undo their hold on your imagination. Your past experiences mean nothing now, you can change the fabric of reality. There's no going back."
"But it’s so hard, I’m miserable, luv. I’ve failed so many times... Sombra's right, I’m clumsy. I don’t want the power. I’ll muck it up."
"Do you want to be under the yoke of your past forever? I’m afraid even if you weren’t a 4th dimensional being you'd still have to face this... but as I said, I’m just a computer."
The Slipstream seated herself next to Lena.
"Take control," she implored, "you don't want to get used to feeling like this. Helpless, assaulted by the past."
"But what about Sombra? If she and Talon have all our, my, abilities, how can we ever defeat them? I'm not ready, luv."
Suddenly, a low ominous horn sounded in the distance.
Lena recognized the sound, there was no way it could be anything other than the Baphemut.
"There's no time, I'm sorry, Lena, you'll have to handle this yourself. You must try."
The Slipstream unfroze time and Lena was back at the podium with the Slipstream's dry personification conspicuously missing. Lena looked in the direction of the horn and back to the crowd but it seemed as though no one had heard it. Emma Blackwood's line of questioning continued unabated.
"What about the RAF's recent asylum of wanted Overwatch agents and the UN plot to disguise Overwatch activity in clear violation of the Petras act as Goodwill missions? What are you hiding?" Emma's voice grew hysterical, "What is the military doing with our tax money at this base?!"
"That will be quite enough of that," came Gracie's nasally voice, finally attenuated to the shit show unfolding in front of his nose, "MP's please remove this woman if you would."
"No, I’ll answer," Lena said with an uncharacteristic frown, "you know everything, the questions you’re asking prove it."
"But will you and the RAF deny it, Ms. Oxton?" Ms. Blackwood replied with a derisive head wobble.
"No, it’s all true. And we’re up against something we've never faced before, and I’ve got to do it alone..."
Thunder crackled and lightning struck in time for Lena's answer. Rain began to patter on the base's tarmac.
"Impeccable timing, we're done here folks, pack it in!" GC Gracie announced, "please join us inside for snacks, we also have copious amounts of alcohol if you're keen on forgetting everything you've heard. If you could do us a favor and write incoherently about this as well the RAF and Her Majesty would be eternally grateful."
Sir Thornton shook his head in disappointment. "Give it up, old bird, we've been had."
The crowd of reporters and photographers oo'd and ah'd at the sight of the Slipstream hovering from behind the old Spitfire. It seemed to be moving inexplicably of either it's own volition or an other force. The band, knowing of the aircraft's reputation, scattered, leaving their instruments on the tarmac.
Emma Blackwood, intent on getting a more direct answer from the pilot climbed onto the stage and witnessed Lena close her eyes and assume a meditative expression as if to shut out the whole scene. "Oh no you don't!" she cursed.
You must try, Lena thought the Slipstream's words back to herself. What would it take? Was it just a matter of focus? She didn't have the energy of the Baphemut's reactor coursing through her particles, she'd have to will the energy from herself and find it in the universe somehow. Everything that's happened, it's kind of like a dream, innit? Lena thought to herself. She began to feel light. How easy it was to control reality in her other lives. Why not here?
Wind and energy seemed to spiral from Lena's feet in a vortex. Slowly, she began to levitate above the crowd. Emma reached up and grabbed her foot to try and pull her down, totally unfazed.
"My word..." Gracie gawked as his frock turned upward. His eye's zeroed in on a hovering pebble. He looked down and slowly realized he'd just begun to levitate as well. "Well, this is unusual..."
"Gracie! Look!" Sir Thornton exclaimed. Gracie turned to see the 'gentlemen' waving his arms about as if he were wading in the air. "I'm like the banker chap in Merry Poppins! Whoaa whoa!"
"So you are..."
"A GORILLA!" came a shout from the press. All eyes turned in the direction of the reporter's pointing finger. Camera bulbs flashed at him, the photographers taking in the now multiplying uncanny sights and failing to notice that they themselves were levitating.
"Oh, really? He's been let out too?" Gracie replied, crossing his arms in frustration as he slowly rotated in place. He pointed at the levitating gorilla, "this, you, Winston, sir, is in violation of the Petras Act."
"I believe we're in somewhat extraordinary circumstances, Captain," Winston replied as he swam through the air, well familiar with how to move in a zero gravity environment. He maneuvered gracefully through the bevvy of levitating instruments towards Lena, who was in the midst of being shaken by Emma Blackwood. "Excuse me, but you are being quite rude," Winston asserted, wrenching Britain's award winning advocate for transparency and freedom of the press off of Lena.
Pharah, also familiar with propelling herself through the air, approached from the opposite side.
"Is she OK?" she shouted to Winston.
"I'm not sure."
The Baphemut's ominous horn sounded, much closer this time, and Lena opened her eyes. "I'm fine, luvs," Lena replied solemnly, "I'm the one doing it this time."
"There was another time?!" Pharah exclaimed.
"Hey, Tracer!" Lucio shouted as he swam towards the levitating pilot, hauling DV.a, still glued to her handheld, by his left hand, "did I hear you're doing this?"
"Yes," she stated solemnly.
He sensed her tone. "Huh, OK..." Lucio replied with a concerned eyebrow raise, "I know we’re not the OG Overwatch but we’re here if you need us and you know if Jack and his old busted crew showed up he'd be arrested on site."
Lena gave a little laugh. "Of course, luvs."
They exchanged hugs, DV.a giving a somewhat awkward side-hug, keeping one hand on her gaming device.
Zenyatta motored towards Lena crosslegged with his own baffling form of propulsion. "Ms. Oxton, I cannot claim to know what is happening, but I sense a great bond between you and the Slipstream and great energy in you," he said enigmatically, "whatever journey you have embarked upon, you have emerged much stronger then when I last met you."
"Thank you, luv."
"Whatever, you are about to face now, and whatever the outcome, know that I do not blame you for the death of my brother, Mondatta, and you have the eternal forgiveness of the Iris."
"Hah, you can't not blame me and forgive me, Zen, luv."
"You are wise," he said bowing his head to Lena. "Here, take my..."
"Your balls, luv?"
"Yes, your mastery of the Way of the Iris is evident, you’ve surpassed even I."
He levitated his mysterious projectiles into Lena's pockets.
"'fraid the Iris has nothing to do with it, luv."
"So you think, we will have much to discuss when you return."
Lena bowed her head. "Thank you, master Zenyatta."
The Baphemut again sounded it's horn and uncloaked above the airbase, sending the ground staff into a mighty panic.
"OK, luvs, destiny awaits..." Lena stated, watching the Baphemut's long shadow cover the tarmac.
Lena plopped the Slipstream down on the press conference stage, utterly crushing it under it's landing gear. Lena let herself settle to the ground and approached the Slipstream's cockpit. The strange vortex she'd summoned abruptly ended and the press, musical instruments and the two RAF ranking officers crashed to the ground.
"One last thing, Lena."
"Oh? I thought this was the last time you'd be doing anything funny with time."
"I am still permitted to talk to you," the Slipstream stated, appearing behind her, "In the old days, I believe it was customary for a pilot to choose nose art before an important battle."
Lena closed her eyes and imagined what she wanted. Something smiley, she thought, what did I love in those old films when I was a girl..? Ah, whale's teeth! Electricity crawled across the nose cone of the Slipstream and the precise design Lena imagined revealed itself: a set of wavy permanently smiling teeth.
"You're just as much the pilot as me," Lena admitted, "you should add your own touch."
"My pleasure," the computer stated. Electricity crawled over the fuselage and revealed the words 'Time Killer' in bold 1940's style font.
The Group Captain and the Air Marshall, lying in a lump on top of each other, went wide-eyed at the sight of the rebellious aircraft's transformation.
"Don't mind if I take her for a spin, do ya lads?"
"Heaven's no," replied the Group Captain.
"Shut it, buttercup," Sir Thornton cursed, "seems like ya got us by the balls, lass. It's yer ticket."
"Don't worry, luvs. I'll try and bring her back in one piece," Lena said to the officers, looking over her shoulder with a grin.
The Slipstream's missile bay doors opened up, revealing it's multiple hardpoints and pylons. The missile rack rotated rapidly, clicking like a revolver on each rotation, revealing the ghostly plane was loaded with it's full complement of air-to-air missiles.
"Do try," Gracie replied timidly.
"Yeah, we'll bollocks you all the same when ye get back," Sir Thornton chimed in, "In the mean time, you know, chalks away, luv."
"GO KICK ASS!" DV.a shouted, with a fist pump, albeit keeping her nose in her handheld.
Lena mounted the Slipstream and regarded the underbelly of the Baphemut passing over. Swarms of drones began to deploy from it's lower hangars like thick gnats of mosquitoes. Lena swallowed.
"Well, from here it's kind of looking like an anal diagnostic, innit?" she noted.
This is it. I'm nearing the end.
I can't tell how people are liking this bizarre story, it's getting subbed/unsubbed and I'm tossed a kudo now and again. Send me a comment to let me know how you're liking it.
Lena Oxton tangles with her nemesis in a lethal dogfight...
Pop! Fwoooom! A scream came from across the sky.
From the Baphemut's observation deck, Sombra watched the Slipstream penetrate the cloud layer below with a sonic boom. Her eyes zeroed on the uncanny plane covered in a cone of condensation. To her surprise, the plane banked towards her, as if it were going to fly right into her. How could Lena see or know? What were the odds? Regardless, Sombra was overcome with a deep and irrational fear: the plane powered by omnic souls was out to get her. Tracer was pure vengeance. Sombra briefly recounted all the times she'd wronged and taken advantage of Lena, how that might fill her with a deep righteous anger. Would she be judged?
Sombra out her hand against the glass to blot out the plane and regained herself. It was puny, no match for the Baphemut and it's entire compliment of chronal accelerated drones.
"It’s just Lena Oxton," Sombra reassured herself aloud taking the tone of a bully, "she's pathetic."
"Don't underestimate that plane... Destroy it," a deep echoing voice reverberated in Sombra's mind.
Below her was RAF Spadeadam, ready for the taking. With the Slipstream out of the picture and the RAF research project smashed, there would be no limit to how far Talon forces could advance. Sombra could spread her new religion in Talon and have a seat at the table as a councilor. Then it was world domination.
"Ivy, come here..."
The pilot emerged from the couch in a stilted motion. Her new programming driving her rebellious spirit forward.
"It's Lena," Sombra said imitating the composure of a high priestess, pointing a long finger nail at the aircraft, "destroy her."
Sombra let Ivy saunter off towards the hanger bay, watching her hips sway greedily. There would be time for that later. She broke her gaze and turned towards her new Talon minions in the Baphemut's observation room turned throne room. "Bring us down and prepare to deploy ground forces, we're going to annihilate that base..."
* * *
"The world’s gone mad..." Lena muttered to herself as the Slipstream screamed across the red sky, "or maybe it’s just me."
"Lena, I should note that you aren't the only pilot of the Slipstream, merely the last."
"Oh, really luv? Whyd'ya say that?"
"The other pilots of the Slipstream all went insane when I revealed the secrets of this aircraft." Lena cocked an eyebrow. "You could be the master of the universe in this plane if you so choose."
"Let’s hold on the secrets until after, shall we, luv?"
Lena thundered towards the Baphemut in her hypersonic aircraft, it's xenon thrusters pushing the ghost plane ever faster. The controls and dials felt hypersensitive, alive. The Slipstream wanted to go fast.
The Baphemut's deep horn sounded, signalling it was reaching a new attack phase. It's hidden gun and missile batteries deployed and aimed outward. A black explosion detonated a few meters from the Slipstream, then another and another. The Baphemut was deploying it's flak screen.
Rows of cannons and gun turrets on the airship's under belly began to pummel Spadeadam in a rain of plasma fire. The mass of drones swarming in loose formation around the airship suddenly tightened up and began to dive, making steep strafing runs as drop pods containing Talon troops impacted in the fields surrounding the base.
It looked like the apocalypse.
"Tracer, Control!" Lena called over her com.
"We read you, Oxton!" the control tower replied over the sound of klaxons. The operator was cut short by an explosion. "Good God!"
"Send a message to GC Gracie, we need everyone who can fly off the ground and everyone else off the base! Save as many people as you can!"
"Yes, mum, the runway's still cratered but..." the operator was again cut off by another explosion but this time the band stayed silent.
Lena's eyes widened as she watched two contingents of the great mass of drones close in on her like jaws, she'd be engulfed. The swarming UCAVs kept their distance, however, as the Baphemut's flak cover dissipated, Talon was making way for something...
"What gives, why aren't they attacking?"
"Lena, I'm detecting an unidentified aircraft. It's not a Talon drone, it looks like an air superiority fighter we haven't seen."
"It can't be anything compared to these drones..."
Suddenly, an unidentifiable black object darted across the sky. Lena caught it approaching, she quickly turned her head to track it as it whooshed over her cockpit canopy. It disappeared and then approached from an impossible angle.
Whatever the object was, it was toying with her.
"I'm afraid you're wrong, Lena. Look at your instruments."
"How is it... it's disappearing? Oi, I thought I knocked their chronal array off-line!"
Lena scanned the battle space for the plane.
"Control to Tracer," came a new far more serious voice from the tower frequency, "there's an unidentified aircraft hitting our boys the moment they get off the ground. The drones aren't giving us trouble yet but that fighter is dynamite! We've managed to send one your way but you'll need to destroy that fighter before we can send our boys upstairs."
"That must be it!"
"Incoming transmission, it's from the unidentified Talon aircraft... it's calling itself 'The Banshee,' Lena."
"Well, patch it in, luv!" Lena replied as the cockpit rattled.
"Hullo, Tracer," a voice laughed over the strange otherwordly hum of her aircraft, it was distorted and hollow, "this really is how it should have been all along..."
The mysterious aircraft pulled along side Lena so she could spot the strange bat-winged. The slim cockpit was tinted red, bedecked with an eerie looking array of infrared cameras and other sensors. It looked like a night-fighter of some sort. She could almost identify the pilot inside giving her two fingers.
"Is that... Ivy? Your voice, luv, what's Talon done to you?"
"Can't rightly say, all I know is that now I finally get a chance to best you. You never should have flown the Slipstream, I was better than you from the start. But nevermind all that, water under the bridge, the Slipstream is junk compared to what I'm flying."
"Be as cheeky as you want but really it's a fat chance, luv."
"Just a moment..."
"Oh no..." Lena muttered, "what are you going to tell me?"
"The Banshee has the entire compliment of the Slipstream's chronal capabilities: blink and recall. Cursory analysis shows that it's overall performance is lower, however..."
Lena closed the band as the Slipstream gained a missile lock on the Banshee. It would be over in a second. She'd fire 5 missiles, three for blinks, one for recall and one for good measure.
Fwoom! The missiles swarmed the Banshee but Ivy made no attempt to maneuver.
"What's she doing, luv?"
With horror, Lena witnessed the missiles explode several meters from the plane, one after the other with the Banshee emerging completely unscathed. As the missiles exploded, she saw the faintest blue hue of a sphere surrounding the Banshee.
"The Banshee has plasma shields and a full electronic counter measure suite."
"Shields? I thought only the Russians and Vishkar had shields!"
Ivy sent another transmission. Lena swallowed, if she couldn't even get through the Banshee's shields how the hell was she going to beat it's chronal abilities as well?
"So, how do you like me now?" Ivy mused, "Talon says they'll have hundreds of fighters like this one... Just thought you should know before I kill you."
Ivy's fighter blinked and in an instant was behind Lena gaining a missile lock. Lena's adrenaline spiked. The Slipstream was fragile, engineered on the assumption of it's complete and total advantage over the competition, it was designed far more for speed and evasion than ever surviving a missile hit.
"Oh, she's cheeky..."
Lena blinked behind Ivy and spattered the Slipstream's heavy machine guns against her shield to no effect. With a quick juke and a blink as she flared her afterburners, Ivy was again behind Lena. Lena engaged her combat flaps and lowered the throttle to let the Banshee fly right under her as it's machine guns flared.
Her tail was nicked but now she was up a blink.
"Tracer!" came Pharah's voice over the com, "I’m coming to assist!"
"Pharah! How?" Lena mused over the com.
"Yeah, um, I had to fill out some paperwork, it seemed very British... but I'm less than a minute away!"
"What? No! There's no aeroplane that can take this fight! Help the other fighters!" Lena protested but her frequency crackled out. "Damn!"
The Banshee caught sight of Pharah approaching in an F-42 and broke away to intercept it. She watched Pharah roll and bank away as the Banshee gave chase. Lena would be forced to use another blink to catch up.
To Lena's horror, the Banshee popped a missile. She watched it blink into range of Pharah's aircraft.
"Pharah! Bail out! That missile can teleport!"
"Damn!" she cursed again. "No no no no!"
The Slipstream blinked and was easily on top of the Banshee. As she gained a missile lock, however, it occurred to Lena that even unloading all her missile payload wouldn't deter Ivy and her shields. She began to panic.
"Lena, do it now."
Lena flipped the missile safety up and readied her thumb over the FIRE button.
"No, not that."
"I don't know what to do!"
She had less than 5 seconds to act. This wasn't mastering the universe, this was hell. She watched the missile close with Pharah. Time seemed to dilate.
"I can't tell you what to do, merely note that the more your demands on the engine conform to what is possible according to the laws of physics the less-." Lena tuned the Slipstream out. The fear and panic for her friend fueled her desire to be elsewhere, maybe no longer alive so she wouldn't have to bare the responsibility of another failure. She'd have to live with this moment forever if she didn't act. She could feel herself slipping without her chronal accelerator. Lena's eyes widened. No. She spontaneously tuned the Slipstream back in, "take inspiration from nature..."
Lena was living her fear but now she was on the other side, this was the Slipstream, the quantum computer powered timeshifting aircraft and she was the deadly lesbian flying it.
She squeezed her eyes shut and remembered the unnatural storm she flew into in the Slipstream all those years ago and how it fucked with her instruments. Clouds grew and the air cooled around the three aircraft as a tropical breeze cast through. Uncanny black storm clouds bulbous with electrical activity formed rapidly around the Banshee as if they were fast forwarded.
Lena's fear turned to rage and fueled the storm.
Lightning lashed out from the Slipstream into the newly formed clouds where it arced out towards the missile. It connected with a boom, sending the missile off course and causing it to explode mid-air.
She dove the Slipstream after the Banshee, lightning and black clouds creeping behind the ghostly aircraft like ink, filling the sky as if it were textured paper.
Ivy cursed in a suddenly frenzy of alarm bells and lights flashing in her cockpit. She'd lost the missile lock and was spiraling out of control. It was like she was in a funnel. There was no seeing through the layer of storm clouds as the electricity messed with her instruments and controls. Ivy kept her cool, gunned her throttle and banked in the direction of her spin, spiraling out of the cloud layer in a dive. Lena had bought some precious time.
"Tracer, Pharah! Are you alright?" Lena called over her com.
Pharah's communication came in choppy. "I'm OK, he's off my tail but my instruments are fried from the storm!"
When Lena knew Pharah was safe the chronal storm began to subside.
"Get out of here, luv! You can't do any good!"
She spotted the Banshee blasting out of the clouds. Lena deployed her guns and rattled the Banshee's shields but there seemed to be no effect. Lena cursed at her lot. She didn't need Pharah risking her life for her. Her competitive spirit would get her killed.
"That's a negative, Lena. I won't leave a friend and I don't like owing favors."
"This isn't a game, Pharah!" Lena called over the com desperately, "That thing has shields and can teleport! You're weapons won't scratch it."
Pharah hesitated in the cockpit but then narrowed her eyes in determination. She flipped several switches to reset her instruments from the electrical interference as she kept the stick steady. "I'm here to help. I have to try."
There was a short pause on Lena's end.
"Thanks, luv," Lena replied solemnly. She hoped Pharah knew what she was doing.
Not to be bested and with the storm clouds dissipating, Ivy gained her bearings and slowed her thrusters. The Slipstream flew right over her. Immediately, she hit her afterburners and gave chase. Lena looked over her shoulder to try and clock the Banshee, spotting it barely in time for it to blink away.
"Blast, she's good," Lena cursed, "and I thought I was the only one who got the hang of blinking."
"In all probability, this is Leftenant Ivy's first time flying the Banshee."
"Well, that just makes me all the more jealous," Lena said craning her neck to see the Banshee's approach. She didn't see her.
"Watch it!" Pharah called out.
The Banshee was right on top of her. It zoomed over, guns blazing.
Lena had a split second to act.
"Gah!" she cried as she tried to roll the cockpit away from the Banshee's strafing gunfire.
50 caliber anti-aircraft bullets loaded with tracers and incendiaries rattled the cockpit forcing Tracer to cower. Warning alarms chimed as was air suctioned out of the canopy. Lena unfurled herself and spread her legs to take back the controls, a 50 cal shell had penetrated the bullet proof glass and put a hole right through the middle of the chronal matrix console. She padded out the small flames on her thighs.
"That was too close," she muttered.
"In all probability," the Slipstream continued, undeterred as the bulletproof glass self-repaired and the holes sealed, "the Banshee is Talon's implementation of the Slipstream's chronal engine."
"What are you getting at, luv?"
"She probably isn't aware of it's weaknesses. The chronal engine draws a great deal of power, Vishkar shield technology also requires a large amount of energy. The two subsystems will be competing for resources."
Lena clocked the Banshee swooping back up above her.
"Tracer, come in. Are you OK? I saw her hit your cockpit."
Lena ignored the question. "Pharah, about what I said with the weapons, forget it. Stay high and pummel that thing with everything you got when you see it diving me. And keep those bloody drones off me if they come close!"
"Roger, Tracer. He's setting up for another run!"
"Get on her tail! I'll bait her out."
Lena dipped then pulled the aircraft into a breakneck climb to try and counter the altitude advantage of Ivy's dive. Immediately, she felt the G's shift all her blood to her feet. Ivy was gaining on her but Pharah was moving in to intercept. Ivy caught Pharah's warplane on her tail and banked away from the Slipstream. The moment Ivy's attention was off her, Lena blinked the Slipstream out of its climb and into a dive right above the Banshee. All the forces of her climb reversed. Lena felt her heart reel from the sudden change of momentum. She steadied her sight on the Banshee to lead her shots but Ivy had spotted her. The Banshee twisted into an Immelmann turn. Lena's eyes bugged from the Banshee's sudden maneuver. Lena was forced out of her dive into another high-speed climb. Her vision darkened from the G's making it impossible to aim. She desperately unloaded her guns but only a few hits connected, spattering against the Banshee's shields as it whooshed over.
"I can't fly like this..." Lena murmured, switching hands on the joystick. Her right hand was shaking from stress. Lena simply wasn't prepared for chronal dogfighting, she'd only ever blinked in 4 directions, her heart couldn't take sudden reversals and changes of momentum at Mach 2 and above. "How does she do it?"
"Just a moment..." the Slipstream processed. Lena checked her radar, Spadeadam was being swarmed as they spoke. She needed to get to the Baphemut if there was any hope to save the base. "According to my calculations, the only way a human can fly like that is if they do not possess a normal circulatory system."
Lena's eyes widened. "No, she's like Widowmaker..."
"I'm afraid that puts the odds in her favor."
Suddenly, there was an explosion behind Lena.
"Pharah!" Lena called over her com.
"I'm alright! I nailed her with two missiles but they just impacted on the shield."
Lena banked her plane to eye the explosion. The Banshee emerged from the blast unscathed then disappeared. She felt her heart sink, dealing damage to the Banshee and forcing out it's chronal abilities wasn't working fast enough and she was risking everything, her friends, the Slipstream.
It wasn't worth it.
"No, I have to try," Lena asserted.
If Pharah was trying at such a disadvantage she would try. Except, Pharah had balls of steel and Lena felt she had balls more suitable for the filling a plushy or stuffed animal.
She set her mind on the Banshee but felt some resistance. Thinking about the Banshee seemed to blot out her mind, it was anchored in the space-time continuum, protected against her abilities by some other force. There was only one object in the universe that could do that...
"Not yet, Lena."
Frustrated, Lena turned her abilities back on her own plane. Another chronal storm brewed under the wings of her aircraft.
"This time, I won't let up," Lena replied.
"Very good, Lena..."
"I think I got her attention!" Pharah shouted nervously over the com.
"I'm on her tail!" Lena called out, "watch your instruments, I'm coming with a storm!"
Lena burst forth from a churning storm cloud after the Banshee. She pushed the Slipstream's engines so they screamed. Ivy felt a foreboding feeling even though she was now accustomed to feeling nothing. It was one she was familiar with, she'd felt it back at the base. It was the Slipstream or something about it: fear.
She looked over her shoulder out her red canopy and saw a mass of black clouds approaching. She turned back to her instruments to witness them go haywire.
"What in the...? Again?"
"Pharah, stay out of the storm and bank around!" Lena ordered, "I'm ending this..."
Ivy's engines began to lose speed, the Banshee's systems were in full panic from the unusual storm. Back in the Slipstream, Lena closed her eyes as the Slipstream's now familiar alarm systems wailed. A week ago the slightest memory of those sounds would have sent her into a total dissociative fugue but now she was different. She was planning something: a blink, two blinks, actually. One using the Slipstream's systems and the other herself.
On the static of the Slipstream's targeting computer, Lena could see she was directly on target with the floundering Banshee. The chronal matrix, the only instrument impervious to the chronal anomaly gained a lock. She set the plane to autopilot...
"Hello, luv!" she said as she blinked directly into Ivy's cockpit. Over Lena's shoulder, the Slipstream passed directly through the Banshee as if it were a ghost. Lena tapped on the unusual piece of hardware Ivy was wearing on her chest, her chronal accelerator. "Interesting bit of fashion, that. Where'd ya get that?"
Ivy's lip stuttered. She was frozen, speechless. There was an awkward pause until she finally spoke, "Why you-!"
She went to strike but Lena blinked behind her in the confined canopy space.
"Hiya!" Lena taunted, "You look a bit down in the tooth, Talon have a go at you?"
Ivy struggled to unbuckle herself so she could punch Tracer in the face but Lena was again in front of her with her yellow spandex crotch on the instrument panel. Ivy managed to undo her buckle but a sudden shake shoved her face directly into Lena's pelvis.
"Whoa! Bit soon for makeup sex, luv!" said Lena pushing her back with her legs and unfolding her plasma pistol from her gauntlet, "What? No response? Cat got your tongue?"
"You! You'll get us both killed!"
"Sit back, luv," Lena ordered, pushing her pistol against Ivy's head, "and undo that fancy chest piece, yeah?"
Ivy's vision narrowed on Lena's plasma pistol but was then attenuated to her haywire instruments. Even with her enhanced reflexes she had no choice but to comply. The storm had thrown her plane into a death spiral, if she was going to save herself she had to get Lena out of her face. The girl was acting suicidal.
"You wanted revenge, eh? To take my place?" Lena leaning into Ivy's ear and taunting like a bully, "This storm is from my memory. So, how does it feel?"
Ivy growled in frustration. There was no way out.
"Wow, you must really've wanted to be me," Lena mused, "funny thing about the ol' chronal accelerator is, you kinda need to have chronal dissociation for it to do anything, otherwise it's just sorta ballast, innit?"
"Fuck's sake, just take it!" Ivy said struggling out of the chronal accelerator, "now let me get us out of this!"
"Us? Who's us?" asked Lena, "you're the only one going anywhere."
Lena reached over with her free hand and pulled the lever handily labeled "EJECT" on Ivy's chair then held onto the accelerator's straps.
"Ejection sequence activated," the calm male voice of the Banshee's computer noted.
The canopy exploded off and flipped away in the storm wind. Lena got one last good look at Ivy's now sallow eyes in the split second before the ejection sequence completed. Ivy returned the gaze and bore witness to Lena's smirk. Ivy couldn't believe it, Lena actually scared her.
"Ta!" Lena said before a rocket fired under Ivy's seat, ripping her out of the chronal accelerator's straps and sending her into the oblivion of the chronal storm.
The moment Ivy was out, Lena retracted her gun back into her gauntlet and strapped herself into her chronal accelerator as she was suctioned out of the cockpit. Lena was in a free fall. She struggled to tie herself into her accelerator as turbulent storm winds blew against her face. She caught sight of the Slipstream passing below her. She visualized the inside of it's cockpit...
"Tracer! Lena! Are you alright? I can't see you in the storm!" Pharah called over her com.
Lena whooshed past Pharah's fuselage in the Slipstream, barrelling out of the storm. "I'm here, luv, I'm back! Now blow that thing and get the hell out of here!"
Pharah fired two missiles at the spiraling Banshee, it's shields now deactivated. They closed on their hapless target...
* * *
Sombra's left eye flinched as she witnessed the Banshee explode into a bright panoply of sparkling metal and debris from the observation deck of the Baphemut. So much for Ivy... She closed her fist around the Slipstream and turned her back to the observation deck window. The massive cloud of drones swarmed around Tracer's pesky warplane.
"Akande, Moira, you’re up," said Sombra, "We've detected several Overwatch agents on the ground. If we take the base she'll be forced to help her friends."
"Unadvisable," Moira interjected, "she may opt to attack the Baphemut anyways."
Sombra stepped down from her platform and took a regal pose.
"Well, you’re not going to want to be here when she does..."
"It is understandable, minister," Doomfist noted as he mounted his augmented fist, "you hate seeing to matters in person."
"Indeed. I also object to being used as a diversion..."
I'm not great at writing action scenes so expect edits. Like I said, I'd love a beta reader. You can find my tumblr link in my profile if you wanna DM me/send hate mail.
Trouble on the ground as Spadeadam tries to fix their guns. The RAF faces off with Talon drones in the air. Unusual but intense air-to-air combat ensues in cordial British fashion.
"We did it!" Pharah shouted over her com as the Slipstream blasted through the storm cloud layer.
Leftenant Lena "Tracer" Oxton twisted the Slipstream's ailerons and screamed past Pharah's cockpit in a victory roll. It was all short-lived, however. The Baphemut sounded it's reverberating horn and redeployed it's flak screen. Again, the Slipstream's cockpit rattled from nearby anti-air flak.
Lena scanned the swarm as she evened out, watching the drones' protocol shift in real time. They went aggressive and began to close greedily on the two fighters. "I know, luv! But we're not out of this yet..."
She opened her band.
"Tracer, Control. Come in."
"We read you, Tracer," the tower operator replied fuzzily in his Queen's English, "Radar shows the unidentified enemy bogey is destroyed. Good work, Oxton. We're sending all sections upstairs now."
"Roger, Control. Tell the boys to form up at angel 10 and wait for my signal. We'll be outnumbered 100 to 1 so make sure those guns are online."
"Negative, Tracer. The guns are possibly still bonkers, the circuit bashers are on it but it's a risk we can't take. But be advised, we have reinforcements from RAF Leeming en route."
"Oh, Leeming, Control?" said Lena, her voice changing from it's urgent tone, becoming cordial, "If Fip and Chungo are there give them the old 'well, well, well, how do ya do?' you know, Cranwell and all that."
Several drones broke away from the swarm and took an attack formation behind Lena's aircraft as she listed forward, seemingly oblivious to the danger. Pharah tapped on her earpiece as she listened in on Lena's conversation, totally incredulous that she was actually indulging in British pleasantries at a time like this.
"Gully will be chuffed to bits... Well, if he's still alive, that is."
"LENA!" Pharah called over her com.
"Right," she replied, regaining her focus as drones literally darkened the sky around her cockpit. She closed the band with the air tower. "My inevitable doom. Well, lets get back to it..."
"We need a plan, Lena..." Pharah offered, now quite nervous about Lena's attention span and the closing drones.
"OK, luv... raincheck on the inevitable doom," said Lena as she thought, "these Tally blokes have rather the hard-on for me, I say we aviate and draw them away from the base as a diversion for the Leeming nitwits."
"Roger, Tracer. I hope you know what you're doing..." Pharah replied as she formed up with the Slipstream. "Check your radio frequencies, I've got something coming in but it doesn't make any sense."
Lena scanned her radio until she hit the frequency of the incoming RAF squadron.
"Hello, Squadron Leader! This is Red Leader standing by. Red boys are right with you at angel 10. We're ready to snitch a parcel sausage end and send Tally goose over stumps frog-side!"
Pharah cringed at the sudden exponential increase in Britishisms as the squadron formed up around the Slipstream.
"Tracer, Green Leader, green boys standing by. Bit of a strange day for flying, yes?"
"Yellow Leader, here. Fine day for a visit for the Ass Eating Air Marshall of the RAF. Although my favorite part was when time stopped."
"Oh, you noticed?" Lena replied with a nervous chuckle, "rather embarrassing moment for me, actually..."
"Don't mind him, skipper, he thinks he has a sense for things but his brain is about as effectual as a catflap in an elephant house."
"Lena, I have a bad feeling about this..." Pharah warned.
The drones had utterly surrounded them, they would soon be relentlessly attacking from from every direction. Lena's senses kicked in and she finally snapped back to attention.
"Hush, kay-vee, lads. Tally drones coming up!" Lena called over the com, "We break on my command. Let's give them what for!"
"Um, seems dangerous , Squadron Leader. I mean, there's rather a lot of them..."
"Put a sock in it, Darling, you're on the job."
Pharah blinked at the utterly confusing banter and looked out her cockpit at the sections forming up to see if they were flying straight. Concerned for the RAF's collective sanity, Pharah kept her distance and made herself ready for the impending drone attack.
"BREAK!" Lena shouted.
The RAF squadron unloaded their missiles at the diving drones then broke formation in every direction to chase their targets. Their missiles met the approaching swarm, blasting dozens of them out of the sky, but the fighters were quickly overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the merge. Engulfed, drones whooshed past Lena's cockpit on all sides, strafing with machine gun fire as they passed. Using the weight of their numbers, several damaged drones kamikaze'd right into the RAF fighters, ripping through the fighters' mid-section. Now, with most of their missile payloads expended and the drones engaging at such close range, the fighters switched to guns, twisting and turning in a lethal furball.
"This is Green 2, I think I've got one on my tail. Not to be a bother, but it would be jolly good of you if you could assist... Agh!"
Our pilot witnessed Green 2 bail out as his aircraft spiraled to the earth. She prayed the drones wouldn't feast on the vulnerable pilot but more shouting and banter quickly erupted on her band.
"Hello Yellow 4, you've picked one up! Knees up, old boy."
"I can't shake him!"
The fighters juked and weaved but the nimble drones ganged up on their targets to feast like piranha. Lena blinked and disappeared almost fighting in several places at once to try and rescue as many fighters as she could.
"Lena, I've analyzed the drone's attack pattern, it seems the drones are focusing the fighters, not you. It's likely they're trying to isolate the squadron and keep you away from the Baphemut..."
"Suits me. I can take down as many of these things as I can so they don't hurt anyone!"
"Lena... I'm afraid you're playing into a diversion."
"What? No, the diversion is my idea! I'm buying time for..." She was interrupted by the alarm bell of an enemy missile lock. "Damn!"
* * *
"War, yes, the air is thick with war. It's the word on the tip of everyone's tongues," Emma Blackwood reported in front of her camera crew, her tone thick with sensationalist glee. Drones passed overhead delivering their lethal payloads onto Spadeadam's tarmac as ground staff and pilots rushed to their stations, all delivering excellent footage to their hungry cameras. "This is Emma Blackwood reporting live. The scene on the ground as countless Talon drones strafe this country's bravest aviators to pieces before they even take off, shambolic. Everyone is asking, where is Tracer? Where is this country's hero?"
"I'm not asking that!" called a crewmen.
"Get him out of the scene!" Emma cursed, "With Tracer gone, piloting the world's most expensive aircraft, we must ask ourselves, if she died, who would care? Was the Slipstream worth it, considering the overwhelming deficits our country's military is running?"
"All right, all right, get her out of here!" Sir Thornton called over, holding his hair against his head. Royal Military police hauled Ms. Blackwood away a second time as she bellowed about the censorship of the free press, "I want to know why our guns aren't working! Gracie, you incompetent swine!"
Group Captain Gracie emerged from behind the remnants of Lena's podium, ducking his head for cover. "Yes sir!"
"We've got to get to the tower, as much as the prospect irks me you've got to retake command of the base," Thornton shouted as he approached, "Who the hell is running the show in the tower?"
"Well, I imagine it's either Bufton-Tufton or Cumberbottom."
"Cranwell's former Latin club president isn't going to cut it, we've got to find a way to get our guns working." Thornton pointed towards a hapless looking crewman trying to help calm the civilian crowd and usher them out of the base. Although upon closer inspection, their profile actually looked quite muscular, skin bronzed by the heat from a nearby explosion. Perhaps not so hapless. "You, you want to be promoted? You're coming with us!"
"Huh, what?" the person, a girl actually, replied in a Swedish accent, "I'm not in the RAF..."
"WELL, WHAT'S WITH THE TOOLS THEN? ARE YE A SUMPY OR A BASHER OR WHAT?" Thornton bellowed. He approached the fellow and turned them towards him to reveal a freckled face. "Yoo, ye want teh help or stand there taking a wank?"
She pushed the surly mans paws off her shoulders with a frowning face and shoved him aside. "What's your problem? I'm here to help but I won't be bullied."
"This isn't a bloody Jane Austen novel," Thornton replied, recovering from her check, "this is a bloody war! Now what do you know about automated turrets?"
"I'm an expert, actually."
"Oh, I like you. Let's go Planet Fitness," Thornton said, taking the girl's hand, "Follow me, Gracie. Ye might consider working out with her to get rid of that 'aristocratic physique' a' yours. Actually, never mind, you need your feminine physique for your after-hours escapades with the Trocs, isn't that right lad?"
"Ballet is a perfectly legitimate form of athleticism..."
The unlikely trio hustled across the airfield under the shadows of dog fighting aircraft and amidst a bevvy of explosions and gunfire to the control tower. Royal MP's ushered them in as they reached the minimal cover the tower provided.
"Thank God you're here, sir," the tower's interim commander called to GC Gracie, "all sections are taking a beating, red and green section have formed up with Oxton to buy time for Leeming squadron."
"We can't wait for the duffer patrol to faff their way over here!"
"Stand down, airman. We're in control," said Gracie, winded from the jaunt across the base. He took the headphones from the operator.
"Yuck, this place is a mess, is that poop?" the girl noted, regarding the exposed wires and mishandled equipment from Winston's rampage, "what happened here?"
"This tower looking like a gorilla cage is your chap Winston's fault," Gracie noted between heaving breaths, "miss, um..."
"Brigitte," Gracie repeated, "lovely name."
"I don't like anyone that makes Winston get angry. What did you do?"
"No time to be salty at us, fitness," Thornton said, patting Brigitte on her muscular shoulder, "get out of the sauna and into the war, lass, and use that muscle in your head to fix our guns."
"You guys are weird..." Brigitte replied unpacking her tools, "where's the turret control console?"
Gracie gave a winded gesture towards the damaged console. "There."
"OK... well, I can't restore the programming, I'm not so good at that, but I can rewire the turrets so they all focus on one target I set manually."
"Jolly good," said Gracie.
"Belt up, Tiffany!" Thornton bellowed at Gracie, "I mean, what he said, you can carry on, Sweden."
Thornton folded his hands behind his back as he prepared to inspect Brigitte's handiwork over her shoulder. Brigitte rolled her eyes at the strange dynamic between the officers and began her work.
"Sir, Talon forces are surrounding the base," an operator reported from his console, "we don't have the manpower to hold off a simultaneous ground attack."
"Well, what are the Americans doing?" Gracie complained.
"Yelling and shooting with a 'yeehaw' and a 'reach for the sky' and a 'oh shoot, I've buggered the world's economy again,' sir," a technician replied.
"Well said, Wooster, but don't rely on those buddy blasting twits, we'll have to hold our own," Thornton replied, "what are our Overwatch luminaries doing?"
"They're doing the right thing, they're helping people on the base," Brigitte noted.
"Did I ask?"
"You did..." Brigitte replied to the belligerent Thornton dryly.
"Right, well, do we have a way of communicating with them? Give us their frequency."
Brigitte put down her heavy wrench with an air of resent at Thornton's behavior and gave the communications officer Overwatch's frequency.
"Do I hear music?" Gracie noted, "at a time like this?"
"It's Lucio," said the Swedish mechanic, "it's how he, never mind..."
"There's something else," the communications officer noted, "Talon special agents: a man with a gigantic cybernetic fist blasting through our fortifications and a woman with some kind of biotics technology we haven't seen."
A sudden crackle of sniper fire and the communications officer's head smashed against the panel, now sporting a rather inconvenient hole. Everyone in the tower cowered behind their consoles as Brigitte deployed her shield.
"Widowmaker..." Brigitte whispered as the proverbial shiver went down her spine.
"Someone man that console! And lock down this area!" Gracie ordered as he and Thornton squeezed behind Brigitte's shield. An ensign took the communications panel. "You, you're promoted, get Tracer on the horn."
"Control to Tracer!"
There was some delay as the band opened. Smatterings of machinegun fire and the whine of the Slipstream's engines filled the tower. RAF banter from her radio rattled on at a frenzied clip as the squadron struggled to take out the maneuverable Talon drones. The room went white as they heard the victory shouts and death cries of the squadron. The battle was getting desperate. But where was Tracer?
"I read you, Control," Lena finally replied after a breath, "I was in a bit of a tiff and... well, after a maneuver like that I'm afraid I've wee'd myself."
"No RAF pilot is afraid of a little wee, Leftenant. Now, Oxton, we need you to listen closely, radar shows you moving away from the Baphemut. While we appreciate the diversion, turn around and destroy that airship, understand?"
"Y-yes, sir! But our boys are getting pummeled out here and we've got to clear the air for reinforcements from RAF Leeming, a direct attack would be suicide!"
"We're being encircled by Talon special forces from the Baphemut. There's no waiting for reinforcements. We'll hold our own but you're the only chance we've got."
"I've got it!" Brigitte shouted from under the console, covered in wires and circuitry.
Suddenly, deafening anti-aircraft fire emerged from all corners of the base and converged on a single drone. Not standing a single chance, the hapless drone exploded out of the sky and crashed on the tarmac. Brigitte stood with the console's unattached touch screen, dangling all manner of wires, and aimed the jury-rigged system at another enemy drone.
"Good show, Brigitte," Gracie noted, "Tracer, our guns are online, we'll hold our own here as long as we can. But, I repeat, reverse course and destroy that airship!"
"Roger, Control," Lena replied solemnly.
Drones began to drop out of the sky one by one. With their feeding frenzy on the RAF pilots disrupted they began to fly more conservatively, keeping their distance from the base.
"Hah hah! Control's done it!" a pilot cheered, "with those guns we just might stand a chance!"
Lena steered her aircraft so the Baphemut's ugly hull banked into view as three drones whooshed cross her cockpit chased by an Pharah's F-42. Lena concentrated on the behemoth airship but, as she did, the swarm began to close in on her to crowd out her vision. It was the confrontation she was avoiding killing all these drones, but between saving lives and meeting her fate, what was the right choice? It would only be a matter of time before Talon repaired the chronal array and the Baphemut would be unstoppable. If she failed here it was all of Britain and the world that would suffer.
"Pharah to Lena."
"Are you alright?" Pharah asked, "You're flying level without cover."
"Yes, luv. Just a tad nervous is all..." Lena set her band to all sections, "All right, boys, this is it. I'm going after that airship."
"Red Leader to Tracer. You're daft, Oxton. It's thick with bogies over there."
"Damn it, Red Leader, I won't have it!" Lena cursed, "I've got to get closer. Your orders are to clear the way for Leeming squadron!"
"Yellow Leader to skipper. Negative, Oxton. The problem is we rather like you. We're forming up now to cover your advance."
Lena scanned over her shoulders, the squadron was getting in formation despite taking heavy losses. Their sacrifice shouldn't be in vain. She looked forward with determination. The mob of drones was physically blocking the path to the Baphemut, using their swarming mass to enclose them every time a fighter neared the airship. She'd need to draw them out and make a hole.
"If any of you lads have missiles left, now's the time to use them. Focus on the center of the swarm."
She gunned her afterburners and flew directly towards the mass blocking her way to the Baphemut as the Slipstream charged its chronal engine. The drones caught wind of the plan, broke from their targets and chased the advancing squadron.
"On my mark, nitwits..." Lena ordered over the sound of the Slipstream's chronal engine charging, "FIRE!"
The squadron released its remaining payload of air-to-air missiles and broke just as the Slipstream blinked through the wall of banking and twisting drones. Immediately, the multitude of drones vectored for her and gave chase in a great cluster. She'd broken through but literally every last drone was on her tail. Lena prayed as the squadron's missiles neared their targets. She'd certainly gotten their attention...
"Go Oxton, they’re all after you! We'll keep covering you. It’s a bloody shooting gallery!"