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Code: Overwatch

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He felt it was easier to see than to think, sometimes, so there was writing on the walls. All of them. Lit only by the glaring LED of the laptop’s screen, mathematical equations and theories, both working and defunct alike were scrawled across the surfaces, connected by red arrows and pictures thumb tacked into them. It was like a conspiracy theorist’s palace, but only used as visual aid to a lone computer programmer, Winston.

It...just didn’t feel right.

Athena shouldn’t have been left in Overwatch. Others may argue that it should have been turned offline, shut down...disposed of. Winston would definitely, and vehemently disagree. Athena was never an it. Athena was alive and she deserved to live just like anyone else. And he was going to make sure that happened. He was going to get her out of Overwatch. By hook, or by crook, no matter how long it took.

It was a hindrance, though, being a student at Eldritch Academy, a school as old as its namesake. Sometimes if he focused when he repeated the name for inquiring minds, he could taste the dust on his tongue.

He supposed this madness had all started when he decided to go look for scrap in the foreboding factory in the distance without Lena. Usually his best friend went with him on his weekly excursions through the dark tunnels and into the dilapidated factory. Except, there was a prank; then again, there is always a prank.

It was meant to be a school wide prank fuelled by three AM shenanigans and copious amounts of red bull that they should not have had. But then again, if you put four bored teenagers (Lena, he and their two friends Genji and Jesse) together in detention, for two hours mind you, you should be prepared for the consequences.

He had no idea Lena would actually go through with the plan to put a goose from the local park in the dorm room of Hanzo Shimada (Genji’s callous older brother, always slightly judgemental and biting. Like a harsh blizzard that froze your extremities unbiasedly if you weren’t careful). But thanks to the CCTV of the school and Lena’s lack of care, the teachers figured out she was the perpetrator in a matter of hours after Hanzo went to the staff room with a sleeping goose in his arms.

Ever since the mess from the prior week, the teachers had been watching her constantly. But then again, could you really blame them? Geese are evil and he still wonders how Lena was able to sneak one of the loud monsters into the dorm building let alone into the room of Hanzo ‘Hyper-Ninja’ Shimada.

Either way, he didn’t have his partner in crime. Or at least, his partner in unrepentant and consistent curfew breaking.

He never went further than the main entrance of the factory because it seemed older than even the age old sewers and everything seemed to scream Tetanus. So as he skidded to a halt on his old bike at the end of the sewers, he decided to come and go as quickly as possible. Just like he always did when Lena was there.

Dropping his bike to the floor of the end of the maze of storm sewers, he panted as he pulled himself up the smooth metal rungs built into the wall in the dark. - Well aware that this was the point that Lena would make some sort of joke about his lack of exercise. Pale hands pushed open the hatch at the top and he clambered onto the surface.

He couldn’t help but gulp at the daunting image of the factory; the light of the moon painted over it made the old building seem to be draped in shadows that never seemed this intimidating when Lena was with him. Windows were smashed and cracked with dust and mildew covering the exterior. Looking down from the large piece of architecture that seemed to loom over him, he walked into the mouth of the beast.

The broken staircase that went down into the main floor stared back at him as usual; the rope that hung from the rafters above swayed in the cold night breeze that came in through the broken windows. His muscles screamed from all the exercise as he slid down the rope, he was going to be aching tomorrow.

Pulling out his phone from his pocket, he tapped on the flashlight function. He turned his head along with the light from side to side, looking for random pieces of junk that could be salvageable and might be reusable despite their age.

He should have known better than to go deeper inside. Maybe because of Lena’s presence, he had been able to keep his curiosity in check all the times he had come before. But, now that she wasn’t around and the light of his torch landed on the inviting elevator, he suddenly had an unquenchable thirst to see what was below.

He had googled the factory, of course (because what Generation Z kid didn’t google something that could be the basis of some obscure Creepypasta), and he had seen some rather disturbing articles (because what abandoned building didn’t have dark secrets). But there was always something that just… always intrigued him.

The cables.

They were massive cables, thicker than his curled fist. All of them were high quality and he was pretty sure they weren’t the kind you would find in a car factory.

Despite his better judgement, he went into the open elevator and gingerly pressed down the lowest button. A loud groan resounded as if he had woken a giant. He shuddered, terrified that the wires holding up the metal box might snap due to corrosion and age.

The doors closed before him and he was slowly lowered into the abyss. His knuckles had gone white due to the harsh hold he had on the metal bars beside him until the elevator finally came to a screeching stop and the doors opened and a cool blue room came into view.

It was barren and empty with washed out teal paint on the walls. Black cables, much like the ones on the main floor hung from the ceiling and snaked around the floor. The air was cold and it felt like something was watching him. The thought sent a shiver down his spine.

A soft hissing sound entered his ears and a large pool of smoke came from the floor. His heart beat in his chest so hard that it hurt his ribs. He stood stock still as a black pillar rose from the floor and another came out from within the first.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped closer. One wary step at a time until he reached the towers and a panel slid open on the curved surface to reveal a lever at eye level. Cautiously, he raised a hand before pulling the mechanism down.

Days later, he supposed that some part him knew he had sealed his fate that night. That a simple act of pressing a button or flicking a switch or pulling down a lever could have so many consequences. Like how one flap of a butterflies wings could cause a tsunami.

But at that specific moment in time, he was too busy being distracted by the sudden whirring that reverberated around him and orange lights came to life on the surface of the black metal. Brushing aside the sudden undecipherable dread inside his body that had arrived alongside the sound, he retracted his hand from the lever. He watched quietly as the dark grey metal disappeared behind a panel; a circular insignia painted on it with a stylised, upside-down ‘V’ in the center. - Each point of the letter touching the circumference of the circle.

Gold eyes dropped down to his watch and Winston swore. Turning on his heels he ran back to the elevator, briefly acknowledging the sounds of hissing towers as they de. Once up to the main floor he climbed up the rope faster than he would probably ever do in PE class. Running out of the factory like the hounds of hell were on his tail.

' Hopefully, Lena won’t kill me for going in too deep ' he thought, pulling open the hatch on the bridge and dropping down into the sewer. Climbing onto his bike, he peddled through the network of tunnels counting the minutes down in his head. He effectively had fifteen minutes until Professor Reyes started bed check and, if he wasn't back and faking the lost thing that was ‘sleep’, he was screwed.

It took him about twelve minutes to get back to the school campus and up into the third floor of the boy’s dorm building; this meant he had three minutes to spare until Reyes started bed check and he had never been so grateful that the man was always prompt and on time. Just about to make it to his room, Winston turns a corner onto his corridor and walks right into someone much taller than he was. Praying, he looked up and let out a long sigh of relief.

Never had he been so glad to see the aged face of Professor Ana Amari.

When she saw the ashen colour of his face, she snorted. “Relax kid, breaking curfew is nothing. I did worse at your age. Just get to your room and don’t get busted by Ga- Professor Reyes. Those two can and will eat you alive,” she told him, ruffling his black hair before walking off. Winston’s body immediately relaxed as the threat of danger disappeared.

When he was eleven and was first inducted into the school, his first thought on the software engineer was that she had been through some stuff. The eyepatch alone had told him that. As in every boarding school where kids had nothing better to do other than procrastinating on their school work and gossip, there were many rumours concerning the staff of the school and there were some very crazy ones involving Professor Amari being a pirate. But what can you expect from bored teenagers?

Overall he still thought she was the best teacher in the IT department.

Professor Reyes was terrifying (despite what his three adopted kids - Jesse, Amelie and Olivia - always said) and Professor Morrison was always by the book, so even if he did like you, he would throw you under the bus if you did something dumb.

Professor Amari? Well, it was as the Egyptian woman herself had said: she ‘did worse’ at his age ( which was frankly is a little terrifying). - That was the second piece of evidence on the ‘Been through some stuff’ theory, by the way.

So as he tiredly shuffled into his room at 8 pm, he was just glad that he hadn’t been caught by the other two teachers.

-

Next morning, he was dragged out of bed by his brown-haired friend herself. She was always raring to go early every morning and he low key hated it. He liked to be productive, meaning he wasn’t against staying up late for a project but the sun in his face at some ungodly hour just wasn’t right. He’d never say it though because the Brit had been there for him for five years of two a.m coding and three hours of sleep. The least he could do was put up with her early bird nature.

So he sat down bitterly with his breakfast and started picking at it because what they gave him wasn’t food. It was food poisoning waiting to happen. But what could you expect from school called Eldritch?

“Hey, you know how we never go deeper into the factory,” Winston began after a little while, still looking down at the abomination they tried to pass off as food. He shielded his eyes as he inwardly cursed his decision to sit facing the window; the light hurting his eye in the early morning.

“Yeah?” Lena wistfully mumbled from across him.

“Well, I may have done something you’re not going to like,” he continued.

“Uhuh,” was Lena’s lacklustre reply. Confused by Lena’s lack of reaction, he looked up and noticed her brown eyes looking over his shoulder, off into the distance. Turning his head to look in the same direction, he couldn’t help but sigh. Of course Lena would be distracted by her.

Amélie Lacroix-Reyes, the adopted daughter of Gabriel Reyes, the IT teacher from hell. The man was quite likely a demon in his past life and, while he was as angry and harsh as an unending storm, Amelie was cold, calm and collected.

With gorgeous black hair and a sharp face, she was the perfect definition of poise and etiquette. She danced, helped maintain the computer labs with her father and siblings and was a paintball extraordinaire, known for her deadly aim on par with only Hanzo Shimada - the archery master of the school.

For the record, the only reason he knew all this was because Lena wouldn’t stop talking about her. Ever. If there was even a moment where Lena could get a word in about the other girl, she would down right take it .

Basically, Lena was in love.

Grumbling under his breath, he waited out Lena’s wistful moment. It was pointless to try and get her out of it. Like with Professor Reyes’ rage it was better to find shelter and wait it out.

The only reason he didn’t complain more about knowing Amélie’s class schedule was because he at least knew when Lena would be missing and when he could get Lena’s attention. Like how on a Monday morning, he and Lena had a free lesson in first period but Amélie had art. And, oh look!

It’s a Monday morning.

When Amelie finally left for her class, he was able to drag Lena to the park and into the sewers. There were much easier ways into the sewers from within the school (one was the door in the back of the school kitchens, and another was a doorway in the Gym) but their disappearance was less likely to be noticed if they went through the forest like park.

At the end of sewer tunnel, the large grate letting the light of the morning stream through. The water between the walkways seemed to almost glimmer. Fading graffiti could be seen on the underside of the bridge and Winston couldn’t help but wonder how it had even gotten there. “Winston, I thought you got enough scrap last night?” Lena asked as they climbed up the ladder.

Her curious tone snapped him out of his stupor. hat was what I was trying to tell you earlier,” he said, pulling himself up the last few rungs “I… may have done something you might not approve of.”

“It can’t be that bad,” she chirped, her brown eyes closing in a bright smile behind her tinted glasses. She reached out a pale hand and pulled him up to the surface. “I went deeper into the factory,” he stated blandly. She froze. He took a deep breath and held it tightly in his chest waiting for the shoe to drop. And drop it did.

“You did what?!” she exclaimed, beginning to run around him, fretting about. Making sure he didn’t cut himself in the garbage of the large factory ahead of them.

“Lena I’m fine, but there is something you need to see.” he waved off, pulling her into the building ahead of them. The pair of them slid down the rope one after the other and they went into the elevator. It didn’t take long for them to descend into the belly of the beast and into what he assumed was the power room.

She stared at the towers as Winston explained what had happened. Her eyes following along the glowing golden lines on the surface of the towers in silent awe.

“So you just turned it on and left it?” Lena inquired, blinking away the wonder.

“Um… yes?” Winston responded, not entirely sure where she was going with her question.

“Winston! That’s like turning on an electric heater next to a container of kerosene! You have no idea what it’s even connected to!” she scolded as he withered beneath her intense look of worry.

“Uhhhh… Then let’s check it out?” he suggested, pointing at the ladder that went up into an open hatch on the ceiling.

One of the many things Winston was grateful for, was that Lena’s curiosity was nearly as insatiable as his. He could see her worry war with her curiosity, but he knew it was futile. Eventually, he could see her curiosity win before she dragged him back to the elevator.

The floor above was dark and the only real reason they could even see was because of the glaring white light from their phones. All that was obvious in the room were the six pillars that extended up to the ceiling; black cables spilled out of the top and reached into the rafters. Massive cables littered the ground, a constant reminder that they should be careful of where they step.

Quickly deciding that there wasn’t much to see in the room, the duo climbed up the ladders to the side up to the floor above and they were blown away.

“Woah… what is this place?” Lena inquired softly once the elevator doors opened, as if she was scared to break the silence.

The metal walls were in the same washed teal as the power room (at least, that’s what Winston assumed it was). A large circle made out of metal was on the floor; insulated wires jutted out and strung around the place. A light emitted from the open center of the circle making it seem like a pool. Beside it, a large rig of machinery hung from above - there were four flat screens and small keyboard table mounted to it - across from a plush chair that stood on a single central leg.

With his left to the light and the pool, Winston sat down on the chair. Shifting the mouse, the four screens came to life with the stylised symbol he had seen on the towers two levels below. Multiple boxes opened up on the screen and green code whizzed across the boxes while the other three monitors turned on.

A holographic projection came up from the pool of a three dimensional, four-pointed star, floating in the air. Each point seemed to have a different layout that he couldn’t get a clear look off from the corner of his eye. Nevertheless, the four different colours were obvious: Orange, green, blue and purple, all coming from a large yellow orb in the centre.

Meanwhile, Lena leaned over his shoulder to get a better look at the screens. He pressed down on a few keys, typing in the usual code for the directory. Before he could do anything more, a large pop-up display came up. A 3D rendering of a tanned little girl’s face stared back at them. The girl’s dark blue hair was cut diagonally and straight, with one side framing her chin and the other going to her collar bone. A small metal piece held her fringe to the side, with red and green feathers extending off of it.

“Woah, this is… so cool!” Lena gaped, with a bright smile on her face, she didn’t even look down at him before continuing “This doesn’t mean I’m letting go of you leaving the super pc on,”

The girl’s eyes snapped open revealing soft blue eyes. Her eyebrows furrowed as she stared at them. Winston slouched into his seat until he heard a faint voice ask “Who are you?”

Chapter Text

She woke up in the tower.

She had been lying there on the floating platform with a glowing circle and inverted V. Her white dress pooled on the cool floor as she continued to stare skyward. Blue screens glowed surrounded her, binary code flickered on and off them on the dark circumference of the tower.

Sitting up, she began to play with the golden bangles on her wrists until a translucent screen came online in front of her. She cautiously reached out and pressed her hand to it.

The the rush of information came.

Her name was Athena and this place was called Overwatch. Athena didn't have parents. At least, not in the normal, biological sense. Athena was what you would call 'An AI program so complex that it could give you whiplash' or 'God Program' for short (she blamed one of her creators for the former... Thankfully the latter was her official designation in Overwatch’s code). She didn’t have parents, she had Reaper and S:76.

They were her beloved creators.

She was made, Overwatch was made, to protect people, they had told her. That’s where the memory rush paused for a moment. Glitching. Before a new set of memories came.

Instead, it gave her more information from towards the end.

Talon, her fellow AI, was to be her guardian, a sentinel that protected her from harm, whether it be a virus, malware, or a worm. Or even a "the hellspawn of a demon and Godzilla" as Reaper fondly referred to Rootkits. Except Talon went haywire and people began to hunt for she and Overwatch. Then the information stopped.

Tapping the interface screen, she saw code pass by in a second and understood it all.

She was damaged. Overwatch had been turned off - why would they even turn it off? - after she was damaged and the system was still trying to reintegrate her coding and sync them with her memory bank. It would take time. Without enough information on how extensive the damage was, she couldn’t calculate how long it would take.

Sighing, she stared at the interface. Logically, she could understand why Overwatch was turned off. A system completely designed to filter completely through the internet… anyone would want that. The only way to stop them was to turn the entire thing off and hide .

But with next to no information on Talon (other than the fact it went rogue), she had no idea what to do against it. She began to run possibility after possibility through her code, probabilities added up, multiplied, divided and-

She froze.

She stared wide-eyed into space as she tried to ride the glitch out. After a few more seconds she could think again and function.

 

Had she actually been able to feel any passage of time in Overwatch, she might have felt fear.

Fear
fɪə
Noun
1. An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.

Had she actually been able to feel a passage of time, she might have felt some concept of comfort
(
comfort
ˈkʌmfət
Noun
1. A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.
2. the easing or alleviation of a person's feelings of grief or distress. ) from the glowing sigil of Overwatch below her. Instead, she just felt… cold? (Is that what S:76 and Reaper would have called this emptiness?) Her code merely acknowledged what was happening and sent it through her subroutines and it felt like she was running through this moment for seconds, minutes, days, weeks, mont-

She froze again.

Another few seconds passed and she was able to function again. Then the interface before her gave way to a screen displaying the face of a boy in the hot seat and a girl leaning over his shoulder (The pose was so similar to what S:76 used to do as Reaper programmed and Athena watched through a webcam and-)

“Who are you?” she asked the interlopers who stared at her.

“My name is Winston,” he introduced before the brown haired girl sharply elbowed him in the side “This is my friend Lena.” The girl waved.

“I am Athena, The Artificial Intelligence of this system,” she explained.

“Can you tell us what this is?” Winton asked, sifting through a bit of code and trying not to change any for fear of damaging the programs running in the background.

“This is Project Overwatch. I am a statistical AI that was developed to sift through data to find evidence of premeditated crime,” Athena began, and Winston could hear the sharp intake of air between Lena’s teeth. “Overwatch itself, this virtual world, was to act as a physical interface for users to access the data so as to send it to the proper authorities.”

“So what happened? Why was this entire thing shut off?” Lena inquired hesitantly

“The project… was not endorsed by government-”

“You mean it was super duper illegal?” Lena cut off

“Yes,” Athena calmly said “The team that designed the Project was made up of Hacktivists and Engineers who did not agree with the way the government was acting. However to make sure no rights of privacy were breached, only I could access the data that was meant to be sifted through. I was the whole reason I was made… That and Talon went Rogue-”

“Talon?” the two students echoed in confusion

“Talon is another AI, it was solely designed to protect Overwatch from outside attacks and protect me and the privacy of the people. It went rogue and I do not know much beyond that. Before Overwatch was turned off, my code was slightly damaged. The system is still trying to debug it and reconnect me to my memory banks. I remember the protocols though-”

She paused. Bringing up an interface beside the screen with the children, she tapped a few slides, swiped through the protocols. Tilting her head to the side, she mumbled “The scanners seem to work in the diagnostic check and the system is running well…”

Meanwhile, Winston entered directives slowly- until he found something that confused him.

“Athena, what is an ‘Annex Programme’?”

“It is what allows me to access the code of the system via nodes and is the main programme that allows me to interact with the data I’m meant to sift through as well as interact with certain hardware. Why?” the AI deftly explained

Winston’s body went rigid. A shiver scuttled up his spine as his hands shook. “Because, it says here Talon has access… If Talon, as you say, has gone rogue, and now has access to the Annex Programme that suggests he could do something bad. Meaning… if he can activate these nodes and get to our world-?”

He and Lena watched as the image of Athena glitched. Eventually, it stopped and she said: “Without enough information, I cannot make an accurate probability of what can happen.”

“Guess,” Winston said

“I cannot-”

“Guess, Athena.” Lena coaxed.

After a few seconds, the AI finally said in an even tone “With the combined force of the supercomputer, Talon’s extensive code and possibly mine if he can get to me… The results could range from dangerous to catastrophic.”

-

“This is insane, Winston,” Lena mumbled. They had left the factory behind after meeting Athena and the two were on their way back to their first class of the day. “This is way out of our wheelhouse. We’re just teenagers,” she tried to reason.

“If we were to tell anyone, who would believe us?” Winston retorted, turning a corner into the science building.

“Believe you about what?” a familiar voice asked. Turning their heads, Lena smiled at the sight of their friends. Genji and Zenyatta.

Genji was a menace but a good friend. Somehow, he had gotten away with the geese incident in the eyes of the teachers. But Winston was pretty sure that the scolding he got from Zenyatta afterwards was enough to make the teen more repentant than a detention ever would.

In comparison to all of them, Zenyatta was a saint. He dealt with Genji on a daily basis, not only because he was dating the boy with the neon green hair, but he was also his dorm mate. Most people couldn’t stand Genji in small doses, let alone constantly. - And this was all discounting the rest of them, who were just as bad in their own ways.

Nevertheless, Zenyatta was like a tree that stood regardless of all weathers. Swaying with the wind, using the rain from the storms and the sun in summer to grow. In the words of quite possibly the entire school, he was perfect for Genji (and considering the latter’s personality, it was sort of understandable why his brother Hanzo looked six seconds away from snapping all the time).

Sadly, their two friends were in the year below Winston and Lena and their free periods didn’t sync up often so they rarely saw each other outside of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Don’t you guys have a lesson on the other side of the school?” Lena asked. Zenyatta smiled and waved her off “The class got cancelled and Genji needed to ask his brother something.”

The green haired teen cackled and rubbed his hands together, acting like some kind evil scientist as he saw his brother walking past them. Genji jogged off and the three students left behind watched as he spoke, too far to hear anything.

They watched as Hanzo gave him a deadpanned look, saying something before walking away whilst shaking his head in an exasperated manner. When Genji finally came back, he dejectedly mumbled: “I was expecting a better response than ‘Why do you do this, Genji?’ after how it felt to be the mother of a goose…” Lena laughed as Zenyatta merely patted his boyfriend on the back in sympathy. Winston shook his head, walking off towards his class with Lena at his heels.

-

In the frozen banks of the ice sector in Overwatch, the white glow of a colossal tower - surrounded by massive wires that dug in and out of the ice like tree roots - turned red.

-

 

Despite the wave of thoughts crashing around in his head, he had somehow made it through the school day, occasionally laughing at Genji’s efforts in making his brother ‘loosen up’ with his other friends. By the time he got back to his dorm room, he looked like a freshly turned zombie ready to hunt for some brains (starting with the suckers who made Overwatch because he had gotten some of the code on it and, oh my, he was drooling).

In his daze, he had somehow managed to drag himself to his desk and boot up his laptop - it was most likely due to muscle memory at this point - so as to get some homework done before he passed out at his desk (like he usually did).

It was when he was a page and a half into his unsaved essay that his laptop suddenly went got a black screen of death before static covered the screen.

Pressing a few keys, his heart dropped into his stomach before ceasing to beat for a few seconds as the Overwatch symbol illuminated his laptop, only to be replaced by talons on a shield.

Wait a minute…” he mumbled staring intensely at it.

A high pitch sound drew his attention away from the screen to one of his mechanical projects that was shuddering in its place on top of his desk. The single projection lense on it had the same Talon mark on it and it rolled out of its home and began to attack. Sparks of electricity wound around the machine like a snake as its sharp edges cut against Winston’s skin. He hurriedly stood, sending his chair to toppling to the ground and it jumped after him. He tried to push it away but a mechanical arm snagged onto his clothes and he let out a yelp

He was grateful that Lena, Genji and their friend Jesse were walking by and heard him yell.

They burst in and grabbed the metal contraption. Throwing it to the ground, Jesse stepped on it for good measure while Lena checked Winston over. A part of him mourned the loss of a good project, but then again it tried to kill him so he wasn’t too bothered as he was sat down at his computer chair.

Frankly though, he was more upset about the lost page and a half of his essay than this entire mess.

“Your little friends are kinda aggressive, Winston,” Genji stated as Lena sat Winston down.

“I had nothing to do with that Genji,” Winston said “They just attacked me all of a sudden.”

Jesse laughed, shaking his head in disbelief as he said “Ya lost me.”

“Their talons got to me.”

“Winston-” Lena began, her eyes widening and he just nodded his head. Jesse just looked at them with his eyebrows furrowed, saying with his texan accent “I have 2 sisters and it taught me to sense bullshit . Now, there’s somethin goin’ on here, and we ain’t leaving ‘til we find out what.”

“Yeah!” Genji exclaimed “What if you suddenly get attacked by a hair dryer and we aren’t around to protect you?”

Ha! Very funny, ” Winston drawled turning to his computer.

“Winston, let’s just tell them,” Lena advised “We’re already way over our heads; what have we got to lose?”

The black haired computer whiz just sighed. Spinning on his chair, he mumbled “Fine. But first let me ask you, can you keep a secret?”

-

“That tunnel in the gym is one hell of a way to sneak out of curfew,” Genji mumbled as they all walked down the bridge to the Factory. “I prefer to be back in bed before bed check, so I wouldn’t know,” Winston retorted “But there is one in the campus and another in the park.”

Nearing the broken staircase, Jesse asked “How exactly are we supposed to get down there?” Lena smiled taking a few steps back before launching herself at the rope. Sliding to the ground, she raised her hands and said “Tada!” The three boys followed her lead and one by one they landed.

They silently waited in the elevator as they were slowly lowered to the Lab room and when they doors slid open, Genji and Jesse walked in with the same level of awe as Lena and Winston had when they first saw it.

“So this is the Mega computer with a world in it?” Genji inquired, pacing around the hologram and screens. “Actually, it’s a supercomputer. But basically yes,” Winston affirmed.

“Man, the electricity from your machines must have fried your brain Winston. This is just the control center for the factory,” Jesse tried to reason. He fell on deaf ears though as Winston merely typed in a few commands and Athena came onto the screen.

“Hello Athena,” he greeted. They watched as the girl tried to… smile? Before sighing and greeting he and Lena blandly.

“I continued to try and use the data banks that are available to me but I have not gained any new memories. My apologies,” she said.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Jesse whistled “Who’s the blue haired girl?”

“This is Athena,” Lena started “She’s some sort of AI in charge of the system… Well she was meant to be but Talon, the AI Firewall on crack, went AWOL and took over. Athena was damaged before the shut down and is still trying to fill in the blanks between the take over and the start.”

“Lena, Winston, I have to applaud you for such a great game design and idea! Even integrating it into the real world by having those robots attack you! Didn’t think you were into this kind of stuff, Winston,” Genji said, clapping.

“It’s not a game!” Winston yelled

“He’s right, I woke up the second Winston turned on the computer and I don’t know much” Athena added “And do not underestimate Talon. In the seconds it took you to come up with that statement, Talon could have run four hundred different scenarios. It is a firewall. But as an AI, it is emotional. That could be our only advantage in battling him.”

“Firstly: Battle? And secondly: you’re not emotional?” Jesse retorted, leaning against the wall next to the elevator

“No, I have no memories, this means I have no emotional bases. I am effectively a clean slate in terms of personality. And as long as Talon is awake it will try to take over the network, so we will have to keep it at bay.”

“If this thing is so dangerous, then why not turn the computer off?” Jesse asked “It was obviously off for a reason in the first place.”

“Athena doesn’t deserve to be shut off with no closure. She deserves to remember who she is!” Lena exclaimed “Then and only then will we turn it off.”

“Can you live with that though Lena?” Genji retorted “At this point, Athena has no capacity for emotion and you haven’t known her for long. We could turn her off and it would just be like pulling the plug on a computer program, albeit one you’ll have a little attachment to. Eventually, you will get over it.”

“But if you help her remember, she will feel sadness, love, joy. She will have all that makes us human. All the while, Talon - if it’s real - could be trying to get stronger. So, I have to ask, can you live with yourself after that?” Jesse continued

“We’re not pulling the plug on Athena!” Winston roared “We are gonna stop Talon and get her out of there!”

“And how do you propose we do that ?” Jesse yelled back. Winston smirked.

“You’ll see, Jesse McCree.”