There was never a moment where war wasn’t constant on the planet; it was a painful reality that Angela Ziegler had come to expect in an almost nihilistic capacity. Altruism was well and good in many respects, but a bleeding heart could only bleed for so long before there was nothing left. Luckily for her, she was a medical genius and there were plenty of ways to force blood back into a heart. Most of them were incredibly unethical and…well, maybe this metaphor was going a bit off the rails.
It wasn’t as if she regretted her choices, hated doing them or lacked purpose because of the ever-revolving cycle that she had put herself in. But every day was another crisis that she had seen the day before or the week before. Every single problem was another one she had seen somewhere else with a different ending or start.
But it was the moments like this, staring at the mountains of patients on the datapad that suffered from injuries, from malnourishment, and from every other problem under the sun that she wondered faintly if there was a moment she could take a mental break. The only time that happened was when she was in whatever office she had made for herself, where she could close her eyes and drown out the noise and whatever stress she had about her new place.
“Doctor Ziegler?” Came the soft, computerized voice of an Omnic.
The pitch was designed to be warming and comforting, and it did its job rather admirably. She pushed away the pointless desire of having a moment to breathe before turning to face the omnic in question. Slim and humanoid as most, with a singular slit in the center of his face that seemed to glow a soft yellow, Vivi had become a constant companion in her travels, and he was an excellent worker considering that omnics rarely needed to sleep or rest. It was a bold move of his to come along, but people didn’t often think much of it if they were sedated. He had become indispensable to her as of late.
“Yes, Vivi?” Angela said, giving him a warm smile. “What is it?”
“We have a bit of a situation, Doctor.” He admitted after a long pause. “One of our patients seeking asylum has appeared to attract some trouble.”
Angela glanced at him with a furrowed brow, before slipping out of her chair and grabbing her Caduceus Staff from its place next to her desk. She hated to admit it: but she was always armed. She was a pacifist by nature, but she hadn’t stayed alive this long by being ignorant to the realities of her situation.
“It never ends, does it?” she sighed faintly, fingers running through her hair. She did not look like Mercy, the great hero of Overwatch today. She looked like Doctor Angela Ziegler, overworked Medicine Sans Frontiers. It wasn’t the first time that she had to diffuse a situation like this after all, and it wouldn’t be the last.
This one, however…was going to be a little more difficult when she noted just who was waiting for her and her expression hardened. She recognized those black uniforms, those glowing red eyes on the helmets.
It wasn’t a surprise that they were here. More than likely they were the reason she was needed to help these people. Far and away in a little corner of Kyrgyzstan, a nation already plagued by endless issues even before the Omnic War had arrived, Talon had sunken their claws in and incited a civil war--to what end she didn't know. But she had long since accepted that she could not be everywhere, but it never stopped her from trying to help somewhere every time she knew of trouble.
She wished she could say this was her first time seeing Talon or dealing with them in person. There were four soldiers armed with rifles and scanning the nervous population of the makeshift hospital as Angela approached them with a frown. While Angela dealt with them, Vivi calmly directed the patients to go back to their rooms for the time being. They all began to file out of the room, anxious but cooperative.
“Must you come here armed?” she asked, even if she already knew the answer. “You are scaring my patients; I must ask you to leave.”
“No can do, Doctor Zeigler. We’re here for a man named Jyrgal Usenov,” the leader said, showing her a picture through the holodisplay on his arm.
She recognized the man, although she knew better than to show it. A middle-aged man who had come in wearing a fine suit and covered in dirt and blood, he had suffered some manner of shrapnel wound from the civil infighting going on between local terrorist groups and government forces. Times like this, she sorely wished that Overwatch still existed…if only for the conflicting relief she had that their military power had prevented things like this from happening.
“That is none of my concern,” Angela stated passively. “Once he is here, he’s under my safety. I will not have you come in here and harass people! This is a place of safety and healing, not a pick-up spot for whatever you deem suitable!” she huffed. “So, you will leave the premises, immediately, or I will be forced to make you leave.”
“Really?” The lead man seemed almost amused. “And give up your non-combatant status, Doctor Ziegler?”
Angela narrowed her eyes sharply in warning, her Caduceus Staff’s rotating wings snapping closed so quickly that it made their postures straighten. She was a pacifist, not an idiot. Violence was not her preferred solution, but at times there was nothing other than the harsh reality that would protect people who needed peace. She had served Overwatch for many years, and had been traveling war-torn countries and cities even longer. She had been part of every training regimen at Jack’s insistence. Though she loathed every moment of it, there wasn’t a day that passed by when she thought it was a waste of time. It was a sad truth that she was safer and more capable of spreading her word when she was confident enough to resolve most problems by any means possible.
“You and I both know that you follow those rules when it suits you,” she said flatly. “If you are so confident that you can take him from me, then I urge you to try…but I will only warn you once,” she stated confidently as Vivi settled behind her, hands behind his back.
The leader glanced at his men and then tilted his head a moment, mumbling something or another. She waited for a time before the four soldiers' gazes burned into her. She knew the answer before they even said anything.
The leader moved to raise his rifle and his men spread out. Angela’s staff connected with the side of the weapon and almost jerked it out of his grip while Vivi moved behind her like a metal bullet train, his elbow slamming into the chest of one of the men. He let loose a cry of pain as he slid back a foot and hit the wall with a grunt.
“Doctor Zeigler?” Vivi asked, his voice calm as ever despite how tense the room had become. The clear indifference in his inhuman voice was disturbing.
“Get them out of here!” Angela insisted, bringing her staff around to crash it against the helmet of the leader before shoving him towards the door.
He stumbled almost incoherently as one of the men moved to assist his leader, shifting out of the way to raise his gun up and fire. Angela’s eyes widened as she extended the wings of her staff and hooked the barrel, tugging it down as bullets sunk into the dirty tile. The starburst-shaped blast had burned into her retinas, and she was suddenly so very glad that none of her patients were in this room. Something like this had been bound to happen and she had planned for every eventuality in that regard. As the sound of panicked screaming reached her ears, she hoped that the other staff members were calming them. They were still safe, after all.
Angela shifted forward, using the angle of her hooked staff to strike the man across the throat with the bottom half of her staff. As he let out a pained gag, she shoved him towards the door. Vivi caught him and hurled him out with a normal, almost casual push of his arms. At this point, the four Talon men were either on the pavement or stumbling out.
“This isn’t over, Doctor Zeigler,” the leader warned, but it was hard to be too threatened when he sounded like he was trying to compose himself as the four of them were collecting each other.
“It rarely is,” Angela stated softly, almost sadly as her staff pleasantly rotated and she glanced along the small lobby. It had already been a bit of a mess, but now it had a few more bullet holes. Her gaze shifted to Vivi who was standing there as attentive as ever. “Thank you for your assistance, Vivi.”
“My pleasure, Doctor Zeigler…well, at least in making sure that these people are safe.” He said cheerfully. “It is quite nice to have them view me with a normal amount of suspicion here, and not the violent kind like in most areas.”
“…I can imagine,” she sighed heavily, turning to head deeper into her makeshift clinic. “I suppose we will have to make some defensive preparations. In the meantime, could you retrieve Mister Usenov for me, please?”
“Of course,” He responded easily.
It was a waste of time, she soon realized. He had barely spoken when he had first gotten here, and now he was even more quiet. She had no real authority to remove him, and if she did so then it would look as if she was playing favorites and she simply could not. The only thing that kept her here was that she helped both terrorist and soldier without question; civilians were simply safer here because of it.
But Talon? Talon always tried to break the rules everyone else set, even though they were the ones responsible for the way this place was. She could tolerate so much in this world to keep her ideals together, but Talon was such an abrasive mockery of everything she stood for that it made her calm blood boil. The night sank into it’s usual routine: people wanting medicine the clinic barely had, and her speaking with rebels and government alike for whatever she could find, promising that she was only here to serve the people and nothing else. How true that was, she didn’t know…But her patients didn't seem to be any more stressed over it. Even worse was that it had happened in broad daylight and word would spread fast that this would be a safe haven from their men, which could possibly mean smugglers and worse would try to stay here for safety. Talon was probably going to make her life extremely difficult, she had no idea how she was even going to get the required medicines she needed and-
“Doctor Zeigler.” Yet again, Vivi’s calm voice broke through her thoughts and the reassuring smell of coffee filled the air as he set a mug of it down in front of her. It was strange, even though Vivi’s face had no real facial expressions it was easy for her to tell when he was smiling. “You seem troubled.”
“Aren’t I always?” Angela remarked dryly, taking a long sip of the scalding hot coffee without much pause and barely a clearance of her throat. Vivi’s head cocked to one side as she did it, but decided it was better to leave it alone. Humans were, at times…so very odd and inhuman. He was certain that the temperatures far exceeded the comfort levels of the throat…
“Vivi,” Angela murmured. “Do…you think we did the right thing?” she asked, glancing at him.
“Right is a subjective term determined on a case by case basis, Doctor Ziegler,” Vivi stated after a moment of pause. “Had we not stopped them, they would have taken that Mister Usenov away and many of the people we house would have been afraid. And now they are afraid of Talon coming again…but yes, I believe that it was the right thing to do. We cannot claim safety and sanctuary for everyone if we do not defend that right.”
“But defending that right only brings more violence,” Angela sighed, cradling her cup close. “How am I to speak of peace when I must defend myself from people like Talon?”
“Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, law and order, the saying goes, I believe?” Vivi recalled. “You cannot wish for peace and have no way to defend it, Doctor Zeigler. That is unrealistic. You cannot protect peace with open arms--you protect it with your integrity…and an excellent usage of your staff. Where did you learn how to do that?”
Angela smiled a little at that. Vivi was always rather philosophical…but he was right regardless. She knew that already, but sometimes it was hard to remember it in the moment. “Overwatch,” she admitted. “Ja--er, Commander Morrison insisted that I know more than just how to handle a pistol if I was to be on field missions.”
“Ah, Si vis pacem, para bellum?” He asked casually. If you want peace, prepare for war. Angela frowned at that, glancing down at her already half empty coffee cup. She hated that phrase, it was like spitting in everything she believed in.
“Perhaps, but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, Vivi,” she reminded, finishing off her up of coffee.
“Ah, that is true…thankfully I have no eyes.” Vivi remarked. “I will continue my rounds, Doctor Ziegler. Do contact me if you need anything?”
Angela wasn’t quite sure how to process that last statement, so she decided to leave it alone and smiled. “Yes, of course…thank you, Vivi.”
The omnic tilted his head and headed back off into the clinic. Vivi was constantly moving and offering aid to people who were wary of him no matter how much the rest of her aid crew were taking part and it never seemed to bother him. Angela sunk herself into her work as she usually did. When she was working, time became more of an idle thought than a hard rule to live by. Sleep was often a gift she gave to herself. Her "alone time" amounted to falling asleep at her desk or the cot in her office. There just wasn't room for much else.
What bothered her now was just how much Talon was hanging on her mind. They didn’t make idle threats; if they said it wasn’t over, then they would mean every single word it. Maybe it was just her paranoia kicking in. It was well into the night before Vivi insisted she retire to get some actual rest, and, at that point, she was too burnt out to disagree with him. Staff in hand, she headed toward her makeshift office with a yawn of relief and opened the door.
She stopped midway, her tired eyes widening a fraction at the absolute slab of a man sitting on her bed, clad in full black combat gear and glinting silver claws. His dark hood couldn’t hide the mask settled over a void black head. It was like he had sucked the light out of the entire room as he leaned forward, his wave almost casual.
“Doctor,” Reaper said, his voice low and carrying minor echo that seemed to travel and stay in place all at the same time. “Been a while.”
“…Gabriel,” Angela exhaled finally, blinking at him incredulously. If she wasn’t so tired, her reaction might have been worthier of the fact that one of the most hated men on the planet was simply sitting on her cot like it didn’t matter and they were old friends. But as it stood, she was running on about twelve hours of naps and actually needed some sleep.
On the other hand, it seemed exactly like Gabriel to simply appear out of thin air like some ghost…or in this case, a wraith.
“I heard some of my kids got beat up by a girl, so now I have to beat you up too,” he said dryly, rising to his full height as Angela stared at him. Gabriel and Jack had always been a rather imposing duo, but right now it seemed like he was dominating the room with his bulk. His words almost didn’t register until she arched a brow at him.
“…That’s what you’re here for?” She was not privy to the inner workings of Talon, in the slightest bit. But she was privy to the inner workings of Gabriel Reyes to an extent, and she knew Gabriel was still in there somewhere…and she knew that this kind of work was beneath him. This was something he would send someone else to do.
“Well, not exactly,” he admitted with a shrug. “You’re holding someone we need, Angela…and I’m going to ask you nicely, just once.”
“And why would I help you?” Angela bristled in annoyance, fingers still tight on the doorknob as if the door would stop him from doing anything. “Why should I? After all the things you’ve done? After all the murders you committed to Overwatch? To people you used to work with?”
“Look, Doc-" Gabriel growled out in irritation as he took a step forward, and before he knew it, Angela had taken a step back and drawn her pistol at a speed that impressed even him, her staff discarded. Her form was tight, her grip was one hand over the other and her finger was very decidedly on the trigger, those bleeding-heart eyes had been drained of all warmth and left only a cold husk staring back at him.
It seemed that even that the paragon of virtue and good that Angela Zeigler was, was tired like the rest of them. He had no doubt in his mind that if he took one more step, Angela would shoot him and that would be that.
“…I guess that’s the way it is then, huh?” Gabriel murmured. “Doesn’t have to be this way, Angela…you don’t know why we’re looking for him.”
“Why should I care, Gabriel?” Angela asked tightly. “Why should I care at all about anything Talon is doing?”
“Because this one might interest you, Doc…I wouldn’t be here if I thought I couldn’t convince you,” Gabriel said. That smugness was enough to make her finger press ever so faintly on the trigger. How desperately she wanted to shoot him, if only for all the pain he had caused so many people…but what would that do? That would just make her feel miserable that she was responsible for the loss of another friend she used to have.
Who was she kidding? It wasn’t as if Gabriel was a friend to anyone anymore, no matter how much she wished otherwise. Nothing Talon did was for anything other than their own ends. That’s what made her irritated by how curious she was.
“What possible thing could you have that would ever make me interested-“
“Someone turning your biotic research into a sick joke?” Reaper tried casually. “Using it to make a horrifying chemical weapon, maybe?”
Angela stared at him a moment longer, frowning deeper as she lowered her weapon but didn’t stop pointing it at him. “…And, why exactly is that Talon’s problem?”
“Because chemical weapons not under our control don’t really do us much good, Doc…and besides that, this isn’t exactly something we can actually control,” Reaper shrugged. “So, you’re going to help me or it’s going to get ugly.”
“Now you’re not suggesting, you’re threatening,” Angela said dryly. “Make up your mind, Gabriel…I’ve had very little sleep and the desire to shoot you is growing stronger by the minute. Helping you means I help Talon.”
“Helping me means you help everyone,” Reaper recalled. “Chemical weapon, Doc…little too highbrow for us--can’t exactly work with that like we can forcing civil wars and causing uprisings.”
Angela stared at him a moment longer, before letting out a long sigh and raising her hand up as her staff snapped to her grip.
“Neat trick,” he mused. Guess the Good Doctor had grown up like the rest of them, all bitter and hateful for the world.
“There’s also the one where I’m going to shoot you if you’re lying to me, Gabriel…and don’t think a Doctor isn’t a very good person to hold a weapon,” Angela warned. “I know exactly where I need to hit, and you and Jack made me do drills enough to make sure I remembered.”
“Fair enough,” Reaper snorted. “Never thought I’d see the day that you of all people would be as grouchy as the rest of us, it’s kind of funny…and sort of attractive.”
“I am running on far too little sleep to deal with you, Gabriel,” Angela said in annoyance, bristling at his ‘compliment’. “If you want my help, you’ll keep those comments to yourself.”
“Duly noted,” he said, with false cheer. “Just like old times, mm? All we need is Jack and an exploding building to really bring back all the good feelings.”
Angela could already feel a headache brewing, but now she was already too invested in this to quit as she headed inside her office and shut the door. “I hope you have more than someone making a chemical weapon, Gabriel,” she huffed as she sat down on her bed while Gabriel took the chair and settled back comfortably with a long, irritating creak.
“I do,” Reaper grunted. “Those men you dealt with earlier weren’t with me.”
“What?” Angela said, brows knitted together. She should have known she wasn’t going to get an answer, but it still meant she wanted one.
“Just trust me on that,” he said, pulling out a thumb drive and tossing it to her. She caught it with a frown and glanced at him. Yes, trust him…of all people. The person that had murdered countless members of Overwatch, the person that…ugh. Why was she even considering this?
“…Or don’t, either way…all you need to know is on that drive, up to you if you wanna look at it.” Gabriel said, rising. “I’m taking Jyrgal with me tonight.”
“And what makes you think I’ll allow that?” Angela frowned up at him.
“Because if you could stop me, you would have already,” Reaper said, amusement tinging in his voice. “I’m looking forward to our next date, Angela,” he said, before his form shifted into dark, cloudy smoke and simply sunk underneath the crack of the door and away from her. Angela stared at that in passing, then to the thumb drive in her hands still. Between it, her lack of sleep and the fact that Gabriel had just done one of the most disturbing things she had seen in her long career, she simply reached for the light and dropped her face in her pillow.
It annoyed her how right he was about it. What could she do to stop him? She’d just have to…figure something out for tomorrow. Some odd, irritating part of her was somewhat happy that Gabriel still trusted her with this sort of thing. Her head was spinning with so many questions, but she had to trust him.
Trust in the man who was one of the reasons Overwatch plummeted into obscurity and political controversy.
How desperate for friends are you, Angela?