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A Long Shadowed Night

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The Soldier had spent a lot of time over the last several years in the grittiest, filthiest underbellies of the world. The slums of Mexico. The wartorn alleys of Russia and Brazil. He had travelled the world, and he hadn't stayed in five star hotels.

Numbani was a nice city. A rich city. But it had a seedy underclass like everywhere else, and like a lot of places, those darker zones were being dragged even deeper into the shadows by Talon. So he went to Numbani, and he stalked the drug dealers with their experimental drugs, and the weapons traders, carrying refurbished Omnic parts and modded assault weapons.

This time, though, someone was waiting for him.

He hadn't known if Talon was aware of what he was doing. He tried to keep a low profile and make sure that no one who saw his uniform got out alive to talk about it. He struck quickly and decisively, and then moved on - sometimes leaving a country entirely so that Talon wouldn't know if he was one person on a mission, or an entire army of resistance. The less they knew about him, the better.

But somewhere, he had slipped up.

He followed rumours of a major weapons deal about to go down in a warehouse on the outskirts of town. He had scouted the place the day before and saw signs of the preparations - large crates likely holding OR15 rifles and Bastion cannons being loaded alongside more mundane cargo intended to camouflage the real goods.

When he arrived that night, pulse rifle ready and his tac visor charged, there had been no deal going on. When he plunged into the building through a high window, instead of finding a group of twitchy criminals in the midst of their negotiation, he found Reaper.

And Reaper was ready for him.

The first indication Jack had that something had gone wrong was the tiniest of whispers, a susurration of sound like gauze brushing against concrete, right behind him. He whirled around, but a shotgun blast went off almost in his face, the buckshot glancing off of his mask with enough force to make his head ring, but thankfully not taking off his face. He fired reflexively, but Jack's pulse rifle shots had gone harmlessly through the monster, who faded insubstantial and moved like a ghost.

Still disoriented from the shotgun blast, Jack tried to move, to get some cover, but Reaper was on him before he could move more than a foot. Jack went down under his enemy's weight, a knee harsh in the small of his back and a clawed hand grabbing his wrist. The pulse rifle was yanked out of Jack's hands and sent skittering far out of reach.

Reaper wrenched Jack's arm tightly behind him, his claws biting through the fabric of his flak jacket and into his wrist. Jack grunted, his shoulder screaming in pain, and felt the hot muzzle of one of Reaper's guns pressed to the all-but-unprotected back of his head.

"Do it, you bastard," Jack growled. His heart roared in his ears, a pounding that blotted out the soft rumbling of Reaper's laughter.

Or had he stopped laughing? Jack waited to die, counting down his last heartbeats, but that final blast never came. The iron grip of the creature didn't let up, either, and Jack wondered what he was waiting for.

He turned his head, an inch. Two. His neck popped, but he saw the dark, shadowed form of the masked man looming over him. He was still as a corpse and the death's head mask gave no indication of what he was doing.

"Well?" Jack challenged him.

"Jack...Morrison..." the Reaper purred. "You're alive."

Jack's stomach dropped at the sound of his name on the creature's lips. "How do you know me?" he said.

Instead of answering, Reaper slammed the butt of his shotgun into the back of Jack's head. There was an explosion of light and pain, and Jack fell deeply into oblivion.

~ ~ ~

Jack woke freezing, and still tasting the harsh metallic flavour of blood in his mouth. His bare cheek was pressed against a hard floor surface, and his head pounded. His shoulder was still painful as well, both of his arms pulled back and his wrists cuffed together. At some point, he had apparently bitten his own tongue, which accounted for the blood in his mouth.

He wasn't naked, but he might as well have been. Someone had stripped off all of his gear, from his boots to his jacket, and his tac visor of course. He was wearing a thin t-shirt and his pants, and that was it.

He spit out a wad of half-congealed blood and struggled to sit up, pulling his knees up towards his chest to give himself leverage without the benefit of using his hands. Chains rattled as he moved.

Reluctantly, he opened his eyes.

He was alone in a room that appeared to be part of a basement. Bare pipes protruded from the walls and ceiling - he was clearly chained to one of them. The floor was raw concrete, and a single naked bulb swung from the ceiling, providing a harsh illumination. Across from him, more than ten feet away, was a steel door. He assumed it was locked.

He tugged on his chains, but the pipe they were attached to was solid enough that he couldn't feel any give. With some experimentation, he determined that he could stand up and move a foot or two away from the wall before reaching the limit of the chain, but there was nowhere to go. He sat back down against the wall, trying without success to find a comfortable position. They hadn't even given him a bucket to piss in, though there was an ominously stained drain in the floor.

Whoever "they" were. Talon? He had to assume that this was Talon, but he couldn't understand why he was alive. What use was he to Reaper? If they wanted to stop him from interfering in their criminal enterprises, then they'd had ample opportunity to kill him. Instead, Reaper had knocked him out and taken him prisoner. Why?

A few possibilities came to mind, each more distasteful and distressing than the last. The only possible use he could really see was as bait for the rest of the Overwatch agents scattered around the world. Reaper seemed to have made it his personal mission to kill each and every one of them - that would be easier if they knew Jack was alive, and tried to rescue him.

Assuming any of his former colleagues were still loyal to him after his failures.

No sooner had he followed this train of thought to its unhappy conclusion, but there was a clang of a lock disengaging and the door opened. Two goons with more muscle than brains, and bearing obvious cybernetic enhancements, shouldered into the room.

"What do you want?" Jack demanded, but neither man spoke or acknowledged him. They moved as one, unlocking the chains and hauling him up, one to a side. It was generous to say that he was escorted from the room - he was all but carried, his feet scarcely brushing the floor.

He seriously considered fighting back, but kept his peace for now. He had no idea what was out there, where he was, or how many guns and guards stood between himself and freedom. Better to gather information, and wait for his best opportunity.

There was a series of other doors that they passed, each one identical with no hint of what lay on the other side. Beyond some of them, though, he heard moans or cries of pain or anguish. Jack's jailers whisked him past them all, and into an elevator, with a handprint ID pad.

Well, that he could bypass. He just needed someone's hand - whether or not it was still attached was another matter.

The elevator was clean and almost silent as it rose for a surprisingly long time. Jack studied his captors, and the elevator itself, but there was no hint about his location from what he could see. Even when the elevator doors opened, all he saw was a clean hallway, smelling of disinfectant and chemicals.

"Where am I?" he asked, but the question was ignored.

It didn't take long before he encountered someone more talkative. His captors dragged him through yet another door, and into a large laboratory.

"Ah, Commander Morrison, I'm so glad you could join us."

Jack wished he were surprised by the sight of that voice's owner. "Moira O'Deorain," he growled. The scientist stood in the centre of the room, a hand resting lightly on the surface of a raised hospital bed with restraints built into the corners. She was smiling, but her eyes were cold.

"That's 'doctor', to you," she said with a smirk.

She looked different from the last time he had seen her - something weird about her right eye, and her right arm looked, for lack of a better description, corrupted. Her weapon had clearly been upgraded over the years, and seemed to be much more advanced than the suit she had worn during her Blackwatch days. Clearly, she had continued to work on upgrades.

She gestured, and her thugs brought Jack forward, past several pieces of equipment. Jack was deeply tempted to try to break free again, particularly as he got closer to the scientist and her examination table.

He turned his head, assessing his surroundings as his heart rate increased. He had no equipment, no chance of overpowering these two cyborgs alone, and who knew what Moira could do with that thing she was wearing, but he was rapidly running out of time.

Then he spotted Reaper, standing in the corner. The sight of him was unexpected, and shut down any possible chance of escaping. His odds had already been dismal. Against four of them? It was even more hopeless.

Time to try something other than violence to accomplish his goals. He looked at Moira.

"What do you want with me?" he asked.

"Mmm, I haven't decided yet," she said. She reached out with her right hand, and stroked his cheek. He felt a sort of sickening pull, and his knees buckled as a wave of weakness passed over him. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she sighed with pleasure. "I thought perhaps I would try a new formula I've been working on. But you'll need to be broken in, first." Her eyes danced with amusement. "Like a stallion to saddle."

She gestured again, and the two thugs manhandled Jack onto the bed. He did strain against their hold now, kicking out and writhing as they grabbed his wrists and unlocked his bonds so they could secure him to the bed.

Moira moved away, well out of the range of his struggles, and continued on like Jack wasn't in the midst of fighting for his life. "It'll take time to prepare you, if the last five years haven't broken you already. I am surprised to discover that you're the one who's been such a thorn in our side. Soldier 76, they call you. As if you were just a number."

Manacles closed around Jack's wrists and ankles, securing him spread-eagled on the bed. The guards moved away and Jack was left there, breathing rapidly as if he'd just run a race, bruised and humiliated. He might as well have just let them lead him meekly to the slaughter.

"Torturing me isn't going to get you anything," he snarled.

"Oh Commander," she murmured. "It'll bring me satisfaction." She patted his cheek again. Anticipating another sickening attack like the one before, he twitched and jerked away, but she chuckled. "And, of course, it'll advance scientific knowledge. Isn't that something we should all support?"

"You're sick," Jack said. "Corrupt inside and out."

She shrugged. "You may believe so."

Jack heard that sound again, of fabric sliding over a slick surface, and abruptly the Reaper solidified beside his bed. Reaper gazed down at Jack, whose heart rate doubled immediately. The last thing he needed was this monster getting in on the action.

But when the Reaper spoke, he addressed Moira. "What are you going to do to him?"

Moira turned away and opened a cabinet, sorting through several containers containing brightly-coloured liquids. "What is it to you? What are you even doing in my lab, anyway?"

"I brought him in."

Moira paused and turned back to him. "So you did," she said, brows furrowing slightly in confusion. "So what?"

The Reaper put a hand on Jack's chest. His claws flexed, dimpling Jack's flesh. "So I brought him in. He's mine."

The last traces of Moira's smile vanished. She folded her arms across her chest and looked down her nose at Reaper. "Yours?"

"Yes. I want him, first. When I'm done with him--" The Reaper paused, glancing down at Jack, and then up at her again. "Then you can have him. But I brought him in."

Jack really didn't appreciate being fought over like Moira and Reaper were two feral dogs fighting over a scrap of food. Moira appeared distinctly unimpressed, glaring down at the two of them with lips thin and her eyes narrowed.

Finally, she turned away with a dismissive gesture. "Fine. I'm going to Greece in the morning, anyway, so I can't begin any new therapies today. You can have him until I return, but don't kill him."

Reaper rumbled a soft, wordless acknowledgement of this command. Then he reached for Jack.

Jack felt Reaper's arms slide around him, and then darkness swirled around them both. The Reaper turned to mist, but somehow still managed to buoy him up and away. Jack wondered about the restraints for a moment, only to realize that they must have both become somehow insubstantial, and he was free.

But that realization of freedom came hard on the heels of another realization - he had no idea what would happen if he tried to fight off Reaper right now. So he held still while the Reaper took him wherever he planned to begin the next phase of Jack's nightmare.