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Notes in a Line

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The problem with endings, Hana would reflect on later, is that some weren’t as obvious as others.

Her last dinner with her parents as a civilian was a crystal-clear memory of forced smiles and empty words about how proud they were. Her last shoot on set in Hollywood was a blurred mess of laughter and exhaustion thrown into a memory-blender set on high. Her last day in the Korean military was, if you asked her, so perfectly on-brand in every way. Every ending followed by a beginning as natural as the dawn following the night.

But the quiet endings were the tricky ones. She couldn’t remember the last time she sat on her father’s lap as he played video games. The last time her mother brushed her hair was lost as well. The only thing worse than the endings that already passed were the ones yet to pass. Who would be the last person she spoke to? What would be the last video game she would play? Her last meal? Her last words?

“Hey there, Bunnybee, could you help me with this weird phone-thing?”

Hana hoped this would be the last time she would have to help McCree with his phone.

She popped her MEKA’s leg panel back into place, slightly annoyed that her favorite cowboy had interrupted her routine pre-mission check. Well, her second check. She would probably do a third check of her MEKA’s systems before they landed. Fourth if she had the time. Sure, everything looked fine on the first and second check, but better safe than blown up because you forgot to grease a few joints. Hana grabbed onto her MEKA’s arm and hefted herself up to her feet. “Did your phone update?”

“No.”

“Did you delete all of your contacts by mistake?”

“It ain’t that.”

“Please tell me you didn’t text-blast everyone naked pictures of yourself yet again.”

“That only happened once,” Jesse grumbled. “Hanzo made me download this app-thing and I can’t get the damned thing to work. You’re young, maybe you can figure it out?”

Hana crossed over to the other side of the Orca to join Jesse at the table. Everyone else was getting ready for the mission: Fareeha was pouring over the details at the holo-screen, Mei and Roadhog were preparing their weapons, and Zenyatta was meditating. Or taking a nap. Hana couldn’t tell the difference. But unlike the others Jesse had chosen to spend his pre-mission time spread out over as much seating as possible with his feet propped up on the table. In clear defiance of Winston’s no-cowboy-boots-on-tables rule, no less.

“Okay okay, let me check it out.” Hana plucked the phone out of Jesse’s hand and sat down on the table, pushing a half-empty beer bottle out of the way. Luckily she was spared from Jesse’s badly-photoshopped horse-themed phone background as the app in question was already up. A cartoon Pachimari wriggled back and forth on the phone’s screen with the word UNNAMED above its head. Hana looked up from the phone. “Really, Jesse? You can’t figure out Pachicare?”

“Hunbun, I’m not sure what this even does. All I know is it coos at Hanzo three times a day and frankly I’m gettin’ a tad jealous.”

“Wow, Jesse. That’s both really cute and really sad.” Hana poked the cartoon Pachimari, which squeaked in response. “Pachicare is a self-care app, you dork. It reminds you to drink water, to take your medication, to take a moment to relax, that sort of thing. Your crunchy macaron isn’t going to run off with an onion-octopus, I promise.”

Jesse eyed his phone suspiciously. “Well if it’s not a boyfriend stealing app then how come I can’t get the little wiggly bastard to do anything?”

“Because you have to name him first, dummy.” Hana handed the phone back.

“Aww, I was kinda going for a The Pachimari With No Name thing.” Jesse topped off his comment with a finger gun just to drive his brilliance home.

Hana didn’t really bother to hide her laugh. “Sorry cowboy, you gotta name him. But if it makes you feel any better there’s an option to buy clothes for your Pachimari. I know in-game purchases are kind of lame but the money actually gets donated to a good cause and you’ve totally already bought the cowboy outfit, haven’t you?”

“Lil’ Harmonica looks just like his daddy now.” Jesse mimed wiping a tear off his face. “They grow up so fast.”

Hana’s very obvious yet well deserved question about Jesse’s naming abilities was cut off by a chorus of brrprprprpr sounds bouncing across the Orca. Moving as one the rest of the team pulled out their phones to check on their Pachimaris. Her own little Murky was wiggling back and forth in her bunny pajamas with an exclamation point over her head. She tapped the icon and a picture of what must have been Jesse’s Pachimari popped up with dialog:

Your Pachimari MURKY has made a new friend!

HIS name is HARMONICA! HIS Daddy’s name is JESSE and his favorite food is PIE! Wow!

“Jesse!” Mei cooed at her phone. “Your Pachimari is adorable!”

“I am pleased the shop had an outfit so fitting of your character,” Zenyatta said.

“I’m just shocked you figured out how to use an app,” Fareeha chimed in.

Roadhog gave Jesse a silent thumbs-up.

“Is it going to make that noise every time?” Jesse waved his phone at Hana. “I kind of have a secret-agent-sneaking thing going on if you haven’t noticed.”

“He said while wearing spurs.” Hana leaned over to tap the screen. “It only makes that noise when the the app detects another Pachicare user it hasn’t interacted with before. You can turn the alert off, don’t worry. But look! Your Pachimari’s made friends!”

Jesse let out a whistle. “Well, look at that! Harmonica has met Piglet, Frosty, Yoshi, Gretzky and...Murky?”

“You better not be making fun of my little Murky,” Hana pouted, but that too slipped away to laughter. She couldn’t help herself. Jesse was one of the few people that could always lift her spirits. Well, him and Hanzo. And Genji. Lúcio. Brigitte. Most of Overwatch once she thought about it. All of Overwatch. Even that sourpuss Jack.

And Haigha, an annoying part of her mind chipped in. Hana opened her messenger app to once again stare at Haigha’s unanswered text. She wondered if she should shoot Haigha a message before they landed. Hey Haigha, sorry I can’t stream tonight, I’m off saving the world while you’re playing video games. If I don’t die I’ll text you when I get back to base, love D.Va. And then Haigha would text her the same thing she always sent before Hana’s missions.

Al hombre osado la fortuna le da la mano.

Fortune favors the bold. Most people would say good luck. But not Haigha.

“-about her beau I bet.”

Hana snapped back to the present just in time to catch the all-knowing smirk on Jesse’s face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Uh huh.” Jesse’s smirk only got worse. “So you’re just smiling and staring at your phone for no reason, huh? Not because a certain someone’s taken up room in your heart?”

Fareeha cleared her throat loud enough that people on the ground far below might have heard her. “Everyone, I want to go over the mission details one last time before we land in Aurangabad. We have a very short window to operate in with no room for mistakes. And Jesse, you are literally the last person on Earth who gets to make fun of someone for having a crush.”

An assortment of laughter echoed throughout the Orca and thankfully took the spotlight off Hana for once. She did tuck her phone safely away in her toolbox before joining the others at the holo-projector. Hana may have been too professional to text during the meeting, but it didn’t stop her heart from fluttering when she heard the phone buzz on the edge of her hearing. She would text Haigha after the mission. No need to make her worry over a mission this easy. Assuming that Haigha did worry.

 

***


The Vishkar warehouse stuck out of the scenery like a tooth emerging from a fish’s eyeball. Hana had never seen any buildings like it before. There were no windows, no seams, not even a hint of imperfection that came with man-made structures. Only one normal-sized door in the front and one large garage door in the back. According to Satya there were multiple automatic turrets built into each side and more cameras than she could count. Which, considering this was Satya, was a lot. This was the woman who once challenged Hanzo and Winston to a pi reciting contest and won. Luckily for them there was one thing Vishkar never prepared for: their energy generators couldn’t work in subzero temperatures.

Fareeha’s voice crackled over the communication line. “Everyone, status report.”

“Alpha team here! My endothermic blaster is charged and ready!” Mei said, but quickly added, “but I’m standing right next to you so you already know that.”

“Still good to keep the team updated. Beta team? Have you secured your position?”

“Don’t you worry, sis,” said Jesse. “Me and Zenyatta are camped out right by the garage door. He’s already taken care of the cameras so we’re just sitting pretty until it’s go time.”

“I wish to state for the record that McCree must now cook dinner for a week,” Zenyatta chimed in. “He made a bet after doubting my skills.”

“Zen here took out twelve cameras with six of his balls! You should have seen it!”

Fareeha began to say something, but cut herself off and took a deep breath instead. “Noted. Gamma team? Do you have your distraction ready?”

Hana tore her eyes off the building to respond. “Hell yeah we do! Right Roadie?”

Roadhog looked up from his knitting and nodded. The second they touched down he had pulled a half-made sock out of thin air to work on as they waited. There was something oddly adorable about the half-ton murder machine knitting like her grandmother used to. The image of Junkrat wearing said sock only made it cuter.

“Excellent. According to Satya we will have less than thirty seconds to act before the emergency generators kick in. Jesse and Zenyatta, you must get through the garage door in that time. Hana and Mako, Mei and I will be able to draw off some fire but we’re counting on you to hold the security’s attention until the payload has been secured. Start on my mark.”

“You got it Bird Mom!” Hana silenced the communicator before Fareeha could snap back at her. “Ready to scuff up that big old white block, Roadie?”

Roadhog shoved his knitting into a side-pocket and snorted. “Never liked brutalist architecture anyway. Makes a building stand out like a dog’s balls. Let’s go fuck it up.”

Hana did a quick mental count and, yes, that was the most words she ever heard Roadhog say at once. She turned the lights of her MEKA off and lead the way around the rocky outcropping they had hidden behind. Her finger twitched over the defense matrix button but Hana kept it still. Wait for the right moment.

“I didn’t know you were into architecture,” Hana whispered over the communication channel.

“Double minored in architecture and art history,” Roadhog replied.

“Oh.” Hana paused, stopping her MEKA right on the edge of a short cliff. They was a drop and less than a hundred feet away from the front door of the warehouse. “What was you major?”

“Agricultural Science. Done talking?”

“Pfft, you wish.”

Hana wasn’t sure if the noise Roadhog made was a grunt or a chuckle, but either way she was sticking to her him-warming-up theory. If there was one thing she learned in the service it’s that there was no such thing as a loner for more than one mission. Either they joined the team or they were left on the battlefield. And she’d rather have everyone in Overwatch be a big happy family than the alternative.

Roadhog did know what he was talking about with the whole dog’s balls thing. Not only did the Vishkar warehouse stand out, but it looked wrong. Same with the road connected to it, the roads beyond, and the too-perfect Vishkar buildings in the distance. They weren’t part of the scenery, they crushed it down. Even in the dark Hana could make out where the old roads used to run and where buildings once stood. Vishkar had simply removed everything and dropped their stuff on top, not caring if nothing lined up.

That and the building glowed a soft whitish-blue. That was weird.

“Gamma team!” Fareeha’s voice snapped over the line, “Go!”

“Roger! Cover me Roadie!”

With a flick of her wrists the MEKA’s boosters rumbled to life. Hana closed her eyes for just a second to feel the machine’s vibrations run through her body. If there was a single thing wrong with her baby she would have felt it in an instant. But her MEKA only purred eagerly to get the battle started. She kicked back against the booster pedal and braced herself as, moving as one, Hana and the MEKA soared through the air towards the warehouse. For a brief, blissful moment she flew like a feather lost on a summer breeze. Then she cut rockets off early and landed with a heavy thump right in front of the main door.

Lights flooded the front of the Vishkar warehouse as a half dozen spotlights shone down on Hana. Her heart sang, her skin tingled, and every cell in her body wanted nothing more than to step out for the crowd. But she was on a mission. Also the warehouse was automated so there wasn’t anyone to perform for anyway. Hana flipped on her speaker and cleared her throat. “Hiya!” she said, her voice echoing through the night. “It’s me, Satya! I’m back!”

Hana heard the sound of metal sliding against metal. That was probably the gun slots opening.

“That’s right! I’m Satya and I am sooo sorry about the whole quitting thing, you guys!”

A high pitched whine filled the air. The guns warming up perhaps?

“I thought about it and you know what? You bad guys are way better than dumb, stupid Overwatch! Being a hero is just sooooo lame! And Lúcio keeps stealing my food, too!”

Hana turned on her defense matrix before the first gun fired. Bullets bounced off her shield with an odd thud-thud-thud instead of a ping-ping-ping, almost as if she was being pelted with socks full of rice. Her eyes left the front of the warehouse for a split second to look at the ground and see--

“Bean bags? Why are they shooting bean bags?”

“Aww shucks, they’re usin’ non-lethal forces against us!” Jesse answered with a laugh over the line. “They must want to take us in alive! News to me, usually they want me dead. Mako?”

“Same,” Roadhog replied before he stepped out from behind the rocky outcropping and fired his scrap gun at the warehouse. The spotlights above exploded one by one, giving Hana only a glimpse of the falling shattered glass before it vanished against the building’s soft blue glow.

Hana laughed, unable to hold her excitement back any longer. She dropped the defense matrix and ran towards the left side of the building in an attempt to draw the automatic weapons’ attention. During the pre-mission briefing Satya had brought up the fact the weapons tended to shoot at whatever target was the biggest, brightest, and loudest on the battlefield. With a flick of her wrist and a long ago memorized button combo her MEKA turned into a bipedal party machine.

With Lúcio’s latest album blasting through the MEKA’s speakers as its lights flashed in time to the beat, Hana rounded the corner of the building. The second she came into view the left side opened up with an array of guns and cameras. She could barely hear the whine of the guns warming up over the music. “Roadie! You got the front?”

Roadhog grunted. That was a yes grunt.

“Then leave this side to me!” Hana didn’t even bother to bring her shield up as the guns fired a volley of beanbags straight at her. Outside of the annoying doink-doink-doink against the hull they bounced off useless to the ground. Sure, she could distract all of the guns on that side by simply doing a little dance, but that wasn’t her. That wasn’t how Super Streamer War Hero Hana Song lived her life!

Hana sprinted, well, Hana ran as fast as the MEKA could go before she switched on her boosters and with a double-wrist flick shot up into the night sky. She was a firework, a shooting star of light and music over the otherwise dark land below. Her MEKA shook a little at the overwhelming number of beanbags being shot at her, but she didn’t worry. This was a maneuver she had done a thousand times before back home. She was a star through and through, willing to take the spotlight so others may stay hidden in the shadows. Hana closed her eyes to lose herself in the fantasy of flying by her own volition without a technological assistance.

The problem with endings is that it’s impossible to know when they are about to occur.

For example, Hana was completely unaware that her luck had come to an abrupt end.

She saw the light first. A purple-pink flash of color bright enough to make Hana open her eyes out of shock. Next came the silence. The pounding of the music had stopped, the whine of the guns had stopped, the high-pitched buzz of the communicator had stopped, but most terrifyingly of all her rockets had also stopped. Her eyes darted across the screen but no, the HUD was gone, the lights were gone, all the power was just gone.

That meant her landing gear was gone too.

Her stomach dropped.

The rest of her dropped as well.

In retrospect Hana was a little disappointed that her life didn’t flash before her eyes. Maybe it was because she was too occupied getting her MEKA back online so she wouldn’t die on impact. But in those horrifying seconds as the desert ground raced closer only one thought echoed through her entire being. Out of a life peppered with regret there was only one which stood out like the Vishkar building over the remains of a long dead city.

She never texted Haigha back.

It was that thought, the image of Haigha waiting for a text that would never arrive, that made Hana hit the eject button right as the ground overcame her vision. She flung out of her MEKA, hoping beyond hope that she would land on a soft part of the desert floor. In an attempt to wring out one last drop of luck Hana tucked and rolled, hitting solid land on her shoulder instead of her neck. She heard the disgusting noise of her arm popping out of her socket but thankfully the adrenaline rush was numbing the pain. Angela was going to kill her. Brigitte was going to kill her. The MEKA exploding was going to kill her. Hana curled up as tight as she could and braced for the worst.

When Hana didn’t die in a fiery eruption, she lifted her head up to see what was holding up her death.

Instead of being mid-explosion the MEKA hovered silently in the air just a few feet off the ground. Normally when the MEKA activated landing mode it involved a lot of thrusters, noise, and physics that went right over her head. But right then the machine was dead silent, hanging in the air like a corpse pinned to the night sky. In the faint moonlight Hana swore she saw something wrap around her MEKA - Dust? Bats? Birds? - before the machine dropped onto the desert floor with a soft thump. Wind howled in Hana’s ears as the shadows - Moths? Butterflies? - scattered only to sweep over Hana, bringing with it a scent of dust and old flowers. The wind faded. The shadows were gone. Her MEKA was fine. Her shoulder was starting to hurt like a real bitch.

“What. The fuck.” Hana said into the night air. The night air didn’t answer back.

 

***

 

Meanwhile Sombra, sitting on the edge of the Vishkar warehouse’s roof, let out the breath she was holding.

Stupid! How could she be so stupid? Why didn’t Hana tell her that she was going on a mission? Sombra didn’t see the MEKA rocketing across the sky until after her EMP went off. She wouldn’t have even known Hana was in danger if it wasn’t for Roadhog’s shouting. His squeal had been loud enough to tear her eyes off her work and notice the falling silhouetted against the moon. All because she was too stupid to check the Overwatch mission records! Stupid, stupid stupid stupid-

“You’re welcome.”

Sombra twitched, not bothering to hide the fact that Reaper had snuck up on her. Whatever snark she had previously constructed in her head had vanished in the moonlight. “Gracias,” she mumbled, unable to pry her eyes off Hana’s prone form. Even in the distance Sombra could see Hana’s shoulder wasn’t moving right. A few inches to the right and she would have landed on her neck. Or her head. Or-

“You think too damn loud. Relax. Your bunny’s fine,” said Reaper, this time his voice losing the embedded gravel. Black smoke settled on the roof’s edge beside her, only to blow away and leave a far more normal looking older man behind. Gabe pulled a colorful small paper packet out of his hoodie’s pocket and tossed it to Sombra. She caught it, of course.

“How did you sneak Fun Dip past Mr. Clean Living and Even Cleaner Eating?” Sombra asked before tearing open the small packet with her teeth. The cloud of cherry-flavoured sugar that poofed out was almost enough to clear her head.

“What Akande doesn’t know can’t hurt him.”

“That is entirely untrue.”

Gabe smiled to himself as he opened up his own fun dip packet. “Look, if he wants to eat nothing but lentils and barley porridge that’s all him. But there’s no way in hell I can live without crappy overly-processed meat and sugar flowing in my veins.”

“Agreed.” Sombra fished out and began the repetitive process of licking of scooping sour cherry sugar with an equally sugary stick. Somewhere within her she knew that eating candy to calm down made no sense. Eating candy that tastes like how fruit scented markers smelled probably didn’t help either. But the motion of the scooping and licking grounded her to the moment and not the thousands of questions and curses running through her head.

They sat together like that, having their boss-forbidden snack, as they watched Jesse and Zenyatta run out of the warehouse towards Hana’s prone figure. Huh. Sombra had never seen the omnic run before. Here she thought he just sorta floated everywhere. The second they reached Hana a golden glow surrounded the three of them, bright enough in the darkness to make Sombra flinch. The light only lasted a few seconds before fading into nothing, bathing them in darkness once more.

Sombra moved her head just enough to look over at Gabe. For all the teasing she gives him about his Reaper costume, he really did resemble an owl in his normal state. It was the way he held himself still, his dark eyes wide and his shoulders tensed as if ready to swoop down on his prey. Like he was a rubber band about to snap at any second. He watched the Overwatch agents help their injured comrade, his eyes flickering just enough to track their movements.

“We could go down there.”

Sombra’s words were enough to snap the band, catching Gabe off-guard. He shot a look that was more confused than anything else. She waved her fun dip in the direction of the heroes.

“We go down there, turn ourselves in, and tell them everything. Let them clean up Talon’s mess. Akande and Moria will be pissed, sure, but we’ll be locked up in some old secret Blackwatch holding cell safe and sound while the world burns. Then when the dust is starting to settle we can slip out right under their noses and vanish into the night. They wouldn’t even notice we’re gone. What do we say? Shall we step out of the shadows?”

Gabe’s silence lasted a beat too long. “You’d never let yourself get locked up.”

“I would if you told me to.”

That got a snort. “Since when do you ever listen to me?”

Sombra scrapped the last of the powdered sugar from the creases of the paper packet in an attempt to get one last lick. “What can I say? You’ve grown on me after death. Like how you forget how annoying your Grandmother’s nagging was after she dies.”

“I’m touched.” Gabe shoved his empty fun dip packet into his hoodie pocket and stood. Shadows nipped at his edges, signaling that the conversation was over. “Did you get the information?”

“Did I, honestly!” Sombra popped the sugar stick into her mouth and rose to her feet as well, “Do you think I would be sitting out here, enjoying your wonderful company, if I didn’t?”

“Answer the question.”

Sombra rolled her eyes. “Yes, Papa. Not only do I have it, but I also erased every trace of it off of Vishkar’s systems and destroyed the computers with my EMP and I shot the servers several times just to make sure. I even used proper Overwatch ammunition since you asked so kindly. As far as Vishkar knows our heroes wiped their storage banks clean instead of just stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down. We were never here.”

A low rumble filled the air signaling the arrival of the Orca. The ship thankfully landed not too far from Hana and teammates and opened the main hatch. With Zenyatta’s guidance Jesse scooped Hana up and entered the opening was wide enough for him to slip through. From their spot on the roof Sombra could just see the other agents escorting a dangerously overstacked payload of boxes to the ship, pausing only to look over Hana’s MEKA. There was a brief discussion cut short by Roadhog simply picking the MEKA up like a basket of laundry and carrying it inside.

“Last chance,” Sombra said, her voice barely a whisper.

Gabe didn’t answer. Instead the haze around his edges grew and wrapped around Gabe as if he was stepping into a pool of black ink. The liquid-like shadows formed and settled into the cloak and gauntlets of his Reaper costume. “Meet you back at HQ noon tomorrow?”

“As if we have anywhere else to go.” Sombra tossed her empty fun dip packet at Gabe, who caught it without looking. “You didn’t answer me.”

Gabe shook his head. She only caught a brief glimpse of his distant eyes before his masked formed and hid them away once more. “Jack would kill me.”

“Always with Jack! You have to talk to him sometime, you know. Maybe get some couples counseling, go on a second honeymoon--”

“Noon. Tomorrow.” Whatever else Sombra had to say was cut off by smoke wrapping itself around Gabe, twisting and turning before scattering itself into the wind, leaving Sombra with nothing but that horrible dead flower smell that always stuck in her clothes. She kicked vaguely in the direction the wind and even shook her fist for good measure.

“You can’t run away from your feelings forever, Papa!” Sombra shouted up at the night sky above, only for her words to be smothered by the roar of the Orca’s engines. She snapped her invisibility on just as the ship traveled overhead, low enough that she could feel the heat blasting from the engines. Despite the noise and wind she could still feel her phone vibrate in her pocket. Sombra wasted no time in pulling it out in hopes for a message from Hana. Something saying that she was okay, that everything was fine, that she didn’t break her spine, anything. Instead what waited for Sombra was a notification from her Pachicare.

Your Pachimari OCTOROK made a new friend while you were away! HER name is MURKY! HER Mommy’s name is HANA and her favorite color is PINK! Yay!

Sombra looked back up just in time to see the Orca turn into a dot on the horizon. She looked back down at her phone where her Skeleton Pachimari was dancing happily with one in a bunny costume.

“Well, fuck.”