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The Only Poem

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Gabriel yawned, wide and tired. He and Jack’s small partner mission had not gone without its difficulties. Talon was more irritating than ever in the near year following the defection of its four most prized operatives, although he hadn’t heard anything of Moira O’Deorain’s thoughts on the matter. Truthfully, he hadn’t heard anything of her at all – nothing from the conference she had supposedly been at, nothing from the university she worked for, and nothing in the intel Olivia pulled from Talon’s systems. He pushed it from his mind, however, stumbling into the kitchen in search of pizza rolls.

 

Instead, he found Amélie, wrapped up in one of Gérard’s old cable knit sweaters that fit her long frame like a crop top, hunched over her laptop, Lúcio and Hanzo hovering over her shoulders. Cold tea and coffee sat on the counter, forgotten in favor of whatever they were looking at. Intrigued, Gabriel joined them.

 

“Hey,” he greeted, squeezing the DJ’s shoulder as he leaned in for a better view. “Whatcha lookin’ at?”

 

“Vishkar’s Rio de Janeiro announcement,” Lúcio answered. He had an odd, conflicted look on his face. “We think something’s wrong with their star architech.”

 

“Which one?”

 

Amélie pointed at the young woman standing to the project leader. “Her,” she said. “They introduced her as Satya Vaswani, but Lúcio calls her Symmetra.” She bit her nail lightly, a pre-Talon habit she had recently reacquired. “He said she seems off, less sure. We know that the favela caught fire and it was blamed on the company who was originally given the contract, but Vishkar has been known to manipulate situations to their benefit.”

 

Gabe studied Vaswani. She stood tall and straight, seemingly proud and confident of her work. However, there was a tension to her that made her stick out to him. He knew that look well. “You think she’s been groomed and is just figuring it out?” The three nodded in unison. “Well then.”

 

“What worries me more is her handler,” Hanzo said.

 

“The project leader?”

 

Hai.” The ex-yakuza zoomed in on the pair. “She is watching the crowd very closely – something about them makes her uneasy. If you watch, he looks over at her every so often and…” He wrinkled his nose. “It is very odd. Her discomfort pleases him. Reassures him, maybe.”

 

Gabriel, however, had stopped breathing. “You guys wouldn’t happen to know the handler’s name, would you?”

 

Lúcio shot him a strange look. “They said it earlier,” he said. “Sanjay somethin’-or-other. Somethin’ wrong, Papai?”

 

“Yep. He’s a member of Talon’s inner council. Not the only Vishkar leader on the books either, so we’re looking at a serious rot from the inside.”

 

“They are definitely using Vaswani,” Hanzo said. “There is no doubt about that. According to her website biography, she was ‘rescued’ from the slums in India and taken to their academy. I am concerned what we may find if we look into that history.”

 

Gently, Gabriel placed his hands on Amélie’s shoulders, knowing well what she was thinking. “You wanna rescue her, mija?"

 

The young woman slowly shook her head. “No,” she said, “that is not quite right. I want her to rescue herself. However, she may need a push in the right direction.” Amélie turned around, looking past Gabriel to where her wife was perched on the countertop (which had definitely been empty when he walked in, why did she always do that-). “Luckily,” she said, “I know someone who offers such services.”

 

Olivia grinned, opened her systems, and got to work.

 

-----

 

When she was finally released from the press conference and the dinner and the cocktail social and the post-meeting, Satya returned to her hotel room. Vishkar had supplied her with a simple, dark blue evening gown in a sensible European style, adding basic, plain jewelry and heels to match. The shoes went first, settled cleanly in their box. Then went the earrings, then the bracelets, then the necklace, snapped into the cases and laid out by size on the bathroom counter. The dress she removed with great care, sighing with relief as the uncomfortable and clinging material disappeared into the garment bag, which was swiftly shut into the closet. She snatched a simple muslin kurti from her suitcase and slipped it on, freed her hair from its confines, then allowed herself the weakness of flopping dramatically on the bed.

 

She should really do that more often.

 

Her trust in Vishkar had been wavering for a while now, she admitted to herself. From larger issues, such as mishandled operations in various cities swept under the rug, to normal conversations where words with double meanings were slung past her as if she was too simple to understand – many aspects of Vishkar were, for her, no longer adding up.

 

We’re making the world a better place, we’re making the world a better place, we’re making the world a better place-

 

Rio de Janeiro was a disaster of untold proportions. Their proposal had overreached, the investigation she’d been sent on was pointless, and still the city had burned. Sanjay had been far too pleased with the favela’s destruction, and far too dismissive of her insistence for the inclusion of restored or rebuilt homes in the project plans. For the first time, she found herself wondering just what, in the larger scale, Vishkar was truly trying to accomplish.

 

We’re making the world a better place, we’re making the world a better place, we’re making the world a-

 

Ding!

 

Satya shot up, blinking in confusion as she scanned the room. Her phone and laptop were both off, but the alert had still sounded much closer than –

 

Ding!

 

…It was coming from her arm.

 

Slowly, she turned her hand over to look at the palm. The delicate blue glow of her prosthetic had turned a vibrant purple, pulsing in the dim light of her hotel room. Hesitantly, she pushed, prompting her hand to produce something, anything.

 

The television turned on.

 

There was no show or movie displayed on the screen. Instead, it flashed the same purple as her hand, once, twice, then resolved into a small block of text.

 

We are here to help.

 

“I do not need help,” Satya said. She did not sound as certain as her words implied.

 

Yes, you do. We will show you.

 

“Who are you?”

 

An interested party. Less business, more genuine concern. When was the last time you had a bubble bath? Those help with stress.

 

“This does not seem like helping,” Satya said. “Right now you are just interrupting my free time.”

 

Lo siento. Anyway, we have something for you.

 

“Hopefully not a bullet.”

 

No, that would be rude. First meeting and all that.

 

“How honorable.”

 

Thank you. I have a great deal of incriminating data on Vishkar, all of which I have downloaded to your arm. However, there is one you should see now.

 

The text disappeared, replaced with a scan of a paper document. Satya stood and slowly approached the television for a better look, feeling dread pooling in the pit of her stomach. It was written in English, and she stopped dead in her tracks as she finally got close enough to read it.

 

Contract of Purchase it said at the top. Vishkar was one party, of course, their American departments handling the deal to avoid regional conflict. The other…was an orphanage, address given as Jaipur. The terms were disgusting to her, five hundred rupees for whatever they were purchasing. A pittance. Land, most likely, a cheap payout for one of the hundreds of projects Vishkar had never begun, though she had never heard of one in Jaipur. Perhaps it had slipped through the cracks in her search. She continued reading.

 

Her dread turned to ice in her belly.

 

Vishkar will receive Satya Vaswani, daughter of the late Dayaal and Kaishori Vaswani-

 

It was not land Vishkar had bought from that orphanage in Jaipur. It was a person.

 

It was her.

 

Satya sprinted to the bathroom, making it to the toilet just in time to empty the contents of her stomach. Never in her life had she felt so disgusted, so humiliated, so…betrayed. She was a commodity to a company, not an asset. She hadn’t been saved as much as acquired, proved a budding student as much as a lucky investment.

 

She had been purchased, if she did the conversion to American currency correctly, for six dollars and ninety-seven cents.

 

Her bathroom mirror flickered, revealing another television hidden behind the glass. Are you okay?

 

She coughed, grimacing at the taste of acid in her mouth. “I do not do that often.”

 

It is not fun, amiga. Drink some water. She obeyed. You can do something about this. You do not have to do it alone.

 

“Where could I go?” she asked. “They own me.”

 

We would be more than happy to help you. All you have to do is call.

 

“…Who are you?”

 

The text faded away. For a moment, she thought her mysterious friend wouldn’t answer, but an image lit up the screen instead, the silver-and-orange circle that had once been emblazoned everywhere.

 

Overwatch.

 

Satya stared for a long moment. Overwatch, if it was truly the same people who had made it great before, could do wonders. She could be free, she could help, she could truly make the world a better place. If what her purple friend claimed was true, they could get her out before morning came, rescue her from the organization that had apparently never cared.

 

Or…she could free herself.

 

“I think,” she said delicately, “I would like to make my own notice. If I need you…”

 

Our contact information is in your phone! ;)

 

“Thank you,” she murmured. The screens went dark and her arm returned to its normal blue.

 

She did not sleep.

 

-----

 

Vishkar had given her three days off for her contributions to the Rio de Janeiro contract. Satya spent all of them on the local library’s computers. She researched employee rights, compared them to the experiences of her and her coworkers, and sent in anonymous tips to various reporting agencies for Vishkar’s worker abuse and human rights abuse. She submitted requests for and received her birth records, as well as her parents’ death records and documentation of her time at the orphanage. A quick phone call to her bank provided her with a small amount of American money. Finally, without an ounce of regret, she booked her own plane ticket back to India.

 

On the fourth day, she wore a simple sundress, quietly checked out of her hotel, and stashed her things with the understanding omnic at the front desk. The walk to where Sanjay had set up his office was quick. She took the stairs up and soon found herself standing in front of his desk, keeping her face perfectly blank as her gave her his typical salesman’s smile.

 

“Satya! Did you have a nice break?” he asked.

 

“It was productive,” she said shortly. “There is one issue I need to discuss with you.”

 

“Great! How about you take a seat?”

 

“No,” she said. “This will not take long.” From her bag she pulled a folded document, which she handed to a mildly confused Sanjay. “This is a contract I would like to buy out.”

 

“A business contract?” he asked, unfolding it and squinting at the words.

 

“Of a sort.” Satya pulled out an envelope. “It documents Vishkar’s purchase of a child from an orphanage twenty-six years ago. I was that child. I would like to purchase myself back from Vishkar.”

 

Sanjay stared at her, for once stunned into silence.

 

“Since I was bought by the American branch for exactly six dollars and ninety-seven cents, I have calculated that, taking my education and work experience into account, I now cost seven dollars.” She pulled the crisp bills out of the envelope and handed them to Sanjay who, almost as if on autopilot, took them. “This is a contract confirming that I have bought my freedom and am no longer employed in any way by Vishkar,” she continued, pulling another document from her bag. She plucked a pen from the cup on the desk and neatly signed, then spun it around for Sanjay to do the same.

 

He did.

 

She took the document back, then went to the scanner and put the it into the system herself. Since Sanjay had already signed it, it required no further approval. Satisfied, she offered him a small, insincere smile. “Thank you for the opportunity. Have a nice day.” She turned on her heel and walked out, not hesitating even when the call of wait, Satya! came just as the door shut.

 

Satya Vaswani, indebted to no one, had a flight to catch.