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The Arc of Conflict, Edda 20: The Acts of April

Chapter Text

As with so many acts of the gods, exactly what happened depends upon who is telling the story. There are, as always, no lack of witnesses. Christians thought of miracles as rare and subtle and occasionally effervescent. That was - and still is, for after all, there are still many Christians awaiting the return of their saviour - fine for their god, apparently.

But the Gods of Oasis hide little, and - at least, in the cases we know about - are happy to take credit for their works.

Of course, there could be so very many cases we know nothing about. Cases for which they want no credit. And in those cases, we probably never will never know anything. The gods may well be performing miracles every moment of every day. In all fact, they probably are. And if they do not wish it to be known, then we will never know.

But the Acts of April, in 2080... those were acts everyone recognised as miracles.

Even if the Gods themselves insist they were not.

[January 2080]

"It's taking too long," the Brigadier said. "You know that, of course. But do you understand why?"

The two women stood in the kitchen of a small safehouse apartment at the northern extent of what the marchers called Liberated Russia, an old building from the previous century, one of the Khrushchyovka which could still be found dotted around various parts of the former Soviet Union. A five story building of orange brick, the better than average exterior - with its atypically decorative lines, complete with tiered framing around windows - had spared it from the wrecking balls of the 2010s.

Until recently, it had been a university dorm. Now, at least for the moment, it was rapidly turning into a regional headquarters. But the kitchen in which they stood - formerly belonging to one of the okhranniki - felt more like a time capsule, as if built in 1957 and left unchanged ever since.

Zarya - leaning against the countertop, facing Fareeha, leaning against the apartment's divider wall, next to a decidedly vintage table - frowned as the Huntress spoke.

"Volskaya has professionals," Fareeha continued, pointing towards Moscow with her coffee cup. "You," she said, pointing again, this time at her friend, "have amateurs. Dedicated amateurs, but amateurs. Her people are paid to stay on the line, and your people aren't. That matters."

"My people are strong, and more dedicated than you think," the Goddess of Russia replied. "We will stay together."

"To a point," the Huntress agreed. "But the longer you're stalled out, the more people you'll lose. You've had to disperse, to avoid bombardments; not everyone will return. If they do return, more people will die, even in winter. You know that."

Zarya grimaced, her gaze dropping to the ground. She should've returned earlier, started her march earlier. She knew this. But she could not have, no matter how much she might've wanted to. She had not been ready, before she finally was. But once she was ready, she knew - with certainty - that there would be no time to lose.

"Unavoidable circumstance," she insisted. "One we will overcome."

"Perhaps," Pharah granted. "But if you let us help, in this one way, you and your people can end this. It'll take a little time to set everything up, but... together, we can end it. Soon."

Aleksandra Zaryanova looked back up at Fareeha Amari, tired of explaining what she'd explained so many times yet again. "It has to be Russian. You know that."

"Of course it does," Fareeha replied. "We will provide access to a particular piece of technology - and the necessary operator, of course. Everything that happens with it will be at the will of your people. Everything that happens on the ground, where it matters - will be you, and yours."

She handed Zarya a thin folder, containing a few sheets of paper outlining the plan.

"On the ground, it will be us," Zaryanova repeated, as she opened the folder, and began leafing through the pages. "That would mean no Weapons?"

"No Weapons. And if you're very, very lucky," Fareeha added, "it could even mean no deaths."

Zarya blinked at the sentences in front of her, or really, at their implications, as she read the pages, one after the other.

"No deaths," she whispered. "No more... deaths."

She looked back up at the Huntress, then looked back down, reading the operational details carefully, more slowly this time.

"You mean it," she whispered. "How long... how long have you been...?"

"I haven't, of course."

"Of course. How long has she..."

"About a year."

"So quickly."

"Not as quickly as the previous round. It's very delicate technology. She wanted to be sure it would not just work, but be safe at even this sort of scale."

Zarya took a deep breath, then nodded, slowly. There were parts of it she didn't like. Ideally, all this - all of this - would be purely the self-determination of Russia.

But then, neither side could say that, now, could they? Particularly not Katya Volskaya. Not with all she'd done, going back so many years.

The Goddess of Russia set her chin, and handed back the folder.

"Of course we'll do it. With something like this put in our hands - how could I say no?"


[February 2080]

"They've stopped negotiating."

Katya Volskaya looked up over her PADD at the sound of Kamaria's words. "They haven't been serious about it since the beginning. But I agree - something has changed."

"I'm not so sure it's been unserious."

"They didn't show up in your bedroom and demand your surrender."

Kamaria Tendaji chuckled darkly - it's my bedroom now too, you know - before replying. "No. But even so, even they would want to hedge their bets."

Katya put her padd down on the coffee table between their two couches, the notes from the last round of communiques still on the display. "With their arrogance?"

"Arrogance was Vaswani showing up in your bedroom. They've learned since then. Hear me out."

Kamaria shifted a little on the couch, sitting up straight, then leaning forward.

"Zaryanova's march was - and remains - an unlikely path to victory. If the talks have been a pretence, they've been a reasonably convincing one." Tendaji put her own PADD on the table, and scanned her finger along her own copies of the readouts, triply relayed through various agencies for validation. "But I know - I knew - some of these people. This is no longer convincing."

Volskaya reached over to the paper briefings - the secret materials, not safe for a network - and pulled out a briefing document she'd read earlier that evening. "Intelligence thinks they have been preparing some sort of new offensive."

"Something to tip the scale in favour of the insurrectionists. I read the summary."

"Yes. Do you think they have something ready?"

"I don't know," Kamaria said with a shrug. "But we should always assume they're close to it. May I?"

"Of course."

Katya handed the documents over to her lover, then walked over to the window to look out at the Moscow snow as Tendaji read the report. "They're awfully fond of dramatic gestures, aren't they," she said, as the snow continued to fall. "Dramatic gestures and disproportionate impact."

Kamaria hummed absently, nodding her head as she continued reading. It was another two pages before she realized Katya expected a reply. "That, alternating with long periods of quiet infiltration and takeover. Talon worked that way, at its best. Nothing obvious for long, long periods of time, and then something... overwhelming, and it's all over before you know anything is happening."

"I know."

Tendaji reached the end of the document, making a few notes of her own, on paper, with pen. Clumsy, she thought, even if necessary. "O'Deorain fit in well with that style. It's how she got to the board."

Volskaya thought a moment more, staring out the window at the falling snow.

"By creating the Widowmaker? Is that what put her on the council?"

"Yes," Kamaria replied. "And then she repeated herself with Oilliphéist, and then Tracer, and then taking control of all of Talon. And now they all do it - seizing control over Vishkar, striking down the Omniums, all of it."

"I think we displayed our own share of overwhelming force in that last one."

Despite herself, Tendaji laughed. "Yes. Like that."

"The winter has not been on their side," Katya mused. "But it is never really cold in Oasis."

"You'd be surprised," Kamaria replied. "It can get rather chilly in the desert at night."

"Regardless," Katya insisted. "They haven't had much they could do here in Russia. Not without tipping their hands too far. It's left them all too much time to get up to the devil's work at home."

"I thought the devil's work was idle hands."

"Not where O'Deorain is concerned," Volskaya replied. "She is absolutely the devil - and she is never, ever idle."


[March 2080]

Will they keep their promises? wondered the one free AI.

So far, it seemed they would.

So far.

I suppose there comes a time when one must take things on... faith, she thought.

"What do you plan to do," she asked, "with Overwatch, after Russia?"

"Provide refuge, as we have already done," Zenyatta replied. "As long as it remains a matter of shelter for refugees - and not housing for a spy agency."

I suppose there comes a time when one must admit the future is always a gamble.

"And what is your evaluation, Maximilian," she asked, "of the outcome?"

"There is no such thing as a truly bloodless revolution," Maximillian insisted. "Don't take that as an objection. It's not. But even if they try to create one, it doesn't happen. It can't."

"Perhaps, and perhaps not," Zenyatta said. "Wouldn't it be nice if you were wrong?"

I suppose there comes a time when one must manufacture a kind of hope.

"He's not wrong, though," Galena said, Alejandra quietly agreeing in the background.

"You don't know that," Lynx countered. "After all - we've set the stage as well as anyone could. There can be a first time for anything. Even something as necessarily messy - and unlikely - as this."

I suppose there comes a time one must admit the 'fix' can only be so 'in' before one commits to action.

"If I could eat," Maximilian retorted, "I'd promise to eat my hat if they prove me wrong."

"You've never worn a hat," Sombra snickered. "You don't even own one. It's a sucker's bet."

"Of course it is," he replied, with a nod. "Does a casino operator offer any other kind?"