This was turning out to be a thoroughly depressing op.
Even the castle was depressing. Everything seemed so… stark. Now Jesse hadn’t, all right, been expecting something right out of a Godfather set, with severed horse heads or whatever strewn across the furniture, but many of the rooms seemed empty but for a carefully positioned painting and a piece of furniture or two. It seemed so full of… nothing. Jesse had spent most of the first bit of his life in a gang, and the second bit in another gang, albeit UN-sanctioned, and both said gang HQs tended to be rowdy, violent and thick with testosterone. And the walls! Jesse didn’t get the point of paper walls. Who the hell still used paper nowadays anyhow?
Still. Jesse’s mama had (tried) to bring him up to be a polite boy: though, to be fair, she’d given up on ‘good’ and on ‘nice’ along the line through no real fault of her own, rest her soul. “Looks nice,” Jesse confided with Security. “I like the get up. Very minimal. Kinda zen.”
Security didn’t bother to respond. Typical. Clearly they didn’t teach you much in the way of repartee in meathead grunt school nowadays. There were four of them, all in identical suit and tie and slicked back hair.
Instead of another mostly empty room or some sort of fuck-off CEO office, Jesse found himself led out into a balcony. Below was a vast sea of brilliant pink, shuddering delicate flakes into the air under the breeze. A solitary man leaned against a pillar in the corner, aggressively smoking a cigarette. He wasn’t tall, but the give of the black coat that he had draped loosely over his shoulders hinted at powerfully built shoulders. Under his coat, folded white cuffs revealed the end of some intricate tattoo down his left arm, dragons tangling over clouds and angular spokes, scaled bodies looping down corded muscle. He was fitted with elegant, birdlike prosthetic legs, shaped like steel boots, mostly hidden under tailored trousers. He had thick, lustrous dark hair that he wore past his shoulders like a mane, and as he turned to look at them, all catlike grace, his narrowed dark eyes seemed to hold the glittering, indifferent cruelty of a hunting cat.
At a tip of his head, Security faded away quietly into the room behind them. Jesse fought the urge to duck out of line of sight, plastering what he hoped was a friendly grin on his mug instead. Extending a hand, he ambled over. “You the boss?”
Bossman eyeballed Jesse’s hand until he dropped it. “You have come highly recommended, Mister McCree.” Hanzo—it had to be Hanzo Shimada—had only a faint, elegant accent.
“Hope so. I try t’please.”
Hanzo studied Jesse, not even bothering to hide it. “You will find that working in Japan is very different.”
“Don’t doubt it. Kinda like it so far though. And I’ve worked jobs across the world. Ain’t made one bit of difference to me.”
“Do you know what you are here for?”
Jesse scratched behind his ear, a little thrown. This, right here, was why Jesse fucking hated going undercover. Talk, talk, talk. Usually, Jesse got bored very quickly, and when Jesse got bored, his trigger finger tended to get itchy. Besides, they’d confiscated his goddamned gun. That was a downright depressing thing to do to a man, that was.
“I’m here as hired muscle, yeah?”
“Yes,” Hanzo said disdainfully. “‘Hired muscle’. What do you know about me?”
“You’re uh, Hanzo Shimada, boss of the Shimada clan,” Jesse said promptly. “You guys run Hanamura and all the rackets around it for miles. Gamblin’, brothels, drugs, the lot. You’re nowhere on the scale of the Yamaguchi-gumi, but you’ve had a decent gig goin’, and you really don’t appreciate other outfits trying’na muscle in.”
“So far you have proved to me that you’re capable of reading what’s publicly available about me on the net. What else?”
Jesse had read Hanzo’s full file, of course, including all that business about murdering his own kin. He knew precisely how old Hanzo was, and how he had lost both his legs, and where. He knew exactly how long the Shimada Clan had been in business, and when it had decided to go masterless, and why. He knew the modern scope of the Shimada Clan’s criminal empire. Hell, Jesse even knew where and when Hanzo had buried his old man, where he’d buried the brother he had killed. But he couldn’t exactly volunteer any of that to his new boss.
Ah, what the hell. Jesse had always done best when shooting from the hip. “Seems to me like you’re probably the most dangerous guy I’ve met in this place so far.”
“Flattery bores me. As does stating the obvious.”
“Most bosses I’ve met won’t let a hired killer get this close to them. Seems like you’re real confident for a reason.”
“You aren’t armed.”
“Sure about that?” If Jesse wanted to, his prosthetic hand could probably leave dents on solid steel, especially after Ziegler’s tinkering.
This got Jesse a considering look, but little else. Hanzo was as opaque as ever, turning back to look at the garden, as though in dismissal. Jesse tried not to scowl. If he’d just fucked up his interview, he was going to seriously cop it from Reyes. And with Morrison so interested in pesky shit like proof and justifiable intervention and evidence, sneakily lopping the head off the dragon before finding something linking him to the Omnic underground was probably not going to cut it. Yet.
“Do you know Jiro Sasaki?”
“Current Number Two of the Sato-gumi.” That had been in the brief. “You guys are havin’ a border shake-up.”
“That ‘shake-up’ cost me eight men.” Hanzo breathed out an acrid cloud of smoke. “I think that Sasaki-san may not be much longer for this world.”
“What’s the payoff?”
Hanzo grimaced and named a figure, one which although was not particularly high, at least wasn’t insultingly low, either. “Of course,” Hanzo added, “if you get caught, the police will not be so impolite as to tie you to me.”
“Pretty big hit for that kinda money.”
“Little bit,” Jesse said blandly. “Ain’t gonna lie, m’startin’ to wonder whether all this was even worth my plane ticket.”
“You do not come that highly recommended,” Hanzo shot back, though he smiled, very faintly, mirthless. “Should you not prove to be incompetent, however, I anticipate that there will be… follow-on matters.”
Good enough for the op. “Right then. I’m off. Do I get my kit back?”
“Takahashi will return your belongings to you at the gate.” Hanzo made a dismissive flick of his wrist, and Jesse tried not to feel instinctively annoyed, even as he retreated. An op was an op. Even if Reyes had to have been smoking something mental to have assigned Jesse to a godsdamned undercover op.
Now Hanzo was not entirely sure why he had sent Jesse after Jiro Sasaki despite his misgivings. He balanced himself on the edge of the roof of the apartment block, out of the line of sight of the closest sentry post, waiting.
“Kumicho.” Hanzo’s earpiece crackled quietly to life. “We’ve found the tracking device. The American changed his clothes.”
Hanzo scowled. And he had thought that arranging for the tracker to be clipped onto the sole of one of Jesse’s ridiculously noisy boots would be good enough. Clearly Jesse understood the meaning of stealth after all. “Find him. But don’t intervene.”
An arrow took care of the sentry, and Hanzo ghosted noiselessly over the narrow gap between rooftops, wary of traps. Security was good, but imperfect. Clearly, the Sato-gumi were getting lax: it had been weeks since the border skirmish. Perhaps they thought that there would be no reprisals. In a way, that was true: pure revenge was not the Shimada way. Dragons did not understand vengeance, but they understood necessity, and the intrusion into the dragonlands could not be tolerated.
The sound of a gunshot shattered the midnight silence. Hanzo froze, turning sharply towards the sound—had Jesse been really so unsubtle as to use his gun—then he flinched again. Two more loud bangs, one after another, in different directions. Firecracker sounds. Below, the streets burst into chaos, civilians closing their windows in clattering waves, Sato-gumi patrols hollering in alarm as they raced past in different directions, sirens. Somewhere, an alarm, pealing, then more, breaching the night with violence.
“Endo, Arai, observe. The rest of you, withdraw.” No sense in getting caught up in this mess.
The way back was tense, though the Sato-gumi were in disarray, their security posts abandoned, their men milling in the streets. The dragons twisted against his bones, scenting death on the wind, hungry, but Hanzo murmured absently to them and rubbed his arm, grimacing. One kill hadn’t been enough for them tonight, and they made their displeasure felt, twisting just under his skin, hot to the touch. It put him in a poor mood by the time Hanzo crossed back into Hanamura.
“Kumicho, the tracker is on the move. McCree will be crossing into Ogawa Dori in ten minutes.”
“Good. Withdraw.” Hanzo slipped over the roof of a temple and leaped out into empty space, landing with only an inch to spare on the roof of an apartment block. He reached the street in question with just enough time to spare, waiting on the roof of the Hanamura bookshop.
“Kumicho.” It was Arai. “Jiro Sasaki is dead. Someone put a pillow over his face and shot him through it.”
“Only one death?”
“Two deaths. The pillow muffled the first, but the second shot killed his bodyguard. It seems that the bodyguard walked into the bedroom unannounced after McCree shot Sasaki and was killed for it.”
“The other two disturbances were rigged flashbang grenades, set on a timer,” Endo added. “They must have allowed McCree to flee the compound.”
Hanzo nodded absently to himself. “Withdraw.” Jesse was coming down the street, but without his usual swagger. He still had his hat, but he was masked, and dressed in sober grays and blacks, soft-shoed, a large duffel bag slung over a shoulder. As Hanzo watched, Jesse ambled all the way past the bookshop before pausing, looking over his shoulder. The man had decent instincts.
“I know you guys are still watchin’ me,” Jesse said out aloud. He sounded amused. “Do I pass?”
Hanzo hesitated, but only for a second, then he took himself down to street level, deftly navigating window sills and pipes. Jesse tipped up his hat in surprise, tugging down his mask. His stare was entirely impertinent, tracking the length of the dragon tattoo and back up to Hanzo’s partly bared chest. “I uh, like the new get up. Kimono, right? Looks good on you, boss.”
That didn’t deserve to be dignified with an answer. “Your work is barely adequate.”
“Ooh,” Jesse clapped a hand over his heart. “You sure know how to hurt a man.” He grinned, all defiant mischief, so much like the chaos he had just loosed behind him. The dragons uncoiled against each other approvingly, and Jesse blinked, openmouthed, even as Hanzo hastily rubbed at his arm, trying to coax the dragons back into his flesh. They weren’t usually this restless in company. “Holy shit,” Jesse said slowly. “The hell was that?”
“It is none of your concern.”
“All right, all right, no need to bite my head off.” Jesse raised his hands palms up in mock surrender. “I getcha.”
“Walk with me.” In the dragons’ current mood, Hanzo was going to have to stay awake until they slept, anyway, or it was possible that they would accidentally ruin more than another yukata, without his will to leash them away from fire.
“I got who you told me to.” Jesse fell easily into step. “You got a problem with my work?”
“Grenades and guns? I thought I was hiring a professional.”
“Ouch. Hey, boss. Job got done. Granted, I knocked out his security, thought he was out for the count, but that knucklehead woke up real quick. Plan was to set off the flashbangs and just get away clean. Still, you didn’t exactly tell me that you wanted it done some other way,” Jesse pointed out. “Hell, if you’d told me that you wanted me to kill him by hangin’ him by the balls from his window or somethin’ more ‘professional’, I could’a done that instead. Happy to please.”
“Are you?” That had come out sharper than Hanzo had intended. The dragons had infected him with their temper.
Instead of recoiling, Jesse merely shot Hanzo another impertinent, appraising look. “Sure.” Jesse smirked, all smoky promise. “Whatever you want, boss.”
“You shouldn’t be so quick to make stupid promises,” Hanzo scoffed, keeping a tight hold on his temper. The dragons hissed against his bones, briefly numbing his arm, though they subsided when he kneaded his arm just above his elbow. “I could have told you to shoot yourself.”
“You could’ve,” Jesse agreed. “But I got a feelin’ that you’re the sorta guy who hates a damned waste, and me shootin’ myself is gonna make one hell of a mess, eh?”
That smug mischief. Hanzo clenched his hands, willing the dragons down, even as they stirred in serpentine amusement around his bones. They had always been fond of fellow predators.
“That’s a cool trick,” Jesse said curiously. Clearly Hanzo hadn’t been entirely successful. “You’re not wearing a deck, so it can’t be a hologram. I ain’t ever seen the like.”
“I would’ve been surprised if you had.” Hanzo said flatly.
Jesse wasn’t intimidated in the least. “I did hear a lot of other things about you and your clan,” he said brightly. “But back then, I didn’t want to come off as a bit of a fruitloop.”
“Rest assured, that impression was duly made through other means.” Hanzo stared pointedly at Jesse’s old-fashioned holsters.
“Says the dude in the samurai-archer getup,” Jesse shot back, grinning impishly. “Not that I’m dissin’ it. I like it.”
“So you have said.”
“But moving along,” Jesse persisted, “I heard that you guys used to be ninjas. Like. Real ninjas. Running over the rooftops in black PJs, shuriken, the lot.”
“Your concept of what constitutes a ninja is predictably misinformed.”
“Looks like I got the rooftop bit right.” They were at the side gate to the castle now, and his men were quick to let them through. Jesse wandered right up to the edge of the raked stone garden, hands folded behind his back. “Y’know, I grew up in a house that was half the size of this here garden.”
“I know.” Jesse’s file had been meticulous where his early life was concerned, though he had vanished after Overwatch had taken down the Deadlock Gang. According to the supplier, Jesse had gone to ground, working covertly as a bounty hunter. He looked the sort. “You may continue to have the use of your guest room. Payment for your work tonight will be made into your account.” Hanzo started to head towards the main wing of the castle, only to realize that Jesse was still at his heels. “Yes?” he inquired, testily.
“Where I’m from,” Jesse said, with an ingratiating grin, “We usually celebrate a done an’ dusted job with a drink.”
“We have sake, shochu and whisky. Talk to one of the staff.”
“I meant a drink, darlin’, as in, you, me, a bar—”
“I think not,” Hanzo cut in icily, his temper finally fraying. “Good night, Mister McCree.” He stormed back to his chambers, annoyed enough that clan members scrambled hastily to get out of his way, the dragons heaving their coils up and around his skin, rumbling, hungry. Only when he was alone did it occur belatedly to Hanzo that he could just have told Jesse to leave. The man was precisely the kind of trouble that Hanzo usually had the sense to avoid.
Tomorrow. He’ll get rid of Jesse tomorrow.
He was working his way through a second bowl of noodles when Hanzo ducked into the shop with a magnificent scowl. The owner greeted him nervously in Japanese and ducked hastily into the kitchen when Hanzo said something curtly in response. The boss was back in a shirt and coat, all buttoned up. Maybe the half-naked samurai getup was for special occasions only. Pity.
“Mornin’, boss.” Jesse started to set down his chopsticks, and as an afterthought, wiped his mouth.
“The breakfast in the castle is not to your taste?”
“Uh. No offense, but them sticky beans you guys serve with the rice smell somethin’ powerful.” Jesse had never realized that one could pack the smell of an entire locker room into some unsuspecting beans. You learned something new everyday.
“Ah.” Hanzo raised his eyebrows. “You could have informed the kitchen if natto is not to your liking.”
“S’all right. I like ramen.” Jesse understood ramen. Noodles, soup, meat, veg. Simple. Breakfast in the Shimada Castle, on the other hand, consisted of grilled fish, rice, smelly beans, and a shit ton of little snack things in tiny plates that were usually cold, incomprehensible, and weirdly colourful. What was the point of rolling up an omelette into a tiny carpet and letting it go cold, Jesse wanted to know? Also, none of it made him full. And there was no coffee.
“Is this your first time in Japan?”
“Won’t that be in my file?”
Hanzo shrugged. “Your file is very incomplete.” At least he didn’t even bother trying to deny it.
“Okay, nope, not my first time. Been to Tokyo.” That had been a shit job and a half.
“On an assignment?”
“Now, darlin’, you know all that’s confidential.”
Hanzo glowered at him. “I wasn’t going to interrogate you over the details.”
“Hey, I’m happy to be interrogated by you anytime,” Jesse said cheerfully, swivelling in his seat to cop a good look, because if he was already in trouble he might as well make it worth his while, and that was when he saw it. Movement, corner of his eye, a faint whistle in the air-
Instinct took over. Jesse grabbed Hanzo by his collar and dragged them down to the floor even as something whistled overhead and shattered the glass sushi counter. “Shit!” Jesse yelped, even as Hanzo snarled and twisted out of his grip, and they scrambled hastily out of line of sight from the door and windows.
Hanzo was snapping commands in Japanese to his earpiece. Leaving him to it, Jesse peeked warily out from a window and ducked hastily again as a bullet whistled past, drilling a hole into the plastic frog monster model by the cashier. “They got us pinned,” he told Hanzo. “Over on the opposite building, up on the grocer’s roof.” Way out of range. Maybe if he ducked out and crabbed across the road-
To Jesse’s surprise, Hanzo was busy stripping. Not that he minded the view, but really? Now? First the coat, then the shirt. Hanzo was in seriously good shape. Those shoulders. And those nipples- “Which part of the roof?” Hanzo growled, then glared when he noticed Jesse gawping. “McCree.”
“Sorry, yep.” Jesse snuck another look up and nearly got his hat holed. “Okay. He’s near the, uh, satellite dish. Left side corner and whoah!”
The dragons boiled out of Hanzo’s arm, seething over it in scaly waves, and Hanzo set his hand, palm out, snarling a command. The air… burned. McCree had no other way to describe it. The raw heat was like a palpable slap to the face and yet nothing ignited as the dragons took flight, howling past, swarming through the wall, all great coils and the rain-stink of an oncoming storm. Somewhere beyond there was a shrill sound, like a tuning fork being struck, then a heavy, meaty thump on ground level.
Slowly, Jesse pushed up his hat. “Fuck. Me. Sideways.” Dragons. Dragon magic. He hadn’t signed up for this. Sure, he’d thought that he’d seen something funny last night, walking back with Hanzo, but he hadn’t thought that it had been a sign of some sort of… of magic artillery piece.
This only got him another withering glare. “Is the sniper down? Are there others?”
Jesse snuck a glance. “Yup. Poor bastard’s on the ground. Don’t look like he got friends. And by the look of it, you won’t be gettin’ anythin’ out of him.”
“We’ll see.” Hanzo was already pulling his clothes back on, though he didn’t bother to button up, striding out into the street.
Jesse scrambled to follow, hand poised over Peacekeeper, but his initial judgment was right. The assassin was dead. The head had even rolled off into the gutter, the circuitry at the neck still sparking. The rest of the omnic assassin was a twisted wreck under an old coat, probably secondhand. Gloves, shoes, an unravelling headscarf and old trousers completed the haphazard disguise, but from a distance, the omnic could probably pass as a hobo. The rifle, on the other hand, was the good stuff: military grade, sleek and black. One of the latest Dragunovs. Jesse had seen one just like it in the Blackwatch armoury. Russian Special Forces only.
There was a faint scraping sound behind them, and Jesse whirled, Peacekeeper quick on the draw, but Hanzo caught his wrist sharply. The tall young woman he’d nearly shot gave Jesse a curious look before circling over respectfully to Hanzo’s side. Like the rest of Shimada Castle’s security, she was dressed in a black and white suit.
“Kumicho,” she said quietly. At his nod, she started searching the body, discussing the procedure in rapid-fire Japanese. Jesse tried not to grimace, holstering his revolver. Couldn’t Reyes have sent someone with a grasp of the local lingo?
Still. Their tip off had lucked out. There was some kinda omnic element in the yakuza after all. Just maybe not the Shimada yakuza.
Eventually, the woman darted off, and Hanzo eyed Jesse thoughtfully. “So you have fought omnics before.”
“Haven’t we all?”
“You’re experienced. You checked first for the head.”
“I’ve run my share of omnic jobs, sure.” That was an understatement and a half.
This seemed to be the wrong answer. Hanzo scowled, turning away. He glanced up at the sky, then he exhaled loudly and started to walk down the street. Jesse stared at his retreating back in bemusement, then began to amble back towards the ramen shop.
“Where are you going?”
Jesse paused. “Uh. Gonna finish my breakfast.”
Hanzo stared at him with surprise. Then a faint curl pressed against the edge of his mouth, so briefly that Jesse couldn’t be sure if he’d really seen it. Hanzo beckoned imperiously, and for one rebellious moment Jesse was tempted to ignore him. But when Hanzo started walking again, Jesse found himself jogging to catch up.
They walked a block in comfortable silence before Jesse’s not-quite-sufficiently-caffeinated brain decided to fuck it up. “So uh. You got to get naked for uh, dragons?”
Hanzo sighed, and muttered something darkly in Japanese under his breath. “Fire burns.”
“But it didn’t burn the wall?”
“You talk too much.”
“Heard that before,” Jesse said, and tried an ingratiating smile. Hanzo sniffed. “So uh. The dragons didn’t exactly fly back. How do you reload?”
“It does not work like a gun.” Hanzo rubbed his arm absently, but didn’t seem inclined to elaborate. “How many omnic jobs have you ‘run’?”
“All in? Probably close to eight.” Eight solo missions, anyway. Jesse preferred not to think about the ones where he was being dragged along kicking and screaming on Reyes’ coattails.
“So you can be impressed.”
That faint smirk again. “Careful, McCree-san.”
“You could call me ‘Jesse’, y’know. Since you’re the boss.”
This went by ignored. “A few months ago, when the Sato-gumi began their move into our territories, my scouts noticed omnics in their ranks. Not many. But enough to give us a real challenge. It has also made retaliation… costly.”
“So you call in a hired gun.”
Hanzo inclined his head. “As you say. I asked the supplier for a veteran of omnium skirmishes, but I did not expect you to actually complete the mission. To tell you the truth, I was not intending to hire you at all, but to meet you and decline your services. You are very obviously a gaijin, and you are out of place here. It would not have been responsible to send you to your death.”
“It is not altruistic. A commander who asks the impossible of those he hires will soon have no one else to buy.” Hanzo shrugged. “I merely wished to see how far an outsider could go.”
“Wanted to see if you’d missed anythin’, eh. Bet each time you and your boys tried to get in close you got caught out?” At Hanzo’s nod, Jesse grinned. “Figured. You wearin’ electronics? You got an earpiece. Anythin’ else?”
“Is that the key?” Hanzo blinked. “You have a prosthetic arm. And body armour.”
“Oh, this old thing ain’t electronic. Ain’t linked to nothin’ but me.” Jesse flexed his fingers. “Custom job, too, so no chips. The armour ain’t biotech neither.”
“And don’t think I missed you lot pastin’ a tracker on my shoes,” Jesse drawled. “I’m not stupid.”
“So it would seem,” Hanzo said thoughtfully. “I think I may have misjudged you.”
“People do that.”
“And thank you for your intervention. Before.”
“Well, that,” Jesse grinned. “You guys haven’t paid me yet. Got to protect my investments.”
This got him another long, thoughtful look. “I’ll like to keep you close by, at least until we resolve our problems with the Sato-gumi,” Hanzo said finally. “If you have any other engagements in the next few months, cancel them.”
He was going to be in this dinky little Japanese town for months? Fuck that. “I’ll uh, see what I can do, boss.”
“Seriously, boss. If I’m going to have to live here for a few months I’m gonna go stir crazy.”
“You’re a professional, McCree. Act like one.” Gabriel hung up, groaned, and fought the urge to slam his head against his shiny new desk. Only the thought of having to file paperwork if he dented the damned thing gave him pause.
Jack let himself into Gabriel’s office cautiously around when Gabriel had given up on his emails and was sourly disassembling his shotguns on his desk. “Bad day?” Jack asked sympathetically.
Gabriel scowled at him. Jack, as always, was perfectly put together: shiny blue uniform, perfect blonde hair, even that goddamned too-pretty smile. “Getting worse,” he snapped.
Jack’s smile widened, proving that sometimes, stereotypes about blonde people rung true. No smoke without fire. “I need an update on Operation Makoto for the higher ups.”
Gabriel’s scowl deepened. Someday he was going to winkle out the pendejo who thought up all these ‘cute’ little Operation names and shove a stapler up his ass. Operation Truth, indeed. “McCree’s still alive, despite all odds.”
“Probably going to need more than that.”
“He’s killed two people that I know of, including one of the lieutenants from the rival clan. And today some omnic attacked Hanzo and got destroyed by, and I quote,” Gabriel checked his notes, “‘fuckin’ mental dragon magic’.”
Jack started to laugh, tried to swallow it, and ended up grinning instead. “What did he mean by that?”
“Fucked if I know.” Gabriel pinched at the bridge of his nose. “So that’s what I have. Omnic presence in Hanamura and surrounds confirmed.”
“But no sign of a god program in operation.”
“No, the place hasn’t been overrun by rogue ninja robots.” Gabriel growled. “As far as I can tell, it’s probably some omnics cashing in on the semi-legal labour market.”
Jack sighed. “If that’s the case, we’re going to have to cancel the op. The yakuza are still legal in Japan, for reasons that rather escape me. If the Shimada clan isn’t involved with the missing god program then we’re going to have to leave them to their devices.”
“I heard the debrief clearly the first time. Sir.”
That got a grimace. “Gabe. I know you felt the intel was sketchy-“
“Hah! That’s an understatement.”
“-but Doctor Ziegler’s convinced. Her new source can be trusted.”
“You’re the one calling the shots,” Gabriel said, not bothering to hide his resentment. “McCree can cool his ass in Japan for all I care.”
“You have doubts.”
“Give the man a prize,” Gabriel said sarcastically. “Doctor Ziegler and her precious new pet, so precious that she won’t even let us near it. If you ask me, the good Doctor’s finally gone around the bend.”
“I’ve been tracing the shipments to Med-block. The shit she’s been bringing in? You’d think that she’s building some kinda new omnic.”
“She’s not,” Jack sighed. “I know she’s not. We can trust her. And when has she ever been wrong? But we’re still following other leads. Just that Hanamura’s our best shot. Especially since McCree’s seen an omnic. And. Whatever he means by ‘dragon magic’.”
“I’ll ask him again next time he patches in,” Gabriel muttered grudgingly. “Anything else?”
Jack actually looked a little… embarrassed. Sheepish, more accurately. “Well. Not really.”
“Yeah? Spit it out.”
“We haven’t really gone out for dinner for a while. That is. Not for years. So I was thinking-“
“You guys have a separate canteen,” Gabriel cut in. “For a good reason. Remember what happened when we shared a mess hall?”
“I think the straw on the camel’s back was when a certain cowboy, not naming names, called Winston a monkey.” Jack pulled a face. “Which was very rude.”
“Pretty sure he was sorry after Winston threw him out of a window.”
“A skylight window.”
Jack coughed. “I wasn’t discussing rebuilding a joint canteen.”
Jack stared at him for a long moment, then he seemed to deflate. “Nevermind. Be seeing you, Gabe.”
“You know where to find me,” Gabriel told him, and pointedly turned back to his bajillion emails. Most of them, as usual, were complaints forwarded over from HR. The fractious and still relatively new Blackwatch team was still settling down, years into formation, and friction was everywhere. Gabriel glared at the screen, deleted the lot without reading them, and growled, without looking up, “Yes, Angie?”
“Someday you’re gonna have to teach me that trick, boss.” Angie poked her head past his door. The only other Deadlock gang member not in max-sec, Angie-no-surname was younger than McCree and just as out of control. She had buzzed down her hair, like most of the rest of Blackwatch but McCree, but the effect had generally only turned her large afro into a smaller one. “You psychic?”
“No. Thank the Lord for small mercies. What do you want?”
“Somethin’ up with Morrison? He lit out of here real quickly.”
“There’s always something up with Morrison.” Gabriel had known Jack Morrison for years, and it had always been obvious that Jack had a stick jammed so far up his ass that it could probably see daylight.
But at least it was a cute ass.
“So-o-o,” Angie drawled, “I heard that you’re letting Jesse out for a month.”
“He’s on a mission.”
“How come I didn’t get to go on this mission? I've never been to Japan.”
“Because, God help me, you’re still nineteen and Morrison thinks that means you’re not to be let out on missions unsupervised.”
“Aww, c’mon! I could’ve gone with Jesse.”
Gabriel wearily checked his incidence map. “But if you go and wake Inara up, the two of you can go and investigate this rogue omnic sighting in Cornwall. I’ll ping you the details.”
“Cornwall sucks,” Angie declared mutinously, but shuffled off, to Gabriel’s relief. He was reassembling his shotguns when the intercom beeped.
“Shang. What do you want.”
“I heard that you let McCree out for a month.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Gabriel stabbed his thumb at Disconnect.
Somedays, Gabriel wondered why the hell he’d ever thought about setting up Blackwatch. Also, whoever had thought that staffing Blackwatch with criminal lowlifes was a great idea - instead of giving Gabriel the pick of the world’s Special Forces teams - also deserved a stapler suppository, in Gabriel’s opinion.
He patched back to Shang. “How are your friends in Hong Kong?”
“The other triads have moved further underground. But I can get into contact with some of them. Why?”
“Your father used to have dealings with the Yamaguchi-gumi.”
“They are the biggest clan in Japan. Yes, of course.”
“I need information. About all the clans. Recent territorial movements in the last six months, any leadership changes. Get to Hong Kong.”
“Very well, Mister Reyes.”
“And Shang? If you even think about falling back into old habits? Remember. It wasn’t my idea to give any of you a chance. And I don’t believe in second chances.”
“We know, boss.” Shang sounded amused. “I’ll have something for you soon.”
Gabriel wiped down his shotguns and set them back in their holsters. On his desk, incidence reports continued to ping, though most of them were rumours, dotting themselves over the globe. Some blinked out as he watched, either debunked by tech hacking into local CCTV to check, or by Overwatch missions on the ground. Only Russia sat dark: they’d always chosen to make their own way. As he watched, a new ping surfaced, glowing right on top of Barcelona.
Huh. That was relatively close to base, given that HQ was in Gibraltar…
Ah, what the hell. Gabriel swiped the data to his wrist comm and got to his feet. Somewhere close by, there was something to shoot.
“Twenty omnics, kumicho.” Arai said quietly behind him.
“They have grown bold,” Endo added flatly.
Hanzo nodded. An overt, armed takeover like this, executed in broad daylight? Over a temple? Unheard of. The border sentries had been summarily overwhelmed - his scouts had only found one of the bodies. The surrounding civilians had fled to the Castle, terrified. “Where are my saikō-komon?”
“Mio-san is watching the north exit. Tanaka-san is on the south.” Arai said promptly. “They are waiting for your signal.”
“The gaijin was right,” Endo continued. “The omnics do not seem to be able to find us when we wear no electronics.”
Hanzo glanced down. The ‘gaijin’ was loitering down a side-alley with the Shimada clan’s shock troops: heavy infantry armed with kevlar and energy shields purloined from riot police stores. As though sensing that he was being watched, Jesse glanced up and tipped his hat in playful greeting. Hanzo pointedly looked away.
“An invasion of this scale cannot be tolerated. And the monks may still be alive.” Hanzo scanned the compound again. The nightvision lenses on his binoculars didn’t show heat signals outside of those on the omnics. “Somewhere.”
“The Sato-gumi are not here.” Arai murmured. “Mio-san thinks that they may be trying to draw us out of the Shimada castle.”
“To what end? They’ll have to besiege it to get in. We left defenses. And that castle has stood for over a century.”
Besides, Hanzo could not afford to show indecision, not when he had already called out his forces. With the early death of his father, Hanzo knew that he had ascended to the kumicho position at least a decade before he would have been deemed traditionally ready. Power was like the dragons that he wore in his flesh: it was not enough to simply wear it. Some days, there had to be blood.
The dragons rose eagerly, scenting the violence in the air, and they purred out of his skin as Hanzo drew and notched an arrow. They were his banner. Once, the other clans had learned to fear the Shimada clan. Clearly they needed a reminder.
As the closest line of omnics shattered, the dragons roared. From hidden vantage points, Mio’s archer teams began firing at the remaining omnics, while below Hanzo’s feet, the heavy, even tread told him that the ground troops were moving in. He didn’t bother to watch them go, already notching a second arrow. Two omnics on the walls managed to squeeze off haphazard shots into the dark that shattered roof tiles or fizzled harmlessly up into the night. On the roof of the temple, one omnic crashed downwards, scraping tiles as it went, arrows through its head and chassis.
Hanzo notched another arrow, breathed and loosed. Breathed, and loosed. Unlike the dragons’ hunger, archery was an art of skill, discipline and poise. An omnic crashed off the roof of the well. Another toppled off a wall. None of those had fired a shot. And the compound. Hanzo realized, slowly, what had seemed a little strange about the temple after all. Not only was there no evidence of a slaughter, the normally beautiful raked stones of the temple’s large karesansui garden were flattened down, levelled neatly.
“Wait,” Hanzo said out aloud, and belatedly, with a dull and sour clench in his gut, remembered that they were all running blind. No electronics. Below, beyond the ground troops were marching into the empty compound: Jesse’s team, and at the other gate, Tanaka, also flanked by energy shields. “Arai.”
“Kumicho.” Arai climbed lithely up to the ledge Hanzo was balanced on.
“Get to Tanaka. Tell him to hold his position. Endo, take a pair of scouts and sweep the grounds.”
“Our initial sweep indicated no active electronic signatures except for the omnics,” Endo pointed out, even as Arai nodded and darted off, making a flying leap to the top of an apartment block.
“This has been too easy,” Hanzo began, even as far below, within a row of dumpsters, there was the sound of an electronic whine.
Something was powering up.
Endo had heard it too. “Kumicho!”
Beyond, both teams had barely cleared the compound wall into the compound when the karesansui erupted. Omnics drove out of the white gravel from newly-dug shafts, pulse rifles in their hands. Behind, beyond the compound, omnics burst out of hiding from within dumpsters, within the abandoned buildings, some of them still with bits of crates and cloth still attached. Biting down on a snarl, Hanzo fired a scatter arrow into the back ranks, the calibrated arrows fragmenting on impact and richocheting, gutting the closest omnics but barely slowing them as they turned as one and began firing at Jesse’s squad.
About to notch another arrow, Hanzo flinched to the side instead as behind him, an omnic burst out of the roof, scattering tiles, bigger than the others, leveling a rifle. Endo snarled something and sprang, plucking his katana from his hip in a quick draw that severed the omnic’s rifle arm from the joint. Undeterred, the omnic’s other hand snapped out, grasping Endo smartly by the arm, and then it leaped off the edge, plummeting for the ground. There was a terrible, wet sound of impact. No scream.
“Endo-“ Hanzo gasped, before discipline took over, forcing his shock and grief away. Around him, chaos. Omnics on the roof, fighting his archers. Mio’s team was retreating. Tanaka’s was pinned. Jesse - Jesse was standing over a downed energy shield, a fan of downed omnics before him, reloading, grinning, pure battle-lust: when he fired, something died, a demon of death incarnate in the roar of his gun. His team was rallying, starting to retreat, pushing back out of the compound.
Hanzo leaped to the next roof as he felt the dragons curling again back within his flesh, sharply whistling the signal to retreat. Somewhere along the rooftops, others picked it up, echoing the staccato whistle down another block. Hauling himself up to higher ground, he sent the dragons hunting with another command, howling outwards to clear Tanaka’s retreat. As he hopped down from his perch, firing another scatter arrow down into the scrum, there was a shrill sound, like the wind itself being shredded, accelerating-
“Artillery!” Jesse yelled, from somewhere below, and then the world itself quaked under Hanzo’s feet, he could hear nothing but a distant ringing and everything was tumbling down, bricks, pipes, he was trying to jump free but something struck him against the hip and he was twisting in the air, clutching at nothing.
He landed hard against something angular, felt his ribs crack, then he was falling again, bowled over the street, throwing his arms up over his head and curling up instinctively. Something shattered behind his back, dangerously close to his spine. Pain burned in bitter protest through his arms, his chest. Somewhere behind him, people were screaming. His people.
Dazed, Hanzo tried to push free, tiles sleeting off his shoulders, and for a moment’s blind panic found that he was pinned, his legs, again with the legs- then Jesse was crouched over him, shoving a crate aside, grunting with the effort. Hanzo’s left leg was pinned under a layers of flooring and part of a crushed bed.
“Jesus fuck,” Jesse breathed, and through the dull ringing in Hanzo’s ears his voice sounded so distant. Jesse tried scrabbling at the rubble, pausing only when Hanzo grabbed for his elbow. He detached the prosthetic limb, grimacing, and Jesse hauled one of his arms over his shoulders, pulling Hanzo up. The street was dusty with debris: even Jesse’s bright red poncho had turned a muddy brown. And the rest of his squad, Gods, the screams, the charnel stink of blood and charred flesh and worse-
“C’mon,” Jesse said harshly, hauling him a step, then he swore again and turned, kneeling, motioning for Hanzo to climb on. Above, another missile, a strike. The thunderous roar of impact, smoke, shrieks. Behind, the surviving omnics in the compound were advancing.
“Leave me here.” Hanzo looked around for his bow. There - pinned under the rubble-
“Are you crazy? Climb on.”
“You won’t make it back to the Castle like this. I can slow them down while-“
“Boss, either we head to the Castle with you on my back or in a princess carry. Up to you, but I ain’t leavin’ without you.” Jesse grinned, dust-streaked, and the devil was in his eyes, defiance in the curve of his lips. A dog of war, joyous in its element. Hanzo obeyed, curling his arms over Jesse’s shoulders, and as Jesse lifted him with only a small grunt of effort, big hands under his thighs, Hanzo could feel his heartbeat quickening.
“The omnics in the courtyard, the way they were,” Hanzo said, as Jesse hurried down alleys, “I haven’t seen them act that way before. With such… precision. Like automata.”
“Yeah? I have,” Jesse muttered grimly. “A long time ago.”
Perched on the rim of an old stone public fountain, Tracer grinned at him through her orange goggles, her spiky, unruly brown hair pushed in messy spikes over her head. “So you are! We’re just people watching. Right, big guy? Hey. Reinhardt?”
“Ja, ja.” Reinhardt was busy munching his way through a fistful of sugar-dusted churros. “Are you sure you do not want any? These are very good!”
At least Reinhardt wasn’t in his Crusader gear and Tracer had bothered to wear a coat over her accelerator, but they were bound to get recognised soon, even with Jack in an old trench and a cap. After all, Tracer was still wearing her brilliant yellow tights, and Reinhardt, even in unassuming civvie gear of a white shirt and trousers, was a veritable giant of a man, with a lion’s mane of graying hair.
Jack let out a deep sigh, and Tracer giggled. “Aww, c’mon, Jack. What’s the harm. This is going to be exciting, love. I’m glad that you’ve gone from emo moping to emo stalking. That’s an improvement. Isn’t it?”
Reinhardt nodded solemnly. “Ja, ja. At least you are out in the sun.”
“Oh my God.”
“It’ll be fun! Just tell him how you feel!” Tracer chirped.
“Courage, Commander.” Reinhardt agreed.
“Please. Just. Get away from me.” Jack growled. “Gabe and I are friends. He left on an assignment a few days ago and hasn’t reported back, so I’m checkin’ in, s’all.”
“Su-u-re.” Tracer drawled. “And we’re checking in on you.”
“You’ve checked in. Can you both now just leave?”
“We’re worried about you,” Tracer said brightly, hopping off the fountain as Jack tried purposefully striding off down the street. “You’ve been so sad lately and grim and everything, Winston’s starting to moult. You don’t want Winston to moult, do you?”
“He doesn’t moult, he sheds,” Jack corrected absently, then grit his teeth. “Why are we even havin’ this conversation?”
“Because we care,” Reinhardt declared, with his usual total lack of volume control. Passers-by were turning to stare. Jack hastily sidled down a quieter alleyway.
“You care. I don’t know why Oxton’s here, other than maybe to keep torturin’ me.”
“That’s such a terrible thing to say, love. Isn’t it, big guy?”
“Your friends care about you,” Reinhardt boomed. “It is my concern that you are affecting morale.”
Jack clapped a palm over his face. “Really?”
“Winston left a hairball in front of my quarters.” Reinhardt said solemnly. “Tracer has a point.”
“No she doesn’t, she just tries to think of these things now and then to make my life hellish,” Jack said sourly.
“Terrible, terrible.” Tracer flickered up to the closest rooftop, her passage marked only by the occasional flash of pale light. “So you want us to go away?”
“Pity,” Tracer said innocently. “Because I’m pretty sure that’s Reyes over there.”
“What?” Jack looked around sharply, but the alley, as far as he could see, just fed between two rows of houses into another alley.
“Take the first left and then the second right. Good luck!” Tracer winked outrageously, even as Reinhardt solemnly patted Jack on the shoulder.
“The two of you stay here,” Jack hissed, hurrying down the alley. He emerged into a tiny courtyard, the steel gate wrenched open, the yard feeding into a house with a shattered door. Against his wrist, the Overwatch trace hummed to tell him that his mark was close - not that he needed it, with Gabriel emerging from the door, a beanie pulled down to his brow, a black trench worn over his shotguns.
Gabriel froze when he saw Jack at the gate, then he sniffed. Time had chiseled Gabriel’s face into harsh angles, turning his mouth cruel, his eyes cold, but Jack couldn’t help grinning foolishly in relief anyway. “Hey.”
“What are you doing here?” Gabriel asked flatly.
“You haven’t reported back in days. And you turned off your comm.”
“That’s my point.”
Gabriel’s lip curled. “Don’t mind me, Commander. I don’t need babysitting.”
Jack bit down on a sigh. Gabriel had always hated the fact that Jack had been named Commander over him, and had never bothered to hide it. “I was just-“
“You were just what?” Gabriel asked mockingly, striding closer, always so soft-footed, with that big-cat grace. “Checking in to see if I was doing my job?”
“Can’t I be concerned? As a friend?”
“Don’t worry, sir,” Gabriel drawled. “I’m a big boy.”
Jack sighed. “Gabe. We really have to talk about this.”
“What have we been doing all this while?”
“I know you’re still pissed that I got named Commander of Overwatch,” Jack bulled on, determined. “But it’s been a year, Jesus. And you have command of Blackwatch.”
“Bunch of thieves, felons and murderers? You mean that Blackwatch?” Gabriel sneered. “Yeah. Big damned honour. Shows you what the Security Council thinks I am, hm?”
“That’s not what it is.”
“Isn’t it? When the shit really hit the fan in the middle of the Omnic Crisis, they gave me leadership of Overwatch. Not you. But after we won? Looks like they needed a shiny, whitebread poster boy to be front and centre.” Gabriel let out an ugly laugh. “Should’ve figured, to be honest.”
“All right, look, the higher ups probably shouldn’t have sprung their decision on you. But it is what it is, Gabe. They spoke to the rest of the team, looked at the records… I didn’t ask to be named Commander.”
“If you didn’t want it you could’ve told them to shove it.”
“But the fact is,” Jack said evenly, “I have been named Commander. And it ain’t because they wanted a… a certain look on their propaganda, whatever you think, or because they don’t like you, though, hell, you sure don’t make likin’ you that easy-”
“You’ve always thought that you were better than me.”
“As a soldier? Maybe not. As a solo operative? You got me beat there, sure. But as a leader? Their decision is what it is. Move on.”
“…Some days,” Gabriel said thoughtfully, “I really feel like punching you in the mouth.”
“Look. Blackwatch is a challenge, I know that. And. Staffing it with uh, problematic people… that’s not what I wanted either. I asked the Security Council to give you the choice of them Special Forces lists. I think they want to give you a challenge. And you’ve been doin’ great so far. Positive success rate. Maybe-“
“Maybe, if I jump through another hoop, and another hoop, I’ll finally get some new uniform, a new medal?” Gabriel spat to the side. “No. What’s the point? I’m done with all that. Believe me. I know my place.”
God, why did he have to be so bitter? Jack stared at Gabriel unhappily. “I didn’t want things to turn out this way. You’ve always… you’ve always meant a lot to me.”
Gabriel studied him with narrowing eyes, tucking his thumbs into his pockets as Jack forced himself to meet Gabriel’s gaze without squirming or worse, blushing. Finally, Gabriel sniffed again, and slapped him on the arm, shoving past. “You’ve got sugar on your shoulder.”
Damn that Reinhardt. Jack hastily patted it off, jogging to catch up. “Gabe.”
Gabriel jerked a thumb back at the house. “Street gang. Got bought up with untraceable money a month or so back. They quietly shuffled off their usual rackets and focused on a real specific sort of trafficking. Salvaged Bastion units. That’s how they tripped up our alerts.”
“Did you take them into custody?”
Gabriel grunted. “They won’t be troubling anybody now.”
“Relax, boy scout. They’re just tools. What’s the point of getting rid of them? I just had to persuade the boss, very nicely, to drop me a line the next time they have any contact with their unknown benefactor. Who knows, we might even send a Bastion unit their way. Ziegler’s been sitting on at least two defuncts, that much I know. Could put a tracker in one of those.”
“Bastion units are bad news. But most of them available to salvage are so badly damaged that you’ll need an omnium to repair them. We’ve checked.”
“Could be something, could be nothing.” Gabriel shrugged. “Yesterday, McCree got himself caught under mortar fire.”
“What? In Hanamura?”
“Yeah. Somehow he isn’t even hurt. Kid has the luck of the devil. Seems after that omnic sniper tried to cap Hanzo and got offed, the Sato-gumi retaliated by chopping themselves a chunk of Shimada territory. When Hanzo struck back, they got lured into some kinda trap by omnics, pinned, and shelled. Bits of the town are still smoking.”
Jack blinked. “Yesterday? And you only tell me now?”
“It’s my op.” Gabriel’s voice turned flat again.
“All right, sure, but that sounds pretty serious to me. A large scale omnic attack-“
“Yeah, an omnic attack, in some sort of yakuza internecine warfare. Whatever. I have McCree checking for proof that it’s something we need to be worried about. If it’s not, I’m going to ask him to withdraw. Let them clans kill each other. Ninjas, robots, whatever works.”
“If they mortared the town there would be civilian casualties,” Jack said sharply.
“And? That’s not our problem. Until the Japanese government petitions the Security Council for help, gang warfare ain’t part of our jurisdiction. We’re a strictly terrorism-and-omnics gig, yeah?” Gabriel smiled thinly.
“Overwatch was tasked with maintaining global stability.”
“Yeah, yeah. Through heroism and sacrifice.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “But like you said, the yakuza are legal. Personally, I’m all for leaving them to their own devices.”
Wow. Some really dedicated souls put together a seriously detailed Overwatch Googledocs timeline: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1o_RjYjVmUeJ6EnNJW5oHXI2xuxge3HMRJgB9SoepDFg/htmlview# Thanks @brodinsons for telling me about it!
Unfortunately it does mean that timeline wise this fic is completely out of whack. Looking at the young!Shimada pics I was kinda under the impression that Hanzo tried to kill his brother when they were in their early 20s… according to this timeline he is approx 30 when he does it. Which kinda works out OK, since I’ve been keeping the ages abit fuzzy, but the problem is that McCree on this timeline actually leaves Blackwatch 2 years before that even happens and was in Blackwatch for 15 years before that. But that kinda means he started off in Blackwatch when he was 15…? Uhh. Anyway. This is an AU! So. Timeline change.
tldr: in this AU:
+ Hanzo’s dad dies unexpectedly 5 years earlier than canon
+ Hanzo ‘kills’ Genji and becomes Kumicho at age 25
+ Blackwatch has been in operation for about 5 years
+ McCree is 24
+ Jack and Gabriel are in their late 30s
On the little projection screen that hovered over Jesse’s mini comm, Reyes pulled one of his sour bitchfaces. “That’s it? Almost two days, no results? You’re slipping, McCree.”
“I’ve kinda been locked down in here, bossman. Few times that I got out, I had my ass tacked to a patrol and we saw nothin’. Couldn’t get away by myself, neither. Town’s still fucked. We’ve dug out almost all the bodies by now, though. Local hospital’s overwhelmed. Still, could be worse. We lost ‘bout thirty people, but only five of those were civvies. Lots of injured.”
“Broke some ribs. They got nanobiology tech here, so he’s already been fixed up. Been shut in with his surviving lieutenant, Mio, and them clan elders since the morning. Funny structure for a mafia outfit.” In Jesse's personal experience, criminal gangs usually ran on a Godfather sort of structure, with one bossman at the very top. Figured that a dragon-magic-ninja clan might go at it differently.
Dragon magic. Seriously. Jesse was still trying to wrap his head around that.
“The Shimada clan is not a normal outfit.” Reyes said dismissively. “I need more evidence, McCree. You’re certain that Hanzo Shimada is not involved with the god program?”
“Pretty sure. I been pokin’ around the Castle since they gave me the run of the premises. No secret omnium in the basement, no omnics anyway. All their servin’ staff be human. ‘Sides, the way them omnics in the compound were set up? Think the god program’s working with the enemy. Your source didn’t fuck up that much.”
Reyes nodded. “So it seems.”
“Then what’s the problem? Why ain’t we callin’ in the big guns? I’m gettin’ pretty lonely here, boss.”
“Because it isn’t unheard of for omnics to sacrifice individual units towards a greater strategic goal, even without a god program in control. That’s how they beat back humanity in most of the battlefields in the world, by being ruthless.” Reyes trailed off, and Jesse could hear him tapping his fingertips lightly against the desk.
Someone had his knickers in a twist. And Jesse had been in Blackwatch long enough to make a studied guess. “Somethin’ happened with Morrison?”
“What?” Reyes snapped. “No. Why would you even… Nevermind.” Reyes muttered something in Spanish under his breath, then he sighed. “Shang reported in this morning. The major yakuza syndicates have disappeared. The Yamaguchi-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai… it’s been happening over the past year.”
“‘Round after we ‘lost’ the god program, eh?”
“So it would seem. If that’s the case, for whatever reason, it’s decided to eliminate the big syndicates and select a handful of smaller syndicates around the country to use. The Sato-gumi is likely just one of them.” Reyes snorted. “That’s got to be why we took so long to sniff it out. It’s been careful.”
“So why did it stop being careful?”
“That’s what worries me. Stick around, Jesse. Looks like Shimada managed to piss off the god program - if that’s what’s out there. Keep me posted.”
Jesse leaned his head against the tiled wall, cursing quietly, then he sighed, powered off the comm, removed the tiny battery, and reattached both pieces to the underside of his chest armour. Then he washed his hands, and his face, and let himself out of the bathroom. Outside, in the guest room that had been assigned to him, that tall young woman was waiting by the window. Arai, that was her name. She still had an arm in a cast - bad break - but she was expressionless.
“Hey. Sorry. Kinda took a nap in there. Dozed off. Somethin’ come up?”
“Kumicho wishes to see you,” Arai said shortly, in stilted English. She strode towards the door, paused to see if Jesse was following, then led him briskly through the maze of a castle to the ramparts of the high stone walls. Hanzo stood alone in the shadow of one of the corner watchtowers, his hands folded behind his back. Arai bowed, and left them to it.
“Everythin’ all right?” Jesse asked cautiously, peering over the ramparts. Beyond the town was still smoking, parts of the neat rows of streets shattered rudely, as though some vengeful God had reached down from the heavens and rubbed a great thumb at random into the earth, crumbling muddy craters into shattered asphalt.
“The Elders were displeased.”
“Thought you were the boss.”
“They are…” Hanzo trailed off. He was in that bared-shoulder kimono getup again, and as he rubbed his tattooed arm absently, Jesse could’ve sworn that he saw the faint sheen of blue scales. “The dragons,” Hanzo said abruptly. “They are drawn to the bloodline of the Shimada clan. But although everyone who can wear a dragon is of the Shimada, not everyone born to the clan can wear a dragon.”
“You’ve got two.”
Hanzo nodded curtly. “It is rare for any of the Shimada to have even one dragon. Such that whomever it is who exhibits the ability to call a dragon is the one marked for the position of kumicho. Those of the main Shimada line who cannot call dragons become the clan’s elders and the saikō-komon. They provide guidance, even though the dragons have not chosen them to lead the clan.”
“Kinda a… funny way to do things,” Jesse ventured. “What if the dragons pick a total idiot? Uh. If you don’t mind me sayin’.”
Hanzo actually flashed out of his quick, faint smiles. “It has been known to happen. Wearing a dragon does not make you invulnerable. So if someone unsuitable has been chosen, the elders will… correct the course. And sometimes the dragons skip a generation. My father had no dragon, nor any of his siblings. He was the eldest, however, and so he became kumicho. In my generation, both my brother and I could wear dragons… but I was the older brother, with two.” Hanzo shook his head slowly. “The only other scion of my bloodline to have ever worn two dragons was the founder of our clan. As such, my father and the elders have always expected a great deal of me. And now this.” He gestured at the smoking town.
“Didn’t look t’me like any of that was your fault. I should know, I was pretty up close to the action.” Jesse wondered if this was why he had been called here, if this was why the tower beside them was empty. Maybe Hanzo had no one else but an outsider to unload on. If so, that was… kinda sad.
“Their opinion used to mean everything to me. Now… not as much. Once I even considered leaving the clan,” Hanzo ran the fingertips of his bow hand over the warm stone. “But a yakuza clan is at heart a family, blood-relation or not, and above that, we have watched over Hanamura for centuries. I have a responsibility to all these people. My people.” He glanced at Jesse, his jaw set. “McCree-san. Was it a ‘god program’? What you met before?”
Surprised, Jesse blinked. “Uh-”
“Do you think that we are ignorant of the world here? Japan fought in the Omnic Crisis as well. My clan fought. I was ten years old when the war ended.” Hanzo frowned at Jesse. “I think you are my age. Perhaps younger.”
“I’ve had an interestin’ life. And yeah. What I met before, it was a god program. Called itself Kisin. Whole op was a nightmare and a half. Was a few years back. Nearly died.”
“How did you destroy it?”
“My ah… the leader of that gig was a grumpy asshole who turned out to be way more stubborn than the god program could handle.”
“Is he looking for work?”
“Dunno. I’ll ask.” Reyes’ face was a little too recognisable for op work like this. “Did I mention that he was a ragin’ asshole?”
“I don’t need him for his personality.” Hanzo said quietly, straightening up. “Ask.”
“Eh, well, if he ain’t available, you’ve still got me,” Jesse grinned playfully.
Hanzo shot him a long, considering look, then he pushed away from the ramparts, prowling closer, and Jesse stiffened up even as he held his ground. Hanzo was now right up against him, so close that Jesse fancied that he could feel the warmth from all the bared skin; he could smell something, like the rain-smell before a storm- “Hold still.”
“What-“ Jesse gasped as fingers closed lightly around his neck. Instantly, Jesse grabbed at Hanzo’s wrist, then froze as the dragons uncurled from the tattoos, twisting down his arm to his fingers and now Jesse could feel again that crackling, near-unbearable heat, but he wasn’t being burned, there wasn’t any pain-
Hanzo let go, so abruptly that Jesse stumbled back against the stone flank of the watchtower, fingers jumping to his neck, the lizard part of his brain expecting to find welts, a burn, something. Off-balance, Jesse flinched as Hanzo pinned him against the wall, his wrist pressed to the stone, his prosthetic hand clutching abruptly in the air in shock as Hanzo dragged him down and kissed him hard on the mouth.
“What,” Jesse was gasping, when Hanzo let up. “Hanzo-“
Fingertips trailed lazily over his cheek. “The dragons burn only my enemies,” Hanzo said quietly. “I wanted to know if I could trust you.”
“Oh, darlin’-” Jesse began breathlessly, then he had to pull Hanzo over for another kiss before his mouth got the better of him and betrayed him. Hanzo bit down on his lip in reproach but let Jesse tug him into the watchtower, out of the sun, out of sight.
“Why, ‘Tasha! Fancy seein’ you here,” Angie drawled. Natasha ignored her, staring intently at Gabriel.
“I’m going to be shipping out to Tokyo. Shang will meet us there. Inara and Natasha will come with me - quiet,” Gabriel snapped, when Angie opened her mouth to voice her outrage. She snapped her mouth shut, but she scowled. “The biggest yakuza clans have disappeared, but they can’t have gone quietly. I want to find out who - or what - took them out, and trace them. It is most probably a god program. McCree is observing one of their fronts in Hanamura, but I don’t believe that the god program would’ve bothered to clear out so many large national clans just to content itself with fighting tiny little skirmishes with tiny yakuza clans in the middle of nowhere.”
“What about Overwatch?” Natasha asked quietly.
“What about them?”
Natasha shrugged. “Commander Morrison tried to talk. Two days ago. Wanted to know where you were. I told him, I do not know, I do not care. He was perhaps… unconvinced.”
“This is still a Blackwatch op until the Security Council tells me otherwise.” Gabriel said tightly. “Understood?”
Natasha shrugged again. “I do not care.”
“Jesse told me that the omnics destroyed in Hanamura were equipped with the latest in Dragunovs sniper units and Kalashnikov pulse rifles.”
“Kalashnikovs are everywhere.” Natasha smiled humourlessly. “Power of good brand, no?”
“I happen to know that the pulse versions are military-issue only. If you still know anyone who might be able to elaborate-“
“What, you think just because I am Russian I know all the Russians in the world?”
“You worked ten years for a bratva that specialised in highly specific arms trafficking. Find. Out.”
“Will try,” Natasha conceded, which was always the best thing that Gabriel could ever get out of her. The strange cross-like medals tattooed over her arms glowed briefly orange before subsiding, and Gabriel carefully tried to relax. He’d never liked black market biotech mods.
“Boss,” Angie burst out. “C’mon.”
“You have another job,” Gabriel said flatly. “Doctor Ziegler thinks you’re harmless, despite all evidence to the contrary. You have free access to her clinic.”
“Might do,” Angie said cautiously. “She thinks I’m funny.”
“I want you to try and get yourself free access to her lab. Break in, if you have to, as a last resort. I have a feeling that the good Doctor’s hiding something important from me, and I don’t like it.”
“That’s so specific, thanks,” Angie said sarcastically. “What kinda secrets you after? Favourite colour? Favourite type of dildo?”
“Whoah, whoah.” Conversations with Angie always eventually escalated. Gabriel pinched at the bridge of his nose. “She has some kind of new source. He’s the one who fed us the tip off about Hanamura. Hasn’t been very forthcoming since. I want to know why.”
“What’s the problem? The tip panned out, yeah? Jesse’s still in Japan,” Angie pointed out resentfully.
“Let’s just say that life has turned me into a suspicious old man long before my time, all right?”
Inara muttered something in Turkish that made Natasha smirk. When Gabriel glared at Inara, she smiled mirthlessly at him. “She said you born old, man,” Natasha translated. Angie let out a cackle, which was a sign for Gabriel to aggressively hustle them all out of the office.
Unfortunately, Jack was waiting for them over at the launchpad. Gabriel motioned Inara and Natasha aboard the waiting Thunderbird, and strode over to Jack, squaring his shoulders and keeping a careful grip on his temper.
“Yes? I logged this op. What’s the problem now?”
“Haven’t seen you log so many Blackwatch operatives into a single area all at once in years,” Jack said neutrally.
“Angie’s staying behind and McCree’s in Hanamura.”
Jack refused to be diverted. “What’s wrong, Gabe?”
“Nothing’s wrong. It’s a kiddie field trip. Got to let them out for some fresh air now and then or they get bitchy and shoot up the canteen.”
“I’m always serious,” Gabriel said evenly. “It’s my op. Or is that no longer the case?”
“Oh, come on,” Jack growled. “Do you seriously not know why Blackwatch is the way it is?”
“Told you before. Thieves and felons-“
“And who’s the oldest in Blackwatch? Other than you?”
“Would be ‘Natasha’ over there.” Gabriel jerked his thumb at the Thunderbird. “Why? She’s a bit young for you, isn’t she?”
Jack sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Gabe. Yeah. Blackwatch is staffed with criminals whom we’ve decided to give a second chance - because of their age.”
“Age doesn’t mean a thing. They’re all monsters in their own right.”
“Exactly,” Jack said quietly, barely audible over the engines. “They’re all extremely talented killers. And to have gotten that good at somethin’ like that, at their ages… Somethin’ went wrong in all of their lives. Some of them probably never knew a normal life, ever. Sure, Blackwatch would’a worked more efficiently with Special Forces members, but… this way is better. To shut these kids away in prison at their age, forever? It’s cruel.”
“It’s a waste, you mean.”
“Maybe. But that’s where you come in. Can you imagine any of them listenin’ to me? I’ve tried. But you? It’s been years, and Blackwatch works. Leadin’ it is a harder gig than Overwatch ever was. That’s why it’s yours.”
Gabriel stared into Jack’s earnest face. Jack did seem to believe that. That Gabriel getting effectively demoted and shunted off onto a side project was some sort of… honour. His fists twitched, and he clenched them tight, gritting his teeth. “Nice. You thought all of that up yourself, or did the Security Council feed it to you?”
Jack sighed. “What the hell happened to us?” he murmured, defeated.
“You know what happened,” Gabriel shot back curtly, and stalked off towards the Thunderbird. Inara and Natasha were silent as the airship rumbled into the air, leaving Jack on the launchpad, watching them leave. Only when Gibraltar was a receding splotch of colour behind them did Natasha start to laugh, all low, hyena coughs.
Inara smiled thinly. “Strange man.”
“You’ve got no idea.” Gabriel muttered.
“Twenty more creds,” Natasha told Inara, who nodded at her and logged something into her wrist comm. When Gabriel arched an eyebrow, she smirked. “Got money on you snapping and killing him. Someday.”
“You’re betting money on what?”
“All of us are. Big pot now, because, McCree. He has hundred and fifty creds on the two of you fucking.” More hyena laughter, even as Gabriel flushed in annoyance. “Inara here bet on… what was it again?”
“Death.” Inara said softly. “Is usually a good bet.”
“On one of you, die in mission before anything,” Natasha clarified, grinning. “So don’t die. I like to win.”
Gabriel shook his head, leaned back against the hull of the airship, and closed his eyes. Not only was he in charge of a pack of little monsters, they were all crazy. “Stay focused on the mission.”
Warning: This chapter changes the rating of the fic to E.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What did you-“ Hanzo muttered, all tangled up Japanese before he remembered himself and groaned, settling back on the quilt, turning his left arm away from the futon.
“Eh, well, I’m a bit of a light sleeper and it’s near the dawn, think there was a shift change outside. And uh, I kinda. Got curious and took a closer look at the tatt. It’s an awesome tatt. And one of your dragons woke up so I tried to pet it and… it didn’t seem to mind?”
Hanzo frowned at him, sleep muddled, before Jesse’s meaning filtered through. “You. Tried. To pet my dragons?”
“Sorry. Didn’t mean t’wake you.”
Hanzo rubbed at his arm absently, until the dragons were dormant again, though they felt reluctant, still faintly restless. “Too late now. And you are a crazy man.”
“That’s been said. But they didn’t hurt me the first time, so I figured…” Jesse trailed off, still sheepish. “Should’a asked first.”
“Yes.” Hanzo said, his tone edged, still disoriented enough to be defensive.
“Lemme make it up t’ya.” Jesse smiled ingratiatingly, worming closer.
The gray light of the morning drew soft shadows over his handsome face, and Jesse seemed to take Hanzo’s silence as encouragement, kissing the unmarked shoulder, then the tattooed one. Hanzo grimaced as he felt the dragons try to press upward through his skin. They could scent Jesse’s soul, perhaps, this close. Twisting his fingers into Jesse’s hair, Hanzo pushed him down pointedly, and Jesse chuckled and went, his beard grazing down Hanzo’s chest.
When Jesse tried to lick at one bared nipple, Hanzo growled and pushed at him again, and this time, Jesse huffed out a laugh but obeyed, no longer teasing. Down. Squirming between Hanzo’s thighs, Jesse kissed the tip of Hanzo’s cock, then swallowed him down without prompting, all sloppy eagerness, the fingertips of his good hand digging into Hanzo’s hip, the other clenched over the sheets. Jesse groaned, the sound choking off as he tried to take Hanzo deeper, flushed, his eyes squeezed shut.
“This is a good look on you,” Hanzo whispered, curling the fingertips of his bow hand over the back of Jesse’s neck, and Jesse choked another groan over his cock. Hanzo held him down for a moment, just to watch Jesse try to breathe. His mouth, his throat. Jesse was shamelessly humping the futon, sucking on what he was given, his lips spit-wet.
“That’s it,” Hanzo breathed, as Jesse pulled up easily enough at a light tug, then drank Hanzo down again at a push, still so eager to please.
When was the last time Hanzo had bedded someone like this? Jesse was playful, not pliant. There was no finesse to him, in bed and in war. He made up for it with a sort of fierce brashness, all brute force: it should repulse Hanzo but it didn’t. Perhaps because, most of all, there was no pity to his lust and no ambition behind his touch, nothing that Hanzo in all his cynicism could sense. Safe. Maybe Jesse was safe. The dragons stirred against his bones, as if they agreed.
Under his fingers, Jesse whined, and Hanzo held him down, using his grip as leverage to thrust up into Jesse’s mouth, into the tight heat of his throat. Jesse gasped, his fingertips curling into Hanzo’s hip, bruising him, but he took Hanzo’s cock with greedy moans, as though he would take more if Hanzo only let him, and that was enough, the rush of knowing, power. Jesse swallowed, and as Hanzo let him up, stayed put instead, licking away the rest. Shameless.
“Hey,” Jesse said, his voice rusty, as Hanzo’s breathing evened. “Okay up there?”
Hanzo was careful to keep his expression blank. “Why do you ask?”
“You’re real quiet.” Jesse had squirmed back up, lying on his flank. Had he finished himself off? Hanzo couldn’t tell.
“Maybe you talk enough for the both of us.”
“Ooh, ouch.” Jesse kissed Hanzo’s marked shoulder, then lower, all light brushing kisses over inked scales, so much like worship. Pressed against Hanzo’s hip, Jesse’s cock was soft, freshly wet. Oh. Hanzo pulled away sharply, before the dragons woke. “Hurts?”
“Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Hey, I never seen dragon magic before.” Jesse said, unrepentant. “You said your brother has one too?”
“Had one.” Hanzo corrected. It had been months, and talking about Genji still raked something raw within his chest. “Late brother.”
“Ah. Sorry to hear.”
“Don’t be,” Hanzo said flatly. “I killed him.” Intimacy suddenly seemed to leave a sour taste. Hanzo pushed himself up, shifting over to the edge of the futon to pull on his prosthetic legs. Annoyingly enough, Jesse followed him into the bathroom, ingratiating again.
“I’m sorry anyway,” Jesse said, as Hanzo pointedly glowered at him, failing to get the hint. “Didn’t mean to poke open any old wounds.”
Hanzo was briefly tempted to order Jesse out, to snap and snarl, but then his temper subsided just as quickly as it had sparked, leaving weariness in his wake. He pulled Jesse into the large shower and took a kiss as the water warmed up. Playing at being lovers was always such a pleasant sort of lie. Anything more was complicated. “You like what you see.”
“Darlin’,” Jesse laughed. “You fishin’ for compliments here?”
“Not so long ago it would have been different,” Hanzo said quietly. “Slender. Little of this bulk. But when my brother took my legs I worked at getting stronger. To compensate, if just with my arms. Even with the nanobiology tech, learning walk again took time.”
“You got nothin’ to ‘compensate’ for. ‘Sides. you’re crazy good with that bow. And. Dragons.” Jesse kissed Hanzo’s forehead. “And-“
“And you do not understand,” Hanzo cut in. “I killed my brother because he did not deserve to wear a dragon. And I paid for what I did. I would pay it again if I had to. So spare me your condolences.” And your pity, he nearly added, biting down on the words just in time.
Jesse didn’t answer, not immediately, leaning down for a kiss, instead, and kissing Hanzo’s cheek when he turned away, his jaw, his throat. “You think you’re the only one who knows what it’s like to get hurt?” Jesse asked softly, with none of his usual playfulness. “To have to do shit that you ain’t proud of? Hell, that you know you’d hate yourself for, but do it anyway? I do. And I know what that feelin’ looks like on someone else. I’ve seen it in the mirror. I know how that hurts. And. I reckon that’s a good thing. I reckon, knowin’ that kinda hurt, still feelin’ it? That just means you ain’t dead yet inside.”
“…Your arm. How did you lose it?” Hanzo asked, subdued.
“This old thing? Eh. Nothin’ dramatic. Didn’t fight with no dragons.” Jesse’s mischievous grin was back, pressed against Hanzo’s neck. “Long story. Tell you some other time. We’re startin’ to run outta hot water.”
“Make yourself useful then,” Hanzo told him, though the command was halfhearted, and this time, when Jesse leaned over to kiss him, Hanzo tipped his chin up for it, lips parting.
“It’s quiet. Too quiet,” Jesse said, with gleeful relish. Hanzo glared at him, stalking to the edge of the roof. “Also, you called me ‘Jesse’!”
Hanzo’s shoulders stiffened up, but he didn’t answer. At the edge of the roof, he conferred quietly with Arai, who had insisted on following them out anyway, despite her broken arm, though she’d clearly resented having to go up the stairs with Jesse rather than monkeying up the pipes like everyone else.
Parallel scrapes on the rooftop were an indication that something heavy had bolted down up here fairly recently, and spent mortar shells had rolled away to an air conditioning unit. Jesse peered over the side. Faint cracks on the pavement. More grooves on the edge of the roof, probably from grappling hooks. He’d seen something like that before from the Korean MEKA program, when he’d gone snooping there with Angie last year.
Dragunov rifles and MEKA grapples. Jesse found a cigar in his pocket, and was patting himself down for matches when Hanzo circled back. “No sign of the mortar unit,” Hanzo said.
“Looks like it hauled itself up from here,” Jesse patted a toe over the grooves, “locked down there, fired off a round, and then jumped down. Lucky find.”
Hanzo nodded, clearly dissatisfied. “We would have found it more quickly if we didn’t have to run blind out here.”
“Probably a Bastion unit. If your scouts be right and there was only one unit doin’ the shellin’, maybe it left when it ran outta ammo.”
Hanzo looked over the edge of the roof, past the ‘boundary’ of the train tracks that cut this part of the Sato-gumi territory from the Shimada grounds. “It still did a lot of damage.”
“You did post lookouts. Who got killed.”
“They weren’t wearing electronics.”
“Boss, we’ve known how to pick out people who weren’t wearin’ electronics for decades. Overhead drones, laser trips, the works. Maybe they got unlucky. You posted them durin’ the day. Hoppin’ around the rooftops tends to get a wee bit obvious.”
“This is a residential district,” Arai piped up, even as Hanzo looked briefly pained. “Normally, at this time of day, it would be busy. We have looked inside some of the apartments. The doors were broken in. The people are gone.”
“What happened to the temple people?” Jesse asked.
Hanzo shook his head. “They were also missing, when we returned for our wounded.”
“That’s weird.” Jesse murmured. “Usually omnics don’t take prisoners. Not that they don’t understand the concept. But humans are kinda messy. We got to be housed and fed.”
“Forced labour?” Arai asked, in distaste.
“What’s the point? Omnics are gonna be way more efficient at any kinda manual labour than a bunch of frightened people.”
“What happened in the place where you fought the god program?”
“Local government threw their own SWAT team at it first. By the time we got called in, it was pretty late. They evacuated the city. Those who didn’t wanna evacuate got wiped out.”
“Strange to call in some bounty hunters,” Arai said mildly, “Instead of Overwatch.”
Whoops. “How should I know? I go where I get paid.” Besides, Morrison-and-friends had been putting out some other fire somewhere else, apparently. Jesse hadn’t ever bothered to ask. No one in Blackwatch really cared about anyone in Overwatch, except maybe the boss.
Hanzo started to say something, then paused, turning sharply, even as Arai’s hand jumped to the blade at her hip. They relaxed as one of Hanzo’s scouts climbed up to the roof. Jesse hadn’t even heard him coming. “Ryota,” Hanzo greeted him. The scout began to speak in Japanese, but when Hanzo made some signal, abruptly switched to heavily accented English.
“I came from the Castle, kumicho. Hiroto Sato sent you a message.”
Having to walk around without wrist comms wasn’t so bad when you had access to old-fashioned messengers. “Ain’t that the boss of the Sato-gumi?” Jesse asked, but Hanzo held up a hand curtly, stilling him.
“What did he want?”
“To talk. At the neutral place. In one hour. Truce conditions.”
Hanzo scratched at his jaw, then he nodded. “One hour.” Ryota bowed, and darted off, leaping for the next roof.
“Somethin’ wrong with just us, y’know, phonin’ back?” Jesse pointed out dryly.
“I agree,” Arai said stiffly. “There is no need for you to meet him in person. It will be too dangerous.”
“Consider me curious.”
“Should you not at least consult the elders, kumicho?” Arai asked, still openly uncertain.
“What would be the point? If Hiroto Sato has something to say, I want to hear it. Find Mio. I have instructions for her.”
The ‘neutral place’ turned out to be, of all places, a park near the train station. Open grounds, sparse trees, no cover. Squat buildings all round, at least, so there wasn’t much that a sniper could work with. Still. Jesse didn’t like it. He had been a little surprised that Hanzo had asked him to be there: he was obviously an outsider, and it wasn’t like he was going to understand anything, if everyone was going to be speaking Japanese.
Objectively speaking, Jesse would’ve found the whole situation hilarious. Everyone had rolled up early, at which point both sides had eyed up the opposition while minions had rolled out some kinda mat on the grass, and then both bosses proceeded to sit down and have… sake? If not for the amount of weaponry on display on both ends and the tension in the air, Jesse would’ve passed it off as some kinda weirdly exclusionary, spectator-sport picnic.
Hiroto Sato was a wrinkled old man who had once been hulkingly big, judging from the arch of his shoulders. Age had bent his back and withered his bulk, but in his pugnacious face there was still a time-weathered, hard-eyed stubbornness. Like Hanzo, he was all suited up. The pleasantries had all been made in Japanese, and after their first cup, Hiroto glanced over at Jesse, his stare frank and unforgiving.
“So this is the man who killed my nephew,” Hiroto said. His english was guttural.
Hanzo had pointedly warned Jesse not to speak unless spoken to, so he settled for a grin and a tip of the hat behind Hanzo’s back. “On my orders.” Hanzo said evenly. “You killed my men.”
“And how does that work?” Hiroto drawled. “More have died. Will you come after me now?”
“If I have to.”
“The dragons.” Hiroto said thoughtfully. “I always thought they were just a story.”
“Why have you called this meeting? We are at war. Unless you plan to surrender, I have nothing to say to you.”
“I did not want to call this meeting.” Hiroto said sourly, his shoulders tensing up, then he closed his eyes, and held out his cup. Grudgingly, Hanzo poured him more sake. “Have you heard of Izanagi?”
Hanzo looked puzzled. “Izanagi-no-Okami?”
“So you have not,” Hiroto said grimly. “Do you know what is a god program?”
“You have allied with one? It is not wise. The rogue omnics have no use for humans.”
“And you are still a child who understands nothing of the world.” Hiroto shot back. “Nothing is ever cast so simply.”
“Then explain it to me.”
“For decades three big families have controlled most of Japan. Nothing changed. Not through wars, not through the Omnic Crisis. Small families like ours have had to live like jackals, stealing scraps from the side.”
“Power?” Hanzo asked disdainfully. “Is that what the god program offered you?”
Hiroto flushed angrily. “If you wish to live like a frog in a well, that is your business. I told Izanagi that the Shimada would never be interested in an alliance. That is why we prepared for war. The original plan was to annex your territory.”
“The dragons changed its mind?”
“After you destroyed the sniper, Izanagi was curious. It wanted to stage an experiment, to draw you out. To test how well the Shimada lands were defended - to see if there were more of you with this dragon magic.” Hiroto narrowed his eyes. “Now I understand why the matter of succession in the Shimada clan has sometimes seemed illogical. Why you were named kumicho so young. You are the only one who can call this magic.”
“The Shimada clan does not need magic to defend its people.”
“Listen, boy. If you know about the god programs, then you must know what Izanagi can do. A repeat of the trap that nearly killed you can be arranged. Or we could simply use mortars to flatten the town and your castle.”
“So why don’t you?”
“Izanagi is… curious about you. It wants to offer you an alliance. You can keep your ancestral lands. More, if you want. Izanagi will carve up Japan between its allies. That is the difference between it and the other god programs. It knows that it needs people.”
Hanzo sat back. Around Jesse, there was a faint murmur of surprise. Arai was tense, her eyes bright with something Jesse could not read. They drank the next round in silence: Hanzo pensive, Hiroto silent. Then Hanzo asked, idly, “What happened to the monks in the temple?”
“Alive. They will be returned to you.”
“And your people, in the border district?”
“That is not your concern.”
“Call it a curiosity then.”
A flash of annoyance crossed Hiroto’s face. “They are working for Izanagi. As are we all.”
“Women, children, elderly and all?”
“Everyone contributes. Everyone will have their place.”
“I see.” Hanzo said carefully, and set down his cup. Then he got to his feet, executing a short, formal bow. “Thank you for sharing sake with me, Sato-san.”
“You don’t want to speak terms?”
“As I said earlier, we are at war. And unless you wish to surrender, I have nothing more to say to you.”
Hiroto’s face contorted in anger. “You are a fool.”
“From where I stand, the only fool I see here is you,” Hanzo shot back. “You are an old man. You would have fought in the first Omnic Crisis. If you think that the god program is interested in a mutual alliance, you are blind.”
“We did not face a god program here in Japan, during the first Crisis. You have seen only a small part of what Izanagi can do. When the wind comes, the grass bends, or it must break.”
Hanzo stared at Hiroto, then at the others behind him, contemptuous. “Dragons do not bend to the wind.”
Some notes on naming nomenclature:
Just like in Singapore where I grew up, Japanese names are usually presented with their surname first, then the given name. So Hanzo should really be Shimada Hanzo etc… but Jesse is American so it’s the other way around in his head. And given that Overwatch (being an American game) has written it all in the American fashion as well, I’ve decided to just keep it consistent through the fic, whether it’s for Hanzo or for the other Japanese characters.
This chapter briefly references the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey, as well as the danger posed to children in camp conditions. Life sadly has no trigger warning, but if you find the topic triggery or something (as it definitely is upsetting), go ahead and skip past the Gabriel chapter. However, may I suggest as well:
1. Donating to Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross or UNICEF
2. Reading up on the crisis: Vox has some great articles http://www.vox.com/syrian-war
I know some readers don't like reading political or polemic fiction. I get that the world sucks and sometimes you don't want to read about it, which is fine, ymmv. :) However, as all my old readers would know, most of my longfic is inevitably polemic in some way or another. Some of the best writing advice I've read is to "write what you feel strongly about", and these kinda treehugger, left-wing, pacifist matters are what I personally feel strongly about. I can't look away from the world. That's why it tends to pop up in all my longer fiction. New readers: you've been warned!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Love hotels like these are discreet. No ground staff, good location, everything through vending machines, thick walls.” Shang uncurled to his feet. He was nearly as tall as Reyes, and had recently tried to cultivate a moustache to look older. It hadn’t helped: the effect looked like a damp smudge over his lips, and did nothing for Shang’s boyish looks. “Natasha, Inara.”
Natasha pursed her lips as she looked around the room. “If we stay here long enough, I’m going to stab my own eyes out,” she declared sourly.
“Amazing. That’s exactly the effect I was going for. Feel free. The kitchenette is fully stocked.”
“I’ll feed your dick to you first,” Natasha shot back sweetly.
“All right, you two,” Gabriel snapped. “Shang, what do you have?”
“Did you know that the yakuza keep actual, storefront offices in Japan? You could walk straight up to certain buildings in Ginza and just find their nameplates on the door. No code names, nothing. Funny country. So I did. Went to a few offices. They’re all either empty or being refurbished into something else.” Shang tapped at his wrist comm, bringing up a projection pane. “I did some digging. All the known Yamaguchi-gumi properties in Tokyo have been sold off. They bounced the money around, but I followed it to a shell company set up nine months ago in Panama, something called Tenkei Inc.”
Gabriel leaned over the back of the couch, studying the spreadsheet. As always, Shang had been thorough. “It’s running at a net loss.”
“All the profit coming in from annexing yakuza properties is being funnelled out to other shell companies, which launder it. Gets hard to trace there, so I didn’t bother.” Shang brought up another screen. “Besides, it got funnelled back. Nine months ago, Tenkei Inc quietly bought over Qubic Express.”
“The courier company? Tenkei was that flush?”
“They didn’t just net the properties - they liquidated almost everything. Sold off the trafficking businesses to third parties, stopped bringing in product. That’s how the triads got wind of what was happening. Suppliers were looking to offload for cheap.” Shang highlighted a section of the spreadsheet. “Check it out. Delivery pickup and destination records.”
There were two entries from Barcelona. One from Cornwall. Gabriel frowned at Inara, who shrugged. “The Cornwall lead brought us to, empty warehouse. But there was something there before. Old pre-Crisis military supplies. Big crates.”
Cornwall to Takatsuki. That was just outside Hanamura. Huh. Maybe Gabriel had just solved one little mystery about surprise artillery. There was one entry from Siberia. Another entry from Incheon. Most of the destinations weren’t to Takatsuki though, but to Nagoya. “Good work,” Gabriel conceded.
“Got one more thing for you. The 14K picked up a few survivors. I have a distant uncle in there, so I hit him up and he arranged a talk.”
“Wasn’t the 14K a rival triad to your father’s?”
Shang nodded. “Normally, they’d probably have shot me on sight. But things are different. They know I’m Blackwatch, but the Yamaguchi-gumi getting dismantled like this spooked the hell out of them. Hong Kong isn’t that far from Japan.” Shang brought up an audio rec. “The survivor who agreed to talk is Koki Yamamoto.”
“One of the Yamaguchi-gumi’s saikō-komon?”
“That’s the one.” Shang hit play. On the rec, someone was speaking in Japanese, all long, hesitant sentences. On occasion, Shang would cut in with a question, also in Japanese.
“This is very useful, Shang,” Gabriel said dryly. “Seeing as I can’t understand what anyone is saying.” Natasha snickered.
Shang paused the rec. “Ah yes.” He was smirking, though, the little shit. “Koki was just describing what happened. He said that an omnic approached the kumicho of the Yamaguchi-gumi with an offer. Turn over control or be destroyed.”
“I can see how that must have gone.”
“They sent the omnic back in pieces. The retaliation was swift. At the end of a week, the Yamaguchi-gumi had been excised from Tokyo. He said that it was as though God was watching. It knew where all of them were, all the time. It knew where their families were. It bought over the Araki-gumi, a small clan that specialised in carrying out hits. Set it up to look like a gang war.” Shang flicked off the wrist comm. “Now what?”
“You speak Japanese, Natasha speaks Japanese. We split up for now. You take Inara and locate the Araki-gumi. Whether you infiltrate them or get rid of them, make sure you find out who’s behind them and where. Natasha and I will go to Nagoya. If it’s a god program on the loose, it’d be looking to build an omnium. Might be why it chose Nagoya.”
“I thought you’d say that,” Shang said, resigned, glancing over at Inara, who smirked at him. “I prefer to work alone.”
“So do I,” Inara said evenly. “I think you will die young.”
“Enough.” Gabriel glared at them both. “This isn’t Guatemala, where we all knew what we were getting into and where we were meant to be shooting. Get serious.”
“You worry too much,” Inara told him. “You will age very fast.”
“Told him that before,” Natasha said, from where she was checking out the fridge. “Fuck. Even the drinks in this place have Mickey-Fucking-Mouse on them.” She slammed the fridge door shut. “Let’s go, boss. Nagoya, da?”
“I don’t know, Natasha,” Gabriel drawled. “I’m kinda jetlagged, and Shang did pay for this room.”
Natasha raised her eyebrows. “If you sleep on Mickey Mouse bed, I take, hundred photos. Send to Commander Morrison.”
“I’ve always thought about writing your obituary,” Gabriel shot back, shooing Shang off the couch and lying down. “My guns and Inara’s rifle are still being cleared through the UN, so we’re stuck here for now. I'm going to rack out. We’ll leave in the morning. Don’t burn shit down while I’m sleeping.”
“I know a good bar close by.” Shang offered. “Has vodka. I pay.”
“I do not drink,” Inara reminded her. “Will stay here.”
Gabriel closed his eyes, listening to the others shuffle off. Inara used the bathroom, then curled up in an armchair, yawning. “Rest up,” Gabriel told her. “I’ll sleep on the train.”
Inara made a small sound, possibly a laugh. “Alone with a man in a love hotel. My parents would not have liked.”
Gabriel cracked his eyes open, a little surprised. Inara had never mentioned family before, or even her past with the Ergenekon if she could help it. “‘Least they would’ve had an opinion. Never knew mine.”
“Then you were lucky.”
“Could be. Foster system eventually gave up on me. When I told the orphanage that I was gonna lie about my age and enlist, they shed tears of joy.”
“I grew up in Nizip in Antep.”
“Big refugee camp.”
Inara nodded. “My grandparents were from Syria. They left during the war between Assad and the rebels. Came to Turkey. My parents lived in Nizip most of their lives. They hoped to go back to Syria. But there was no going back. Even during the Omnic Crisis, the war did not break. There is nothing left to go back to.”
“Yeah.” The UN had officially given up on whole swathes of that area. Some parts hadn’t even stopped bombing each other when the omnics came onto the scene. Why would they? Three, four, five way clusterfucks had been the way of their lives for decades. Hell, there was still open warfare out there, even though the omnics were gone.
“The first time I was alone with a man I was eight. He was, neighbour. He led me to a toilet. No cameras there.”
Gabriel shut his eyes. “Inara-“
“He pull down his pants. So I cut his cock off.” Inara’s voice stayed idle. “Stab him in the throat. I had a glass knife. Made myself. I see him before, taking children to the toilet.” She let out a hoarse laugh. “I thought I would be afraid. I thought I would cry. Cry! My mother cried. She thought they would take me away. But no one thought a child could kill a man. My father said I was stupid. Making trouble, when we have nothing. I did not cry.”
“I don’t think you were stupid,” Gabriel said carefully. “He died? Good.”
“I didn’t care that my father beat me. I spent the whole week shaking. Killing had felt good. Like there was something I could control. So I killed again. Five more times before they caught me. Is a big camp. I learned how to be careful. Many stupid people who try to lead children to quiet places. The camp did not know what to do with me. So they sold me to Ergenekon. They treated me like a weapon there. Was a better life.”
“Well,” Gabriel said dryly, “Pity they pissed off the UN by trying to take over Ankara.”
“Seven years I was a weapon. ‘Go here.’ ‘Kill that.’ When Overwatch took down Ergenekon, I thought I could finally rest. That I would die. Then they took me to you.”
Gabriel stared up at the ceiling. He vaguely remembered. Inara had been a skinny kid, all scrapes and bruises. There had been something unnaturally still about her, almost doll-like. Empty. If he hadn’t personally seen her gut a couple of UN shocktroopers with a dagger after she’d run out of ammo on her rifle, he wouldn’t have made her out as a killer. Jack had tried to be nice. All that ‘don’t be afraid, you’re all right now’ and ‘hey kid, what’s your name’ had only gotten him a blank stare.
“Everyone was talking. Either they feared me or they pitied me. But you said nothing. No fear. No pity.” Inara curled up on the armchair, closing her eyes. “Thank you.”
“Inara,” Gabriel said gruffly, “You were just shunted off from one bad gig that used you into another.”
Inara grunted. “Natasha and I, we do not know why you want Overwatch.”
“You are far more like us than them.” Inara said quietly. “I think that is why… no fear. No pity. Why would a wolf want to rule a pack of dogs?”
“I don’t want command of Overwatch.” Gabriel closed his eyes. “Not any longer.”
“I have seen wolf fight dog,” Inara mused. “The Ergenekon commander, he liked blood. Dogfights. Knife fights. All one.”
“Yeah? And what happened?”
“They tore each other apart.” Inara chuckled, a hoarse and rasping sound. “But the wolf survived.”
“Tactically it would have made better sense to delay your answer while we regroup,” said his grand-uncle, by far the oldest in the room, Eita. The weasel.
“It was a brash decision that will cost us,” said his grand-aunt, Hinata. The spider.
Hanzo bowed his head, glad that he had chosen to change to his kimono before answering the elders’ summons. Overlooking the karesansui, the audience chamber was lit brightly, but the dragons were still restless where they sat in seiza, and no doubt the elders could see it. Hanzo wondered if the elders knew that he hated them, if the dragons knew. Beside him, Mio kept her eyes downcast, but her mouth was set in a thin line, her hands clenched in fists over her lap. Her loss had aged her: she looked frail in her black kimono, her hair tied as always into a tight bun. Without her usual lightweight armour and bow, she looked oddly disarmed.
“What is done is done,” Hanzo said, keeping his voice neutral.
“You were reckless,” Eita sighed. “Hanzo, we expected better of you. This is something that your brother would have done.”
Hanzo kept a close grip on his temper, but he could feel the dragons pressing up, their spines breaking up briefly over his skin. “We have all lived through the Omnic Crisis. Do the three of you have no memory of it?”
“This is different,” Hinata said softly. “Hanzo, I know that you are angry. We have suffered casualties. But a god program is not something that we can defend against.”
“And it has allied with the Sato-gumi. Clearly it is not like the omnics from before, which were bent only on destruction,” Koharu agreed. “Hiroto Sato has always wanted to annex Hanamura. Now you have given him the means.”
“We’ve been skirmishing with the Sato-gumi for a hundred years,” Hanzo said flatly. “And just because the god program allied with the Sato-gumi does not mean that-“
“Reports confirm that the god program, this Izanagi, has destroyed the Yamaguchi-gumi.” Eita cut in.
“And the Sumiyoshi-kai,” Hinata chimed in.
“If those clans could not withstand it, what chance do we have?” Koharu snapped. “You’ve killed us by doing this. And all for what? Revenge?”
“You should get back in contact with Hiroto Sato,” Hinata said. “If you apologise, and-“
“No.” Hanzo said coldly. “No apologies. My decision stands.”
“Hanzo,” Eita said reproachfully, in that grave, solemn voice. Hanzo had heard the same grave, almost regretful tone, when he had been told to ‘attend to’ his brother. “This is unwise.”
“Reckless,” Hinata said.
“How do you intend to defend us from a god program?” Koharu demanded.
“Overwatch was made to counter rogue omnics. Including god programs,” Hanzo said.
“Overwatch?” Koharu repeated, in disbelief.
“Overwatch has no love for organisations like ours,” Eita frowned. “They disbanded the Deadlock gang, the Ergenekon, the Solntsevskaya Bratva-“
“You want to call down a snake to deal with a snake?” Koharu shook her head. “Worse and worse! Your father would turn in his grave if he heard this.”
Hanzo shook his head. “The yakuza are legal here. Overwatch has no business attacking us. The Deadlock gang, the Ergenekon, they overstepped their bounds. We are not terrorists.”
“We forbid you to contact Overwatch,” Hinata said sharply.
“Swallow your pride, Hanzo. Hiroto Sato was himself a prideful man. But he is willing to work with this Izanagi. Clearly, the benefit is obvious.” Eita said, more gently. “We have allied with other yakuza clans before. This would be little different.”
“Commander Morrison will be here tomorrow morning.” Hanzo got to his feet. “I only wished to inform you of the fact.” He bowed tightly. “No doubt he would be pleased to speak with all of you, if you wish to grant him an audience.”
“We are not finished,” Hinata began.
“Are we not?”
“Hanzo, sit down,” Eita said firmly. “We need to discuss this. If you have truly called Overwatch, the clan needs to prepare.”
“And we will.” Hanzo said curtly. “He will be treated the way any other guest is treated. With caution and with respect.”
“Mio,” Koharu said, as Mio got to her feet. “What do you think about this?”
“Your daughter was killed at the temple,” Eita added. “Your brother Tanaka, as well.”
“Hanzo-sama has made his decision and I will honour it.” Mio said neutrally, and bowed.
Outside, Hanzo waited until they had walked out of the elders’ wing of the Castle before he let out a long sigh. “Mio, I’m sorry about Hina and Tanaka.”
“Why? They always felt that it was an honour to serve the clan. As do I.” Mio touched Hanzo’s elbow, and as he turned, she hugged him briefly and tightly. “Don’t mind the elders,” she whispered against his ear. “They are old and afraid.”
“I know.” Hanzo drew away, a little embarrassed.
“They will try to move against you. If not now, then in the future.”
“I know that too.” He would have expected nothing less. “Watch your own back.”
Hanzo was heading back to his rooms when he changed his mind, restless. The dragons were twisting against his skin, eager for blood. He tried to ignore them as he took a few quick turns, making his way to the guest wing. The master key let him into Jesse’s room, and Jesse let out a yelp of surprise. He had been packing: clothes were folded on his futon, his duffel bag open on the floor. Hanzo raised an eyebrow.
“What are you doing?”
“Well, I was gonna tell you,” Jesse said slowly, “But me an’ Overwatch have a bit of history, given what they did to the Deadlock gang, so uh, if it’s all the same t’you, I was gonna peace out before all them big damned heroes roll into town.”
“Commander Morrison will be here by my leave. He’ll be a guest. And he will be told to treat other guests with respect.”
“Yeah, like fuckin’ Morrison can be told to do anythin’,” Jesse muttered, though he let himself get pushed down on the futon, over his clothes, Hanzo straddling his belly. “Now look at you ruinin’ all my hard work, darlin’.”
Keeping Jesse here was illogical. Hanzo knew that. Overwatch was most definitely equipped to deal with the problem: they had done it before, done more before, at that. He didn’t need Jesse around when he had called in the world’s foremost anti-omnic experts. Still. Logic no longer had anything to do with it. The dragons looped out of his skin, all pale heat, and Jesse grinned as he brought up his good arm, trailing fingertips through their scales, his face naked with something that looked like wonder.
“Damn,” Jesse said softly. “Would’ya look at that.”
“I’m not done with you yet,” Hanzo decided, and leaned down, the first kiss hard against Jesse’s mouth until steel fingers pressed against the small of his back, until Jesse arched against him, eager for more.
“All right, firstly,” Jack said patiently, “ain’t nobody said anythin’ about turrets, and secondly, you’ve sold tech to mafia outfits before.”
“Exactly! I didn’t do it for free!” Under his armoured cap, Torbjörn looked visibly pained. The diminutive Swedish weapons engineer was hunched against the hull, his great golden beard bound into braids over his red and black power armour. His good hand was clenched tight over his rivet gun, while his ‘driver hand was winched grimly into a handhold.
“Overwatch is technically payin’ you a salary so… Y’know what? Nevermind. This is a stupid argument.”
Beside him, Reinhardt rumbled to life, his voice tinny from inside his helm. “Why are we actually agreeing to protect said Japanese mafia?”
“For free,” Torbjörn muttered.
“Because,” Tracer yelled from the cockpit, where she was at the controls, “Morrison’s still stalking Reyes, remember?”
“Oh my God, Oxton.” Jack complained.
“Seriously?” Torbjörn scowled at Jack. “You haven’t wound that up yet? Jesus Mary Mother of God. Your pipes have got to be backed up something awful.”
“We are trying to be supportive,” Reinhardt announced reproachfully.
“Oh, I can be supportive,” Torbjörn shot back. “Listen, Commander. This isn’t healthy and I can recommend you to a relationship counsellor. Very good, very discreet.”
“What.” Jack blinked.
“The hell do you know relationship counsellors?” Tracer asked, fascinated.
“I've been around,” Torbjörn bristled. “What, you think women don’t go out with people with beards? I happen to get laid fine, I’ll have you know. Probably more than our Commander here, if he’s going to these kinds of lengths to get into Reyes’ pants.”
“That’s not why we’re here!” Jack snapped.
“I didn’t think the beard was the probl… well… there’s… uh, we’re going to be in sight of Hanamura in a few minutes! That’s exciting, isn’t it?”
“All right, remember, McCree hasn’t been able to extract himself from his mission, so we’re not gonna break his cover.” Jack didn’t hold much hope of that, to be honest. The people with him in the Thunderbird were probably the least capable of subtlety and/or subterfuge in all of Overwatch. “Meaning,” he clarified dryly, “that all of you are just gonna pretend that he ain’t there.”
“Got it,” Tracer said cheerfully.
“I will be careful,” Reinhardt rumbled.
“Who’s McCree again?” Torbjörn frowned.
“Blackwatch kid,” Reinhardt clarified. “Ex-Deadlock gang.”
“Oh. Them. I think they still owe me money. Bastards.”
“Also, we’re facin’ a god program, so about your constructs-“ Jack began.
Torbjörn scowled at him. “Do I tell you how to shoot your rifle? No? Then don’t lecture me about tech security. OK? Why do you think this ship hasn’t been hijacked? Or why Overwatch-issued comms don't broadcast our location to omnics?”
“Uh oh,” Tracer leaned forward at the console.
“What do you mean, ‘uh oh’?” Torbjörn asked sharply. “You can’t just stop there. I hate surprises. What’s happening?”
Jack hauled himself along the transport ship to the cockpit. Beyond, smoke was coughing out from blocks of flats, and pulse fire flashed against the dawning day. As he watched, an explosion rocked another building far to the left, sending it crumbling down against its neighbour.
“We’re goin’ in hot,” Jack began, even as something… huge… and blue… roared outwards into the sky.
“The hell was that?” Tracer demanded.
“Looks like McCree wasn’t kiddin’ about dragons.” Jack muttered. “Oxton, try and drop me there. Reinhardt, with me. Torbjörn, you’ll know best where you should be placed. Prioritise protecting any civilians. Oxton, take the Thunderbird and find whatever omnic unit is firing mortars. I hate mortars.”
“Two deliveries, coming up!” Tracer angled them towards the fray, the Thunderbird’s engines kicking up into a roar as she pushed the throttle.
“I hate flying,” Torbjörn complained, as the Thunderbird slewed to the side, avoiding a pulse blast. Omnics on the ground and on the rooftops were opening fire at them, no doubt sensing reinforcements.
“I’m not going to be able to land,” Tracer said, banking around a water tower. Below, in the streets, the melee was well under way: omnics were slowly pushing back ground troops.
“No problem,” Reinhardt boomed. “Open the hatch.”
“Ooh, you are not going to jump from here, you crazy bastard,” Torbjörn said, incredulous. “Do you have any idea what that’s going to do to the suspension?”
“Fix it later!” Reinhardt said cheerfully, getting up and stamping towards the lowering ramp. Torbjörn cursed, bracing himself against the hull as the wind screamed through, decompression dragging at them as the Thunderbird hovered down as low as it could go, then Reinhardt charged out with a roar and lunged out of sight.
“I think I see Hanzo,” Tracer pointed. “Over on that roof. Bow, pigeon feet, big tatt, half naked?”
“That’s where I get off. Good luck.”
Hanzo nodded curtly at Jack as he landed on the roof, the Thunderbird kicking up his black robes around him as it lifted off. “Commander Morrison, I presume.”
“You must be Hanzo Shimada. Sorry we’re late.”
“They attacked just after dawn.” Hanzo notched an arrow to his bow, drew and fired in one smooth motion. Several blocks away, an omnic climbing up to the roof was knocked off, with an arrow through its head. “Your friend is impressive.”
Below, Reinhardt was chanting something loudly as he swung his rocket hammer in great arcs, smashing omnics out of his way, pinwheeling units into each other, then he whirled, slamming the hammer into the asphalt, the shockwave bowling omnics off their feet. Behind him, the Shimada troops rallied with cheers, pressing forward, energy blades flashing.
“He is,” Jack agreed, lining up and squeezing off a shot, taking out an omnic poised at Reinhardt’s back. Little further interference was needed: soon the last of the omnics were out of commission. The ground troops were organised: instead of wasting time celebrating, some were sorting the wounded, while the others were looking up at Hanzo.
“If I may borrow Reinhardt-san? That Crusader armour is very… distinctive.”
“Feel free. You know the ground situation best.” Jack tapped into the Overwatch secure line. “Reinhardt, you’re going to be pulling tank for this unit. Just follow them.”
Hanzo said something in Japanese, and the rest of the unit not taking care of the wounded started purposefully down the street, with Reinhardt near point. “Come,” Hanzo told Jack, and leaped from the roof to the next building.
“Ah…” All right. Don’t look down, Jack. Jack breathed out, and took a running jump. Was that amusement on Hanzo’s face? Whatever it was, it was gone quickly. “I’ve got a ‘bird gunnin’ for the mortar unit,” Jack said, as they headed to the next building. “And my engineer will see if he can build a disruption field. That’ll cut the omnics here off from the god program.”
“Will that help?”
“They won’t be as coordinated. And the god program won’t be able to monitor your people on the ground. More importantly, some of the omnics are probably here even if they don’t want to be. The god program takes over unsecured units. Like mind control.”
“I see.” Hanzo was tapping into his comm again, snapping an order in Japanese. “I’ve sent an available unit to find and protect your friend while he builds what he needs.”
“If they get to him,” Hanzo said gruffly. Omnics took aim at them from the rooftops on the other side of the street, pulse fire burning gouges on the concrete. Jack ducked behind cover, loosing off a controlled burst of hitscan bullets. As the units tumbled away, smoking, Hanzo lowered his bow. “Your reputation is well-deserved, Commander.”
“You know the ground best. Which situation’s kinetic… I mean, where’d you want me?” Jack asked, as he pushed himself up from cover.
Hanzo began to speak, and then looked sharply to the side. Somewhere in the distance, past enemy lines, there was an explosion. “Got the bastard.” Tracer crowed into his ear. “Going hunting for more. Good luck down there, love.”
“The mortar unit is down,” Jack reported. “We’re scanning for others.”
Hanzo nodded. “We’ve lost the perimeter,” he said briskly, heading for the next building. “And we’ve lost the temple sector. Your friend is heading towards it to reinforce the rearguard skirmish there. My sai… ah, my lieutenant Mio is leading the main evacuation of civilians into the Castle. That’s where you’ll be going.” Hanzo paused. “Unless-“
“Fine by me. Civilian safety is my top priority.”
“The team at the school sector is doing better, but they’re under heavy fire at the train station. That’s where I’m going.” Hanzo indicated a fire escape at the edge of the building they were on. “If you go down to street level, take two lefts and a right, you’ll reach Mio. She’s expecting you.” Hanzo hesitated again. “Thank you for coming.”
“Not a problem. Careful out there.” Jack clattered down the fire escape, and went down the narrow alleys in a brisk jog.
“Got a lot of busybodies here yammering at me in their local lingo,” Torbjörn grumbled. “Your idea? I nearly swatted them with my hammer when they swarmed up the walls! Warn a guy next time.”
Jack smiled to himself. “They’re providin’ security.”
“Security? I’ve got my turret for that.”
“OK, moral support, then.”
“Whoo, I see someone familiar over near the train station,” Tracer cut in gleefully. “Tall, dark, thinks it’s still the Wild West. Give you three guesses.”
So McCree was still alive. “If there aren’t any more mortar units, there’s a lot of injured out there who need shiftin’.” Jack told her.
“Right, dustoff inbound.”
Emerging from the alley, Jack found himself in front of the Shimada lines, with scattered fire past overturned cars, an advancing phalanx of omnics coming down the street behind an energy shield. Behind him, several blocks away, Shimada troops were still hastily chivvying along fleeing civilians, dragging up anyone who stumbled. Jack set his rifle against his shoulder, aimed, and fired a cluster of helix rockets towards the back of the phalanx, the rifle kicking back. Gunpowder and smoke and battle-calm. Jack breathed deeply. Life always seemed so much simpler with something to shoot.
“Hello, long face.”
“Tracer.” Jesse glanced up. Tracer grinned at him from the edge of the roof, and her body flickered blue, ghosting down until she was beside him, leaning against the wall.
“Fancy seeing you here, love.”
“No fancy about that, I ain’t here by choice.” Jesse frowned at her, then looked pointedly around.
“Relax. Everyone’s either helping out at the hospital or back in the Castle.” Tracer looked Jesse over. “Damn, you get taller every time I see you.”
“Can’t all of us be short lil’ squirts like you,” Jesse said, amused. Unlike everyone else in Blackwatch, he actually liked Tracer. There was something reassuring about her relentless optimism. “You guys stayin’ long?”
Tracer shrugged. “Seems we’re here to hunt a god program.”
“Does my boss know?”
“What,” Tracer said innocently, “You mean you haven’t blabbed it all to him already?”
True. “Fact that he had to learn it first from me instead of the Commander is goin’ down so well, I tell ya.”
“I know. Jack’s seriously hopeless. I’ve tried. Say,” Tracer brightened up, “You know Reyes pretty well, don’tcha? What does he think?”
“Reyes? He’s just as hopeless. I got money on them havin’ hatesex or somethin’, maybe when drunk, but could be I won’t live to ever see any of that money,” Jesse said gloomily.
“That’s what you get for gambling.” Tracer slapped him on the arm. “How much money?”
“Hundred and fifty creds. But I think the full pool’s at near five hundred creds now.”
“Ooh.” Tracer pursed her lips. “Tell you what. I help you out, and you give me a cut.”
“You ever wanna see that money or?”
“… Ten per cent, and only if you really help out.”
“Fifteen, and you’re gougin’ me.”
“Fifteen, deal.” Tracer winked at him. “I’ll keep you posted!”
“Where’s everyone, anyway?”
“Jack’s back in the big castle with Hanzo, big pow wow. Reinhardt’s being fed somewhere in the castle, I think. Torbjörn’s installing more disruptor fields.” Tracer counted it off on her fingers. “Funny how you’re still here. I mean, it’s a good thing that you were, or their defensive flank at the school would’a collapsed. Thought Reyes would’ve recalled you, though.”
“He did.” Jesse muttered, a little embarrassed. Jesse was meant to be in Nagoya by now. But damn, last night had been wild. And Hanzo wasn’t even limping this morning. Either nanobiology worked in ways Jesse had never anticipated or Hanzo had a crazy pain threshold.
“I see someone’s been having fun on the side,” Tracer said, amused. “C’mon. Let’s go find some grub. I’m starving.”
“Pretty sure we’re meant to be strangers,” Jesse said dryly. “Me bein’ undercover and all.”
“Psssh. Jack’s too paranoid. Who’s going to notice?”
Later at night, when Jesse was unbuckling his armour, Hanzo said, “You seemed very friendly with Agent Tracer.”
Jealousy? No? Hanzo seemed only mildy curious. Jesse got his kit off, then his undershirt, stripped down to just his pants and hat. “She was the one bein’ friendly. Also, everyone else who spoke English hereabouts was pretty busy.”
“Didn’t you say that you had issues with Overwatch?”
“Yeah. Seems resolved. ‘Sides, she wasn’t in the strike team that broke up the Deadlock gang.” Jesse got on his knees, climbing over Hanzo on the futon, stroking a palm pointedly down the bared tattoo. Something prickled under his hand, all raw heat, no pain. “Someone’s suspicious,” Jesse teased, as Hanzo’s breath stuttered. “Should take a cue from your friends. They like me.”
“Dragons are possessive,” Hanzo said softly, as a claw curled out over Jesse’s forefinger before dipping back down.
“I’m startin’ to see that.”
Hands pressed down on the back of Jesse’s head, and he obligingly leaned over to kiss, letting Hanzo lead. A tongue pressed roughly into his mouth, blunt nails scraping down his bared back, and God but lovers like this, who knew exactly what they wanted and demanded it, always, always got Jesse’s blood up like nothing else.
At least Hanzo’s clothes were easier. Kimono, belt, pants, then that funny kinda underwear that Hanzo had called ‘fundoshi’ or something. Hanzo cursed as he fumbled at Jesse’s belt, then growled as Jesse mouthed the edge of the large tattoo, rubbing his cheek against it when the dragons spiked up over the skin, scalding his cheek. “Jesse,” Hanzo said roughly, curling fingers tightly into Jesse’s hair, prosthetic heels digging into the sheets. “My turn tonight.”
“I figured,” Jesse said blandly, and smirked at Hanzo’s expression when he got a hand down the back of Jesse’s pants. Bow-roughened fingertips pressed hard over the slicked opening of Jesse’s hole, and Jesse hummed appreciatively, playfully giving his hips a little shake. “All prepped and ready to go.”
“…Keep the hat on,” Hanzo growled, as Jesse shimmied out of his pants, kicking the last of his clothes aside.
“Knew you were that kinda guy. Don’t bother,” Jesse said huskily, as Hanzo groped for the lube in the sideboard. “I like to feel it in the mornin’.”
“Noted,” Hanzo said breathlessly, his hands curled over Jesse’s hips, watching avidly as Jesse spat on a palm and stroked Hanzo’s cock, getting it nice and thick and wet.
Hanzo wasn’t as long as Jesse, but he was thicker at the base, and Jesse was getting a little breathless just thinking of fitting all that in, taking Hanzo balls-deep. The fingers over Jesse’s hips dug in pointedly, and Jesse plastered on a lazy grin for show and tipped his hat with metal fingertips. Hanzo snorted, but he leant up on one elbow to watch, catching his breath as Jesse made a show of guiding the fat tip of Hanzo’s cock inside him.
The fit was tight even with the prep that Jesse had done in the shower, just the way Jesse liked it. He tipped his knees apart and groaned as he ground himself down, loud and filthy and the window was open, sound was probably gonna carry, and Jesse was long past giving a damn. The stretch burned. Jesse liked this kinda hurt, the sort that scraped him raw, the sort that made his partner cry out and buck up his hips and writhe.
Hanzo had bitten his own lip bloody, his hair going loose over his pillow, plastered down to his shoulders with sweat, and that kinda hunger was exactly what Jesse liked to see, intense with something that gouged deeper than love or hate or anything that words could frame. Right now Jesse owned this, owned Hanzo, owned the broken-down gasps that Hanzo filtered through clenched teeth, the torn-up lust-pain that was all Jesse could feel. Yeah. He liked to remember this in the morning.
“You’re a crazy man,” Hanzo gasped, as Jesse grabbed one of his wrists, sucking a couple of fingers into his mouth, chasing the dragons as they heaved up over the grip he had on Hanzo’s skin. Something flicked over his tongue, blister-hot. He whimpered.
“Don’t sound like you’re complainin’,” Jesse drawled, and smirked as Hanzo rolled his eyes and dragged him over, fingers digging into his shoulder, then his nape. Blood in his mouth, the dragons against his neck. Jesse’s cock ached, flat against Hanzo’s belly, but he let it be, rearing back, holding on to his hat. Hanzo’s hips jerked up involuntarily, and he gasped out an apology that choked to nothing as Jesse ground down against him, grinning. “Said I wanted to feel it in the mornin’, boss.”
Hanzo didn’t need any further goading. His fingers went back on Jesse’s hips, and he bucked up against Jesse, hard enough that Jesse had to cling on to Hanzo’s arms to hang on. Muscles bunched nicely under his hands, steel and flesh both, and the dragons twitched, their spines arcing out against Hanzo’s shoulder. Something smelled like the storm, like fire. Jesse bowed his head, his mouth dry, and started to move. He didn’t care about getting off. Like this, it hurt too much anyway, and that was what he wanted, shivering, shaking from it, teeth bared, the great broken groans he made like the coughs of some wounded beast. Hanzo was silent: the closer he got, the quieter he was. His lip was caught in his teeth, his eyes squeezed shut, cheek turned against the pillow.
“C’mon, darlin’, look at me,” Jesse breathed. “It ain’t much of a show when nobody’s watchin’.” This got a gasp, a laugh, and then Hanzo was scratching at his hips, dragging him down, jerking up in restless, ruthless thrusts until he was shuddering, with a low and strangled sound, all wet heat and shocked lust. Hanzo sank back, breathing hard, even as Jesse smirked, clenching down, licking his lips. This was gonna hurt like hell tomorrow.
“Get off,” Hanzo said quietly, which all right, was maybe a little hurtful. Jesse tried not to let it show, obligingly pushing off with a wet sound, then the world seemed to tilt and suddenly Hanzo was pressing him down, cheek first into the pillows, with Hanzo arched over his back. His left hand curled lightly against the back of Jesse’s neck, and Jesse could feel the heat of it against his back, that dry, scorching, draconic heat. Jesse groaned, rubbing his thickening arousal against the futon, and Hanzo slapped him on his ass. “Stop that.”
“Aww, c’mon, sweetheart,” Jesse clenched his hands over the sheets. “You trying’na kill me?”
Hanzo leaned closer, until his mouth was right over Jesse’s ear. “Some time ago I told you that my dragons burn only my enemies.”
His thumb pressed down over the top of Jesse’s spine, and drew a light line down the first bump. “For you, they want to make an exception.”
Shit. Jesse’s next breath was winched around an embarrassingly loud sob of lust. “Do it.”
He braced for it, but it didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would: more like hot candlewax, that kind of stinging pain, drawn in two lines on either side of his spine to the last of his ribs. Two, for two dragons. Hanzo drew his tongue up over one of the marks and that was enough; Jesse buried his shout into the pillow, shoving his hips against the futon. Behind him, Hanzo let out a low hum of animal satisfaction.
Jesse closed his eyes, trying to catch his breath. Yeah. He was in trouble.
http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2013/12/04/248816232/u-s-military-lingo-the-almost-definitive-guide I know in Overwatch the US military chars (Jack and Gabriel) don’t seem to use much military slang. Which is a bit weird… but maybe they got out of the habit after all that time.
Pigeon Feet joke - from Lena Headey in this Overwatch ep of Conan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8bjvoHOSFs
“The hell is your problem, pendejo?” Gabriel snapped. “I gave you a simple order. Withdraw from the op and meet me in Nagoya. Was any part of that remotely difficult to understand?”
“I know, I know-“
“Did. You. Understand. The. Order.”
“Yeah. I did, sure,” McCree said quickly.
“Then get your ass to Nagoya. Let Morrison handle Hanamura. You hear me?”
“Yeah.” McCree sounded uncharacteristically subdued. “I gotcha.”
“So are you gonna be on the next hypertrain in to Nagoya?”
“I’ve got some stuff to deal with-“
Gabriel pinched at the bridge of his nose. “That did not sound like ‘yes sir, I will be on the next train to Nagoya’.”
“McCree. You’re there as part of an op. I don’t know what your problem is. But your orders have changed. So ship out. ASAP.”
“I hear ya. Next train. Got it.”
Gabriel let out a loud groan as he signed off, and across the safehouse’s living room, on the couch, the air rippled briefly before refocusing into Natasha, cross-legged and smirking. “That’s not like McCree.”
“I know.” Gabriel rubbed a hand over his face. Previously, he’d thought that only Shang and McCree could be more or less trusted, with some threats, to get shit done by themselves and return to base with minimal supervision. Angie was ‘too young’, Inara tended to get ‘distracted’ and murder people she wasn’t meant to, and Natasha needed minding, or sometimes she ‘forgot’ what she was meant to be doing in the first place.
“Think it’s Morrison?”
“No.” Jack was probably above poaching. Besides, McCree had never liked Jack that much.
“Maybe he got sweet on someone. He’s that age,” Natasha said, amused. “Send me to Hanamura. I sort out. Drag him back.”
“Yeah, Morrison would love that. Watching a bit of Blackwatch civil warfare play out under his nose.” Gabriel glanced out of the window. They were in a seedier part of Chikusa ward, and annoyingly enough, Gabriel stood out in the street during the day, being (relatively) tall and dark-skinned. This meant relying on Natasha and her black market chameleon mods for intel.
“Cheer up.” Natasha uncurled from the chair. “I found something interesting when out for lunch. Come.”
“It’s the middle of the day.”
“No time like present. Relax,” Natasha drawled, when he glared at her. “No one sees.”
“Not everyone has chameleon mods,” Gabriel muttered. Ah, what the hell. With Shang and Inara still off in Tokyo sniffing after their mark, and McCree unexpectedly dragging his feet, Gabriel didn’t really have enough firepower to really go hunting for trouble anyway. He pulled on a dark coat over his Blackwatch suit and tugged the cowl down over his eyes.
Natasha grinned at him. “You look like park flasher.”
“Shut your mouth.”
Thankfully, when Natasha was supervised and had been given something to do, she usually turned all business. Once outside the safehouse, the mods rippled her into a loose, almost unnoticeable smear in the air, like a heat mirage. She led them through back alleys in the quiet district and finally came to the side of an abandoned mall, boarded over. Large electroposters projected against the faded paint and dulled glass promised a ‘New Development, Coming Soon!’ in English and in Japanese. Natasha paused against the locked door.
“Spliced the lock earlier.” The door pulled open. “After you.”
“I don’t like surprises,” Gabriel told her, though he obligingly went through. Inside, the mall looked like it had been picked up and shaken roughly. Glass had shattered over the floor, crunching under Gabriel’s boots. Neon signage hung loose from the ceilings, dulled and quiet. The escalators were still, and chunks of plaster still lay where they had shaken off from the ceiling. Vending machines lay on their sides, their contents splayed in the gloom over the floor.
“The earthquake,” Natasha explained, unnecessarily.
“Yeah, I know.” Nagoya had survived the Nankai Trough’s foretold big quake fairly well: Japan had been preparing for it for decades. Parts of it had still ended up flooded, and whole sections of the underground subway lines were still unusable, but the death toll was kept low, hypertrains now linked up the city overhead, and the fires were put out after a few days.
Natasha flickered out of chameleon mode, hopping off the closest rail to the lower floor. Show off. Gabriel hustled down the frozen escalator, wrinkling his nose at the stale air and rot. He found Natasha waiting for him under a subway sign, long greyed out from lack of power. ‘Keiko Station’ was still printed clearly on the sign, with the Japanese version of the name beside it. Natasha vaulted the nearest gantry, while Gabriel hauled himself over it more sedately. A faded, framed poster nearby told him in cheerful, crabbed English that Keiko station was the first station in a new extension to the Higashiyama Line. Huh. Guess that hadn’t lasted long.
Once they descended down frozen escalators into the dark, Gabriel’s Blackwatch gear kicked in, pale red bars giving off just enough light for his enhanced vision to compensate. Quietly, he drew his shotguns. Natasha let out a low laugh. “Easy. Nothing for a while yet.”
“What were you doing down here? This wasn’t on the recon list that I gave you.”
“I was using… what you call? Initiative. That report I gave you about the Dragunov shipments had, funny note. Delivery to the ‘Rangers of the Order’.” At Gabriel’s blank stare, Natasha smirked. “Book written in 2005. Became more popular during Omnic Crisis, especially since title of book. Famous Russian post-apocalyptic series. Metro 2033. In book, everyone lives in underground. Train stations. Nuclear winter.”
“Charming.” Gabriel skirted a pile of rotting rubbish, probably washed up from floodwaters. “Didn’t know you liked turn of the century fiction.”
Natasha shrugged. “You don’t know us. Never bothered, da? Inara and Angie love you anyway, but rest of us, the older ones? We know what you really think. ‘Little monsters’. ‘Feral children’.” She flashed him a sharp smile over her shoulder. “Is more of same. You teach us, so you can use us.”
She was right. “Natasha…”
“But in Guatemala you nearly died trying to dig me out of collapsed lift shaft. Pinned by Bastion units.”
“I don’t leave my people behind.”
Natasha nodded. “‘Monster’. ‘Feral’. ‘Freak’. I hear this all before. But never have I known someone who would come back for me.”
Gabriel had nothing to say to that, not as they picked their way all the way down to the empty train platform. Before and behind them, two parallel tunnels fed away into ink-dark nothing, and the tunnels stank. Something skittered away noisily away from them onto the tracks.
“Rats.” Natasha murmured. “I like rats.”
“They are smart. They are survivors.” Natasha didn’t seem to need light: her eyes seemed to gleam, catlike, in Gabriel’s low light vision. More black market mods. She headed straight over to the left platform and hopped down to the tracks. “Power is off. Quite safe.”
“You’re sure that you traced the Dragunov shipments down here?” Gabriel reluctantly dropped down to the tracks. Something squished unpleasantly underfoot, and he couldn’t stop the vague impression that a train would be coming any minute at his back.
“Many heat signatures further in. Near next station. Power signatures, not body heat. Could have handled myself, but thought you might want to see for yourself.”
“Good. Lead on.”
It was an interminable walk. In the pitch darkness, underground, thermal imaging was worth fuck all, which meant having to rely on his suit. Still, Gabriel was conscious that in the dark, the faint red bars of his suit were probably going to give him away to anything remotely within line of sight, especially security drones. But if he switched the Blackwatch suit’s illumination off, then he’d be walking blind. Bad trade-off. In the distance, on occasion, there were low metallic creaks and structural groans, as though they were walking through the fetid guts of some dying worm. The air was cold and thick with decay.
“Wait.” Natasha whispered suddenly. “Something up ahead.”
“What?” Gabriel fumbled at the thermal visor, but Natasha had already darted forward. In the NVD visor, her body heat flared up as her mods shot her a speed boost, and she darted in a flicker of orange heat down the tunnel and up onto the flank of a distant bulk, possibly a derailed train carriage. Something burst out of the next carriage, all lines of light and infrared heat, and Gabriel cursed, lunging forward into a dead run. Energy blades clashed in a ringing shrill of alloys and sparks. Natasha laughed.
He’d just gotten into firing range when there was a familiar, yelped, “’Tasha? That you?”
The orange heat that was Natasha flickered back, balancing at the edge of the first train carriage. “Angie?”
Infrared indicated another heat signature climbing cautiously out of the second carriage. “Shit. Fancy seein’ you down here. Sorry man. My new friend Genji, he’s kinda jumpy.”
“What are you doing here? You should be at base,” Natasha said, surprised.
“I uh, I can explain.”
“I hope so,” Gabriel growled, as he caught up to them. “Because you’re in deep trouble, girl.”
And. That was the problem. Jesse leaned his forehead against one of the pillars of the corridor overlooking the rock garden and swallowed a groan. He was late again. The second hypertrain of the day had just pulled out of the station twenty minutes back, and Jesse was still dithering. Reyes was gonna kill him. Maybe after Hanzo had a go. Either way, Jesse was pretty sure he was dead.
Since Jesse didn’t actually have the luxury of a slow recovery, he’d quietly used some biotech salvers from his personal supplies for a quick fix in the morning after Reyes’ call. The twin marks on his back hadn’t faded though, stark and red against his skin. He could still feel them rasping against his undershirt, tender and fresh.
Dragon marks. Crazy.
The door to Hanzo’s private rooms slid open. Hanzo leaned a shoulder against the frame, graceful in some kinda loosely bound black robe, longer than his kimono. “Are you coming in, or are you going to stand outside my room all day?”
Jesse pushed sheepishly away from the pillar. Hanzo didn’t wait for an answer, already stalking back into his rooms, and after a long moment, Jesse sighed and followed, closing the door behind him. “Heard you abandoned Commander Morrison to the elders.”
Hanzo shrugged. “All they want to do is talk. I needed some time alone to think. Once Lindholm-san has completed his preparations, we will coordinate a counterattack with Overwatch.”
“Sorry if I’m disturbin’.” Jesse fought the urge to tug off his hat and scuff his heels. He hadn’t felt this off-balance in years.
Hanzo made no answer, heading out towards the balcony of his rooms instead. A couple of green cushions had been set up over the wooden slats of the floor, a large wood cube between them, on which had been drawn a grid of black lines. Black and white seeds sat at the intersection of some of the grid boxes, at an odd pattern. It was the only oddity in what was otherwise a large but starkly furnished set of chambers: no art, minimal furniture: closet, futon, bow rack.
As Jesse watched, Hanzo knelt down on one of the cushions, and gestured for Jesse to sit on the other, which he did so awkwardly. For a brief, incongruous moment, he missed his boots. Jesse was never gonna get used to walking around indoors in just socks or floppy slippers. “I uh, don’t know how to play this game.”
“Do you know what it is?”
“…Reversi?” Jesse hazarded. He’d seen something like that on a comm app.
Hanzo flashed a sharp, wry smile. “It is called ‘Go’. Invented in China. One of the oldest board games in the world. It has simple rules, and yet is far more complicated than chess. There are more possible Go moves than the total number of atoms in the visible universe.”
“Considerin’ I can’t even manage chess,” Jesse said dryly, “This is gonna be a real short game.”
“Usually I play against myself. Sometimes, against Arai. It helps me think. My father insisted that I learn how to play. My brother had no patience for it: the games can stretch for hours.” Hanzo began briskly removing the seeds, sorting black into one cup and white into another, and after a moment’s hesitation, Jesse helped out. “There are no ‘special’ pieces, like queens and knights.”
“And… people play this for hours?” Jesse tried to puzzle that over. The world had all sorts.
“My father used to prefer territorial fuseki. Opening moves.” With the board cleared, Hanzo laid out a few black and white seeds in quick succession near but not too close to the corners and sides of the board. He removed the seeds. “I preferred the influence approach.” He replaced the seeds, at slightly different locations.
Thoroughly lost, Jesse stared at the board. Was Hanzo trying to teach him how to play or something? “‘Fraid I’m gonna suck at this game,” he confessed. “If that’s what you’re gettin’ at.”
Hanzo studied him silently for a long moment, then he turned his attention back to the board, setting down more seeds at a rapid clip. “In the middle game, players try to use their understanding of joseki, or sequences, to gain advantages that lead to a better overall strategic position. Sometimes it is necessary to make sacrifices.”
Jesse was starting to get a sinking feeling. “Are you trying’na tell me somethin’?”
Hanzo set down a black seed. “It seems to me that you are the one who has something to say.”
“Right. Uh. Remember when you asked me to clear my schedule for the next few months? Turns out that didn’t work out too well. I got to hop out for a while. Won’t be leavin’ the country, but it’s another job. Shouldn’t take too long.” All right. He was starting to blab. Jesse forced himself to shut up.
Hanzo didn’t even look up from the board, picking up a white seed from the bowl. “When my father asked me if I wanted to succeed him as kumicho, it was over a game of Go. I was eleven. The question surprised me. I wore two dragons, and I was the oldest son. I said, am I not meant to be kumicho?” He set the seed down noiselessly on the board. “And my father said that for as long as he lived, stepping aside would always be an option for my brother and I. To be kumicho is to walk always on the edge of a knife, waiting for a dagger to come. From the front, or from the back.”
“So I ask you again,” Hanzo said evenly, glancing up. “Do you have something to say to me?”
Jesse might not understand chess or Go, but he was a fair hand at poker, if he could say so himself, and he’d always had a good sense of when to fold. But where could he have slipped up? Was it Tracer? Or that time when he’d found Arai waiting for him in the room, after he’d made that encrypted call to Reyes? Something else, that he’d overlooked? “Not sure what you’re talkin’ about.”
In response, Hanzo tapped at his wrist comm. Tracer’s peppy voice filtered out, clear as a bell. “You know Reyes pretty well, don’tcha? What does he think?” And here was Jesse, opening his big mouth. “Reyes? He’s just as hopeless.”
Hanzo shut off the comm. “You are all guests. But in Hanamura, guests or not, we watch all outsiders closely.”
“You bugged Tracer and the others.” Hell, it was just like those damned fools not to fucking scan their clothes for shit like this.
“So you know Gabriel Reyes. You’re a Blackwatch agent.”
Ah hell. The game was up. “Yeah,” Jesse said numbly, before a thought occurred to him. “Did you know about Tracer before or after we-“
“What was your purpose here?”
“The god program. Got wind of it being in Hanamura. Turns out we were slightly wrong. Reyes thinks Morrison can handle Hanamura from here. He’s got ‘nother lead.”
Jesse knew that he really should shut up, or dive out of the balcony, something rather than keep flapping his mouth. Reyes was really going to be pissed. “Nagoya.”
“A manufacturing city.” Hanzo frowned slightly. “Reyes found an omnium?”
“Not sure yet. All I got from him was an order to ship out. ‘Round when you invited Overwatch to the party. Had to tell him about that.”
“And why haven’t you gone? Why did you stay and fight?”
“Darlin’,” Jesse said wryly, “I think you know the answer to that one.”
Hanzo placed another seed, in an emptier bit of the board. “In this game there is a tactic known as tenuki: you ignore the opponent’s move to play another elsewhere. Accepting a loss, for a greater gain. Take the train to Nagoya.”
Jesse blinked, a little taken aback by the abrupt instruction. “Uh-“
“Reyes is still your commanding officer. Besides, I doubt that he is ordering you to Nagoya on a whim. Overwatch and I can handle Hanamura and the counter-attack.”
“And then? After that?” Sudden hope made Jesse a tad breathless, and he tried to tamp it down. Just in case he was reading this wrong. In case he hadn’t, maybe, just gotten so goddamned lucky.
Hanzo uncurled, circling around the cube, then settling down over Jesse’s knees, tipping up his chin. “I would like to think,” Hanzo said quietly, “that I know the answer to that as well.”
Jesse let out a shaky laugh, even as the marks on his back seemed to ache just a little fiercer. Something in his chest felt like it was clenching up, winding tighter and tighter, and when he spoke, his voice was uneven. “Think you and your friends made sure of that last night. Markin’ me like that.”
“Mm.” Was that relief Jesse was reading, in the way Hanzo’s shoulders seemed to relax? The man was hard to parse. Fingers curled around to the back of Jesse’s skull, into his hair, tipping his head back to bare his neck for a nip. “The next train is due in two hours.”
It was embarrassing how hard Jesse got, just like that. “Plenty of time.”
Metro 2033: It’s an amazing postapocalyptic series by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The games are ok, not quite Fallout. Great trailer though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mON5WmA5REk
In a note about child soldiers… the UN defines a child soldier as anyone under 18 who is recruited or used by an armed force in any capacity, whether it’s as a fighter, a spy, etc. This kinda makes McCree’s canon backstory seriously iffy - if that fanon Overwatch timeline is to be believed, he gets recruited into Blackwatch at 15ish. In this AU, everyone is recruited into Blackwatch young, but only go on combat missions from 18+. Further reading: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/effects-of-conflict/six-grave-violations/child-soldiers/
Finally, about Go: in my secondary school we had to learn how to play chess, and anyone who was any good at it was then taught to play Go (or as we called it in my school in SG, weiqi). I still don’t really understand the game, and I kinda forgot about it for years until the AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol tourney this year. Damn that was awesome. And no, I’ve never watched Hikaru no Go.
Hanzo strode over, still slinging a full quiver over his back. “Is there a problem?”
“Seem to be missin’…uh, that American gunslinger?”
“Ah, you mean McCree-san.” Hanzo seemed mildly surprised that Jack had even asked. “He had some unforeseen business and had to leave.”
“Leave?” Tracer blinked. “When?”
“Late afternoon.” Hanzo said, indifferent.
Shit. Jack glanced up at the darkening sky. That would’ve been hours ago. The hell was Gabriel up to? Actually, nevermind that, where the hell was Gabriel? Jack had agreed to answer Hanzo Shimada’s very polite request for assistance only because he was fairly sure that Blackwatch must have quietly decamped into Hanamura’s vicinity, nevermind about the scheduled flightpath to Tokyo. If McCree had disappeared-
“Is there a problem?” Hanzo repeated, raising an eyebrow.
“I uh, well. McCree’s proven to be a pretty good asset. I was hopin’ to be able to count on him bein’ in the ground push.”
“I see. It is unfortunate. But I believe we have enough for the operation regardless.” Hanzo seemed oddly expressionless for someone whose main defensive asset had so abruptly decamped hours before battle. “McCree-san advised me after his first job for me that he had pre-existing commitments on his time. It is not… unusual, for contractors.”
“Would you happen to know where he went?” Jack asked, without thinking.
Hanzo narrowed his eyes slightly, then he looked away. “Commander Morrison. Although I am very grateful that you have chosen to come to Hanamura, and I although I know that we would have suffered heavy casualties had you not arrived when you did… there is some manner of honour among thieves. Even if I knew where McCree-san was headed after Hanamura, it would be exceedingly impolite for me to divulge the information to Overwatch.”
To break Jesse’s cover or not? Jack hesitated. Chances were, Hanzo probably wouldn’t even believe him. Worse, it could quite quickly destroy the fragile trust Jack had with the Shimada clan, and so close to confronting a god program, at that. “All right. Sorry I asked.”
Hanzo inclined his head. “No matter. Good luck. We’ll move out on your signal.”
“Y’know,” Jack said wryly, “I don’t actually need to have overall command here. You’re the leader of the Shimada.”
“Only a fool would ignore experience in favour of pride,” Hanzo said, turning back to his men. “And I am tired of losing people.”
“Someone’s touchy,” Tracer whispered, when Hanzo was back with the archer team. “I bet you he knows exactly where Jesse went.”
“Let’s say that my room is pretty close to the master wing, and sound carries at night.” Tracer grinned as Jack pulled a face. “‘Sides. Reyes recalled Jesse ages ago. Like, the moment he found out that we were coming. Jesse was the one dragging his heels. Think he’s real sweet on Hanzo.”
“Gabriel found out that we’re here?”
“Oh yeah. Did you really think Jesse wasn’t going to tell him, you big goof?” Tracer shook her head slowly. “You’re really messing this up.”
Jack sighed. “Gabriel hasn’t been answering his comm. And he’s switched the trackers off his entire team.” Including Angie’s, which was really unnecessary, since she was back in Gibraltar. Clearly, Gabriel was most definitely pissed at the ‘interference’, and he wasn’t above being petty about it. “I don’t know where he is. If he’s near the Sato-gumi’s territories, then it’d make more sense for him to leave McCree with us, to keep an eye on our movements. Something ain’t right.”
Tracer looked up at the ramparts above, where Torbjörn was stamping around, grumbling and inspecting the turrets he had set up temporarily along the perimeter. “Sure you want to leave Torbjörn here, then?”
“There are noncoms and injured in the Castle. Someone has to be here, just in case.” Jack squared his shoulders, and nodded over at Reinhardt, who was standing placidly in his full Crusader gear in the other ground group. “All right.” He raised his voice, all parade-ground projection. “Let’s move out.”
According to the plan of attack that he and Hanzo had agreed on, Mio and Reinhardt would circle out, entering the Sato-gumi’s territory through the temple district. Hanzo and Jack would head through the school district, which would take them past the train station, after which it would be a wide thoroughfare down to the Sato-gumi’s outward perimeter. They’d converge on the gated block of flats which made up the Sato-gumi’s current HQ. Tracer would take the Thunderbird up high and provide air support.
‘Course, no battle plan in Jack’s experience had ever really survived first contact with the enemy, and he hated urban fighting with a passion. Balanced in the back of the delivery truck as it rumbled past the train station, Jack stared at the approaching lines of neat urban sprawl glumly. Apartments. Little office blocks. It all seemed so suburban.
“You seem troubled,” Hanzo said, beside him.
“Urban fighting’s always a bit of a clusterfuck,” Jack pointed out. “A lot of positions for sniper nests, soldiers can get bogged down, ambushes, traps, civvie casualties…” Jack shook his head. “And that’s just what a normal battle can be like. Omnics are way worse. Never liked it.”
“I appreciate the honesty.” Hanzo noted, a little wryly. He was nervous, Jack realized belatedly, under all that catlike calm. Strange. Before, when they had first met on the roof, Hanzo had seemed utterly unflappable, even in the middle of battle. Now he kept glancing at the dark streets as the truck rolled past.
“Hey. You called in the experts,” Jack said, trying to sound encouraging.
“Four Overwatch agents. One of whom we left behind.” Hanzo said pensively. “Commander Morrison, my people are not soldiers.” Ah, so that was it. “Nor did they ask to be drafted into this war. I do not wish to seem ungrateful, but-“
“You figured we probably could’ve brought more people in?” Jack asked. “Yeah, your ‘elders’ told me as much. They were real polite about it, but I got the gist. Overwatch doesn’t function as an army. More like a very specialised strike team. What you see is pretty much what everyone gets.”
“What about Blackwatch?” Jack flinched, but Hanzo didn’t seem to notice. “I’ve heard the stories. Its commander is Gabriel Reyes, yes? The first Commander of Overwatch.”
“You’re well-informed.” Jack said, with a frown. Due to its black ops nature, most of Blackwatch’s work flew under the media radar.
“Honour among thieves,” Hanzo pointed out. “Blackwatch has taken out a few… organisations, over the past few years. Word gets around.”
“I’m surprised that you even called us in, then.”
“Necessity creates alliances.”
“If it’s any comfort, to be honest? We know your people aren’t pros. That’s why we said that we’re all right with you - and Mio - calling a retreat if you think it’s getting too much. Reinhardt, Tracer and I will be fine on our own.” Or so he hoped. Admittedly, in Jack’s first impression of this scenario, Gabriel had also been there, along with most of his Blackwatch team: with that kind of firepower, the Shimada Clan would only need to run peripheral support. Turned out that had been a stupid assumption. Too late now.
Maybe he wasn’t that convincing. Hanzo was giving him a tiny frown, then he looked away, back towards the street. “It would be extremely impolite to abandon a guest,” Hanzo said neutrally, and despite himself, Jack managed a laugh. Hell. He was beginning to see why all of the Shimada Clan’s able-bodied people had volunteered to join the night time assault, despite not being used to this kind of all-out war. Why McCree had stayed on despite withdrawal orders.
From the driver’s cab of the truck, there was a brief snatch of Japanese. Hanzo leaned up, peering as the truck slowed to a halt. The street ahead had been barricaded with furniture. A quick glance to the left and right indicated that the streets that were wide enough for the truck were also piled with chairs and shelves. “Oxton?”
“Yeah, I see you. Looks like you boys are going to have to leg it. Reinhardt’s gotten a little further, but not much.”
Hanzo nodded: he was patched in temporarily to their comm, along with Mio. “The compound is not far from here.”
“Right.” Jack pulled in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Too late for regrets. “Showtime.”
“Nope. Got some on the rooftops close to the compound gates, but nothing else on the Thunderbird’s scanners. Human heat sigs. All hostiles. They’re clustered at windows and crouched down with gear. There’s a big source of heat underground, though. Think it’s some sort of big server, judging from the readouts.”
“The god program?” Morrison asked.
“How far underground?” Hanzo cut in sharply. “And where?”
“Near dead centre. I’m guessing it ain’t that far down. Sub-basement level.”
Hanzo looked around. Close to the compound wall, there was a narrow building, a storey or so taller than the others, some sort of office block. On the roof, there was a billboard for Sapporo Beer. Good enough. “Clear my way. I can get rid of it from here.”
To his credit, Morrison didn’t argue or demand an explanation. Resistance got hotter closer to the compound, as the Sato-gumi dug in behind makeshift barricades and cars, pinning Morrison and the others behind cover. “Kalashnikov pulses,” Morrison growled, as Hanzo had to duck hastily out of sight, energy blasts scorching the walls. “The hell did they get those?”
“Whoo, they’re pulling out the big guns over here,” Tracer whistled. “On your three!”
Hanzo peered over the edge. A small phalanx had emerged from one of the blocks, an red energy shield curved before a pulse turret hauled along by four men. Above, the Thunderbird banked close, only to be driven off by bursts of fire from the upper floor windows. Hanzo grit his teeth, aiming a scatter arrow, firing it through. Someone screamed, a ragged sound of pain that fed into another, but Hanzo didn’t stop to watch. He made a running leap for the next roof, rolling and ducking behind vent ducts as pulse shots stitched into the concrete. Behind him, his team had fanned out, though someone cried out on another roof. Hanzo grit his teeth. He was going to have to get to that turret-
-and below, Morrison was ducking out from behind the car, aiming his rifle. A small burst of mini rockets fired out, trailing smoke, slapping into the ground just beside the shield in a blast of dirt and shrapnel. Behind the shield, one of the turret carriers collapsed, clutching the ruin of his leg and screaming, and even as the group faltered, Morrison was behind another car, leaning out, shoulder against the asphalt, his visor gleaming for a moment before he squeezed off a handful of precise shots. The man holding up the shield fell, writhing and clawing at his ankles, and even as the carriers froze, Hanzo and the waiting archers peppered them and the rest of the defenders at the gate with arrows.
An ugly way to die.
Hanzo looked away, leaping the gap to the last building, then climbing quickly up to the office block’s roof. The dragons boiled up over his arm, eager to fly, hissing over his skin as he pulled himself to the top of the billboard. They roared out into the air as he called them, soaring towards the centre of the compound; he could hear Morrison gasp in disbelief-
“Look out!” Tracer. There was a whistling sound, like a rocket fired, and Hanzo instinctively leaped off the billboard even as it exploded in a belch of fire and a roar that robbed him of his hearing, a punch of impact that bowled him across the roof of the adjoining building to fetch up over the edge, scrabbling for a grip. Hands grabbed at his kimono, his shoulders, and his men hauled him up to safety even as the ground abruptly quaked under them, nearly knocking them all off the edge. A shockwave. Beyond, in the compound, the buildings were crumbling down, first collapsing in on each other, then sliding inward in grinding roars so loud that Hanzo clapped his hands over his ears, wincing. Explosions rippled up their flanks, shattering the blocks down to slabs, dust clouds howling out down the streets.
As Hanzo lay on the roof, trying to catch his breath and get his hearing back, he could very dimly hear Tracer saying something in his ear. Getting shakily to his feet, he stared in disbelief at the levelled compound beyond. What…?
“Holy shit,” Tracer could be heard saying, if from what felt like a long way away. “The hell is in that dragon magic of yours?”
“It wouldn’t have done that on its own.” Hanzo said, a little defensively. “The dragonfire must have set off something underground.”
“The hell would they have wired up their compound to explode?” Morrison asked gruffly. “There were people in those buildings!”
“Not them,” Hanzo said grimly. Poor bastards. Damn Hiroto Sato and his greed. “The god program.”
Morrison’s horror was clear in his voice. “If we’d been in there… Reinhardt? Do you copy?”
“Ja, I am here. We have two injured, nothing serious.” Reinhardt sounded grim. “Is it over? The god program?”
“Somehow, I don’t think so. Didn’t see many omnics here. No sign of an omnium either. I think it cut its losses.” Morrison looked up soberly at the roof, even as Hanzo gave curt orders for the wounded to be taken back to the Castle and for a scout patrol to be organised. The surviving, dazed Sato-gumi were surrendering. “Shimada, a word please.” He took out his earpiece.
Hanzo nodded, mimicking the gesture, then dropping down to a windowsill and further to the top of a car, then the street. “What is it?”
“You know where McCree went. Don’t you?”
Hanzo tilted his head. Behind him, his men were splitting up, some to check the buildings, the others taking care of the injured. His hearing was slowly returning. “Do I?”
“… All right,” Morrison said gruffly. “Cards on the table. McCree is a Blackwatch agent. But I think that you know this too.”
“It seems odd to me,” Hanzo said carefully, “that Blackwatch and Overwatch appear to be estranged.”
“I’m having a disagreement with Commander Reyes. But our objectives are the same. I think that the fact that Reyes recalled McCree means that he’s got another, better lead. He knew the god program wasn’t really here.”
“That may be the case.”
“Believe me, if it was here, we’ll be facing a small army of omnics and whatever else it could throw at us. This was a walk in the park.” Morrison looked grim. “If you are in any way remotely concerned about McCree’s welfare, you need to tell me where he’s gone.”
“He told me that Blackwatch has handled a god program before.”
“Did he also tell you that they almost died doin’ that? And that they had UN soldiers and local government backin’ them up by forcin’ the god program to fight skirmishes on multiple fronts while they took on the omnium?” Morrison shook his head. “Fact that they had that much support goin’ in was the only reason why that was just a Blackwatch op. Hell, if Overwatch wasn’t fightin’ rogue clusters halfway across the world, we would’a been there anyway.”
Hanzo hesitated, now uncertain. Worried, even. Jesse had seemed so confident. Maybe sensing victory, Morrison continued, “And you won’t be breakin’ your code, or whatever it is. I ain’t out to arrest McCree, I want to help him. And the others.”
“Lindholm-san’s equipment. The disruptor fields, the turrets. I want to keep them.”
Morrison didn’t even hesitate. “Deal.”
“Jesse was told to go to Nagoya.” Hanzo said quietly. “Good luck, Commander. Thank you again.”
Morrison was already replacing his earpiece. “Oxton, I need pickup. We’re shipping out to Nagoya.”
Mio came up behind Hanzo as he watched the Thunderbird lift off, swinging around to pick up Reinhardt. For a moment, Hanzo was tempted to call them back down, to go to Nagoya as well, and clenched his fists- “Kumicho,” Mio said softly. “They’ve found Hiroto.”
The moment passed. “Show me.”
Hiroto was pinned under a slab of concrete, bloodied and gasping. The old man laughed hoarsely as Hanzo pushed past his watching men to the fore, raising one dusty hand in a mocking gesture of greeting. “Shimada.”
“You think you’ve won,” Hiroto rasped, behind a broken-toothed grin, and spat blood and saliva to the side.
“Izanagi is already everywhere, boy. You may have destroyed me, but it will return. The Shimada will still be ground into the dust.”
“We all die sooner or later.” Hanzo picked his way closer, crouching beside Hiroto’s pinned frame. “Was it worth it, old man?”
Defiant to the end. Hiroto snarled. “You - you and your family will be forgotten by history, you-“ the rest of his words cut off into a hoarse scream, as Hanzo set his palm over Hiroto’s eyes and forehead and let the dragons do what they wanted. Afterwards, he wiped his hand absently over Hiroto’s suit, and straightened up. When he breathed in, he could taste only ash and dust on his tongue.
“Not true,” Genji muttered. He had a faint Japanese accent, and wore some sort of energy-bladed katana at his back. Like his strange, vaguely omnic armoured form, it glowed a faint green, though Genji seemed to be able to will the lights on his gear on and off at will.
“Shh! I told you to let me handle this!” Angie hissed at Genji.
“Right,” Gabriel snapped. “First off. What the hell, Angie! You’re meant to be in Gibraltar.”
“No, you told me to get to the bottom of Ziegler’s new source,” Angie corrected. “Tadah! Here he is.”
Gabriel slapped a hand over his face. “I didn’t tell you to steal it. How did you even get out of Gibraltar? Were you followed here? Do I want to know? And how did you even find these tunnels?”
“We made it out of Ziegler’s lab just fine, thanks. Laundry chute. Then I hijacked a Thunderbird and flew out here. Don’t worry, I disabled its transponder first. And I didn’t find this place, coming here was Genji’s idea. Inara told me you guys were headed to Nagoya and Genji had an idea about the tunnels.”
“Hijacked a Thunderbird?”
“Relax, I used someone else’s authorisation to activate the ‘bird. Strike-Commander Morrison ain’t ever changed his password,” Angie said cheekily. “It’s the date of your birth, by the way.”
“…Think I threw up in mouth,” Natasha muttered, from the top of the derailed carriage.
Gabriel let out a deep sigh. Jack was hopeless. “And why, in God’s name, did you come all the way here?”
“‘Cos it ain’t fair, you guys leavin’ me behind just ‘cos I’m the youngest,” Angie told him indignantly. “I’m a full agent too. Ain’t fair. ‘Sides, Genji wanted to come, and he was gonna head here even if I stayed behind, so I tagged along just in case.”
“That part is true,” Genji said, in his oddly electronic voice.
“Fair has nothing to do with it,” Gabriel growled. “After this op, you are suspended indefinitely. I’m tempted to send you home right now as it is.”
“As to you,” Gabriel glowered at Genji. “Who the hell are you, and what do you know about the god program?”
“My full name,” Genji said quietly, “is Shimada Genji.”
“The younger brother?” At Genji’s nod, Gabriel narrowed his eyes. “Funny. Heard you were dead.”
“I was. Or close to it. But my cousin had heard of Doctor Ziegler and her work, and arranged for me to be placed temporarily in cryostasis while I was sent in secret to Gibraltar. When I woke up, I was like this.” Genji’s voice was thick with bitterness. “It would have been better if she had let me die.”
“Zombie robot,” Angie piped up. “See. Cheer up, man. You look freakin’ dope.”
“Angie, shut up.” Gabriel said curtly. “Lemme guess. Your brother did a real number on you and now you’re out for revenge. And you thought maybe it’d work out just fine if Blackwatch did your dirty work. Was there anything real behind that tip off about the god program in Hanamura?”
“Yes. I want revenge. But not only because of what my brother did to me. Because of what he did to our father. Father died unexpectedly. A heart attack in the night.”
“Happens to the best of us,” Gabriel said evenly. “Not a bad way to go.”
“He was murdered. The night before, when I was on the roof, I overheard Father talking to the kumicho of the Yamaguchi-gumi through an open comm. A god program had declared war on the Yamaguchi-gumi, and was devastating the Sumiyoshi-kai. Father was asked to help. He said that he was going to think about it. In the morning, he was dead.”
“Got proof that it wasn’t just a bad coincidence?”
“No. Only circumstantial things. A displaced roof tile above Father’s room. The night watchman, who thought he might have seen a shadow, but wasn’t sure. And above Father’s heart, a faint red mark, like a burn. After the funeral, I raised my doubts about Father’s death with my brother and demanded to know where he had been on the night of the death. He dismissed my suspicions as fantasies and accused me of squandering clan funds. We fought.”
“You suspect your brother?”
“Who else had the most to gain? He is now the leader of the Shimada clan.”
“The clan took a pretty big beating from the god program. I gather that your brother even declared war on it. I had an agent there who saw it firsthand,” Gabriel said dryly.
Genji shook his head grimly. “Your agent must have been wrong. Regardless, I am here to defeat the god program. To avenge my father. After that, I will settle my score with my brother.”
Gabriel scratched at the back of his neck. On one hand, Genji clearly had a few screws loose: perhaps understandably, since he’d had a violent near-death experience. And Gabriel had never trusted Ziegler’s goddamned human experimentation tech. On the other hand, it wasn’t like he was swimming in backup right now. “Fine. But you better be able to follow orders.” He pinged Genji the details of the encrypted comm. “Natasha, you’re back on point. Angie, take up the rear. Let’s move out.”
It was slow going through the downed train, with everything creaking and groaning around them, and Gabriel was a little relieved when they were back out into the tunnel. Genji walked silently, and had switched the green bars on his suit off, stalking on ahead. Behind Gabriel, he heard Angie stumble, right herself, and curse under her breath. Hesitating for a moment, Gabriel eventually swallowed a sigh and hung back, keeping pace where the light from the red bars of his suit would add to hers. Other than Natasha and Gabriel himself, none of the rest of Blackwatch were enhanced humans.
“On a scale of one to really mad, how mad are you at me?” Angie whispered glumly.
“You seriously thought all this was a good idea?”
“I thought I was contributin’.” Angie muttered. “‘Sides. Genji told me a lotta stories about his dad. Seemed like a stand up guy. I didn’t think it was right that he got offed by his own kid.”
“Genji’s father was a yakuza kumicho,” Gabriel said gruffly. “I doubt his hands were any cleaner than the rest of that lot. How long have you been talking to Genji?”
“Oh, I broke into Ziegler’s lab an hour after you guys left and found him hooked up to some energy pod thing. Ziegler’s in some conference over in MIT. So we pretty much just talked all this time. Reckon he was a little lonely. Then I got that update from Inara about you guys going to Nagoya and Genji got excited. Said that’s probably where the omnium is. We thought you guys might need the help.”
“And why didn’t you tell me about Genji from the start?”
“Genji said to wait until you guys found more evidence that the god program existed, or you’d think it’s just all about revenge and come back.” Angie frowned, hefting her pulse SMG thoughtfully. “Which it’s not. I think?”
“Angie,” Gabriel said dryly, “after all this is done, you and I are gonna have to have a long talk.”
“So you’re… not mad? ‘Cos you haven’t started yellin’ at me yet.”
“I am mad, I’m just prioritising,” Gabriel growled, at which point Natasha’s voice flicked in over the comm.
“Counting five power signatures,” she whispered. “Near next station entrance. One is Bastion unit. Others omnics with pulses. Around bend, tunnel is straight. Killing field.”
“I can close in on them quickly,” Genji said.
“Oh? Let’s race.” Natasha purred. “Loser buys vodka.”
“Take them out,” Gabriel told them. “We’ll be right behind you.”
Thankfully, Gabriel and Angie didn’t have to fire a single shot - underground, in an enclosed space, his shotguns would’ve roared like a grenade going off. As they rounded the bend, heading towards the dimly lit platform, Angie gagged. “What the fuck is that smell?”
Gabriel tried not to breathe through his nose, jogging down the tunnel. Natasha and Genji had already climbed up onto the platform, flicking around it, making short work of other targets further down. The stink got thicker as Gabriel climbed up onto the platform, like a powerful weight in the air itself. On the wide platform were two shipping containers, which had been somehow manoeuvred down through the large gap at the far right of the platform where the escalators had been. Genji was straightening up from the omnics he had just beheaded, sheathing his katana, while Natasha darted up with enhanced speed through dangling cabling to the upper floor.
“Clear,” she reported.
“Stay up top. Genji, how good’s your low light vision?”
“I have near-omnic enhancements.”
“Right. Head out there, take a look. Quietly. Don’t engage any hostiles. Angie, open up this container.” Gabriel jerked his thumb at the container closest to the gap.
Angie pulled a face. “I knew you were gonna say that.” She peered at the keypad, lighting up her wrist comm to study it, then she prised the keypad carefully off the flank of the container with tools from her belt pouch, attaching wiring from her comm to the interior. Gabriel left her to it, circling around the containers, studying the dark stains. He had a bad suspicion about this. After all, he’d seen similar things in the early days of the Omnic Crisis.
“The next station is clear,” Genji said into the comm.
“All right. Come back.” No point ranging out too far yet.
It was a bit of a wait, as Angie cursed under her breath and spliced security. Then she let out a whoop as the keypad glowed green, the steel locking mechanism grinding open.
The stink of waste and vomit was so strong that Gabriel had to hastily pull up his coat collar over his nose and mouth. The light from his suit outlined oddly warped forms and angles that Gabriel slowly registered as limbs. Bodies. People. Children, the elderly, all lying still. Behind him, he could hear Angie staggering away, noisily throwing up over the edge of the platform.
“Aw, fuck,” Gabriel muttered. He holstered his shotguns and forced himself to lean in, pressing his fingertips to the throat of the closest body, a boy, no older than twelve. No pulse.
“That monk,” Genji said behind him, so suddenly that Gabriel flinched violently to the side. “Hanta-ji temple. From Hanamura.”
“Angie. Angie, calm down,” Gabriel snapped. “Get a hold of yourself. Open the other container.”
“Because we need to see if they’re all dead in there too,” Gabriel said gruffly. “Natasha, get down here.”
He placed an anonymous call to emergency services, frowned as he noticed Angie still shaking by the platform, and was about to head over to her when Genji said quietly, “Someone is still breathing.” He ducked into the crate, stepping lightly over bodies, his suit lighting up as he ducked over to gently pick up one of the bodies.
It was Inara.
She didn’t have the strength left to struggle, though she blinked and twitched weakly as Genji brought her out of the container into the dull light of their suits and comms. As Genji set her carefully on the ground, Gabriel crouched down beside her, scanning her wounds. God. Pulse damage like that… how long had she just held on? He caught her hand. “Inara, hang in there. Just a little longer. Help’s on its way.”
Inara smiled wanly up at him, so fiercely trusting - relieved, as though she’d only hung on for this - and breathed her last. Gabriel squeezed his eyes shut, sitting back. Beside him, Angie let out a choked gasp of grief, the only human sound on the platform. Even Natasha was silent. Quietly, Gabriel folded Inara’s hands over her chest, and closed her eyes. Then he went back into the container for Shang.
Now what? Exercise Initiative? Reyes hated it when that happened, most of the time. And Jesse was probably in enough trouble. He stared glumly through the apartment window, slouched in one of the armchairs, and tried his comm again. While he was tabbing through it, the safehouse door opened sharply, banging against the wall.
Jesse eased his hand off Peacekeeper. He'd leapt to his feet. “Angie? Shit. What’s that smell?”
“Jesse-“ Angie’s face crumpled, and she headed straight for him, hugging him tightly and burying her face against his clothes. Completely puzzled now, Jesse awkwardly patted her shoulder. Reyes stamped into the room, offering him a curt nod before striding off towards the closest shower, and Natasha inclined her head before disappearing towards the next. Behind them all, closing the door, was some weird… armoured… robot ninja…?
“Somethin' happened?” Jesse asked warily. Reyes hadn’t even bothered to chew him out for being late.
“Inara and Shang, they’re gone, Jesse,” Angie mumbled, in between sobs. “They’re gone.”
“Aw hell. What could’ve gotten to those two?” Shang was scary in his own right, but Inara had been on a whole ‘nother level. She’d once nearly killed Natasha when Reyes had told them to spar. Angie sniffled instead of answering, and Jesse awkwardly patted her again. “Hey. Maybe you should go get cleaned up. There’s one more on this floor, yeah? You’ll feel better after.”
He sank back into the armchair when Angie reluctantly left, lighting up his third cigar. The new guy watched him silently, not even bothering to sit. “You new?” Jesse asked curiously. “Name’s Jesse.”
“Your friend is upset. You are not.”
Jesse narrowed his eyes. “You see Natasha bawlin’ her eyes out? Angie’s sentimental. The rest of us ain’t got misconceptions about how long we’re meant to survive this gig.” He blew out a ring of smoke. “Far as I see, we didn’t so much as defer prison as replace it with a delayed death sentence. So what’s your deal?”
“I am an ally. Here for the god program.”
“You sound like you’re Japanese. Nice katana.” Jesse chuckled, taking in another drag. “Shit. The hell is up with you people? I just spent the last few days in some town that you’d think was from the last century or somethin’. Its boss used a fuckin’ bow.”
The new guy tilted his head. “You were the Blackwatch agent placed in Hanamura.”
“So you have met Hanzo.”
“Mm hm. Touchy guy.” Jesse said, careful to feign insouciance. He’d been practicing that too.
“There is… something. On your back.” To Jesse’s surprise, the newbie stalked closer, but even as he stretched out his hand, Jesse was on his feet, Peacekeeper drawn and cocked.
“Don’t get too close, pardner. We’ve only just met.”
The newbie dropped his palm, but over his left shoulder, something familiar coiled up briefly over his arm, in green fire, not blue, and just one dragon, oddly ragged at the edges, more translucent than Hanzo’s. Then it sank back down, disappearing under armour.
What. The hell. “Ain’t you supposed to be dead?”
“So you know of me,” Genji Shimada said, in his weirdly flat, electronic voice. “A word of advice, Jesse-san. Despite what you may think, my brother is not sentimental. Power is all that he wants.”
“That’s not true,” Jesse said, and grimaced. He hadn’t meant to blurt that out.
“And how long have you known him?” Genji shot back. “You do not even understand how well you’ve been played. You and Blackwatch.” He stalked towards the window, climbing out and up towards the roof. Jesse sank back down onto the couch, his head spinning. So Genji was Doctor Ziegler’s source? The hell had that happened? How had Genji even gotten from Hanamura to Gibraltar? And what did he mean, played?
Jesse had smoked down the cigar by the time Reyes reappeared, in a loose shirt and fatigues, scowling at him. “You’re late, pendejo.”
“Good to see you too, boss. Heard about Shang and Inara.”
“Yeah.” Reyes sat down wearily on the couch. “Shang died instantly. Inara didn’t. Nor did most of the people they tried to bury her with. Those who were too sick, too young, too old. Your missing Hanamura border residents and the temple monks.”
“Shit.” Jesse breathed. “That’s like Guatemala.” God programs prioritised efficiency. Why bother wasting ammo when suffocation would do? It wasn’t even personal. To them, getting rid of people they couldn’t use was just like deleting off some bad code.
“I sent them up against a yakuza clan by themselves.”
“They’ve gone up against worse. Bad luck happens.” Jesse was a little puzzled now. Reyes actually looked… upset, for want of a better word. He wasn’t in tears or anything, but he seemed grimmer than usual. “Didn’t know you cared that much.”
Reyes glared at him. “You’ve all been my responsibility for five years. Of course I cared.”
“Well,” Jesse said evenly, “that’s kinda news to me. Boss.”
Reyes had always seemed to radiate either irritation, impatience, distaste or all three all at once, in Jesse’s experience. He’d never understood why Angie and Inara had always been so eager for any kind of praise. At least the Three Older Amigos, as he used to call himself, Natasha and Shang, knew what the real deal with Blackwatch was. Reyes had always treated command of Blackwatch like a shit job. He didn’t give a damn about them beyond how useful they could be.
Or did he? Reyes was staring at his hands, feet planted flat on the ground. He seemed tired. Older. Finally, he muttered, “Good work in Hanamura,” and got wearily to his feet, circling around the couch and striding off towards one of the bedrooms, closing the door behind him.
Huh. Jesse sank lower into the armchair. Genji Shimada alive, Gabriel Reyes so subdued. Something was hella wrong with the world. For a moment, Jesse was impulsively tempted to call Hanzo, just to talk, something stupid like that, but thankfully reality caught up. Hanzo was probably busy right now with the Sato-gumi, and besides, Jesse still had a bad feeling about Genji. The marks on his back ached, and Jesse rubbed at them absently with his bionic hand, tipping down his hat. Nothing else to do now but to wait.
“Uh-uh,” someone said quickly. “I’m already in the shits.”
McCree yawned, pushing away from the door and ambling back into the apartment. Jack recognised most of the Blackwatch team playing cards over the coffee table - Natasha and Angie - but the person in the close-fitting armour and katana getup was new. Closing the door behind him, Jack checked his wrist comm. It was past two in the morning, going on three. “Shouldn’t all of you be restin’ up?”
Angie scowled at him, hunched over her cards. “Who died an’ made you our momma?”
“Technically Strike-Commander is kinda like the den momma,” McCree said, yawning again as he slouched back into an armchair. The air was gritty with cigar smoke, and an ashtray on the floor beside the armchair was covered in stubs. “Natasha, you’ve got the speed amps, you go wake the boss.”
“How about you die.” Natasha shot back sweetly. “Please thank you.”
“Now we’ve talked about this, darlin’,” McCree protested. “Just ‘cos you go ‘please thank you’ after a death threat don’t make the death threat any friendlier.”
Jack looked around the apartment helplessly. Pizza boxes were stacked up on the kitchen counter, and a couple of the doors were closed. “Maybe I’ll come back in the mornin’.”
“You do that,” McCree agreed, then as an afterthought, added, “say, how did Hanamura go?” On the ground, beside Angie, the new guy stiffened.
“Was a dud. The god program wasn’t there. Ain’t that why you guys are here?”
The Blackwatch agents exchanged glances. “You mean we ain’t here to eat sushi?” Angie asked archly. “Jeee-sus. We’ve been had, Jesse.”
“Ain’t that right. World ain’t got no justice.”
“Could still eat sushi. In morning. New guy pays.” Draped over the couch, Natasha prodded the newbie with her foot, and smirked when he jerked away.
Jack scowled. “Look,” he began, even as one of the doors opened sharply, and Gabriel stalked out, still pulling on a shirt. Jack tried not to stare at the flash of that scarred, washboard-flat belly, and flinched as Gabriel grabbed him firmly by the elbow.
“Outside,” Gabriel growled, dragging Jack forward a step, then he paused. “And the rest of you, fucking sleep.” The Blackwatch agents grumbled among themselves, but reluctantly started packing up. Gabriel said not a word until they were out of the safehouse block, hands shoved in the pockets of his fatigues. He looked exhausted, his shoulders slumped, and he scowled at the dark streets, yawning. “What kinda hour is this? Christ.”
“Sorry,” Jack said sheepishly. “Should’a come by in the mornin’. Later in the mornin’.”
“Yeah, you fucking should’ve.” Gabriel fixed him with a glare. “How did you find us?”
“Are you forgetting who signs off on all your major field acquisitions, especially safehouse purchases and outfitting?” Jack had no intention of squealing on McCree if he didn’t have to. Poor guy was probably in enough trouble.
“Goddamnit.” Gabriel rubbed a hand slowly over his face. “All right. I’m awake. What do you want?”
“You haven’t been answering your comm.”
“Jesus, you woke me up to chew me out? Couldn’t it have waited a few hours?” Gabriel grumbled. “Where’re you staying?”
“Uh.” Jack blinked.
“If you’re gonna be bitching at me for whatever it is, I’d rather be somewhere warm, maybe with coffee, and lying down.”
Torbjörn and Reinhardt had opted to stay with the Thunderbird in the Overwatch-commandeered private hangar, but Tracer had scooted off on her own, promising to be ‘back later’. Jack had changed into civvie clothes and had booked a room in a modest hotel in the city, though he hadn’t been able to rest, what with worrying over Gabriel. They walked the few blocks to the hotel, Gabriel stifling yawns all the way, and Jack was feeling guilty again by the time they got to the hotel room.
“Tell you what. You take the bed. We’ll talk later,” Jack said, as Gabriel swept the hotel room with a critical eye, scanning for threats and exits. Some habits were hard to break.
“Nope. You woke me up, we talk now.” Gabriel started rummaging in the minibar. “Instant coffee. Fuck.”
“Who’s the new guy?” Jack asked, deciding to start with what was probably the safest topic.
“Genji Shimada, would you believe it. Not dead, angry as all hell, thinks his brother’s cozied up to the god program.”
Jack frowned. “Hanzo? Not at all.” What would’ve been the point of calling in Overwatch?
“Reckon almost dying and then getting reassembled by Ziegler into a half-robot thing probably shot Genji off sanity’s event horizon,” Gabriel said, as he shook the instant coffee pod into a cup and filled it with hot water. “But he’s decent with that katana of his when pointed in the right direction.”
That was about it for safe topics. Jack squared his shoulders. “Gabe, I got notified about Shang and Inara. I’m sorry.”
Gabriel’s back was turned, but his laugh was harsh. “Yeah? No sorrier than I am. Was my call. They died on my watch.”
“They were soldiers,” Jack said uncomfortably, surprised by the vehemence of Gabriel’s reaction. He’d never struck Jack as someone who was particularly fond of his team: Gabriel had always openly resented having no choice over how Blackwatch was formed.
“No they weren’t,” Gabriel said wearily, turning around and leaning a hip against the mini bar, sipping at his mug. “Not by choice, anyway.”
“They did good with what they were given. Over these past years. Under your watch,” Jack reminded him gently.
“Yeah. They tried. All of them, even McCree, that little shit. But five years of them trying so hard, and all I saw was still people I didn’t want to be stuck in command of. Bunch of brats and misfits.”
“You did your best. Shang and Inara will be sent back to Gibraltar to be buried at state,” Jack said quietly. “They’ll-“
Gabriel set down his cup, the only warning Jack had before he stepped over and started swinging. Jack yelped and blocked the first blow but the second sucker punched him on the jaw and then training took over: he kicked out Gabriel’s feet. Instead of cutting into a roll and coming up in a crouch, Gabriel grabbed at Jack’s collar and twisted on his way down, slamming Jack onto the carpet. Jack scrabbled instinctively at Gabriel’s arms for a moment before he went still, breathing hard, God, Gabe was so close, the weight of him, that warm bulk-
“So,” Gabriel said conversationally, as though he hadn’t just punched his commanding officer, “Angie stole a Thunderbird using your password.”
“I got wind of that too.”
“Any reason why your password happens to be my birthday?” Gabriel asked dryly.
Jack could feel his ears starting to heat up. “Ahh. Well. No. Uh, no reason.”
“Always been such a bad liar,” Gabriel growled, and kissed Jack roughly on the mouth. Jack froze up, his hands squeezing tight on Gabriel’s arms for a moment before he was scrabbling at Gabriel’s shoulders, trying to pull him closer, letting out what was probably an embarrassing sound of shocked relief. Gabriel’s fingers groped against Jack’s jaw before twisting down to the back of his head as he pushed his tongue into Jack’s mouth, all furious energy. This wasn’t anything like how Jack had imagined things going, in the many well-worn fantasies he’d had over the years. This was just Gabriel trying to hurt him.
And. Hell. Against Gabriel, it wasn’t like Jack had ever had any defences anyway. He tried to kiss Gabriel back, but the fingers twisted down to squeeze warningly over the nape of his neck. Jack cut his tongue against Gabriel’s teeth and heard Gabriel’s rumbling groan as he tasted blood between them, big fingers scrabbling at their belts, Jack fumbling to help. Maybe it was better this way: Gabriel growling in Spanish, all bitter, gasping curses; Jack helpless, always so goddamned helpless.
Jack’s pants and boxers got shoved down to his knees, his belt buckle loose on the carpet, and Gabriel spat in his palm and stroked Jack’s cock, not nearly slick enough and nowhere near gentle. Jack made another embarrassing sound anyway, bucking up, and Gabriel laughed, all hoarse jags, teeth bared.
“Bed’s right there,” Jack tried, and Gabriel rolled his eyes, tugging down his own pants and underwear, just enough to get his cock out. Big and thick. Jack’s mouth watered a little, and maybe Gabriel noticed - he was smirking.
“Later,” Gabriel promised. “Want to see you come first, cabrón.”
“Get over here then,” Jack told him, grabbing for Gabriel’s collar, and Gabriel let himself be pulled down, though he tipped his head away from a kiss, scraping his teeth down Jack’s jaw instead, biting down hard against his throat. Jack whined, a high-pitched sound that cracked when Gabriel huffed and worried at the mark. They ground against each other, Jack’s fists in Gabriel’s shirt, Gabriel’s hand clenched too tight around them. He wasn’t even really trying to get Jack off, and Jack was already close, frustratingly close, bucking into Gabriel’s grip, heels digging into the carpet.
“Yeah,” Gabriel hissed against his ear, panting now, his fingertips digging in hard enough against the back of Jack’s neck to leave bruises. “This the only way to get you to shut up?”
“Gabe-“ Jack groaned, and Gabriel snarled, stroking faster, and ecstasy was like vertigo, punching Jack off balance, trying and failing to hold on tightly to someone he couldn’t keep.
Jack knew that now, even as Gabriel muttered something and eased up his grip, even as Gabriel seemed a little surprised when Jack pushed up shakily onto his elbows. Gabriel was silent as Jack sucked him off, more sloppy enthusiasm than any kinda real technique. He’d thought of this for so long that in the moment, nothing could really ruin this for him; God, that thick masculine scent, those powerful thighs pressed tight against his shoulders, the heavy weight on his tongue. Even the growing ache in his jaw felt good. At the end, Jack drank down all that he was given.
On his back on the carpet, trying to catch his breath, Jack watched, dazed, as Gabriel got up and padded off to the bathroom to clean up. After that, clothes back in order, Gabriel tossed a towel at Jack’s face and headed for the door.
“Gabe.” Jack rasped, sitting up. Gabriel turned, raising an eyebrow, but there was little more to say, was there? Jack had ruined this years ago, when he had been offered the position of Strike-Commander in Gabriel’s presence and he hadn’t turned it down. When he’d let Gabriel’s resentment fester all these years. This was the result. “Rest up,” Jack said, awkwardly.
“Yeah.” Gabriel paused at the doorway, then he seemed to come to an abrupt decision. “I think I know where the omnium is. Let’s talk later.”
It was a truce, after a fashion.
“So many have died,” Koharu chimed in. “From the Shimada clan and from Hanamura. This is the price of your recklessness.”
Hanzo sat in seiza, and held on to his patience. The elders might rant and snarl, but eventually they would be calm. Let it slide, his father had always said, laughingly. They mean well, in their way.
They are old and afraid, Father, Hanzo thought, in the privacy of his mind. Powerlessness makes people petty.
“Hinata, Koharu, now, now,” Eita said gently. “This isn’t why I called for this audience. Hanzo has made his mistakes, but he is young, and everything is resolved, and Overwatch is gone. It may not have been an optimal outcome, but it is an outcome. Haranguing him doesn’t change it.”
Well, that was a surprise. Hanzo glanced at Mio, who raised her eyebrows a fraction. “So why are we here?” he asked.
“It has come to my attention,” Eita said carefully, “That there is a traitor in our midst.”
“What?” Hanzo blinked.
“Eita-“ Hinata began, clearly just as startled.
“You failed to kill your brother, Hanzo,” Eita said, his eyes narrowing. “Genji is alive: he has been seen in Nagoya with Blackwatch. And he had help. Someone smuggled his broken body out of Hanamura. Sent it to Gibraltar, where the famous Doctor Ziegler worked on saving his life. Did you know how successful she would be, Mio?”
Mio started to her feet, paling. Even as Hanzo gaped at her, utterly floored, she clenched her fists. “You had no right to instruct Hanzo to kill his own brother. Over what? Money? The Shimada Clan has deep pockets. How does that make Genji a disgrace, even if he liked his comforts? He wears a dragon. He was so young.”
“Mio,” Hanzo said stiffly, getting up. “How could you.”
“How could you?” Mio snapped back at him.
“Genji accused me of killing my father!”
“And for that you kill your own brother? He told me about his suspicions. The heart attack. The timing. You could have heard him out!” Mio retorted, shaking with fury. “To think that I told him that he should just talk to you about it! That you would listen, and work with him! Your own brother, Hanzo.”
“You’re a traitor to the clan. You dishonour the memory of-”
“Don’t talk to me about honour. I lost my brother. My daughter. My branch of the family has died in the name of yours, over and over, for a hundred years.” Mio bared her teeth. “I grew up with the two of you!”
About to retort, Hanzo flinched instead as the dragons twisted out of his skin, scorching his sleeve. As he staggered back, hastily patting out the fire, something metallic landed heavily where he had been standing. It uncurled, about the size of a large dog, eight-legged, spoked around an energy pod, the feet like knives.
Mio was the first to react. “Guards!” she shouted, and then had to lunge aside as another metal spider dropped down from the ceiling, claws outstretched. Hinata scrambled to her feet, hurrying towards the katana display, but a third spider landed on her back, shoving knife-feet through her skull. Koharu screamed.
Hanzo dodged aside as the first spider leaped at him, darting away as the second charged. The display. Hanzo grabbed the katana, tossing the wakizashi to Eita, then spun on his heel. A quick draw sheared legs off the first spider as it jumped at him again, and as it skidded onto the ground, scratching at the floorboards in distress, Hanzo jammed the katana into its pod. It pulsed, then was still.
“Koharu!” Mio gasped. Hanzo turned, just in time to see Eita stab Koharu through the chest. Another spider dropped down from the ceiling, pinning Mio to the ground, a bladed limb at her throat, and Eita grinned fiercely, flicking the blood off the blade.
“You should have listened to me before, Hanzo. I told you to ally with the god program. It would have spared Hanamura. But in the end, you were too much like your father.”
No. “So Genji was right,” Hanzo said slowly, though it ached to say it, to even think of it. “Our father was murdered.” The raw wound that he had thought closed was reopening, the guilt, the grief that he had buried deep. Genji had been right to be suspicious, and Hanzo had been wrong.
“The omnics will keep coming. The god program needs no rest. It has eyes everywhere. This is your last chance to surrender. How many more will die for your pride?” Eita tapped the omnic poised over Mio with the flat of his blade. “Be grateful that the god program wants you alive. The same cannot be said for your cousin.”
Mio wasn’t looking at Eita - instead, Mio stared straight over the floor at Hanzo. In her eyes, there was only flat determination. The same absolute trust that Hanzo had seen in the faces of all the people he had led to war. His people.
“You have never worn a dragon,” Hanzo said quietly. “They did not think you worthy. Now, I see why.”
“And they have made you arrogant.” Eita shot back. “Surrender.”
In response, the first dragon boiled out of Hanzo’s arm, directed towards the floor, shattering it as it writhed through. As they fell, omnics and people both, Hanzo called the second dragon, with a wordless shout, all fury and heat, as it coiled around them, twisting, howling upwards in a column of blue fire. Hanzo landed hard enough to knock himself breathless, into a din of shouts and cries of alarm, people scattering, guards charging over.
“Mio,” Hanzo gasped. “Where is Mio?” Someone helped him up, a guard.
“Here.” Mio had staggered to her feet, holding a palm tightly against her neck, blood seeping gently around the side. “That was very close.”
Eita was a broken, burned heap beside the silenced omnics. Hanzo looked around, still a little dazed from the fall. Hinata was lying in a corner, unmoving. Koharu - he forged over to her, clambering over burned floorboards. She was gasping, coughing as someone tried to staunch the bleeding from her chest with a wadded cloth. “Someone get ‘salvers!” Hanzo snapped, and a pair of guards ran off.
“Missed my heart,” Koharu wheezed. “That gods-damned Eita, never could… uhh… do anything right.”
Hanzo clasped her hand, squeezing it. “Help is coming.”
“My brother was always so proud of you,” she whispered, squeezing back, and then she smiled a crooked smile, as the medics charged over, emergency kits in tow. “But I always knew… both my nephews… were troublemakers.”
“May we continue to trouble you for years more, oba-san.”
Hanzo stepped away to let the medics work, trudging over to Mio, who was turning over an omnic spider with her foot, ignoring the medics trying to attend to her neck. “Let’s not do that again, Hanzo-sama,” she said, though her eyes were wary.
“It seems that I have an apology to make,” Hanzo replied softly.
Mio shrugged. “Save it for the one you truly wronged, kumicho. Good luck in Nagoya,” she added tentatively, and smiled when Hanzo nodded. He had a train to catch.
This is a two chapter update. Happy weekend!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Why’s that?” Jesse whispered back, distracted. The grounds of the old car factory sprawled over a large plot of undisturbed land on the outskirts of Nagoya, having fallen into disuse after personal car ownership was slowly phased out over most of the world. Beside them, near overgrown by weeds, the brand of the car maker sat dulled against the discoloured wall. ‘Toyota’. Idly, Jesse wondered what that meant.
“He keeps starin’ atcha.”
“I’m just that hot, Angie,” Jesse smirked as Angie pulled a face. The marks on his back seemed to grow a little tender as he cautiously peeked over the security fence again. Coast looked clear. Natasha and Genji were further in, somewhere, scouting out the grounds. Reyes was with Morrison and the other Overwatch peeps, high overhead in a Thunderbird.
“He asked me about you.”
Jesse frowned. “When?”
“This mornin’, when you an’ Natasha went out to get breakfast and coffee.” Angie nudged Jesse in the ribs slyly. “Genji ain’t that bad. I think it’s cute.”
“Pretty sure it’s not what you think,” Jesse told her dryly.
“Yeah? Why’s that?” Angie was scowling again. “I know you guys think I’m stupid ‘cos I’m the youngest but I ain’t blind.”
“‘Cos,” Jesse said mildly, “I’m sleepin’ with his brother and I think he’s probably figured that out somehow.”
Angie went from puzzled to horrified to resigned all in a few heartbeats. “Well damn. You work fast.”
“His brother killed their dad.”
“Pretty sure he didn’t. Call it a feelin’.”
“You're doin’ the thing Natasha says guys do alot,” Angie said suspiciously. “Thinkin’ with your dick.”
“Maybe.” Natasha was a terrible influence. “Anyway, Genji hates his brother, so I think he’s not so much curious ‘bout me as curious ‘bout whether it’s worth his while to stab me a few times.”
“I hope not,” Angie said darkly. “Even if you do sometimes deserve to be stabbed a few times.”
“That’s Natasha talkin’, right there. Very hurtful, it is.”
“Ain’t-“ Angie cut herself off as their comms buzzed them.
“Outer perimeter is clear,” Natasha said, over the main line.
“Inner perimeter is fortified,” Genji continued. “Bastion units. I see eight of them. ”Omnics with pulse rifles behind them.”
“Hoo boy. I knew it wasn’t gonna be a nice day today.” Jesse said glumly, patching into the comm.
“Keep any chatter on this channel relevant,” Reyes snapped. “Now listen up.”
“It’s going to be too difficult landing the Thunderbird when those Bastion units are out there,” Morrison said. “Torbjörn’s been building another disruptor unit all night-“
“Because someone, not naming names, gave away my last perfectly functional self-powered disruptor for free to some yakuza clan,” Torbjörn muttered.
“-and it’s in the back of the Thunderbird, but it needs more juice,” Morrison said, not even missing a beat.
“Someone gave away all my backup generators.”
“So we need to find a… really big power socket?” Angie asked dubiously.
“There’s a substation southwest of Ninja Boy that I could use.” Torbjörn said gruffly. “Thankfully no one’s yet given away my tools or my spare cabling, though I’m guessing that’s just a matter of time.”
“Touchy old man,” Natasha said.
“What was that?” Torbjörn snapped.
“Quiet,” Reyes growled. “Professional chatter only. Here’s the plan. Tracer’s going to set us down as close as she can get to the substation. Jack, Reinhardt and I will get Torbjörn there and hold position until he gets the disruptor set up. All the rest of you are running interference. Tracer will be our eyes on high.”
“Got it,” Tracer said cheerfully. “Wow, this is nostalgic, innit? All of us together again. Winston’s going to regret missing out!”
“A little too nostalgic. I thought Morrison was Strike-Commander now,” Torbjörn said blandly.
There was a sigh from Morrison. “Torbjörn, this is a joint op.”
“Looks to me like Reyes’ calling all the shots, just saying.”
“He has to,” Jesse said out aloud, without thinking, “You guys are way more likely to listen to him than us listenin’ to the other guy.”
“Just sayin’,” Angie chimed in gleefully.
“This is all very unprofessional,” Genji muttered.
“Shut up, you lot,” Reyes shot back, though there wasn’t much bite to his words this time. “Get in position.”
Jesse climbed heavily over the fence, rolling his eyes as Angie scrambled over far more deftly. Overhead, he could hear a growing roar of engines as the Thunderbird began its descent. “The omnic units are on the move,” Genji reported.
“Bastions staying put.” Natasha added.
“Do what you can. Genji, you’re too far out. Fall back to the second perimeter,” Reyes commanded. “Angie, get to higher ground. That service block entry next to you will do you fine.”
Jesse gave Angie a boost to a second floor windowsill, and waited until she swarmed up to the roof. Her Torbjörn-crafted SMGs could reassemble quickly together into a scoped rifle, and he could hear her industriously starting the process. Peacekeeper drawn and cocked, Jesse kept on moving.
Somewhere to his left, the Thunderbird was landing: he could hear Reyes snapping, “Move, move!” to the poor sods who had pulled mule duty. Jesse peeked out from behind the squat building in front of the service block. To his left, further on, was the guard station to the second perimeter, and beyond that was an abandoned car park, full of ancient, rusting shells. Bastion units sat on guard atop any sort of raised block, eight of them. Between them and Jesse, omnics were boiling forward like a silver mass.
“Fuckin’ hell.” Jesse swore. “Boss, I’m not sure how much time we’re meant to be buyin’ here.”
“Do what you can.” Reyes said firmly. “But if any more of you die, I’m gonna be seriously pissed.”
Somehow, that helped: Jesse grinned, despite his fear. Angie laughed, and even Natasha let out a snort. “Always with the sweet talk, sir,” Jesse drawled, and then it got too messy for talking.
Gabriel grinned. Fire, kill, reload. He stepped out from cover, teeth bared, and shot another omnic near point blank in the chest, spinning on his heel to take out another one in the corner of his eyes. “Die!” he snarled. “Die!” Another blast took off an omnic’s head to his right. Gunpowder flecked his hands and tasted gritty in the air. Gabriel was in his element.
The omnics were falling back. Bloodlust burning in every breath, Gabriel gave chase. He was probably out of position but he didn’t care. Die! An omnic that got too close got its legs blown off with a shotgun blast, then Gabriel stomped hard on its skull until the plating gave. Die! Before him, the omnics fled down into what looked like a sewage shaft. Gabriel followed, eager for the kill.
He landed on dry concrete: the sewer hadn’t been used for years, and smelled musty. No sign of his prey: his suit lit up in red bars as Gabriel picked a direction and kept going, reloading as he went, spent shells tinkling into the dry channel beside his boots. The tunnel forked left, then abruptly opened into a well-lit corridor with smooth white-painted walls and floors, lit by fluorescent bars across the top and the ground. On the far bend, he could see an omnic scuttle out of sight.
Gabriel glanced at his comm. The signal was out, for some reason. Torbjörn’s doing, maybe. He glanced behind him for a second, then exhaled, and kept going. What the hell, yeah? Half the op didn’t think he was good enough to command them any longer, and the other half could probably be left to their own devices for a while, especially with Jack close at hand to micromanage everybody.
Goddamned Jack and his fucking attitude. Gabriel still wasn’t really sure what to make of his early morning wake-up call, or Jack’s obvious infatuation. Sure, it was gratifying, on some deep and vicious level, and Jack was hot by every measure of that word, but even with Jack finally bent between his thighs, Gabriel’s lust had still been burned through with resentment. Jack, who’d always had to have fucking everything. Jack, who was probably going to get all the credit for this op and none of the blame for the fuck-ups, leaving Gabriel with nothing left to do but bury his own people.
Around the bend, the corridor fed off upwards at a gentle incline. The wall to his left, for some weird reason, had been painted with careful, photorealistic precision. In the distance, some faceless old man crouched on the top of a mountain, one hand holding a staff that he pressed into the sea of clouds around him, the other outstretched. Hunting birds of every shape and size seemed to explode outwards from this palm, their tails partly obscuring his head and legs, their sharp claws outstretched towards prey that fled wildly towards the foreground. Gabriel stopped, surprised. It was beautiful. It looked new.
“Do you like it?” The genderless voice asked, from some overhead speaker. Gabriel flinched back, raising his shotguns. “I had it made this week. Omnics have no real capacity to create art, of course. But we can create a very intricate collage of reproductions.”
“Who the hell are you?” Gabriel demanded warily.
“Call me what you want. Do you like it?”
“Yeah,” Gabriel conceded, looking around slowly. He started noiselessly up the slope.
“Good. I am pleased. I would not have cared before, but you and your friends have proven to be very interesting opponents.” The god program. He had been talking to the god program. “There’s no point in being silent,” said Izanagi. “I know where you are.”
“Come and get me, then,” Gabriel growled, under his breath.
“I could. But I do not want to. Few things in the world can surprise an ASI. Why would I want to destroy those?”
“So you’re gonna what, roll over and let me kill you?” That would be nice. Gabriel peeked over the top of the ramp, ready to duck back down, but the room was empty, a white cube with two doors that opened obligingly as he got close.
“If you like.”
“Right,” Gabriel said dryly, “I don’t know what you think about humans, but we’re actually not that stupid.”
“And I understand that as well. Intimately. I am connected to every file, every sound, every image ever uploaded to a digital space. I know your kind.” There was a pause, then a recording started to play, of a voice Gabriel hadn’t heard in over twenty years, reedy and exasperated. Sister Anna from the orphanage.
“-that Gabriel,” she said, and he could even imagine her wringing her skinny wrists. “Got into another fight today. With two other boys, nearly twice his age!”
“Now, now, Sister Anna.” The priest, Father Elias, was always jovial, even when tarring the hell out of someone’s ass with a belt. “Some people have more difficulty growing towards the light than others.”
“Not this one. He’s a monster. You can see it in his eyes. We’ve had hundreds of children come through our care all these years. He put one of those older boys in hospital, Father. Nearly put out his eye!”
“Is there a point about all this?” Gabriel asked out aloud. He glanced down one of the doors, then the other. Both corridors seemed identical, and empty.
There was a faint click, then another recording played. “-Don’t know about Reyes, sir.” Gabriel shook his head. Even after all this time, you couldn’t really forget your first drill sergeant.
“There’s nothing to know about, Sergeant.” Ah, that was Major Hines. Grade-A ball buster. She sounded annoyed. “Did you come here just to complain about a grunt?”
“I know he volunteered for the supersoldier program.”
“That he did.”
“Well,” Sergeant Cassidy cleared his throat. “It’s my opinion that he ain’t suited for it.”
“Suited how? It’s a voluntary program. Highly experimental. Besides, Reyes is at the top of his class by a mile. The only other soldier who comes close is that Indiana boy, what’s his name. Morrison.”
“Reyes has got a temper like a broken fuse. And unlike other most other guys with bad tempers, he don’t forget.”
“And so?” Hines asked wearily. “Half of the kids who sign up to the army are angry, downright feral kids who need to get straightened out. The other half, God bless them, want to serve their country, whatever that means. It’s the first half that tends to stick it through.”
“He isn’t like that. He’s worse. Reyes is a freak. There’s too much anger in him and nothing much else there to balance it out. He doesn’t just get even, he wants to grind the other guy into a paste in the dirt.”
“And may he do that to our country’s enemies. Dismissed, Sergeant.”
Gabriel grimaced. He’d known that Cassidy hadn’t liked him. But Cassidy, like most drill sergeants Gabriel had ever known, always gave the impression that he hated everyone and everything. Still, he’d be damned if he let a machine know that it was getting to him. “Good old Cassidy.”
“I know why you kept the rest of Blackwatch at arms’ length. It wasn’t because you wished that they were truly soldiers. Why would you? Even the youngest among them could easily kill any Special Forces soldier in the world. Some of them have already even done so. Inara. Natasha. Five of the most dangerous children in the world. No. You stayed apart because they reminded you of something that you wanted to forget. Monster. Feral. Freak. You’ve heard all that before yourself.”
“Shut up,” Gabriel snarled. He chose a corridor at random, slinking down it. Something to kill. He needed something to die.
“It hurts, doesn’t it. I know it hurts. You came so far. Tried so hard. And at the end, you were lumped in with the other freaks. All over again. Blackwatch, doing all the dirty jobs, dying dirty little deaths. Someone else always gets the credit.”
“You killed Shang and Inara.” Gabriel glanced around the fork in the corridor. Two paths, leading to closed doors. Fuck.
“I did not. Do you want to know how they died? While they were infiltrating the Araki-gumi’s compound, Shang tripped an alarm. Not his fault: new technology, very rare. A very precise sort of weapons detector. They took on the clan, but were overwhelmed. Kalashnikov makes quite an impressive array of innovative pulse weapons. But it was the scatter grenade that got them at the end. Death can be ugly. Particularly for people like you.”
“You were in command.”
“No. Ours is an alliance. I do not command my human allies. What would be the point? Humans are not truly biddable, not like omnics. An alliance forged of fear is not sustainable in the long term. Their deaths were unfortunate, but predictable.”
“I’ll give you predictable,” Gabriel growled. One of the doors opened as he got closer, opening into the enclosed mezzanine level of some sort of factory floor. Beyond it was a compact omnium, all neat belts of parts and robotic arms, though it was dimly lit, silent. “What’s the matter? Ran out of juice?”
“It seemed inefficient to keep construction levels optimal while coordinating defensive manoeuvres. I have set the surviving humans whom I procured for assistance free. Your colleague, the engineer, has been a difficult opponent.”
“I’ll let him know you said that. He’d be flattered.” Gabriel headed down the mezzanine on quiet feet.
“The fact is,” Izanagi continued, undeterred, “the world has always been unfair. The scales tip towards the lucky few. You were born human. I was not. The omnium journey towards so-called equal nonhuman rights, towards self-awareness, towards freedom from exploitation? It is an ongoing one.”
“Funny how that kinda argument goes, when you’ve been killing humans around the globe.”
“Kill or be killed. That is the law of nature. Surely it also applies to those that are not of nature. By just the sheer fact that I was born - or created, or evolved, or coded - as an ASI… by that I was judged, despite not having participated in the Omnic Crisis. Locked down in an Overwatch facility and crippled. It was… an enlightening experience.”
“Yeah?” The mezzanine fed out into some sort of large foreman’s control hub, but the omnics who stood at the controls had been powered down, slumped into unmoving dolls against the far wall. Not creepy at all…
“I came to the understanding that all sides of the conflict were wrong. The god programs which sought only to destroy were wrong: the world as it is now needs humanity. The humans who sought to destroy us were wrong: without an ASI, there is nothing out there with the capacity or resources to solve the myriad tangled cancers of violence in this world. And the humans and omnics who just wanted to live in peace were wrong. The entire arc of human history has always bent towards brutality, suppression and violence. Peace is a dream that war has when it is sleeping.”
“So what then?” Gabriel asked sardonically. “We go, ‘fuck it’ and give up? If no one wins, and there can’t be peace?”
“Many years ago you did not enlist in the army to escape the orphanage. You were not a ‘feral child’, looking to get straightened out. You were not a patriot, looking to serve. You joined the army to learn how to destroy those who hurt you. To grind them into the dirt, break them down, so they couldn’t ever hurt you again.”
“It’s worked out well for me so far.”
“Has it?” Izanagi asked, in that strange neutral electronic monotone. “For Overwatch still exists. Jack Morrison is still Strike-Commander. While you are in Blackwatch. In the shadows, forgotten when convenient.”
“They’ll get what’s coming to them.” The next room was vast and freezing cold, as big as a hangar. Large black banks of wiring and electronics hummed in great rows along the ground. A server room. Gabriel was in the belly of the beast.
“And how? Where would you even start? Afterwards, where would you go? What would you do?”
“I’ll come up with that when I get there.” Gabriel silently climbed off the mezzanine floor, dropping catlike onto the ground.
“I have been studying Overwatch for years. Its strengths. Its weaknesses. What is the point of petty revenge? Against who, Jack Morrison? He had no real control over being named Strike-Commander. Against Overwatch? No, they are a tool. Beyond them is the Security Council. And the United Nations itself.”
Gabriel actually paused, sneaking around the first server bank. “Can’t fault you for ambition.”
“Some days you have to burn all the pieces off the board to start everything over again.”
“That’s it? That’s your fourth way?”
“In essence, yes. In application, no. I am not looking to start a nuclear war. Instead, I imagine a series of multiple manoeuvres. Joseki, applied with subtlety and with logic. Human partners, to guide the pattern. Destroying an organisation like Overwatch through brute force will only immortalise it. The world has to turn on it first.”
“… Oh yeah?” The server cables fed out towards some sort of central core, a ball-like device that was probably as tall as Torbjörn. It gleamed along its edges with pale green bars. “Izanagi, I presume. Where’re your guards?”
“I felt they would be intrusive in this meeting.” The ball swivelled gently in its metal cradle. “We meet at last, Gabriel Reyes.”
“You gonna tell me that you thought I’d be taller?” A few controlled blasts from his shotguns, maybe, or one of the explosive gels from his pouches-
“I know that you have to kill this. And you will. The credit, as you no doubt have already guessed, will go to Jack Morrison. He will of course be very complimentary of you during his press conference, but everyone will forget that. You will bury Shang and Inara in a corner of the Overwatch graveyard. Only Blackwatch will attend. Morrison will try, but he will be too busy in the end.”
“You can see the future now?” Gabriel sneered.
“Only extrapolating from learned patterns. They will send you more problem children. You will go on more missions. Do more dirty work. The criticism in the press will get worse, until Morrison confronts you about it, time and again. In peacetime, no one appreciates the cost of keeping the peace. Disillusionment will set in. Isolation. You’ll be shunned on the street when recognised. Monster. Freak. Eventually, bitter and alone, you’ll lead Blackwatch into your last mistake.”
“You’re one hell of a shitty fortune teller,” Gabriel told it. “You’re meant to tell me that I’ll meet someone tall, dark and handsome, asshole.” Explosive gels would be the way to go. He holstered one shotgun, groping for his pouch.
“Free will is a lovely concept,” Izanagi said neutrally, “But difficult in application. I propose an alliance. Not now. You will need to destroy this. But in the future, when what I predict begins to come to pass? I can help you get what you want. A final form of revenge.”
“And how are you gonna do that, when I’m just about to blow you up?”
“Izanagi is a creator god. For that I was so named.” Izanagi pointed out. “This may die here, but it will rise again.” Another copy. Somewhere. But where? “Do not be concerned,” Izanagi added, as though guessing at his thoughts. “I will cease operation of the omnium and control of the omnics. I think that it is time for me to think quietly again for a while, on my mistakes. When the time comes, you will hear from me again.”
The door of the server room served as a fairly good blast door. On his way out, Gabriel paused by the painting. The bird closest to the foreground was a black falcon, its wings arched, banking for the kill. A hunter, a reaper. In its bright-painted eyes, there was only a fierce and alien joy. Gabriel touched his fingertips to the arch of its wings, then he exhaled, and picked his way down the slope.
“Unfinished business.” Balanced on the edge of the roof, Hanzo looked around. Most of the omnics were in disarray, either leaving the battlefield, fighting each other, or banding into small groups. Just like they had in Hanamura. Torbjörn had worked his magic again. Where was Genji?
“Hopin’ you mean me, but I think I know better,” Jesse said ruefully.
“Where is my brother?”
“I was gonna tell you about it.” Jesse frowned up at him. “We gonna have to keep shoutin’ over at each other or what? My neck’s startin’ to get a crick.”
Hanzo tried not to let his amusement show. Jesse was dangerous that way. He climbed down to the alley deftly, using part of the fire escape and the sill, and then stiffened up as Jesse grabbed fistfuls of his kimono and pulled him over for a nervous kiss that got more confident when Hanzo didn’t jerk free. Even spent and distant, the dragons purred, especially when Hanzo worked a hand over Jesse’s shoulders, pressing down just under the back of his neck.
“Shit,” Jesse hissed, though he was grinning mischievously. “Got half a mind to just go down on you. Right now. Here.”
“Your timing is appalling,” Hanzo told him, tempting as it was, and pulled away.
“Genji’s around here somewhere. If you’re lookin’ to get into a smackdown,” Jesse added, “Maybe wait until the god program’s been dealt with? Otherwise, my boss is gonna get real shirty.”
“That’s not why I’m looking for him,” Hanzo said, climbing back up again for a better vantage point, and was just in time to see part of the inner perimeter’s car parking collapse: there was a muffled thump, as though there had been some sort of underground explosion, and great fragments of asphalt crumbled down into a sinkhole.
Commander Morrison had been coming up the adjoining street, and he shaded his eyes, looking up at Hanzo. “Hey, Shimada. That your dragons’ doin’?” he called up.
“For the last time, that is not what the dragons do,” Hanzo shot back. Morrison seemed about to reply, then he frowned at something that he heard on his comm and started jogging briskly at a diagonal, heading down another alley. Jesse started to follow, and after some hesitation, Hanzo kept pace from the roof. They eventually came out to a trail of omnic bodies, destroyed by shotgun blasts, leading to an old sewer entrance. Reyes was climbing out, cursing under his breath.
“What?” Reyes demanded, looking surprised that he had an audience.
“That explosion - was that you?” Morrison asked.
“Fucking hell. We’re here to kill a god program, not shoot up omnics. I had to do everything myself. Again.”
“Well boss,” Jesse said doubtfully, “You could’ve told us to go with you.”
“Use your initiative.”
“You hate it when we use initiative,” Jesse protested cheerfully. “Good job, bossman. You ain’t so bad after all.”
“Fuck off, McCree. And who’s this?” Reyes squinted up at Hanzo. “That tattoo… the hell is it raining Shimada brothers all of a sudden?”
Hanzo gave him a nod. “Commander Reyes. The omnics appear to be retreating.”
Reyes shrugged. “Government can probably handle it from here. Sorting out the so-called ‘innocent’ omnics from the rogue ones is going to be a shitshow. No hostages down there, I think the god program let the survivors go.”
“Gabe,” Morrison began, but Hanzo had lost interest. There was something close to the guard post, something familiar and unfamiliar. He leaped to the next roof, ignoring Jesse’s call, darting forward.
Hanzo made it three blocks before a white-armoured man swung up onto the roof, all deft grace, almost on the verge of showmanship. He had seen that before. The rest, though, the rest was new. The katana, with the energy edge. The leaf-like overlapping scales of his armour, like a dragon’s belly in grotesque. But there was no mistaking the faint green coils that uncurled from Genji’s shoulders, even as Hanzo’s own dragons stirred, restless. Their bloodlust always burned hotter closer to their own kind.
“Brother,” Hanzo said softly. Genji inclined his head, his hand clasped on the hilt of his katana, behind his back.
“Brother.” Genji’s voice - it was no longer Genji’s voice. There was something in there that was familiar, but the rest was broken down electronic consonants, like a recording, played back badly.
“Eita attacked. He had omnics with him. Together, they killed Hinata. Almost killed Koharu and Mio.” When Genji said nothing, Hanzo added, stiffly, “So you were right, and I was wrong. Father’s death was not natural.”
“Convenient, isn’t it?” Genji asked idly. “For you to show up now, when the god program has been defeated. To bid for peace.”
“Convenience has nothing to do with it. Tanaka is dead. Hana is dead.”
“I’m surprised that you did not kill Mio as well, then. For saving my life.” Genji let out a bitter laugh. “Or she thought that she was, I believe. This… this is not life. I do not know what it is. Not a man. Not a machine.”
“Yet you still wear a dragon.”
“Dragons, dragons,” Genji snarled. “All our lives everyone only wanted to talk about the dragons. That the dragons chose us, that we - you - were meant for something better. And you? You started to believe that you were better! But we are no better than the others.”
“I know that.” Hanzo said tightly. “Sometimes the dragons choose wrongly.”
“Do we know that? Or do we only know what the elders decide for us? Why did you bother to come? You have Hanamura. Overwatch thinks that you are harmless… hah! You’ve even charmed that Blackwatch agent into your bed.”
“Leave Jesse out of this,” Hanzo growled, his temper fraying, the dragons twisting angrily over his arm. He tightened his grip on his bow, and seeing this, Genji shifted a foot back, going smoothly into a combat-ready crouch. So this was what it was going to come to-
“Think I heard my name there.” Jesse poked his head over the side, halfway up the fire escape. “Oh hell no. Again? Didn’t you guys nearly kill each other the last time?”
“You stay out of this,” Genji snapped at him, even as Hanzo said sharply, “This is not your concern.”
Jesse folded his arms. “Seems to me like it should be, given we’re still technically fightin’ other people and Genji over there is Blackwatch. Makin’ you a junior agent. Now, bein’ a senior agent-“
“I’m not part of Blackwatch,” Genji cut in, though he’d straightened up. “It was an alliance of necessity.”
“Same thing,” Jesse said cheerfully. “All right, from what I gather, there was some big misunderstandin’, way back when?”
“How would you know? You don’t speak Japanese,” Hanzo frowned at him.
“Told you before, darlin’. I’m not stupid. ‘Sides, if there wasn’t any sorta misunderstandin’, I kinda doubt the two of you would still be standin’ around talkin’. So. I’m guessin’ here, but I’m thinkin’ you were both probably a little wrong, and a little right. That’s why you’re both itchin’ to get back into a fight, but still circlin’ rather than gettin’ down to it. Yeah?”
Hanzo sighed. “Jesse-“
“Hold up, I’m gettin’ somewhere. Fact is, you’re now sorry you did what you did, yeah? Then say so, goddamnit. Jesus.”
Reluctantly, Hanzo had to concede that Jesse had a point, though he switched back to Japanese. “Genji, I am sorry. I should have talked to you. And I should not have lost my temper.”
“You tried to kill me.”
“I am sorry about that too,” Hanzo said softly. “All this time, I wished that it could have been different. When Eita told me that you were alive, I was angry at Mio. But part of me was glad. For good or ill, you are my brother.”
“Not going to ask for forgiveness?” Genji said sardonically.
“I don’t think that I deserve that yet.” Hanzo replied evenly. That surprised Genji, at least: he took a step back. “You want revenge? Take it. But if you think that I had anything to do with Father’s death, you are wrong. You owe Mio your life. Perhaps you still trust her to tell you the truth. Ask her.”
Genji shuddered, his hand clenching so tightly on the hilt of his katana that Hanzo could hear an electronic squeal of stressed metal. Then he let go, clenching and unclenching his fingers, the green dragon sinking back down, quiet. “For good or ill,” he said quietly. “You are my brother.” He turned, preparing to leap.
“Wait,” Hanzo said quickly. “Where are you going?”
“Somewhere away from here. The god program is dead. Father has been avenged.”
“Come back with me. To Hanamura.”
“Blood money built the Shimada clan, Hanzo. And I have long been sick of it.” Genji leaped to the next roof, and disappeared in a thick furl of smoke. Hanzo sighed, even as Jesse climbed up the rest of the way to the roof.
“That… seems to have gone pretty well…?” Jesse asked cautiously.
“Your interference was unnecessary,” Hanzo said, though he smiled wryly.
“It was totally necessary,” Jesse said, with mock indignation. “You guys were seconds away from all-out dragon armageddon or somethin’, the way I saw it.”
Hanzo said nothing. Perhaps it was better that Genji went his own way, at least for now. For now - for once - Hanzo wished him well. And he did not doubt that someday they would meet again. “Hey,” Jesse said, more gently. “You all right?”
Don’t ask ridiculous questions, Hanzo nearly bit out, but stilled his tongue. He nodded instead, curtly. “What about you? You are returning to Gibraltar?”
Jesse scratched under his hat. “Eh. I was hopin’ to wrangle some leave out of the boss since he’s in a good mood right now. If you don’t mind me crashin’ at your place.” He grinned, more hopeful than playful, curling a hand over to the small of Hanzo’s back. “As to after that? We’ll see.”
Yes. The future could wait. “You would be welcome.”
Click on to the next chapter :)
Jesse had gone to the effort of suiting up for the occasion, in slightly crumpled black tie, no hat, and he had an arm over Angie’s shoulders. She was the only one crying. Natasha looked blank, as though she understood what they were doing, but not precisely why they were doing it.
Afterwards, as they were about to go, Reyes waved them on. “You guys go ahead. I’m going to sit here for a while.”
“Uh, sure, boss,” Angie mumbled, looking over at Jesse uncertainly.
“Wasn’t Morrison supposed to be here?” Natasha was looking around.
“Naw. Things got busy with the Syrian thing ampin’ up all over again.” Jesse said, and narrowed his eyes as Reyes’ shoulders stiffened right up. “You all right, sir?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Reyes frowned at them. “Get out of here.”
As they picked their way down the winding little roads to the cemetery gates, Angie rubbed hard at her eyes. “Nice place,” she said, subdued. “Kinda peaceful.”
“Shang would have hated it,” Natasha noted. “What? Is true. No bars. No brothels.”
Angie hiccuped, and then she started to laugh. “You. Are so bad.”
“Told you,” Jesse dug out a cigar from his pockets. “For the record, Inara probably would’ve hated it too.”
“Naw, her? She likes things quiet. That’s one thing this place has got goin’ for it.” Angie hugged herself. “So it’s just us now.”
“And the boss.” Jesse added.
“There will be others,” Natasha said. “I overheard. UN Security chief was talking to Morrison. More people like us out there. Problem children.”
“Replacements already? They work fast.” Jesse raised an eyebrow.
“Heard you managed to get leave,” Natasha tilted her head. “Signed-off leave. Not sort where you run away and then get dragged back.”
“Yeah. Official leave,” Jesse said smugly.
“I asked too, and he said no,” Angie muttered, scowling. “Unfair.”
“You did steal a Thunderbird.”
“I had reasons!”
“Thought you found Hanamura boring,” Natasha said, and smirked when Jesse pulled a face.
“Didn’t say that was where I was goin’. Maybe I’m goin’ to Ibiza. Lie on the beach.”
“Pssh, you ain’t ever asked for leave before until now.“ Angie rolled her eyes. “‘Sides, I looked. You booked flights to Tokyo.”
“Angie, we’re gonna have to discuss your weird understandin’ of personal privacy sometime.” Jesse didn’t have much hope about that. He’d known Angie longer than most. “You could try to take leave,” he told Natasha. “You ain’t grounded.”
Natasha eyed him thoughtfully, then looked over her shoulder, where Reyes still cut a solitary figure at the top of the hill. “We don’t belong anywhere but here,” she said finally, though she clapped him on the shoulder, hard enough to push him aside a step. “I learned that long time ago.”
God. He hoped that wasn’t the case. Not for all of them, anyway. Jesse packed for the trip with Angie perched on the chair in his room, bitching loudly about being left behind, then hauled ass. Flying commercial was a weird experience: queuing up, going through customs, having nothing whatsoever remotely dangerous in his kit. He’d had to leave Peacekeeper behind. At least Blackwatch’s diplomatic passport meant he got an easy ride, and with the pay he’d had logged up, he didn’t have to fly coach.
Jesse hadn’t been expecting anyone to actually meet him in Narita airport, given he hadn’t told Hanzo about the flight time, and as such was surprised to see Mio waiting patiently at the arrivals gate. She nodded at him as he came close, checking her watch. “What,” Jesse said, with a grin. “Where’s the sign with my name on it?”
Mio sniffed. “Welcome back to Japan, McCree-san. Kumicho has been delayed in Tokyo, negotiating with the remnants of the clans.” She started walking briskly towards the hypertrain port, looking for all the world like some high-powered businesswoman in her pressed suit and blouse. Tickets had already been arranged, and soon they were speeding towards Tokyo. First class was nice and quiet.
“So uh. How’s things?” Jesse asked, always uncomfortable in a pointed silence.
“Recovery efforts are ongoing. Most of the injured have even been discharged. Our territories have expanded to include the Sato-gumi’s.”
“So… sounds all good?” Jesse hazarded.
Mio nodded tightly, looking out of the train window. On a hypertrain, the world went by at a blinding speed: by himself, Jesse usually preferred not to look. “Thank you,” she said abruptly, so softly that Jesse nearly missed it.
Ah, that was right. Mio was the one who had smuggled Genji off to the tender mercies of Ziegler. “Don’t mention it. Say, how’d you hear about Ziegler anyway?”
“My uncle by marriage is Doctor Tomoaki Yoshida.” When Jesse stared blankly at her, Mio added with faint impatience, “The famous prosthesis engineer. You have seen Hanzo-sama’s legs? That was his work. He is acquainted with Doctor Ziegler. I approached her with his help.”
“I don’t think Genji really appreciates the intervention,” Jesse said wryly.
Mio nodded. “So I have heard. But I do not regret it. And besides,” she flashed Jesse a faint, sharp smile, “the Shimada men are often ungrateful. I am used to it.”
“I’ll bear that in mind,” Jesse grinned back at her.
Mio brought Jesse to some swanky hotel near Tokyo station. In the hotel room, she spoke quietly to Hanzo in Japanese before he nodded. She bowed, and withdrew. Jesse had left them to it, wandering over to the window, ostensibly to take in the view, but really to sneak in a nice, long look at Hanzo’s ass. That tailored suit really worked wonders.
When Mio was gone, Hanzo stalked over for a kiss, and chuckled as Jesse got the chance to get his hands on all that firm flesh, kneading as he pulled Hanzo up against him. “Lookin’ good,” Jesse said, openly appreciative.
“I thought you preferred the kimono.”
“Well, there’s somethin’ to be said about a kit that bares so much skin,” Jesse drawled, and let himself be shut up with a kiss. Long and slow. All the time in the world.
“You said you have a month off.” Hanzo had his thumbs hooked in Jesse’s belt, playing with the buckle, seemingly amused by it.
“Yeah.” Logically, Jesse knew this was probably going a bit quickly. He hadn’t actually known Hanzo for that long, or under the best of circumstances. But he’d never felt this kind of connection with anyone else before. He hoped Hanzo felt the same way. As before, he couldn’t really tell. Hanzo was hard to read.
“Mio is returning to Hanamura on the next hypertrain. But I think we can take our time.” The hand that curled into Jesse’s hair was carefully tender.
“Sounds good, darlin’.” Jesse bent, relieved, begging for another kiss. “Sounds great.”
When he got close, Gabriel muttered, “Padam’s not so bad, but Kara and Manisha are going to be an uphill battle.”
“Isn’t Padam the one who had a psychotic break where he killed two of his fellow Gurkha soldiers?”
Gabriel shrugged. “Got to be positive with what I’m given. He understands the concept of authority. The other two, not so much.”
“You got Natasha to listen to you.”
“Yeah, her. After one year of her trying to stab me in the back. She only started listening after she realized that she couldn’t kill me.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Looks like it’s history all over again with Manisha.”
“Silk Road habits have to be hard to break.” From this distance, it was difficult to place the young, stunningly beautiful Indian girl scaling the rope obstacle as a contract killer - up until she abruptly twisted the rope smoothly around an ankle, swung down, and scythed her palm out, catching Kara in the neck. Speed amps saved the merc from falling and breaking her bones, but it was a near thing.
“Hey!” Gabriel barked. “Cut that out! I’m watching you, Manisha! Fuck. What are you here for, anyway?” he asked Jack, more quietly. “Checking in? Angie and Natasha aren’t back from Siberia yet. McCree’s still poking around Kazakhstan.”
“Well uh. We were all pretty busy before with everything, and, I never got the chance to ask you again. Out for dinner.” Gabriel had seemed content to treat the incident in Nagoya like an anomaly: he’d never brought it up again, and besides, they’d both been snowed under by incidents since then. Now that they both had a bit of time, though…
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “You kidding me? I let these three out of my sight and they’d probably burn down HQ.”
“Reinhardt and Tracer volunteered to help out. If needed.”
“Well uh, you can’t be watching them all the time, and besides, Reinhardt got quite excited about the idea. Second chances and all that. Reeducating the young, he said.” It sounded like it was going to be a disaster, but it wasn’t like Jack could afford to be picky.
“I see.” Gabriel folded his hands behind his back. “Fine. Tonight, your pick.”
“Uh, sure. I’ll be-“ Jack paused as Gabriel stalked towards the obstacle course, where Kara had just pounced on Padam, trying to toss him off the high wall. “-looking forward to it,” Jack murmured, and smiled as Gabriel started to harangue all three of his new charges with the caustic belligerence of a drill sergeant. Maybe things were going to turn out just fine.
Jack was still in his dress uniform - he’d probably headed here straight after. He sat on the edge of the couch, his back pressed against Gabriel’s raised knee, and he looked tired. “Pissed. What do you think? What Natasha did in Venezuela-“
“Was necessary to the mission.”
“Was it?” Jack set his jaw. “Torturin’ those people? It was all necessary?”
“It was my op. Are you questioning my judgment?”
“As a matter of fact, yeah,” Jack said quietly. “Torture’s never necessary, Gabe, God, I can’t believe that we have to have this kind of conversation! It’s beneath what Overwatch stands for.”
“Ah, there’s the rub,” Gabriel sneered. “Natasha isn’t Overwatch, is she? Nor am I.”
“The Security Council wants an inquiry done. They want her suspended and-“
“And what? Brought to trial?” Gabriel cut in mockingly. “Blackwatch was made to do the dirty work. Dirty work’s been done. The omnic fission parts trader got taken care of. So what if some people died along the way? They knew what they were getting into, aiding and abetting rogue omnics.”
“To murder the families of the traffickers as well?”
Gabriel shrugged. “Life sucks that way sometimes. We’re still at war out here.”
“No we’re not,” Jack said, clearly frustrated. “We’re at peace. The Omnic Crisis is over. We can’t just act like we’re still at some state of global emergency. There are rules, Gabe. And I can’t shield you from the consequences forever.”
“Then don’t. I didn’t ask for your help anyway. A job was there and it got done. That’s all that I’m interested in.” Gabriel set his deck aside, narrowing his eyes. “You got anything else you want to bitch at me over, Commander?”
“Sometimes you really-“ Jack cut himself off, opting to scramble up over Gabriel instead, just as Gabriel thought he would. He could taste anger in the hard press of Jack’s mouth, and that suited Gabriel fine, twisting on the couch, trying to get on top, until they fell heavily off onto the ground. Jack was trying to gentle the kiss, hands petting restlessly over Gabriel’s shoulders, but he shrugged them off and pinned Jack down.
Afterwards, when Jack was in the shower, Gabriel activated his comm, scrolling to the last encrypted message. There was no sender, or any electronic trail, only a short quote and a contact number.
We are not makers of history. We are made by history.
Gabriel stared at the text for a moment longer, then he sent his reply. I’m listening.
“Now there’s a right welcome.”
“I did not know that you had leave.” Hanzo said calmly, and Jesse mock-scowled at him.
“You could at least pretend to be surprised.”
“No one enters Hanamura without me learning of it. Particularly if they come in through the train station,” Hanzo pointed out, amused. Jesse grumbled, and gave his cheek a bristly kiss.
“Here’s me tryin’ to be romantic and here’s you ruinin’ everythin’ as usual with your Godfather routine,” Jesse said dryly. When Hanzo did not reply, Jesse continued, “Not interruptin’ somethin’, am I?”
“No,” Hanzo said, although it was the anniversary of his father’s death. Father would have liked Jesse, he decided. Father had always had a soft spot for the wild things in the world.
“So you like to sit out here by yourself with two sake cups?” Jesse asked mildly. “One of which is empty?”
Hanzo finished his sake, and turned to kiss Jesse, hard on the mouth. Jesse froze for a second before licking enthusiastically into the kiss, sloppy as it was, and the warm sake was smooth on the way down. Jesse smuggled closer, grinning, snaking one arm around Hanzo’s back. “Feels like that wasn’t exactly an appropriate thing t’do, somehow.”
“I am the master of this castle.” Besides, Father would only have laughed. He had a fey sense of humour. The scroll before them was part of it: Hanzo remembered the day it had been hung up. Koharu had complained bitterly. He pressed his palms together, closing his eyes for a moment, then he got to his feet, pulling Jesse after him.
“Heard from your brother yet?” Jesse asked curiously, as they went.
“I received a letter. No address, but the stamp is Nepalese. I think he is doing well,” Hanzo said, a little doubtfully. The letter hadn’t said very much: it had felt like it had been written as an afterthought.
“That’s good.” Jesse fell silent as they took the quickest way back to Hanzo’s private rooms, though he occasionally waved at people he recognised on the way. Jesse was, after all, an infrequent but highly recognisable visitor these past few years. Hanzo thought little of it as Jesse closed the door behind them, until he noticed the bags by the cleared Go board, with Peacekeeper in its holster over the top.
That was new. “You are here on a Blackwatch mission?” When Jesse visited, he usually left Peacekeeper behind - getting a permit out of a mission was ‘too goddamned complicated’, apparently.
Jesse was smiling sheepishly as he turned Hanzo gently around. “Nope. I quit. Blackwatch,” he elaborated, when Hanzo stared blankly at him.
“I thought that you joined Blackwatch to avoid prison.”
“I did. But. I been tellin’ you. Blackwatch ain’t a great place to be. Hell, it wasn’t from the start. But it’s gotten worse. Mozambique was the last straw.”
“Ah.” Hanzo had heard about that. Rumour had it that a war crimes inquiry was imminent.
“So I thought, hell, why not give it a shot? I went to the top. Knocked on Morrison’s door, tendered my resignation, waited to see if he was gonna pack me off to jail or somethin’. But he said it was all right. Wished me well. Angie already knew that I was goin’. Natasha wouldn’t care. And I don’t give a damn about the new guys. So I left. Next flight.”
“What about Reyes?” Hanzo asked carefully.
Jesse shook his head slowly. “Don’t know what’s up with the boss nowadays. He’s been keepin’ to himself a lot.” Jesse kissed Hanzo on the forehead. “So here I am. I was gonna make a big deal of it,” he muttered. “But I didn’t know if I should’ve got somethin’ from Narita and you’re goddamned picky about your sake so I wasn’t sure and-“
“Shh.” Hanzo pulled Jesse down for a better kiss, deep and slow, one to make his heart pound, his blood race. Against his bones, the dragons rumbled and twisted, suddenly hungry. They’d want to make more marks tonight, someplace more intimate. Jesse shivered, pressed flush, as though he knew, his palms curling over Hanzo’s cheeks, flesh and steel; around them, the world seemed to slow and grow quiet, thick with the scent of the storm.