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Misconduct

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Using the fireman carry on a grown man double your weight and at least a head taller than you was no minor feat. As you held your Commander’s body around your shoulders, blood from his wounded leg now leaking steadily down the front of you, you shuffled your way up the ramp into the waiting dropship, making a mental note to thank Zarya for her training.

You pressed a hand into the inner hull to pop down a medical table folded into the wall, and you rested him down as carefully as you could.

“Athena?” you snapped, out of breath.

Several nearby devices activated, springing out of the wall at the ends of mechanical arms. One of them performed a full-body scan, while another projected the numbers of his vitals on a mid-air screen. A third device appeared above him, casting a familiar, biotic-yellow glow across his injury.

Athena’s voice sounded from overhead. “The biotic field will control the bleeding, but it appears unable to close the wounds alone. Extraction of foreign matter is needed for full recovery.

“Should I go in, then?” you asked, already rifling through the first aid shelves for the proper tools. You hadn’t had to perform emergency field surgery in ages, but your knowledge was still there, as was your knee-jerk reaction to get busy before things took a turn for the worst.

Analyzing...immediate action not required. The interaction between the biotics and the SEP treatment will be enough to keep him stable until landing.

Your hands fell limp against the shelves. You hung your head, wearily, still catching your breath.

‘SEP treatment.’ You had no idea what that was. You weren’t sure if you wanted to know.

Vitals are stabilizing. Status: breathing and unresponsive. Please place the Commander in the recovery position and ensure clearance of his airways to prevent fluid or mechanical obstruction of his breathing.

‘Clearance of his airways.’

You had to remove his mask.

You turned towards him, wiping your brow across the back of your hand. Logic dictated that the hesitation you felt right now was stupid, nonsensical. This was a medical emergency, neither the time nor place for pride; if he were to choke on his own vomit and die in his sleep because you thought seeing his face was a violation of privacy, that would be on you. You doubted he would’ve cared at this point, anyway. Especially not now. Now that you knew.

...you just imagined this going differently, somehow.

Adrenaline kept your pulse pounding in your ears, loud and headache-inducing, as if your heart had leapt straight into your skull.

With careful, still-bloodied fingers, you felt along the sides of his mask for the release trigger. The faceplate seperated with a soft click, deactivating the cherry red glow of his visor, and leaving the jawstrap of his mask framed around his face.

And there he was. Overwatch’s original Strike Commander. War hero and international celebrity.

He looked older than you remembered from the posters, his hair and brows having gone from bright blonde to stark white. He had the same strong jawline, now peppered with stubble, and the same slight curve in the bridge of his nose. Deep scars had been slashed across his face, as if the claws of some great predator had taken swipes against him; the thought evoked a memory of Reaper’s talons, black and lethal and a perfect fit.

His lips were slightly parted in his unconsciousness. The ghost of his visor was on your mouth, again, and you were awash with waves of unease at the reminder of how foolish you’d been.

How could you not have seen it?

You adjusted his arms and legs into the recovery position and turned his unconscious body towards the wall.

You do not look upon his face again.

With the Commander’s body secured, the dropship rumbled beneath you during takeoff. You turned to steady yourself on a bar affixed to the wall, and the sight of the figure now sitting up in her holding cell gave you a jolt of surprise.

Salut,” you offered, meekly, because what else did you say to a deadly brainwashed enemy assassin staring at you from behind glass?

The greeting in her native tongue gave her momentary pause, but she did not look away from you.

I never touched the Atlantic, did I?” she asked, her voice dark and crisp.

...you don’t seem surprised.

This isn’t new to me, moving from one set of incompetent fools to the next. The only difference is I’m no longer getting paid for it.” Her gaze on you softened, her golden eyes laced with such sudden informality it made you doubt your own safety. “Am I under arrest, chérie?

You opened your mouth before closing it, again. You realized you didn’t actually know the answer to that question.

She sneered at your silence. “You’re new, aren’t you?

With your Commander incapacitated, you mentally ran through every security feature aboard the dropship. The multiple panes of heat-strengthened glass surrounding her. The knockout gas lines lining the cell. The sidearm on the wall filled with Commander Amari’s sleep darts.

You made the call and walked, slow and deliberate, towards Amélie’s holding cell.

You hadn’t had a chance to get a proper look at her during the panicked rush of earlier events. She was barefooted and clothed in a white wraparound hospital gown, the colour a stark contrast against the pale blue of her skin. Her untied dark hair was a straight, sleek mess of strands, long enough to bunch around her as she sat. You noticed a tattoo around her right forearm—araignée du soir, cauchemar—a rhyme, playing on an old French expression.

Unblinking and stone-still, she kept her eyes fixed on you as she tracked your gradual approach. You could feel her bristling, the electricity in the air growing with the inches closed between you, but that wasn’t what you wanted at all. Instead, you angled your approach to give her a wider berth, stopping only when you reached the opposite wall, several feet away from her cell.

You sat on the floor. “What’s your name?

Don’t speak as if you haven’t read my file.

Not your birth name, your real one. The one they won’t tell me.

You could still feel remnants of the earlier static between you, filling the silence with its sparks.

Fatale,” she said, finally. “Or, ‘Widowmaker,’ for those who refuse to pronounce it properly.

It’s an honour to finally meet the person everyone’s been fighting so hard for.

Fraternizing with the enemy will get you no answers from me.

You’re not our enemy.

She sneered, again. “You are new.

Let me rephrase,” you offered. “The Commander never spoke of you as an enemy.

Oh,” she pouted, making a sardonic, mocking expression of interest, “and how did he speak of me?

Like a prisoner of war.

And how does it feel to be led by someone that profoundly naive?

He may have led me here, but who’s the one half-dead on a table and who’s the one sitting in front of you? I was given a mission to bring you back. And I succeeded.

Yes, you have me,” she said, a slow smirk on her lips. “Your grand prize. And you’ll kill me, again. Isn’t that enough?

No one’s going to kill you, Fatale,” you said, but you couldn’t even convince yourself that much was true.

Amélie rose to her feet as if lifted by a breeze, her elegant movements pronounced with the grace of a woman in command of every fiber of her being. As she stood tall and stared down at you, a triumphant smile playing at the small curves of her mouth, you were once again struck with the feeling you were in danger.

I have been killed many times, chérie. I will be born again in the morning.

She turned her back to you and sat down against the glass of the holding cell, leaving you silent, hopeless, and aching with the inexplicable guilt of having done something wrong.

Reaper’s words accompanied the heartbeat in your head.

There will always be people they need to do their dirty work.

People just like you.

-

Winston, McCree, and Dr. Ziegler were there to greet you when you arrived back at headquarters. The impromptu welcome party wasn’t unexpected, as no mission reports had been filed on the way back; the only updates your team had to go on regarding the status of your assignment were returning flight paths and readings of your vital signs.

So, as you disembarked, their reaction didn’t come as a surprise.

“We—welcome back,” gaped Winston.

“What in the hell happened to you?” McCree asked, loudly.

You hadn’t slept and you looked it, your eyes dark and your line of vision the slightest bit unfocused. You walked down the ramp wearing nothing but cargo pants and a tank top, as your tactical jacket was still wrapped tightly around 76’s thigh to help apply pressure to his still-open wounds. Most noteworthy of all, however, was the blood all over you, now dried and dark; a flaky mess of smears formed a gradient from your fingers to your forearms, alongside a massive stain down one side of you from where your Commander bled as you carried him on-board.

You weren’t injured, however, and you tried not to make a show of carrying yourself down to the tarmac, keeping your back straight and your tone matter-of-fact. “Commander Morrison needs surgery. He sustained a severe shotgun wound to the upper thigh that the biotic field won’t close.”

“That—that doesn’t make sense.” Winston glanced back at the ship. “The biotic field should be able to—unless—”

“Reaper was there,” you said. “And whatever was in his bullets is keeping the Commander from healing up. I’m sorry I haven’t completed my mission report, I’ll have it finished within the hour.”

Bewildered, McCree tipped his hat up as he scratched at his forehead. “Mission report’s all fine and dandy, but are you—”

A slender hand grabbed your bare shoulder from behind, clutching onto you for purchase.

“You found her?” Dr. Ziegler asked, breathless.

And suddenly, no one’s eyes were on you.

Everyone’s attention was redirected towards the holding cell; you turned to look as well, and the unbridled hatred sparking in Amélie’s eyes was unlike any you’d ever seen.

This was a reunion for them, you remembered.

You didn’t belong here.

You shrugged off Dr. Ziegler’s grasp and headed back towards base.

“Please take care of the Commander,” you repeated.

-

76’s surgery had taken less time than your paperwork.

Though your report and post-mission medical examination were both complete, Dr. Zeigler refused to clear you for active duty. She reminded you that you only had a week’s rest between Romania and Le Havre, a week which was almost entirely spent healing and preparing for your next mission, and after this ordeal, you needed some actual time to recover.

What was supposed to be an extended break ended up being nothing more than an exercise in worry.

Every idle thought would drift back to the memory of Amélie’s murderous gaze when she first laid eyes on the rest of your crew. You realized that, for some reason, she’d afforded you a patience during your conversation that she had no intention of sharing with anyone else. Reaper’s words to you were on repeat, again—you felt as if you were the only person on-base none the wiser about Amélie’s case, or about what Overwatch was planning on doing with her now that she’d been rescued.

Whenever you sought to ask details from Dr. Ziegler about Amélie’s situation, or her progress, or even where she was being kept, the good doctor would quiet you with a tired smile, every single time.

“You’ve done your job, Reader. Let me do mine.”

But you couldn’t sleep.

Most of your time was spent squirreled away in your personal quarters. When you weren’t comparing the Le Havre mission reports from yourself and your Commander, searching for hints about Amélie you might’ve missed, you were staring at the contingency plans you’d made in France, seeing where you could’ve done better, gradually sinking under the weight of your own anxieties.

Where was Amélie? Was she safe here?

Several days had passed since you returned, and the one person you trusted enough to answer your questions still hadn’t bothered to summon you, or find you of his own accord—and the act of you seeking him out after everything that happened would’ve felt like surrender.

Was he angry with you?

The thought made your blood boil. He had no right or reason to be upset, least of all with you.

So why was he avoiding you?

A knock sounded at your room one night, and the voice that followed was not the one you were expecting.

“This mopin’ of yours’s gone on long enough,” McCree said through the door. “Get dressed, you’re comin’ with me.”

Buried within the contents of several journals spread across your desktop, you kept very, very still; maybe if you were quiet enough, he would think you weren’t here.

“...don’t make me drag you outta there.”

“Alright, alright, jeez.”

So you put on pants.

You followed McCree’s wordless lead to the practice range. You figured he was taking you for aim training—nothing gets your mind off things like shooting other things, after all—but you were guided away from the distance markings on the floor, past the training bots hovering in fixed path rotations around the grounds, and up several flights of stairs.

Eventually, you arrived at an open balcony at one of the highest points of the range, overlooking a large portion of the facility.

McCree sat down against the wall, to one side of a plastic container. “Have a seat.”

“...am I in trouble?”

He looked up at you, his brows knitting together. “Y’know, there’s something to be said about the fact that’s the first place your mind jumped to.”

“I’m support,” you said, taking a seat next to him on the other side of the box. “Worst case scenarios are kinda my thing.”

McCree reached for the sealed container, which popped open with a gentle hiss.

It was a cooler.

He grabbed a bottle from inside, uncapped it with his metal hand, and handed it to you. You accepted it, gratefully.

And you drank together in silence.

The stars were out in full force tonight, twinkling pinpricks in the blanket of a moonlit sky. The pitch-black shadows of mountains were silhouetted the horizon, while sheets of ice drifted lazily across the surface of the distant water. The alcohol was smoother than you were expecting—strong, but sweeter than most. One drink turned into two, into three, into four; a warm, familiar buzz soon blurred your thoughts, soothing you from the inside out.

Several empty bottles piled up between the two of you before McCree broke the quiet.

“Pull,” he called, another drink raised to his lips.

You blinked at him, slowly. The place better have been as abandoned as he thought it was.

You grabbed an empty bottle and threw it as hard as you could over the balcony, high into the air; you hadn’t even registered him pulling his weapon from his holster before he’d shot the damn thing with a single bullet, pieces of glass raining like stardust onto the barren ground fifty feet below.

‘Nice shot,’ is what you thought.

“I can’t believe zombies are fucking real,” is what left your mouth.

He chuckled. “Pull.”

You tossed another bottle. Again, he hit it spot-on, first try.

“If it helps,” he started, cracking open another couple of drinks for the two of you, “whatever’s goin’ on with Reaper ain’t exactly widespread technology. He’s one-of-a-kind. That’s what makes him so dangerous.”

You downed half the bottle before speaking. “He promised he was gonna kill me one day.”

“Don’t take it personally, that’s just how he says goodbye.”

“You’ve met him, then?”

“I have. Knew him before the mask, too.”

The memory of the cloaked, clawed, dual shotgun-wielding man floated through your mind like a passing ghost, and you found it difficult to imagine there was ever a ‘before.’ “What was he like?”

“Reyes?” McCree considered your question, nursing his drink as he did so. “A hardass with a good sense of humor. Got the job done at all costs. And quite the family man, believe it or not.”

“...he had a family?”

He nodded. “Civilians, though. Moved on after the Fall.”

You continued drinking. Somehow, you hadn’t considered Reaper was once a regular person with a life all his own. A spouse. Children, maybe. If they were civilians, did that mean they believed him dead, like the rest of the world? If he still remembered them, did he care for them, even now? Did he have a family before his relationship with your Commander? After?

...during?

McCree noticed you’d gone quiet. “What’re you thinkin’?”

“Just trying to wrap my head around it,” you admitted. “Never had a dead guy point a gun at my face, before.”

He clicked his tongue before taking a swig. “Welcome to Overwatch.”

Slouching over a bit, you ran a hand over your face. “If I knew about Commander Reyes from the start, I could’ve been better prepared in Le Havre.”

“None of us had any reason to believe Reaper would be runnin’ interference down there. Our intel had him halfway around the world when you and Sarge left for France.”

“So it was bad intel.”

“Yep.”

You kept a hand over your mouth as you stared into the distance, thinking it over. Reaper was the one 76 cared about finding, so of course he’d have updated knowledge of his whereabouts. That’s why 76 hadn’t told you about him from the start, and that’s why he was so shocked to find him there—maybe even enough to reevaluate his mission objectives and go after him without a second thought.

“What do we want with Amélie, anyway?” you asked.

“Couldn’t tell you,” he shrugged. “Probably classified.”

“‘Classified.’ Of course it is. Meaning she could be being tortured or murdered underground somewhere, right now, and I would’ve been complicit in that.”

“...bein’ a little overdramatic, don’t you think? Not exactly in the business of kidnap and torture, here.”

“Yeah, not anymore.”

“Now, now.” McCree flashed a grin from the lip of his bottle. “Our hands might not be clean, but these things ain’t ever black and white in the long run, either. All we can do is make sure our shade of grey’s lighter’n most.”

“How do I know we’re doing the right thing if there’s this much I wasn’t told?”

“You’re forgettin’ the obvious.”

“And that is?”

“You’re new,” he enunciated. “Everyone but you’s been here from the start of it all, years and years ago. What’s ‘classified’ now is just a bunch of random, tragic shit that happened to us once upon a time. It’s on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know it for the things we hired you for.”

“I know,” you said, emphatically, “I know I don’t need everyone’s life story to work here, I’m just worried there’s more things I should’ve known from the start, things that...could’ve helped.”

“You talkin’ ‘bout Sarge?”

You didn’t respond, instead opting to take a very long sip from your bottle.

“If I’m bein’ honest, the whole ‘Soldier 76’ thing is more of an inside joke here than anything else. We keep it up to protect his pride, ‘cause pride’s just about all he’s got left. His callsign’s a cover for the outside world, but everyone here knows who he really is. And he knows that.”

“He knew I didn’t.”

“You sure?”

“He knew,” you repeated, more forcefully this time.

McCree raised an eyebrow. “So are you mad at him for not tellin’ you, or mad at yourself for not figurin’ it out sooner?”

Frustration burned at your cheeks. Without warning, you chucked two empty bottles over the balcony at the same time; he shot both, dead-on, one after the other in less than a heartbeat.

“He waited for me,” you growled.

“Come again?”

“After Romania. He waited for me to recover because he wanted me in France. And I was so damn worried, you know? Was I going because it was important, or was I going because it was important to him? He says he doesn’t want to lead me on, he says he doesn’t want me to make a decision based on him alone—but regardless of how I felt, or how he felt, he waited. And it was the first time I felt like he saw me. Not as a new hire, or as a subordinate, but—”

“—as an equal.”

“Then when we’re over there,” you rambled, voice breaking, “he says shit like he’s ‘at his best’ when he’s with me? And we promise not to be reckless, but two hours later, he does just that—and I have to save him, even if it means walking into a trap, even if it means carrying his bleeding ass back to the ship, because I said I’d protect him and I don’t break my fucking promises.”

You didn’t give permission for the angry tears to stray from your eyes, but you were already too tipsy to care.

“And for what??” you snapped, voice growing louder. “To bring back a full-fledged Talon agent for reasons I never understood in the first place. And now that she’s here, I can’t log into my computer without wondering if Sombra’s tracking my movements, trying to make contact again. I can’t stop thinking about how much time I have left until Reaper makes good on his promise—and I know you said not to worry, but you didn’t hear what he said to me, and god, you didn’t hear how much he meant it.”

McCree didn’t say a word. He gave you a few moments of silence to collect yourself, to catch your breath, to get it all out of your system.

Then he reloaded his revolver, and handed it to you.

The initial shock of him letting you anywhere near Peacekeeper was immediately drowned out by the sheer weight of it in your hands. The gun was massive, twice the size of any normal revolver—much heavier, as well, but somehow still balanced within your hold. You cocked it, and the heavy click of the hammer was incredibly satisfying.

McCree tossed up an empty bottle. It took you three tries, but you managed to shatter it.

Nothing to get your mind off things like shooting other things, after all.

“I don't have time to worry about something like this, you know?” you smiled, sniffling. “I—I just don’t have the time.”

“The time to what? Figure out the feelings of a dumbass givin’ off more mixed signals than a traffic light? I don’t blame you.” McCree lit a cigar and held it between his teeth. He flipped another bottle over the ledge, watching you catch it in two shots. “Least he bought us booze.”

You glanced back at the cooler. “The Commander bought all this?”

“A fine cider I recommended,” he bragged, tapping the ash from his first drag away. “You should be thankin’ me, too, the man’s got shit taste. Likes that sex-on-a-boat type beer.”

“Sex on a boat?”

“Fuckin’ close to water.”

You snorted an ugly, too-loud laugh through the last few of your tears. McCree smiled from behind his cigar.

“Look, Sarge wants to talk to you,” he said, “but he wants to talk to you on your own terms. Told me so himself. Didn’t wanna ambush you if you weren’t ready, all that shit.”

“So he sent you as a messenger?” you scoffed. “Why couldn’t he just tell me that himself?”

“Scared, I reckon.”

“Scared of what?”

McCree threw one final empty bottle into the air; having gotten used to Peacekeeper’s weight, you finally managed to shatter it in one shot, with the very last bullet in the chamber.

“Thought that much’d be obvious,” he said, wryly.

You turned your nose. Maybe it was the pent-up frustration, maybe it was the one-too-many bottles of cider swimming around inside you, but something about the Commander leaving the ball in your court rubbed you the wrong way. You were tired of sitting around. You were tired of worrying. Above all else, you were tired of not knowing.

You stood up, which in itself was an accomplishment. You weren’t drunk—it took a bit more than that to really knock you on your ass—but you were hovering at that wonderfully hazy point where you were intoxicated enough to lack better judgement, but sober enough to still make bad decisions.

You wobbled your way towards the stairs, keeping one hand on the building for balance. “If no one’s giving me answers, I’ll just get them on my own.”

McCree made a little noise of disapproval. “I wouldn’t have that conversation drunk, if I were you.”

“No,” you snapped, “I’m going to the medbay to see if I can find Amélie’s intake files.”

“Reckon the doc’ll just hand them over if you ask nicely?”

“Kinda counting on her not being there.”

He laughed, burying his face into his palm. “Oh, lord.”

“I’m not asking you to help.”

“Now, what kind of friend would I be if I got you drunk, then didn’t help you break into somewhere you shouldn’t be?”

“You coming, then?”

“Depends. Can I have my gun back?”

“...oh. Right.”

-

As you navigated the barren hallways of the base, trying to move as silently as you could from corridor to corridor, you became certain that McCree’s spurs were the loudest objects known to mankind.

Dr. Ziegler’s office was located towards the back of the hospital wing. To your surprise, the door of her office was left unlocked, but as you made your way inside and hit the light switch, you suddenly understood why. She kept absolutely everything in neat, impeccable order—not a single pen or scrap of paper out of place—with an impressive array of individually fastened drawers, locked filing cabinets, and padlocked storage units located all around the room.

You booted up the computer at her desk, only to discover that the words across the loading screens weren’t even English.

“It’s all in German,” you sighed, shutting down the computer at the password window. “Even if we figured out the password without triggering a lockout, it’d be hard to navigate quickly.”

“Shouldn’t there be an original form, though?” asked McCree. “A physical one?”

As you explored the office and examined the many filing cabinets, you finally came across a set labelled with letters.

You grabbed a paperclip from the magnetic holder on the desk and unfolded it, running through the alphabet under your breath.

“It’s this one,” McCree interrupted with a snicker, knocking a knuckle on the drawer with the ‘G - Mc’ label. “Sorry—should I have let you finish your ABCs?”

You angled the straightened paperclip into the lock. “Leave me alone, I can barely see straight.”

Once you popped open the lock, you found the drawer’s contents separated even further, dividing individual letters throughout the row of files. A particularly overstuffed folder at the very end had a tab that read:

McCree, Jesse

McCree reached over your shoulder to grab it. “Yoink.”

You feathered through the folders under ‘L.’

Lacroix, Amélie

Lacroix, Gerard

(So she had a family, too.)

With a rush of excitement, you pulled Amélie’s file.

The first page had a photograph clipped to it, a picture of her from when she was younger; her skin was a more human, peachy colour, and instead of a sharp gold, her eyes were dark, and lively.

As these were Dr. Ziegler’s files, you quickly discovered that her hard copy medical documentation was also in German. All you could read were the dates, and all you could gather was that, aside from the first few pages, the majority of contents in Amélie’s file had only been created within the last week.

With the amount of medical examinations you had, from agent onboarding to post-mission observations to scheduled weekly checkups, you were sure that even your file had more content than hers did before she was brought here. Her having a file in Dr. Ziegler’s office at all meant she was known to Overwatch before the incident with Talon, but the lack of documentation implied she wasn’t a field operative.

Had she been a civilian before the incident?

You continued searching through the German archives, picking out roman numbers and borrowed English words but understanding none of it for the most part, until you got to the very end of her file.

A thirty-page copy of a scientific report in English, addressed to Winston.

The report itself was extremely dense, filled with equations, diagrams, and scientific terminology you didn’t understand, but you skimmed through it as best as you could.

“...experimental technology…”

“...inoperable neural implant…”

“...resistant to outside observation or interference…”

“...primary concerns regarding legal responsibility for acts of terrorism…”

“...reversal not feasible…”

“...attempts to replicate initial procedure…”

“...erasure of terrorist associations from memory…”

“...implant triggers electromagnetic restoration of neocortex to prior neural state…” 

“...to correct the experiment we must repeat the experiment in full…” 

“...can’t help but feel as if somewhere, Dr. O'Deorain is laughing at us.”

“Christ,” McCree hearty laughter tore through the silence. He held up an old picture of himself. “A soul patch. The hell was I thinkin’?”

“I found what I needed,” you said, trying to keep your voice steady. Your hands trembled as you shoved Amélie’s file back into place. “We should go.”

Picking up on your urgency, McCree slid his file back into the cabinet as well, shutting the drawer as you prepared to leave.

He called after you before you left the office. “Hey, now—we can’t leave this unlocked. She’s gonna know someone was in here. They’ll review the security footage, then we’ll both be in shit.”

You wiped the sweat from your forehead, and nodded. You hadn’t thought of that. “You’re right, but...I’ve never picked a lock closed, before.”

“Good thing you’ve got me around then, ain’t it?” he winked, before grabbing another paperclip from the desk.

-

In spite of the night’s events, you slept more soundly than you had in weeks. Although the thirteen-hour cider-induced coma was a nice break, the anxiety came flooding back with a vengeance as soon as you woke up, only now accompanied by a nasty hangover that made your brain throb.

You stayed hydrated and tried to walk it off, entertaining the fresh wave of thoughts in your head.

Overwatch wanted to help restore Amélie’s old personality from before she was kidnapped and brainwashed by Talon. When that didn’t work, they just tried wiping her memory clean all over again—but the implant in her head wouldn’t let them.

I have been killed many times, chérie. I will be born again in the morning.

Any reprogramming done to Amélie’s implant would just be reversed by the implant itself.

As nefarious as it was, it was also absolutely incredible technology, the likes of which you had no idea even existed in your world. Who was Dr. O'Deorain, and how were they able to develop this tech in the first place? Did Talon really have the resources to allow that level of experimental technology?

Did Dr. O'Deorain have something to do with Reaper’s condition, too?

You turned a corner and came face-to-face with a giant gorilla.

You both jumped.

“I—I’m sorry,” Winston laughed. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Sorry,” you smiled back. “I’m a little out of it today, should’ve watched where I was going.”

“It’s...good to finally see you up and about, Reader.” He paused for a moment and cleared his throat, looking a little too sympathetic for your liking. “I know it must be hard, but...you’re a fine agent. This recent development is in no way a reflection of your performance,” he finished, in a tone he appeared to think was reassuring.

“Recent development?” You tilted your head, looking rather confused. “I know we had some hiccups, but the Le Havre mission was a success. We got Amélie back, didn’t we?”

“Oh.” His expression went blank. “Um.”

“...Winston, what happened?”

“My apologies, I thought you would’ve been told by now.”

“Told what?”

“I—it’s really not my place to—”

“Tell me what happened,” you demanded, your voice suddenly shaking with the worry of a million possibilities.

And In that moment, Winston looked more solemn than you’d ever seen him before.

“The paperwork was filed a few days ago,” he sighed. “76 has stepped down as your commanding officer.”