In His Shoes
Pressure crushed his lungs. He tried to scream but something other than sound flowed out of him. He choked on it. Body contorting with bone-breaking contractions, it tried to expel whatever tore his insides apart.
He wanted to sob. It was over. It was supposed to be over. Why couldn't he rest? All he wanted was peace.
Something held him down as he struggled to breathe. He clawed at it, but he was ethereal and passed through. It felt like water, a crushing weight of water as his lungs burned for air.
Everything hurt, like he was falling apart only to be forced back together.
His own scream ripped through the air. Flailing for some kind of solid purchase, he lashed out. Smoke clouded his vision. No matter how much he clawed at it, it wouldn't abate. There was nothing to him. He was as viscous as the weight that crushed him.
Jack.... someone called to him. Jack... come back....
He didn't want to go back. He wanted to be left alone. Please, he only wanted to rest.
Agony shot through him, robbing him of his peace and dragging him somewhere.
Screaming, he fought through clouds of smoke into a blinding light.
Jack bolted to his feet, florescent lights stabbing at his eyes, sterile cold cutting right to his bones. He whirled, eyesight adjusting, hearing coming back, skin crawling. Where was this place? He was in a white cell. No windows, a single door. There was a mirror on one wall that was probably two way. There was nothing in with him but a hospital gurney.
Breathe. Check surroundings. Jack tried to talk himself down from a panic attack. Why was he here? What happened? He closed his eyes and pushed the heels of his palms into his face.
Before the nightmare, the last thing he remembered was fire. Fire, blood, and pain. He curled his fingers, raking his nails over his forehead.
Rubble. He'd been pinned under it. Back broken, internal organs ruptured, punctured, beyond saving. He should be dead...
He was dead....
How could this be? There was no way anyone would have been able to find him in time, let alone dig him out and treat him. Slowly, he lowered his hands.
The flesh of his arms was ash-gray. Panic rising, he watched as his wrist rotted, skin turning twisted and black, infecting his fingers one at a time until white bone showed though. The scream froze in his throat as black smoke drifted from the tips of his fingers.
Hell. He was in Hell. It was the only explanation.
The door opened. Jack turned his head away from the horror of his flesh and watched as a man in a surgical mask entered the room. He was followed by a bulky guard with a semi-automatic who closed and blocked the door.
“Mr. Morrison,” the man in the mask said, pulling a tablet out from under his arm. “It's good to see you aware.”
Jack studied the man. He wore snow camo patterned fatigues, not a standard issue Overwatch uniform. Jack recognized him as part of Winston's medical team. “Where am I?”
“I'm sure you're very disoriented. Why don't you sit down and relax?”
“Very well.” The masked doctor stepped closer, tapping at his tablet. “How are you feeling, Mr. Morrison?”
“Stressed,” Jack sneered, lifting his hands to show him the patchwork of gray and black.
The doctor didn't bat an eye. He glanced the dead looking skin, the visible bone, and nodded. “Good improvement. Have you experienced any—”
“Improvement?” Jack demanded. “Improvement from what?”
“Vaporization,” the doctor deadpanned.
Jack stared at him.
The doctor tucked his tablet back under his arm. “It was an unexpected side effect of the resurrection process. We were starting to fear that you were unsalvageable and stuck in your vapor form.”
Jack's heart rate kicked up a notch. His what from?
“We were all very relieved when you, ah, pulled yourself back together.” He motioned toward the mirror on the wall.
Jack stepped to it.
A stranger greeted him.
His hair was bone-white, like he was ninety, not in his late forties. The youthful face he'd once known was now a haggard mess of scars and burns. Most of his nose was missing. His forehead was a gray wasteland of blistered skin. Part of his left cheek had simply vanished, leaving just a thin strip of flesh over now visible teeth. The two deep scars on his right cheek and across his nose had seemed to deepen, like they were cutting into him anew.
But his eyes were the worst. The sclera was pitch black and the blue he'd been so familiar with was gone. Sapphire had been replaced by ruby.
He looked like Death given form.
Jack looked down at his hands, watching as his skin lightened back to ashen-gray, the bones covered back up, as if nothing had ever been out of place. He looked up at the doctor. “What happened to me?”
“You died, Mr. Morrison.”
He knew it was true, but standing here, breathing, heart beating....
“The explosion in Zurich caused the Overwatch headquarters to collapse, with you pinned beneath it.”
“I was there for that,” Jack snarled. “Why am I this?” He held up his gray arms.
With a board sigh, the doctor shook his head. “Doctor Winston found you sometime later. The public was never told anyone ever found your body, in fact, the good doctor told no one he found you. Though, I understand why, seeing as what he did to you.”
“What did he do to me?”
“An experimental procedure he'd been developing for some time. He tried to raise you from the dead.”
Jack balked. He'd never be religious, but he knew that was wrong with every fiber of his being. “He succeeded.”
The doctor shook his head. “No he didn't. He gave up too soon. There was another step in the processes, but he didn't go through with it. I did. I completed his work and here you are. Back from the dead.”
Jack stared at his reflection in the mirror.
He'd been at peace and they dragged him back. He was finally free of pain and longing and hurt... and they'd stolen it from him.
Thin trails of smoke drifted from the corners of his eyes.
They'd stolen his rest and turned him into a monster, a walking corpse. Not alive, not dead, something hideously in-between.
He'd make them pay. They'd all pay for what they'd taken from him.
He cocked his head to one side. “You're not Overwatch, are you?”
The doctor took off the surgical mask and smiled. “I am, Mr. Morrison. But I also work for someone infinitely more... influential. They are quite excited to meet you. They've been trying to meet you for sometime, but Overwatch always got in the way.”
“Talon.” Jack said simply.
“Correct. We think we can help each other, Mr. Morrison. We can help you adjust to your new... life. And you can help us.”
A rueful smile spread across Jack's lips. “I do have you to thank for this, don't I?”
The doctor turned up his palms in a humble gesture. “I merely wished to push the bounties of medical science to save you.”
Jack turned. His hand clamped around the doctor's throat and, with a squeeze, snapped his brittle neck. He let go. Before the body had time to slump to the floor Jack lunged for the guard. His body burst apart.
Suddenly, he was everywhere. He could see everything around him at once, feel the air in the room and the bullets whizzing through him without doing any damage.
And he could fly.
He rushed toward the guard, his vapory form encircling his target. Jack pulled himself together behind the target's back, grabbing his head and wrenching it to the side. The was a loud crack and the semi-automatic went silent.
New feeling prickled at Jack's fingertips. A hunger growled deep in his chest cavity. Something dark-red shimmered in Jack's sight. He knew he wanted it, whatever it was. He needed it. Like a ravenous beast, he drew the shimmering something toward him. It flowed into his fingertips, his mouth, his face, his chest.
Power flowed through him, infusing him with strength. Greedily, he took and took until there was nothing left. He let the body slump to the floor. It rolled onto its back. An empty husk stared up at him with milky, sunken eyes. The skin had turned ghostly pale, the cheeks hollow, bony hands curled into claws.
Interesting... Jack squatted down next to the husk, examining it. Safe to assume that he didn't have that effect while he'd be alive. Another side effect of the resurrection? No. It was because he took whatever that shimmering was.
The hunger in his chest gnawed at him, growing. He was starving. He touched the body, wondering if there was more of—it disintegrated into a pile of ash and loose clothing. He jerked his hand back. Well. That would be a no.
His gaze flicked to the body of the doctor. Perhaps there was more there. His body turned to vapor again as he ghosted along the floor. So he couldn't fly exactly, but still move as smoke. That could come in handy.
He rematerialized over the body. Now, how did he, ah. There it was. The red shimmer radiated off the body like heat off a blacktop. Jack passed his fingers through it. The shimmer gravitated toward him. He curled his fingers, drawing it toward him.
It flowed into his hand, pooling in his palm. A red and black orb about the size of an apple sat in his hand, pulsing like a heart. Whatever it was... some instinct told him this would ease the pain rippling across his body. This would quiet the ache in his chest.
He brought the red orb closer and inhaled. It flowed into his nose, his mouth, his eyes, and ears. Power slid down his throat, wiggled into his veins, curled around his heart, and along his limbs. God! It felt so good .
The pain was gone. He almost felt alive. His hands looked normal, if still ashen. He rose and went to the mirror again. The burns were gone. His nose and cheek fully fleshed out, like they'd never been missing. No glimpse of teeth. No longer did his face look sunken and corpse-like. He looked robust and healthy.
The Blackwatch scars remained. The red eyes remained. He stared at the familiar reflection. Jack Morrison could nearly pass for living now.
But Jack Morrison had been a weak, trusting fool. Tendrils of smoke rose off his shoulders as he glared into the mirror. Jack Morrison had let another dictate his life, his happiness, and look where it had brought him.
Look what being a good soldier amounted to. All his life he'd done his best and what had been his reward? Un-death. The tendrils broke apart into clouds of smoke that hung over him.
This is were honor and sacrifice had lead him. This was where love lead him. He was done with them all.
Jack Morrison had been weak. And now he was dead, buried under a building and a lifetime of silent suffering.
The smoke settled on his skin, turning into material. A black, Kevlar body suit encased his ashen body. Heavy metal boots misted into being on his feet. He envisioned gauntlets with flesh piercing claws, and the smoke became them. He pulled a familiar hood over his white hair as a long coat solidified down his back to his ankles.
In the mirror, he still wore Jack Morrison's face. Nothing could change that, he was stuck with it. A white mask descended over his features, hiding them. He tilted his head to one side, then the other, examining the new reflection. Yes... yes this would work. Now Jack Morrison was truly dead and gone.
He turned, striding toward the door. On the way out, he picked up the now owner-less semi-automatic. The hunger in his chest gnawed at him again.
He could feel it. Feel more of the shimmering energy hiding somewhere behind these walls. There were more people here, more Talon agents, more Overwatch traitors. A veritable feast.
Talon. Overwatch. It was all the same. Both had cost him his happiness and his life. Now he would take their souls as payment.
He glided along the shadowy hall like a wraith, sometimes his boots touched the ground, sometimes only mist. A sixth sense led him on, honing in on his targets that could no longer hide from him. If it lived, he could find it.
He palmed the control panel on a door. It swished open to reveal several small Talon teams. Lab techs, mercenaries, another doctor or two. All eyes fell on him. The door swished closed and locked behind him.
“Death walks among you,” he said.
The first bullets flew through him as he ghosted, zipping across the floor.
It was so easy. Jack Morrison had always held himself back, had played fair. How liberating it was not to have that burden weighing on his shoulders. He ghosted, reformed, broke bones, ghosted, slit throats. The mercenaries returned fire, backing up and forming into a knot. It was easily penetrated and slaughtered. The techs mostly screamed and ran. A few picked up weapons. They were quickly disposed of.
Faster and more efficiently than any Blackwatch mission had ever gone, the room was silenced.
He stood in the middle of the blood bath. He hadn't even needed to use the gun. Tossing it aside, he curled his fingers into claws, drawing in the fresh life force.
“Yes,” he hissed as he absorbed it all, quelling the ravenous hunger and easing the pain.
He left the room and the empty husks behind. That was only a small fraction of the people that needed to pay for their crimes. Talon and Overwatch had sowed their seeds, watered them with blood, and now, they had to reap what they sowed, and this un-dead wraith was the rotten fruit their labors. Perhaps, in some twisted way, he had succumb to destiny after all. For here he was again, going out to reap the harvest. But instead of golden corn, it was blood-red souls.
In the halls, he ran into a few more targets and devoured their souls. He flowed along the hall until he reached the computer nerve center. He needed to know where he was, and where the nearest Watchpoint was. The Overwatch database would tell him who betrayed them. How far up it went. Who needed their soul reaped in the most painful way imaginable.
He palmed the control panel and the door swished open. A lone tech turned.
“Oh my God!” the gangly man jumped out of his chair, fumbled a gun out of the holster on his waist and pointed it at the white mask. “Who are you?”
“I... am the Reaper.” He ghosted, flying forward and cut off the screams.
Reaper hated it when Talon sent him envoys. He always made sure to leave them somewhere easily found so everyone would know what happened when you dared approach Death himself.
But this time was different. Jack Morrison wouldn't let him kill this one. It was annoying. For almost six years, Jack had been dead and silent. But now, some tiny part of him staid Reaper's hand.
“ Bonjour ,” the blue-skinned man said in a deadpan voice. “I am Chasseur . Talon sends greetings.”
Reaper took his finger off the trigger off the rifle and slung it over his back to the magnetic holster. “What do you want?” The mask distorted his voice. There was no flicker of recognition in Gérard's now golden eyes. Good.
“They send a peace offering.” Chasseur pulled a small data drive from one of his belt pouches and held it out. “Part of Overwatch's database we've managed to obtain.”
Reaper turned over his clawed hand. Without hesitation, Chasseur stepped closer and placed the data in his palm. Reaper scrutinized his face, but no expression crossed it. No fear, no tension. It was as if he felt nothing. Perhaps he didn't.
“I've given Talon my answer to their overtures for my help many times before. Why are you here?”
“We know you are interested in old Watchpoints.”
It didn't take a genius to figure that out. He'd been raiding them for over five years. But with the dissolution of Overwatch, Minerva's database had been splintered, broken up and pieces stashed all over the world. It was a frustrating setback that had put his plans of revenge on hold. “And? Why shouldn't I rip out your soul?”
The threat didn't even make Chasseur blink. “Because. Talon has found an active databank. It's intact.”
Reaper felt smoke curl out of the corners of his mouth and build up behind the mask. An intact copy of the database? Too good to be true. “Then why doesn't Talon do something about it?” It'd be so much easier to have Talon grab the data then just kill them all and take it.
“It's unfortunately in the heart of a suspiciously active Watchpoint. Someone is still inside, and without Intel or blueprints, we have no idea who, or how many could be guarding it.”
Reaper ran his thumb over the peace offering. An intact database was too crucial to pass up. “And why come to me?”
“You've had great success infiltrating old Overwatch bases.”
“So have you, apparently.”
“The Watchpoint in question is small, and the database will undoubtedly be housed deep inside the main facility. My skills lay elsewhere. Close quarters is not my specialty... as it is yours.”
“And which facility is it?”
Reaper called up his memories of the place. Warm sun, a breeze ruffling his hair. Standing before the half-finished drop-ship. Warm waves lapping at his and Gabriel's feet.
He cast aside the personal memories. They were useless. The blueprints of the base he mapped out in his head. Yes... yes he knew exactly where the databanks where. They were wise to come to him. It wouldn't be easy.
“I'll need a team. The best you have. Outfit them with night vision and electro -grapplers. I have a hunch who we're up against.”
“ Oui, ” Chasseur said. “A plane will pick you up from the roof of the banking building beside Helix International Headquarters tomorrow.”
“I'll be waiting.”
Chasseur turned, lifting his gauntlet. A grappling hook shot out and embedded in the roof of a building.
“ Chasseur ,” Reaper said.
The man turned his head, not annoyed at his delayed exit, simply reacting and nothing more. “ Oui ?”
“If this is a trap, I'll kill everyone. Even you.”
He shrugged. “If that is what you wish.” The gauntlet buzzed and Chasseur whizzed toward the roof, disappearing into the shadows.
Reaper ghosted, racing along the ground, slipping through grates and vents. He wanted to add the data to his collection before he left. Perhaps it would be moot soon enough, but he'd been foolish and trusting in his past life.
He would not make that mistake ever again.
Chasseur was in position, ready to cover a retreat or extraction. The stealth drop ship door opened and Reaper disembarked first. The masked Talon special ops team followed him, weapons drawn and ready.
The familiar situation woke Jack Morrison again. A pang of longing shot through him, making him hesitate. Reaper covered his lapse with a sweep of his surroundings. He was not coming home. He was extracting data, nothing more. He stamped Jack Morrison back down into oblivion.
“This way.” He flowed along his path, the team following him to the side hanger door.
They delved deeper into the seemingly abandoned Watchpoint. Infuriatingly, Jack's voice floated up through the abyss. Over there at the now empty bay, Jesse had stared up in awe at a nearly finished orbital shuttle, vowing one day he'd fly in space. Back in the corner, was the tactical Blackwatch compound. Fancy words for a closet. Blackwatch had little reason to be here at a scientific outpost. Tired of the cold and rain of home, Lena had spent her leave time on the beach not to far from here, like a normal young woman on vacation.
Shut up. Jack Morrison was dead. Reaper had a mission to complete. He stopped in a hall junction. Minerva would know they were here by now. He turned to his second in command.
“Down the hall, through the door. Keep your eyes open. She's smart.”
Without a word, the SIC waved his team forward. Reaper left them to be the first half of the distraction. He took a side route, cutting through a vent and slinking into position.
The lights cut out. Good. She would be distracted. He wove through the vent, pouring out onto the floor of the command center unnoticed. Silently, he ghosted to the door and a flying body nearly smashed into him. He dodged it, letting the elite Talon soldier crash into a pile of crates.
She was faster than he thought. Guess he didn't give Angela enough credit. She could hold her own in a fight.
Time for the second half of the distraction. He ghosted, flowing through the dark command center floor, around stunned Talon agents. Angela stood her ground in the middle of the chaos, her white exo-suit peppered with bullet scars. He didn't need to get close to get her attention, but he wanted to unnerve her.
“What?” she gasped, turning to follow his smoky form as he propelled himself up onto the catwalk of the second level.
Reaper rematerialized with Angela's full attention on him. His gaze flicked to the agents fixing the electro -grapplers to the muzzles of their guns. Good. He laughed. For someone so brilliant, she was incredibly dense.
“How dare—” She lunged at him.
Before her angel wing thrusters could kick in, the first agent fired his electro -grappler. The two prongs sliced through the air, embedding in the white armor and yanking her out of the air. She slammed to the ground. Ten-thousand volts sizzled through her armor.
She snarled in pain.
Reaper watched another recovered agent fire. The prongs wrapped around her right arm. Another agent fired. Angela screamed. Jack whispered to stop this madness and let her go. Reaper ignored the voice and turned, coat fluttering behind him. With Angela and her armor taken care of, he could get down to the real business at hand.
He strode to the massive bank of computer terminals, Minerva's brain. Perfect. Angela had apparently been here a while. Reaper had no need to try and boot the system up. He pulled the hacking device from the pouch on his belt and stabbed it into a vulnerable interface. With a click of his thumb, it engaged, sending a storm of little orange bolts of lighting into Minerva.
“Security protocols failing!” the AI said over the base wide speakers. “Angela! Reaper is extracting the Overwatch Agents database!”
Yes. And he would have it too. Talon had promised him that this hacking device was made by the best. He watched the device as it hummed, opening and shifting. Minerva's panels of lights flickered erratically. Two minutes and he'd have all Overwatch agent's current and last known locations. Picking them off the list would be so much easier... he could taste their souls already.
Screaming. Glass shattered behind him and a body bashed into a desk. Reaper barely turned his head to watch the agent slump to the floor.
He growled, stretching his neck to one side. If you wanted something done right.... He ghosted his legs, gliding across the terminal room and out the now broken window. He dropped to the floor just as Angela finished bashing the last two agents heads together.
So much for them being an elite unit.
He landed. Angela's back was too him, she hadn't even noticed. He pulled the heavy pulse rifle from the holster on his back and flicked off the safety.
Angela turned just in time to watch him empty an entire clip into her at close range. She staggered back, blonde hair falling out of its ponytail as her body jerked with every impact. He shot out her knee rotors and she slammed to the ground.
But she wouldn't stay beaten. She tried to push herself up and stay in the fight.
He'd just have to put her down. He aimed the pulse rifle at one of the big, heavy pieces of equipment she had dangling from the ceiling. A single shot brought it crashing down on her.
“Angela? Angela!” The AI said, in the most panicked tone Reaper had ever heard any AI use.
Reaper flicked the rifle forward. The chamber popped open, ejecting the spent round. He slapped in a new one as he prowled closer. If she was going to get in his way, he needed to remove her. She glared back up at him.
Memories came to him unbidden. Memories of a teen girl, with glasses and freckles, looking so small compared to the agents around her. Of that same girl wowing everyone, him included, when she not only designed, but built and tested her first Tesla cannon the second day of her being drafted into Overwatch. She was only what now? Thirty? Far too young to die.
“He's going to have all agents’ locations!” The AI broke the spell of the memories.
Reaper leveled the rifle at her face. “I'll be sure to give them your regards, kid.”
“I'm not a child,” she spat.
She shoved a small metal disk at him. Reaper tensed as the disk emitted a blue forcefield. What was it going to— The field disappeared with a hiss. Instead, it projected a large red hologram reading FAIL. He laughed at her pathetic attempt to harm him.
“I'm a scientist.” She looked away and covered her face.
The disk exploded, flinging out a forcefield that slammed into him like a shotgun blast. He flew through the air, slamming into a desk and slumping to the floor.
Head ringing, back hurting, Reaper snarled, picking himself up from the ground. Angela was already up, armed, Tesla cannon tell-tale humming as it charged. Reaper raised his rifle.
Angela shot first. A dozen arks of blinding-white electricity shot through the air and into him. Fire erupted through his veins. Pain engulfed his world. He tried to shoot, to curl his hands, but his body was shaking itself apart. He gagged and his world vanished in to white.
He knew that voice...
Jackie are you... hiding? From me?
No hiding, just tired. Tired and hurt. Just let him rest. But he knew that voice, this memory.
The darkness parted and he blinked, staring up at an angel. His angel.
Gabriel grinned, reaching a hand out to him. I'll always find you when you're lost, Jackie.
No. No you didn't.
Reaper thrashed out of the memory, tearing himself back to the present. Those memories only lead to pain.
And he was in enough pain as it was. He hadn't felt like this since the day he was forced back to life. He couldn't materialize. His body was blown to hell, little bits of it here and there around the room as invisible particles of smoke. Angela was going to pay for this.
He wanted to go back to the computer, to see if some part of the database was still accessible. But he couldn't pull himself together to do it. Everything hurt, his energy was drained to nothing. And the ravenous hunger was back. He needed to get away, feed, re-strategize.
Slowly, he gathered the scattered pieces of himself back into one cloud. He drifting through the wreckage of the control room and into a vent, running like a coward.
Not running. Tactical retreat. He would be back. That treasure trove of a database would be his. It was only a matter of time.
“What do you want, Chasseur? ” Reaper snarled.
He didn't bother turning around at a light tap of the assassin touching down behind him. His claws itched to reach for the mask lying on the ground beside the empty husk he'd just drained.
“You are a difficult man to find, Reaper.”
“I didn't wish to be found.” Slowly he grabbed the mask and settled it back into place. “Tell me why I shouldn't reach into your chest and pull out your heart.”
“You're upset over the assault on Gibraltar. Understandable.”
Upset? He was far past upset. He'd torn through an entire Talon hideout to ease the wrath and hunger and even that hadn't been enough to calm him.
And then then the unthinkable.
Angela had recalled all Overwatch agents back to active duty. No. He wouldn't allow it. Overwatch had stolen everything from him, he wouldn't let it rise from the ashes.
“We have a mission,” Chasseur continued. “One we think you will find... pleasing.”
Reaper stood, smoke roiling around his form. He turned his face the assassin's direction.
“There is an Overwatch museum that has recently put an artifact on display. One of Talon's benefactors desires it. If we succeed with the extraction, you'll be rewarded with what data we gained from the hack.”
Reaper growled, advancing on the man. Chasseur didn't flinch away. He stood motionless, his eyes half-lidded as Reaper towered over him.
“Why would I find working with Talon any kind of pleasing?”
Chasseur’s blue-tinted lips quirked up in the semblance of a smile. “Because getting through the museum's defenses will require explosives. And Talon doesn't care about collateral damage.
Reaper arched an eyebrow under the mask. Overwatch's memory in smoldering ruins under his boots would go a long way to assuaging his anger.
“I will take care of the item's extraction,” Chasseur said. “You will run assault however you see fit.”
Reaper's lips threatened to crack into a smirk. “Explosively.”
It was just them this time. Jack Morrison woke again as the two of them stood side by side as the plane lowered to drop them off a half mile from their target. It felt almost like home, Gérard at his side, flanking him as they dove head first into something.
Together, they dropped from the plane to the ground, running the moment their boots touched earth. The half mile flew by in silence. They reached the outer perimeter and halted.
The building was pretty, Reaper would give it that. Looked to be a slow day as well. Hardly anyone was here.
Less chance of an innocent getting hurt, Jack's voice whispered in his ear. Shut. Up. Stay dead already.
Chasseur' s recon visor clicked down over his eyes as he swept the compound. “Getting to the roof shouldn't be hard,” he said. “It would be less of an annoyance if the mall cops were distracted.”
“I will handle distraction,” Reaper said, running a thumb over the bandier of specially designed rockets. “Rendezvous at the objective.”
They split up. Reaper ghosted through the decorative fence and materialized in the open courtyard in front of a statue.
Already, he could hear the guards on their coms. Reaper loaded a round of rockets into his rifle and spared a glance at the statue on its high pedestal.
A thirty foot Strike Commander Reyes carved in gray stone greeted all who entered with a noble salute. The signature long duster and trusty shotguns were captured in stone as well. He looked like some hero from ancient times.
Reaper lifted the rifle and pulled the trigger. A trio of hellfire rockets shot out. The statue exploded into a trillion pieces of smoking stone.
That had been petty and childish. After nearly thirty years of being the quintessential good soldier, he was overdue for some pettiness. He kicked aside chunks, grinding his boots down on little pieces that still bore some distinguishable markings. He'd be as childish as he damn well pleased.
The museum guards scattered. So much for good help.
“I'm in position,” Chasseur said over coms. “Keep them busy while I—”
Chasseur grunted. The sound of angel wing thrusters and a Tesla cannon powering up came over the line.
“I'm engaged,” Chasseur deadpanned. “Take the objective.”
“I'm on my way.” Reaper ghosted, streaking across the courtyard to the entrance.
The blast doors were already down. He rematerialized and fired another barrage of rockets. They did their job flawlessly, tearing through the thick metal. Reaper poured through the gaps, streaking through the museum. The sound of shattering glass led him though side exhibits to the main floor.
Angela was taking heavy sniper fire, rushing headlong for Chasseur without being mindful of her surroundings. Foolish. He ghosted to her side. She turned, again, just in time to catch a first hand view of what a clip of pulse rifle rounds looked like close up.
He advanced, driving her back and Chasseur hammered her from above. The foolish girl, taking them on alone.
The sniper fire stopped and switched to the fast burst of automatic fire. The suppression fire disappeared and Angela slipped away. Damn it! Where the hell had Chasseur gone?
A purple suited blur whizzed by, shooting at nothing. Then there was red and brown blur. He didn't have time to find out who the hell it was. He needed to reload. He ejected the clip and Angela went on the attack.
She charged. Reaper retreated as he shoved in a new clip and snapped the rifle back up. He fired. Her armor absorbed the blows. Damn, he hated well armored opponents. Made things annoying. She was almost in striking range when she swerved away. Instead of going after him, she activated her boosters and went for Chasseur . Reaper cursed as the red and brown blur reappeared. It whipped to a stop just long enough for him to see who it was.
Jesse McCree. He was gone in a blink. So Angela hadn't come alone. He sprinted across the open just as Angela smashed her fist into the ground, shattering the floor. Chasseur leapt away just in time, landing beside Reaper.
At least they still worked together well as a team. Reaper flicked his rifle to the rockets and opened fire. They exploded one after the other on the exo-armor. She wasn't getting out of this barrage. He was going to finish the job.
Jesse sailed out of the smoke, blinking through the air faster than even Reaper's eyes could track. He hurled a pair of flashbangs. Chasseur shot them out of the air but the distraction was enough. He was on the ground between them, his annoying fast six-shooter fire forcing Reaper and Chasseur to split up.
Reaper switched back to pulse rounds and hammered away at the back of the chronal accelerator. Chasseur 's added sniper fire sent Jesse blinking for cover. Pounding footsteps behind him made him eject the clip and put in a new one. He turned, unloading his rifle into Angela again. How many rounds could that damn armor take?
Frustratingly, she didn't. She dodged, trying to wait him out for another reload and go in for hand to hand. This mission was getting him nowhere. What should have been an easy smash and grab had devolved into a dog fight. He wanted that data and the nerd and cowboy wannabe were not going to get in his way. He had something that should take care of them both.
“Yesss,” he hissed, drawing on his reserves of energy and turning it into thick, concealing smoke.
It swirled around him like a cyclone, building, whirling faster and faster. Reaper exploded it outward, covering everything on the ground floor in his smoke. Angela put her hand up as she charged forward blindly. Jesse sprinted toward him. Reaper laughed. Yes! Yes, come to him and make it easy.
Nothing was hidden from him in the cloud. He unloaded the full power of his pulse rifle at his enemies. Jesse took a direct hit to the chronal accelerator and retreated, leaping behind a broken pedestal.
Angela stubbornly kept coming. She ran into the cloud full tilt. Reaper concentrated everything on her. He shot her chest, waist, legs, knees. Bit by bit she crumpled until she stumbled. Reaper ghosted into his smoke as she crashed through where he'd been and slammed into the ground.
Jesse was out of the fight and Angela was down for the count. Chasseur went for one of the glass cases and their objective. It was harder than expected, but they'd done what they'd come to do. All that remained was wrapping up loose ends. He materialized, advancing through the smoke with slow, measured steps.
He put the barrel of his rifle in Angela's face. This was the last time she'd interfere with his plans. The recall would die with her. She glared up at him defiantly, hand reaching for something. He glanced down. Her glasses lay just to the side of his foot. Jack Morrison's voice plead not to do it. It was too cruel. But Reaper felt like being petty. Six years of being in constant, shifting pain made him want to take it out on someone. He paused his execution, lifted the toe of his boot, turned it, and stomped down on the glasses. They shattered with a satisfying crunch.
Angela roared, lunging to her feet. The exso-suit crackled with electricity, going into Overdrive.
Reaper fired at point-blank range, but the rounds seemed to have no effect. He leapt away as she punched, the very air sizzling as her massive fist passed through it.
Should have listened to me , Jack Morrison's voice unhelpfully added in the back of his mind. Shut! Up!
A red and brown blur heralded Jesse returning to the fight. Chasseur better have the damn objective! Angela smashed her fists into the ground, forcing him to leap out of the way. Jesse blinked in and out of time, firing and blinking too fast to hit.
Reaper fell back with Angela and Jesse in pursuit. He turned and fired. Jesse blinked, reappearing in the air above Reaper's head and raining shots down on him.
The boy had to go first. Reaper concentrated fire on him, forcing him back. Just one clean shot to the chronal accelerator and— He turned his head at the sound of pounding behind him. Angela wrapped her arms around him in a bear hug. They fell forward into a roll. In a blur, he was up in the air and then slammed onto his back.
His spine spasmed in agony as Angela lifted both fists above her head. He was too old for this. He ghosted a split second before her fists slammed into where his skull had been.
“Look out!” a young voice yelled.
Reaper turned his attention from the fight. A child? In the middle of a battle? Chasseur turned from the empty objective case, pointing his rifle at the child. Jack Morrison yelled for them to lunge in front of the boy. Behind Chasseur 's back, another child—just barely a teenager—leapt out from behind cover.
“Hey!” the teen snapped.
Chasseur turned. The teen drew back his metal arm—not metal arm, gauntleted arm—and punched. A forcefield exploded out of the gauntlet. Chasseur flew back, smashing through several displays before rolling to a stop.
Reaper streaked away from the blast before it could fling him to the moon. When it dissipated, Chasseur was on his feet, rifle on its assault setting, muzzle pointed at the teen lying prone on the ground. Reaper zipped forward to put himself between the boy and the rifle.
Angela slammed down in front of Chasseur , protecting the boy. Chasseur opened fire, peppering Angela's armor with more bullets. Jesse blinked behind him, kicking the gun out of his hand and blinking up to it, firing back at Chasseur with his own weapon.
They were caught off guard, Chasseur outmatched by a teenager, then disarmed! They need to retreat. Chasseur seemed to think the same. He fired his grappling hook at the ceiling and zipped toward the glass. Reaper ghosted, grabbing onto him as they soared skyward. Angela and Jesse still came after them. Reaper switched to the hellfire rockets and fired. They exploded mid-air, forcing Angela to back off and give them some breathing room.
But she still came after them. Reaper fired again but the rifle clicked. Out of rockets.
“EVAC inbound,” Chasseur deadpanned.
Humiliated twice now. Reaper grit his teeth as they turned tail and ran.
“I did not expect you to show up,” Chasseur said, hardly glancing over his shoulder as Reaper materialized behind him.
“I have a score to settle.”
Chasseur turned, tossing down a holo-projector onto the floor. It projected a map of a sleepy looking little town, half taken over by forest. A towering castle that looked like something from a book of fairy tales loomed above the treetops. Reaper crossed his arms over his chest.
“The abandoned town of Eichenwalde is located in the middle of the Black Forest,” Chasseur said. “It's been the base of operations for Diederich, a main weapon's supplier. He's been harassed by a mysterious ghost.”
Reaper snorted. He was the only ghost here.
“His men have made no progress finding this fantôme of theirs and want it handled. Swiftly.”
“And you couldn't do it alone?”
“The fantôme has proved... elusive on my hunts. They've slipped off the radar the last few days.”
Reaper mulled over the situation. If a frontal assault didn't work, subversion would. Their pesky ghost would come to them. “Tell your Diederich to hole up in his castle. All his men. All his shipments. If the ghost wants a shot at them, they'll be forced to come through the ramparts—”
“Where we will be waiting. Oui. I will see to it.”
Several days passed. It mattered little to Reaper. He had nothing but time. Chasseur showed no interest in anything but his surveillance missions. He was not the problem.
The problem lay with Diederich's grunts. They liked to slip off the castle grounds for drinking, gambling, sex. They might have lost one or two to the ghost, or an angry card player that didn't mind murdering someone to get their money back. It mattered little what happened to them, only that they kept presenting the ghost with easy targets. If Reaper had to kill them all himself to get them to stay in the trap he would.
The next grunt that tried to slip away ended up hung on the castle doors, his skeletal face still frozen in a death scream, sunken, milky eyes staring at nothing.
No one else tried to leave after that.
Reaper paced the gloomy halls, unmindful of the terrified glares shot his way or the whispered curses in German.
Still the ghost did not appear. All according to plan.
After a week keeping them indoors, Reaper allowed them out with strict orders. They were to appear cautious, taking the first shipment in weeks. Let the ghost believe they thought they were safe.
Reaper touched the comlink in his ear. “Status report.”
Nothing but static. He growled. The ghost already got to them? How? It was far too soon. Or was it the terrible reception from the densely packed forest?
No need to get angry yet. He flipped the com to Chasseur . “Any progress on our ghost?”
“Nothing. But there is a not so ethereal someone currently scaling castle ramparts. They have no cover and are not being subtle. Shall I kill them?”
“No,” Reaper said, turning and striding to a window that overlooked the front gates of the castle. “Once you set a trap, you never know what will fall into it. Let's see what we've caught.”
He cut the line and watched someone leap over the lip of the wall. No climbing gear. They must be very good to scale a wall like that without aid. With inhuman grace, the intruder vaulted over the ledge and landed, cat-like, in the courtyard.
He was a strange looking sonofabitch. Tactical boots, black pants, tacky leather jacket, small, yellow canisters strapped to his bicep and on his belt. His face was covered by a black mask and orange visor.
In the split second he touched down, Diederich's men opened fire. The intruder lunged forward, whipping out a pair of Helix shotguns.
Rage twisted Reaper's guts into knots. His form wavered into smoke as the intruder tore through the grunts without firing a shot. He used his weapons like clubs, bashing the men into unconsciousness rather than killing them.
Of course he would. Smoke streamed from Reaper’s nose and mouth. He shadow stepped down the side of the castle and around the ramparts, burning up his reserves. It didn't matter. He'd burn everything he had.
The intruder stood, pressing the side of the visor. A holographic targeting HUD projected in front of him as Reaper materialized behind the unwary man.
“Where is he?” the masked man snarled at the single conscious grunt.
Jack Morrison woke again at the sound of that harshly distorted voice. Anything he had to say was overridden by a wave of wrath so powerful Reaper nearly couldn't hold his form solid. He whipped his rifle out of its holster and pulled the trigger. A burst of pulse fire exploded dead-center on the red “76” emblazoned on the back of the tacky jacket. The man felt forward, groaning, back smoldering, but no blood. The jacket was more than just leather. Should have used the hellfires and vaporized him. Shame.
“I'm right here, Gabriel.”
The man on the ground groaned, holding his arm, shaking in pain. Good. He deserved a healthy dose of pain.
“Always rushing in alone,” Reaper chided, pressing the barrel of the gun into the thick curls that didn't have a strand of gray in them. Unfair. Just like everything else. “I know your every move. Always have, always will.” Yes. He wanted to talk to Gabriel Reyes. He had so much to say after all. “Should have known it would take more than Switzerland going nuclear to kill you.”
Gabriel had always been so much better than him after all. Of course he could just walk off a little thing like an entire compound caving in on him.
Everything was so unfair. Reaper had suffered and Gabriel was fine. Everything always went his way. Reaper twisted the muzzle deeper into the curls, forcing Gabriel's head down into the dirt. Not anymore.
“Now here you are.” His finger caressed the trigger. “This is how it should have been.” Still, he hesitated. Why?
Pain erupted in his neck and shoulder. Reaper snarled, spinning away from it, his form wavering. Between the rage and pain, he was barely keeping himself together.
“Get in there, Gabe!” a familiar voice roared.
Reaper looked up at a ledge tucked away in a shadow. Before he could move on the ghost, Gabriel lunged, tackling him to the ground. Gabriel sat on his waist, pummeling Reaper's mask with iron fists. No! No, this was not how it was going to happen! Gabriel fucking Reyes was not going to win again !
He caught the next fist mid-swing and twisted it until the elbow nearly snapped. Gabriel rolled away before Reaper could have the satisfaction of breaking his arm. Both of them scrambled to their feet.
The fell on each other like feral animals. Punching, slashing, kicking. If they hadn't been wearing masks, probably biting. This is how things should have played out that day in Zurich, if he hadn't been too weak and held back by the good soldier in him. But now that part of him was dead and he was free to show Gabriel Reyes just how strong he was.
Reaper smashed his fist into Gabriel's ribs and felt them snap. Gabriel grunted and fell to the ground.
“Incoming on your right,” Chasseur warned on coms.
Reaper lifted his gauntlet and a bullet slammed into the metal harmlessly. “You....”
He'd deal with the ghost first. Gabriel wasn't going anywhere fast with broken ribs. He sprinted away, ghosting through a hail of fire and propelling himself up to where their ghost and made their haunt. He rematerialized just as a sidearm was trust in his face, he pivoted as the gun fired.
“I've been trying to draw out the one who's been picking off Diederich's men,” Reaper said as he pulled the slug out of his neck. “I never expected that it'd be you, a real ghost. Long time no see, Reinhardt.”
“ Mien Gott ,” the ghost said as Reaper flicked away the blood-less bullet.
“Not God. A real ghost.” He lunged, smacking the sidearm out of the giant German's hand and swiping at his face with his claws.
Reinhardt dodged, bringing up his rivet gun that Reaper twisted out of his hand.
“Not to mention him,” he sneered. “Guess we old soldiers are hard to kill. But I should have known.” He back handed the man, sending him to the ground. Reaper towered over the engineer. “You always did take his side every time.”
With a roar, Reinhardt lunged, grabbing Reaper by the throat and they both toppled off the ledge twenty feet onto stone.
Reaper's back took the full force of the impact, blasting his senses from him for a critical moment. Too stunned to move, he couldn't stop Reinhardt from grabbing the mask and wrenching it off.
Reinhardt recoiled, dropping the mask. The look of revulsion and horror told Reaper all he needed to know.
“ Mein Gott ! Jack! What happened to you?”
“He did this to me, Reinhardt,” Reaper snarled, the strain of his anger and pain making his form waver into smoke. “They left me to become this... thing .”
“Jack....” Reinhardt's tone softened, his single good eye gazing at him with rapidly building pity.
Reaper didn't want his pity. “He left you to die. He left me to suffer. He will betray you. Don't ever forget that.” He ghosted away leaving his revenge incomplete when he'd had it in the palm of his hand.
He rematerialized in Chasseur 's base of operations. Everything hurt, his back ached, the hunger in his chest was unbearable. There were no reserves of energy to draw on to materialize himself another mask. He pulled his hood low as he limped toward the chair the assassin sat at.
Chasseur lifted his gaze and arched an eyebrow.
“I want every mission with Overwatch as the target,” Reaper snarled. He'd draw Gabriel out. Every single one of his former agents would die until the bastard himself came to answer for his crimes. “Every. Single. One.”
Killing Overwatch agents didn't bring him pleasure like he hoped it would. Talon sent him coordinates. Reaper went. People died. Life was once again a blur of intel, mission, intel, mission.
Sometimes, he ghosted through old Watchpoints. He didn't look for data, he didn't care about it now. He was searching what he'd really been after all these years.
But it didn't appear. No matter how many souls he took, Watchpoints he turned inside out, no matter what bait he dangled, nothing. Perhaps it wasn't the right bait. Data, low level agents, easy payloads. What did one use to draw out a man that cared for nothing?
How about the people that cared for him?
Reaper watched the small knot of people move through the abandoned Watchpoint.
Ana in her golden Isis armor, rainbow cloak fluttering behind her. The good soldier Fareeha, flanking her mother, massive particle cannon charged and ready. Reaper shook his head. He wished she would have chosen a life other than a good soldier. It was going to kill her. Jesse followed behind them, keeping an eye on their six as they moved through the abandoned Watchpoint. Torbjorn was out here too. Reaper could feel his soul energy outside, covering them.
He could probably take Jesse and Fereeha easily enough. Ana would be another story. Given enough time, he could wear her down. Torbjorn wouldn't be helpful when they were deep enough inside the base, far from windows.
All the prestigious team—minus Amélie—in one place, under threat of Talon. Of course, Reaper was the one who'd tipped off Talon and put them in danger. All part of the plan.
Ana led the way down into the lower levels, her shield raised. They'd be fine when the trap was sprung.... probably. Let's see if he came to protect them, or if he'd let them die as well.
Reaper waited. And waited.
Gunshots echoed up through the lower levels. Ana's battle cry echoed up the ramp. The hum and blast of Fareeha's cannon drowned out the gun fire.
Finally, there was a new soul on the fringes of his senses. It steadily came closer. Reaper watched from his vantage point as the man in a tacky leather jacket charged forward toward the ramp leading down.
Duel emotions shifted within Reaper like two tectonic plates. On one side, nearly three decades of lava-hot anger. On the other, a cold... disappointment. Of course Gabriel would go charging into danger for them. Always for them, his shining Overwatch family. Never for him. Jack Morrison had long ago resigned himself to the fact that he'd been replaced in Gabriel's heart. He'd grinned and bore it as best he could.
Reaper would bear that betrayal no longer. He flung himself from his perch, racing down and colliding with the masked man before he could reach the ramp.
They tumbled back in a hail of snarls and limbs. Rolling across the dirt stained floor, Reaper tore at his foe and got clubbed in the head with the butt of a shotgun. Almost mutually, they broke apart and regained their footing.
“Well, well. How privileged I am that the Strike Commander himself managed to pencil me into his busy schedule.”
Gabriel fired his shotguns. Reaper leapt back, unslinging his rifle and returning fire. Gabriel combat rolled behind cover. In a second, he was sprinting for the ramp to the lower levels. No running from this fight. Reaper sent a barrage of hellfires into the entrance. It erupted in fire. Metal groaned and crumpled, masonry was torn from the walls and crashed to the floor. Gabriel skidded to a halt as the only way down was blocked. He turned, raising his shotguns.
“You cannot escape Death,” Reaper said.
“Who are you, punk?” Gabriel snarled.
The duel rage and disappointment collided within him again. Four seconds was all Reaper needed to know it was Gabriel under the mask. But of course it wouldn't have dawned on the idiot that the powerful foe that held his life in his clawed hand could be someone Gabriel considered so beneath him. Jack had never been good enough after all.
“I am the Reaper, here to collect his due. And you owe one hell of a debt.” He opened fire.
Gabriel dodged, sprinting into range and unleashing his guns. Reaper ghosted and the blasts tore through nothing but smoke. He rematerialized and crashed headlong into Gabriel. They collided with the ground again, guns forgotten. Reaper ghosted out of Gabriel's death grip, sliding through his fingers and back up to his feet. As Gabriel tried to get to his feet, Reaper smashed his boot into the visor. Gabriel went tumbling away. Reaper followed, kicking him in the ribs when Gabriel managed to get to his hands and knees.
“How does it feel, Strike Commander?” Reaper snarled.
The masked faced looked up at him as Gabriel held his side. “I'm just a soldier.”
Reaper drew back and slammed his fist into the face he used to kiss. Gabriel crumpled to the ground, groaning.
“I'll tell you how I feel,” Reaper snarled. “It feels good to finally beat that condescending look off your face.” He grabbed Gabriel by the back of neck and lifted him up. He almost felt high he was so euphoric. He was finally paying back every single broken promise, every single moment Gabriel had made him feel worthless, every single time he'd felt like an object to be used when it was convenient . He beat him down. Lifted him back up and hit him again.
Finally he let Gabriel drop to the floor. He stepped around the fallen soldier, coat fluttering behind him as he circled while Gabriel rolled onto his back and gasped.
“You never could deal with someone else having power,” Reaper sneered. “And now I'm more powerful than you. Now, I am good enough to hit you.” He put his boot on the heaving chest and leaned his weight on it.
Gabriel grabbed at his leg, hammered his fists against the knee but the boot protected the joint.
“How does it feel, Strike Commander, to have everything come crashing down around you? To have the weight of the world pinning you to the floor.” He stomped down hard. “To be unable to breathe? Unable to move?” He squatted down, wrapping his hand around Gabriel's throat. “How does it feel to choke on your own blood? Because that's what you made me suffer through.”
Gabriel clawed at his arm.
“Your bill has come due, Strike Commander.”
Gabriel jerked, dislodging Reaper's boot and tipping him off balance. Gabriel grabbed the arm strangling him and jerked Reaper forward, sending him tumbling headlong into the floor. He ghosted, flowing away and solidifying.
“I owe a debt,” Gabriel said, on his feet, wiping the mask on his sleeve. “But not to you, asshole.”
“Yes to me,” Reaper snarled.
“No. I owe it to the husband I buried.”
Reaper's innards contorted into a festering ball of anger. How dare he! “You never had a husband. Unless you found someone after Zurich, which wouldn't surprise me. Maybe even before.” The stalling and avoidance would make more sense. The thought had always been there, in the back of his mind, eating away at his sanity for decades.
“You don't know me,” Gabriel spat, “you don't know the man I loved.”
Reaper's lips twisted into a harsh smile. “Oh, but I do. I was there when Jack Morrison died.” He pulled back the hood and took off the mask.
Gabriel let out a strangled noise. Reaper leered at him. He hadn't fed properly in weeks. A breeze slipped along his burned, blistered face. He could almost feel his eyes sinking into their sockets. Droplets of drool leaked down the side of his face that was missing an entire cheek.
“Not as pretty as you remember, am I, cariño ?” he spat. “If you even remember. I was so easily replaced, maybe you don't—”
“Jack?” Gabriel took a step forward. “How? I... saw your body. I buried you.”
“The grave couldn't hold me.” Reaper held his ground as Gabriel came closer. “I am Death.”
Gabriel cupped Reaper's cheeks, coming closer until they were almost flush. He couldn't move. He was rooted to the spot. Shocks of warmth raced through him. Even through the heavy tactical gloves, Reaper could feel the warmth of living flesh. It felt so good, to feel tenderness again, to be touched at all. His body wavered between smoke and solid.
“Jackie,” Gabriel whispered. “It’s really you. What happened?”
The rage came surging back. He shoved Gabriel in the chest, sending him sprawling to the ground. The mask misted back into place as he pulled up his hood.
“You betrayed me,” he seethed. “You said you would protect me and you didn't. Now I live with the consequences.”
He ghosted without thinking, streaming away into the shadows. He had to get away. Far away. Fast.
The whole point of this trap was to kill Gabriel... so then why was he the one that felt trapped?
He might be angry and hurt, but he was still in love. Jack Morrison was alive. Buried, but still fighting.
Reaper couldn’t be both of them at once. He had to make a choice. Love or hate?
He needed more time to decide.