The surgeries took a total of fourteen hours -- five for Hanzo, nine for Jesse -- all of which Genji Shimada spent in the corridor between the two operating theatres despite the best efforts of everyone to pry him out of it.
Reinhardt was the first to make the attempt: he was already there when the Orca landed at Watchpoint Gibraltar, coasting on the fumes as Lena promised and relying heavily on its solar-powered propulsion systems on the final leg of the journey. He and Brigitte reached the base before anyone else, departing Gothenburg via telestation to Berlin, Berlin to Madrid, and then the red-eye hypertrain to Malaga, the last stretch accomplished at breakneck speed in a rental car along the scenic old coastal highways that linked the two cities together. Angela pulled into the Watchpoint to find a full breakfast waiting for her in the communal recreation center, a room in the personnel quarters block cleaned and prepared for her use, and a capable assistant in the form of Torbjorn’s eldest daughter when it came to preparing and restocking the surgical suites in the medical bay. It was thus that the rest of the team arrived, late in the evening on Christmas Day, to Reinhardt and Angela waiting on the platform next to the VTOL landing pad, Angela already in scrubs and ready to take the emergency life support pod containing Jesse in hand and Reinhardt manning a hovercart containing freshly brewed carafes of coffee and tea and an enormous platter of fresh cinnamon buns nearly as tall as himself because he was, at the best of times, a stress baker and never more so when legitimately unable to do more than wait.
Unfortunately for both his nerves and his good intentions, the only member of the rescue team desirous or capable of partaking of that largesse was the pilot, who rapidly consumed three buns and two cups of coffee, having just spent nearly twenty hours at the controls and who needed the stimulants solely in order to stagger upstairs to bed. Zenyatta did not, of course, need to eat, having no actual nutritional requirements answerable by sugar or caffeine. Jesse was not in a condition to do so nor, as it turned out, were Genji’s brother and Dr. Corbin, who had spent the majority of the flight stabilizing the same and who disappeared with him into the second surgical suite within minutes of their arrival. That left Genji himself, who should have had something to eat and drink, and was absolutely neglecting the remaining needs of his organic body for rest and nourishment in favor of pacing a course that would, eventually, send him right up the walls. Literally.
Reinhardt permitted this folly to go unanswered for the full eighty-five minutes it took to relocate the hovercart to the kitchen, unload it, use the terminal there to obtain a proper medical reference vis a vis Genji’s daily nutrient intake requirements and thereafter prepare him a properly wholesome breakfast. He selected breakfast because he knew, beyond a shadow of any doubt, that at no point during the mad telestation enabled dash from Nepal to Washington, D.C. had any member of that trio spared more than a passing thought to the concept of a meal and, seeing as it was 1:45 am in Shambali at that very moment, it was officially both too late and too early for dinner. A boiled egg, a small fruit salad of sliced bananas and hothouse strawberries, a glass of apple juice. Genji’s body required little in the way of protein intake and too much could, in truth, harm him if he did not manage it carefully and the would serve fruits to satisfy his sweet tooth in a healthful way. It was with a warm sense of satisfaction for a job well-done that he rang the public communications panel in the medical bay hall and announced, “Genji, your breakfast is waiting in the kitchen! Come and eat!”
He was humming cheerfully to himself as he laid the dishes out, folding the napkin into the form of a snowy white rose and settling the fruit salad bowl in the middle of its petals, adding a straw to the glass of juice, when the kitchen terminal chimed a response. “Thank you, Reinhardt, but I am not hungry.”
Everything came to a halt for several moments as Reinhardt stared in blank incomprehension at the communication screen. Then he crossed back to it, opened communication again with rather more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary, and bellowed, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU ARE NOT HUNGRY? YOU HAVE NOT EATEN IN AT LEAST TWELVE HOURS.”
“Please, my friend.” Genji’s voice, when he replied, was soft but not enough to disguise the pain in it. “I...do not wish to leave Medical right now.”
“I understand.” And, so saying, he packed the meal onto the hovercart, walked it down to Medical, and waited patiently while Genji, captive to his own better nature, ate every bit of it. “Now, was that so terrible?”
“It was not.” Genji admitted, dabbing the corner of his mouth with the unfolded napkin. “I am not going to leave. My brother -- Jesse -- I cannot.”
Reinhardt patted his shoulder comfortingly. “I do not expect you to do so...yet. But you must rest at some point, Genji. You will be no good to anyone if you do not.”
“At some point, yes.” He agreed.
Two and a half hours later, he had, in fact, stopped pacing when Reinhardt stirred from his own very necessary nap to come check on him, instead sitting in half-lotus position next to his mentor, floating serenely a few inches off the ground. His body’s lights were noticeably dimmed and it took him no small amount of time to notice that they were no longer alone, an impressive lapse of awareness given the circumstances. “Reinhardt -- is something wrong?”
“Do you remember when I said that I think you should rest sometime?” Reinhardt asked, in a tone that strongly suggested that time had clearly, obviously come.
“I do. It was not that long ago.” Genji raised his head with a physical effort. “I -- “
“Your friend has a point, my student.” The omnic -- the monk -- Reinhardt remembered belatedly that his name was Zenyatta -- remarked delicately. “You have expended a great deal of your strength in a short period of time and you must replenish it properly. Neither of your brothers would wish you to bring harm on yourself for no reason.”
Reinhardt thought that was giving at least one brother slightly too much credit, but also recognized the better part of keeping such sentiments to himself. “Your teacher is a wise being, my friend. You must rest, even if only a little while. You are, as they say, running on empty.”
“It is not -- “ Genji began wearily and at just that instant the indicator panel over the left-hand surgical suite flicked from sterile-sealed-red to green and, a moment later, the door hissed open in a wave of antiseptic-scented air.
Dr. Corbin stepped out, shaking the coppery-red braid out of her surgical cap, and Genji rose on unsteady legs to greet her. “Doctor?”
The doctor -- Reinhardt thought he recalled her name as Emily -- smiled a tired but reassuring smile at him. “Shimada-san. Your brother is in recovery and I don’t mind at all telling you he is a very lucky man, in several respects.”
Genji closed his eyes and, for a moment, the emotions that crossed his face came too rapidly to distinguish one from another, ending on a fragile species of relief. “Thank you, Doctor.”
“You’re welcome.” She stepped more fully out into the hall and keyed the door shut behind her. “Briefly, he’s lucky that whatever hit him wasn’t a few inches further to the left, because I strongly suspect the force of impact he absorbed at that point would have broken his sternum and pulped his heart and we wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation if that were the case. As it stands, it broke the right second through fifth ribs in multiple places and tore loose the sternal cartilage in a discrete segment, badly enough that I thought it best to repair it surgically, both for its own sake and to prevent any further damage to the lungs. Both lungs, but particularly the right, were contused, the right lacerated in several places, the myocardium contused but he somehow managed to avoid serious damage to the thoracic aorta, which is frankly pretty miraculous given the extent of the compression injuries otherwise. He does, I have to warn you, look fairly awful just now -- he’s on ventilator support and will be for at least the next several days while the nanocolonies finish the soft tissue repair of the internal and external lacerations and there are all sorts of pulmonary hygiene tubes coming in and out of his chest to assist in excess fluid removal and prevent any sort of infection from setting in. I have him on a therapeutic level of sedation and analgesia because there’s nothing about any of this that isn’t miserably uncomfortable and, frankly, it’s best if he sleeps through the worst of it. If you want to see him, you may, but no more than a few minutes.”
“Please.” Genji stepped forward, knees wobbly; Reinhardt caught him by the elbow and they went into the recovery pod together.
Reinhardt was, in all honesty, not certain what to think as Genji sank wearily down onto the stool and reached for his brother’s bloodlessly pale hand -- one of the hands that had, by his own admission, once tried with some substantial measure of success to take his life. He was not certain what he himself had been expecting to find when finally confronted with the elder Shimada sibling in the flesh, flesh clearly compounded as fragile and mortal as any man’s, attached to machines now helping him to breathe and suffer no pain. Wondered, unkindly, if the effort were truly even worth making for his own sake and found no answers in the still face beneath the intubation apparatus. Very little about this situation made any fully coherent amount of sense and he suspected it would not until all of its participants were awake and capable of speech and perhaps not even then. For now, he kept his uncharitable judgments to himself, for the sake of the young man whispering quiet exhortations in his mother tongue to his senseless brother, and resolved to stand guard as best he could over that perhaps foolishly forgiving heart. It was the very least that he could do.
The hours dragged, as hours spent in an excruciating state of nervous tension were inclined to do. Genji lasted another twenty minutes after Reinhardt pried him out of the recovery pod, his body’s autonomous support systems initiating a self-defense override that left him sprawled mostly senseless in Zenyatta’s lap. Reinhardt fetched a cot equipped with a fully charged high capacity cybernetic support pack and the necessary connection conduits from the medical stores block and, together, they shifted Genji onto it, removed the armor guarding his access ports, and settled him down to rest properly while his body drank down the power it needed to function.
Zenyatta tucked a blanket around him and fussed a moment with the pillow, the gestures so endearingly human that Reinhardt could not help but like him at once. “I thank you, Herr Wilhelm. He can be enormously stubborn, to his own detriment at times.”
“That has been true as long as I have known him.” He smiled down on his sleeping comrade and laid a kindly hand on the monk’s shoulder. “And you, Herr Zenyatta? May I assist you in some way?”
“If there is another of these devices available, I would not refuse the use of it.” The monk’s tone modulated in a decidedly wry direction. “My student is not the only headstrong man with whom I have had to contend lately.”
The corridor was more than wide enough to accommodate a cot on each side with room for other concerned parties to pretend to casually pass through on the way to other destinations. Lena wandered through to inform him that Fareeha had called from JFK to let them know she was on the last leg of the trip and would be landing in Gibraltar later in the day. Winston ambled down from Operations to casually mention that Torbjorn had messaged that he was leaving Gothenburg within the hour. Both of them inquired delicately after Genji, who remained deeply asleep even after all his mechanical systems were fully recharged and reading in the green, likely jetlagged in the way that only seemed to hit after sequential telestation transits across multiple time zones. Neither said any of the things they clearly wished to say about the man they did not really know lying in recovery, or about the friend they knew all too well still in surgery after so many hours. Reinhardt did not speak any of those words yet, either, no more prepared to begin thinking in that direction than they.
Late in the morning, the light over the sealed surgical suite flicked from red to green, and Angela stepped out into the corridor. For the first time in what was certainly years she looked as though she had just spent nine hours laboring over an operating table, contending mightily to save her patient’s life: her eyes were shadowed with exhaustion and her shoulders were so bent under the weight of some powerful emotion that, for a moment, fear genuinely seized his heart.
“Liebchen,” He rose, and opened his arms, and she walked almost blindly into his embrace, rested her head on his chest. “Is he…?”
Angela nodded, a weary tremor running through her shoulders. “Alive. He is alive.” A choked little laugh. “I never want to spend that much time picking bone fragments out of his lungs and pericardium ever again. A few more hours and I would not have been able to…” She stopped and took several deep breaths to steady herself. “He is not completely out of danger but he is past the worst. The life support pod did its job perfectly and I do believe we owe the Tekhartha a great many thanks for his efforts, as well.” A little smile quirked briefly at the corners of her mouth. “Once he is awake, that is.”
“You should also rest, Angela.” Reinhardt replied, gently.
“I have another patient to attend before I can do that.” Angela replied and the tiny smile planed completely away.
Knowing there was little he could do to dissuade her and absolutely nothing he could say, he stepped aside to allow her entry to the recovery pod; she gestured for him to follow, and so he did.
“Did Genji tell you how...this...came to pass before he succumbed to system shutdown?” Angela asked, carefully calm, as she opened monitor screens and scanned data streams, making adjustments as she went.
“He did not. I thought it unkind to press him on the topic given the circumstances.” Reinhardt thought that their guest, though clearly still not well, looked slightly less terrible than he had before. “Dr. Corbin thought he would recover given sufficient time.”
“Yes. And it seems that we must be the ones to give it to him.” Her tone was coolly neutral, nearly cold, and he knew she was seeing in her mind’s eye the wreckage of Genji’s body when he was first given over to her care, the months of cybernetic reconstruction and the pain that was only partly physical -- and not the largest part, at that. “Dr. Corbin is correct. Unless his condition deteriorates dramatically in the next twenty-four hours, he stands an excellent chance of recovery.”
It sounded, to his ears, as though she could neither rationally despise the idea nor take any particular pleasure in it. He did not think he could blame her for that. She made a few last adjustments and closed the monitors, stepped back out into the hall with her arms wrapped around herself, as though she did not quite trust what she wanted to do with her hands. “We should get these two into a room of their own -- they may not require monitoring, but I do not think they would refuse privacy.”
“Agreed.” The cots were mounted on antigrav railings and it took only minor effort to maneuver them down the hall and into one of the larger nonsurgical medical suites. “And now, liebchen, I insist that you find your way to your quarters, as well.”
“Yes, onkel.” She looked up at him, heaven-blue eyes suddenly bright, steely. “I am going to need your help, I think, before all this is said and done.”
“With what?” He asked, feeling already the weight of what she would say and his willingness to shoulder it.
“This was not a random act of violence. It was not even, I suspect, an attempt to cash in on Jesse’s bounty. Someone was willing to expend an enormous amount of effort in order to kill him.” Her eyes flashed, icily furious. “We must know who that is and why, and then we must make certain they cannot try again.”
Reinhardt reached out and grasped her hand. “You know that my hammer is yours.”
She squeezed tightly in return. “Yes. I do.”
This was not at all how she imagined it happening -- and she had had years, more than a decade really, in which to construct scenarios in the back of her mind, to contemplate every reasonable permutation of events that would bring her, bring them, to this point. Somehow, none of those carefully planned, artfully arranged fantasies had involved Hanzo bloody Shimada being carried senseless and just short of mortally wounded into a Watchpoint medical facility over which she held more or less absolute operational authority, which just proved that reality would always contrive to be stranger than fiction. Fiction, after all, was obligated to make sense.
Dr. Angela Ziegler stood in the recovery room currently occupied by a man whom she had faithfully despised in absentia for more than a decade, tried and convicted by undeniable evidence, surrounded by a holo-fan of his medical monitors, trying strenuously to think of nothing but their contents and failing miserably. Dr. Corbin’s field assessment and subsequent course of intervention was completely clinically sound. The surgical stabilization of the chest wall injury was clearly necessary -- the amount of force applied to the initial point of impact had shattered two of the four ribs involved, tore the sternal cartilage completely loose, lacerated the lung beneath in a manner functionally indistinguishable from penetrative chest trauma. (In her mind’s eye, she saw another set of pulmonary scans, the results of another form of penetrative chest trauma, the molecules-thick nanofilm that held Genji’s thoracic cavity together in the absence of most of his sternum, ribs, musculature on his arrival in Geneva, strapped into the first generation life support pod prototype the Blackwatch retrieval team had absconded with on their recovery mission. Proof of concept and successful rescue rolled into one, she had been forced to admit, even as she struggled then to find the intellectual distance necessary to save what was left of her patient’s life.) The secondary bilateral pulmonary contusions meant, taken as a total picture, he had more damaged lung tissue than healthy with all the attendant problems related, positive pressure mechanical ventilation being a completely reasonable means of addressing the prevailing issue of adequate oxygenation while the nanocolonies worked to repair the pulmonary soft tissue damage. (Genji had not breathed on his own for more than three months while his lungs were being rebuilt on a nanomachine framework overlaid with organ tissue based on his own genetic blueprint using stem cells harvested from the marrow of his remaining bones, to reduce the risk of rejection.) The tube thoracostomy was a pragmatic, therapeutic response to the risk of pneumothorax and the heavy epidural-delivered anaesthetic requirements for pain management, as were the intravenous antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications the pod’s autonomous monitoring systems fed him at regular intervals -- all the rest was for nothing if he drowned in his own fluids or developed a secondary post-surgical infection that further compromised his pulmonary functions. (Pneumothorax had been the very least of Genji’s concerns -- his thorax had, after all, been mostly theoretical until the fabrication team produced a workable synthetic thoracic cage that played nicely with the modular spinal reconstruction, a process of trial and retrial that produced seven different prototypes that had gone on to save thousands of other lives. Genji’s unique and horrific circumstances had partaken of several to produce a functional result, given the desired parameters of his recovery.) The external injuries were nearly an afterthought in terms of severity, the incised wounds carved down his side responding well to the biotic infusions he had received; he might not even have a scar to remember them by. (Genji’s remaining nonsynthetic epidermis was more scar tissue than anything else.)
It would take so little. A slight alteration in the ventilation pressure. A tiny adjustment to the anaesthetic level. Either or both could depress the breathing reflex, compromise the oxygenation levels. Reduce the concentration of anti-inflammatories in the medication mixture and the amount of excess fluid his body produced would increase slowly but surely. The sedation would break, eventually, and before he died he would be aware enough to know the agony and the horror of being trapped in his own broken body while he drowned in his own fluids, helpless to save himself. It would take so little. Her fingertips rested on the recovery pod command keys that would make it happen. All she had to do was move them.
Angela jerked upright, heart pounding against her ribs, breath coming in desperately pained rasps, something close to a scream lodged in her throat. It took her far too long to choke it back down, too long to manage an almost-normal tone of voice. “Athena.”
“Yes, Dr. Ziegler?” The workpad sitting on her bedside table came to life as she snatched it up. “Do you require assistance? Your heart rate is significantly elevated -- “
“Please do not monitor my vitals, Athena.” Her heart rate was significantly elevated, her hair was dripping into her eyes and her nightshirt was plastered disgustingly to her body with sweat -- fear? Exertion? Nightmare? -- and she could not stop shivering where she sat on her dubiously comfortable bed in a puddle of bedclothes. “Give me the current diagnostic monitor feeds for the patients in medical, please.”
“As you wish, Dr. Ziegler.”
Was that a faint hint of reproof in Athena’s tone? Angela decided that she didn’t care as the data feeds opened on her tablet. And there was the proof that she had not indulged in emotional impulses of murderous intent while in the grip of physical and mental exhaustion: Shimada-the-elder’s therapeutic program unaltered from Dr. Corbin’s planned course of action. Relief rushed through her, almost as dizzying as the adrenaline rush of sudden fear, and she fell back into her pillows with a thoroughly repellent squelch that sent her rolling out of bed. She needed a shower. No: she needed a shower, then she needed a sedative of her own, and then she needed at least eight hours of uninterrupted rest. Of the three, she was most likely to get the shower, every nerve still twitching with the sudden release of stress and sleep running away with a laugh that mocked the entire concept of pharmaceutical intervention.
“Sleep is for the weak anyway,” She muttered to her reflection in the bathroom mirror as she stripped off her nightshirt and turned on the water in the shower to let it heat while she retrieved her toiletries bag, still in the bedroom, sure evidence of her lack of mental organization upon arrival.
The hot water washed away the clammy remnants of her nightmare, unknotted the muscles in her neck and shoulders and back, and she stood for a moment simply luxuriating in the sensation, breathing deeply of the steam, pretending that the water on her face was solely from the showerhead.
“It was not real,” She informed the woman looking back at her from the mirror as she toweled herself dry. “I would never do such a thing, not even to him.” She turned away before that woman’s expression could turn more self-mocking than it already was. “Get yourself together, woman, you are not a first year resident, this is not the first time -- “
Her suite’s door chime sounded, and Reinhardt’s voice came over the comm. “Liebchen? Are you awake?”
“Just a moment!” She twisted the towel around her wet hair and slipped into her robe, belting it tightly around her as she keyed open the door. “What is wrong, onkle?”
“Nothing, for a pleasant change. You asked to be informed when Fareeha arrived -- her plane just landed in Gibraltar, and she should be here shortly.” Reinhardt paused, his good eye narrowing slightly as he regarded her. “Are you well, Angela? You look -- “
“My sleep was something other than restful.” Angela admitted, reluctantly. “Too much stress. I should have taken a sleep aid, but I did not want to adle myself in the event of an emergency.”
“You take too much upon yourself.” He rested a hand on her shoulder. “Do you want me to fetch you something? I know that Fareeha will understand.”
“After we’ve spoken.” She smiled brightly up as his skeptical look. “I promise.”
“I will hold you to that. Come to the kitchen when you are ready and I will make you some tea.” He stepped out and left her to make herself decent.
“...That had best be some miraculous tea.” She whispered and turned to the contents of her suitcase.
Fareeha Amari looked like Angela felt -- which was to say as though she were running a semi-permanent sleep deficit, presently held at bay by military-grade combat stimulants, cardiac arrhythmia inducing amounts of caffeine, or some deeply unhealthy combination of the two. The shadows under her eyes had shadows of their own, and it was entirely possible that she had completely lost track of the number of sugars she had already added to the steaming cup sitting on the rec center table in front of her, because she was glaring at it as though it had personally insulted the honor of her parents. She looked up as Angela entered the room and crossed into her still-active-albeit-sluggish situational awareness sphere and the expression of dismay that crossed her face would have been comical under any other circumstances. “Angie, who punched you? Tell me now and I promise I’ll only break their arm a little bit.”
“No punches, I assure you, just the inevitable consequence of not sleeping a night through for...what day is it again?” Angela asked, and accepted the mug Reinhardt poured for her, already adulterated to her preferences.
“It is technically still the 26th for a few more hours.” He replied and turned back to the teakettle to fix himself a drink, as well.
“Four months? Give or take the odd weekend here and there where absolutely nothing urgently acquired my immediate attention and I didn’t have to fly thousands of miles on a moment’s notice to perform life-saving medical intervention for my idiot brother.” Angela sipped her tea and savored the warmth.
“Well, you’re calling him an idiot which means he’s not going to die.” Fareeha’s shoulders slumped as though an enormous weight had been lifted off them and she sagged back into her chair. “He’s...not dying, right? That’s what that means?”
“He is not dying any longer. But I do not think I will ever be as afraid as I was when I opened the life support pod and saw -- “ Her hands were shaking hard enough that she thought it wise to set her mug down. “A half-inch to the left or to the right and we would be sitting here planning his funeral. I -- “
Fareeha’s arms closed around her and, a moment later, the force of Reinhardt’s embrace crushed them both and for quite some time thereafter none of them said anything.
“Thank you. I feel so foolish,” Angela said, as Fareeha handed her a napkin, which she then applied to her eyes. “This is not the first time and yet, for some reason, it feels so much worse than it ever has before.”
“Before you could order him confined to the Medical or his quarters until you saw fit to release him back to active and Commander Reyes would not only back you up, he might personally sit on him, as well.” Fareeha warmed everyone’s tea. “It feels different because it is different. And -- “ She paused, looked all the way around the room before she let herself look at them again, “I don’t know how you two felt about the presents he sent but -- “ She stopped again, drank a sip, and soldiered on. “Everything he sends is always so thoughtful but this year it was...something else. Deliberately something else, not just something that we’d like to have but something to take comfort in like…” She trailed off.
Reinhardt put the thought she had not been willing to speak into words. “As though he knew this might be his last gift to us.”
The silence that followed was thick with things that none of them wanted to admit aloud. Angela focused on the surface of her tea and drank, thinking fixedly of nothing, until she reached the bottom of her cup. “I was not exaggerating when I said a half-inch either way would have meant his death. If the shot had placed slightly to the right, it would have struck close enough to sever the spinal column and the exit path would have severed all the major blood vessels in his neck and the esophagus. He would have died more or less instantly. To left, it would have done a similar amount of damage to his heart and the great vessels emerging from it, though the shot might have been less immediately lethal. Had the assassin placed their shot below the back edge of his ballistic armor, the bullet would at the very least have done severe and likely mortal damage to one of his kidneys -- if that were not enough to cause him to bleed to death within minutes, the cavitation injuries caused by its path through the abdomen would have killed him.” She looked up and found Fareeha carefully assembling her Professional Security Officer face and Reinhardt with his expressionless Old Soldier mask already firmly in place. “Instead, the assassin placed their shot to rather precisely sever the brachial cybernetic control plexus and inflict significant, immediately disabling but not instantaneously fatal injuries.”
“That’s….” Fareeha began, her brows knitting together. “Wait just a moment. Athena, can you give us an American news feed? Any news items applicable to the events in Arlington. Literally everything.” She pulled out her own tablet and opened a subscreen.
“Of course, Fareeha.” On the far side of the rec center, the holotank came to life, split into a dozen screens of both local and national coverage, chyrons running across the bottom of the display in place of competing audio. “Searching for archival information now. These are the currently active broadcasts.”
Angela stood and drifted closer. At least three of the broadcasts were politically oriented talk shows populated by a random selection of individuals who never allowed a complete absence of solid information to interfere with their ability to be thoroughly outraged by the topic at hand. She ignored them completely in favor of the local news feeds which seemed to be altogether more focused on the realities of the situation. The police cordon around the area remained in place despite the thorough disruption it caused to nearby traffic because both military and civilian forensic examiners were combing every inch of Columbarium Court Nine, where the majority of the victims had been found, and two other, smaller sites nearby, where other bodies had been discovered after sunrise. The investigation was young enough that no official statements had yet been made with regard to it, though that did not prevent several reporters from speculating by loudly refusing to speculate about connections to either international or homegrown terrorist organizations. The soldiers injured in the incident had regained consciousness and were being treated for an assortment of minor injuries. They all remained hospitalized for assessment but in general appeared to have fared better than anyone else involved.
“...No, no rush. I’d rather it be good intel, not wild mass guessing. Thanks, Alex.” Fareeha’s laugh rang off the walls. “Sure, fine. Next time, drinks are on me.”
“Dare I ask?” Angela glanced over her shoulder as Athena pulled up a half-dozen more screens from the night of the attack itself.
“One of the nice things about working for Helix.” Fareeha joined her, eying the publicly available news sources with obvious disfavor. “We’ve got contractor teams all over Washington D.C. working private security for events, for individuals, even for certain non-governmental buildings. A colleague of mine, ex-American military, is on station there right now working bodyguard duty and agreed to keep his ear to the ground for interesting pieces of intelligence that don’t make it to broadcast for me.”
“Do you think anything will come of that?” Reinhardt sounded slightly dubious.
“It’s not impossible -- Helix recruits pretty heavily from retired military personnel and more often than not we get looped into unofficial investigation and intelligence gathering networks. The investigation is pretty tight right now but it’s going to start springing leaks, that’s inevitable, especially if that -- “ Fareeha reached out, selected a sub-screen, and pulled it up to full size, “is what I think it is.”
The footage was obviously shot from above, likely a local news drone trying to get a drop on any competitors, grainy low-light footage of a forensic medical examination team removing a knot of corpses from one of the columbarium alcoves. The picture blurred momentarily, as the camera zoomed in, and all of them had to control the instinctual urge to recoil as it focused again, a far too near close-up of the remains: withered to the point of near-mummification inside their armor, limbs contorted in a particularly inflexible state of rigor, what little was visible of their faces suggesting they had died in hideous agony.
“I have seen that before,” Angela admitted, throat dry. “Though I was not part of the forensic examination team that performed the autopsy.”
“Only in pictures.” Fareeha replied, evenly. Then: “Whatever -- whoever -- did that...it killed the entire team, the ones that were in the columbarium, the ones that tried to get away, everything except the shooter itself, which hauled ass rather than hang around and tangle with it.”
“The...mercenaries, for want of a better term, were equipped with less-lethal weapons, per Genji’s report of the situation.” Reinhardt observed. “Intended to injure and disable and, likely, to overwhelm with sheer numbers. It is...not impossible that they intended to capture him there, remove him to another location and…” He gestured expressively.
“Why not wait for him to come out, then?” Fareeha asked. “Whoever contracted this knew where he was going to be. They wouldn’t even have to monitor the whole cemetery perimeter, just keep an eye on the columbarium and follow him out.”
“Because whoever contracted this also knew he would try to avoid the use of lethal force on the grounds of the cemetery and that was a tactical advantage useful enough to exploit.” Reinhardt replied, his disgust with the dishonor of it all readily apparent.
“So...someone who knows him well enough to predict his behavior with a high degree of accuracy.” Fareeha mused. “Because he didn’t actually fire any shots according to Genji.”
“And...who might have particular and accurate knowledge of his medical history.” Angela admitted, worrying at her lip. “Or, at the very least, knew precisely how to injure him in order to effectively cripple his neuromechanical interface hardware.”
Fareeha said it for all of them. “Jesse McCree, what have you been doing?”