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Ice Kissed, Frost Bitten

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Talon’s hacking of the Ecopoint: Iceland digital archives is the excuse Mei is waiting for.

It doesn’t take much convincing to get Winston to approve her mission request. Morrison doesn’t argue either when Mei commissions a hovercraft and requisite supplies for the journey. He knows what it’s like to be weighed down by the past, so he won’t get in her way.

The only person who might object to Mei’s mission is Junkrat. And she can’t go--won’t go--without him.

She finds Junkrat in his workshop, tediously trying to construct a pyramid from grenades. Hopefully, they’re duds. Mei supposes she’ll find out. Roadhog is leaning against the wall, breathing steadily. She can’t tell if he’s watching his partner work or if he’s asleep.

“I’m going back,” Mei declares. Roadhog stirs, cocking his head in Mei’s direction with a silent question. Junkrat’s hand, holding a grenade between two long fingers, pauses in the air.

“Goin’ back? Back where?” he says over his shoulder. “You’ve been all over.” Brow furrowed, he places the grenade at the pinnacle of the pyramid. It’s a rare thing for Junkrat to become fixated on something that requires so much patience. Mei swallows. If he’s so focused, maybe what she’s about to tell him won’t be such a big deal.

“Back to my old ecopoint.”

What?” The tower of grenades topples when Junkrat swings around to face her. He stares at her open-mouthed as the bombs bounce and roll around at their feet. Luckily, they really are duds. “Antarctica? But that’s...you sure? Ain’t that place empty now? And cold? Love, what’s the point of going back?” His amber eyes narrow, and his voice drips with kerosene. “Did someone put you up to this?”

“No, no, no! This mission was my idea!” Mei shoots him a sweet, reassuring smile before her expression grows dark. “Talon is stealing old ecopoint data. We don’t know why. I need to backup my old research before they get to it. I won’t let that knowledge disappear. Too much was lost to gather it in the first place.”

The lives of five people. Ten years of her own life. A steep cost to pay for some measly weather patterns and charts. If she never recovers that data, all of it would be for nothing.

Junkrat blinks for a moment before mustering every ounce of enthusiasm in his scrawny body. “Well if that’s the case, sounds like grand time! So, who’s coming with? Winston? He’s wooly, he won’t get frostbite. Maybe Lucio? He likes Canada. That ain’t too different from Antarctica, right?”

Mei purses her lips together. It’s so like him to shove his own doubts and worries aside to be 100% supportive of her decisions. But this time, she needs more than that.

“Jamie,” she says, holding out her hand. “Can you come with me?”

True to form, Junkrat doesn’t hesitate. “‘Course, love,” he says, linking their fingers. He plants a kiss on her forehead, and shoots her a gooey smile. “You don’t even have to ask.”


 

The journey from Watchpoint: Gibraltar to the abandoned Ecopoint: Antarctica is a ten hour trip by hovercraft without stopping. Officially, it’s an inexpensive mission. All Mei needs is Snowball, transportation, and a day’s worth of food for three people.

What the paperwork doesn’t mention is the large backpack sitting on Roadhog’s lap. Mei thinks it’s better that way.

Junkrat tries to remain shirtless as long as he can, but as they clear the southern tip of Africa and his stumps start to ache, he finally layers up. Now he’s wearing long thermal underwear beneath a hooded parka and his usual shorts. A knit sherpa hat with long earflaps covers his wild blonde hair, making Junkrat look much shorter than he actually is. He makes a point of rearranging his magazines of grenades so they hang overtop his coat.

In winter gear, Roadhog’s hulking form is even more imposing. Mei suspects he borrowed a sweater and coat from Winston, because Roadhog owns none himself and had no time to acquire anything new. While his pig-like gas mask remains fixed to his face, Roadhog wears a pair of fluffy ear muffs. His meaty hands are covered in light pink mittens.

As for Mei herself, she is outfitted in gear Winston fondly refers to as her ‘yeti hunter’ outfit. It has a wide, fur-lined hood that completely covers her hair and ears, and goggles with blue lenses protect her eyes. Her coat is far thicker than her everyday parka, and cinched at the waist with a wide sash. On her hip rests a small bear trap; a six month anniversary present from Junkrat.

It felt silly when she got dressed that morning, but now Mei is glad she went through the trouble of changing into a newer uniform. It helps her feel more distant from the Mei who once lived at the ecopoint--and the Mei who almost died there.

Mei sleeps through most of the flight, and when she wakes she doesn’t talk much. She’s too busy steeling herself. This is something she’s thought about for a long time. Her courage can’t falter now. Besides, Jamie’s here. How can she feel nervous when he’s at her side?

“Arriving at Ecopoint: Antarctica,” Athena drones. She closes her eyes. No going back now.

The cold doesn’t bother Mei when she exits the ship. After all, she’s used to putting herself in temporary cryofreeze at a moment’s notice. The junkers are a different story. Junkrat struggles to maintain his signature grin when his teeth are chattering, and walking with his peg leg on icy ground makes his gait erratic and unsteady. A rattling cough oozes from Roadhog’s mask, and he holds out a thick arm to help Junkrat keep balance. The large bag is safely strapped to his back.

As they walk into the base, there is no movement, no sound. Just the whistling of the wind and the occasional movement of dust-like snow. The ecopoint looms ahead of them, silent and stoic. When she lived here, Mei never felt disturbed by how still the ecopoint was. Now she can’t shake how the place feels like a graveyard. Or a tomb.

“Reminds me of home,” Junkrat mutters with chattering teeth.

“Really?” Mei asks. She’s never been to the outback, but this observation surprises her. “I would’ve thought it’d be entirely different from Australia. It’s so hot there! And, er, lively.”

Shaking his head, Junkrat hugs his torso to contain his shivering. “Not in the proper outback it ain’t. It’s all quiet. Everything looks dead. I don’t like it.”

Roadhog nods sagely. “All wastelands are the same,” he says. “Don’t matter how hot it is. Or how cold.”

They walk the rest of the way in silence, save for Roadhog’s labored breathing.


 

Ecopoint: Antarctica is a sprawling facility built beside a towering cliff of solid ice. Inside a dome-like building made of cold steel lies the Crew Quarters. That was where Mei and her team would sleep and relax. Smaller, trailer-like rooms in the middle of the station house the Battery and Storeroom. Metal walkways running overhead those buildings lead to two large facilities--Engineering on the left, and the Cryo Lab on the right. Climatology is found on the other side, exactly opposite of the Crew Quarters.

Mei doesn’t need a map to figure out where she wants to go. She leads the group to the Crew Quarters.

All things considered, the facility is remarkably well preserved. Everything, from Opara’s cooler to Adams’ empty cups of ramen, are exactly where they left them ten years ago. Even the computer screens are the same, having frozen when the power first went out. Mei is strangely pleased to find everything in the Crew Quarters unchanged. It would shatter her to find the place ransacked or disturbed.

Junkrat is immediately drawn to a poster of a tropical beach stretched across the wall. “Ooooo,” Junkrat says. He flicks the poster with his metal hand, causing the scene of paradise to ripple. “Ain’t this a sight for sore eyes. Hey, Roadie look over here!” In a single fluid movement, Junkrat flops onto the pool chair and stretches out. “I’m at the beach!”

“My colleague Opara put it up,” Mei says with a laugh. “She was from Numbani and missed the sun. She used to say that this was the warmest spot on base.”

“She’s right. Nice and toasty over here. Would be toastier with someone to cuddle though.” He props his head up with one hand and waggles his eyebrows.

Mei giggles. “Maybe later! Right now, I want to look at my old room.”

Oh ho ho, I see what you’re saying. We can warm each other up on a real bed.”

Mei can’t deny that she’s somewhat thrilled by the idea of bringing Junkrat to her old bunk, where she had spent many lonely and frustrated nights. But she also knows there is no heat anywhere in the station, so it’s far too cold to seriously consider fooling around. Even Junkrat will change his mind once he realizes removing his winter gear is impossible.

Junkrat follows Mei out of the main room and down a narrow hallway. They walk past rows of small, rounded doors to the end of the hall. There they find another door completely identical to the others--except for a piece of paper taped to the window.

It’s a yellowed piece of paper containing birthday cake doodles and a single message.

“Happy Birthday (Me)i!!!”

Mei reads the note and feels the color drain from her cheeks.

“It’s a pun!” Junkrat declares with delight. “Happy Birthday Mei! Love, you really make up the greatest puns. Hold on a tick...” His smile fades, and squints at the note on her door. “Did you write this card for yourself?”

“It was my 31st birthday,” she says, looking down at her hands. “The others were already in their pods. I stayed awake an extra day because...” She lets the thought trail off.

“Riiiight,” Junkrat replies. “Bad timing, eh?” They stare at the note in silence for another beat. He wraps a lanky arm around her shoulders to gently stroke her upper arm. “Still wanna go in?”

Mei shakes her head. All of her courage is gone. “We should complete our mission first.”

When they return to the main room, Mei stops short in the threshold.

Roadhog looms over the ping pong table in the middle of the room. An orange ping pong ball is frozen in mid-bounce over the net. Above it float the words GAME PAUSED in bright yellow. His eyes drink in the sight before landing on the reset button.

After a moment of consideration, Roadhog moves his lumbering hand to press it.

“Don’t!” Mei snaps. Roadhog yanks his hand away. She rushes to Roadhog’s side, cheeks red with fury. “Don’t touch that! Can’t you see the game is paused?”

Junkrat scrambles after her. “What? What is it? What’s going on? Whose playing games? I wanna play, too!”

No one is playing this game,” Mei says, putting herself between the ping pong table and the junkers. She’s shaking. “The last one isn’t finished. It’s paused. We have to--we have to leave it alone.”

Junkrat frowns and looks up at his partner. A silent conversation takes place between them, and Junkrat turns back to Mei with a softer expression on his face. “Whose game is it, love? Who paused it?”

“I did!” Mei says. It’s wrong of her to feel so emotional and defensive over this. There’s no logical reason why her heart jumped at the idea of the game getting erased forever. She doesn’t know if resetting the game will even work after all this time. She has to explain herself, to help her friends understand. “We--MacReady and I--we were playing. He always said he was going to beat me, and I never let him. I had to pause it because...because...”

Because that was when the anomaly arrived. When everything changed. There was no time to do anything but press pause, grab her coat, and rush to her desk in Climatology.

Mei stomach churns. This room isn’t well preserved. It’s suspended, frozen in a time, just like she was. It’s trapped in a moment when Mei and her team were still alive and happy. When they didn’t know that their days were numbered. She can’t let them delete her final game against MacReady. It’s all that’s left of him.

The memory of jumping around the ping pong table, MacReady’s chipper laugh after a bad serve, her stilted attempt at smack talk, felt so fresh. Like it had only happened yesterday. Where did the time go? The weight of those ten years crumble upon her shoulders, and she closes her eyes to shake away the image of MacReady’s face, but it holds fast.

Tears prick at the corners of her eyes, and she reaches under her goggles to wipe them away. “Sorry,” she says. “Sorry, sorry...I shouldn’t have lost my temper. I’m so sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Junkrat cups the back of her head and gently pulls her into his chest. “That’s alright, love.” He wraps his arms around her and begins rocking her slowly from side to side. Mei closes her eyes and buries her face in his jacket. “We ain’t mad at ya. We all got baggage. ‘Sides, we don’t have to do much before we leave. We can take a break. Or we can finish things up real quick and get a move on. Or you can wait in the ship while the two of us get it done. Up to you.”

Despite being relatively new, his jacket already smells slightly like smoke and malt. It makes Mei feel warmer, more calm. “Thank you Jamie,” she says, resting her chin on his chest so she can look him in the eye. “But I came here because I wanted to see it all. I’d like to keep going. I need to finish this mission. Let’s just...just don’t touch anything if you can help it.”


 

They don’t linger long in the Storeroom or Battery. There’s nothing worth looking at in the Storeroom apart from expired food and obsolete equipment. The Battery is simply depressing. Like the Crew Quarters, all the sensors and screens are stuck ten years in the past, right at the moment that station used up its last energy reserves. Mei eyes are trained on the snowy ground as they leave.

“I don’t get it,” Junkrat says to no one in particular. He meanders away from the group to inspect a beam supporting one of the station’s metal walkways. “This place is full of nice tech and supplies, plus some of the smartest people in the world. Mei, you know everything there is to know about the weather. How can a storm sneak up on you?”

Mei knows he doesn’t mean to sound critical; Junkrat is simply blunt. He just wants to know how a climatology expert as talented as she could be blindsided by an enormous storm. The only reason she winces at the question is because it’s the same one she’s been asking herself for years.

“It wasn’t a storm exactly,” Mei says, pushing forward. “It was a climate anomaly.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means we don’t know what it is.”

Behind her, Mei hears a heavy thump, as well as Junkrat yelping in pain. “Shut up,” Roadhog grumbles.

Their next destination is Engineering, a two-level complex located across from the Cryo Lab. While Junkrat and Roadhog walk up an icy slope to check out the top floor, Mei remains on the ground so she can go straight to the computers.

The place is dusty. The computer screens are covered in a layer of brown film, and empty cups of ramen are strewn about the floor. Time was not pleasant to this area, and the difference between Mei’s memories and reality is jarring. Despite her horror in the Crew Quarters, Mei can’t decide whether this is better or not. No matter what each room looks like, no matter how much or how little they have changed, she’s still going to feel sick to her stomach.

Roadhog’s lumbering footsteps and Junkrat’s peg leg clamor on the upper floor, causing sprinkles of icy dust to fall from the ceiling. Disembodied echoes of junker banter filter downstairs through the vents and stairwell. Sound travels like that everywhere on the ecopoint. Mei remembers Torres and Adams once having a heated discussion upstairs, unaware that the rest of the team was listening below. On the best days, the lack of privacy made for some hilarious hijinks. On the worst, it was simply claustrophobic.

Mei finds her old journal besides a computer. The book is open on a map of the ecopoint she doodled; a madcap plan to save the station before the anomaly hit. She never had a chance to execute it, of course. Barely 36 hours passed from the moment she abandoned her ping pong game to the moment she entered cryo. The anomaly was just that fast.

Mei reaches out to pick the journal up, but pauses when the sound of Junkrat’s voice trickles down the stairwell.

“This hallway goes nowhere! Who the fuck built this shithole anyway? Like a maze out of a horror film, it is...

Sighing, she leaves the book where it is. Mei had asked the others to touch nothing. Might as well obey her own directive.

Elsewhere on the desk is a doodle of Snowball. Mei had barely conceived of the little droid when she was working at the ecopoint, and it was only after being rescued that she could really start experimenting. Snowball is the only legacy of her time at the ecopoint Mei thinks is actually worth the pain and tragedy she suffered here.

The junkers loudly climb down the stairs to join Mei. “Nothing good up there,” Junkrat says with a wrinkle of his nose. “Didn’t touch a thing. Ask Roadie, he’ll tell you. Where to next?”

“Climatology,” Mei says. “Follow me.”


 

Mei should’ve known Climatology would be worse than the Crew Quarters and Engineering combined. This building is a museum of her former career, her former life. The hairs on the back of her neck stand on end as she crosses the threshold, and Mei forces her feet to move forward until she reaches her desk.

Her blue ping pong paddle is discarded by her keyboard, as is an old teapot and several cups of ramen. There are more doodles taped to the wall--one of a few cute yetis, and another of Winston dressed as Sun Wukong. And, of course, there is her favorite poster of all time: HANG IN THERE! Those words provided Mei more solace and encouragement during those last hectic hours than she cares to admit.

Mei silently plugs her droid into her old computer. Snowball beeps to life and boots up her old hard drive enough to start extracting the files. She leaves Snowball to do its work.

In the center of the Climatology unit was a weather map of the area. Like the ping pong table in the Crew Quarters, it was frozen at the moment they lost power. A large orange dot is approaching from the east, coming right between the ecopoint and its communications tower.

Mei and Roadhog huddle around the console. “See this?” Mei says, pointing at the orange dot. “That’s the anomaly I was talking about. It damaged our radio tower first, preventing us from communicating with Overwatch or any of the the other ecopoints. Then it damaged one of our solar arrays, crippling our ability to generate electricity. We ran out of options very quickly.”

“Could’ve waited it out,” Roadhog says.

Mei shook her head sadly. “I took inventory of our supplies. We only had enough for four days, and it didn’t even last that long.”

“Bet I know why,” Junkrat pipes up on the other side of the room, his voice like acid.

Mei turns and sees him staring at the desk once occupied by Arrhenius, the climatologist from Sweden. It’s covered in empty pouches and wrappers; food and water stolen from their dwindling supplies ten years ago.

Like the ping pong table, the sight conjures a memory too vivid for Mei to ignore. Ten years ago, Mei lost her temper when she found those wrappers, and nearly went hoarse scolding Arrhenius for consuming so much of their precious food, forcing them into cryostasis earlier than planned. Tensions among the ecopoint team had never been higher, and at the time Mei couldn’t help but resent Arrhenius for his selfishness.

If Mei could go back, if she could have a do over, she wouldn’t be so harsh with him. Arrhenius was only human. He needed compassion in that moment of weakness, not anger. Besides, who is she to judge him for single mistake?

“It wasn’t his fault--er--all his fault,” Mei says. “Arrhenius was a stress-eater. When the anomaly arrived, he became quite stressed!”

Junkrat blows a raspberry. “I’ve been stranded in a radioactive desert with that one,” he pauses to point at Roadhog, “For weeks. That’s plenty stressful. Did I gobble up all the food in one go? Did he? Nah. That ain’t how survival works, love. You hunker down, not chow down.”

“He’s dead, Jamie.”

That sobers him up. “I know.” Junkrat scuffs his pegleg against the metal floor, a feral growl building in his skinny throat. “I hate this place. I hate what happened to you. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! And this bloke made it worse! It’s different for me and Hog. It’s all our fault that we’re fucked up. But this ain’t your fault! It’s this bloke’s fault! It’s--it’s the rest of them’s fault too!”

“No it’s not!” Mei says. “It’s not their fault! It’s--it’s…” Her voice is growing louder again. She bites her lip to stop herself before she says too much. Better to shift focus elsewhere. “We never found out what caused the anomaly. Here.”

She points to a small scrap of paper taped to the corner of the center console. It’s another one of Mei’s doodles and notes.

“What’s causing the anomaly?

Global warming

Unexplained phenomena

Aliens!!!”

“Ten years ago, I brainstormed what created the anomaly, and I didn’t even come up with any good ideas. Global warming, aliens--”

“Aliens?” Junkrat says with a gasp. His wild eyes scan their surroundings, and he slowly reaches for the grenade launcher strapped to his back. “You really think there are aliens around here?”

Mei slaps her own forehead and sighs. “No, Jamison, no. Of course not. I was just trying to show how mysterious the anomaly was. All my knowledge and field experience, and even I couldn’t identify it. And now it’s too late for anyone to find out what really happened.”

But it isn’t too late for everything. There are some mysteries she can still solve. Mei just needs to muster the courage to do it.

“I’d like to move on now,” Mei says. She retrieves Snowball from her desk, but isn’t pleased when she sees the download completed. After all, collecting the data was just a pretense for getting here.

Her true purpose lay in the Cryo Lab.

“I don’t like this mystery horror movie shit, I don’t like it one bit,” Junkrat mutters on their way out. He walks backwards out of Engineering, ready to fire his grenade launcher at anything that moves. “It better not be fucking aliens…”


 

Mei was never supposed to be the last one awake. Opara and Torres were the cryonics experts, so it was their responsibility to prepare the pods. But Torres panicked and entered his pod at the first opportunity. Opara followed soon after because she became too ill to work. It fell upon Mei to make sure the team’s pods were functioning. It was her job to get her friends through their long, frozen sleep.

And she failed. Somehow, Mei made a mistake.

She doesn’t actually remember her rescue. When Winston found that she was still alive, Mei was strapped to a gurney and flown out so quickly she hardly saw the Cryo Lab. It was only in an emergency room in Cape Hope that Mei learned what had become of her team. Last she heard, the bodies of all five were flown back to their hometowns for burial. Even if Mei could muster the strength to attend any of their funerals, she wasn’t invited to any.

There was never an opportunity for Mei to come back here and discover where she went wrong. She could only allow the mystery of it to gnaw at her, both during her waking hours and her nightmares. Mei dreads what she’ll discover in the Cryo Lab, but at least it will be better than wondering her whole life and never knowing the truth.

When Mei walks inside the chamber with uncertain footsteps, it’s like she’s seeing the room for the very first time.

The windows are completely shattered, exposing the lab’s interior to the elements. The computer screens are cracked, and at some point over the last ten years the wind blew a few monitors straight off the table.

The six cryo pods sit in a row. The first five are closed, revealing nothing but the names of each occupant and the word ‘malfunction’ in orange capital letters. Mei’s heartbeat stutters at the sight. She feels as if her friends are watching her, judging her, from behind the opaque glass. Would they resent her for surviving? She casts an eye towards the junkers, shuffling around the room with curiosity. Would her friends scoff at Mei’s choice to befriend them and take one as her lover? Do they think she’s deserving of this second chance at life?

The final pod is like an empty coffin, left open after its occupant was ripped right out of death’s claws. It casts a black shadow just as long as the five closed pods, like a line of tombstones.

Mei’s bottom lip trembles, and she does her best to swallow the thick bile building in the back of her throat.

Beneath the malfunction warning on each pod is an error code. Mei memorized all those codes before coming to Antarctica, as did the others. The moment her eyes catch that small series of letters and numbers, she recognizes exactly what went wrong ten years ago.

They lost power. It was as simple as that.

Athena is programmed to automatically shift and consolidate energy resources if power becomes scarce. When the anomaly knocked out the solar relay, the protocol must’ve kicked in to keep the Cryo Lab online.

It takes a lot of energy to keep six sleeping humans alive for even a day. But ten years? There just wasn’t enough to go around.

As time ticked by, the Athena protocol must’ve redistributed what power it had left into five pods. And then four. Then three. And so on, until only Mei was left. If Winston hadn’t come when he did, she wouldn’t have survived either.

It’s freezing in the lab, and Mei’s cheeks are numbed by the cold. She doesn’t realize she’s crying until her goggles become so blurry that she’s forced to pull them down. Her chest heaves painfully, and a desperate, pained sound escapes her mouth before Mei’s knees buckle. Vision swimming, she falls to the cold ground in a sobbing heap.

Between the stinging in her eyes and the sharp aching in her ribcage, Mei is flooded with a feeling she doesn’t expect--relief.

Junkrat drops to his knees beside her and draws her shuddering body into his embrace.

“What’s going on?” Junkrat whispers to Roadhog over her head. “Is she sick?”

“She’s sad,” Roadhog answers.

“Well that won’t do! Alrighty Roadie, you get started without us. Mei, love, we’re heading back to the ship. Gonna get all warm and cozy before blasting the fuck out of this place. You just leave it alllll to Jamison.”

It wasn’t me!” Mei chokes into his jacket. She can hardly speak between the sobs. “I didn’t kill them! It wasn’t me!”

“‘Course it wasn’t you! You’d never--”

“All this time I thought I was the reason! That my mistake doomed my friends. But it had nothing to do with me at all. They were doomed no matter what.”

In the end, Junkrat doesn’t actually bring Mei back to the ship. The three of them sit on the floor of the Cryo Lab and wait patiently for her torrent of grief to crest and wane. By the time she’s done, Mei feels nothing but the warmth of Junkrat’s arms and a splitting headache in the top of her skull. She guzzles down all the water in her canteen, and then some from Jamie’s, before forcing herself to stand once more.

With no tears left to cry, Mei places her hand on the glass of one of the closed cryo pods. Jamie was right, this shouldn’t have happened to them. But it was also no one’s fault. Tragedy knew no logic and took no prisoners.

“Jamie,” Mei says, lifting her hand from the cryo pod, resolute. “You can take over from here.”

Junkrat clicks his tongue. “You got it, love. Roadie, unload ‘em.”

Roadhog heaves the bag off his back and pours out its contents. Dozens of mines, grenades, sticks of dynamite, and other explosives scatter across the floor. Most of them are handpainted with a sloppy smiley face.

Junkrat uses some wire stowed in his coat to bundle some bombs together, and then gently places the entire thing inside Mei’s old cryo pod. He fiddles with the wires and his remote detonator for a moment, and a green light blinks on one of the bombs. It’s ready to explode, when given the command.

Junkrat gives Mei a thumbs up. “One down. And just, eh...how many you want again?”

“As many as possible,” Mei says. “I want this place wiped off the map. For good.”

Junkrat rubs his hands together with a giggle. “Fine by me! The mines are all rigged up, so you and Roadhog can start spreading them around. I got the rest. This is going to be the biggest boom in the history of this entire continent. It’s going to be beautiful.


 

The group sighs with relief when they enter the hovercraft’s warmth. Athena’s autopilot begins cycling through take off protocols, and Roadhog sits down and straps on his seatbelt. Mei wonders absently if she should talk to Winston about Athena’s programming, if only to prevent future disasters. But that’s a discussion for another day.

The hovercraft stops its ascent when they are a few miles away from the ecopoint, floating silently in midair. Junkrat and Mei huddle near a window to stare down at the station below. The detonator is in Junkrat’s left hand, and his thumb twitches to flick the switch.

Mei waits with a thudding heart for the station to explode. Instead, she feels a light tapping on her shoulder.

“Here,” Junkrat says, extending the detonator to her. “You do the honors.”

Mei draws back from the window, wide-eyed. Blinking, she pushes Junkrat’s hand away. “Oh I couldn’t! You love blowing things up more than anything.

Junkrat just grins at her. “Nah,” he says, extending the detonator once more. “Not more than anything.”

A blush crawling over Mei’s face, she takes the detonator. It’s heavier and larger than it looks. Her gloved hand looks tiny wrapped around it. For a moment, she wonders if this will get her in trouble back at Overwatch. In the next, she no longer cares.

Mei lets it rest on her lap for a moment, takes a deep breath, then presses the red button with a satisfying beep.

BOOM!

The smaller buildings immediately explode in small bursts. A sheet of ice from a nearby cliff tumbles down onto the roof of the Crew Quarters, caving it in. Flames curl out of the open windows and doorways of the larger facilities, and the sound of glass shattering rings through the air. One by one, the buildings crumble, disappearing beneath a haze of smoke and snow.

As Junkrat throws his head back with a triumphant cackle, Mei leans forward and presses her nose to the cold glass, her blood singing louder with every aftershock. Since when did she find destruction so mesmerizing? Perhaps this was how Junkrat learned to love explosions, by destroying the things he hated and feared.

“Was it a big enough boom for ya?” Junkrat asks.

Mei lays her head on his shoulder. “It was perfect, Jamie.”

“We can blow up more things together, if you want. Any other skeletons you got hanging up in the closet, any nasty ex-boyfriends lurking in your past, just say the word and I’ll explode ‘em.”

Her eyes flutter closed. “Mmmhmmm.”

Mei quietly leaves Antarctica behind, this time for good.