hoo boy

May. 24th, 2017 01:24 pm
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

chapters 20 and 21 are ... i'm pretty sure ready to go.

I'm glad 20 is short, because it is a hard chapter. I don't mean as in difficult to write, though it wans't the easiest, I mean, as in... blunt object. And 21 is, if anything, harder, also as in blunt object. But in a different way.

Hopefully that will make sense to other people by the end of the week.

and this is only the fourth movement. i think it may look like the end of an origin story, which I can see, but that's wrong. there is critically more to come.

Lena, in London. Day 30.

May. 24th, 2017 08:44 am
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

"Hey, doc!" The pilot waved her arms, and shouted across the square. "Angela!"

"Lena!" The doctor waved back in response, and walked quickly through the thin crowd. "It... it really is you. You look almost exactly the same."

"So do you!" The two women hugged, close. "Gor blimey, doc, it's been so long. You're the first person from the old team I've actually seen in person since Greece. How's Fareeha?"

Angela hugged the pilot again, and whispered into her ear, "I am certainly being surveilled, we should get to my office at the embassy" before leaning back, taking Tracer's shoulders in her hands as if everything were perfectly ordinary. "On a mission, like always. But we're both very well, thank you. I'll be back home with her again in a few days." She showed a decorated gold band on her ring finger. "It's our second anniversary."

"Oooh, nice," said Tracer, looking closely at the interweaved inlays, the halo and the hawk. "Very nice. I'm not surprised, though - you two weren't exactly subtle." She scrounged her pockets for cash. "Let me grab something from the takeaway and we can head over to your place. You don't mind, do you?"

"Of course not! I have the entire afternoon, go ahead." She gestured to the order window. "So tell me, how is life back in London?"

Tracer frowned, and ordered a vindaloo and joined the short queue for pickup. "I'm not alive yet," she said flatly. "Still trying to get that sorted."

"Still?" asked the doctor, confusedly.

"Yah, that's why I'm doing everything in cash. It's like being a tourist in my own home town. Still living in hostels, couldn't get work if I tried, it's just every-day all-day throw myself at another corner of military bureaucracy."

"That sounds terrible. Have you tried the civilian authorities?"

"Yeh, I gave up and submitted a bunch of forms earlier today. But if I could get the bleedin' forces to pay attention, I wouldn't have to. I'm an officer! This shouldn't be so difficult."

"Surely some sort of official status is better than none," said Angela.

"Not too sure about that, luv." Tracer's curry arrived, and she grabbed it, a couple of napkins, and her tea. Turning to go, she confessed, "Honestly, outside flying, outside Overwatch... I'm starting to wonder if I ever even had a life."

-----

"Sorry if this messes up any of your tests," said the pilot, putting away the last of her second lunch. "But I was ravenous. Happens a lot these days."

"Well, I won't be able to tell you much about cholesterol levels or blood sugar, but that's not exactly why we're here, is it? You look quite fit."

Lena just smiled, happy to be looking at anyone she recognised. "Bloody hell, it's good to see someone I know. Even if you were always just 'the doc.'"

Dr. Ziegler smiled professionally back. "Before you say anything else - anything else - authorise this." She offered the pilot a padd, with forms.

"What is it?"

"It confirms that I'm your doctor. Doctor-patient confidentiality is core to my organisation and we're prepared to defend it. I assure you, whatever I see or record, it will not go to the British - or Swiss - governments. We are on Swiss soil, and I am notoriously prickly."

"Brilliant." Tracer keyed her acceptance. The form even looked like an Overwatch document. It felt like being back at old home, and her heart ached a moment for it.

"And this document," the doctor changed pages, "is not standard. But it authorises me to share your data with Winston. He has legal standing with us in ways he does not in Britain." Tracer approved again.

"Now, we may talk freely. But clothing off, please. Let's get you looked over."

Lena threw her shirt and trousers off, onto the chair, revealing the intricate pattern of bands of light, blue or red or white, flowing across her body, from upper right shoulder to lower left leg.

Angela was visibly taken aback. "Gott in Himmel. It's beautiful. You are living art."

"Clever, innit? I can control how it looks," she said, and faded it to a series of thin lines across her skin. "But I wanted to show off."

"This is what it takes to keep you in time, then?"

"S-," ..ombra, she almost said, but did not quite, "Since I got pulled back, yah. There was an earlier version that just belted on, but it wasn't stable. I kept," she shuddered, a little, remembering the feeling, "trying to phase back out of time."

"One broken strap from vanishing? That does not sound like a good solution, no," offered Angela.

"I'd've lost the plot in a month from stress and lack of showers. Can't lose this, though - it's part of me." She ran the traces through a cycle of soft, calming blues. It reminded her of No, she thought to herself, leave it. "I tell people it's bioluminescent tattoo. The latest thing, in Greece! Everybody wants them now."

"I understand why." Dr. Ziegler selected a pair of scanners. "With your permission?"

Lena hesitated. "You sure this place isn't bugged?"

The doctor smiled, and nodded. "Quite sure."

-----

"Good morning, Winston," said the doctor, a week later.

"Angela," he said pleasantly, sipping at a cup of tea, one and a half seconds ago. "How are you this fine morning?"

"Quite well, thank you. I'm in Egypt; Fareeha's just off to work. I'm ready to transmit the data, if you're set up to receive it."

"Go ahead," said the scientist.

"Sending," she said, pressing confirm.

"How was she, in person?" he asked, as the progress metre slowly climbed.

"Physically well. She's in fantastic aerobic condition. She has some new scarring - in my opinion, almost certainly burns from the explosion. She lost a toe, and broke several bones, but I see nothing to worry about. On the whole, she had to have been remarkably lucky."

"But is she still herself, to you?"

"As far as I can tell, she is. But while were perfectly friendly, before - professional friends, yes? - I didn't know her like you did. I would miss subtleties." She looked thoughtful. "Even so... even to me, she seems very lonely."

Winston nodded, sadly. "I can't even imagine what she's been going through. If I could just get down there..."

"I think that would be good, if only it could be done." The doctor paused a moment, collecting her thoughts. "But to the larger question..."

"Don't say it."

Mercy smiled, as close to wickedly as she ever came, "the ten thousand pound gorilla in the room..."

"For the last time, Angela - I am not ten thousand pounds!" he huffed.

Angela giggled, the Swiss equivalent of a guffaw, and continued, "...the hardware itself. It's extraordinary. The shielding is perfect, and where it cannot be shielded, it is too fine for nondestructive deep scans. I could get nowhere with it."

"Damn," said the ape. "So we still don't even know what it does."

"Not so," she gestured with her left hand, "we know it's a chronal accelerator. Of that, I am sure. We just don't know what else it might do."

He put more sugar in his tea. "Like mind control."

The doctor drew in a deep breath. "No, I don't think so. The brain interfacing is all motor cortex and reflex. It's meticulous work - it had to have been grown into place - and the guiding was magnificent." She highlighted some of the interface points, and at each level further down, the integration became, if anything, more complete. "It is truly a part of her, as much as any other part of her body."

"Huh." Winston peered at data sets as the first files completed upload. "Like your nanites?"

"A different approach, but if anything," said Mercy, "moreso. Whoever did this - it's not new to them. They've been doing this. They have practice."

"You could replace someone's whole brain with these techniques, couldn't you," he said, grimly.

"Certainly. But you can also do that in a chair with a combination of drugs, conditioning, and high-precision electromagnetic fields, and not leave so much evidence." She leaned forward on her elbows, towards the screen. "I know what you're thinking. Amélie had nothing like this in her brain. Whatever has been done to your friend Lena - I think her mind is still her own."

"With respect, doctor, you thought that about Amélie. We all did."

Dr. Ziegler nodded, resolutely. "I still do."

solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

"Heya, Winston!"

"Lena! It's been weeks - it's so good to see you," he replied, with a three second delay. "Are you okay? At least you're on the ground this time - where are you?"

"Brighton! Can't you hear - oh, I've got background noise filtering turned on, let me fix that." And the sound of the ocean appeared around her in Winston's feed. "It's cold, but I'm on the beach. Look!" She aimed the camera to the sea.

"It's March and it's not even raining! How about that," came Winston's voice, clearly, over the small speaker. "Is Amélie there? Or any of her friends? "

"Nope!" she chirped, turning the transmitter back around and walking with it. "It's just me, all by myself, kicking around old haunts."

"You're... out, then?"

"Yep. Entirely on me own, footloose and fancy free, walking the earth - or at least this beach - with no way to be found. Nobody even knows who or where I am - except you, I s'pose."

She didn't mention the retrieval beacon in her bag.

"I'm staying a couple of nights in a hostel, a few blocks in. It's cheap! And nice. But mostly, cheap."

"Off-season like this, I'd hope so." The scientist discreetly zoomed his viewscreen and scrolled around, looking for anything out of place in the background. Nothing obvious. "So... Talon just let you leave."

"Sure did. Helped me arrange my story and flew me out."

He leaned forward, and said, conspiratorially and low, "You haven't assassinated anyone yet, have you?"

Tracer laughed. "Only because I can't catch a shuttle to the moon, y'big ape. Which way do you want to go - pummellings or too much peanut butter?"

"Oh, peanut butter, definitely." He put on his best, big, toothy grin, which he let drop to a more genuine smile as a small popup window confirmed, Signal origin: south coast of England (probability 93%), Brighton Beach (probability 77%). "They really just... let you go."

"Yep. I said I needed to go find my old life, and Amélie made it happen." She bit her lower lip. "It's like she even agreed."

"Are you... alive again? Legally, I mean? Do you have money? Did they re-activate your commission?" Location probabilities climbed as more signal data arrived, and Winston dismissed the window. Good enough, he thought.

The smile Lena had been keeping propped up fell. "I'm... still working on that. After they cleared me at the consulate and helped me hitch onto a cargo flight home, I thought it would be easy. I kind of thought I'd be snapped up at Heathrow for debriefing, really. But... I wasn't. I just can't seem to get anybody's attention."

The pilot sat down on the top of a breakwater, propped up the transmitter, picked up a rock, and threw the latter towards the waves. "It's like I'm some kind of ghost."

"That's very strange," he granted. "Overwatch has been out of the news for a couple of years now, but - take it from me - the governments are still keeping tabs on everyone."

"Yeh. But it's fine, honestly!" It wasn't fine, but she managed to mean it through sheer sunny determination nonetheless. She turned back to the camera. "I've got enough money to live on for weeks - a few months, if I'm careful. So I thought, well, I just need to get out of London, right? Take a few days by the ocean, get some of that sea air. Get my head cleared up."

Partial retina image capture, said another, discreet popup. Image quality acceptable. Match probability 96%, margin of error +/-35%. "That accelerator they built you - how's it holding up?" He pursed his lips and shook his head. "I wish they'd used mine," he grumbled.

"Oh, it's absolutely wizard! Once I got the swing of it? Natural as breathing. I'll show you some time, I promise!"

Far away under the surface of the moon, in the research station now again his home, Winston the scientist studied Tracer's face for any hint, any sign, of the kind of programming he believed had been implanted into Amélie Lacroix. Face and voice analytics ran over and through every frame of vision and every millisecond of audio, searching for some hint, some breath of change, and found nothing.

Of course, they'd found nothing with Amélie either. But they'd had less reason to look.

I need someone actually there, he decided. "Lena, would you let me tell Angela you're back, and safe? I'd feel better if she checked you over herself. In person."

The pilot nodded enthusiastically, throwing another stone into the sea. "Let's! I'll be back to it on Monday, trying to get someone to listen to me. It'd be great to have someone from the old crew around to chat." She picked up a little stick of driftwood, and poked at more beach rocks, turning them over, seeing what was underneath. Generally, that meant more rocks. "To be honest, it's been kind of lonely. Funny, innit? Me? Lonely?"

"Haven't you looked up any old friends?"

"Oh, I've looked 'em up all right. It's a military life, though - most everybody I can find's been all moved 'round. Katarina's back in Norway, my graduating class have completely dispersed - a lot of 'em are in Greece, but I don't have the money to fly anywhere. The only one I found still in London was Imogen."

"That's too bad. I'd transfer you some money, if I could. But at least you found her."

"Yeah..." she said, sadly.

"uh oh."

Adequate data received to begin deep analysis, said the popup. Winston deactivated additional notifications.

"It was..." She looked for other words to describe it, and came up with nothing better than, "...it was weird, big guy. We were great friends in flight school, and we kept in touch when I jumped to Overwatch. And now, I'm... I'm literally back from the dead, least as far as she's concerned, and she won't even talk to me."

"That's awful!"

"She recognised me, I'm sure of it. She said she didn't, but I know she did. She said she didn't even remember knowing anyone who joined up with Overwatch." Tracer looked off to the side, not liking where her thoughts went. "She looked scared, Winston. Of me."

I can understand why, he thought to himself. The woman whose death brought down Overwatch is back from the grave, hasn't aged a day, and nobody is talking about it - who knows what you are? But out loud, he said, "I'm sorry," and meant it.

"It's been five years, the world's a different place - it feels like wheels are flying off everywhere, it really does - but now look out everyone, Tracer's coming to town! I thought..." her voice trailed off.

"Those missing five years didn't sink in, did they?"

They really hadn't, she knew. Not until then. "I really miss you, big guy," she said, sad and quiet.

"I've missed you too, Lena," he answered, softly. "I can't get off this rock, but you can always - any time of the day - radio me, and I'll listen." He reached over and touched a few points on a console. "I'm sending you my 'wakeup' prefix code. It will get me up, if I'm here, and I will answer."

Her padd chirped. "Got it."

"And don't wait 'till you're back in Brighton. Any time. Day or night."

"I will, I will! But maybe not tomorrow." She shook her head, brushing off the sadness. "There's a bar just a bit down the way, and it's also just hit me that I haven't picked anyone up in a bar in over five years, and that can't be helping. I think I'm gonna fix that tonight."

Winston howled with laughter, big honking bellows. "Now that sounds like the old Tracer," he said, merrily. "But... how're you going to explain the accelerator?"

"What, you think I've got some bulky ring in my chest, like yours? These are posh, mate!" She grinned. "I figured it out on the flight north. I just call 'em bioluminescent tattoos, and all the girls will want their own."

"Heh," he chuffed. "I believe the traditional Air Force benediction is, 'Good hunting?'"

"Rwrar." She winked.

"Go get 'em, pilot. But promise you'll radio me from London on Monday."

"I will, Winston. I promise."

Winston waited 'till Lena shut down her transmitter, and then threw the whole conversation - sound, vision, raw signal, transmission detail data, everything - into deep computational processing, to send along to Dr. Ziegler. If they've done anything to you, he thought, I will find it. And one way or another, somehow - they will pay.

someone needs to say it

May. 22nd, 2017 01:57 pm
solarbird: (korra-smug)
[personal profile] solarbird

let's put this in order

May. 22nd, 2017 11:02 am
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird
If you wanted to follow on overcoming the fear of spiders in chronological order - it is kind of futile. But here is a list. I probably won't update this post, but it is correct as of today. (Okay I updated it, it's now correct as of 24 May 2017.)

I am including only chapters already written. I am redacting titles of chapters not yet published. Chapters numbered ???## have probable numbers but they aren't final. Chapters ??? can't have usable numbers yet, as they will appear after others not yet written.

I consider the second movement, "Restored," to be two related mini-movements, but there is only one name, so they are combined here.

Some people would consider this spoilery (if nothing else, because of movement titles), so enjoy a cut tag.

It's 2068, and Overwatch test pilot Lena Oxton has just been given the go code, ten thousand metres above Greece. )
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

"Ah'm not sure that was the best idea," the cowboy said, from Arizona, in North America, "just lettin' her waltz out like that."

The hacker nodded, from an unknown location, probably further south, but not necessarily. "I know. Amélie has been acting very strange lately. All emotional. When she first started this project, I caught hints of it and thought, 'that'll be useful someday,' but now, it's just splashing around everywhere."

"Hasn't affected her aim any, has it?"

Sombra snickered, and popped some obscenely hot bit of candy into her mouth. "Made it better, maybe. She's always been obsessive about targeting, but since Oxton showed up, it's even worse. She hits targets I can't even see."

"Means she's nervous. Did the same thing in '71."

"We were all very nervous in '71," the hacker shuddered. 2071 had not been a good year for anyone interested in not having another Omnic War.

"Yeah, but she's the only one whose aim improved." He leaned back in his chair and flipped pistols around, nervously practicing spin tricks, before turning back to the conversation. "We're dancin' 'round the point - what're we gonna do if Tracer spills the beans?"

"Oh, is that what you meant?" said the hacker, looking back at the screen. "I thought you were worried about the spider."

"I'm worried about the organisation. You keepin' an eye on Oxton?"

Sombra laughed and slid a display over. "You see this? This is a livestream of MI5's tracking feed. I'm not watching her so much as I'm watching them watch her."

The cowboy smiled and chucked. "Well, then. At least we'll know."

"I'm not worried about Lena giving us up - I don't know if she knows it, but she's tooootally in love with Amélie. It's a little scary."

"I'll take yer word on the love part, but you sure 'bout that not talkin' part? 'Cause I sure as hell ain't."

Sombra smirked, knowingly. "I've kept you in the loop, but you weren't there, and I was. Trust me, she won't talk."

"And if they make 'er?"

"Even if they put her under a deep probe, all she knows is a little house and a couple of labs, and they're scrubbed now anyway. It looks like a tourist rental. I made a nice little lease history and everything."

"If you say so," he said, dubiously.

"I even made a rental listing," she told the sharpshooter. "I can show you. It's in all the archives since last year, as of, oh, a week ago."

He waved one hand dismissively. "Yer good, ah hear ya."

"Me," she said, sending the links anyway, "I'm not so worried about what happens to our little teleporting pilot. What I am worried about is what happens to Amélie if they decide to take her lover apart."

"Gérard all over again, you mean? It's that bad?" he said, pronouncing it almost correctly, but still a bit like 'Gerald.' "That was hard on 'er, I gotta admit."

"Worse."

"Hard t'get worse than that," said the cowboy.

"Worse," emphasised the hacker, darkly. "I think they'd be lucky if they still had a government the next day."

solarbird: (Default)
[personal profile] solarbird

"There's always a degree of uncertainty with low-resolution scans like these, of course, but it appears to interface throughout her motor cortex, not just on surface, and to be tied into reflex reaction points here," he illustrated, "here, here, and here."

"And its function?" asked the woman at the head of the conference table.

"I'm quite afraid we're not sure." the neural interface specialist replied. "It's heavily shielded. I'm not even as confident as I'd like about what I'm showing you, but it's the best we have - you're looking at composite of data from Heathrow, an assortment of scanners hidden inside CCTV, outer-ring military security, and so on. The consulate data, sadly, was unusable."

The head of the table prompted, "But it's not any type of web."

"Oh!" said the specialist. "Definitely not. We wouldn't have even these shots were it a web. Her brain would look like a big, smooth egg."

Brigadier Shukla turned to her attache. "Have we ever encountered a Talon agent without a web?"

The second lieutenant brought up the small list of scanned Talon agents. "Not that we know of, ma'am. Certainly not in the years they've been known active - no exceptions in that record."

The operations agent at the table jumped in. "They could be anticipating our analysis. Can't we bring her in, do a deep probe?"

"Sadly, no," said the specialist, shifting the primary display. "This may not be a web, but it goes quite deep, and either this is defocused, or it's surprisingly diffuse. Anything strong enough to get past the shielding wouldn't be safe for the subject."

"Damn," spat the Brigadier.

"But," he continued, "I really don't think it's Talon. They know what we have, they wouldn't let a full agent out like this. Of that much, I'm confident."

"We can't rule out her being some kind of delayed-target human bomb. of course."

"No. But explosives say the payload would be poor - there's just not enough mass, even with exotic deliverables. We think it's unlikely."

"All right, let's leave out Talon for now. Omnium?"

The Omnic specialist in the room just laughed, and then sobered immediately. "Sorry, ma'am. No, ma'am. It's not Omnic. I'd bet my life on it."

"You might well do," the Brig replied, sternly.

The specialist nodded, but held her ground. "I would walk up to this carrying known vulnerabilities and not worry. It's not Omnic."

"If I might jump in, get it out of the way," said the corporate entities analyst, "It's not Vishkar either. They don't need hardware."

"Thank you, specialist," nodded the Brig. "So. Foreign powers aside, who's that leave?"

"...aliens?" said the young, short-brown-haired agent near the end of the table, one of the Americans. "Or not aliens, strictly, but beings from other worlds, possibly multidimensionally accessed worlds," he continued, excitedly. "It's been theorised for years, and the Winston files make it clear he considered dimensional travel a distinct possibility - it's how he found the time distortion that..."

"Thank you, agent," said the Brigadier, firmly.

"It's either that or somehow Winston did it himself, from the moon," he interjected.

"Or," said his eternally-exasperated partner, "it's a foreign government."

He turned to the other American. "Come on, why would a foreign government go to these lengths for..."

"Thank you, agents," the Brigadier repeated, more firmly. For once, the Americans took the hint.

She turned back to the presenter. "So, in the opinion of your department, she is most likely not a Talon agent."

The presenter nodded. "In our opinion, it's very unlikely. This just doesn't look like their work. If nothing else, it's too flashy." He changed screens. "See all these extensions around her torso, and down her legs? They glow. Talon wouldn't do that."

"There is one other possibility," said a data analyst, flipping through pages of data. "This new actor, Sombra. I'm not sure why, but it reminds me a little of her work."

"Go on," said the Brig.

"She'd have to have a lot of help - we mostly know about her software, and she doesn't do bioware. At least, not as far as we know, ma'am. But," they looked at the display with intense concentration, "something about it just reminds me of her code."

The intergroup specialist jumped in. "She's too new on the scene for that degree of cooperation with any of our known actors. It takes time to build up those sorts of connections. She hasn't had it."

"So," said the Brigadier, "we're most likely dealing with either a foreign power - which MI6 thinks unlikely - or, god help us," - given the source, she continued with great reluctance - "Winston. Somehow. From the moon."

"Or inter-dimensional beings," said the more annoying American, from the back.

"Thank you, agent - your suggestions have been noted."

-----

"So, Brigadier - what do we do with our little problem?" asked the Group Captain, back in the Brig's office.

"If she'd been in my Forces, I'd bring her in and disassemble her," said the older woman, quietly. "I don't care what the specialists think, I can't rule out the Omnium completely. We're one major incident away from another Omnic war, and I won't have it start on my watch."

"Yes, ma'am. But the air group won't have it. We all protect our own."

The Brig nodded, understanding. Loyalty made commands work. "So, option B. Watch her, let her roam. Don't get too close... just see what she does. It only took a week for the Widowmaker to activate, so." Speculating, she continued, "Or, perhaps she's a slow burn. Perhaps we have some time."

"That's our opinion as well, ma'am," said the G/C.

"I can't believe the consulate cleared her to fly into Heathrow. Who knows what she is now? If it's even her."

"Personal decision of the ambassador, I'm afraid," said the group captain. "Apparently, she has quite a winning personality. Hardly our fault."

"Small consolation had she taken five thousand people down with her."

"It won't happen again, ma'am. She's been listed."

"She keeps trying to come to us," the Brigadier mused.

"Indeed," the G/C replied. "You know, we could just let her."

"Let her waltz right in to some high-value target? I think not. No, keep her off, keep up surveillance, and run every piece of data we collect through deepest analysis. Let's see what we can wiggle out."

"So far, she's mostly just been trying to get undeclared dead through the military. Hardly high-value."

The Brig frowned. "No. Not even if she goes through civilian channels. No recognition, no help, nothing. Block her at every point." The Brig fiddled with her glasses, cleaning the lenses with a small, lintless cloth. "If she's alive, the Overwatch investigation is alive, and we simply can't have that fiasco re-opened."

An old photo of her flight crew awarding Lena Oxton the callsign "Tracer" spun slowly in the air.

"Assuming she's not carrying a payload, she'll need some sort of status eventually," the G/C insisted.

The older woman frowned. "Eventually. But not now. Not until we have some idea what she is - if she has to be disassembled, I don't want to do that to a legal Briton. Until we know more..." She shook her head, contemplating her options. "Official recognition is just too great a risk."

solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

"No blindfold?" asked Lena.

"Quoi?" asked the assassin, amused.

"Traditional, innit? Being escorted from the secret base, all that."

Amélie smiled evilly. "I still have last night's in my bedroom, if you want a souvenir."

Lena Oxton's cheeks flushed a little. "...no," she said, Yes, she thought. Wicked woman, she also thought, making this harder. She took a deep breath. "Right, then." She looked through her small bag, a worn satchel popular in South Africa some ten years before. Remnants of her flight suit, prepared to withstand forensic verification of her supposed journey. Her burnt Overwatch identity card, and a fake of her old passport. One change of clothes, old, but serviceable, from charity shops, similar to the one she wore now.

Memorised, access codes to a couple of different accounts, with enough money to tide her over for a month or two, until she could try to get herself undeclared dead. Memorised, the story about how she found herself in the Orange river, north of Waterfall Farm 497; how she swam to shore, made her way to Lutzberg, and "borrowed" two sets of clothes and a bag from a charity bin. From there, a plan to hitchhike her way to Johannesburg, courtesy of two friendly American tourists from the upper midwest, near where she will appear, tired, dusty, and hungry, not far from the British Consulate.

Two sets of clothes, a worn bag, no money - and identification. Not much. But even that, the maximum a dead person, returned to life, might be thought to have in hand.

"I wish you'd let us create a new identity for you," said the assassin. "Overwatch agents are, shall we say, still out of fashion."

"Not happening," said Tracer. "I didn't do anything wrong; I'm not gonna hide."

"Have you decided how will you explain your accelerator?"

The test pilot had no answer for that. "Not yet," she said, and it worried her. "But I'll think of something."

As headlong into this as everything else, thought the spider. "If they decide we did it, it will not go well for you. If they decide it is Omnic, things will go worse. If they decide Winston did it from the moon... no, it makes no sense, I cannot imagine how they would think that."

"Then I'm just gonna have to make sure they don't worry about it, aren't I?" Lena said. A terrible answer, and she knew it. "I'm a British subject, I've got rights. They can't just lock me away."

"Can't they?" asked Amélie. "I hope you are right." A Talon pilot popped her head through the door to the tarmac and gave the go sign, and Amélie nodded in return. "The aircraft is ready. But there is one more thing." She showed Lena a thin, palm-sized rounded metal box. It looked very much like a powder case.

"What is it, luv?" asked the pilot.

"It's a Faraday cage," - she touched a slight indentation on one side, and it opened, revealing a small device inside - "containing a retrieval beacon." She took out the beacon, with its two buttons, one on top, one on the side. "The transmitter will be good for a year. After that, it will become inert."

She pressed the side button, and a power cell popped out. "Standard KX type, you can buy them anywhere in Europe. Do not force it in backwards; that is how to destroy the transmitter. We will include the cell - but if something happens to it, now you know." She put it back into the device.

"The other button activates the transmitter. Hold it down for five seconds. The device will beep quietly twice, when it activates; it cannot be turned off, and it cannot be reused. Activate it outside, if possible, away from attention, if possible, with a clear view to the sky, if you can. But if you can't, it should still work, and if we hear it, we will still come."

"Airport security won't like me carrying that onboard," Tracer said, dubiously.

"Airport security won't ever see it. It will be waiting for you at the Palace Theatre in London, at coat check, when you land. They will hold it for two weeks. You can pick it up, or not. It's up to you." Doing this, she thought to herself, it's so much harder than I imagined.

Lena reached out for the device, taking it from Widowmaker's hand, examining it, popping the power cell out and back in. "A way back," she said, quietly.

The spider nodded, affirmingly. "Waiting for you, at coat check, at the Palace Theatre, if you want it. I hope you will."

I'd take it with me now if I could, thought Lena. I'd hold on to it and never let it go. Why am I so torn? "London. Palace Theatre. Coat check. When I land."

"When you land."

She gave the device back to the assassin, placing it in the other woman's open palm, closing the other woman's fingers around it. "Don't forget."

The beacon, though deactivated, felt electric in Amélie's hand. "I never do."

solarbird: (Default)
[personal profile] solarbird

Lena Oxton leaned back on the outcropping atop the crest of the ridge of the old volcano on a cool and clear January day in the Aeolian archipelago north of Sicily. Through the aviator's glasses Tavi had brought her from the mainland, she could see Filicudi easily, to the east; beyond, the trio of Salina, Lipari, and, just visible if she squinted and told herself so, Vulcano, ever-active, roiling just before the dawn.

But her attention, mostly, focused higher. Airplanes crossed the skies around her, red-eyes from Nairobi, Numbani, Johannesburg, sometimes even overhead, mostly civilian, but occasionally, a military transport, and, very occasionally, what looked to the pilot's eyes to be training flights, probably out of the old joint forces base near Naples. "Pad your angle there, cadet," she'd say, quietly, remembering her instructor's calm voice on comms. "You're not that good yet."

But she was. And she knew it, which made it worse.

She came here more often, these days, to watch the skies and think. She was healed. She knew it. The doc had said so, yesterday morning, but Lena made up a bit of stiffness to try to delay full clearance. Why'd I do that?, the pilot thought to herself. I'm ready. I can go home. I had a life, five months ago. I could have it back.

Dark blues and reds yielded to bright blues and yellows as the stars slowly went out, overwhelmed by the new morning sun. Sure, she thought, gaze following a cargo plane making its lazy way south, Overwatch is shuttered, but I've still got my commission and my license. I can get 'em reactivated. I wasn't even around when things fell apart. They'd do me right, I know they would. She focused upwards into the bright blue morning.

I miss the sky.

She somersaulted forward, leapt up, and teleported three times, as high as she could, witnesses be damned, out over the steep slope to the sea. Then she fell more than glided, but pretended it was otherwise, until the ground came up too close, and she rewound time, back up to the top of the volcano, safe and sound.

Though I gotta admit... she thought, beaming, shivering in the rush of cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline, as her body reacted to what her lizard brain was pretty sure had to be imminent death, That's pretty great too.

A private jet flew by, closer than she'd like, pilot possibly attracted by the flashes of light. Fuck it, she thought, and waved briskly at the flyer, shouting, "Heya!" at the top of her lungs. In reaction, or not, it turned away. It's time people know I'm alive.

-----

"I need to go," the pilot told the assassin, abruptly, after their daily combat workout.

Amélie, facing her own locker, stopped, mid-motion, momentarily, then resumed dressing. "I had expected that." She put her right arm through her uniform's sleeve. The words felt leaden in her mouth as she continued, "I'd thought it would come sooner, but, still, here it is." Turning to look at the pilot, she said, almost sadly, "I agree."

Now, Lena's turn to be a little surprised, and almost a little hurt. "...you do?" as she pulled a blouse over her head, the fabric falling down over the dimly glowing blue stripes of her chronal accelerator-interlaced ribcage.

"I do. Dr. Mariani cleared you yesterday morning, I know. Sombra, I also know, would like to have another set of data off your accelerator, if you are willing, but this can be arranged quickly - just a couple of days."

Inexplicably disappointed, the pilot said crossly, "Why? Is this your 'strands of history' again?"

"Would you feel better, or worse, if I said no?"

"I'd say... really?"

The assassin shook her head, a slight nod. "I am not an oracle; I do not see all. This is an emotion, a feeling. Also, I do not think you are yet ready to join us."

Tracer pursed her lips, acknowledging the truth in it. "No. I'm not."

"I understand," said the spider. "I..." she took a long, deep breath. "I have never lied to you, and I will not begin now: I want you here. I want you on my side. But only with a whole heart, and," she waved a finger back and forth, like a metronome, "you have nothing like that at all."

"I'm a fighter pilot, luv. I need the sky."

"You are more than that now," said the spider, pointedly, "and you know it."

That disquieted the Flying Officer in some way she couldn't quite define, because she couldn't quite deny it, not completely. "I've got a few extra tricks, sure. But I'm still a pilot. Flying was always my dream, and defending the world from the air - that was my life. Your way..." she sighed, and ran a towel through her hair. "I've got to get my life back. I get your way now. I don't know I agree with it, but I get it. I just don't think it's mine."

Widowmaker slid her emotional range down, down, down, for now, but it still hurt more than she wanted. Nonetheless, she stabilised, as always. "The next ferry to Filicudi - and from there, to Sicily - departs tomorrow. If you want to be there, you can be. But I would not recommend this route; we have made arrangements, if you are willing to hear them."

"'Course you have," she smiled. "And 'course I would."

"Sombra, as I said, would like to come for a final cycle of readings from your accelerator. It will take two days for her to arrive; that will give us time to finalise our slightly more plausible route for your return, which is not by chance a return point further away. I like this facility, and would hate to lose it."

"You've thought this all out already, haven't you?"

The spider nodded, with the hint of a smile. "Of course. It is what I do; it is second - no, first, nature. The pieces are already placed."

"Huh." Tracer walked over to the eastern window, looking down the steep slope towards the sea. "You know... I'm gonna miss this island." She raised her hands, fingers against the glass. No, she thought, that's not enough. Not honest enough. "I'm gonna miss you."

Stepping up behind the smaller woman, Amélie asked, softly, "Will you then do me the honour of a going-away dinner, Ms. Oxton? Not here; there is a particularly discreet café I quite like on Salina, in Rinella. I think you'd like it, too."

Tracer looked back over her shoulder, with her famous half-grin, and said, "You askin' me on a date, luv?"

"Would you feel better, or worse, if I said yes?" asked the blue woman.

"Better," answered the pilot. "Definitely, much better."

the future of pain

May. 18th, 2017 02:19 pm
solarbird: (molly-thats-not-good-green)
[personal profile] solarbird
Okay this is intensely stupid because debian

network card assignment is being random, because debian

i'm blacklisting the drivers and trying to load them in /etc/modules in correct order so the device assignment is consistent

i blacklist e1000e and r8169 (so they don't autoload)

and then have them both in /etc/modules so they do load in a specific order, r8169 then e1000e

e1000e loads

r8169 doesn't

modprobe r8169 loads fine

what. the. fuck. do. i. do. here.

something small becomes less so

May. 18th, 2017 09:23 am
solarbird: (fox do want)
[personal profile] solarbird

This Sunday I’m going in to Someone Else’s Studio for what is really technically an academic exercise; the lead singer/songwriter of Leannan Sidhe and her group need someone to record for… it’s not a graduation exercise? But she’s very close to graduation and it’s a big project.

So I showed up yesterday and met with her and her two co-engineers, and poked around at songs to do, and we pretty quickly settled on “Supervillain For I Love You,” which I’ve just recently revised (and I think improved, which is pretty typical for my work as I perform it) and we start talking microphones.

And turns out they’re really into this song, apparently, because suddenly they were all talking about who else they can bring in and how big a band we can assemble, and now we’re in the large studio and besides me and my zouk and the chorus there’s a bassist and a pianist and a guitarist and possibly a horn section and they were working out a drumkit part I think that’s all but I’m not entirely sure.

Now as this is happening I realise, I’ve seen this before, on video, where, you know, Real Musicians Are In The Real Studio, because let’s face it, as happy as I am with the little one I built, it’s still a tiny studio and I can only play so many instruments, and only one at a time. I’m usually working alone.

So this Sunday may in fact be – outside voiceover and radio work, of course – the most “pro”-like recording experience I’ve ever had. Eep?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

i am a horrible person

May. 17th, 2017 12:47 pm
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

i am setting up lena oxton so hard in this chapter, oh gods, i'm terrible

i almost feel bad

almost

solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
[personal profile] solarbird
"Trump’s voting commission is a sham." No kidding. The linked article is to an ACLU action item because people need to get signed up on this. They're going to gin up some fake results to repeat Trump's "three to five million illegal voters" lie, in order to engage in the kinds of voter suppression at the Federal level that they've been working at the state level. Stopping this will require pulling off the very few Republicans actually willing to vote against Cheeto Mussolini, so be ramping up on that.

"This is what emboldened white supremacists look like" - you mean Jeff Sessions? No, these are neo-Klan marchers in Virginia.

"Former Attorney General Eric Holder statement" is about Jeff Sessions's plans to undo sentencing reform.

"Erdoğan security attacks, beats US citizens protesting in Washington, DC" - graphic footage at link. This is the kind of leader Cheeto openly admires.

"Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger" shouldn't be very surprising, and isn't.

LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU: "FCC halts public comments on Net Neutrality"

"No room for science in Trump administration" - true.

The word you're looking for, WaPo, is LIE: "Republicans misstate, again and again on TV and at town halls, what’s in their health-care bill"

"MSNBC Ending Lawrence O’Donnell “The Last Word” Show Despite Top Ratings (Exclusive)" - though fan response may have overwhelmed MSNBC. We'll see.

Good luck out there.

It's 17 May 2017; we're back with more news. )

good morning, it's 17 may 2017

May. 17th, 2017 02:46 am
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
[personal profile] solarbird
Well, if we didn't know already, this is the crux of the matter.

If meaningful, _critical_ actions are not taken _now_, the GOP will take no action, at all, ever.

We _have to_ assume that Mr. Trump could order tanks into the streets and the Republican Party would be fine with it. We _have to_ assume he could shoot people down in cold blood and they'd go along. We have to assume there will be no help from the ruling party. _None_.

The institutions that could act meaningfully have failed, because, in the end, is is not the institutions, but the people who occupy them. And the occupants are looters, criminals, and traitors who have one, single goal: the strip-mining of all value available, to themselves, or the masters they serve.

This doesn't mean we can't resist, because we can. But it means the two-year war will not be short-circuited, and must be fought heavily at the state level. The Republicans will do _everything_ in their power to suppress votes, to gerrymander beyond anything we've seen even so far, and steal the next election, by hook or by crook. _If you want there to be elections in the future_, you _have to_ oust Republicans, en masse, in 2018. I don't care about how big a sellout your local Democrat is - stow it. You want to primary some people from the left, go for it, but when the primary is over, _get the fuck in line_, because this is existential to the _goddamn republic_.

News follows.

Trump, Russia, and Treason:
  • Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say
  • ‘Far worse than what has already been reported’: Trump’s Russian disclosures so serious Senate had to be alerted
  • Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation
  • Republicans Demand More Detail on Trump’s Meeting With Russians
  • Source: There is "whole lot of interfering" in Russia investigation
  • Trump on Comey 'tapes': 'I can't talk about that'
  • Authoritarians thrive on ritual humiliation.
  • I have lived through nearly 4,500 weeks in my life, and I have never seen a week like the one we just had.
  • Clapper: Putin did it to demean Clinton and help elect Trump
  • Trump/Comey: What's this week's political firestorm actually about?
  • Here’s Why There Won’t Be An Independent Investigation Into Russia Anytime Soon
  • ‘He Doesn’t Give a Crap Who He Fires’
  • Donald Trump's tax law firm has 'deep' ties to Russia
  • Trump must be impeached. Here’s why.
Trump, Authoritarianism (and neofascism), and Corruption:
  • Trump Is Trying to Control the FBI. It’s Time to Freak Out.
  • The Law Can’t Stop Trump. Only Impeachment Can.
  • Americans are witnessing a slow-motion coup
  • Telling Trump Fans He’s Betraying Them Won’t Work
  • Card handed out at #RPW2017 by @wisgop US Senate hopeful John Schiess.

Good luck out there.

It's May 17th, 2017; this is the news. )
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

[All dialogue in «chevron quotes» is translated from the Italian.]

Tracer ran in the thick December mist, basking in 15-degree weather that to a native Londoner felt almost springlike. She teleported ahead every 10 or 15 seconds or so, through pockets of light rain, well out of sight of the few farmers, fishers, and tourists of the island's south. Ahead of her, and to her right, more hills, some sharp; to her left, a long, steep slope, dropping to the distant sound of waves, the open Mediterranean far below.

The locals thought she was a bit daft, running around all the time in winter weather, but, knowing she was English, also kind of expected that. She did her best to encourage them. Her Italian had improved over the last couple of months, as she would run along the southern roads, amidst the farms, solo un altro turista. But, of course, she wasn't a tourist - not even a medical tourist, in the classic sense. No one goes to Alicudi for medical treatment. Few people not from the island go there at all.

Unless they are with Talon.

With one teleport too many, she overshot the edge of a cliff, and found herself falling, far, and fast. Unperturbed, she rewound her personal timeline, back before the last two jinks, and continued happily on her way. That time, it had been intentional.

Faaan-tastic, she thought, as she dashed across the low, wet scrub like foxfire gone mad, adrenaline and endorphins competing to see which could give her the bigger high; I could run like this forever. Her stomach growled, demanding fuel, but she kept up her accelerated pace until she felt it, all at once, all over, blood sugar collapsing, hitting the wall. She popped maltose-sweetened chocolate into her mouth, with water; the wave of glucose felt like a taste of godhood as she dove for the end of her route, an isolated house which served as entrance to the small Talon research and medical station that had been her home since the previous August.

She touched the front door, dove inside and almost collapsed, but not before checking her watch. Ha, she thought, panting heavily. Just in time. She'd broken her own marathon record, shattering the 90-minute mark - 89 minutes, 20 seconds, on hills, in the rain. Grabbing the towel she'd laid out before leaving, she hit her water bottle again, and threw more of the chocolates into her mouth.

Tavi - Taviano Bonsignore, Dr. Mariani's nurse assistant - waved from down the hallway and grinned at the runner. «Another two minute mile?» he called.

«Better!» she shouted, heading for the shower, stretching as she walked. «Under-90-minute marathon!»

The medic gave her a thumbs-up, spinning 'round as she walked by. "Stupefacente!"

"If I can't fly yet, at least I can run!" and she ducked around the door, into other, warmer water.

Widowmaker's ship landed, and departed, as Tracer dried off. The assassin got to work disassembling and cleaning her rifle, though in this case, it was more ritual than necessity. This had been a simple and straightforward kill, clockwork in execution, marked only by the pleasure of a job well done.

She was still basking in that familiar glow when Lena walked in, hair wet, mouth half-full of Italian ham and French bread. "I see we are both cleaning up after successful missions," said Amélie. "89 minutes, in the rain? Magnifique!"

Tracer bowed, and swallowed the rest of her second round of lunch. She'd been debriefed the previous night - the spider's target today had been for money, not history. But he was also, as she'd been forced to concede, 'a real piece of work - one right bastard.' And while she still wasn't comfortable with it, and didn't think she ever would be, she wouldn't shed any tears. "Another world record falls to T-Racer! If only it counted."

She hit her water bottle again, this time just sipping. "And you," she continued, nodding towards the scarcely-dirtied barrel. "One shot?"

Amélie smiled more genuinely, and more freely, than Lena had ever seen, as something buried deep inside the assassin leapt high in the air and cheered at those words. Eyes so bright they blinded like sun on the snow in winter, she answered, warmly: "One kill."

another side project

May. 15th, 2017 11:23 am
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

It might be silly, but for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing something I have almost never done before, and never this much: I’ve been writing fiction, and lots of it. Overwatch fanfic, to be specific.

Over the winter holidays, Overwatch held a couple of events, and released a comic, called Reflections. It’ the one where we find out completely and totally unambiguously that Tracer, the literal face of the game, the character on the box, is queer. We meet her girlfriend, they smooch, it is inarguable text.

It was like a second Korrasami just fell out of the air and landed on us, and it was wonderful.

But we also see a single panel of Widowmaker, from the back, standing, looking to me despondent, at Gérard’s grave. (For those who don’t know: he was her husband, and her first official target as an assassin.) It’s one of what I consider to be several hints dropped that her official backstory is a lie. And there have been a bunch of people – since the beginning – shipping Tracer and Widowmaker, which to me is nonsensical in canon, because Lena would never forgive Amélie for killing Mondatta in the cinematic video “Alive.”

Lost yet? Sorry, there’s no way out but through. Anyway, one of these shippers did a marvellous and touching comic set a few minutes after that single frame of Widowmaker, with her and Venom – the version of Tracer who is with Talon, not Overwatch. And I liked it so much, I started thinking, “How would we actually get here? What would it take?”

Now, I’ve never really been a fiction writer, but I can make take characters’ lives and seriously fuck them up, but good. And, unlike certain writers (cough cough m*ff*t cough) I care about trying to make it work in character. And the analytical engine in the back of my brain started churning.

Then a couple of weeks ago, it just started falling out. I feel almost less like “writer” here than “transcriber.” It’s still short – a novelette – but Chapter 12 went up today. There have kind of been 13, but one is out of continuity and not listed with the main work, because it’s kind of an AU-to-my-own-AU aside.

Fortunately, it’s not all I can think about, but holy crow is it dominating my brainspace. I have new relationship energy with writing? Apparently? Or something? I don’t even know. (Seriously, it feels like NRE. It’s goofy.)

And since I’ve checked with actual writers and am told this is a thing that happens, I’m willing to admit to this story about my story.

I was in spawn point one on offence in Gibraltar, as Tracer (of course), and looking out the upper-floor window to see how the defence was setting up. Surprisingly few people do this, given how useful it is.

And Widowmaker came up beside me, to do the same thing, in full Talon-wear, and we said hello, like you do, and she looked through her scope to get a better view, and suddenly I saw her through Venom’s eyes.

Now, I have issues with Widowmaker’s character design, and a lot of them are probably pretty obvious, but leave those aside for the moment. Seeing her as Venom – as my Talon Tracer – sees her… even for for just that moment, she literally took my breath away.

If that’s what the tracermaker shippers have been seeing this whole time… hoo boy. Now, I really get it.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (Default)
[personal profile] solarbird

"So you're... terrorists, then?" Tracer stared at Widowmaker, mystified.

"That's what they call us," Amélie responded, lightly. "We see it differently, of course."

Tracer looked over the news reports, the government statements, the public record. "You've certainly been busy," she said, nervously. "25 assassinations in the last year! That's quite the murder spree."

Amélie's face betrayed her amusement. "Is that the current count? How foolish. No, we prune the tree, not create topiary." More earnestly, she added, "But we are very convenient people to blame."

The padd fell through Tracer's hands, as she momentarily lost anchor to normal time, the blue flash reflecting off the screen. She gasped, and tried uselessly to anchor herself, physically grabbing the bedsheets - Here. I'm here. I'm really still here. Good. Now more afraid, she asked, "Why'd you show me this?"

Amélie looked thoughtful, and checked the synchronisation panel monitoring Tracer's accelerator. Not so big an event as it seemed; fear made the young pilot drop the tablet, not displacement. But the field coil had degraded again - just a little, but it was there. I'm glad we're upgrading her soon, she thought. "It is important that you are fully informed."

"Informed that the people who pulled me back from oblivion are terrorists. And you're implanting... what are you really doing to me tomorrow?" she demanded.

Amélie smiled that cool, pleased smile she used whenever she felt something significant had been accomplished. "Et, voilà."

"Voila what?"

"A question best addressed now, rather than tomorrow, or the next day."

"...right..."

"We will do exactly what we have said, no less; no more. We will implant in you a next generation chronal accelerator, of our own design, and its necessary neural interface. It will do only what we have discussed. With practice, you will have absolute control over it. And that is all."

"And not some kind of bomb. Or some kind of mind control device. How could I even know?" Red outlines flashed around the world.

Amélie's face flashed with disgust, and she waved dismissively at the articles on the padd. "This contemptible trash has frightened you. I understand why. But we do not use suicide bombers; we do not use unwitting or unwilling agents; both are barbaric. We do not conceive to create terror at all; if our assassinations went undetected, our methods would be more effective, not less."

"But..."

"But what would you have thought, had we let you discover these reports on your own, but only afterwards, too late?"

"I'd've known you lied to me."

"Exactement. And now, you know we have not."

"But it wouldn't matter," she protested. "You'd have me by then. I'd be one of your brainwashed agents. Or a bomb."

"Were that our goal, would we even want your permission? Would we even ask?"

Tracer tried to find a reason, and couldn't. "...I don't know."

"Indeed - we would already have done it. If not that, if it is all some other kind of trick, does showing you all this propaganda against us beforehand make such a deception more likely? Or, is it, perhaps, less?"

While Tracer thought about that, Widowmaker picked up the padd and scrolled through documents, working backwards in time, to the beginning: the Overwatch reports regarding the death of Gérard Lacroix. She pulled them up together on the screen, in columns.

"Here is what they say about me," she said, handing the padd back. "You'll note the Blackwatch and Overwatch reports are vastly different. Neither, I'm afraid, are particularly accurate, except in the one key point."

As Tracer read, Amélie continued. "Since I was very young, I have been able to feel the strands of the past, of the present, and probabilities forward... I do not pretend to see the future itself, but I see the many connected strands of where and how it can be directed, and where, without direction, it is all but certain to go."

"I read once," Tracer said distractedly, still reading, "that spiders think with their webs."

The assassin laughed, lightly, genuinely pleased. "I am delighted! You are the first to see that part of it. Splendid!" She shifted forward in her chair. "And by nudging the flow of history, we are attempting to avert a cycle of Human-Omnic wars which I am convinced will destroy most or all life on this earth. But it is for this, and for our methods, that they call us terrorists. We do not care, because we believe in our cause - and I think, methods aside, that you do as well, no? Otherwise I do not think you could've joined Overwatch and remained untainted."

"I think I met Gérard, when I met you," said Tracer. "At the Overwatch Christmas party, last... six years ago, wannit? This says you murdered him."

"Gérard," sighed Amélie, taking the padd, looking at the seven year old Overwatch photo. "My beloved, my husband. I miss you so." She handed the device back to Tracer. "I loved him dearly - he was everything to me. He was also my second in command, and my most trusted confidante - even the name Talon was his idea."

"But he was in charge of anti-Talon operations at Overwatch!"

"Delightful, is it not? It was a game for us - we fake an operation, Overwatch thwarts it, accolades are handed out all around, the budget goes up, Talon takes a share, the real plan goes by, unnoticed."

"Nice one," she said, sarcastically. "So... who really killed him?" asked Tracer.

Amélie raised an eyebrow. "I did. That is the one and only correct detail in those reports. And to be absolutely clear: it was not an accident, and if everything were the same, I would pull that trigger again."

"That's..." A series of blue and red shifts shook the pilot. "...why?"

"Because it was necessary," said the assassin, resolute.

"And why save me?" Tracer questioned, insistently.

Amélie faced the young, frightened pilot, but her real gaze aimed deeply inwards, sorting history and time and probabilities and odds and the strange, random pieces of knowledge she'd been sorting through for all of her life. "I do not expect you to understand this, or even believe it, but there is a broken strand in the web of the world - I can feel it. It has been broken for five years, and it cannot be healed by any number of exquisite deaths."

Widowmaker's focus turned back outward, her gaze firm and voice strong. "You are needed, Lena Oxton. I do not yet know how, and I do not yet know why, but your life, like Gérard's death, is necessary, and so... if I must, I will move the world to save you."

I could murder a chippie

May. 13th, 2017 11:25 am
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

[This does not happen. It is not part of the fear of spiders continuity, even if Venom is straight out of there. It takes place out of time (and out of the timeline), and would roughly be Venom of 2077, and Tracer of 2076.]

"I am not your evil twin!" said Venom, popping onto the tall-chaired table outside the chippie.

"Yes, you are!" said Tracer, popping down next to her. "You're an assassin. With Talon. Evil! Also, you're in love with her." She snagged one of Venom's chips, just as her own arrived. "The most dangerous assassin our world's ever known."

"Yes!" Venom beamed, stealing a chip back. "A sexy, sexy assassin, and she's all mine, and I'm telling you - you're missing out." She popped the chip into her mouth, and, through potato, said, "Seriously, you have no idea."

Tracer laughed. "You can't even imagine how much Emily and I are in love. It's impossible! You're just too evil."

"Fffft," said Venom. "Emily's cute, I won't lie. But come on, luv, Amélie is perfection."

"If perfection means an aggressively overstyled shitehawk who loves killing people, maybe."

"Maybe," winked Venom, "you don't know anything about her. But if you're really as in love with this Emily frump as you think you are, I guess I don't feel sorry for ya after all. She probably deserves you. Tomato sauce for your haddock?"

"Tomato sauce? On fish? You daft?"

"You're so wrong about Amélie, it seemed likely."

Tracer laughed. "Oh, did I go too far? I'm sor - no, wait, no, I don't apologise to people like you, you're an assassin, and you like it."

Venom, in violet, snorted. "C'mon, you were military too, weren't ya?"

"Sure! Just like you," said the tangerine-clad Tracer.

"Everything exactly the same, right up to the Slipstream explosion."

"Mine didn't explode! I just disappeared. Then it crashed, but I wasn't in it."

"Yeah, but in my case, a bunch of plane parts disappeared, and the rest exploded. But that doesn't matter - up 'till then, everything's the same, right? We were both out to save the world, and if that means killing people, we do it, right?"

"Yeah, but not for fun. It was war, not what you do."

Venom pointed a chip at Tracer's face. "I bet my body count's lower than yours."

"What?!" exclaimed Tracer, splashing pepper on her breaded fish. "Not likely! I've barely ever killed any..." And she stopped, mid-sentence.

Venom nodded. "...anyone real." Gotcha. "Anyone human, or acting human. That's it, isn't it. Haven't you ever thought about all those other Omnic lives?"

Tracer stood her ground. "I have! But that was different. Null Sector at King's Row, every other Omnic incursion, it was open combat. We defended ourselves, and we saved lives doing it."

"Sure, I get that." Venom continued, munching on a piece of her fish. "Truth is, I even agree. But right or wrong - and I'm not saying it's wrong - how many Omnic lives did you end that day on King's Row? More than we would've, I bet. With a clean kill, we shift the future with one death. It takes you, what, five? Ten? A dozen? Two dozen?"

"My kill tally was 442," Tracer beamed, proud in spite of herself.

Venom laughed. "Funny woman. No, seriously, mate, how many?"

"Y'think I can't count?" Tracer protested, amusedly. "Four. Hundred. Forty. Two. I got a medal!"

Venom blinked, then blanched, as she realised her doppelgänger was absolutely serious, and stared confusedly at the woman who had called her an "evil twin." She put down her fish, and straightened in her chair. Bleedin' hell, she thought, as the weight of that body count struck her. So many dead. In one day. "That's, that's not killing. That's... mass slaughter."

Tracer nodded, munching another bit of fish. "It was a rout, you mean. They were throwing themselves at us the whole time. I almost died anyway - Mercy had to bring me back, once. And we saved a lot of old London."

"Yes, but..." Venom said earnestly, "Widowmaker and me..." She leaned forward again. "You don't understand. We've killed well less than half that many people our entire careers. Omnic and human, combined."

Tracer stared at her opposite. So... few?

"We'd have taken out the command corps. The rest would've been a mop-up. Most likely, the lot of 'em would've surrendered - or just left." Venom pushed aside her chips, frowning. "How many days like that you had, Tracer?"

The Overwatch agent lowered her head, but kept her eyes up, disturbed by her counterpart's reaction. "...several?"

Venom exhaled deeply, as her thoughts raced. I've stopped at a chippie with Pol Pot, she thought. "I'm... I don't even know, mate. We shape history with assassination, not snuggles, but your..." she waved her hands around, not knowing how else to say it, "exterminations... You're proud of them. You slaughter people en masse. It's..." she swallowed, hard. "Grotesque."

Tracer, firmly. "It. was. war."

"I know. And it ain't my world, maybe I can't judge. If you're Tracer, the Manic Pixie Murder Machine, that's what you are." Venom slipped off her barstool, looking grim. "But if you really think what I do is worse than that, I..."

Tracer glared at her opposite, defensive and a little angry. "What're you sayin', mate?"

Venom snapped, "What I'm sayin', mate, is that I'm pretty sure I'm not the evil reflection of you - I'm pretty sure you're the evil reflection of me." And she teleported away.

"Fine!" shouted Tracer, to the air. "Just for that, I'm eatin' your chips!" She rolled her eyes and shook her head. Assassins, she thought. Always so bloody pretentious.

solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

"I've made him," said Venom, subvocally, over coms. Her goggles shifted in place, forming lenses, zooming in. "Right on time. He's got his best three bodyguards with him, too - guess he wanted the A team along for the ride."

"Acknowledged," replied Widowmaker, coolly - all business, inside, and out. A small part of her could still scarcely believe this was happening, but she kept it in check - pleasure before pleasure, no? "I am in position."

The three bodyguards scouted the empty restaurant storefront as a stocky man in his late 40s sat behind very strong and very darkly tinted glass. C'mon, you bastards, thought the former pilot, everything is just fine, everything is just like you expect. Take the bait.

They'd arranged a small trade, of course. A trade of extremely important data about Omnics captured from a murdered engineering delegation, in exchange for an attractively low, but still quite substantial, amount of money. Intelligent machines for cash, slaves for Renminbi on the barrelhead, who is going to be the wiser?

A job for the police, Oxton had said. We can give them what we know, a trial would be better for relations anyway. And then Amélie showed her the list of the dead from a previous investigation, and Lena knew it wouldn't.

A blink, and she's half a block away, on another rooftop. C'mon already, give your boss the all-clear and open the bloody door.

One of the guards looked up at where she'd been, seeing nothing, and looked again, and saw a subtly different nothing. Just in time, she thought, but she was wrong.

The bodyguard turned towards the car, quickly. Widowmaker's voice, on the coms: "Merde! Now he's made you. Plan B."

Bugger!, thought Venom, False start. Don't let's cock this up twice!, and she dove in, using all of her teleport charge, taking three tenths of a second to close the distance. Stinger bomb under the car, right on target. "Gotcha!" she shouted, as Widowmaker's first shot took out the first guard, and she simultaneously emptied both clips of her pistols into the second. The third - Pilar, the best of them - had her semiautomatic at the side of Venom's head, the trigger half-pulled, when the younger assassin jinked backwards in time, just far enough to reload and shoot the third down exactly as she'd shot the second.

Her stinger exploded as the car started to move, throwing the vehicle into the air, compressing it, the windows shattering outwards. "One shot..." called Venom, as she flew backwards on her grappling hook. Magnified through her vizor, she saw the shocked look on the target's face obliterated, as Widowmaker laughed delightedly in the coms, "...one kill."

"Nice one," Venom said over coms, as she reset vision.

"Get back here. This got noisy, and we need to leave - quickly."

"Already here, love." Venom leaned forward from behind the senior assassin, and gently kissed the back of Widowmaker's neck.

Amélie gasped - no one surprised the spider. No one.

Except her.

[a few months earlier]

"Is this some kind of would-I-kill-baby-Hitler question?"

Amélie laughed, lightly, putting down her glass of dessert wine. "Don't talk nonsense, of course not. A bébé is a bébé, innocent, and easily redirected." She picked the glass back up, and with a cool smile, said, "Although perhaps you might choose to kill its parents. Perhaps they are assholes."

Lena stabbed her fork into a second slice of bananoffe, cut a portion with a knife, and stuffed it into her mouth. It takes a lot of calories to fuel her biology now, thought the spider. "And if they aren't?" Lena asked through crumbs, voice muffled.

The blue woman shrugged, perhaps a little disappointed the ever-so-earnest Lena didn't seem to see the humour. "It doesn't matter. To elaborate, following along the lines of your question - I am not asking, 'would you kill baby Hitler;' I'm asking, perhaps, would you kill Reich Chancellor Hitler, in, say, February of 1933.'"

"Not good with dates, luv," she said, with just a trace of irony. Ah, there is hope for you yet, thought Amélie.

"I should have known, it is fitting. So," she took another sip of her Chateau d'Yquem white, "in 1933, his goals were stated, and he was just appointed the position he needed to follow them through." She gestured aimlessly with her glass. "Oh, there were arguments about what he 'really' meant, perhaps - he was an extraordinary liar. And there were those who insisted he would moderate with power. He, himself, swore his restraint. But - to a clear mind, one that can see the strands of history - everything was laid plain."

Another sip. Lena toyed with her slice of pie, cutting it into smaller pieces, thinking, and took another bite.

"A single death," said Amélie, "could've changed everything..."

Lena looked up, asked, "Had he actually killed anyone yet?" and looked back down, seemingly deeper in thought.

"Does that matter? I don't think so. But fair enough, let us say that it does. March, then, of 1933. The first concentration camp opens, in Oranienburg. All perfectly legal, all perfectly murderous, the first rendering of the first blueprint of the great slaughter to come."

Lena poked at the remaining pieces of her pie, smaller and smaller.

The assassin leaned forward. "Now it is April. The Enabling Act has passed, a bill gracing the Reich Chancellor with unlimited power - but there are still other political parties, to resist. Do you take the shot?"

Bananas. Cream. Toffee. Crust. Divided. Tracer, quiet, focused on the mess before her.

Windowmaker leaned in, still further, speaking quietly. "May, the tenth. Jewish-owned shops are boycott. The first book burnings, targeting 'degenerate' works, science. Perhaps not yet, at Oranienburg, the first death, but they will come. All legal, at least, to some degree."

"And at the heart of it all, one man. There are many others with him, but he is the genius, the crux - the one who truly matters."

With one finger, she appropriated a dollop of cream from Lena's dessert plate, lifting it from the plate. "The one whose death could change everything."

The younger woman looked up, earnestly, into the assassin's eyes. "If I know... if I really know..."

Venom took Widowmaker's hand with her own, and, with an unfocused half-grin, licked the cream off the other woman's finger.

"Everyone seems to forget..." she said, distantly, savouring the sweetness, "...I'm ex-military." She smiled broadly, eyes suddenly bright. Gotcha. "Fighter planes don't shoot kisses, luv," she laughed. "Of course I take the shot."

The assassin's refined pose collapsed completely, and a single, quiet, ha! escaped her lips. "Oh, you horrible woman! I thought we were having a meaningful conversation."

"Gotcha."

"Yes," said the spider, smiling, and feeling it, almost - but not quite - giggling as she leaned back into her chair. "You did. You have me."

Completely, she thought, sipping from her glass.

Damn you. You have me.

Completely.

good morning, it's 12 may 2017

May. 12th, 2017 01:08 am
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
[personal profile] solarbird
The news is a flood. I finished today's and I am already well behind.

Cultural War: "MISSOURI: Republican Lawmaker Declares There’s A “Distinction” Between Human Beings And Gays." Even the locals are "what." And "A New Wave of Bills Takes Aim at Science in the Classroom" - it's not that the are new in terms of what they're trying to do; they're not. But more are getting through.

Political repression: "President calls for criminal investigation of senator who criticized him for firing FBI director (also smear is BS)," "Democracy in Crisis: Inauguration Day Protesters Face Decades in Jail," and "West Virginia journalist arrested for asking HHS Secretary Tom Price a question." This is a terrible trend.

The Russian News Service in the White House, while American news services barred. "Did a Russian Photographer Smuggle a Surveillance Device Into the White House?," "Presence of Russian photographer in Oval Office raises alarms," "Why do none of the Trump-Russia leaks come from Russia?" and "Russia’s Oval Office Victory Dance" tell the story.

Relatedly: "Senate intel panel subpoenas Michael Flynn documents."

The rest is Comey. And there's a lot, and it's all bad. Possibly the worst: "In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred." This really is Trump following Hitler's path, as one of the first things Hitler did as Chancellor was require oaths of personal loyalty from everyone up and down the line. Not entirely dissimilarly: "Comey infuriated Trump with refusal to preview Senate testimony: aides." If true, that means Trump was testing his personal loyalty, and found it wanting.

Two on Rosenstein: "THREAD: The key player here is Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rosenstein. I spent 5 yrs in the DAG’s office under Obama. Please indulge me." and "Rosenstein takes heat over role in Comey firing."

Other reports about specific triggers: "Days Before He Was Fired, Comey Asked for Money for Russia Investigation," "Behind Comey’s firing: An enraged Trump, fuming about Russia," "Comey fired for intensifying investigation of Trump, Russia ties: report," and "In interview, Trump contradicts Pence on Comey."

"Blumenthal: Comey firing 'may well produce impeachment proceedings'" doesn't matter unless the Republicans are forced to it, and, well, see the previous news post about that.

But where it matters:

"Kellyanne Conway creates alternative reality to defend Trump’s firing of Comey"

"McConnell rejects calls for special prosecutor"

I don't know if they can bring themselves to admit what they've done.

Good luck out there.

It's May 12th, 2017; this is the news )

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