africa ring

6

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Photography: Hazel & Pine

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The Lord of the Masks

What if The Lord of the Rings was mainly inspired by Africa? What if the One Ring was actually a Mask of the Dead?

In order of appearance:

Leronti.

Harago, the halflings Pepi and Merawi.

N'Ganda the grey wanderer, Samu and Foroto the Mask bearer.

Boromo, Guimba the dwarf and Legogo the prince bowman.

N´Gola the slave of the Mask.

Chapter 7: A walk in the Park

Chapter 1: Heiress

Chapter 2: Vigilante

Chapter 3: Revelations

Chapter 4: A Tale of two Amari

Chapter 5: Old Friends

Chapter 6: New Blood

I finally got around to finish this chapter. Hopefully the next one won’t be as delayed as this.

As usual enjoy!


The return of former agents and the addition of new recruits meant that now Overwatch could begin acting against the evils of the world. As leader of the newly reformed Overwatch, it fell on him to call missions and assignments. The only problem was that there were too many threats to world peace: the Talon threat, the so-called Second Omnic Crisis in Russia, the deterioration between Human-Omnic relations after Mondatta’s murder, the list went on. Winston had his work cut out for him.

Well, they had to start somewhere. He began by looking at the hacking attempt at Gibraltar. The terrorists left no clue save for the Lamprey device that Winston destroyed to avoid the detection of the former agents’ locations. He tinkered with the device for hours, trying to find anything useful. After some time, he discovered a hidden line of code, written in a jumbled series of alphanumeric digits. Analyzing the code using different decoding algorithms he managed to translate the message. It was a Spanish sentence.

Finalmente lo hizo. Vamos a ver si es lo suficientemente inteligente como para resolver esto! –S

A couple numbers with six digits each followed the message. He had Athena translate the message it. The AI read it aloud for him.

Finally you have done it. Let’s see if you are clever enough to figure out this!–S

Winston looked at the numbers, trying to figure out what could they mean. He already decoded the message, could there be another encryption level?

While he was pondering on this enigma, Tracer happened to pass by his lab.

“Hey, Winston whatcha looking at?”

The great ape did not respond, deeply immersed in thoughts, and kept staring at the screen, holding his chin. Intrigued by her friend’s lack of reaction Lena looked at the decoded line on the computer holoscreen.

“Hm…” She hummed trying to figure out the mystery herself, mimicking his friend’s pensive pose.

“Nice set of coordinates you got there!” she exclaimed.

“Coordinates?” Winston replied. Of course: the first number was the Latitude and the second one was Longitude. Six digits for degrees, minutes and seconds.

“Lena, I could kiss you!” Winston said turning to his British friend.

“Eough, no thanks. Hairy guys are not my type!” Tracer replied sticking out her tongue.


The following morning Winston gathered all Overwatch members in his lab. Both new and old agents sat around him, anxious to hear what he had to tell them.

“Good morning everyone….” Winston started pausing for a moment to find right words.

“Oh for the love of… KEEP GOING!” Soldier 76 thought to himself, face palming in the back. He was in a terrible mood. He never wanted to join Winston’s attempt to resurrect a flawed organization like Overwatch and he definitely did not like his leadership. He also had little patience for the ape’s typically long-winded spiels.

Angela was quick to notice his annoyed gesture.

“Something wrong, 76?” she asked.

How could he tell her that he didn’t like that situation she had put him in?

“Nothing.” He replied.

“I’ve been, ahem,” the gorilla continued, “searching for the ones responsible of the attack here at Gibraltar. So far we know that their leader is a mercenary that goes by the name Reaper.”

He pushed a button on a remote he was holding and footage from the night of the attack played behind him. Everyone could see the black robed man attacking Winston and almost managing to end him. Mercy shivered hearing Reaper’s metallic evil laugh and averted his looked from the screen.

“Ruthless and dangerous.” Winston commented, “He is also known to have targeted former Overwatch agents and kill them. That is why I believe he was after the list stored in the database of this installation. Yesterday I managed to trace the stolen data to a local in the mountainous area of Djibouti.”

“Where?” D.Va rudely interrupted

“Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.”

“Doesn’t ring any bell.”

Here.” Winston specified, showing the location on the screen.

The satellite image zoomed a first time on a valley in the small African country and then a second time to a small compound at the end of it. The main building was rectangular with a flat top and was probably two stories high. The outer wall, with two guard towers near the only visible gate, formed a square-shaped courtyard in front of the building. In the open space of the base, they could distinguish a couple of parked vehicles and a helipad with a large T on it.

Jack recognized that symbol and Winston’s words confirmed his fears.

“This is a Talon base.” The great ape continued. “For those of you who don’t know, Talon is a criminal organization with a hidden agenda. They seemed like any other crime syndicate some years ago but even Overwatch was unable to put it down. They are the ones responsible the assassination of Tekhartha Mondatta in London and they supported Reaper’s attack on my database.”

Bastards.” Tracer murmured, unable to contain her anger for the assassination of her hero.

“We’re going to strike this compound and retrieve the data they stole. Maybe we will find something about their next move.” Winston said clicking again on his remote. The image of the compound changed to an infrared one. The barren terrain became blue and yellow figures appeared in the compound.

“Thermal scans indicate that the base is lightly defended, 20 maybe 30 hostiles maximum. Perhaps they did not expect us to find it or it is just a small logistic base where they keep data before moving it to their home base. Either way it shouldn’t be a problem for us.”

Winston paused for a second, catching his breath, and then continued his speech. He thought he heard someone groan from the back. It was probably Soldier 76.

“That is why I have decided to test our new recruits on this one. Pharah will command the team composed of Lucio as Healer, Symmetra as Support, D.Va as Tank and Soldier 76 as Recon. I know it sounds strange but I believe it will be just a walk in the park. Nothing you can’t handle.”

The Egyptian woman stood to attention as the gorilla walked down to her.

“I trust you with this. I have faith you will not let us down.” he told her.

“I will not waste this opportunity. We will not fail!” she answered.

“I will be with Mercy and Tracer on the dropship as backup should the need arise.”

The named heroes looked at each other as the big ape turned back. D.Va and Lucio were quick to share a high five, excited to work together while Symmetra was less than excited to work with the Brazilian artist and his chaotic Korean friend. 76 did not mind them; they were young and foolish, they probably thought of the mission as a game. He then looked to Pharah. She was trying to hide it but he could see the pride in her eyes for the honor that was bestowed upon her. Smiling underneath the mask, he couldn’t help feel a little happy for her: this was the moment she had dreamt of all her life.

“Well then,” Winston concluded talking to the others, “If there aren’t further questions the meeting is adjourned. Dismissed!”


The MV-261 Orca was flying steadily south-west towards Eastern Africa. The dune sea of the Sahara desert extended for kilometers beneath its wings. Tracer and Winston were in the cockpit, discussing how to approach the Talon base undetected while Mercy was in the back area checking on her medical equipment. The members of the strike team occupied the main bay.

Soldier 76 was checking his gear as he always had since boot camp. He ran down the same checklist himself before every mission, even when he was Strike Commander. At his core, he always was a soldier.

All the equipment stood in front of him, ready to be put back together.

Utility belt and suspenders

CHECK

Flashlight

CHECK

Water

CHECK

Para cord line

CHECK

Biotic canisters x6

CHECK

Plasma magazines x5

CHECK

Combat knife

He twirled the knife to check the blade and the serrated edge.

CHECK

Handgun

76 brought up his trusted sidearm. Pulling the slide back, he inspected the inside before releasing it with a satisfying click. Then he pressed the reload button. The electromagnetic chargers popped out the sides, spinning to recharge the weapon before re-entering inside the chassis.

CHECK

Pulse Rifle

Lifting the weapon from the table, Jack looked at both sides of it. Nothing out of order.

He pried the magazine well open and verified that the plasma chamber was clear. He pressed the release button and the top of the gun closed without a hitch. He cocked the weapon twice to verify if the handle was unobstructed.

CHECK

At the end of his checklist, he put on his belt and suspenders and holstered the pistol. Afterwards he secured the rifle to a rack on the wall. “Always secure your weapons during flight” his instructor used to tell him.

When everything was ready, 76 looked at his teammates. Everyone was preparing for the upcoming mission, each one in his or her own way.

Symmetra was near him, sat at the table. She was practicing with her light bending techniques. Jack stared in awe as she manipulated a small ball of light with her mechanical hand, morphing it into various geometric figures and then into more complicated ones, such as a Lotus flower. It all looked like magic to him. Disturbed by his unwanted attention she interrupted her work and moved to the recreational area. She started rearranging the books in alphabetical order and straightening all leaning pictures on the wall. She even turned all the cups so the handle was parallel to the wall so that the Overwatch logo was clearly visible.

D.Va’s mech stood on the other side of the room, under the basketball hoop. It was in Cargo Configuration with its arms and wings folded on the side and the legs and antennae retracted into the fuselage. In 76’s eyes, it looked just like a giant pink egg. Laying upside down on the cockpit glass D.Va was playing with some kind of hand portable console. Jack closed in to get a better look. The speed of her thumbs on the controls was unbelievable and he started to understand what her true capabilities were.

“Hey, what are you doing over there?” he asked

“Training,” D.Va answered without stopping her game.

“Looks you are playing to me!”

“DUH,” she said rotating her eyes “gaming is my training.”

“This is not a game!” 76 snapped, turning his back on her.

“Whatever! Who are you, my dad?”

“Dad? Young people today, no respect for their elders!” 76 mumbled leaving the Korean girl alone.

Bypassing Lucio, who was completely absorbed in his own music, Soldier 76 made his way to Pharah. She was studying the base layout on a holographic PDA, just like a good commander should do.

“Hey.”

“Hello,” she responded “What’s on your mind Soldier 76?”

“Nothing. I wanted to tell you that whatever you need, I’m here.”

“Do not worry, soldier. I’ve got this.”

He looked down at her resuming her review of the enemy’s defenses and could not help feel a little proud of her. If only Ana could see what her daughter had become.

As 76 was climbing the stairs to the cockpit a familiar voice called him. Turning back, he could see Mercy gesturing him from the other side of the plane. She wanted him to come to her.

“What could she possibly want?” 76 mumbled walking back through the main bay towards the back of the dropship, faking annoyance at the doctor’s call to stay in character. He secretly enjoyed that she wanted to see him. Climbing the rear stairs, he looked up to her. He always felt beneath her. He always believed that a true angel like her could not mix herself with a grunt like him, but she did. Even more so, she stayed with him after he lied to her and abandoned her to become Soldier 76.

“So, what do you want?” 76 asked her.

“I just want to check your biotic canisters, to make sure everything is ok.” Mercy answered with a smile.

Jack looked her in the eye. That was as lame excuse as he’d ever heard. She was undisturbed by his stare and gestured him to follow. 76 followed her behind the corner, hidden from the others.

There she stretched her hand, waiting for him to give her the canisters.

“Come on Angela, you know I check all my gear before each mission. There’s no need for this!”

“It may be so, but we need to keep up appearances. Hand them over!”

Fine.” 76 sighed, and started removing the cylinders containing the yellow healing fluid from his belts.

“Someone’s a little grumpy today. So, what’s on your mind?” she asked while working on the canisters.

“Nothing,” he answered after a brief hesitation.

“You can’t fool me again, you are worried about something.”

Damn woman, she knew him too well.

“It’s…” he continued, “It’s the new recruits. Apart from Fareeha, I don’t believe they have what it takes. They are too young and inexperienced for this.”

“You’re too pessimistic. They had their fair share of fighting. They may even surprise you.”

“I highly doubt it; I’ve seen too much to be surprised anymore.” 76 said looking away from Mercy. His long combat experience and the sorrow he endured during his years on the streets did not left him with much hope.

She finished working and looked back at him. It pained her to see her Jack being so broody and sad. What happened to the man that smiled all the time and always found the best in people around him?

Her hand caressed the edge of his mask causing him to shiver.

“If what you say is true, they’re going to need you! They’re going to need Jack Morrison!” she winked, returning the canisters.

“Jack Morrison is dead.” He retorted grabbing his gear from the doctor’s hands. He then moved away to return to the main bay. Suddenly a hand grabbed his arm and brought him back behind the corner.

“Just be careful out there. And come back to me, Jack Morrison.” She said kissing him on the only part not covered by the mask: his scarred forehead.


“30 SECONDS”

Tracer’s voice announced to the crew that the dropship was about to touch down. For the last 15 minutes, the Orca followed a very low flightpath that grazed the Ethiopian mountains. That way no radar would be able to pick them approaching the enemy base. The dropship stopped about a kilometer from the objective and started descending behind the cover of a steep ridge. Inside, the strike team prepared itself to dismount. Pharah and Soldier 76 stood right in front of the hatch with Lucio and D.Va, inside her mech, behind them. Symmetra closed the line.

“20 SECONDS”

At the second announcement Pharah turned back to talk to her squad.

“Remember your training and we’ll get through this just fine.”

D.Va pushed 76 forward with one of the MEKA’s arm cannons.

“Hey dad, promise you won’t let those bad guys get me.” She mocked him.

“No promises in combat.” He answered returning to his position.

D.Va pouted behind him. Then rolled her eyes.

“10 SECONDS”

Following Tracer’s third warning the rate of descent slowed to a halt and the ramp lowered as soon as the Orca hit the ground.

“MOVE”

At Pharah’s command, the team sprinted forward, climbing the ridge in front of them. The lyrics “We move together as one” drifted from Lucio’s speakers carried the team forward, allowing them to climb up the mountain with ease.

Behind them, the dropship lifted off and moved to a safe distance, ready back to be called back to the same landing zone to pick them up.

The team rallied just below the top of the ridge. Symmetra set up her teleporter relay while 76 crawled forward to scan the base.

On the other side of the ridge there was a large valley. Vegetation was scarce and most of the area was covered in rocks and dust. Right in the middle of the valley stood the compound. It was composed of a rectangular, flat-top military building with no windows and a peripheral wall that run around the building and a courtyard on the front. Near the wire mesh gate, a couple of towers guarded the entrance. 76 activated his visor to scan any life sign in the base. A soldier was stationed on each tower and about a dozen more were working inside the courtyard. Unfortunately, he could not get a reading from inside the building, maybe it was shielded from scanners or it was simply out of range. He slid back down to the squad and reported his findings. Pharah came up with a plan of attack and assigned to each member a task.


Shortly afterwards they went over hill and executed their attack. 76 hit one of the two guard towers with a Helix salvo while a well-aimed wrist rocket by Pharah took care of the other guard. D.Va rush forward with her MEKA’s boosters. She easily smashed thought the flimsy gate and started engaging the unprepared Talon soldiers. Soon reinforcements came from inside and the Korean pilot activated her defense matrix, providing cover for Symmetra and Lucio’s flanking action. In a matter of seconds, the courtyard was cleared and the team proceeded inside. D.Va’s MEKA was too big to fit though the door so she was left outside to guard the exit. 76 lead the way while the other team members checked all corners behind him. The inside of the base was rather Spartan and bare, with clear signs guiding them to the control room. Following the big arrows painted on the walls through a couple of hallways and a flight of stairs the squad arrived to the control room without encountering any opposition.

The room had been abandoned by the technicians during the attack and now was at Overwatch disposal. Symmetra immediately got to work on the main console trying to locate the stolen encrypted data with Lucio watching over her. Pharah and 76 checked the cameras on the security console nearby looking for any hidden enemy. There was none.

In no time the Indian architect was about to finish her work.

“Hacking almost complete. That was easy!” she said

“Wait; did she just said it was easy?” Lucio asked. “You never say it was easy!”


Suddenly the computer screens went black and a skull image appeared on them. On the main screen in front of Symmetra a phrase appeared.

JAQUE MATE (CHECKMATE)

In that moment, D.Va contacted them on the radio channel.

“Uh, guys. Something is moving out here!”

76’s fingers rattled furiously on the keyboard to bring up the camera footage from outside as the whole base was starting to shake. The pink MEKA was clearly visible in front of the camera and right in the middle of the courtyard a crack opened. It was not a natural fissure, like those caused by earthquakes, it was an opening between two artificial covers. As it widened, air blew out of the slit and a dust cloud formed around the opening. The image became foggy as the dust reached the camera but 76 could distinguish a large shadow emerging from the ground. When the dust settled everybody could clearly see what happened. An elevator hidden beneath the courtyard brought up a full platoon of Talon soldiers with a hover tank behind them. In front of the enemy ranks, a black figure stood alone, his arms crossed on his chest. Jack could recognize that white mask everywhere: Reaper.

It was a trap!

Reaper ordered his men to open fire and an incredible volume of fire poured on D.Va. Only her incredible reflexes and hand-eye coordination allowed her to activate her defense matrix and survive the onslaught.

“Holy Crap! I need help out here!” she shouted in her comlink.

Soldier 76 didn’t think; he just acted. He was out of the control room in a heartbeat and run as fast as he could down the stairs to get to ground level. Adrenaline was pumping through his system and his heightened metabolism was put to its limits.

“Where the hell are you?!” D.Va cried on the radio.

He needed to hurry, that girl could not hold out indefinitely. He saw the door at the end of the hallway and was soon on its doorstep. Taking cover on the side, he peeked out. The MEKA’s defense matrix was down and the machine was taking a heavy beating form all sides.

“Fall back, NOW” he ordered her. However, she could not respond nor oblige.

The legs of the mechanical suit failed under the heavy fire and D.Va was forced to eject from the rear hatch. The incoming fire was too heavy though and she was hit multiple times. Loosing balance mid-air, she landed poorly, injuring herself further in the process. Even though the pain from the bullet wounds and the fall on was almost unbearable, she managed to crawl behind the MEKA’s wreck and pull out her light gun. She was hit on her left arm, shoulder and tight and was bleeding copiously. Panting and swearing on top of her lungs, she prepared herself for a last stand. The loss of blood drained her energy and made holding her gun with just her right hand very difficult. However, she knew she could not pass out. The enemy was closing in and she had to be ready to fight back.

She heard the sound of steps.

Someone was coming.

She raised the gun in front of her. The hand was shaking and her vison was blurred.

Talon soldier came out from behind the MEKA and D.Va tried to shoot but the pain and shock made her hesitate.

They were on top of her.

She was done for.

“I’VE GOT YOU IN MY SIGHTS!”

Suddenly the enemy soldiers then started to fall down before her, hit by gunfire. It could not have been her, she didn’t have the strength to fire a single shot!

Looking on her right she saw Soldier 76 standing beside her, gunning down the Talon grunts. His visor glowed red and a red HUD was projecting in front of his eyes, allowing him to hit his targets with no ammunition waste. When his clip was finished there were only corpses lying before them. His rifle ejected a steaming spent clip and he slammed in a fresh one. Then he turned to the injured girl.

“Are you alright?” he asked

D.Va could not find the strength to answer. In fact, she was losing consciousness.

“Please! Stay with me, Hana!” He told her leaning on her “We need to move, other tangos will arrive shortly, come on!”

D.Va looked up at him. She was surprised by his genuine concern about her condition and was glad he was there now by her side. She tried to smile and say something but a dark shadow lurking behind 76 caught her attention. The smoke stooped being him, taking the shape and consistency of that black robed guy from before.

“Look out!” she managed to say with her remaining breath. Before Jack could react the shadowy enemy struck 76 from behind, stabbing him in the ribs with his clawed hands. Blood spurted from 76’s side and he fell on his knees, instinctively applying pressure to his new wound, while Reaper laughed rising his blood-soaked hand in triumph.

“You know, I was expecting the monkey to be here. I believed that nothing could bring you back to Overwatch.” Reaper told 76.

“What can I say?” 76 replied after getting back up with a grunt, “Someone has to put an end of you!”

Reaper laughed , circling around the wounded soldier, putting himself between 76 and D.Va.

“I am afraid it will not be you. Goodbye, old friend.”

As Reaper prepared to execute Soldier 76, he was hit twice from behind. Feeling cornered he wraithed away leaving the two heroes alone.

With the black-clad villain out of the way, 76 could see D.Va again. She was aiming her gun with both hands towards him. She looked at him and smiled before losing consciousness from the effort of aiming and firing her gun.


Soldier 76 returned inside under fire carrying D.Va in his arms and his rifle slung behind his back. This time, however, he could count on some covering fire from his teammates. He ran inside the building and closed the door behind him. An armored cover closed outside the door protecting them from the troops outside as he smashed an emergency button with his elbow.

Afterwards he laid down the injured D.Va on the floor of dark a room nearby. Lucio rushed beside his Korean friend and switched to “Rejuvenescência”, his healing song, and soon a faint yellow glow covered her wounded body. 76 took out a biotic canister and planted it beside them. The room lit up with the stronger yellow light that came from the biotic field. Jack looked at Lucio. The Brazilian boy was scared to tears in front of the blood soaked body of D.Va and was mumbling something in Brazilian

Não morra. Por favor, não morra!” (Don’t die. Please, don’t die!)

76 put a hand on his shoulder, trying to reassure him.

“Hey, she’ll make it. You’re doing a good job. Keep at it.”

Lucio looked back at him. He nodded, drying his tears. Then he noticed a wound on his side.

“You’re injured too! You bleeding, man!”

“Don’t worry about that. Just keep healing her. Besides, I ain’t got time to bleed.”

Lucio chuckled at 76’s joke. He realized that the old soldier was trying to lift his spirit.

Symmetra was standing behind them, repulsed by the sight of blood. She turned to Pharah for further orders but the Egyptian woman wasn’t there anymore.

“Where is Pharah? Where is our leader?” she asked, starting to panic.

Both 76 and Lucio looked around. Indeed, there was no trace of their team leader. While they were relatively unfazed by Fareeha’s absence, for the Indian girl it was nothing short of a disaster.

“What now? What do we do? What do I do?…” she started mumbling as her breathing accelerated and her hands started shaking. Soldier 76 watched her progressively lose control. He had saw that too many times during his time in the military: a soldier having a complete break down for lack of leadership. Back at the ship Jack had noticed her obsession for order and now that there was none she was losing her grip on clarity. He stood up and walked towards her.

She was now leaning against a wall, hyperventilating. Her eyes were wide open, locked in front of her, staring into the void. 76, standing in front of her, planted his hands firmly on her shoulders.

“Symmetra!” he called while shaking her.

She remained unresponsive.

“Satya” 76 said after a brief pause.

Haring her name she moved her eyes to 76’s red visor.

“How do you my…?”

“It doesn’t matter right now. As it doesn’t matter that Pharah is not here right now. What we need is you, here, right now. She’ll come back but in the meantime, I need you to stay focused!”

Her breathing started to normalize and the look in her eyes started to return human.

“Symmetra, our injured teammate needs your help. Can you do something for her?”

“I.” She stammered “I can create some bandages with hard light, maybe I can help clear the wound.”

“Good, get on that!”

Symmetra freed herself from 76’s hold and moved back to D.Va’s side. She hesitated at the sight of blood but kneeled nonetheless on the opposite side of Lucio and started weaving on an imaginary loom. A blue hard-light fabric took shape between her hands.

Soldier 76 nodded looking the two recruits teaming up to look after their injured teammate. Now that D.Va was in good hands, he could find their team leader.


Jack’s search for Pharah started from the control room. If he left his squad, she would have come there to assert the situation. She wasn’t there. 76 looked at the camera feed coming from outside. The Talon troops fell back into formation and stood there waiting for the technicians to cut through the armored door. The hover tank was still blocking the only escape route and Reaper was supervising the operations.

He started patrolling the rest of the base to find her. After a couple of minutes, he was running out of patience and places to look. Soon Talon forces would have cut their way inside and overwhelm them.

Where was she? Why did she leave? Where was she hiding?

Hiding.

That word awoke old memories in Jack’s mind: it wasn’t the first time he had to look for her.

He knew exactly where to look.

He searched for the restrooms entered cautiously in the men’s ones. From the moment he entered, he could hear sobbing coming from inside. Going around the corner, he could see her near the sinks. Pharah was sitting on the ground with her head between her hands. Her helmet was tossed aside and her wings were awkwardly spread to allow her to rest her back on the wall. She lifted her head for a brief moment as she sensed the presence of the old soldier, then returned to her weeping.

“There you are!” 76 said making a step towards the armored woman.

She didn’t react and started mumbling to herself.

“It was supposed to be easy. We were supposed to go in and out. Nothing could go wrong. I was too easy. I should have seen it. Instead, I walked right into a trap taking everybody with me. And now another one under my command could die because of me!”

She lifted her eyes one more time to peek at Soldier 76. He caught a glimpse of her dark eyes.

“You must think that I am pathetic. Crying in a corner like a little girl!”

The white haired soldier didn’t answer right away. He had already seen people crack in battle before.

No.

She wasn’t pathetic.

She was scared.

Jack remembered the last time she hid inside a bathroom, all those years ago. Fareeha was just a little girl back then and she had lost her mothers’ UN medal, the one that was awarded to the original Overwatch strike team members at the end of the Omnic crisis. Ashamed and scared she disappeared and Ana dragged all her friends, Jack included, in a desperate search for her little Fareeha. Jack stumbled upon her by chance, entering the men’s restrooms to take a break from the search. That day she hid there, crying on the floor, fearing the consequences of her error. Just as that time long ago she probably believed that there was no redemption from it, that she would never made up for what she had done.

Soldier 76 became Jack Morrison once more.

He kneeled beside her and laid his hand on her shoulder pad. Pharah winced as she felt his hand on her armor and lifted her head from her hands, looking directly into his red visor. Her face was covered in dirt and sweat and a stream of tears was flowing from each eye.

“Do you want to know what I see?” he asked her, like that day long ago

She didn’t answered but her eyes begged him to tell her.

“Rise!” he told her. With a little support from 76, she got on her feet and was now facing the sink. Tired and emotional, she clung to it. Her head faced the ground, as she was too ashamed to look at herself in the mirror hanging on the wall in front of her.

Soldier 76 gently tilted her chin upward to face the mirror.

“Look.” He told her as she was keeping her eyes closed.

Slowly she opened her eyes and could now see her dirty face, wet with tears.

“This is what I see: Fareeha Amari, daughter of Ana Amari. One of the strongest women I’ve ever known.”

Pharah’s eyes widened and she quickly tuned her head to the old soldier standing beside her

“How do you…?” she tried to say without emitting a sound

“I’ve known your mother for many years. We fought together and I see in you the same strength that allowed her to be the outstanding soldier she was.”

Hearing about her disappeared mother made Fareeha sad again. She lowered her sight back to the sink.

76 continued his speech.

“Did your mother ever tell you about her eye tattoo?”

She nodded, trying to keep the tears from flowing down form her eyes.

“It’s the Udjat, the Eye of Horus. A symbol of protection. Gouged by Set from Horus’ face when the latter tried to avenge the death of his father Osiris” He continued, “She used to tell me that the vertical line beneath it is not a teardrop, it’s a scar. It remained there even after the eye was restored, as a reminder that to protect the ones you love will take sacrifices. She liked this interpretation of the myth so much that she wanted to carry that symbol with her forever. Your mother also told me that, as scars form over healed wounds, the Eye of Horus also tells us that the pain and sacrifices we go through makes us stronger, shaping who we are. That was your mother’s strength, and I see something of that strength in you, Fareeha. I’m sure that you are even stronger and you are destined to do great things. Never believe who says otherwise!”

Soldier 76’s words awaken something inside her, she had heard them before. Jack Morrison told her that same story and that she was meant for greatness. He was the only one whom her mother would tell secrets like the one Soldier 76 just told her.

She looked at her reflected image again and let her finger slide down the tattoo on her right eye. It was meant to honor her mother’s memory and it reminded her that her duty was to protect. However, with protection comes sacrifices, as her mother understood a long time ago. She realized that what happened was not her fault and that everyone was depending on her now. Like her mother did before her, she had to carry the burden and look out for her team. She wiped her face clear of tears and turned to 76.

“Let’s go. The others are waiting for us.” She told him.

76 nodded and bent down to pick up Pharah’s helmet

“You’re gonna need this!” he said.

Fareeha grabbed the hawk-shaped blue helmet. She looked briefly at it and put it back on. She then proceeded past Soldier 76 towards the exit.

“Thank you, Strike Commander Morrison.” she said before leaving.

She had figured out who he was but Jack did not care. He had to bring her back from the brink. He used the same words he used that time long ago. It did not matter that he exposed himself in doing so, what mattered was that, like when she was little, Fareeha came back to the ones that loved her. He removed his mask for a moment to dry a tear the edge of his eye. Then he followed his leader out of the bathroom.

By the time he entered the room Pharah was already at D.Va’s side, checking on her condition. The young Korean girl was now awake and smiled when she saw 76 appear on the doorstep. Her wounds were carefully wrapped in Symmetra’s hard-light bandages and the bleeding had stopped thanks to Lucio’s healing aura. She tried to sit up when 76 kneeled beside her but the old soldier carefully kept her down.

“Easy now, you need to rest! Don’t overdo it!” 76 told her.

“I’m a big girl, dad. I can take care of myself” she defiantly replied.

76 smiled beneath his mask. The return of the usual bratty D.Va meant that she was getting better.

“I just want you to get back on your feet” he said “And don’t call me ‘dad’. I’m not your father”

“You’re right, my bad. Appa.” She mumbled the last word so quietly, he almost didn’t hear it.  

Jack was upset by her insistence of calling him ‘dad’. How dare she call him that? However, looking down at Hana, he could see sincere affection her eyes and in the most adorable smile he had ever saw, save for Angela’s of course.

“Just get better alright?” he said, running his hand through Hana’s long brown hair.

“Yessir” she whispered, closing her eyes and resting her head to the side.

Everybody else turned on Fareeha, waiting for orders.

“What are we going to do?” Lucio asked nervously.

“Yes, what is the plan?” asked a more composed Symmetra.

Pharah assessed the situation. They were surrounded, outgunned, and the Talon forces were cutting their way inside. Furthermore, something was jamming their communicators preventing them to ask for support. The mission’s objective was now to get to the LZ and evacuate. The only problem was to pass the overwhelming enemy forces waiting outside.

“Any of you have any idea on how we can get pass the enemy forces?”

“My teleporter is offline, the path is closed.” Symmetra answered

“Then I guess we’ll have to open our own path in the enemy lines.”

“What?” Lucio added “I don’t know if you noticed but they have a TANK out there!”

“Let me worry about the tank.” Pharah replied “What we need is a way to survive the heavy fire waiting for us.”

“I don’t know if my healing boost is enough to keep us alive out there!”

“And my Photon shield is too weak to effectively protect us!” Symmetra added “Unless…”

She started wandering about the issue, elegantly tapping her index finger on the corner of her mouth.

“Yes, go ahead.” Pharah prompted

“Since this street scum stole his tech from my company, Vishkar,” She said pointing at Lucio, who was visibly upset by the Indian woman’s condescending tone, “I can modify “his” Sonic Amplifier to project my photon shield, increasing both the protection effect and distribution range. That should give us enough shielding to get through our adversaries.”

Lucio was actually terrified about the idea of Symmetra tinkering with his gear and hid his weapon in his arms.

“NO. WAY.” He glared angrily at Symmetra.

Pharah laid a hand on his shoulder and tried to reason with him.

“Lucio. If there is any chance of survival thanks to this we have to take it!”

“I knew she only wanted to get her hands on my stuff. I don’t trust her!”

“I do. Look at D.Va. Would she be alive if you two didn’t work together to help her recover?”

Lucio looked at his idol, laying peacefully in the middle of the room, trying to rest in the middle of the argument. The young MEKA pilot looked back at him. Even she recognized that Pharah was right.

“No, I guess not.” Lucio admitted.

“Then you should give Symmetra a chance. Please.” Pharah begged.

The Brazilian artist kept looking at D.Va. If Symmetra was truly the heartless puppet of Vishkar he thought her to be she wouldn’t have helped them when Soldier 76 asked her to. Instead of thinking about herself as he expected she actually created the bandages that helped holding back the blood that was pouring out of his friend. Pharah was right to trust her, as was 76 before. Sighing he held the sonic amplifier and his backpack to the Indian who immediately started working on it.

“What about me?”

The attention shifted to D.Va once again.

“What can I do?” she asked

“Can you walk?” 76 asked

“I don’t know.” she replied sitting up and looking at her bandaged left leg “Maybe I can limp.”

“Not a chance. I’ll have to carry you out of here!”

“But…”

“No but, little lady.”

The young girl sighed, unable to convince 76 she could move.

“Alright, dad. But I’ll cover you!” D.Va added cocking her light pistol.

Soldier 76 grunted again, the whole “dad” thing she had going on made him very uncomfortable.

Symmetra returned carrying the modified gear.

“Here you go,” she said handling it to Lucio “Now you can cast a powerful but temporary shield on us using the sound waves emitted by your Amplifier. Just press on the trigger for more than three seconds once it’s charged. To maximize the effect point it down, as close as possible to the ground.”

“Nice.” he replied examining his weapon “Thank you.”

“You are welcome,” she said shyly.

Pharah gathered them to go over the plan again. Everyone had a part to do: Pharah and Symmetra would provide cover, Lucio would cast his Sound Barrier and Soldier 76 would carry D.Va.

The sounds coming from outside became louder as the Talon engineers were about to remove the armor layer from the door. Behind that fleeting cover, the Overwatch agents prepared for battle. As the light of a welding torch moved along the borders of the door Symmetra charged up a light ball, ready to unleash it on the unsuspecting soldiers on the other side. The blue orb was thrown forward the second the door was opened, clearing a path for the heroes. Lucio sprinted forward, jumping through the opening. He charged the shot, ready to cast the Sound Barrier.

“LET’S BREAK IT DOWN!” he shouted as he slammed his Sonic Amplifier into the ground releasing the trigger. Carried by the sound waves a green aura covered the Overwatch agents protecting them. Once shielded they sprinted forward carving a path in the enemy lines. Pharah located the enemy tank that blocked their escape and soared into the air using her jetpack. Aiming at the armored vehicle, she unleashed all the rockets she had hidden in her suit

“JUSTICE RAINS FROM ABOVE” she cried as her rockets destroyed the tank. Once the main menace was dealt with, she shifted the barrage down to clear the path until all her 90 rockets were depleted. She returned to the ground and the squad moved forward to the now open way to freedom.

They exited the compound and started climbing up the ridge they came from earlier. Talon forces were regrouping in the courtyard, ready to give chase.

Looking back over 76’s shoulder D.Va noticed that her MEKA was still in the middle of them.

“Nerf this!” she said pushing a red button on her wrist device.

Soldier 76 turned his head to the side, trying to see what was she talking about.

“No, keep looking forward!” she shouted. “Cool guys don’t look at explosions!”

Behind him a green orb of light grew around the MEKA’s wreck and soon collapsed into a large explosion. The detonation of D.Va’s suit obliterated the remaining Talon forces, allowing the Overwatch squad to retreat safety to the LZ.

From the smoking remains of the base a black trail emerged. It stopped in the middle of the courtyard, condensing into the dark figure of Reaper.

“Patch me to the main base” he said activating the radio built into his hood. “She might want to know about this!”


With the team back on the Orca, Overwatch was able to pull back from Djibouti. Badly beaten but alive, the members of the team could finally catch their breath. Soldier 76, despite having those super soldier chemicals in his body, felt all the fatigue and the weariness of his age catching up with him and he collapsed on the soft sofa behind the table. He was happy with that everyone was safe and was ready to enjoy some well-earned rest. Closing his eyes behind the visor, he let his head fall back on the backrest.

His alone time was short lived however. He felt someone taking a seat beside him. He opened his eyes and rolled his head to the left, facing his unrequested guest. D.Va was there, her hands tucked beneath her tights, with the grinning face of a little girl waiting to tell a story.

“What do you want?” he asked with an annoyed tone.

“I just want to thank you for what you did for me today!” she said cheerfully.

“I was just doing my job.” He rightly told her.

“I maybe so” she added, getting closer to the old soldier “But no one has cared ever for me like you did.”

Jack was confused by Hana’s words. He only did what he had to do. What anybody would had done given the…

A quick movement by Hana interrupted his thoughts. The young Korean slipped underneath his arm was now hugging his chest, pressing her head against his left pec. Surprised by this, he didn’t know how to react and looked down at her, keeping his hands away. Her warm hug however won him over and he rested his left hand on her head, patting her slightly.

“Good soldier” he let out of his lips.

76 felt something else weighting on his right shoulder. Turning in that direction he saw Lucio, eyes closed, adjusting his seat near 76 and leaning his head back on his shoulder. He looked at him with frustration, and then he looked back at Hana. He went back and forth a couple of times. D.Va and Lucio were now sleeping against his body, probably because they felt safer with him. 76 was now struck between them, unable to move. He gave up and let them rest; they earned it.

Looking around he caught sight of Mercy and Pharah standing near each other the other side of the main bay. The two women were looking at him. Pharah was trying to hide her laugh as if there was something funny about Soldier 76 surrounded by those two sleeping youngsters. Mercy on the other hand had a completely different look on her face. Her eyes were squinting and her lips and hands were tightened together in an attempt to hold an outburst of joy. Looking in her blue eyes Jack knew that he had made the right decision. She was proud of him.


This is it for the first mission of Overwatch. I hope you liked my take on dad: 76. I just enjoy D.Va and Jack’s little exchanges. 

Anyhow I promise more mercy76 in the next chapters for all fellow shippers!

2

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)

…a small species of plover (Charadriidae) that is native to Europe and western Asia, and winters in Africa. Like other plovers C. dubius breed near freshwater, islands and river edges. In Europe and Asia they nest on the ground in areas with little to no plant growth. Their diet consists mostly of insects, worms and other small invertebrates which are foraged for in muddy areas. 

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Charadriiformes-Charadriidae-Charadrius-C. dubius

Images: JJ Harrison and Aditya Joshi