"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 like 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 the 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."
It was beer bash day at Virtual Hammer, and my last one. My former manager's last day had been the week before (onward and upward). I was skeptical of the food choices, as the theme was "pizza party", and I was aware of what the "catering pizza" was like.
By 2pm, when the maintenance guy hadn't shown up for the pre-departure inspection, I called the office. I didn't want to miss beer bash. He came through at 2:45. No major issues, and maybe X place would be good for the moving pod, but it was a hard problem. (In this case, "major issues" is holes in walls, destroyed appliances, etc. I am sure there will be "minor issues".)
I headed for beer bash, slightly melancholy. (My partner urged me to try for not too much sadness.) I chatted with Nora, of course. I walked briskly up the path, but paused at the duck pond to take a few last pictures.
Purple called just about then, as he was about a hundred meters behind me and wanted to catch up. He had a new-ish teammate with him, someone of a delightfully compatible sense of humor.
We grabbed some pizza (fortunately, there was sufficient pepperoni pizza, as the veggie pizza was laced with bell pepper), and contemplated the desserts.
1) Streusel pizza, an uninspiring-looking cinnamon-sugar crumb on something flat and pale.
2) Brownie pizza, with toasted mini marshmallows and peanut butter cups.
3) Popcorn with some red coating on it; this would prove to be mostly spicy.
4) Cookie pizza, chocolate chip with frosting, coconut shreds, and walnuts on top.
#1 looked like a waste of carbohydrate. #3 looked like not-dessert (and upon tasting, was indeed not-dessert).
I texted my partner with the descriptions of #2 and #4, and got back some incredulous punctuation. I loathe peanut butter, and have an oral hypersensitivity reaction to walnuts. (It burns and the lining of my mouth peels off. It's great.) My partner has complementary reactions: oral hypersensitivity to peanuts, and loathes walnuts.
Purple and his teammate and I had a lovely time in one of the tucked-away back tables. There was a lovely view out the windows. We talked about squirrels (Purple's noticed that modern squirrels know how to freeze and duck for cars), bees (Purple's childhood home had a prodigious amount of comb removed from a wall), the nature of "Netflix and Chill", and other such things.
Eventually, Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly called, and we figured out dinner. I spotted the cute receptionist across the upper quad, and said goodbye. We wandered back down to the lower quad, and Purple wrapped up. I dropped some spare buttons from the 2015 department conference, because I didn't really need that many as keepsakes, and someone at work might think they were cool.
We headed off for dinner. Goodbye, campus in the hills. You were beautiful, and I met so many lovely people there. Perhaps I'll visit again someday.
Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly had been delayed in leaving for dinner, because as she was heading out, there was a machine overheating, so she'd had to spray the fans with compressed air and such. I was careful to avoid "blowing" jokes at first. The restaurant had the air conditioning cranked up high, which had likely been appropriate in the heat of the day, but was less and less appropriate as the air cooled. I put on my jacket. Purple ran out to his car to grab his button-down shirt.
The on-table tablet thing behaved itself this time, by which I mean Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly was able to look at the drinks menu and pick out something, and then we were able to aim it away from us without it blinking. I got a sip of Purple's drink, which was just about the right amount. (Two would have been an okay amount too, but it was a little sour for me.)
Ms. Antisocialest Butterfly has picked up a new online game, where she is now known as "Finger." Most of the obvious jokes were less made than they were implied. She observed that it's very important to not (as someone had) leave the punctuation out of the greeting "Finger, my friend!" What happened was that she'd joined the game and picked a nickname; some dick had immediately taken offense to her basic existence. She'd argued that this was the internet, perhaps she didn't exist at all! Perhaps she was just a disembodied finger, typing. And thus her new name.
Purple walked me to my car. We chatted about this and that, and the move. I'll be fine. I tend to pre-react, rather than post-react. (Purple post-reacts.) My partner and I have good communications. I'll be sad to leave California, but not heartbroken like I was about leaving Darkside.
We set the date and time for our last dinner: Tuesday night, in the hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean place where they treat us like family. I'll want to say goodbye there, too.
What am I looking for?
a) Acknowledgment of the effect, and regret. (Regret is one of the apology languages.) Something happened and I was hurt; in an intimate and trustworthy relationship, I want them to know how I was hurt, and why it was hurtful. (Late to an event, hurt feelings, stubbed toe, irritated, etc.) Since they need to care for my well-being, I feel that it's appropriate that they regret my well-being was affected.
(In an untrustworthy relationship, giving them more information on how they have hurt me just gives them ammunition to hurt me further. If you find in your life that there are people where you don't want to let them know that you are hurt or how, contemplate your options for reducing those people's access to you.)
b) Root-cause analysis. What are the factors that led to this happening? Some are the responsibility of the person. (Accepting responsibility is one of the apology languages.) Sometimes there are factors that are nobody's responsibility, or are the responsibility of entities who are in no position to have things changed as a result of the incident. (A terrible day at the DMV is not likely to be solved by anyone saying "Hey, this was terrible.")
c) Making restitution, if appropriate. (Making restitution is one of the apology languages.) A date can often be rescheduled. Doing something nice and out of the ordinary is a mood-lifter. Fixing or replacing the broken thing. Sometimes there isn't really anything that can be done to make it better, and that probably should be acknowledged.
d) Failure prevention. (In the listed apology languages, "genuinely repenting" seems to fit this the closest.) With root-cause analysis and knowledge of the effects, we can use those to plan to avoid circumstances where this comes up again, and make a plan for mitigating the effects if it does come up again.
In my present primary relationship, my partner always genuinely regrets the hurt. They don't always understand why it was hurtful, so that portion often involves a lot of discussion. (And I can contribute to things going better by being more flexible in when and how that discussion happens.) The root cause often involves things that have grown out of traumatic experiences and situations in our past, which is ... fun. Restitution hasn't been a huge factor.
Root cause analysis and failure prevention tend to slide together, even though I have them listed as separate steps. It's at the failure prevention step where, like magic, I start calming down and feeling incredibly secure and loved. Since some of the factors involve trauma, the failure prevention often involves the slow process of healing (with and without the assistance of professionals), and my understanding and forgiveness of those things.
We're learning how to fight well and safely, and I love them so much.
I'll be panelling 9:45 to 11:30 on Saturday, otherwise my schedule is open.
Let's make a plan!
If you want to contact me during the con, you can also direct-message me on Twitter jesse_the_k
I look quite a lot like my icon, but tragically no Bella at the hotel.
See you there!
"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."
The doctor had a resident with her again, and she explained everything she was doing. I think the combination of that and the fact that I had a vasovagal reaction last time, made me a little nervous. But I did OK and only had to lay there for a couple of minutes before I could get up and go. The whole thing was fast and pretty easy. I felt sort of euphoric; my pain lowered dramatically and it was easier to breathe. The resident said that my case was the most interesting one of the day.
I am waiting for the headache to come, the one that follows after the nerve block. My mouth hurts but so far, no terrible headache. I think it's just on the edge though. I bought a bunch of popsicles and plan to keep eating them.
I took Greg for his first eye exam! He does not need glasses, which is not surprising, since he can snootily correct people about things from across the room. But I have confirmation now that he is very strongly red-green colourblind. This brings new layers to his favourite colour being pink, which he experiences as being the same colour as olive green and battleship grey based on what he describes to us. Well hey, it just means more of the world is your favourite colour, eh? He can get good How Not To Buy A Lime Green Suit By Accident Like I Did That One Time tips from my dad, who is also super colour-blind. Dad is a wicked-good master of faking it with shades of grey - we gave him a 24-colour box of pencil crayons quiz a few months ago and he got 21 right, although most required a lot of squinting and thoughtful contemplation before he gave his answer.
I am arranging local TRAVEL SHENANIGANS for the next month and it pleases me. Plus Cedar Point in the middle. I have some kind of trip (or visitor coming here) every week or so until July and it PLEASETH ME SO. I'ma have so many Amtrak points. Not that they are worth very much on the Cascades line anymore, but still, maybe in ten years I can get a free conductor's hat or something. Please send SASE with $1.10 to the following address. Yes.
I'm excited about seeing people and going places, but also about feeling I have the energy to do so. I think new stupid-diet is helping with that part at least. The effect on pain, if any, is not clear to me yet. But I don't feel quite as fall-over tired all the time lately. This is a common observation at the start of ANY new eating plan, even those that result in lethargy and low blood sugar brain fog down the line, so I'm hesitant to call it permanent yet, but I'm certainly enjoying it right now.
And I'm using some of the energy to cook. That recipe HERE EAT THIS service I signed up for has been great, lots of tasty stuff with instructions that I haven't been able to screw up, and I'm eating so well, like, from a gourmet nom nom perspective, not a Whatever Is Currently Thought To Be Good Eating perspective. (As an aside, can I just say that the "eat clean" movement gives me the CREEPS.) Although as it happens it involves a lot of whole foods. Plus my artificial-as-all-get-out pudding cups. I _like_ preservatives. Preservatives save money. Preservatives save food. Food preservatives are almost always harmless to consume. Preservatives are an amazing human advance that promotes public health. Just sayin'.
Ho ho, better check on my HOMEMADE MEATBALLS WITH HOMEMADE GYRO SAUCE THAT I MADE DID I MENTION I WAS THE ONE WHO MADE THEM.
I still haven't hiked the PCT, but I do spend a lot of time driving/busing/doing repetitive stuff in the shop, so I've managed to make some significant progress. (40% of the volumes fully read, another 30% partially read. Based on the 1952 set, though I'm working on the extended 1990 edition as well.) My absorption certainly isn't as high as if I was reading them, but I feel it's good enough to still be worthwhile. It's not ALL I listen to, of course. I sometimes get sidetracked for months following tangents. But it's proved a pretty great framework to fall back on when nothing else catches my fancy, introducing me to some pretty great texts. They're usually considered classics for a reason, after all! And now that I've worked up to listening at a 1.5x+ playback speed, they usually go pretty quickly. So I figured I could start writing some reviews to help keep track.
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
By Henry Fielding, 1749
Summary: Tom Jones, an orphan raised by a nobleman, is in an impossible love affair with Sophia, the daughter of a neighboring squire. He gets banished from the estate after being set up by his dastardly, jealous cousin. Tom is handsome, charming, recklessly good-hearted, and a bit too prone to falling into bed with just about every woman he meets. After bouncing around the countryside having adventures, he ends up caught in an increasingly complicated set of intersecting plotlines, trying to reconcile with Sophia and her overly-excitable father. Romance! Adventure! Intrigue! Heroes, rogues and villains!
This book was A+ fun. Not a deep book, maybe, but well written, absolutely stuffed full of characters you'll love to love, love to hate or just love to laugh at. It reminded me of Tristram Shandy, in that I was quite captivated without ever quite being able to say why. It still feels fresh, despite pop culture drowning in copies of copies of copies of copies. Like eating at a real continental breakfast, you realize why, exactly, this was something everyone wanted to copy in the first place. I think I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come, and few books can manage that. All that, and I didn't even see the final twist coming! Highly recommended, if you ever feel yourself in the need of 350K words of 18th-century picaresque satire.
I feel very much better now that I know I have him, and will feel even better after seeing Mom's guy on the 30th.
I'm obviously putting that (my favorite series, out of all series) in my number one spot, for Best Series. But as for the other categories, I'm going to read as many of the things I haven't read as possible, before time's up for voting, and do the best I can.
I'm interested in sci-fi fan friends' opinions, both about what to read/skip and about what to rank where, amongst the things I don't get to. Hit me up.
My departure from the Bay Area is May 31st.
The moving pod(s) will be with me from sometime May 26 through sometime May 31st.
I am driving to Tacoma with some of the stuff that's too delicate or otherwise unsuitable to be trusted to a pod. (Alcohol in the trunk. My computer. Stuff I'll need to survive for a week or so without things from the pod. The ancestral tea set from Dad's mom's side of the family, eventually destined for Ev. The box with the paper volumes of my journal.) The drive often takes two days; it's possible that I may accomplish it in one go, though I haven't yet driven it. (I did the Phoenix/SF drive in two days the first time, and one day on the two subsequent trips.)
The plan for Tacoma is:
* some sort of long-term pre-payable hotel for the first ~month, keeping in mind that I'll be off at Open Source Bridge for part of that, too
* two specific call centers to apply to
* look for a ~year lease
* look for a better job
Oh yes, and: see my partner and metamour on a regular basis.
This is earlier than I thought I'd be going, but it was suddenly time.
My world is boxes. Company would be welcome but is not necessary, and the number of sitting surfaces in here is drastically lower than usual.
Feel free to join if you'd like. I haven't done a single thing with it yet but think of a very generic name.
I'm feeling really good about DW lately. I should figure out my budget and see if I can purchase a paid account.
2. I received a quotation for the wheelchair repairs currently ongoing; they're somewhere under half of what I was bracing myself for, which is a great relief.
3. Excellent lunch with a good friend in a small friendly deli in South London. I was particularly intrigued by (but alas did not sample) the tiny gluten-free strawberry-and-elderflower cheesecake.
4. The trip to and from same: a beautiful cherry-blossom mural on a building's front wall; a garden riotous with poppies somewhere between bud and full bloom; irises and weird little fuzzy orange things and colours everywhere.
5. Physio, on the train to and from, and reading books with it: still working on Hope In The Dark, but I'm about halfway through now and then I'll move on to Hugo reading.
6. I dyed A's hair again last night, and am pleased with the result. (It is all-over red, because red seems to wash out of his hair more quickly than blue, in the interests of i. checking whether the new red is actually a red and ii. getting it to a state where I can actually try putting a rainbow in it with minimal rebleaching of previously-bleached hair. In fact, because this means I put a lot of red on over blue, he's got what is in essence a red-into-deep-purple ombre going on, with a darker red layer on top and a lighter red layer underneath.)
7. I am delighted by the conversation that's going on in comments over at the enchilada recipe. Thank you, folk, I keep cackling with delight. <3
8. ( Academia. )
9. I am continuing to sincerely enjoy Pokemon Go.
10. Chelsea Manning.
The morning of, they called A to confirm the booking -- and, he tells me, followed up with "... and there's a note about a wheelchair in the booking...?" So, naturally, he braced, and was very pleasantly surprised when what they actually wanted to say was "... we've got a folding ramp and we can get it out for you."
We arrived. "Just one moment," said front-of-house, and went to get the ramp. They did not try to grab me as I was going up it. "Through this way," they said, and showed us to a table for two that was easy for me to get to, adjacent a wall neatly out of the way of everyone's path, with the sensible chair already removed for me to just slot in.
This is much better than even fancy restaurants normally manage; I was -- we were! -- impressed.
Also, they fed us really very well.
( Read more... )
... and then, after a little extra faff involving buying one of the cookbooks, they got the ramp back out and held the doors open and cheerfully let me back out into the outside world, with some commiseration about the part where it had started drizzling gently. However, as I said to A, while it might not have been the best kind of rain it was definitely in my top five, so I was absolutely fine with that.
I had a lovely evening and was delighted; A has, as mentioned, been before and been a fan, so I rather suspect more visits are (however sporadically!) in our future.
Unrelated (except insofar as it's about food, and specifically pistachio cake): someone I know tweaked last month's Smitten Kitchen pistachio loaf cake recipe to include blackberries and lemon.
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."