[I can't believe I'm saying "Canon in the 'It is not easy to explain, she said'" Overwatch AU, but, well, this is the fourth story in this set, so, I guess it's an actual second AU now. AO3 link.]
[It is helpful to know that Widowmaker (in canon, and here) has a tattoo on her arm which incorporates the French word for "nightmare."]
It is not easy to imagine, thought the Widowmaker, propped up a little on pillows but between her two lovers, Lena, Tracer, sprawled along her right side, hands and arms jumbled about everywhere, like always, and Emily, Kestrel, on her left, arranged so neatly, even in sleep, even halfway through the night, even after turning over a few times, always tucked back in like the little hawk, her namesake in battle. Not even when it is real and in front of me.
She took one of her long, slow, deep breaths, and felt her heart beating, even more slowly than usual, so calm, so quiet, so at rest.
Were Gérard and Amélie like this? she wondered. It seemed impossible. Not just because that was only two, and this was three, and therefore obviously so much better, and not just because they were human, baseline human, with childhoods, and growing up, and stumbling about blindly until they figured how to make a life - though that last part, she finally understood, at least, a little - but because this, this perfection, it, too, seemed so impossible, so to conceive of it happening twice? Ludicrous. Foolish girl, she smiled to herself, it could not have been so... this.
It had taken some time to come up with a bed that the three of them could share. Widowmaker's low body temperature meant she needed similarly lower temperatures for real comfort, particularly in sleep, and both her lovers were so very warm. It'd been Angela's idea, a mattress made of medical thermal control columns, temperature regulated, sensing who lay where, and adjusting, automatically.
The doctor had got a paper out of it - modified to discuss burn victims and others with particularly sensitive skin - and had done fairly well from the patent rights. But Widowmaker didn't care about that. Widowmaker cared that she could sleep with her lovers whenever she wanted to, and whenever they wanted her to, and it would just work.
She breathed in the scent of her brown-haired love, the teleporter, nuzzling down a little into that silly, tossed hair. Unimaginably wonderful. She shifted just a little, carefully, and did the same of her red-haired love, the flying officer, and the scent was so very different and yet so much the same. So wonderful.
And softly, so softly, her breath caught, and water pooled in her eyes, and she sniffed, not wanting to, but she still did, and she tried to stop herself, to stop the tears, but that just made her laugh, just a little, and trying to stop that, too, made more of all it it happen.
Emily awoke, blinking, but lay still except to look up towards the sniffling. "Sweet? What... are you crying?"
"No," whispered Widowmaker. "Yes."
"Oh, love, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. Go back to sleep." She laughed a little more, shaking again, and from Lena came a little "mmf?" and she blinked those big brown eyes that Widowmaker could see so clearly even in the low light.
"You too. Go back to sleep."
"Wuzzit?" said Lena, awake enough now to attempt words, but still, at least half asleep.
"But what's wrong?"
"Nothing," sniffed Widowmaker. "Nothing. Nothing." She leaned over and kissed the half-asleep Lena on top of her head. "Everything is wonderful," and then did the same for Emily.
"Why're you crying?" asked Lena.
"I am... so happy," said the blue assassin, half-sobbing, smiling, confused, but not caring. "I..."
She stopped, and her eyes opened wide.
"I found it," she whispered.
"What?" asked Emily, reaching up to run her fingers through Widowmaker's hair.
"Yeah, love - what?" asked Lena, reaching up to do the same from the other side. Her hand met Emily's, and she smiled, as their fingers intertwined.
"Perfection." She brought her two lovers tightly against her, laughing, crying, all at the same time, the emotions, they are too much she thought, gasping, but that is also perfect. "This perfection."
Lena blinked. "You mean... like before? At the beginning, when you were made? But... here, now? ... with us?"
Widowmaker nodded, not being able to put it into better words. "Everything is so beautiful."
"Oh my god."
Emily chuckled. "You're beautiful too, you know that, right?"
"Love, no, she means it. Losing this is why she left Talon."
"Yes," whispered the spider.
Oh. Emily hadn't been there when the assassin had told the story, but she remembered it, and how it affected Lena. "And now you've got it back?" she asked.
"Yes," nodded the Widowmaker. "It is... different. But better." She sniffled. "Everything is so beautiful."
"Is any part of this bad?" asked Emily, a little worried, a little unsure, a little amazed. The assassin's body always carried tension, tension she could feel in her muscles, feel almost in her skin. And she did not feel it. It was... gone.
"No," breathed the Widowmaker. "Oh no, oh, oh no. It is wonderful. I am so happy."
"You sure?" asked Lena.
"Completely sure?" asked Emily.
"Good," said Lena, as the three snuggled back in together, and the three of them slowly drifted back to sleep.
What would my makers think of me now? wondered the spider, as she slid back towards her dreams, laughing, to herself, just a little. And then when she did sleep, she slept smiling, finding her dreams new, and happy, and not unlike her life now, found, new, and happy.
She would need to change her tattoo. No more nightmares. None. At least, not, for now.
As thousands of viewers watched via live webcam on August 10, Izala the Southern White Rhinoceros gave birth to a healthy female calf at Burgers’ Zoo.
Zoo staff members were anxious about the birth because Izala’s first calf was stillborn in January 2016. It is not uncommon for a White Rhino’s first pregnancy to be unsuccessful. Fortunately, this calf appears healthy and strong, and she was walking and nursing within just hours of birth.
The lively calf, named Wiesje, runs and plays in her large exhibit, with Izala usually trotting close behind.
Seven Rhinos have been born at Burgers’ Zoo in the past 17 years, and around 12 are born each year in European zoos. Last year, 22 Rhino births occurred in European zoos, due in part to increased cooperation among zoos. This cooperation resulted in more Rhinos being transferred among zoos into more favorable breeding situations.
While other Rhino species live mostly solitary lives, White Rhinos live in small social groups which typically include adult females and their young. Males’ territories overlap those of females. Researchers have learned that the hormonal cycles of lower-ranking females in these groups are suppressed, resulting in only higher-ranking females being bred.
In zoos, this research has a practical application: moving a young female to a new environment increase the odds that her hormonal cycle will be restored, which improves the odds that she will breed. Thus Izala, who lived at the Kolmarden Zoo with her mother, was brought to Burgers’ Zoo so she could successfully breed and rear her own baby.
Southern White Rhinos are the largest of all five Rhino species, and are also the most numerous in the wild, with about 20,000 individuals found mainly in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
Southern White Rhinos are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threat remains poaching for the illegal Rhino horn trade. As prices for Rhino horn increase, hunting increases as well. Rhino horn, which is used for ornamental purposes and in Traditional Asian Medicine, is made of solid keratin, the same material in human fingernails. It has no proven medical benefits, yet has driven some Rhino species to the brink of extinction: only about 60 Javan Rhinos and 200 Sumatran Rhinos remain in Asia.
See more photos of Wiesje and Izala below.
On July 1, Colchester Zoo welcomed a baby Serval named Nala. The kitten currently lives behind the scenes, where she is under the expert care of zoo keepers.
Like most kittens, Nala is playful, as you can see in the video below. During play, she exhibits the amazing skill that Servals are known for: leaping into the air to pounce on top of their prey.
Servals live in much of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Weighing 20-40 pounds as adults, these medium-sized Cats have the longest legs relative to body size of any feline. Their super-sized ears help them locate prey. Because Servals favor habitats with tall brush, long legs give them an advantage when tracking small mammals, birds, frogs, and reptiles through the grass. Once prey is within reach, Servals can leap more than six feet upward and ten feet forward to forcefully pounce on prey with their forepaws. A quick bite to the prey animal’s head or neck delivers the fatal blow.
Much of Africa’s Serval population lives on protected land and hunting of Servals is prohibited in many, but not all, countries. Though Servals are currently listed as a Species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, continued degradation of habitats, especially wetlands and grasslands, could pose a threat in the future.
See more photos of Nala below.
For the first time in Dallas Zoo’s 129-year history, they are proud to announce the birth of two extremely rare Somali Wild Ass foals. Born ten days apart, the little girls and their moms are doing great and have been bonding beautifully behind-the-scenes.
The first foal, named Kalila (“dearly loved” in Arabic), was born on July 9 to 13-year-old mom Liberty. This is dad, Abai, and Liberty’s third foal together; the pair previously welcomed two offspring at their former home, the St. Louis Zoo.
The second foal, named Naima (“calm” in Arabic), was born July 19 to the same dad, Abai, and first-time mom, five-year-old Hani. Just like her older half-sister, little Naima was standing, walking and nursing within minutes after birth.
“This is a big moment for our hoof stock team. Somali Wild Asses are critically endangered, with less than 600 left in the wild,” mammal curator John Fried said. “Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career.”
The Somali Wild Ass (Equus africanus somaliensis) is a subspecies of the African Wild Ass. Native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea), there are many reasons the Somali Wild Asses’ numbers have dropped drastically in the wild. Locals hunt this species for food and traditional medicine. Some believe their fat treats tuberculosis. Somali Wild Asses also directly compete with livestock for limited land and water sources. Additionally, wild assess are crossbreeding with domestic asses, hurting the genetics of this species.
With unique zebra-striped legs, a soft gray upper body, a white belly, and a spikey black-and-gray mane, Somali Wild Asses are the smallest of the wild equids (horses, asses, and zebras). Standing about four feet at the shoulder and weighing roughly 600 pounds, these animals also have the smallest hooves of any equid, which help them navigate rocky slopes.
The Dallas Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Somali Wild Ass Species Survival Plan (SSP) to increase their numbers in human care and keep the North American gene pool genetically sound. In 2005, father Abai arrived from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to bring a new bloodline to the U.S. Since then, he’s sired multiple foals.
“These little girls have brought so much excitement to our hoof stock barn,” mammal supervisor Christine Rickel said. “Although they were born 10 days apart, they look vastly different. We joke that Liberty has super milk because Kalila’s already a big girl. She was born weighing 65 pounds – 14 pounds heavier than Naima.”
Liberty, Hani and their foals were introduced to each other last week behind-the-scenes, but the protective mothers are hesitant to allow the little ones to play together, who just want to run in circles to their hearts’ content.
The babies will soon venture into the arid habitat off the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail exhibit. And, in time, they’ll meet the Gemsbok, Addax and Ostriches, with whom they’ll eventually share the habitat.
The foals are not on exhibit just yet. Check with Dallas Zoo’s social media for more updates: www.dallaszoo.com
A tiny Horned Puffin is doing well at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The chick hatched in July at the Rocky Shores habitat for sea birds.
This is the first Horned Puffin ever hatched at the zoo, which has been home to four adult members of this species since October 2014.
The chick will be visible, periodically. However, zoo guests are likely to only catch glimpses of its tiny beak as it ventures to the front of its nesting area.
“The chick’s parents take turns feeding it, and visitors can see them going to and fro with food, or watching over the nest box,” said staff biologist, Cindy Roberts.
Earlier this year, zookeepers took the initiative to build nest boxes for the Horned Puffins. They consulted with experts at the Alaska Sea Life Center to build boxes for the mating pair.
Zookeepers at Point Defiance Zoo give daily feeding presentations and talk to visitors about Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins and Common Murres.
“Staff won’t know whether the chick is male or female, until it’s old enough for staff to collect a small blood sample from which gender and general health status can be determined,” Roberts continued.
A “well-chick-check-up” from a zoo veterinarian recently found the baby Puffin to be in good health.
The Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) is an auk, similar in appearance to the Atlantic Puffin. It is a seabird that feeds primarily by diving for fish, and it nests in colonies, often with other auks.
They are found on the coasts of Japan, Russia, British Columbia and Alaska. They spend winters in the ocean, as far south as the Washington coast.
Like all sea birds, Horned Puffins face a number of threats in the wild, including predators, oil spills, plastic pollution, over fishing and entanglement in fishing nets.
The incubation period for a Horned Puffin is about 40 days. After hatching, the chick spends 40 more days in the burrow until it fledges and has gained the necessary strength and feathers to go out on its own.
At its current stage, the zoo’s new puffin chick looks like a black-and-gray ball of fluff with a dark gray beak. However, as it grows, it will take on the full black-and-white body of a Horned Puffin, and its beak will turn a distinctive yellowish-orange with a red tip.
Adult Horned Puffins also have bright orange feet and legs. During breeding season, they have characteristic “cheeks” with a “horn” above the eyes.
In addition to its Horned Puffin colony, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has a complement of 21 Tufted Puffins and seven Common Murres living in the Rocky Shores sea bird habitat.
I always worry about tearing it, you know? In the showbiz sense. Breaking credibility, within a context, even if that context is pretty incredible (in the sense of not credible) to begin with, like Overwatch. And I kind of feel like I'm dancing up to that line with that chapter, with Venom as a character.
If people make it through Terrifying in Flight, I think chapter seven ("Is It Good Enough For You, Still?") will clarify some things. Angela thought, in chapter six, "that's a lie," and she was correct. But I can't put that in front of chapter six, I can't say, "trust me here," because, well, y'can't do that, it doesn't make sense.
Questions of identity float around in Old Soldiers, and this is part of that arc, and and and and.
"Letting us take the first shot, then?" Gabriel Reyes asked Venom, eyeing the new intel sent along on sideband. "We got Sombra's location reports - thank you."
The Talon assassin nodded. "Yeh. I..." she frowned. "Gabe, luv, I'm gonna get this out there. I voted no. But I lost, so I'll go along."
"I appreciate that." Reyes gave Oxton a considering look. "You sure, though? The way you stormed out..."
The assassin nodded. "I've got my reasons, and I've made my promises - to Amélie - and I keep 'em." Just ask G/C Henderson, she thought, Oh wait, you can't, he's dead. The memory made her smile, just a little. Small but lasting comforts.
"Glad to hear it. Thank you," replied the tactical advisor. Promises to the Widowmaker? That'd do it. "We collectively - all of us at Overwatch, Tracer possibly excepted - want to bring him to justice, intact. Not just have him disappear again."
Lena "Venom" Oxton snorted, a little. "Might be right about Tracer. But for us - well, it's better than nothing."
Reyes breathed out. Good. "I'm putting together some plans, based upon your intel - and ours." He brought his right hand to his chin, thoughtfully. "I just wish we had a sniper. Closest we've got is Mei, and she's good with that ice pistol of hers, but it's not the same thing."
Venom thought about the problem, and a solution. Would Amélie be okay with it? Yes, she thought so. With the right conditions attached. Maybe even... proud. Let's float it. "You might. Have a sniper, I mean."
Gabriel tilted his head and stared into the screen. "...Amélie's suddenly willing to work with me?"
"No," Venom said. "But I am."
"Since when are you a sniper?"
Another snort. "C'mon, mate, how long have I been with the world's best sniper? Like I've told Winston - she teaches me her tricks."
"I can't see how you have the patience for it. How good are you?"
"I'm good, mate. Not Amélie good, but... good. Very good."
Gabe looked dubiously at her, through the screen. "How very good?"
Venom thought about it. "I keep a list of better snipers than me, right? Amélie's on top, of course; Zhanna Orlov's below her, Shimada Hanzo a few steps down, all that."
She's good enough to keep that list? he thought. But aloud, he kept it to, "Sure."
"Everyone on that list keeps a list like it. Amélie's still on top, but theirs has a question mark, down... maybe below number ten? But on the list."
"And that's you?"
Venom smiled. "Can't confirm that, luv. But."
"You willing to demonstrate that at the embassy?"
"Maybe. There's conditions." She looked thoughtful, glancing down to the side. "I have to check with Amélie. She might veto this."
Gabriel nodded. Talon secret tech, or something like it. Fair enough. "Let me know. It sure would be nice to have a sniper available."
"Honest, luv, it's me," came her voice through the door speaker. "Horizon Angle Delta Vector Seventeen Nine Seven Nine Banana Clown."
The gorilla opened the door, still wary, and Lena Oxton stepped inside out of the sunlight. In the office, she looked less blue around the edges, thanks to the warm lighting overhead, but the tint was still there, and her goggles had a fleet of extra red eyes, in mobile plates, along the sides and top. "I wanted to arrive dressed as Tracer, so's nobody'd notice, but..." She pressed buttons on her grapple, now equipped with familiar and frightening extras, and her suit changed to black and green. "Mockingbird reporting for sniper duty."
"Lena, what did you do?!"
She smiled in a broad way, most unlike her spider, and most like herself. It helped, a little. "Nothin' permanent. I swear. This is just what I look like when I'm a sniper."
Gabriel and Angela came up the stairs to the ambassador's office, and froze in their tracks at Winston and Lena. Angela shrieked a little, and Gabriel shuddered. "That... that is... deeply disturbing. Lena, are you still you?" asked the doctor.
Gold-tinted eyes - regular brown still visible underneath, if you looked closely - darted to Dr. Ziegler. "Guess I shoulda warned ya, huh? Yeh, it's still me in here." Her voice was the slightest bit slower and lower than usual, but clearly still hers.
"What have you done to yourself?!" Angela leaned forward, and Mockingbird stepped fluidly back, with an ah-ah-ah finger motion. "Sorry, doc, no scans. That's the rule if I'm gonna be here like this."
"I wasn't going to. Is it, is it..."
"Permanent? Nah. Nothin' to it, really. Some drugs, some other tricks."
That's a lie, thought the doctor. "Why?!"
"All the sniper traits. Night distance vision. Stability, in motion. Patience - well, for me, anyway. Stillness, too - I can stop my heart for three minutes in this mode and be just fine. But I keep my twitch reflex, and the energy I store up is barmy! I won't need to eat for four days. Which is good," she joked, "'cause don't ask me to read a menu in the dark right now."
Gabriel shook his head back and forth. "Your whole organisation is not right in the brain."
Mockingbird laughed, a very Tracer-like laugh, and that, too, helped. "When we're on the range, I'm gonna be even scarier. I'll ramp down my emotions s'more and turn the spider all the way up." She brought up her vizor's extensions, and her goggles' primary field went dark red.
Winston reached out to her, without words, and she took his hand. "Or maybe I won't." She reset the vizor to standard mode. "Didn't think you'd be this fruck out, big guy. It's okay, honest."
"You weren't here when Amélie killed Gérard, you don't..." He felt her hand. "You're cool to the touch," he said, quietly.
"Not that cool. Just enough to avoid bein' picked up on infrared. Won't fool the best models, but it helps."
"Please say you aren't turning into Amélie. I... I don't want you turning into Amélie."
Mockingbird snickered, saying, "Well, they do say married couples start to look alike," and activated the vizor again.
"Lena, no! Be serious! I don't want to lose you."
She smiled, waved the magnifiers away, and held her friend's hand against her face. "Aw, luv, no. I like who I am. This is fun, but not... as fun. It'll all go away later. But right now, you need a sniper." She lowered his hand, and patted his shoulder. "I can shed most of this in about an hour, if I really need to."
"That's all it takes?" asked the Swiss doctor.
"For me? Yeh, in an emergency. I can throw 'bout half of it off in under a minute, if I really gotta - but it hurts like the dickens."
Gabriel shook his head. Crazy people, Talon - all of 'em. "Where's your rifle?"
Mockingbird, it seemed, had Lena Oxton's famous half-grin, and she flashed it, and flipped her pistols. "Right here." She popped them together, they locked, and the barrel extended. From a pouch, she pulled out a surprisingly conventional-looking scope, which snapped right on top. "But: ground rules. One: no scans. Sorry, doc. Two: I'm not Tracer, I'm Mockingbird. Stick to it, I mean it. No "Lena," no "Tracer," not outside this office. Three: nobody, and I mean nobody, touches my tech but me. Anyone does, I walk away completely, and for good. No more Mockingbird, and" - she said this slowly, and clearly - "no. more. Tracer. either."
She waited a moment to make sure all that had sunk in. "These are the terms. Otherwise, I leave now, no harm done, and Tracer comes back tomorrow wondering if she missed anything. Agreed?"
"Le... Mockingbird, this cannot be good for you," said Angela. "I promise, just a circulatory..."
"No," the sniper said firmly. "None."
The doctor sighed. "You are not the only one here who experiments with her body in extreme ways. You are stressing it more than I think you know. I want to help."
"We do this before breakfast, luv. But, y'know, if you ever want to switch teams, you could do all the scans you..."
"I don't think so," the doctor interrupted. "But how am I going to know how to treat you in the field, if necessary?"
Mockingbird tipped her head, and smiled. "I'll give you this." She held up a small memory card. "Complete treatment protocols for anything that has to happen faster than a Talon extraction team can reach me. You can have it once everything's settled."
"I insist that I be allowed to practice these protocols. At least the physicality of them. In battle," she did not really have to say, "it matters."
"Ah, yeah! As long as your nanos aren't taking samples, that's fine."
"And may I please, at least, examine you later? When this is over? To be sure you've handled this well? Your own doctors may want that data."
Mockingbird thought about it. The compassion was genuine, she was pretty sure, but so was the desperate curiosity to know how all this worked. There would be things for her to find, later, but little she wouldn't've had a chance to see before, and she'd be looking in all the wrong places... good enough, she decided. "They'll already have it, but - deal."
"Thank you." The doctor looked a little bit relieved, if still more than a little concerned. "I accept."
"Winston? How 'bout it?"
"Gabriel, are you willing to work under these conditions?"
The former Blackwatch head nodded. "I've worked under way worse than this. I'm good. Uh, I... accept the terms?"
"Oh, right," said the assassin, "This has to be for the whole organisation." She switched to Tracer colours, and said, "On behalf of Overwatch, I, Lena "Tracer" Oxton, agree to the terms of Mockingbird's service," before switching back. "Sounds like a bloody software license, don't it? That just leaves you, Winston. And Mei, but she's not here yet."
"I don't like it," said the gorilla. "But... deal. No scans, no handling, no anything."
Mockingbird smiled. "Brilliant!" She tossed Angela the memory card. "Have fun with that. The rest of us - let's go shoot some wings off mosquitoes!"
"We've been over this," responded Gabriel, watching as she took the head off a second target on the way down, before even landing on her cliffside perch. "We want him alive." He took notes that started with 'Terrifying in flight.'
"And we want him dead," she retorted. "I want him dead. Don't get me wrong, Gabe, I'm here, I'm goin' along with your plan, but alive's not the sniper's job." From that upper perch, she hit three for four on moving ground targets. Two headshots, one ricochet shot that missed, a follow-up direct shot leaving a grazed neck. That last one would walk away, with medical aid. "Damn."
'Never really stops moving,' the new Overwatch tactics expert added to his notes. 'Highly mobile.' "We just want the tactical visor gone."
She spun around from her nest and ticked a faceplate off the sixth target dummy. "And that's a headshot."
"Tracer's not here, luv."
"Hiya!" She triggered reload, and launched herself to the second perch. He noted she wasn't jinking at all, no teleports, no rewinds, just running, moving with the grapple, and nothing else. Still all about movement, though.
Bang, target down. "No additional shots after the visor's gone." He could almost feel her dirty look from the ground. Bang, another ricochet shot, target missed.
She landed, swore, and took a second shot on the second target, moving within her section's perch point for a direct shot, taking the dummy down. "Not even to save another agent?" She ran a strafe pattern against moving dummies, bang, bang, bang. Four for three, including a domino shot. All perfect.
Jesus, she's good, Gabriel thought. Maybe not Amari good, those ricochet shots aren't working, but... Aloud, he said, "Except to save another agent."
"Short day for me, then." Another reload, and she launched herself into the air, diving to the final shooting perch. Gabriel surprised her with three airborne targets. Bang, down, bang, down, bang, bang, down. "Seems a shame if I have to get all gussied up." She landed and rolled to the third sighting point.
"A short day would be very, very good indeed."
Three fast targets, running along the ground, zagging, all with faceplates - the most human of them all. Three shots, three faceplates off, all targets down. "My way would be even shorter."
"Mockingbird. Please. I know what you are. Don't make it harder."
Lena Oxton breathed in, carefully. She wondered, occasionally, how long she could make this Talon-Overwatch joint arrangement last, and this was one of those times. It's for the best, she reminded herself. If, occasionally, a right pain in the arse. "Sorry, Gabe. I'm workin' so hard to remind everyone it's me in here, maybe I overdid it a bit. Is that it for the first round?"
"Yeah, that's the first set. What'd you think?"
"I liked the surprise skeet, that was fun! But I was sloppy. I can do better, if I drop the banter. And nothin' returned fire!"
"This is a target range, not a combat simulator, what'd you expect?"
"Might fix that."
"If we had the money. You're supposed to know that."
"Maybe Tracer's supposed to know that - I'm not."
Right, he thought. "Mockingbird, secure weapon, and return to start. We'll reset the range for another round."
I'd noticed in Annabots that I seemed to be getting some double-kills with single shots, and poking around, I'm under the impression that domino shots are actually a thing in-game.
I think I got one yesterday. Temple of Anubus, on offence, second point, I'm hanging out on my favourite perch, shooting onto the point, really kind of waiting for my team to get back out there as we'd captured part of the point but then got stomped.
I see some movement on the point, and I fire one shot in - Double kill.
I think maybe I got my first domino shot in quickplay.
A couple of days ago, I was talking offline about how I'm improving as a Widowmaker, but I'm not able to shift a game the way I can by showing up as Tracer or D.va? Today I did it.
Dorado, on attack, started as Tracer. They weren't ready for a Tracer at my grade, and we charged pretty well for the first 95% of the first leg, 'till they figured out I was the problem, then we still managed to nudge it to the first objective before we totally got shut down.
So I switched to D.va, and they weren't expecting a D.va of that grade either, but once again, figured out who to focus on, and we charged for 95% and then had to struggle for the last bit, and I brought it home nudge and boop at a time.
But that was it, right? They brought out a Bastion, and D.va's not a good counter to Bastion, and I think they must've swapped another hero, because they were seriously pushing us back to the third spawn point, and I'm thinking, "...I... I really feel like I need to bring out Widowmaker here. I really do."
And so I said fukkit, I did. And started knocking out the Bastion over and over and an eight-person kill-streak later, we're 95% of the way to the third and final point.
Which is, again, when they figure out where I went and started hardcore targeting me and we lost. Plus, indoors on the third stage of Dorado is a terrible, terrible place for Widowmaker, so what did you expect, really? But while we were outside, I was an unstoppable killing machine as Widowmaker, and for the third time, shifted a match from "hopeless" to "edge of victory."
I have no illusions about being able to do it regularly - yet - with Widowmaker. My aim is still super-spotty (tho' the time I'm putting in on Annabots is clearly helping across all heroes) and I don't know all the places to be and not be. But I have now done it, once.
One of the rarest spiders on earth has bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens in a world first.
Over 1,000 tiny Desertas Wolf Spiderlings have hatched in the Zoo’s Bug World. So valuable are the babies, some have even been hand-reared by dedicated keepers from tiny eggs.
The hatchings are a huge boost for the species, which is only found in one valley on one of the Desertas Islands, near Madeira, Portugal. There is thought to be a single population of just 4,000 adult spiders left in the wild – an alarmingly small number for an entire invertebrate species.
It is hoped that some of the spiderlings can be returned to their native island in the future to boost dwindling numbers in the wild.
Desertas Wolf Spiders (Hogna ingens) are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species but are not protected by any specific legislation.
The baby spiders are just 4mm in diameter but grow to be huge, impressive-looking black and white adults up to 12cm in size with a body size of 4cm. They are under threat from habitat loss, due to invasive grass binding the soil where they burrow and blocking their natural shelters.
Bristol Zoo has joined forces with Instituto das Florestas e Conservação de Natureza (IFCN) and the IUCN to develop a conservation strategy to protect the species in an effort to prevent it becoming extinct.
As part of the vital conservation effort, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates, Mark Bushell, travelled to Desertas Grande last year with Zoo vet Richard Saunders and collected 25 Desertas Wolf Spiders to be brought back to the Zoo to breed as a ‘safety net’ population.
The effort has been a great success, as Mark explains: “Because this was the first time this species had ever been taken into captivity to breed, it was a steep learning curve. After some of the female spiders were mated, it was an anxious wait to see if they would produce egg sacs. We were thrilled when they did, and to see the tiny spiderlings emerge was fantastic – a real career highlight.”
Such was the keepers’ dedication, that when one of the female’s egg sac broke, eggs were carefully transferred into a miniature incubator for rearing. Once the eggs hatched, they were put into separate containers with sterilized soil, kept in quarantine and individually fed with fruit flies.
Bristol Zoo now plans to send hundreds of the tiny spiderlings to other Zoos in the UK and Europe to set up further breeding groups as part of a collaborative conservation programme for the species.
Mark added: “Establishing the world’s first captive breeding programme for this species is a fantastic step towards protecting it for the future. It is a beautiful and impressive creature, but its natural habitat is being altered by invasive plants. There are simply not enough rocky and sandy areas of habitat left for the spiders to burrow and hide in. The result is a deadly game of musical chairs, whereby the spiders are competing for fewer and fewer burrows.”
Mark added: “In addition to the loss of habitat, one single catastrophic event could wipe out the species entirely. Now we have successfully created a ‘safety net’ population here at Bristol Zoo to help safeguard this impressive creature for the future.”
In future it is also hoped that Bristol Zoo’s team of horticulture experts can visit Desertas Grande to work with park rangers to control the invasive grass, which is destroying the spiders’ habitats and help restore the original landscape.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public, not only to fund its important work in the zoo but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.
For more information about visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens, visit their website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk .
Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo are celebrating the arrival of the first Hanuman Langur born at the Zoo’s Land of the Lions exhibit.
Born to first-time parents Saffron and Rex after a 200-day gestation, the tiny female Hanuman Langur was spotted by zookeepers early in the morning on July 23.
Zookeeper Agnes Kiss said, “The first Hanuman Langur to be born to this troop at ZSL London Zoo and the first new arrival at Land of the Lions, this tiny primate is an exciting symbol of the success of this project.”
“To mark the occasion we’ve called her, Kamala, which means ‘lotus flower’ in Gujarati – the sign of beauty, fertility and prosperity.”
“Everyone is very pleased with Kamala’s progress so far,” said Agnes. “At the moment she has a pale face and downy dark fur, but it won’t be long before her skin turns black and her coat thickens and turns a magnificent silver - just like her parents.”
“She’ll also grow into her large ears, which are perfect for picking up subtle noises over long distances; in the Gir National Park, Hanuman Langurs act as an early warning system for other wildlife – making loud ‘barks’ from high in the treetops to warn of a lion’s approach. In Land of the Lions, the troop can often be heard vocalizing in response to the lions’ roars, which Kamala will learn how to do from her parents.”
Land of the Lions, which opened last year, is also home to ZSL’s Asiatic Lion pride: male Bhanu and lionesses Heidi, Indi and Rubi. The exhibit tells the story of the Gir, a unique area that is home to the last wild population of the Critically Endangered lion species.
Hanuman Langurs (Semnopithecus entellus) are widespread throughout Asia, and are named after the Hindu god of healing and worship: by contrast, there are just 500 Asiatic Lions left in the wild.
Kamala’s upbringing is already a community affair, which is natural for Hanuman Langurs; dad Rex is staying protectively close to his first born, while another female, Lucy, has been spotted carefully carrying Kamala around - giving Saffron a well-deserved rest every now and again.
[All dialogue in «angle quotes» is translated from the Spanish]
«Whatcha doin', Spooky?»
Jack Morrison looked up upon hearing Leticia Delgado's question from where he sat with his notebook. Paper, pen, overstuffed chair - old school, like he was. «Updating the dossier.»
«On your old friends?» she asked, putting away her phone, and grabbing an orange off the counter separating the small kitchen from the small living room.
«They're not my old friends,» he growled. «But this attack by Amari, and this fake Overwatch news - maybe it'll help fit some more pieces together.»
Leticia nodded, peeling the orange. Morrison had been hauling that notebook around as long as she'd known him. He'd never let her look at it, and she'd never pushed too hard. But she'd been curious, and if he was going to open up a little, well, it beat sitting around, anxious and bored. «Why you so obsessed with this new Overwatch, anyway?»
He shook his head. «It's not Overwatch. The real Overwatch - my Overwatch - went down with me, when Talon moved against us.»
The street fighter cocked her head to her left. «I thought that was the UN.»
Morrison snorted. «Talon, UN - it's all the same thing, has been for a long time. Early 2068 - a few months before the Slipstream exploded - that's when I started to realise what was really happening, what was going wrong.»
«Talon,» she said, before biting into a wedge, «...controls the UN?»
«Talon proxies. Maybe mind controlled, like Lacroix, maybe conscious traitors, I don't know. But they're pulling the strings. I just have to find them all, cut them all down, show the world what they've done.»
«I know they're terrorists, but that's what they call us, too...» She swallowed the piece of orange.
«They really are, though. More than anyone knows. More than anyone understands. But I'm the one who's seen it.» He poked at his notebook. «I'm the one who's figured it out.»
«You got evidence?» She peeled threads off another piece of the orange. «I mean, if they're that kind of dangerous...»
«It's everywhere you look, once you start to see it. Start with Gérard Lacroix's murder - Talon eliminated him as soon as he got too close. You think he was their mole? Of course not. He just knew too much.»
The young Los Muertos gangster bit into another wedge. «I don't even know who that is.»
«You...? Yeah, I, guess you wouldn't. You'd've been, what, 12? 13?» He chuckled. «Gérard Lacroix was head of Overwatch's anti-Talon task force. Good man. Murdered in his sleep by his wife - or rather, by whatever thing Talon put in his wife's head after they took apart her brain.»
«Wait. I've heard part of this story... are you talking about la blue girl?»
«The killing corpse? The purple assassin? Yeah. The Widowmaker. Second-best sniper in the world. I was friends with the woman they killed to create her.» He flipped to the Amélie Lacroix section of his notebook, filled lately with his notes on her partner, the teleporting assassin known as Venom. «I'm not sure who they killed to create her girlfriend. I thought it had to be Lena Oxton, somehow back from oblivion, because...»
«Lena Oxton... the Widowmaker's girlfriend? Wait, you think the hero of Old London is the spider's sidekick? Really?» Laticia snorted. «Put this in your notebook, I heard about it from the old squad leader. Those two showed up at an arms show together a couple years ago, right? Got disrespected by a some anglo Texans, and killed like a dozen people just to make a point. They're not...»
«I know. The girlfriend part, that's what made me think it might've been Lena.» He tapped the page with the tip of his pen. «Still think it might be. Just can't figure out why they'd keep the lesbian angle. I didn't even think Amélie liked girls, not that there's anything left of her in that machine. But it has to be important, for some reason.»
Hoooo, she thought. This is kind of nuts. «I'm sorry about your friends, Jack. But this - it's a lot to take in.»
Jack looked up at Laticia, and nodded. He trusted her. He hadn't trusted anybody in a long time, and he didn't trust the trust, but it was still there. «It's a lot more to live through.»
She let out a little bit of a 'heh,' and replied, «This's why you don't talk about your past much, huh?»
He nodded, flipping through pages, adding small notes in tinier text. «One of the reasons.» He dotted a couple of lower-case Is and put the book down. «The part I can't get past - there is just no way that the real UN would ever have moved against us. Not like that. They'd never have shut me down, not us, we mattered too much. Not even with that bastard Gabriel turning on us, turning on me...» He'd run through the story too many times in his own head even to get angry anymore. «I don't know whether they brainwashed him or reconditioned his mind or whether he just got bought out, but he turned on us. All those lies at the hearings, all that slander, all those leaks...»
«I remember that part,» she said, finishing the last of the orange.
«Big news, even to the tween set?»
«We watched the hearings in school.»
The solder smirked. «Not surprised - schools are about control. But all that propaganda aside - we mattered too much. The real UN - an uncompromised UN - wouldn't've shut us down. Never.»
She tapped her fingers, one, two, three, four, on the table, working out bits in her mind, before sweeping the peels away. «So... if Talon took over the UN, then...»
He nodded again, this time, approvingly. She gets it, he thought. «Then they have control over a lot of the governments, too. Deep state agents, fingers in key parties, big and small.» He picked the book back up, made a few more notes, and closed it again. «But I'll get it all out there, sooner or later. Once I have it all figured out. Then everyone will know, and we can start to put the world back together.»
The soldier looked down at his empty mug, feeling all talked out. «Hey. You mind making some more of that coffee?»
Delgado looked quizzically at Jack Morrison. «My coffee?»
«Who else's? I can't make it the way you do.»
«You can't... you hate my coffee. You always dump it out, and by the way, you still owe me new beans.»
«I don't hate it, I...» and he remembered, oh, yes, he kind of did, didn't he? No, that's not right, he loved her coffee. Nobody else could get it quite right, particularly not that white-haired... he shook his head, no, that doesn't make sense. «I'm getting used to it. It's kind of growing on me.»
«Ha!» She grinned. «I'll teach you how to appreciate good food yet, gringo. If I do this, you can't pour it out! I have to make a whole pot, or it comes out too weak, like yours. Just, you know, not as bad as yours. Which is terrible.»
«Wouldn't dream of it,» he groused, and stood up. «While you make that, I'll go out, get some more beans. I do owe you.»
«It's been quiet long enough, yah, I think it's safe.»
He nodded his agreement. «You heard anything from Araceli?»
Laticia shook her head, checking her phone again. «No, not yet. I'm worried.»
«Afraid the Maras got her?»
«Worried they might've.»
«I hope not. She's no soldier, but she's... a pretty good kid.»
Delgado smiled, surprised. «Thanks, Spooky. That's the nicest thing you've ever said about her.»
Morrison looked through the edge of the blind from the gang house. Twilight, and all clear - at least, as far as he could tell. Amari doesn't double-dip, he thought. We should be fine, for now. «I'll be back in a few minutes,» he said, throwing his gun over his shoulder. «With dinner.»
«No hunting in city limits!»
«Not even for tacos?»
«Okay, maybe for tacos. You know the kinds I like?»
«'Course I do,» said the soldier, opening the door. «If I'm not back in 15 minutes - leave, and don't look back.»
«Don't have to tell me twice!»