The heat of Luxoria was always one of Tracer's least favorite parts of the Sky Temple battleground, and unfortunately that blazing heat was omnipresent within the desert realm. She was in a small town far away from both of the Luxorian battlegrounds. At the center of town was a large fountain, though saying the town was around the fountain seemed to be more accurate. Trees with long branches provided shade for the various shops by the fountain. There was a sweet smell in the air from some kind of fruit that grew on the trees.
Tracer sped up her timeline and dashed from stall to stall, taking in the rest of the marketplace by the time she stopped in front of the fountain. The native Luxorians gave her strange looks but didn't avoid her. There were flying monkeys perched in the trees who looked ready to swoop down at a moments notice. Tracer felt like they looked familiar, and not just because she had seen the Wizard of Oz.
In the blink of an eye Tracer put down the money for a fan, grabbed it, and returned to her spot on the edge of the fountain. She tried to fan the heat away in vain. Sky Temple was visible in the horizon, a floating island with an endless amount of water falling from it. Supposedly beneath that collection of temples with hero hating guardians and angry gods was a tranquil lake. It was strange how a battlefield could look like paradise when viewed from a distance. It had taken Tracer a few battles to even notice the water flowing down to the earth below the airborne island.
A flying monkey swept down and tried to grab Tracer's fan. Tracer's grip was too tight and she fell into the fountain, still clutching the fan as the flying monkey howled in anger. She took further solace in the fact that the water was cold enough to let her escape the heat.
"Lena are you ok?" A man grabbed Tracer's hand and pulled her up. Tracer didn't know him, but he was wearing a full set of armor so that could have made him hard to recognize. It reminded her of some of the armor she had seen Blackwatch use. There were two glaives hanging on the man's waist. A long ponytail was funneled through the top of the helmet and two parts of his long black hair slid under the helmet and down to the top of his stomach.
"Illy get back! She's an imposter!" Tracer heard a familiar sound and felt two spikes next to her head. Tracer flashed forward away from the fountain and made an abrupt turn. Tracer had her pistols out, but she lowered them when she observed her attacker. The person who had been holding the spikes to her head looked just like her. In hindsight that should have been expected after that 'imposter' comment.
Tracer's doppelganger had the same hair style as her and a mask that covered her entire face but offered a clear view of her eyes. There was a triangular skull like symbol on her chest, and her suit had glowing lines all over it. Like Tracer the look alike had two pistols. One of the most notable differences between pistol designs was the presence of spikes under the muzzle of the other Tracer's pistols. "Well this is strange," Tracer commented.
"There's no way a mere imposter could have the same abilities as you. What's going on here? Now that I think about we were briefed on the existence of multiple versions of the same person. Lena that must be you from a different world," the man, 'Illy' said.
"This Nexus place just loves being confusing doesn't it," the other Tracer complained. She holstered her pistols and sighed before jumping down from the fountain. "Sorry. That won't happen again."
"Don't worry it makes sense you'd panic like that. Everybody in the Nexus has a story about the first time they met a different version of themselves," Tracer said. She held her hand out to her doppelganger. The masked Tracer hesitated for a second before accepting the handshake.
"Oh this guy with the really long hair is Illidan but since you're technically me you can just call him Illy." Illidan groaned.
"No you can not call me that. It's bad enough when I have one Lena constantly pestering me. Actually is there any chance you have your own version of me to bother?"
"I don't know anyone from my world named Illidan, sorry," Tracer said.
"You shouldn't feel bad about it, I was just curious. Actually there are plenty of people I'm curious about but I won't bother you with the whole list," Illidan said. Tracer took a few seconds to think about what Illidan said. Were Emily, Jack, Ana, Mondatta, or Gabriel anywhere on that list. Did her other self save her version of Mondatta? Were Jack and Gabriel still alive and still friends in that world?
"Now that you mention it, I'm really curious about your world. How about we trade stories?" Tracer suggested. She returned to her spot on the fountain and stretched her legs, leaning back towards the water. Illidan and the other Tracer sat next to her.
"You go first," the other Tracer said. She gripped the fountain like it was trying to repel her while Tracer's fingers tapped the fountain to an unheard rhythm. Tracer could tell her other self was less trusting, her legs were in the perfect position to kick off from the fountain and flee in the blink of an eye. Tracer thought about the possible stories she could share without bringing out any feelings of guilt before deciding on one that her doppelganger and Illidan would be interested in.
"In my world there's an organization called Overwatch, it was an international group dedicated to keeping peace. I signed up as a pilot and they assigned me to an experimental new plane. It was able to teleport so obviously I was really excited. But when the actual test day came…" Tracer's mind traveled back in time. Warning sirens. Shouts of concern. Bright lights. Screaming. Fading. Fading. Tracer shook her head and focused on the present. She smiled in response to the concerned looks her flashback had caused. Her heart was beating furiously but it would go back to normal like always. When would she finally stop having those flashbacks? Illidan removed his hand from her shoulder right as Tracer realized it had been there.
"Are you okay?" Illidan asked.
"Sorry I just got a little distracted," Tracer lied. It was obvious that she had failed to make it a convincing lie. "Anyway it didn't go so well. One moment I was in the pilot's seat, the next I was somewhere else. I don't know where but I remember falling until I somehow ended up back in the main Overwatch base. But I wasn't really there. People could see me but I couldn't touch anything. That wasn't the worst part though, I got hit with what they called 'chronal disassociation.' I'd talk to somebody and get cut off by a sudden leap to three months later."
"How were you able to get back to normal?" The other Tracer asked. She looked down at the back of her hand.
Tracer tapped her chronal accelerator. "Eventually one of the scientists, Winston, made this. It keeps me anchored in the present and I can use it to make a few small jumps in the timestream." Hearing the name Winston hadn't gotten any response from Illidan or the alternate Tracer. Did they have any friends in common?
"They better have scrapped that plane," Illidan growled. His hands moved to grip his glaives. A few residents of the town who had been discreetly watching the encounter increased their distance from the fountain.
"Don't worry they scrapped it after that disaster. They were more concerned with making me not a ghost than making the plane work. If it weren't for Overwatch I wouldn't be here right now," Tracer said.
"I'd like to hear more about this Overwatch. I should probably share something first to keep things fair though," the other Tracer said. "The story behind my powers is pretty long but I'll make it relatively quick. In our world some humans have psionic powers. When mine activated I went through the same thing you did. Months would pass in seconds until I was kept in place by a neural inhibitor. Both Illidan and I were forced into a special academy for people with psionic powers, that was where we met."
"Calling it an academy is too kind. That place was made to reduce people into tools," Illidan said.
"Anyway we graduated and became special operatives called Ghosts, assassins who had their memories wiped after every mission," the other Tracer continued. "Naturally we didn't like being mind wiped so when we were kidnapped by a rebellion that didn't practice that we signed up immediately. It was run by former Ghosts who removed their neural inhibitors and used a special gas to upgrade their psionic powers, they were called Spectres. That upgrade lets me control my powers the same way you do."
"Of course both of us need regular doses of that Terrazine gas to maintain our powers, but the power and freedom is worth the price," Illidan added.
"That's a lot to take in," Tracer said, "losing your memories after every mission sounds awful." She couldn't imagine what it would be like to not remember everything she had done. A lot of friendships would have never happened if every mission with Overwatch had been erased from her memory. Maybe her other self had succeeded where she failed but had been robbed of those memories.
"We had our ways of writing down the important stuff where nobody else looked. That's how Illidan and I kept our friendship. Some of our memories came back after we took the Terrazine thankfully," Tracer the Spectre explained. She relaxed her grip on the fountain. She didn't look like she was about to run away anymore.
"At least you have that going for you now," Tracer the agent of Overwatch said.
"It's a small comfort. Just because we remember our missions doesn't mean anyone else does. We do the kind of work people turn a blind eye too. It would be nice to have our efforts acknowledged now that we're working for the good guys," Illidan said. Tracer thought of Blackwatch and Gabriel. He had made those kinds of comments, outraged that he never got the same praise the rest of Overwatch did. That resentment had led to disaster. Tracer had sometimes wondered if it would have been possible to stop it with a simple 'thank you.' At the very least doing something about every anti-Overwatch protestor treating him like a monster could have stopped that confrontation with Jack.
"We know what we're doing now, that's good enough for me. I'm thankful that we'll be able to remember this meeting," Spectre Tracer said.
"I'm sure people appreciate what you've done. I bet you two have saved a lot of lives," Tracer said. Around them the townspeople kept their distance out of fear. It felt awful to be so obviously unwanted without anyone saying a single world. So that was what it felt like to have people avoid you. Tracer had a strong feeling Illidan and her other self were used to that feeling.
"Most of them are completely unaware. Our job is thankless by design so it's to be expected. I'm not that upset by it, still I can dream about getting some acknowledgement for what I've done. Thanks anyway Lena, both of you," Illidan said. He glanced at the people who were clearly waiting for them to leave. Tracer didn't want to cause a scene but she considered yelling at them to have some decency.
"You kind of remind me of someone from my world. He was in charge of Blackwatch, the black ops part of Overwatch. Sometimes he came off as heartless but he was actually a nice guy when you got to know him. So I can appreciate the kind of stuff you two do," Tracer said. She was starting to feel guilty. Where were those words when Gabriel could still hear them? Still in the Nexus you could meet anyone. "We don't seem to know any of the same people but it's worth a shot, know anybody named Gabriel Reyes?"
"I think I've heard that name before but maybe I'm confusing him with Gabriel Tosh. Oh right we helped out a reaper with that name once. It was a night raid on an enemy base during the End War, we ended up destroying it completely thanks to some crazy stunts he pulled off. I think they gave him a medal for it," Spectre Tracer recalled.
"That sounds like something he would do," Tracer said. So things worked out well for him in at least one world. She knew the look of relief on her face spoke volumes about why she had asked but she didn't care. Even if it wasn't 'her' Gabriel knowing he was alive somewhere gave her hope.
"We'll look for him when we get the chance," Illidan said. The two Spectres abruptly got up from the fountain in synch, touching their helmets.
"Just got a call. We have to leave for a mission now. I hope we run into each other again sometime," Spectre Tracer said. She reached into a pocket and tossed a small device to her counterpart. "This thing is designed to allow communication between any realm in the Nexus. Give us a call if you ever need some help."
"Thanks, I'll keep in touch. It was fun talking with you. Good luck with your next mission," Tracer said.
"Thank you. We'll meet again someday," Illidan said. Tracer waved goodbye as her alternate self and Illidan ran into the distance. It had been a strange encounter but it was one Tracer was grateful for. She stood up and began the long walk to the lake underneath Sky Temple. After that she was going to explore the rest of the Nexus. Somewhere there was a version of Gabriel that was still alive, a version that Tracer could apologize to. And there was no reason the same couldn't apply to Jack, Ana, or Mondatta.
Tracer the Spectre always knew what Illidan was thinking. It was a skill she had gained from being his sole confidant. "We'll look for them after this mission," she said as they approached their Phantom speeders. She wondered if her counterpart had a similar vehicle.
"Funny, that other version of you also knew exactly what to say. I guess no matter what world you're in I'll never be able to lie to you," Illidan said. He sat in the seat of his Phantom but didn't start it. "Is there really a chance? Or is there no point?" He asked.
Tracer adjusted her mask. "I'm sure there's at least some version of Malfurion and Tyrande in the Nexus. We'll find them together. That other me was thinking something like that too you know." Tracer revved up the engine. "Let's get going. If we're lucky that Reyes guy will be there too and I can pay back whatever debt I owe him." The two phantoms sped across the sand with speed the residents of Luxoria had never seen before. On the other side of town Tracer of Overwatch was running across the sea of sand. They had different destinations but both Tracers were looking for the same thing.