Bad to the Bone; Good for the Heart
"Honest hearts produce honest actions."
It was gearing up to be a hot one at the bottom of the world. While the rest of the world was in mid hibernation, already locked away to wait out the second half of winter, the Australian outback was in the heart of summer. The sun had fully made its way over the horizon and it had already burned away all of the cool from the night before, giving a taste for what the day had to offer.
Across the sun baked expanse of the outback, three figures sat at the side of the road, waiting in the dying relief of the shade provided by a highway road sign. Either from the burn of the sun or the radiation of the nuclear blast that had been ordered to protect the Australians during the last war, the jumbo advertisement had been completely eaten away, providing nothing but a blank landmark in the middle of miles of unmarked desert.
The first form was a massive man, so large that to the unassuming eye, he would probably look like a large stone in the distance. He towered over the other two, with massive muscular arms and a gigantic bulbous stomach connected to two stubby legs that were somehow able to support him. His face and expression was covered with an old world gas mask, and the only other article of clothing that would possibly fit his massive size was a pair of old overalls that were frayed and ripped, yet still acted as pants.
Beside him was a thin and scraggly man. Sure, he was dwarfed by his massive companion, but in reality, the second stranger underneath the sign was actually unusually tall. Part of his height may have came from his prosthetics, for one of his legs were missing and replaced with a simple peg leg, while a missing arm had been replaced by a fully automated prosthetic. How he came across such an advanced piece of medical hardware in the abandoned outback was a mystery for another day. He wore cargo shorts and had an old leather duster around his shoulders that had been sewn to act as a bandolier for his many grenades. Most curious about his apparel, however, was the harvester tire which he carried on his back, which was penetrated with spikes and lawnmower motor stuffed into the rim. He sat on his bottom with his leg and prosthetic tucked into his chest, curled up like a child fearing discipline for the wrong he had done. He was biting on his lower lip, only partially looking over at his larger friend while slightly rocking back and forth.
Finally, the last shape sitting on the side of the road was a woman. While the two men beside her were shirtless and wearing clothing that was as beaten as the rest of the wildlands, she on the other hand was completely dressed from head to toe. She wore a set of large metallic boots with a raised heel, orange leggings and loincloth, and a fully armored white medical breastplate. Her hair, a striking golden blonde, was tied up in a high ponytail while a metallic half halo was connected to the sides of her temple. Her outfit was industrial, surely aesthetically pleasing on the outside, but unlike her more anarchistic hosts, all of her gear, from the folded wings on her back to the many built in compartments on her bodyarmor and waist, had secondary and tertiary functions. All except for the heavy wrap of duct tape that had been wrapped around her wrists at least ten times, that piece of bondage was exactly what it seemed to be.
Doctor Angela Ziegler, PHD. MD. Sat on her side with her legs tucked closely beside her, using her tied wrists to support her wait as she sat beside her captors. Her face holding complete apathy, as emotionless and expressionless as someone who was trying to catch an even tan.
While they had indeed taken refuge in the shade of the sign to get away from the sun, that was not the only thing that tied them to the spot. Before both captors and captive was a dark splotch in the center of the abandoned road, somehow standing out from the rest of the asphalt roadway that was in need of repair for at least ten years. Like how a nuclear blast could leave only the shadow of a person behind, the only telltale hint of what had been at the center of the mark was a duel set of tires and random bits of a roadster that was now littering the surrounding landscape.
"Roadhog" either an alias or an actual child of the post-apocalyptic landscape, took long breaths into his oversized form, controlling himself so anger didn't blind his actions. "Junkrat", bouncing between loudmouthed mastermind and sidekick stooge at a moment's notice, waited on baited breath as he waited to see what happened next. Finally, Angela, or as the name she had given them, "Mercy" bathed in schadenfreude at her kidnapper's expense and broke the silence by saying, "I told you that wouldn't work."
Immediately, Junkrat bounced to his feet and shouted down at the woman to shut her mouth, speaking in a way that was almost like he was trying to compensate for the silent treatment that his partner was giving him. "Not another word out of you. If you hadn't tried n' run away then none'a this woulda happened!"
In a more traditional situation, Angela would have been intimidated. She would have kept her mouth shut, bided her time, and cooperated until she could be rescued; After all, this wasn't the first time she had been captured and held against her will. But it wasn't long after she had realized what was about to happen that she learned that these two were one member short of three stooges. As she had come to accept, she was about to be taken, but she didn't have any other options at the time.
In the previous day, she had been driving along the road when her engine had failed. As was customary, she requested assistance, but after waiting with an overheated engine for hours and no sign of rescue, she changed out of her clothes and into her Valkyrie suit and began to walk down the long highway towards the nearest city. The Swiss woman thought that she spotted roadside assistance in the distance coming towards her, but it wasn't until she had actually gotten a glimpse at the driver of the homemade hog roadster and the passenger in its sidecar when she realized that she had been mistaken.
Sure, she had plotted on how to escape as she sat and rode sidesaddle behind this Mr. "Roadhog" while Junkrat was mounted in the side car. But it wasn't the desire for freedom that caused her to run for cover while they refueled on the side of the highway. No, it was the description of the strange, squirrely individual's experimental new fuel that caused her to run to cover.
After all, it didn't take a medical prodigy with multiple doctorates in chemistry, botany, and robotics to realize that mixing nitroglycerin with diesel fuel in a hot engine was a terrible idea. Thus, that brought those three to where they were now, sitting on the side of the road as Roadhog composed his rage while staring longingly at the scorch mark that had once been a motorcycle.
"If it weren't for you," Junkrat continued, "none'a this woulda happened. I'd get the mix right n' then-"
"We'd all be missing a limb, ja?" she finished, looking up at him from the corner of her eyes. Junkrat balled his hand into a fist, shaking with rage, but before he could respond, she added, "oh, my mistake, some are already missing more than others."
Junkrat screamed into the air and walked away pacing in the road while rubbing his arm and prosthetic against the sides of his head with rage. The sight of Angela and her ever so subtle smile saying more than any words could. Eventually, Junkrat returned to side of the road with his fist up, pointing it at the woman and sneered, "Why I outghta-!"
Both agitators turned their heads to see Roadhog struggling over to his feet. His quiet and muffled words stopped the two dead in their tracks, and after he was squarely on his own two feet, he added, "Let's go." He reached down into an old canvas bag and pulled out an air filter and inserted it into his gasmask, taking in a deep breath that flexed his lungs and filled his entire chest out with a thick yellow vapor and replenished his energy.
Hands tied in front of her, Angela got to her feet and began to follow with Junkrat bringing up the rear of their party. She followed the large man's orders, walking close behind him, not out of fear of consequences, but instead to observe, her eyes tracing up and down his body.
Hours later, their band of three was still walking, but instead of following the highway, they took a detour through the badlands. Junkrat, still acting as if he was anticipating punishment for destroying their roadster, had formulated a new plan. Trying to spin his mistake to be a stroke a genius, he had changed their path back to Junkertown. Instead of taking "The Bent 19", to go around it, he had surmised that they could go on foot through Red River Canyon, a place that he had explained was detoured by the road, but they could now walk through.
Now, with open skies, boundless land, and nothing else in sight for miles, the three continued their march. Junkrat skipping to a beat on his peg leg and providing the hummed audio for their journey as he led the pack with his hostage behind him and Roadhog making up the rear.
For as entertaining as it was to listen to Junkrat's ADHD fueled mumblings and custom dance moves, Angela was waiting, checking the watch on her wrist and keeping a mental checklist of the sounds happening behind her. When she heard the sound of a canvas satchel being opened and metal cans rattling together, she poked her head back, and as she had predicted, saw that Roadhog was already at full capacity of a deep inhale. She slowed down, ever so slightly moving to the side to avoid his titanic footfalls and casually allowed him to catch up to her.
When they were side by side, Angela took a look at him, scanning over his irregular body. His massive fat gut while also incredibly muscular arms were fascinating. If the situation were reversed, Angela would have been more than interested in taking a look at him and discover how he came to be. Yet, what had also captured his attention were his tattoos. With more canvas came more artistry, and it seemed that with every major milestone Roadhog had survived, he had marked the occasion on himself. But the one that caught her attention the most was on his bicep right at her eyelevel.
A porkchop, of all things, covered in flames was in the center of his arm. Wrapped around the illustration of meat were the words, "Bad to the Bone."
Without prompt, Angela asked him, "How are you feeling? You've been using those canisters quite frequently, are you feeling ill?" She kept her eyes forward, watching Junkrat as he continued their march forward.
"I'm fine." The mountainous man mumbled. There was a certain gallantry in Roadhog. Sure, Junkrat may have talked enough for both of them, but there was more to Roadhog than just mean muscle. Maybe behind the lenses of his gasmask were years of experience, Angela had seen some of the scars, and knew that he was armed, but it seemed that he was aware of the brutality of the world he lived in. She felt it safe to assume that he had killed before, and it was obvious that he was not above kidnapping, yet at the same time he didn't seem to need to intimidate Angela. Maybe it was courtesy? Although they lead different lives, maybe the fact that they were both professionals caused them both to understand that hostility and barbarism was unnecessary at this moment?
"I know what those are." She continued, "Somehow, you've filled the filters of those rebreathers with Nanobiotics to apply rapid first aid. I must say I am somewhat impressed."
"yeah? What's it to you."
"I'm just trying to warn you to be careful. It may be a short-term solution, but do you know what nanobiotic medicine does? It may mend a bullet hole, but improper application can cause dire consequences. Just because you may feel better doesn't mean it can fix your problems."
Angela turned her head to look up at him, calmly stating, "Shortness of breath, tightness in the neck, cold sweat, pain in the shoulder blades. You know what that means, Roadhog. You're only making it-"
"Now hold on a minute, Goldilocks!" came a voice from in front of her. Mercy's head shot around, and was surprised for some reason to find that Junkrat was right before her and pointing a figure at her once again. His backpedaling had caused him to make up a strange new dancemove as hopped backwards on his peg leg. "I don' know where you get off thinkin' you know everythin' bout anything, but you don't look like any doc I've ever seen."
"Maybe it's because you've never seen a doctor before?" the Swiss doctor thought to herself.
"Roadie's as healthy as a horse…. Big as one too!" he complimented his friend. He seemed content with his objection, but then his expression loosened, and his finger drifted lower as he organized his incoherent thoughts. Finally, he added, "and If I were you, I wouldn't go around talkin' bout people's BMI, you're the only person I met who's got tits bigger 'en his."
Reflexively, Angela covered her breasts with her bound wrists and repulsed in disgust. Finally seeing that he had gotten a jab in, Junkrat jumped back, did a cartwheel, and returned to his forward march as he spoke whatever madness came to his mind.
Roadhog gave a huff and let the insult-by-association roll off of him, but to the notice of nobody, Angela did what she was told and held her tongue, silently watching and waiting as their journey into the stretching horizon continued.
After all, a woman's silence is much more dangerous than any word she could speak.
Although many aspect of the pre and post nuclear apocalypse Outback were the same, there were two thing that were undeniably better after the bombs and dropped. The water and the air.
After the threat had been eliminated, the whole of Australia needed to be remade. New cities in the still civilized regions needed to be protected with radiation shielding in mind to prevent further casualties from the nuclear fallout. But, troubles were abound and more and more people were getting sick. Finally, when hope was running out, a solution was found. The Ishtar Corporation came, and leasing their new technology as humanitarian aid, erected facilities all over the continent. It only took a few decades after the bombs had dropped and nearly all secondary radiation had been eliminated, and only a few spots in the outback still held dangerous radiation levels. As a side effect of cleaning efforts, the air and water in the Outback was now among some of the safest in the world.
Thus, having walked for most of the day, the sight of the flowing stream was great relief to the kidnappers and their hostage. Seeing the flowing water cutting through the endless red sand caused Roadhog to up his tempo to a sprint and shove the other two out of the way, finally collapsing at the shore and submerging his head into the water.
Junkrat, feeling his sweat begin to wash away the layers of dust that covered his body, hopped his way forward and jumped into the flowing stream, feeling his body go from melting, to neutral, and finally to cool.
Angela, having changed into her Valkyrie suit when her vehicle broke down because she had designed it with climate control in mind, only had a few beads of sweat running down her forehead as she walked to the shoreline and stopped. She looked at the two, giving a chuckle and then saying to herself, "Men…" but as she thought so, it was hard to think of them as such. If anything, these two reminded her more of boys if anything.
Regardless, she had been traveling with them for a very long time and needed to rest as well, but not being the type to soil herself by jumping in the water, she used her tied hands to grab both the front and back of the long cloth around her legs.
Junkrat surfaced, a mouthful of water filling out his cheeks and gave a hefty swallow, cooling off his insides. He slowly sank down once more to feel the cool flow of water all over his body before coming back up. He looked over at Roadhog, still seeing the big man with his face flat in the shallows of the stream. He was about to dive once more, but then he saw his captive walk into the water.
"Dumb broad," he thought. "Hardly even worth the trouble." The devolution of Outback society had brought the use of slaves back into fashion. The big government in the cities was too busy trying to build themselves back up to really do anything about it, so the Junkers in the outback were almost free to do whatever they wanted. With machines being in disarray and there being more people than producers around, that meant that hands for hard labor was in high demand, even if it meant sacking a town and putting them in chains.
Junkrat didn't particularly like slavery, but then again, he did like money. The way he saw things, the Queen of Junkertown was always looking for people with skill to make sure that Junkertown stayed on top of the foodchain. And if what she said was true and she was a doctor, then Junkrat saw the red carpet getting rolled out for him.
So yeah, she could keep saying her little sassy quips, they'd see who'd be laughing last when a collar was slapped around her neck.
Angela waded out into the water until the level was just under her knee high boots. She saw the wet Junkrat watching her and turned around. Then, she bent over and brought her hand down, cupping some of the water and bringing it up to her lips.
Junkrat shook his head, not much about Goldilocks made sense. She wasn't a junker, so why was she out here in the outback? Why was she wearing that stupid getup when they found her? Why was she wearing makeup when it was half past a bamillion degrees out today?
She went for another drink, and Junkrat lost his train of thought. It was at that moment that he noticed something. That weird butt/crotch cloth thing that she wore was tied up, the weights at the end holding it together and were resting up on her shoulder. It was still doing its job, but not by much. From where he was, submerged up to his chest in water, all he was looking at were a pair of long legs in orange leggings leading up to some blanks that his imagination had to fill out.
She stood up once more, and from behind her combed golden hair, he got a good look at her eyes. Smokey and sharp, like a finely tuned knife, she looked at him with disgust, like he was a fly in a fresh bowl of soup. She saw him, knew what he was doing, and was repulsed by the broken little man. But then, her expression changed, still full of contempt, but with a certain smugness that he couldn't understand.
She went to take another drink, and then walked away. She may have been his prisoner, but she had something he couldn't have. For as much contempt as she had for him, she would let him take as much of a look as he would like, because at the end of the day, that was all he was getting out of it.
She exited the stream and walked towards a big boulder nearby, swaying her hips with each step she took. Junkrat watched as she disappeared from view and began to wonder why he was feeling so hot all of a sudden.
Junkrat waited and waited, wanting to see her sway her way as she kept walking, but it wasn't until forty seconds later that he realized he'd been played.
"Shit! Roadie, she's getting' away!"
Roadhog, still face down in the water, pushed himself up and ran as fast as his little legs could carry him while Junkrat waded to the shore. Sure enough, by the time the two kidnappers were at the rock, she was a hundred paces away, running with both hands tied in front of her.
No way to catch up, Roadhog pulled the hook and chain that was attached to his beltbuckle and threw the hook with uncanny accuracy. Angela kept running until she found her midsection wrapped around the steel hardware, and with one big tug from Roadhog's massive arms, was completely taken off her feet and thrown back where she had begun.
When Angela came to, she was looking down the barrels of a shotgun and a grenade launcher. She raised her tied hands to protect herself, and seeing how the two were glaring at her, could only smile and say, "vhat? You can't blame me for trying…"
"Junkrat, come here." The Australian turned his head at the sound of his name, seeing the Doctor standing there beckoning him towards her.
As he had planned, they had cut through the valley and now Junkertown was visible off on the horizon. Having just exited the canyon, Junkrat took a few paces back to his prisoner while Roadhog took the last few steps out of the valley.
Now with an old pair of locked shackles around her ankles, Angela stood by as Junkrat hobbled his way over. "yeah, whaddya want, Goldilocks."
She nodded with her head over to her left side, "I need you to get something for me. Third pocket on my belt, left side."
"Yeah? Well, why don't ya get it for yourself?" he asked. In response, Angela lifted up her wrists, still covered in rolls of duct tape. "Oh… right."
She turned, and her captor made his way over to her side, counting out the containers on her side until he found the one he was looking for. He popped open the hard container and looked inside, seeing it lined with all sorts of stuff.
"There should be a small squirt bottle in there." She said.
Junkrat looked, and sure enough there was one. He reached in and pulled out the container. He was about to give it to her before he stopped and pulled it away, "Wait a tick, what is this?"
"Sunscreen." She said," You could probably use some as well."
He thought about it, and then decided to give it to her. He waited, making sure it wasn't some sort of a ruse, and sure enough she squirted some onto a finger and then rubbed it onto her face.
When done, she reached her bound hands over and hit the compartment closed, deciding to keep the bottle in her palm. As the two waited, Roadhog finally made his way over the incline, and upon reaching the top, stuffed his hand into his canvas bag and took another big hit from his rebreather. Both watching him, Angela said, "You're friend isn't looking too well. Are you sure he'll make it the rest of the way?"
Junkrat jumped at the question, "Roadhog's fine." He pointed his bent metal fingers at Mercy once more, "He'd be even better if you hadn't tried to escape! He's been doin' that for years, I don't know where you get off tryin' to boss him around. You're actin' like you made that yellow stuff, ya know."
Angela rolled her eyes in disgust, watching as Roadhog discarded the empty filter in the dirt.
The sun was setting across the Outback. Long shadows stretched across the land as they blocked out the dying light. Their destination was close now, maybe only a few miles' walk away at this point, but that would be for tomorrow, for now it was time to rest.
The cave that Junkrat had spotted was nothing out of the ordinary, just a classic hole-in-the-wall opening that nobody would pay any heed. Nice and inconspicuous, just the way they would use it for. But, that all changed when he stepped foot into the formation, and stopped dead in his tracks.
Despite what one would assume based on his eccentric personality and missing limbs, Junkrat was not a careless person, only to most things. As he began walking in, chatting and entertaining the madness in his mind, he stopped mid step and pulled his peg-leg away. He bent over and said, "Well, that's a 'fine, howdoya do' kinda welcome mat if I've ever seen one!" He fished his hand into the cargo pocket of his pants and pulled out a pair of wire cutters. Effortlessly, he snipped the line, and then stepped in, looked around, and found a trapped stick of dynamite waiting at the entrance of the cave.
Angela was next, seeing the security measure and had a good idea as to what it meant. Soon afterwards, Roadhog, panting as if he had been running for his life from the small climb up the hill, was beside her. Through labored breaths, he pulled out another filter for his gas mask and took a long inhale. Angela looked down at her wrist, checking her watch as he did so.
Junkrat bounced beside his partner and said, "Stay here, I'll go take a look." He did so, creeping into the cave with his grenade launcher at the ready. Surprisingly, the cave was uninhabited, but it was definitely not empty. Frightened by the activation of motion sensing lamps, Junkrat was greeted by a treasure trove full of loot. Jerry cans full of petrol, medical supplies, barrels of water, bags of mail, tools, food; there must have been a king's ransom of supplies in here.
In the center of it all was a tent, uninhabited, but whoever came here was planning on settling in for a while.
He wasn't sure who's stuff this was. It could have been Olaf and his lads, they had been hitting supply lines for a while before they all got pinched. Otherwise, it could have been someone's hideaway from before the war. Either way, it was all his now. He rummaged through the camp and found a bottle of booze. He bit down on the cork with his teeth and pulled it free before giving it a wiff. It smelled like gasoline, which was probably exactly what Roadhog was looking for.
He made his way back to the entrance of the cave with his bottle in hand. As soon as he was there he was about tell Roadhog the good news, but stopped in his tracks. Roadhog was already in mid breath of his rebreather, and only a second after he exhaled, he was clutching his chest. Junkrat ran to his side, shouting, "What's wrong, Big man?"
Roadhog fell to his knees, using one of his hands to support his weight on the cave wall, "Can't… Breathe…"
Frantic, Junkrat forced himself underneath Roadhog's shoulder, saying, "C'mon, let's get you inside…" Somehow, with the assistance of his friend, he was able to struggle back to his feet and put one foot in front of the other until he was further into the cave. When near the loot, he collapsed again and fell over to his back, head supported by a rock on the cave wall.
Hardly holding onto his composure, he knelt to Roadhog's side as the big man held a hand on his chest. "Uh… Uh…" he looked around, remembering his bottle of booze, "here, take a drink. Yeah."
Roadhog took the bottle out of Junkrat's hand and drained half of it through the hole in his gas mask, and for the entirety of his chug, it looking like he may be better. But before he had finished, he threw it aside, clutching at his chest and screaming in pain.
"No. No. No! Hold on, Roadie, everything's all right!" the hyperactive man shouted, hoping that his words would somehow change the world around him, but for as much as he could hope and pray, it wouldn't. As he kept desperately calling out his friend's name, Angela backed away to the opposite side of the cave, watching, waiting, seeing her patience paying off.
For as much as she would hate to have admitted it, the ghost of a smile was slowly beginning to form on her face. She had been alarmed when she came to the realization that she had been captured, but the buffoonery of her captors had put her mind at ease, and with it, the gears within her brain began turning as ideas slowly took form. It may have seemed like what was happening to them was a run of bad luck, but the truth was, the game had been rigged from the start. The events taking place in this cave had been developing over the previous day, from her doctoral concern over Roadhog's health, Junkrat's shallow ego, the big man's abuse of medicine, and her insistence that they stop and rest throughout their trip, it all melded together to teach one simple lesson.
Reverse Psychology is a bitch.
Holding her bound hands together, Angela brought her left hand over her right index finger, and slowly began to press and pull the finger as she raked her way over the length of it. Like a magic trick, a yellow blade made from hardlight material extened from her finger. Only an inch in length, but as sharp as any medical obsidian scalpel. She reached her fingers down, bending the digits inward in an awkward flex, but eventually reached the duct tape which had wrapped her hands together for the past day. With a decent cut down the seam of the industrial tape, she pulled her arms apart and ripped the bind open.
After completely removing the wrapping, she repeated the process to retract the hardlight blade.
Next, she opened her palm and looked at the bottle of sunscreen within. Checking to see that she was still unsupervised, she peeled back the label on the bottle, revealing a pick and a retention wrench hidden on the inside of the synthetic sticker.
She was never the best a lockpicking, but the important thing was that she understood how the process worked. Being that the shackles that were around her ankles only had a single tumbler, she was free within fifty seconds.
Standing upright, she looked over at the two men that had forced her to walk throughout the previous day, and seeing that they were both oblivious to her liberation, she walked towards the entrance to the cave. Night had just set in, the night sky was completely clear, the full moon and sprinkling of stars and astral bodies light up the empty outback for miles. Junkertown was in sight, the ambient lights easily visible in the distance and only a few hours walk away.
With one look back, she gazed into the dark cave and gave a chuckle. She may have been the one in chains, but they were both wrapped around her finger the entire time.
"Roadie! Roadie, please, just… just hold on, mate. Don't leave me…. Please."
She took a step forward, but then lost the motivation to move forward. She stood there, gazing out at the night sky, seeing the campfires in the tent city and lights coming from the houses inside of Junkertown's walls, and couldn't compel herself to move.
Then, she felt something, a presence setting foot on her left shoulder. She looked, seeing a satyr of herself wearing long dress slacks and a blood red blouse, pure white skin, ruby red lips and ebony black hair complementing a set of horns on her head.
The miniature Angela looked up at her larger self, demanding, "go, Angela. Freedom's just a short walk away. Get to Junkertown like you planned and call for help so you can get out of this hellhole. Leave these two idiots, you warned them of what would happen, this is what they deserve."
But before she could make her mistake, another presence made itself known. Appearing on her right shoulder was another version of herself, wearing a pair of golden sandals that wrapped up her otherwise bare legs, with a pure white dress and who's face was pure and full of life. Her halo and golden hair bounced as she fell to her knees, weeping and she held her hands together in prayer. "No, Angela-" she protested, "If you leave now, then you'll never be able to live with yourself."
She was about to consider the consul of the spirits on her shoulders, but before she could, another sound reached her ears.
It sounded like some sort of animal in pain, whimpering in misery. It took her a moment to recognize it as the sound of a grown man crying. It was not to be confused with the cries of agony that littered the battlefield, of soldiers experiencing unimaginable pain and screaming at the top of their lungs as bullets ripped the flesh from their bodies. No, this was sad, pathetic almost, not the cries of a child trying to make a scene to get what it wanted, but of someone who was on the precipice of their world falling apart.
It took her back to memories that were long since locked away, decades old, of a small girl with golden hair who was crying at the foot of two identical coffins.
Junkrat sat on his bottom, sobbing into his hands as he waited at Roadhog's side, not bearing the site of his only friend in the whole world, shriveling up in his own skin, veins bulging as he suffered underneath his own weight. He didn't want to believe it, but there was nothing he could do.
He rocked himself in a ball, crying into his hands, not wanting to accept what was happening as Roadhog stopped struggling and went limp. He looked over, and sure enough, Roadhog wasn't breathing any longer. Junkrat fell over on his friend's massive form, crying as loud as he could.
Then, a hand grabbed him on the shoulder and pulled him away. He looked up, and Mercy was standing beside him. He was about to hurl an insult at her, but something caught his eye before he could. Mercy dropped to her knees, rubbing her hands together as she looked down at Roadhog, scanning across him as her black gloves began to glow yellow. When her hands were as bright as the sun, she spread them apart and placed them above both of Roadhog's pectorals and said, "Clear!"
She slapped them down, and a sharp jolt of electricity bounded through Roadhog, and immediately afterwards, he began to breath once more.
"Your friend is suffering from cardiac arrest." She said, "I can save him, but you must do as I say."
Junkrat looked up at the woman, and then wiped his eyes clean and nodded in agreement. She gave him orders, and he bounced to his feet to follow them. So diligent in his duty was he that he didn't even notice that her shackles were missing.
And so, while Roadhog was resting on his back, Angela and Junkrat built his surgery suite. A pillow was brought over to comfort him, the tent was cleaned and had its bottom cut out and was moved over him to be a shield from debris. Bowls were filled with fresh water and the remainder from the bottle of vodka was drained into a bowl and set aside in the tent. To their fortune, a canister of Nitrous Oxide was found and Junkrat pulled it over and hooked it to Roadhog's mask while Mercy made an IV out of water bottles and sugar.
Crouched in the tent, Angela pulled out a small roll of surgical gloves from a bag in one of her armor's compartments. She set them down and then donned a hair net and surgical mask before she washed her gloved hands in the Valkyrie Suit. Then, she sat with her hands both in front of her pointing up and said, "Junkrat, I need you to put some gloves on my hands."
The Auzzie looked at her with a tilt to his head, saying, "But, you already got gloves o-"
"yes'm!" he stammered, jumping for the bundle of gloves and trying his best to slip them over her hands while touching them as little as possible. Once gloved, she walked on her knees until she was at Roadhog's side. She took a razor and water and shaved his hairy chest, all the while the big man lazily watched them from the corners of his eyes. When she was fully prepared, she brought her fingers to Roadhog's head and gave them a snap, asking, "Roadhog, are you still with us?"
Taking a big disconnected sigh, he said, "yeah…"
Mercy sat there, hands still raised as she contemplated what to do. Eventually, she scooched her way back to Junkrat and whispered in his ear. They conversed in hushed voices, and eventually Junkrat crouched his way over to Roadhog's side and pulled a mallet out from his utility belt. He raised it in the air and said, "Sorry big guy." Before conking him out cold.
They waited, diodes on his chest giving his cardiac reading to the doctor's heads up display, his shallow breathing and the flow of clear gas the indicator for Junkrat. When satisfied, the doctor got to work preparing to make her first incision from the tools scattered on sheets around her. She eventually looked at her assistant and said, "It will be best for you to wait outside. Stay within earshot, I will call you if I need you."
Junkrat did as he was told, and zipped the tent closed behind him.
Hours passed, Junkrat paced outside of the tent, patrolling the entrance of the cave from one spot to the other. His open shoe and peg leg eventually made an indented track in the sand has he retread the footsteps in his circular journey.
He hated waiting, and this wasn't helping his OCD, either. But, the random thoughts that normally filled his mind were absent on this night. All he could think about was Roadhog. Their adventures, their schemes, their ups, and their downs. All he could think about was his partner in crime, and the disturbing possibility of what he would have to do if he didn't make it out of this one.
Sounds were coming from tent. He didn't very much want to connect the things he heard to what he thought they went with. Sure, he liked to play with explosives and had to pay the price for it once, but needles were too much for him. After today, he promised to never eat a twinkie again.
There was a break from the surgery noise, and soon after, the sound of a zipper came. "Junkrat," she said, her voice calm and collected, "I need you to come here."
Immediately, he turned mid stride and hopped over to the door of the tent. On the floor outside of the tent was a bowl of water and a container of soap. "Wash your hands," she ordered, "both of them, then come in here slowly. Watch your step."
Junkrat did as he was told, washing his metallic hand and his natural one. He even made sure to rinse up his arms just to be safe. When done-or rather, as done as he thought he should be since he hadn't washed his hands before in his life- He unzipped the door to the tent and slowly crouched his way in.
He crouched his way in, took a moment to gather all that was going on around him. Many bowls of water were now pink, medical instruments were littering different bowls and containers in organization that he dared not try to think of. A portable lantern was hanging from the top of the tent, light shining down on the subject on the floor, and the doctor was sitting on her knees to the side.
"Go around him," she said, her voice soft, more than a whisper, but direct and controlled. She pointed to the other side of a mound of towels and sheets.
He stepped around Roadhog's legs and got to the opposite that she was sitting, and what he had seen shocked him. Somewhere in his mind, he had forgotten that the big mound in the center of the tent was his friend. Sure, he saw the legs, and parts of his massive belly that wasn't covered by the sheet, but there was much more to it. In the center of the sheets and towels was an opening, and what he saw within perplexed him. Sure, it was his friend lying in the center of the tent, but what he saw didn't register as being Roadhog to him. It was like a painting, or a screen. The blue sheets and medical clamps were its frame, but the center of the opening was a hole to an entirely new world, a gateway that accessed a whole new reality.
What he saw was Roadhog's heart, beating in his chest like the pistons inside of an engine. The doctor was beside him, standing at the edge of this precipice like a witch at a cauldron, and Junkrat was gazing down into the magics of her brew. This… thing in the frame, it almost looked like an entirely new organism, so strong and smooth, no matter how much he told himself that it made sense, he couldn't make the connection in his mind that this thing was a part of his best friend.
It was so peaceful, so innocent, how could this little thing cause the walking apocalypse that was Roadhog so much harm? It had brought him down and nearly killed him, but here it was, just beating away like a sleeping baby in a crib.
"I want you to see this." Angela said, beckoning Junkrat closer. He leaned in, and Angela poked her fingers down, shining a flashlight into the opening.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Do you see that spot there, on the artery? Near the heart?" He looked, and sure enough he did make out a stretch of glowing yellow in what looked like a big vein. He was so awestruck with what he was seeing that that he was shocked that he hadn't noticed it before. He nodded in confirmation. "That," she continued, "Is what I warned your friend about. That is the blockage that caused his heart attack." She looked directly at him, her striking blue eyes burning so bright that he swore that they could cut straight through him, "From now on, every time he abuses his filters, is exhausted easily, or can't keep up, I want you to remember this. I want you to remember what he did to himself."
Junkrat swallowed, nodding his head in compliance. Junkrat looked down, taking in all that was happening before him, and let the gravity of it all sink in. Roadhog was the toughest man he had ever seen in a fight, and how hard would it be for the doctor to end his life right here? One poke here? One scratch there? One cut over there? Hell, she could just reach down and pull his heart right out of his chest right here and now and crush it right in front of Junkrat's eyes if she wanted to. He'd never felt so outmatched before in his life; who the hell was this woman?
"Now stck out your hands," she ordered. Junkrat did so, and she slipped a pair of gloves on him. "I'm going to need your assistance."
Junkrat's body went cold, "A- Are you sure?"
"Yes," she answered, "just follow my commands and remain calm. I'm not going to be able to do this without you."
Holding his breath, Junkrat nodded. She took a pair of tongs out of the bowl of alcohol and wiped them off. She wrapped her new assistant's hand around them and directed his hand on where to go. Junkrat couldn't look, he angled his head away and just let her do as she pleased.
"Press." She said, and he did as he was told. "Good. Remain tight and don't move unless told to."
Quickly, she slipped her bloody gloves off and wrapped her hand around her index finger. She pulled, and the scalpel made of Hardlight emerged from her finger. Using her finger as a talon, she reached in, narrating to herself as she dived further and further into the hole of Roadhog's chest.
She did… something, Junkrat wasn't sure, and then quickly exited. She pulled one of Roadhog's filters from his bag and cracked the seal. The yellow medicine misted out of the opening, and she collected it in a vial before returning to her patient.
Junkrat saw the action, and due to the event that had led up to his impromptu drafting as a nurse, was alarmed at what he saw. Hoping that he speaking wouldn't cause his body to move, he interjected, "wait, didn't that junk cause all this?"
Mercy looked up, her eyes like that of a hawk boring through him, "No." she answered, slowly returning to her work. She moved Junkrat's hand and brought the vial down, "negligence is what caused this. I am using it properly; the way I made it."
Junkrat froze. Made it? That couldn't be.
Mercy pulled Junkrat's hand away, and as she left the area, surprised the junker by letting out a long withheld breath. She sat back, holding a piece of red in her gloved hands. "Congratulations, on your first successful Emergency Coronary Bypass, Mr. Junkrat."
He slowly leaned forward, and the glowing yellow spot from earlier was gone.
Back to pacing Junkrat went. Gloves off and disposed of, the junker left the tent and allowed the doctor to do her work. Hours passed by, the Moon made its way across the night sky, and Junkrat slowly made a trench near the entrance to the cave.
He didn't understand what was taking so long. He thought that she had done the work, so why couldn't she just slap him back together and call it a day? It drove him mad, but then again, he didn't really know much about any of that stuff.
He turned back to the tent, and he could see the shadows of the two inside. He really wanted to just be done with it all, but he wasn't sure what to do? Should he go check in on the doctor? She said that she would call if she needed him, but did that mean he should stay away if she didn't? This was making him want to pull his hair out!
Surely he could just take a peek, that would cause any harm, right? He began to approach the tent, and as he had seen for the past hours, the big dark blob was Roadhog while the Doctor's silhouette was sitting beside him. The only thing different now than his previous adventure into surgery was that the lamp was less bright than before. He neared, walking at his normal pace, but as he did so, he began to hear something and slowed.
It was quiet, not like a mumble, but clear, like a concert meant for one person. It sounded like gibberish, some weird non-speak that people would make when they ate a radioactive cave shroom, but it sounded organized and not the random firings of one's voicebox. Was somebody singing?
He snuck,-or rather, what someone missing a leg could substitute as sneaking- up to the side of the tent and put his ear up to it.
Spiele mir ein Lied,
Ich sing es dir für alle Zeit.
Bist mein Ein und Alles, ich bin zu allem bereit!
Ich bitte dich, sei kein Traum!
Ich liebe dich, sag ich laut!
"What was goin' on in there?" he thought. He began to march to the door and opened it up. When he looked in, the entire surgery suite from the last time he had been inside was now gone. Instruments were either neatly put aside or gathered in heaps to be disposed of. Just like when all this had begun, Roadhog was now lying on his back while the doctor was at his side, but this time things were different.
Like a mother at a cradle, she sat with her legs folded, and as Roadhog's stitched chest slowly rose and fell, she held his hand in her lap, squeezing onto his fingers. She shifted her focus to the door, but composure remained the same. Their eyes connected, and she silently nodded her head for him to enter.
Once again at a loss of what to do, Junkrat hobbled in and sat on the opposite side of the doctor. When he was seated, Angela spoke up, "Roadhog, it looks like you have a visitor."
There was a sharp breath, and then Roadhog began to shift his head a bit. The only time Junkrat had seen him like this was the morning after one of their drunken escapades.
Junkrat jumped to his knees and approached his head, "Roadie, are you there?"
The large man tried to clear his throat, the sound of his tongue scratching around his mouth was akin to sandpaper on glass, eventually he mustered the gusto to say, "Did you hit me on the head with a hammer?"
From having his emotions go through the ringer today, Junkrat burst into tears and threw himself around Roadhog's head. The dirty mongrel began kissing his old friend on the forehead between bouts of sobbing.
Mercy was beside herself at the sight, almost forgetting that the two had planned to sell her into slavery about twenty four hours prior. Knowing that such affection may have been a tad too much for someone who had just gone through battlefield surgery, Angela interrupted their reunion by saying, "Junkrat, why don't you get Roadhog some water? I'm sure he's quite parched."
Finding purpose again, Junkrat jumped to his feet and did as he told, leaving the two alone once more.
When ready, Angela smiled, watching the tent flap hang open, "he really does care for you. I probably would not have been able to save you if not for his assistance." Roadhog gave a grunt, pulling himself back to sit more upright.
"You'll have to be careful, though." She continued, "You've been through quite a lot. This will happen again if you keep up with your habits, you know."
"Doc," Roadhog said, "What time is it?"
Angela didn't even check her watch, stating, "Almost dawn."
The massive man thought for a moment, turning to look at the Swiss woman as she looked into the black lenses of his gas mask. Hearing Junkrat trip on his way back to the tent, Roadhog listened to his cohort return to refill his container. Knowing this was his chance, the patient said, "Go. Get out of here while you can."
Angela, knowing the inevitability of the dilemma was at the back of her mind throughout the night, tilted her head and asked, "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I'll be fine. You've earned it."
Angela closed her eyes and nodded. Squeezing his gigantic fingers once more, she stood from the place she had been nested in for the past eight hours and exited the tent.
Now with a fresh canteen full of water, Junkrat returned to the tent. He was about to enter until he noticed Angela near the entrance to the cave. Although tired both mentally and physically, the woman stood at the entrance to the outside world and took in a deep breath of fresh air.
The sun rose, filling the opening with light, and with it, Angela flexed her hands, causing the metallic wings that had been folded on her back for the past day to open, filling the dark cave with blinding light before stepping forward and disappearing.
Junkrat, standing with his mouth open and a canteen in his hand stared at the sight to behold and had to admit, "That's one hell of a woman."