Oasis was awe-inspiring.
Tall, beautiful buildings in light colors decorated with gold. Large windows that reflected the sunlight on every surface. Blooming vines and flowers fell from the structures like a waterfall and invited you to just stop and admire.
It felt like a city of light, of hope, of wonders… of possibilities. And what possibilities? It was as stepping into the future. This was a city of science, of progress, where some of the world’s most intelligent people had moved together to learn, to create, to discover…
And so… no matter how beautiful it all was, no matter how many times Angela had stopped in her track to inspect yet another wonder, she also knew what the price had been. What the price still was. Everything was beautiful in Oasis. But how would it affect the world around it? What would the discoveries in these very buildings lead to? And who were funding them?
There was a reason Angela had never gone here before. She had heard of it, of course. Everyone had… and part of her had wanted to, longed to see what they did here, see what she could do here… but she knew. She knew what you could do here – anything. And she knew the people you were giving it to.
Angela was here because of a medical conference.
Usually she would have stayed away, like she had so many times before, but this time they were demonstrating a new concept – a prototype – that seemed to be working with some of the same ideas as her nanobiology. There were things to be learned here that could be crucial to her own research and bring her closer to perfect the way her healing technology worked. While she had no illusions of any collaborations, she wanted to hear what had been thought and discovered and, if she got the chance, ask a few questions.
That’s how she found herself in Oasis, that’s why she was at the conference and that was why she was now looking into the eyes of a woman she had thought she might never meet again. Moira O’Deorain. She had known it was a possibility of course, it was no secret that Moira was leading the Ministry of Genetics. She really shouldn’t be surprised by seeing her here tonight… though it was very clear that the other woman was.
Moira had been by her side in a matter of seconds, her expression no longer surprised, back to the cool confidence that Angela had grown accustomed to.
“Dr. O’Deorain” Angela replied with a short nod. She was dressed in some sort of purple attire, with long… was that silk? Silk sleeves that reminded her of a night sky. The entire outfit screamed Moira. It was an eye-catcher, dramatic and paired with her height, demeanor and stance… quite intimidating to behold.
“I had not heard you were in Oasis” Moira frowned as she said it, clearly not happy about the news.
“I am not expected” Angela glanced up at Moira “so I am not surprised.”
Moira gave her a searching look “and what brings you here? Do you perhaps have something to present?” she looked around the room searchingly as if she could figure out what project belonged to her.
Angela shook her head “no, nothing like that. I am only here to observe.”
“A pity” Moira said, and for a moment Angela almost thought she meant it. Something in the way she said it, like she was truly disappointed.
“I am sure you are not unhappy with me showing up empty handed” Angela said and raised an eyebrow. There was no question which of them held the respect of the people in this room, and she imagined Moira would like to keep it that way.
“I assure you my regret is sincere.” Moira continued with a slight frown “you have not published anything in years, it’s about time you get back to work.”
Angela narrowed her eyes “and who says I am not working? I have been aiding the camps in Egypt, the people there are suffering and in need of all the help they can get. I assure you I have been busy.”
“Aiding camps in Egypt” Moira said with some contempt “playing nurse and stitching people back together? Labor work that any simpleton could be trained to do, while your intellect is wasted away.”
“If everyone did what I do the situation would not be as it is in Egypt” Angela bit back “I promise you none of my time has been wasted away”
“And yet here we stand, years later, the situation still as dire in Egypt and you with no new research. If that is not wasted time Dr. Ziegler, then I do not know what is.” Moira shook her head sadly and it made Angela’s blood boil.
“The situation might still be urgent, but we have saved countless lives out there! Children, families who would all have been ruined if not for our work!” she glared up at her “and don’t think just because I haven’t published anything that I don’t do research. Perhaps I am just careful about who gets to use it.”
Moira looked at her in surprise and suddenly she was closer, had moved into Angela’s personal space and towered above her.
“You have continued your research?”
Angela took a step back, straightening her back and kept her expression calm “that is none of your concern.”
Moira narrowed her eyes “do tell me Dr. Ziegler” something dangerous in her voice “who’s concern may it be?”
The way Moira’s voice lowered made a chill run down Angela’s spine. She tried to keep her composure, she was not intimidated by the other woman. “As I said Dr. O’Deorain” she met her eyes “that is none of your concern.”
Moira stared back at her and for a moment Angela thought she would step forward again, that she would grab her, perhaps shake her and try to force it out of her?... but then her expression was calm, cold and distant. “I see.” Her tone flat, dismissive with no hint of the heat it had held just the moment before.
Angela felt a pang of loss.
The clock struck eight and the frown was back on Moira’s face. Glancing towards Angela she seemed thoughtful and indecisive. Many things she had experienced Moira O’Deorain. Indecisive was rarely one of them.
“Would you be interested in joining me on the balcony?”
No, of course she wouldn’t. She wasn’t there to talk with Moira and they both knew that.
“I am here to hear about Dr. Byrne’s new project” Angela replied, but Moira only shook her head and placed an arm around her before leading her towards the balcony.
“It will be another half hour, we have plenty of time.”
Angela wasn’t sure what had gotten into the other woman, but once they were outside the arm was gone and Angela’s heart rate slowly returned to normal. She looked over the city and let out a soft gasp. It was beautiful at night. The entire sky laid open from up here and the stars shined much brighter than inside the big cities. How were the stars more visible?
“How are they so clear?” she found herself asking while taking it all in.
“It’s all thanks to Dr. Leigh’s research on light pollution, I would love to show you-“
Moira was interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. Angela turned around just in time to see soldiers force their way into the conference. Talon soldiers. Someone yelled a command and the guests hurriedly got on the floor. Angela moved to get to the door, but a slender yet strong arm swept around her and held her in an iron grip.
“None of them will be harmed” she heard her promise before the world faded to black.
Heavy. Her head and body felt heavy. She let out a soft groan and tried to move, but she couldn’t make her arms or legs behave as she wanted them to. She was laying on her back, her mouth was dry and her clothes uncomfortable. Too tight.
Angela’s eyes flew open. That voice. Moira? All at once the memories of the conference, of the balcony, of Talon. It all came back to her. And Moira, she had… “you… drugged me?” her voice came out hoarse and strained. Not as threatening as she had intended. As she regained her senses the mystery of her current state revealed itself to her. It wasn’t the clothes that were too tight, she was bound. Rope on hands, arms, legs and feet. She was laying on a bed in what appeared to be a bedroom. Moira’s personal? She had to be in Moira’s apartment.
“I did” she heard the other woman move and then she was standing at the side of the bed, peering down at her without an ounce of regret or shame.
“Those soldiers, they were working for Talon” Angela said.
“Indeed” came Moira’s reply.
“You… you knew they were going to be there, you-” Angela swallowed hard as she felt her chest tighten and what she had so long suspected was finally confirmed. “You work for them.”
“I do.” Moira kept her eyes on her, expression unchanged and emotionless.
“Why?” Angela glared up at her! How could she? They had fought Talon, Talon was trying to start a war! And Moira… even Moira, who wanted nothing but knowledge, would have to know just what they did! How could she do that? How?
Angela clenched her fists and turned away from the other woman best as she could.
“Money? Would you really sell your soul for money?” she spat.
“Science.” And emotion was back in Moira’s voice, frustration? Anger? “For science Angela. Money is just a necessary evil in the way to unlock the mysteries of the universe”
“You are insane!” Angela said, not looking at the other woman. She couldn’t, wouldn’t.
Angela felt a grip around her chin as she was moved, forced, to look at Moira who was glaring down at her with burning eyes. “Unethical, criminal, evil” Moira offered, each word hit Angela in the chest like a bullet “you may think of me as you please Dr. Ziegler but do not suggest I am out of my mind. Do not act a fool as if you do not understand what I am doing. You may not agree with my methods but do not pretend that you do not understand them!”
Angela clenched her jaw and stared up at her “I do not, will not understand them!”
The hold on her chin tightened as Moira leaned down. Her face drawing closer, leaving Angela no way to escape “you stubborn, sanctimonious…”
The sound of a cell phone made them both jump and for a second none of them moved. Then Moira released her hold on Angela and made her way to the other end of the room, leaving Angela alone on the bed, pulse pounding in her ears.
“Yes?... I am.”
“I will see it done.”
Moira placed the phone back on the table and Angela managed to get herself up in a sitting position, quickly catching the attention of her capturer.
“You’ve kidnapped me.” Angela frowned and glanced around the room once more. It was obvious of course, yet she felt the need to say it. Let Moira know that she knew exactly what she was doing. “… since you have not bothered to kill me… I must assume Talon wants me alive?”
Moira blinked and kept her gaze steady on Angela “they would prefer you alive, yes.”
“But not necessarily, I see.” Angela tried to straighten herself best as she could, the ropes not making it an easy task “what do they want with me?”
“Your mind” Moira’s reply came instantly, and then after a few seconds she continued “... eliminate a threat. You have been a priority on their list for some time now.”
“My mind?” Angela narrowed her eyes “if you think I will aid Talon by any means…”
“I know. They have… other methods” Moira’s voice sounded … distant. Angela tilted her head and searched Moira’s face. She seemed almost uncomfortable.
Angela nodded slowly “and you’re going to bring me to them, perhaps assist them in these methods?”
Moira looked surprised and then her face hardened. Narrow eyes gave her a glance-over before nodding “yes, that is what I am doing, isn’t it? Preparing you to be handed over to the Talon soldiers. Now Dr. Ziegler, I will suggest you behave yourself, or this trip will become most uncomfortable for you.”
Angela raised an eyebrow and tried not to let show how her heart sank in her chest. Was there any way she could get out of this? “We are not staying here?”
“No, indeed we are not. After all I hold an important position here and I do not care to complicate my relations more than needs be. Now” Moira stepped closer to Angela, her face still hard and unwelcome “be a darling and take a deep breath”
“Uninspired to use the same technique twice O’Deorain” Angela glared up at her.
“But so very effective Dr. Ziegler, I would hate to leave any permanent damage to that pretty head of yours… what use would you be to us then?”
Angela had a comeback ready on the tip of her tongue, but the world faded to black before she had a chance to say it.
They traveled for a couple of days.
Angela was kept blindfolded for the majority of the journey, apparently not allowed to see where they were going. Most of the way they had traveled by car, that much she knew.
Now they were in a single room at a small motel, Angela bound and placed on the bed. Moira was not acting right, she seemed to make sure that no one was following them. Had someone noticed her disappearance in Oasis? Perhaps Lena or Winston had found out about her captivity… something must have happened for Moira to keep them under the radar. Talon had more than enough resources and yet here they were at a cheap motel, nothing she would have ever imagined Moira stay at willingly, with worn furniture and only one bed.
The couch made a loud screak in protest as Moira turned to change her position. Angela watched on as the other woman struggled in vain to get comfortable on the old thing, that was in no way long enough for its guest. Her legs were dangling awkwardly over one end, and the couch sounded like it was about to fall apart every time she moved. Which happened more and more frequently.
“This is ridiculous” Angela said, “you are not getting any sleep like that.”
“I am quite fine Dr. Ziegler. Go to sleep” came the curt reply and Angela could just hear how tired Moira was.
“It can’t be good for your back. I know about unhealthy sleeping positions and that is one of them. If not that, you risk getting a crick in the neck. It will make driving a pain in the morning.” Angela continued earning a groan from the other woman.
“Unless you have any helpful suggestions Dr. Ziegler, I advise you stop talking and leave me with just the hope of finding rest, lest you wish to add sleep deprivation to my new collection of injuries.”
“There is a perfectly good bed Moira.”
“You do not wish to take my place Dr. Ziegler”
“No one should sleep on that thing. The bed is big enough to share.”
The room went quiet. Angela had just begun to wonder if Moira had not heard her, when she heard the other woman sit up on the couch.
“You are asking me to join you?”
Angela felt her cheeks heat up and she was thankful for the dim lighting. “We both need to sleep and since you have found us a room with only one suitable place to do so, it seems the only legitimate option.”
Then she heard the couch protest one last time, before Moira left it and moved to the side of the bed. She glanced up at her, she could see the doubt in Moira’s eyes… she rolled her eyes and looked at the wall. “Are you afraid you’ll catch some morals?”
Moira let out an amused huff and the bed dipped beside her "quite the opposite."
“I don’t think it’s possible for you to be any more corrupt” Angela argued, earning a low chuckle from Moira and then she was much closer.
She felt her press against her back, a cold hand came to rest on her hip and hot breath ghosted over her ear “in the world of science dear, anything is possible.”
Angela’s breath caught in her throat, suddenly unable to form a coherent sentence. This made Moira chuckle once more. Then the hand was removed and space was put between them.
Angela cursed herself for being so easily teased and took a calming breath. This was all one big joke to Moira, at Angela’s expense, and she really shouldn’t be surprised. She shook her head and turned around, now face to face with the other woman, who seemed caught off guard by the sudden movement.
“Get the blanket and come here” she instructed.
Moira just looked at her before clearing her throat “excuse me?”
Angela rolled her eyes once more and raised a brow “you’re freezing. Get the blanket and come here. The isolation in this place is terrible, unless we share, one of us will catch a cold.”
Moira let out a deep breath and slowly grabbed the edge of the blanket. She draped it over them but did not move any closer.
Fine. Leave it to the one in ropes.
“Don’t be difficult about this.” Angela interrupted and moved closer until they were once more pressed against each other. Moira was cold! Angela made an accusing sound and pressed further against her.
“This… you don’t have to…”
Angela shook her head “you are absolutely freezing!... unless, am I making you uncomfortable?”
Moira let out another laugh, brighter and less confident this time. “No, this is not making me uncomfortable.”
“Then I don’t see what the problem is, you know I am right. This will be warmer.” Angela closed her eyes to end the discussion.
A moment passed and then Angela felt Moira slowly wrap her arms around her and let out a shaky sigh. Angela frowned and wondered just how cold Moira had been? She leaned into her and rested her head against Moira’s chest. Listened to the heart beating, strong and healthy. Good. She relaxed into the embrace and felt the positive effects of their arrangement already. Her body felt much, much warmer.
Moira’s hand made soft circles on Angela’s back and she quickly, perhaps a little too quickly all things considered, felt herself drift closer to sleep.
“Would it be the worst thing?” Moira’s voice called her back to the present “for me to catch a cold before handing you off to Talon?”
“No” mumbled Angela and focused on the circles Moira was still drawing “pneumonia”
Moira’s surprised laughter filled the room and Angela couldn’t help but smile herself. Satisfied with having made Moira laugh – it was a beautiful sound.
“You really are something Ziegler…”
“Go to sleep Moira”
They had been on the road for two days and Angela was starting to wonder just how far they had to go. Surely Talon should have been able to meet Moira somewhere by now? Even if someone were after them, this whole plan seemed destined to fail. Angela had scarcely heard Moira communicate with anyone either. Maybe she kept it for when she was unconscious, yet… it was odd.
Even more odd was todays drive. For the first time while being on the road, Angela was not wearing the blindfold. They were driving on a long, lonely road in the middle of the desert. She had no idea where they were, and Moira might have figured the same. Even so…
“Is someone after us?” Angela looked over at Moira and she didn’t miss how the other woman’s jaw tightened. She nodded to herself “so there is.”
Moira glanced towards her for just a second and then back at the road “jumping to conclusions are we Dr. Ziegler?”
Angela shook her head “I am getting pretty good at reading you Moira, who’s after us?” she looked back behind them but there was nothing to see but sand and road. They hadn’t passed a car in an hour.
That statement seemed to amuse Moira and she shook her head slightly “are you now? Then come Angela, analyze me, read me. Explain to me the truth you have uncovered with your astute observations.”
Angela let out a small huff and glared at her “mock all you want Moira, but I am not as stupid as you think. You have made sure we were not seen, clearly someone found out about my disappearance and you are unable to use the resources Talon provide. Why? There must be ways for you to contact them and vice versa, this cannot be the fastest way to get me to them.”
“It is interesting witnessing someone so bright, struggle with something so simple” Moira mused.
Angela narrowed her eyes “I know you take great pleasure in belittling me-“
“My dearest Angela” Moira didn’t look at her, but the tone of her voice had shifted. Deep and melancholic. “You do not know me at all.”
Angela blinked and opened her mouth to object, but Moira continued.
“Is that how little you think of me? Is the idea of my wicked being so wholly integrated in your mind that you cannot phantom the very idea that I may not be here to...”
Moira stopped mid-sentence and Angela realized she had been holding her breath.
Moira was staring intently in front of them. Angela quickly followed her gaze and there, in the middle of the road, a black car was moving towards them. Moira glanced behind them, but the car was already getting too close and they were forced to stop.
The other car’s door swung open and a Talon agent stepped out. In his hands a rifle, aimed at Angela. Four other soldiers followed. All Talon members, all carrying weapons.
Moira opened her door and Angela’s eyes were fixed on the gun still pointed at her.
“O’Deorain” the man called, and you could hear the smile in his voice “finally. We have been waiting for you.” He turned his head and looked straight at Angela “so… this is Ziegler? Doomfist will be very happy.”
“You… you killed them.”
The men laid fallen, dead, where Moira had sucked the life from their bodies. It had been terrifying but quick. In one moment Moira had stepped out of the car, the agents confident that they had the situation under control. The very next Moira had merged with the shadows, conjuring dark orbs of deadly energy and stolen their lifeforce.
“An unfortunate interruption” Moira looked towards Angela “are you unharmed?”
“I… yes” Angela didn’t know what to think. “Why?”
“If you required medical attention-“
“No.” Angela frowned and shook her head “no, why did you kill them?”
Moira let out a soft sigh and gave Angela a glance over “bringing you to Talon will do no one any good. You will not cooperate and therefore you will be killed. It is a waste of a valuable resource. A mind that works.”
Everything started to make sense and Angela felt stupid she hadn’t realized sooner. “You’re not bringing me to Talon. You’re taking me away from them. At the conference, you knew I was on their list… you took me to save me?”
Moira straightened her back. “Indeed. Now if you’d return to the car so we can continue-“
“But why?” Angela looked at Moira in confusion “why would you go through the trouble? I mean this… when they find out about this, don’t tell me they would allow it?”
Moira raised an eyebrow “no, I imagine Akande will not be pleased. Which is why I would appreciate if we could hurry-“
“Then what are you going to do? You have been working for them how long? This wasn’t just a small side job to you, you must have … years of unfinished projects within their facilities? And if I’m on their list… then you most certainly will be too, after this?” Angela continued still trying to make sense of it all “you gave up years of work just like that?”
Moira’s jaw tightened and her eyes narrowed “not ‘just like that’ Dr. Ziegler.”
“Why would you do that? To save my mind?” Angela looked at her in disbelief “I don’t believe it. This must have been in your interest too… you talked about other methods? You must have considered that I would break under torture?”
“Yes” Moira said through gritted teeth “I had considered that option.”
“… then why?” Angela looked at Moira, the woman who had sold her soul for knowledge. If Moira would go to such lengths to save her mind, then surely Talon would have agreed to force all information out of her, before killing her?
“Because I love you.”
What? Angela couldn’t have heard correctly. Too lost in her own thoughts, she couldn’t have said… “I’m sorry, what?”
Moira’s body merged into shadows and in a blink she had closed the distance between them. Cold lips were pressed against her own, purposeful and determined. Angela’s mind went blank, all thoughts lost to the sudden sensation. This was not a soft or a gentle kiss. It was one to be felt, one that could not be denied or easily forgotten. It stole her breath away.
Moira broke apart and Angela released a small gasp.
“I love you” Moira said it again, voice loud and clear. Maybe she was dreaming? Maybe she had dozed off in the car and her mind had dared to… dream.
“… you killed them to save me. You risked your life and your work… to save me, because you love me?” Angela’s head felt dizzy. It felt so unreal, and yet it all made sense.
“Yes.” Moira studied her face, searchingly… and then she looked… sad. So very, very sad. It broke Angela’s heart, but was gone as quickly as it had come, hidden away behind an expressionless mask. “We need to leave.”
Angela blinked her eyes, confused by the sudden change “wha-? But…”
“There is an airport nearby, from there you can catch a plane to Sweden. It will be the safest for you, I assume you can stay with Torbjörn’s family for the time being?” Moira had started to walk towards the car and Angela quickly followed behind her.
“To Sweden? Torbjörn… but what about you?” her chest was too tight, and it felt like not enough air reached her lungs.
“Leave that to me. I have a list of suitable locations.”
“But Talon? Won’t they come searching for you?” Angela tried to catch up with Moira, but for each of Moira’s steps Angela had to take two. And the woman was not slowing down.
“I can handle Talon. They know better than to challenge me.” Moira’s voice was hard and cold.
Angela shook her head “Moira it’s too dangerous! What if something happens? You won’t tell me where you’re going? Please-“ she ran to reach Moira’s arm and grabbed it “come with me!”
Moira stopped in her track and Angela almost bumped into her. She looked back at Angela with a slight frown “come with you? Where?”
Angela grabbed Moira’s shoulders and leaned up to finally close the gap. The gap Moira had put between them.
Their lips locked and silenced the startled question from Moira effectively. Angela wrapped her arms around her, pulling her tight, not letting go. Not letting her disappear. She kissed her deep and desperate.
It didn’t take long for Moira to reciprocate.
“Anywhere” Angela answered breathlessly against Moira’s lips “come with me, to Sweden, or somewhere else, don’t just…” she pressed another, softer kiss to her mouth “I love you”
She felt Moira tense up in her arms and their eyes met. Again, those eyes were searching… hopeful and hesitant “you do?”
“Yes, of course” she whispered and reached up to cup Moira’s face “of course I love you”
Moira let out a shaky laugh and shook her head “… of course you say… after I confessed to you twice with no answer”
Angela blushed and cleared her throat “you took me by surprise!” she defended “kissing me and telling me you love me out of the blue-“
“Out of the blue? Angela…” Moira shook her head and smiled down at her “m'aingeal”
Her heart skipped a beat. The way Moira said her name, she’d never seen her smile like that before.
“I love you too”