It had been several hours since a band of kidnappers managed to crack – literally – the security of Root’s office by finding the smallest pressure point in her window that, once hit, would implode inside the room. It would take a super computer to calculate the math that would factor in all those variables to hit the precise spot. And these people had that at their disposal.
Once Root was over the surprise of someone entering through the gaping hole left by the explosion, she quickly sized up who these people could be. She was a brilliant woman who had received threats before, but none made an entrance quite like that. But even their appearance didn’t scare Root. She knew that calmness must prevail if she were going to gather as many clues about them as possible. She was savvy enough to know, if you have a powerful program, someone will want it – and some would do anything to get at it.
In the seconds before the masked men grabbed her, she turned her laptop camera on and faced it towards them. She knew to leave her cell phone on and to memorize height and weight, and listen for the voice tones of her attackers.
But they seemed to be a step ahead of her. They closed her laptop, removed her phone and didn’t speak inside her office. They knew exactly what they were doing, down to the second.
“The program in Mustique?” was the first question she asked her captors when they hustled her to the helicopter. The man behind the mask smiled and Root knew she was right. “Dammit,” she said, chastising herself for not building a broader virus detector into the machine.
“You’re going to be sorry,” she warned him because she was confident about Shaw appearing any second.
“I’m waiting for her,” the man said as the helicopter hovered. “You see, Ms. Groves,” the deep voice said calmly to her over the noise of the rotor blades. “I know your weakness and I will kill her, if you don’t cooperate.”
He then aimed a gun at exactly the spot where Shaw burst through the broken glass to the outer area. She aimed her gun as Root yelled not to do anything. Of course, Shaw couldn’t hear her, but she saw the agony on Root’s face. She feared they had hurt her in the escape, but what they had really done was to threaten her raison d'etre; her very reason for living.
The text was sent to Shaw’s phone and once the boss was satisfied she understood it, the copter took off. Within minutes, Root was roughly transported from the machine to the boat, where she was promptly blindfolded and drugged. She concentrated as best she could to memorize a direction or sounds- anything that might help. Sleep took her over before she could do much of anything.
The kidnappers’ entrance caught the attention of hundreds of people who witnessed it. The FBI considered it an act of terrorism and sent a task force to help.
“Do you have any idea what they were after?” the investigator asked Harold Finch.
He and Root had rehearsed this scenario before; in case anything happened to one of them. Harold was the unlikely target because most people simply associated the brains of BEAR with Root.
“Here is a list of projects we’re working on,” he said, taking it out of his drawer. “But until they contact us, I’m afraid we won’t know if one of these is actually what they’re after.”
The FBI noted that everyone at BEAR was very cooperative.
Except the bodyguard.
Sameen Shaw would not answer their questions and did not say where she was going when she abruptly left the conference room. They didn’t know it, but Shaw didn’t suffer fools well. And Sameen considered pretty much everyone a fool right now.
Reese knew it and he played interference for her and explained that Shaw was too upset to talk.
Upset was not the word he meant, but it would work for the task force.
What Sameen was – was bloodthirsty for revenge.
And John knew she was going to have to put that on the back burner while she worked through her plan. A plan that, Reese, Martine, and Fusco waited to hear about.
“I’m helping her,” Ayala said, loading a gun she had no authority to carry.
“She’d want you to be here, with your mother,” Martine pointed out to her girlfriend. “We don’t’ know who we’re even dealing with.”
Everything in Ayala’s brain told her to go and be with Sameen, but she knew Martine was right. Her mother’s safety was more important than her desire to prove her usefulness to her sister.
“Protect her,” Ayala said, holding onto Martine’s arm.
“With my life,” she promised, causing Ayala to feel gratitude and fear at the same time.
Ayala wanted her mother to go somewhere out of the city, but Azar refused. She knew where she was most needed was to help them with the machine. She needed to write a program that would allow her to see what they were doing in there. Stealth programs were not easy to code and she didn’t want to waste precious time.
If Martine thought she had her hands full convincing Shaw’s sister not to come, she was only going to get another handful when Janine rushed at her.
“Just tell me what I can do, please,” the woman begged.
Martine knew Janine was worried sick. “Stay by your phone. If we need anything, when this goes down, I will contact you,” Martine promised.
“Please, be careful, Martine,” Janine begged. “And don’t let anything…,” but she couldn’t get the words out.
“I know,” Martine said, giving the assistant a much needed hug.
When the sedative wore off, Root woke with a start because of course, she had been dreaming of Shaw and their vacation. The cold air was the first thing that hit her face. She was in a dark and damp room and the smell told her she was near water. She had no idea how much time had passed.
Sameen knew how much time in seconds. She paced and paced until her legs grew tired. She called Fusco for updates, but there were none. Reese suggested she sleep and she agreed, but they both knew she wouldn’t. Bear – was on his best behavior. Fully aware of what was going on; he knew Shaw was his best hope. So, he sat by her quietly and only when she collapsed on the couch, did he approach her and put his head on her leg.
“I’m getting her back,” she said to him and he whined his gratitude.
The hours that passed were sheer torture for Shaw. But she relied on her military training to stay focused. Everyone offered to stay with her, but she refused to allow anyone – except Bear. She knew their friends were trying to help any way they could, but Sameen was certain she would have to do this her way.
Fusco pulled in every favor anyone ever owed him to gather what info he could and to ask for anyone to help out. He knew that he better get something soon, or a kidnapping wouldn’t be his biggest challenge. It would be an armed woman, with little tolerance for her fellow human beings on her best day, hurting and unsure of what to do.
“Usain Bolt carrying nitroglycerin,” was his analogy to Joss Carter, who insisted on working a double.
“Can you talk to her?” Joss asked, knowing that, in spite of his gruff manner sometimes, Shaw listened to Fusco.
“She won’t pick up; won’t let anyone in,” Fusco reported.
“Since when has that ever stopped you?” Joss asked in all seriousness.
“I’ve seen that woman drunk; I’ve seen that woman pissed at the world. I’ve seen her lash out at someone because she was unable to deal with the feelings. But this…,” Fusco shook his head and leaned closer to his friend’s side of the joined desks, “…this is dynamite on speed. Going closer will only get her more upset.”
Shaw’s head bobbed when exhaustion came at her, but she jumped up and started to pace. She looked at her phone and in spite of the directive to wait; there had been no further word from them. Wherever Root was, Shaw hoped that the person who heard her message was giving it to his boss in front of her.
In fact, he was.
“She thinks we’re by an oil refinery?” was the boss’ first question as he sat with Root as she woke up. The words made Root force herself to wake up faster because she knew what those words meant.
“Your girlfriend isn’t as smart as I thought she was,” he spat and Root struggled against the zip ties that held her hands in place. “Oh, I touched a nerve,” the bearded man said and Root could tell he wasn’t speaking behind a mask anymore. Of course, her eyes were covered, so he could remove his.
“A four alarm fire in an oil refinery,” he repeated and saw the tiniest movement of Root’s lips. “Is that her calling card, Ms. Groves?” he asked and Root remained motionless. “Because to be honest, I’m looking forward to meeting her.”
“Don’t you hurt her!” Root shouted, unable to maintain her composure.
“Are you ready to tell us where your machine is?” he asked, sitting back in the chair.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Root tried to buy time.
“Of course you do, Ms. Groves. Do you know how I know?” he asked in a calm voice. There was nothing about it that was familiar to Root. “Because first you sent your former lover away incognito when she failed to secure information. Then, you interrupted your vacation to go to remote location because your machine told you there was activity there. But what you didn’t know, Ms. Groves, is that it was a trap. That activity was there on purpose because we knew whoever knew about the machine would come. And we let you download a program which has rendered your machine practically useless. Now, we just need to get to its hardware so we can reconstruct it,” he explained.
Root was so annoyed at herself for not seeing this beforehand. With great responsibility, comes great danger, she knew and seemed to have forgotten.
“Don’t be hard on yourself,” the man said when he saw Root frown. “Your own bodyguard is about to walk into a trap and she considers herself to be one of the best.”
“Look, she’s no use to you. She doesn’t know about any of the projects I’m working on. I’m the only one who knows anything. So, you might as well get your torture started,” Root said.
“Oh, Miss Groves, you and I have a very different definition of torture. I’m not going to touch you,” he said slowly as he got up and got closer to deliver his verbal blow. “I’m going to touch Ms. Shaw.”
That made Root insane as she struggled to break out of the ties. She had to learn not to react to his threats, but it was hard to do when he mentioned Shaw.
Root had to focus on how to help, once Sameen arrived.
Because Root knew, her Four Alarm Fire… was coming.
Reese was almost as antsy was Shaw. He was walking the streets and wound up at the precinct. “What do you have, Lionel,” Reese asked, having walked in like he owned the joint.
“Well, hello to you, too, Tall, Dark and Bossy,” Lionel said, looking at Joss. “You hear this guy?”
Joss knew both men were tense and would be at each other’s throats any second. “We’re trying, John,” she reminded her boyfriend.
“We can’t just give Shaw any lead. You know she’ll go half-cocked into a blazing fire,” Lionel reminded her coworker.
“I know,” John said, sorry, but unable to say it just yet. “Is there anything?”
“We got guys looking for the boat, but that seems to have disappeared. The helicopter was wiped clean. No prints, no identification numbers. Flew out of a little airport in Jersey right to BEAR,” Joss said.
“We might have something,” Fusco said. “Her mother just texted me some coordinates. Says to look here,” he said and typed in the data.
“Call Shaw first, Lionel,” Reese said in case Fusco was going to follow some protocol. “I’ll go pick her up.”
“Those two,” Fusco shook his head. “They’re like the Mayhem Twins.”
Joss knew she and Fusco were going to be walking a fine line between following procedures, and doing things the BEAR way.
By the time Lionel got Shaw on the phone, John was outside waiting for her. “I’ll drive, Shaw,” he said and didn’t ask. Sameen knew it was the better idea. She threw a large duffle bag in the back seat and got in. All John had to do was take one look at her and he could tell how tightly she was wound. “We need a plan, Shaw,” he gently suggested.
“Here’s my plan; no kneecaps,” Shaw said and now Reese knew she was going to blow this.
“It’s not about where you shoot,” he pointed out. “It’s about not getting anyone on our side hurt.”
He anticipated the response because Shaw was a pot of emotions that had been simmering for hours. Any second, he knew, the lid would blow off. That moment was now.
She turned and grabbed the much taller man who was driving by his jacket lapel. “You think I don’t know that, Reese?” she yelled and he could feel the tremor in her hand.
“All I’m saying, Shaw, is that these guys are smart and we have to be smarter,” Reese said and for once in her life, that calm, even voice was what she needed in order to hear the message.
“How about this…,” Shaw started, “…you cover me, and I’ll blow those sonsov..”
“Okay, see, Shaw, I was hoping for a little more detail. Now look, Lionel will give us a head start, but the FBI and the NYPD will be looking to help, too. So, our moves have to be clean and quick. We are not going to be either if we don’t coordinate a plan,” John reiterated as he drove to the location.
The thing about Reese was that, in spite of the fact his calmness annoyed the hell out of Shaw; she respected him a great deal. This is why she listened to him when he talked.
Reese drove through Manhattan until he crossed over into the Bronx; one of the five boroughs. He stopped when he got to the docks that led to the East River.
Shaw’s phone beeped. ‘Boat waiting for you,’ Lionel’s text read.
“Fusco says there’ll be a boat there,” Shaw relayed.
Reese glanced back at the duffle bag that Shaw brought with her that contained her weaponry. “I hope it’s a big boat,” he said.
“Here’s the plan, Reese,” Shaw said as they walked toward the boat.
Reese had to admit, she had given it some thought.
Root decided to take some deep breaths and calm herself. She had to think this through. They were expecting Shaw. That wasn’t so far-fetched, because anyone who knew them, knew Shaw would come. But they expected her to find them. The odor of the room told her she was in an old and musty building. It must be one of the abandoned islands perhaps, she thought. The problem with this is that it meant it wasn’t their home base because the conditions were not conducive to keeping computer equipment. It was almost as if they were stopping there … and waiting.
And Root was right.
They picked this place to give Shaw a hard time to locate them, until they were ready. Now, that she was on her way – they were more than ready.
Root smiled just the tiniest bit when she thought this all through.
They may have counted on Shaw arriving, but they still didn’t count on one thing.
Shaw … being Shaw.
Truly, Root knew, no one could.