Shaw gazed at the glass of water on Finch’s computer, eyes unfocused as all her attention was diverted towards the steady heartbeat that delicately pulsed against her eardrum. She sighed before she pulled off the stethoscope from Finch’s chest and removed the headphones from her ears.
“This is not normal, Finch,” Shaw groaned for the third time, even though the rhythm was steady and healthy. There was no swaying his will.
Finch buttoned up his shirt quietly, shaking his head. “I told you Ms Shaw, I am perfectly fine,” he insisted, ignoring the trembling of his hands. He readjusted his collar, again, and Shaw frowned.
“You really don’t look fine,” she argued, setting aside the stethoscope and staring at him, as if her eyes could penetrate his skin like x-rays and find the problem. He shivered under her cold gaze, but Shaw didn’t stop; it wasn’t the first time she had made Finch uncomfortable, anyway.
From his cushion, Bear whined lightly, as if agreeing, and Shaw lifted an eyebrow. Finch spared the dog a glance before he returned his attention to Shaw; “the doctors already examined me, and they haven’t found anything wrong.”
It didn’t have the intended impact; the saying was meant to reassure Shaw, but it only served to feed her worry. Instead of giving up, Shaw crossed her arms and glared.
“People don’t lose sight over nothing, Finch,” she retorted, and he flinched at the words. It had him tremendously worried, this momentary blindness that has seized him earlier right in the middle of class, yet he didn’t say anything to Shaw about the hot flashes he had been having earlier, too. There was no need to worry her more than she already was.
“I assure you Ms Shaw, my sight has fully returned since then,” he replied, moving away the glass of water she had ordered him to drink a few minutes ago.
Shaw was slightly annoyed at how he was avoiding the conversation, but she allowed for a small respite. The worry still tugged at her mind, but they hadn’t received a number to work today, and for that she was grateful; as much as she was that she had the instinct to come by the station this morning after her morning run.
She heard someone coming in, the familiar clinking of heels on the tiles, and even though she could guess who it was, Shaw pulled out her gun, just to be safe. She walked towards the sound, frowning when the footsteps stopped for a moment, and then returned.
Bear lifted his head in surprise and then ran towards the intruder, his tail wiggling joyfully as he cuddled against Root’s legs with enthusiasm.
“Well, someone’s happy to see me,” she flirted, her eyes playfully boring into Shaw’s.
Shaw glared at her, letting the arm holding the USP compact fall to her side. “Sure, if you can speak some sense into Finch,” she started with a shrug, but was cut off by Bear’s sudden barking.
He growled furiously towards the entrance Root had just appeared from, and where now stood a woman in a trench coat who held up a firearm aimed at Root’s back. Shaw quickly lifted her USP, ready to shoot.
“Call back your dog,” the stranger ordered Shaw, barely glancing towards her. “Now.”
Shaw took a step towards Bear, who continued growling, but the woman shook her head, her curly hair falling on her shoulders. “Don’t move.”
A quick assessment of the threat convinced Shaw to stay still. She didn’t recognise the weapon; from where she was standing it barely looked like a gun, only had the shape of it. But the woman held it as if ready to fire, and Shaw thought that it was unnecessary to tempt the crazy. She glanced at Root, not seeing any trace of worry or alarm in her face, and therefore Shaw decided to wait.
Root silenced the dog in one authoritative word, stil, quickly adding a short zit. Bear immediately sat at her feet as if a soldier waiting for orders, and only then Root turned around, lifting her hands in the air.
“There’s really no need for that,” Root spoke with a smile and a warm voice, like the woman was familiar to her, but something twitched in her traits; as if seeing her was causing her pain.
Shaw frowned, taking a step forward only to be stopped by a menacing glance from the stranger. She guessed Root had things under control, and spared a look to Finch, making sure he was alright. Apart from being utterly confused, he hadn’t moved from his office chair, and he probably looked helpless to anyone else, but Shaw knew he was ready to move if needed be.
All of that told Shaw that it was better to stay put for now. From where she stood she had a clear shot anyway; although it meant the other woman had one too.
A man appeared behind her, running and almost breathless, but he didn’t appear to be armed. He wasn’t all that muscular but he was built up a bit, yet nothing Shaw couldn’t handle in a fight if needed be. She closed her fist. “Mykes what the –”, he seemed to notice the situation and lifted his hands in the air. “Woa hey, don’t shoot!”
Root’s eyes lingered on the woman before they moved onto him, eyes narrowing slightly. Shaw recognised the focused expression and guessed the Machine was talking to her, and although Shaw couldn’t know what the Machine was telling Root she felt a little relieved that they were getting information.
“Myka,” Root finally spoke, like a parent punishing a child, “it’s really not nice to point a gun at your sister.” Root shook her head, but no matter how detached she tried to sound, Shaw recognised the wavering sound of worry. “Is that even a gun?” she mocked. She stepped forward with a curious grin and the woman lowered her gun slightly.
“Did you say sister?” Finch and Shaw asked at the same time.
“Jinx!” the man behind Myka beamed at them, smiling and pointing like they were suddenly best friends.
Shaw glared at him, guessing Finch did the same, and then at Root. “Root, what’s going on?”
Root didn’t turn around to address her, but when she let out a quiet, “it’s okay, Shaw,” Shaw slowly lowered her gun, sharing a confused look with Finch.
“Ms Groves, who are these people?” Finch questioned just as a third person appeared from the same entrance; a young woman with a red streak in her hair.
“Ms Groves?” Myka frowned. “You’re using your old name again, Tracy?”
The mention of the name stunned Root for a moment, and although Shaw usually relished on finding her speechless, this time she wasn’t feeling smug about it. It only furthered her worry.
“Tracy?” Shaw repeated, walking closer, gun still firmly in hand. This time Myka didn’t ask her to stay still, and Shaw guessed that she found safety in numbers. It didn’t bother her; she found it was always better to be underestimated.
Root flinched at the sound before she composed herself, a crazy glint in her eyes. “Well this is quite the family reunion,” she cheered with a fake voice. “And I see you brought Pete with you again.”
“What the hell is going on?” Myka nearly yelled, evidently not amused by the situation, and Root winced.
“Well for one thing, it looks like your sister’s even hotter without the baby mama vibe,” Pete smirked, waving his hand about, as if trying to get Myka’s attention on Root’s tight-fitted outfit.
He kept on nodding in appreciation until the younger woman by his side sent her elbow into his ribs, hard. “Pete, you’re not helping,” she warned him.
“Ms Groves, I think you owe us quite the explanation,” Finch insisted, still sitting at his desk, his calm voice echoing slightly on the walls of the empty subway station.
Root grimaced before she answered. “Myka here is my foster sister,” she clenched her jaw. “When we lived together in Colorado, I went by Tracy Bering.”
“Another alias; great,” Shaw welcomed the new information with sarcasm, annoyed. It bothered her not to know why three strangers now stood in their safe house, but Root only rolled her eyes.
Letting out a short sigh, Root continued. “And this is her partner, Special Agent Pete Lattimer.”
“Special Agent?” Shaw interrupted again, turning her attention to Pete. “What’s the Secret Service doing here?”
Root glared at Shaw, irritated that she had been disrupted in her speech, but then turned towards Myka. “I really don’t know,” she insisted on the syllables with an accusing tone. “Last I checked, you were stationed in South Dakota.”
Myka flinched. “It seems like I’m not the only liar in the family,” she retorted, her voice wavering in hurt and anger. “Why aren’t you home in Colorado?”
For a moment, Root looked like she was going to run out the door and never come back. Instead, she sighed and averted her eyes. “It was a lie, Myka. All of it,” she admitted, her gaze finally meeting Myka’s. “Tracy Bering was just another alias to me. Another role to play.”
“But you have a boyfriend, Kevin,” Myka started, trying to make sense of things.
Root winced at the mention. “He never existed.”
“And the baby?” Myka’s voice cracked slightly.
“Well, dear old Tracy was starting to be a bit boring,” Root confessed with a nod, scrunching up her nose at the remembrance. “I thought it would make her more interesting. It was a lot of work, though. A lot of preparation.”
Anger flashed in Myka’s eyes just as her closed fist found its way to Root’s jaw, punching her hard. Root let out a small cry of pain and then rubbed at her cheek. “Why does everyone do that?” she muttered, pouting.
“It’s ‘cause you’re annoying,” Shaw replied, and Root glared at her.
The young woman with the red streak took a step forward, raising a hand like a student waiting for a teacher’s attention. “Hum, hi?” she cleared her throat nervously, her eyes running from Finch to Shaw. “Claudia Donovan,” she named herself, “also an agent but not special.”
Shaw frowned, which only seemed to make Claudia more nervous. “Well I don’t mean special like a special snowflake, I mean Special like these two are Special Agents. I mean, I work with them but I don’t have a badge or anything.”
Finch chose this moment to rise from his chair, his movements slow and seemingly painful. “Working to what end, exactly?”
Frowning at the sight, Shaw tried to ignore her worries over Finch’s health; they had more pressing matters to resolve. Those three didn’t look like Samaritan agents, but they very much could be anyway, and the thought didn’t sit well with Shaw.
“That’s confidential,” Pete turned his attention to Finch. “All you need to know is, we’re here to help.”
The phrase sounded oddly familiar and Shaw cringed, thinking of how many times she had replied the same vague answer to a number. She didn’t like being kept in the dark and her fingers tightened their hold around her USP.
“Help with what?” Root was genuinely frowning, which meant the Machine hadn’t told her the purpose of those strangers’ presence, just their identities. Shaw wasn’t sure she was comfortable with that, either.
“We’re here to help him,” Claudia pointed towards Finch, closing the distance to his desk. “Dude, b-t-w, I dig the set-up,” she smiled at him, gazing at the computer screens. Finch quickly typed a code on his keyboard and all screens turned black, and Claudia raised her heads once again. “You’re a private person, I respect that.”
She pulled a laptop from her bag and opened it in one swift movement. It was only once Pete and Myka had joined her beside Finch that Root and Shaw finally moved as well, sharing a worried look. As they stood behind the others, Shaw noticed something peeking out of Root’s pocket; a syringe that Shaw guessed was filled with barbiturates. Root always carried one just like Shaw hid a knife in her boot, and the sight brought her some relief at the thought that the two of them could deal with whatever threat those three represented.
“Here,” Claudia almost cheered as she pulled up a video on her laptop, turning up the volume.
The footage wasn’t high quality; probably captured by a cellphone’s camera. It showed a large classroom, and perhaps because the cameraman kept shaking, it took a moment for Shaw to recognise Finch. Professor Whistler apparently had a breakdown in the middle of teaching his class, suddenly having trouble breathing, stumbling on his way out the door like he was blind. One or two students had come to help, but one of his pupils had been nice enough to document the event and add the video on social media, with the caption Old man loses it. Shaw clenched her jaw, promising herself she would pay the kid a visit some time.
“What happened?” Root asked Finch, worried, her gaze alternating between him and Shaw.
None of them answered and Root shook her head, grabbing Claudia’s laptop instead.
“Hey, that’s mine,” Claudia protested, but Root ignored her, typing fast. Claudia leaned in, trying to look at what Root was doing. “But that’s kinda cool,” she smirked.
“It doesn’t seem like your cover’s been blown,” Root muttered, closing the laptop and shoving it back into Claudia’s arms.
Finch sighed. “I had already made sure of that, Ms Groves.”
Silence fell into the station as Pete, Myka and Claudia exchanged confused looks. Before they could ask, Shaw cleared her throat.
“Okay, so he’s sick,” she stated the obvious, suddenly self-conscious about the sweat drying on her skin from her previous run. “What is it? Virus? Biochemicals?”
There was no answer, and Shaw started losing patience, heat blazing on her cheeks. “Finch got infected with something?”
This time, Myka nodded. “In a way,” she vaguely replied, grimacing. She turned to Finch. “Have you been in contact with anything... old or odd recently?”
Gazing quietly at their surroundings, Finch frowned. “Look around you, Ms Bering...”
“It’s Agent Bering,” Myka corrected him with a tight-lipped smile, and Shaw scuffed.
“I see the family resemblance,” Shaw muttered under her breath.
Root rolled her eyes, but chose to ignore her otherwise. “What are we looking for? I’m guessing it isn’t airborne?”
She stared them down and only then Shaw seemed to notice the lack of equipment and the absence of proper protection against contagious agents.
“Something like that,” Pete uneasily answered, obviously hesitant about what he was allowed to reveal or not. The three of them were dodgy at best, and Shaw was starting to feel restless about the whole thing.
“What the hell is going on?” she insisted more firmly, her voice echoing against the station’s walls and tiles, reaffirming her frustration.
Myka took one look at her colleagues, seemingly trying to make a decision, but during that time, Shaw raised her gun on her. “You should just tell me, before I make you.”
The threat seemed to suspend time, with Pete and Claudia worriedly gazing at Myka while Finch and Root tensed up.
After a few seconds, Root bit her lower lip, flinching. “Shaw,” she leaned down, her voice concerned and low, “please.”
Shaw stared into her eyes for a moment, searching for answers she knew Root didn’t have. Still, she lowered her weapon, ignoring her own instincts.
Myka cleared her throat. “It’s hard to explain,” she started, glancing at Pete.
“We hunt down weird stuff that does bad things and store it away so it doesn’t hurt people,” Pete continued with a shrug, like it made perfect sense.
Claudia sighed loudly, but before she could add something, Root interrupted her.
“Artefacts,” she breathed out, and by the way the others looked startled, Shaw could tell she was onto something. “Objects charged with significant amount of emotion and meaning, imbuing them with unnatural powers or abilities,” she explained, eyes narrowed as she seemingly repeated the Machine’s words. “They are often created at important historical events,” she continued reciting.
Shaw frowned. “That’s just crazy sci-fi bullshit.”
Root ignored her, still listening to the voice in her implant. “The Machine says they’re all kept in a warehouse... in South Dakota.” She lifted her gaze at that, staring into Myka’s eyes as if looking for the truth.
“Are you kidding me?” Shaw nearly yelled. “How would we not know about this?”
Claudia, Pete and Myka exchanged looks as Root ran a hand through her hair. “Some secrets are well kept, Sameen.”
Shaw glared at her, but Root had made a point, and so she stopped arguing even though she wasn’t entirely convinced.
“I can’t believe She never told me about this,” Root frowned, and then turned towards Myka. “And that you kept that from me,” she shook her head, somewhat disappointed.
Myka raised an eyebrow, irritated. “Seriously? I don’t think you have grounds for being mad at me right now.”
Root crossed her arms. “You lied to me about your job, Myka.”
“And you didn’t?” she retorted, gesturing to indicate their surroundings and how bizarre Root’s life seemed to her.
“I have my reasons,” Root pouted.
Myka laughed bitterly. “Well so have I,” she swallowed hard, obviously angry. “I don’t even know who you are.”
Root only rolled her eyes and sighed. “God you’re just as annoying as you were when we were kids.”
“I’m annoying?” Myka challenged, waving her weapon about. “I’m annoying?”
The already tensed atmosphere in the station charged with electricity and Pete stepped forward, grabbing the gun from Myka’s hand. “Ladies, as much as I appreciate a girl fight, maybe we could set this one aside?” he suggested and was rewarded with a glare.
Choosing to ignore his warning, Myka turned to Root again. “I can’t believe you of all people would think I’m annoying.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Root argued, but before she could go on, Shaw spun her around, pulling on her sleeve roughly.
“You think maybe your reunion thing could wait?” Shaw grunted, pointing towards Finch, who leaned on his desk like he was about to pass out. When Root sighed, Shaw tugged on her clothes again. “I don’t know who Tracy is, but she’s being a pain in the ass right now.”
Root gritted her teeth but didn’t reply; instead she simply nodded. “And aren’t you hot in that thing?” Shaw asked, looking at Root’s leather jacket. She caught sight of Root’s smug smile and quickly added; “don’t answer that.”
Shaw had finally managed to get Finch to sit back in his chair and drink some water when she turned towards Pete, Myka and Claudia again. As she had been busy taking care of Finch, the three of them had put on bright purple gloves, and Shaw had decided not to ask what for.
“So, artefacts huh?” she grunted, pulling on her t-shirt; because of the sweat it glued to her uncomfortably, not helping with the unease she was feeling at the thought of three strangers inspecting their safe house. “What’s up with that? They’re weapons?”
Pete cracked his fingers and neck, looking around like he was ready to take the place apart. “It depends,” he only stated, but under Shaw’s glare he continued, “I mean, they do anything from dancing pigeons to turning you into an elastic man – woman,” he corrected himself. “They all have a downside, and it’s not pretty. A lot of them make you explode some way or another.”
“That thought isn’t very reassuring,” Finch commented, his breathing turning out more like a series of painful hisses.
“But this one probably doesn’t,” Myka rushed to say, although she didn’t sound convinced. “Cause bursting,” she unnecessarily specified, twisting her hands and looking down.
Root ignored her, choosing to address Claudia instead. “Do we know what kind of object we’re looking for?”
The avoidance was noticed and Myka huffed in annoyance, but under Pete’s glare she didn’t say anything about it.
“There’s no easy way to tell; we’ve seen pretty much everything,” Claudia replied. “Gloves, chairs, lab coats,” she started listing, lighting up as she snapped her fingers. “Oh, a boat...”
“Mirrors,” Myka pointed out, continuing the enumeration. “Cuff links, spears, typewriters...”
“And we’ve got Green Lantern’s ring,” Pete butted in, and the two girls stopped to stare at him. “What? We do!”
Shaw sighed in irritation, pinching the bridge of her nose. It seemed to her like nothing they said made much sense. “Okay, well we need to find what it is, and then what?”
“Then, you let us do our job,” Pete nodded seriously.
“Yeah, okay,” Shaw smiled sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
Myka pulled on her gloves nervously, like they were making her uncomfortable. “I think we should start by retracing his steps,” she suggested, her eyes glancing towards Root. When nobody disagreed Myka went to kneel in front of Finch, her face warming up slowly.
Blinking as if he was in pain, Finch shivered, his breathing still scarce. He squinted his eyes like he couldn’t make out Myka’s silhouette against the rest of the station.
“I wish we could let you rest,” Myka started with a soft voice, “but we need to know more so that we can help you.”
Her tone was warm and soothing, and it seemed to calm Finch a little as he nodded in agreement.
“Do you remember any odd objects you might’ve come across recently? Anything new that might’ve appeared?”
Finch shook his head and swallowed hard. When Myka moved to stand again he pulled on her sleeve, forcing her down. He cleared his throat, but his voice remained weak and pained. “We have been emptying the spare room.”
“Thank you,” Myka smiled, squeezing his hand lightly, like a promise that things would turn out okay. She turned towards Root, eyebrows raised. “The spare room?”
Shaw lighted up at the thought of having something to do. “Oh yeah, it’s a storage space, filled with old junk.”
As they walked down the platform, guided by Shaw, they barely heard Root’s whispered promise that they would be back quickly, but no one could miss her authoritative Dutch command, ordering Bear to guard Finch while they were gone.
Pushing open the heavy metal door, Shaw entered the room without a problem despite the crates that crowded the space. She expertly made her way towards the middle to turn on the light, pulling on a string attached to a rusty caged work light that dangled from the ceiling, barely lighting up the corners of the storage space. In between four cement walls, stacks of boxes cohabited with old neon lights and various signs. In one corner, they could make out the silhouette of power tools that hadn’t been used in decades.
“Finch and I have been trying to get everything sorted,” Shaw explained.
“It could be anything in this room,” Myka frowned, evidently a bit discouraged.
Instead of giving into the gloomy ambiance, Pete rubbed his hands together, faking anticipation. “We better crack out the goo sprays.”
Shaw glared at him. “Goo sprays?” she repeated, closing her fists. She was starting to lose her patience when Claudia butted in, shaking her head; “don’t ask.”
Claudia pulled out what looked like a radar speed gun from her bag, which granted her another cheer from Pete. “Durational spectrometer, nice!”
Under Root and Shaw’s irritated glare, he explained. “It shows stuff that happened before... you’ll see.”
He moved aside to allow more space for Claudia, who walked in the tiny room and turned on the device. It didn’t make any sound as the blue light ran over the objects without showing anything different, and Claudia sighed. She toyed with the settings rapidly before she lifted the spectrometer again, shedding the light towards the back of the room. As the blue light brushed the floor she found movement, and she raised the device towards it.
An awkward silence fell in the room when the ghostly image of Root and Shaw appeared; Root was pressed against the wall as Shaw tugged her hair, pulling her down into a heated kiss.
Claudia and Pete stared, mouths open in disbelief or surprise, while Root crossed her arms, looking smug as she watched her past self making out with Shaw. It was only when Shaw groaned in frustration that Myka finally cleared her throat, pinching the top of her nose; “Claudia, maybe this isn’t relevant?”
“Yeah,” Claudia seemed startled by the sound of Myka’s voice, her cheeks reddening wildly. She let the spectrometer return to the floor as she toyed with the settings again. “Man, that’s about as bad as the time I caught you and HG in the –”
“That’s really not something you need to share with the class,” Myka cut her off, faking a smile even though her eyes screamed murder.
Root chuckled. “I’d like to know what she was going to say,” she teased.
Pete stepped in. “Let’s not,” he winced. “Myka’s like a sister to me, I really don’t need to hear about that kind of thing.”
“Myka is my sister,” Root mocked him; “you’re just a prude.”
“Am I?” Myka asked, her voice cold and sharp. “Your sister, I mean?”
Silence fell into the storage space once again, heavy and uncomfortable, and Claudia cleared her throat. “Maybe you two can...” she gestured vaguely towards the rest of the room before she gave Myka the spectrometer. “And we’ll be...”
“Somewhere else,” Shaw finished her sentence, leaving the room quickly, but not before she glared at Root.
Alone, the two sisters didn’t speak, averting their eyes. Myka modified the settings of the spectrometer once again, deliberately ignoring Root. The blue light returned, still not showing anything other than a rat running in the corner.
Root breathed out an apologetic “Myka.”
“I’m not sure I want to hear it, Trace,” Myka sighed, shaking her head as she continued to examine the room, faking concentration more than anything else.
“It’s Root,” she corrected. “My name is Root.”
Myka huffed. “That’s not a name.”
“See? I knew you’d say that,” Root argued, angry and hurt.
“So what?” Myka dropped the spectrometer and turned to face her sister instead. “You never told me who you were because you knew I’d say that?”
Root worried at her lip for a moment, keeping her eyes firmly anchored in Myka’s. “I wasn’t a very good person,” she flinched, glancing at the pale blue light that still brightened up the floor between them. “I did things,” she swallowed hard and averted her eyes. “Things I’m not proud of.”
Myka’s voice came through Root’s implant distorted and unfamiliar. “What did you do?”
The genuine concern made Root wince, and she shook her head. “Maybe we should just focus on saving Harry,” she suggested faintly, faking a smile.
Although she didn’t seem convinced, Myka nodded. “Yeah, of course,” she agreed, lifting the durational spectrometer once again. As if on cue, the faint blue image of Finch appeared, showing him entering the storage space and going through a row of boxes, one at a time. He moved the contents from one box to the other, patient and concentrated, and Myka frowned. “Claudia?”
Claudia appeared at the door almost instantly, which startled both sisters. “Yeah?”
“Tell me you brought a few cans of neutralizer with you,” she turned off the spectrometer and gave it back to Claudia.
“Never leave home without it,” Claudia beamed, returning the device to her bag and then pulling out a few cans of spray out of it.
Root grimaced. “How big is this bag?”
Claudia smirked. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Shaw appeared besides her, sharing a look of irritation and incredulity with Root before she stepped aside, allowing Pete to enter the room.
“Okay, we just spray everything he touched?” Pete confirmed the plan, grabbing one of the cans.
As Myka nodded, Root scowled. “Wait, didn’t you have that the last time you came to visit?”
Myka shared a guilty look with Pete, which only furthered Root’s suspicions. “You were acting weird that day, and I was feeling strange and confused, like I was on drugs but I wasn’t,” Root stopped then, rising her eyebrows in surprise. “I was affected by an artefact, wasn’t I?”
“Okay, now’s not a good moment to discuss that time you were whammied,” Myka answered, as if irritated by Root’s sudden realisation.
“Whammied?” Shaw repeated with an incredulous frown.
Pete laughed as he started spraying the contents of the box in front of him. “Oh you were going cuckoo alright,” he said, grimacing at a cloud of dust that fell from a tin cup. “Tried to kill your sister and everything.”
“If I had tried to kill Myka she would be dead,” Root argued in frustration, and Shaw nudged her with her elbow, as if telling her to shut up. “What? It’s true.”
Myka shook her head, spraying the rusty tools in one of the crates Finch had examined before. “Well you put poison in my tea.”
“Poison?” Shaw reiterated, mocking. “What, you didn’t have a taser on you?”
Root sulked. “I was whammied,” she argued. “I didn’t have all my head apparently.”
“Artefacts tend to do that,” Claudia told her as she finished with the contents of one box and moved to the other. “They can make people do horrible things.”
An uncomfortable silence fell in the room as Myka sent a sad smile towards Claudia, one soothing hand reaching for her shoulder. Unsettled by the show of affection, Root turned towards Shaw, finding her leaning against the doorframe with her eyes closed.
“Shaw,” Root breathed out, concerned. Shaw blinked before she looked at her. “How’s Harry holding up?”
Before Shaw could answer, Pete happily yelled; “I smell fudge!” He cheered, holding up a large, rusty metal spike in his hand. “It’s like the one we found in Denver, right?” he asked Myka and she smiled at him, nodding.
He sprayed it with neutralizer, but there was no reaction. Claudia frowned. “Bag?”
“Just to be safe,” he replied, slightly less enthusiastic. Claudia pulled out a silver bag from her pocket and offered it to Pete. The three of them ducked as Pete dropped the nail inside, stressed as if they were expecting an explosion of some kind, but nothing happened.
Root and Shaw shared a look of confusion.
“False alarm,” Myka declared. “Back to boxes.”
As the three Warehouse agents returned to work, Shaw cleared her throat.
“So, this thing,” she started, ignoring the way Root’s eyes burned holes in her cheek, “can it spread from person to person, like a contagion?”
Myka didn’t lift her gaze from her task. “Usually you’d have to have contact with the artefact itself, but I guess everything is possible.”
Shaw took a step back, crossing her arms. “Until we know, I think Finch and I should just stay isolated then.”
Root’s stomach twisted. “Shaw, what’s going on?”
Shaking her head, Shaw faked a smile and shrugged. “Kind of feeling hot right now,” she replied with scarce breaths. “Also it’s getting dark in here.”
“Shaw,” Root’s voice didn’t hide her fear very well.
Stepping away again, Shaw insisted; “we should just play it safe.” Her eyes were unfocused as she indicated the other end of the platform. “I’ll bring him in the back room, the one with the cot.”
“You’re going to need help transporting him,” Pete told her, dropping the can into a box and stepping out of the storage space.
Shaw shook her head to disagree, pulling her sleeves up as she burned up. “I’ll take care of it myself.”
Pete glanced at her forearm, noticing the tattoo. “Hey, you’re a Marine?”
Frowning, Shaw hesitated. “Was a Marine,” she answered. She looked at him up and down, as if seeing him in a new light. “You?”
He nodded before he winced. “Haven’t been in a long time, though.”
Shaw waited a few seconds before she replied. “Yeah, me neither.”
“Look, unless Bear over there can double as a seeing-eye dog,” he started, “I think you’ll need a hand.” His voice wasn’t shaking or joking this time, and he kept a straight face as he continued. “With the gloves I’ll be fine.”
When Shaw didn’t argue and just sighed before she left, Pete followed behind without another word. Root gazed at them before she turned to Myka with a worried frown. “Harold usually takes the subway to get here.”
Myka seemed to immediately understand where she was going with that information. “Claud?” she asked, but Claudia already had taken out her laptop.
“On it,” she replied, typing quickly. From where she stood, Root watched as Claudia hacked into the NYC police feeds and then the city’s department of health, scrolling through employees’ emails rapidly. “Doesn’t seem like there’s been an outburst,” Claudia informed both sisters, “I’ll set up an alarm just in case.”
Setting one crate aside, Myka turned to Root. “Trace,” she started, and stopped. “I mean, Sam. Well, no,” she looked embarrassed as she ran a hand through her curls. “Root. I mean Root.”
The name sounded strange coming from her, and Root winced. “Yes?”
“Is this the only room like this?” Myka asked, grabbing another box and starting to spray its contents again.
Root shook her head. “It’s the one they have been working on cleaning out recently, but there are a half-dozen more down the corridor.”
Frowning, Myka sighed. “Nothing’s reacting.”
Claudia had already shoved her laptop back in her bag and returned to the tedious task, trying to sound cheerful. “Well it has to be in here, right?”
Not liking the sound of that, Root crossed her arms. “Anything I can do?”
“We got it ma’am,” Pete joked as he reappeared, making his voice lower like he wanted to sound more impressive than he was. “Please step aside,” he grinned, “and let the pros handle it.”
He winked and Root frowned, sharing a look with Myka. “I don’t like him,” she pointed towards Pete.
Myka scrunched up her nose. “Well, in time he kind of grows on you.”
“Like mold,” Claudia agreed, and Pete lifted his hands in the air.
“Hey girls, I’m standing right here,” he pouted, grabbing his can of neutralizer and going back to work.
As they continued to joke around, Root made herself scarce, quietly walking away. With worry nested in her gut she went to sit by the tracks, letting her legs fall, her feet not touching the rails. She thought of Finch’s pained breath and of Shaw burning up, and wondered for a moment if the tightening of her chest was also a symptom. In her implant, the Machine informed her of her internal temperature – still average – before She started buzzing historical facts about the station again.
It was nothing of consequence, but still the dates and events made Root feel a little better, knowing the Machine was also doing her best to help. Bear appeared beside her, his cold nose bumping her side and she smiled at him, her eyes watering.
“They’re going to be okay, boy,” she promised him, and felt her voice waver.
Bear whined and Root ran her hand down his back, his warm fur familiar and soothing. She nodded as if she had just agreed to some unspoken deal, and returned to her feet only to follow Bear towards the back of the station.
“Hey,” Root whispered softly as she leaned on the doorframe, trying to hide her worry at the sight of Shaw sitting on the ground, obviously in pain.
“What?” Shaw grunted, wiping the sweat from her forehead. “No telling of how hot I look?”
Root didn’t smile at the joke; instead she glanced at Finch, resting on the cot, either asleep or unconscious.
“I don’t dig the sweat all that much,” Root forced her lips into a grin, and Shaw pushed herself off the floor, crossing her arms in front of her. She walked towards the entrance with hesitation, like she couldn’t see her surroundings very well, and stopped a few steps away from Root.
“Any news yet?” she asked, sending a worried look towards Finch.
Shaking her head, Root averted her eyes. She felt a lump in her throat and focused on her breathing, knowing it would only make Shaw furious if she started crying.
“Well then, what the hell are you doing here?” Shaw’s voice reached Root, more concerned than angry, and she blinked.
Clearing her throat, Root bit her lower lip. “Shaw, I –”
“I don’t want to hear it, Root,” Shaw cut her off. “Look, I’ve been through worse, okay? I’m not letting some weird, supernatural virus kill me off.”
Root swallowed hard and forced a smile before she stared into Shaw’s eyes again. “Okay.”
Taking one look towards Finch, Root flinched.
“He’s going to be fine too,” Shaw promised just as Bear jumped on the cot, lying down on Finch’s legs.
Nodding, Root breathed in deeply. “It doesn’t seem to be contagious,” she told Shaw, her voice still shaking slightly. “No one else is affected.”
“That’s good,” Shaw encouraged her, although she sounded hesitant. “Why aren’t you helping them, Root?”
Root faked a smile. “I can’t stay in there, Sam,” she answered. I don’t belong with them was what she couldn’t say, but Shaw heard it loud and clear, Root knew. “And you’re not contagious.”
She took a step forward and Shaw sighed, taking a step back. “You don’t know that for sure.”
“You said we’d find the cure in time,” Root replied. “If we are going to save you then there’s no worry about me, is there?”
“Root,” Shaw warned. “Don’t do this.”
Not listening to reason, Root came closer. “We’ll be okay,” she whispered, but Shaw knew Root didn’t believe that. She moved aside.
Before Shaw could add anything else, Myka appeared at the entrance of the room.
“Hey,” she breathed out cheerfully, and then frowned. “Am I interrupting something?”
“No,” Shaw replied, furious, as she returned to her spot on the floor beside Finch’s bed. Root glared at her before she turned to face her sister.
Myka hesitated. “Okay...” she started, awkward. “Well, Claudia has an idea, and we thought you might want to be there,” she told Root, flashing a smile.
Silently agreeing, Root sent one last worried look towards Shaw before she exited the room, following Myka down the platform.
“So,” Myka cut the silence, “you two are...?”
Root averted her eyes. “I don’t know.”
Her hesitation seemed to warm up Myka, who tried a soft smile as she nudged her sister with her elbow. “But you like her.”
Root nodded, grimacing.
“And she likes you.” It wasn’t a question, and somehow that made Root wince even more.
“She tolerates me,” she corrected, and Myka smiled wider.
“Well you are hard to live with, so...” she joked, and Root shook her head as she poked Myka’s side, the gesture familiar and playful. The two sisters froze for a moment, awkward, and they stepped into the storage room with a common sigh of relief.
Claudia had put on a large lab coat over her clothes, and protective glasses rested on her head just above her red streak. She held out her palm, showing them a transparent sphere filled with a purple mixture. “Behold, the goo bomb,” she announced proudly before she set the device on the floor carefully.
“Now, that might not be enough to neutralise the artefact,” she explained.
“But we’re looking for any kind of reaction that might show us what it is,” Myka continued.
Pete’s eyes went from the explosive device to their clothes; “we might want to step back?”
Claudia nodded and they all moved towards the door, all eyes on the goo bomb. “We should be fine here,” she told the others who stood just behind her.
Pushing a tiny button, Claudia activated her invention, cheerfully listening as it beeped a few times, announcing the countdown. Seconds later it exploded, splashing the purple goo all over the room and all the way to them, dripping on their faces and clothes.
It took a moment of incredulous silence before Myka complained. “We should be fine here?” she repeated, wiping the sticky substance off her cheek.
Claudia shrugged, taking off the dirty lab coat and protective glasses. She had some goo in her hair, but didn’t seem to mind.
“I don’t see anything,” she stated, examining the contents of the room a little bit closer.
Myka followed her in. “Me neither, but that’s because I have goo in my eyes.”
Claudia rolled her eyes. “Everyone’s a critic.”
As Pete joined in the search Root leaned against the doorframe, trying to get the cold, sticky goo off her shirt. Since she had stayed behind the others she wasn’t dripping like Myka, but her clothes were stained nonetheless. She sighed as she looked inside, hoping Claudia’s solution would lead them to the artefact.
Root ran a hand through her hair, finding a spot of purple goo in there too and she lifted her eyes in annoyance. She noticed sparks coming from the rusty work light and frowned.
“This goo of yours,” she asked the agents, “does it react to heat?
Claudia stopped in her tracks, turning around. “No, why?”
Following Root’s gaze, the three Warehouse agents smirked. The goo that had landed on the caged work light sparkled and sizzled, and then fell to the ground.
“Gotcha,” Pete grinned, grabbing a crate beside him and placing it right under the light.
As he climbed on it, Root remembered. “Harry tried to change the light bulb but the cage was jammed in place,” she recalled, “Shaw said she’d fix it.”
Pete grabbed the rusty work light carefully, turning it off. Just below him, Myka held open a silver static bag.
“You better close your eyes,” Claudia warned Root.
Seconds later, it looked like a firework was exploding in Pete’s hand and Root hid her eyes in the crook of her arm, the light blinding as she heard the sparks slowly dying, a dry smell of dust and smoke filling her lungs before it all vanished.
She blinked, taking one look at her sister. In the darkness she could barely see Myka’s smile. “Is that it?” Root asked, hesitant.
Myka appeared beside her, gleaming. “That’s it.”
Bear had refused to leave Finch’s side, even though he felt better. Shaw guessed that Root herself had only stopped hovering beside his cot because Shaw had made fun of her for it. There was this glow of relief in the back of Root’s eyes every time she looked at Shaw and Finch, and Shaw couldn’t help but be annoyed.
“So what’s the deal with the light?” Pete was asking Myka when Root and Shaw returned to the platform.
Before Myka could reply, Root explained; “there were a few cave-ins during the construction of the tunnels. Workers died while waiting for rescue.”
Myka nodded. “It fits; the lack of air making it unbearably hot, almost impossible to breathe...”
“... and then losing sight as their work light dies. They must’ve poured all their despair into that work light,” Claudia finished her thought, lifting the static bag as if any of them could’ve forgotten what it contained.
“Turning it into an artefact,” Pete concluded, snapping his fingers. When the others glared at him, he abandoned his cheerful tone. “Not a fun one at that.”
A comfortable silence fell into the station then, as they all pondered what could have happened if they hadn’t found it.
Myka tried a shy smile. “Well, we’ll be on our way, then,” she hesitated, glancing at her partners.
“Long road ahead, yeah,” Pete smiled.
Shaw cleared her throat, awkward. “Listen,” she seemed to search her words, as if embarrassed. “Thanks,” she simply let out, and Pete’s grin only widened.
“Hey, first to fight, right?” he offered his hand to shake, and Shaw rolled her eyes before she took it. Beside her, Root chuckled.
“So what is it that you do?” Myka asked her sister, pulling her attention away from Pete and Shaw.
Root scrunched up her nose and smirked. “Saving the world, of course.”
Myka shook her head, although she didn’t seem as angry as before, only sad.
“And that’s what you do?” Root asked, pointing towards the static bag that Claudia held onto firmly.
“It is,” she nodded. “Saving the world,” she smiled, and breathed out loudly before she pulled Root into a hug. Root froze in the embrace at first, and then wrapped her arms around her sister awkwardly.
As soon as they pulled apart, Root ran a nervous hand through her hair. “So, what’s with the gun?” she asked, uncomfortably trying to change the subject.
Myka gleamed proudly. “It’s a Tesla,” she explained, offering the weapon to Root. “It’s kind of a stun gun, only HG Wells made it way more efficient.”
“HG Wells?” Root frowned, still examining the mechanism. “I thought he was a writer, not an inventor.”
“Actually, she is both,” Myka corrected, but before she could continue Pete cut her off.
“No talking about HG or we won’t be out of here for hours,” he interrupted and Claudia laughed. Myka glared at them both.
“Well he’s not wrong,” Claudia told her with an apologetic smile.
They were interrupted by the sound of loud footsteps behind them. At the end of the platform, Reese appeared with a confused look.
“What the hell is going on here?” he asked almost frantically, opening his coat to take out his gun.
Root didn’t hesitate; she aimed the Tesla at his chest and pulled the trigger, bringing him down in one impressive blast of electricity.
“I like this,” Root smiled at the gun, ignoring the surprised look on the others’ face. “Can I keep it?”
Shaw grabbed it from her hand and gave it back to Myka. “No,” she groaned angrily before she walked passed them, rushing to Reese’s side and making sure he was okay.
Root was still grinning when she reached Shaw’s side. Shaw glared at her, although she was relieved to see that Reese had no injuries and had just been rendered unconscious.
“It’s not funny,” Shaw grunted.
Root pouted. “It’s a little funny.”