1 Week Later
The Machine answers with a simple “Yes.” Root waits for more.
The Machine doesn’t respond. Root asks again. Silence.
“I don’t need your help.” Root and Reese storm the base but it’s deserted. They’re gone, long gone by the looks of it. Root almost drops her guns to the floor in defeat. Reese paces back and forth, frustration coursing through his veins. Then She speaks and Root threatens to smile, that is, until she realizes The Machine is simply supplying her with an Irrelevant Number.
“No.” John looks at Root but she turns away. “I won’t help you until you help me. Tell me where she is.” Root pauses and there’s silence. About a minute passes before She speaks.
“Asset is safe. Asset is unreachable.”
“What does that mean?” Root battles to keep her voice steady.
“Asset is safe.” Root has never heard The Machine stress a word before, Root wasn’t even sure She could.
Root grips her guns so tightly her knuckles begin to ache. She knows there’s no use asking anymore, you don’t argue with a God.
“Root?” Reese asks a tone lower than usual, concern laces his voice. Root just wants him to stop. She wants to be alone.
She wants Shaw.
2 Months Later
Samaritan has only grown stronger, which actually throws Root for a loop. She expected to know by now. She expected to know everything about the other AI, she expected to know about the chinks in its armor, she expected The Machine to have done something, anything.
Instead, She sends Root on wild goose chases. Of course, Root knows they’re not exactly wild goose chases, everything She tells Root to do is one step closer to Samaritan’s demise. But it’s so slow.
Lionel and John handle the Irrelevant Numbers. The Machine’s relationship with Harold is strained, Harold doesn’t know how to trust anymore; he doesn’t understand The Machine like Root does. Root assures him that She is always right, there’s nothing to worry about. She’s lying through her teeth.
Samaritan takes hold of half the country and soon enough, it looks like the war is won.
That’s all she ever gets.
But for now, it’s enough.
5 Months Later
The picture’s fuzzy and definitely not something to write home about. But Root knows it’s her. Even Harold is almost sixty percent sure, John tells Fusco to cover for him at the precinct before looking to Root.
“Wait, we should consider this very carefully.” Harold says quickly.
“Identification confirmed.” Root hears Her voice as clear as day.
“We don’t have time, Harry.” Root gears up; two guns in the waistband of her jeans.
“She is a highly trained assassin!”
“I’ve never had trouble dealing with those before.” Root smirks and pictures Sameen rolling her eyes. Her stomach drops and her grin falters.
“We don’t just kill people, Root.” Harold stands and faces her head on. She sees the conflict in his eyes; she can see the way he doesn’t really believe what’s coming out of his own mouth.
“We’re not going to kill her.” Harold cocks his head skeptically. “Not until we’ve found out what she knows.” Root turns and leaves the subway, John hot on her heels.
Root knows it’s a trap. She doesn’t care John doesn’t seem to either. They enter the apartment complex via the roof.
“Six-B.” Root nods thanks to the nearest security camera.
It gets messy. Usually, Root wouldn’t have it any other way. But this is the woman that took Shaw down. Messy takes time, time she doesn’t have. Eleven dead/wouded Samaritan agents later, they enter six-B.
“I thought I’d be seeing you two.” Martine looks smug; Root barely holds back a sneer. Instead, she plasters on a sickly sweet smile and tilts her head.
“Hello, Martine. Usually, I’m one for small talk, but we’re on a bit of a clock so I’m just gonna get straight to the point if that’s alright with you?” It’s really not a question to be answered.
“I don’t know where she is.” Martine shrugs a carefree shrug but keeps her gun trained on Root.
“Oh, come on, Martine. We both know that’s a lie.” John shifts his feet; Martine moves to aim at him. Root takes the opportunity to shoot her kneecap out. The assassin falls to the floor. John kicks the gun from her hand before she can get off a shot. “Where is she?” Root plants a foot on Martine’s injured knee, the other woman hisses violently and glares Root’s way. Root tries not to think about how easy this is. She tries not to register the look in Martine’s eyes. Martine’s following orders. She’s not meant to survive.
“I. Don’t. Know.”
Harold greets the two as they walk back into the subway. Bear paddles at Root’s feet but she can’t look at him, not properly.
“How did it go? What happened?” Root can’t even speak. There’s a lump in her throat, she thinks it’s been there since-
Root walks away.
“Shaw?” She whispers.
7 Months Later
“What are you saying?” John asks lowly, shaking his head. Root rolls her eyes and just sits on the cot.
“I’m saying, I think I can do it.” Harold doesn’t turn away from the computer monitor.
“You think you can? That’s not good enough, Harold.” Root never expected to be this way. She never thought she’d be the pessimist, she never thought she’d be the one questioning everything they did, this wasn’t her role.
Bear sits in front of her and puts his head on her lap. She’s learnt to look at him with a kind of hope, reassurance even. But it still hurts when he stares up at her as if waiting for an answer.
Where is she?
She doesn’t know.
What if she never does?
9 Months Later
Harold develops a virus. Well, technically it’s a virus within a virus within a virus disguised as an irrelevant number.
Root decides its genius.
It’s taken him two months but he thinks it’ll work. More importantly, so does She. Root feels hopeful for the first time in a long while.
“How does it work?” John asks as if he’ll actually understand it. Root lets him; she wouldn’t mind hearing about it again.
“As soon as I introduce the virus into the system, Samaritan won’t be able to detect it, like a newborn baby. The virus is designed to shut down Samaritan bases one by one.”
“Can’t Samaritan stop it?” John asks, folding his arms.
“Samaritan will stop it, but the virus will have already infected it’s desired server and released two more undetectable strains of itself into the system, each time Samaritan stops one strain of the virus, two more will be released.” Harold sounds confident. Root likes a confident Harold. Confident Harold doesn’t often come about, but when he does, things go boom.
“And the virus, does it shut off the servers in each base for good?” Root queries this time. If they’re going to do this, they have to do it right.
Harold turns to face them both. He smiles, it reaches his eyes. Root’s never seen this Harold before. She finds herself both terrified and excited at the same time.
“It appears that Samaritan servers come fully equipped with self-destruct code.”
Root feels god damn giddy.
10 Months Later
Harold and The Machine talk, well, they don’t talk talk, Root talks for Her and occasionally offers up her own ideas.
They’re ready to release the virus. The Machine knows where the main Samaritan base is. More importantly, She knows where Greer is.
Root can’t wait to put a bullet through his throat.
But they need a game plan first.
The virus will take just under ten minutes to destroy all the servers in the country. All except one. New York has seven Samaritan bases altogether but She could only find six with self-destruct code.
Obviously, the seventh is the first, the most important.
Their plan sounds like a horrible repeat of the catastrophe that took place ten months ago but Root trusts Harold and she trusts Her. She doesn’t have anything to lose this time.
Root pats Bear on the head and tells him that they’ll be back. She doesn’t understand why he whines and collapses into his bed.
They go in as one team. Root, John, Fusco, Harold and The Machine. They get as close as they can to the servers before Harold releases the virus.
“Five minutes.” The Machine whispers in her ear. Root nods.
“We have to move.” They take out targets as a unit. The Machine seems driven, it’s like She’s finally had enough. All the bullying, all the pain Samaritan has put Her through, She’s done being picked on, She’s going to take out Her rival and She’s going to do it with god damned style.
Bodies drop like flies, Root has to stop herself from thinking, once again, that it’s too easy because it’s not, its really not. She’s already got a bullet graze on her left hip and Fusco seems to be limping but they don’t stop.
“Well, let me just say that I was not expecting this.” Greer doesn’t turn to face the foursome. His hands are folded behind his back as he stares up at the big screen. Root tries not to grin when she reads the words that flash red above their heads.
SYSTEM COMPROMISED CONDITION CRITICAL
“Now, how did you manage to cripple Samaritan so easily?” Greer slowly turns to face them. His gaze is cold and riddled with anger.
“That’s for us to know.” John rasps out. Root takes a step forward.
“Where is she?”
“And who would ‘she’ be, my dear?” Root hates him, she hates him, The Machine has to talk her down from pulling the trigger then and there.
“I don’t care.” Root bites. Then looks back to Greer.
Greer unclasps his hands and tries a smile. He looks up as if debating whether to talk or not. Before he gets chance to speak, bullets begin to rain down on them. John knocks Harold out of the way before joining Fusco at the entrance to the room. They fire off round after round. Root doesn’t flinch.
“Exit. Door on left. Code 85A2B.” Root relays the information She had just provided her with to Harold. Harold begins to punch in the code on the door panel. Root steps forward and presses the nozzle of the gun to Greer’s throat.
“Tell me where she is.” Greer simply smiles a small smile and clasps his hands together again. Root shoots out his left kneecap. The man grunts loudly and falls to the floor. Root crouches over him, a sadistic smile works it’s way onto her lips.
“Where is Shaw?”
“It seems we’re at a stalemate.” Greer still manages to remain cocky. Root shoots out his right elbow. The man yells this time; he collapses onto his back as blood frames his body. The pain in his voice spurs Root onward.
“Where. Is. She?” Greer breathes heavily and locks eyes with Root. Root registers Fusco shouting at her, she hears him telling her to run, she watches as John finishes setting the explosives out of the corner of her eye.
None of that matters.
“I’m aware…” Greer coughs as he draws in another deep breath. “That you’ll kill me no matter what I tell you. So, Miss Groves, what’ll it be?”
Root seethes, drawing shallow breaths through her teeth; she stands and shoots him through the hand then in the other kneecap before aiming at his throat. She enjoys the fear she sees in the man’s eyes, she absorbs every last drop of it before pulling the trigger.
Bear excitedly bounds up and down at their feet when they all make their way back down into the subway. He lies down next to where Root sits on the floor and looks up at her with a content sign.
Root wants to glare back. But she can’t, no matter how hard she tries.
They just took out Samaritan. They killed a God.
Root doesn’t feel any different.
12 Months Later
Root wakes abruptly to a high-pitched voice in her ear.
“Danger to Asset.”
Root slips into a pair of boots and grabs her guns. She has no idea who the hell is after her but at this point, she doesn’t care.
“Exit building.” Root starts with that, moving quickly out of the apartment block. She turns left on the sidewalk when instructed and holsters her weapons. It’s just after sunrise and the streets are littered with men in suits and women carrying briefcases.
“What’s the threat?” Root asks Her. She tells Root to cut down an alleyway.
“Danger to Asset.”
“That’s not helpful.” Root glares at a camera she passes on her right.
“Asset unsafe.” Root stops in her tracks. Her mouth goes dry and she forgets how to breathe.
“Two minutes. Turn right.” Root’s body goes rigid but she does what she’s told. She rounds the corner into an even tighter alleyway and then-
“Sameen.” Root breathes. She’s there, on her knees, hands in the air in front of three official looking guys in suits. They’ve each got a gun on her.
Root grabs both guns from the back of her jeans and takes a step. She’s forty feet away when she fires the first shot; one hits the ground motionless. The remaining two turn to her and fire off as many rounds as they can. Root takes shelter behind a dumpster.
“A little help, please?” She directs the question at the camera above her. The instructions come through quickly and Root takes aim. Another body hits the ground.
“What about the other one?” Root asks quickly, feeling weirdly out of breath despite doing not much of anything.
Root smirks and holsters her guns. She stands and walks out from behind her safeguard to see the third man lying at Shaw’s feet. The Machine’s right, Shaw looks pissed.
Root walks toward Sameen tentatively. She’s afraid it’s a dream.
She stops a couple of yards short of the other woman.
Sameen looks terrible to put it nicely. Root doesn’t have to ask to know that she’s been tortured relentlessly over the past months. Her hair’s matted but still pulled back in her signature low pony. She’s dressed in a black tank and black jeans, Root’s scared that they might be the exact same ones she was wearing twelve months ago. Her arms are littered with cuts, bruises, burns, and Root wants nothing more than to touch her. To make sure she’s real. Her face is painted black and blue and Root wants to shout at The Machine. Asset safe? Nothing about this cries safe.
“You’ve looked better.” Root manages to say, her voice breaks and she has to avert her gaze for a second but when she looks back, Shaw is rolling her eyes and that’s when Root feels her heart explode.
“I need a sandwich.” Shaw grunts and takes a gun from one of the guys lying on the ground. Root smiles so wide she’s afraid her face is going to split. They’re silent for a little while, Sameen looks unnerved by Root’s stare but Root honestly couldn’t care less. Root steps forwards into Shaw’s space. She slowly brings a hand up and touches Sameen’s face. Her skin feels cold and greasy under the mud and oil but Root pays it no mind. Root feels her fingertips tingling as she brushes strands of dark hair out of Shaw’s eyes.
Relief surges through her and she can feel herself losing it. She can feel tears pricking at the corners of her eyes but she doesn’t let one fall, she knows Shaw won’t like it. She brings her other hand up and scrapes the pads of her fingers across Shaw’s jaw line. She feels so perfect. So real.
“Please tell me you’re not gonna kiss me again.” Sameen breathes out gruffly. Root chuckles and lets her hands fall back to her sides. She takes a step back after she’s convinced Sameen is, in fact, here, with her.
“For the record, you kissed me.” Root grins and turns to walk back the way she came, Sameen falls into step beside her. “And no offense, but you smell. Bad.”
Root can feel Shaw’s eye roll.
“Maybe after a shower.” Root looks down at Sameen and winks.
“I miss being tortured.” Shaw grumbles. Root craves this familiarity so bad.
“I missed you.” Root says it without thinking but it doesn’t matter what she says anymore, nothing matters. She’s so happy. She swears her chest is going to combust. Shaw doesn’t say anything for a while; Root can tell she’s having somewhat of a moment, so she lets her.
She’s most surprised when Shaw takes her hand. Her skin feels rough and calloused and Root wants to hurt anyone that’s ever touched Shaw with bad intentions. Sameen lets their fingers intertwine for a few seconds before she pulls away.
“You wanna know what I missed?” Shaw asks squinting up at the sun. Root looks down with her eyebrows raised.