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Natural Selection

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Shaw got dressed quickly and was banging loudly on the guys’ door, heedless of the early hour and the other guests.

Reese opened the door a fraction, gun in one hand as he peered out.

"We have a problem," said Shaw.

Reese gestured for her to come in and she spied Harold, awake, his hair sticking up wildly as he put his glasses on and stood up awkwardly.

"Root's gone," said Shaw.

"What?" said Harold, looking more alert than ever. "What do you mean gone?"

"I mean she took off, Finch," Shaw snapped angrily.

"How could you let this happen?" said Harold, looking angrier than she had ever seen him.

Shaw clenched her jaw but didn't say anything. Because I let her get to me.

"Finch, maybe we shouldn't be passing blame around," said Reese reasonably.

"And what about when Root kills someone?" said Harold. "Who should we blame then?"

"She won't," Shaw said.

"You know that for a fact, Miss Shaw?"

No, she thought, remembering the way Root had said not yet outside of the gas station when Shaw had asked her if she was planning on killing someone. But out loud she said: "Yes."

"We need to find her," Harold said.

"If Root doesn't want to be found, we're not going to," said Reese. "But if she's out for revenge, then she's headed for the same place we are."

"With a four hour head start," Shaw pointed out.

"I say we stick to the plan. Keep heading for New York," said Reese.

"Alright," Harold agreed. "But I suggest we leave now."

Shaw waited outside as they got dressed, watching the sun rise in the sky and trying not to think about Root, trying to forget the way she had felt and sounded lying beneath Shaw. Tried not to think about how reckless she could be and the danger she was more than likely to get herself in.

Shaw searched her jacket, but the back-up piece Reese had given her was gone and she knew Root had taken it. At least she had some protection. There was something else missing too, and it took her awhile to figure out what it was. The Order of Lenin, she thought. But this wasn't her original jacket and she must have lost it somewhere in the middle of the desert after she'd gotten shot. Shaw swore under her breath, the promise she had failed to keep hanging heavy on her heart and she felt like she had let Gen down somehow.

That coupled with everything else, set Shaw's anger off, and she punched the wall, again and again, with a blind fury that masked the pain of the skin above her knuckles cracking and bleeding and only stopped when she ran out of energy, leaning back against the wall breathing heavily.

The motel room door opened and Harold limped out with Bear. He barely cast a glance at her as he headed for the car. He was furious at her, disappointed, and it showed.

"Don't worry about him," said Reese, handing her a bandage to wrap up her hand. "He'll get over it."

Her knuckles stung as she wrapped the bandage around them, but she relished in it and it didn't hurt nearly as much as the feeling in her chest, like she was struggling for breath.

"You want to tell me what happened last night?" Reese asked as they watched Finch struggle to get Bear in the car.

"What do you mean?" Shaw asked.

"She play you?" Reese asked, looking at her like he knew everything.

"No," said Shaw, but it didn't sound convincing even to her own ears. She tried to tell herself that last night hadn't felt like a goodbye, that Root hadn't planned it that way. That she hadn't played her. But she didn't believe it.

But then she remembered the way Root had felt beneath her, the way she looked at her, like she couldn't quite believe that it was them, that she was awed by it. That had been real, Shaw was sure of it.

"Okay," said Reese eventually and led her to the car.

Shaw took her customary place in the backseat, but it felt empty and cold without Root sitting beside her. Bear wasted no time jumping up beside her, resting his head in her lap and she patted him behind the ears absently as Reese drove them out of the motel parking lot.

She was too wired to sleep, and she watched out the window, alert and brooding, ignoring the dull throb in her hand. Her gut wound had started to ache too. She never did get those fresh bandages or see how much damage they had done last night. But she suspected it wasn't that bad, so she ignored the pain and latched onto her anger instead. It felt good. Anger she could deal with. Everything else... Well, she didn't want to think about that.

They were just about to head onto the highway when Reese spotted something up ahead and stopped the car. Shaw leaned forward to look between the two front seats, Bear whining as his head slipped from her lap. Up ahead were two black SUVs, tinted windows.

"Decima," said Reese gravely. "This is an ambush."

"How did they find us?" asked Finch. His face taking on that worried look he always got when violence was about to happen.

"Root," said Shaw with a cold, hard certainty. "To slow us down."

Reese glanced at her for a second before turning back to face the SUVs, nodding slightly. "We'll find another way around," he said, putting the car in reverse.

"No," said Shaw. "They'll have road blocks on every road out of town. We don't have time," she added, thinking about Root and her four hour head start that was rapidly turning into five. "Give me a gun."

"Miss Shaw, I really don't think..." Harold began, but Shaw ignored him and held her hand out expectantly to Reese. He looked at her carefully for a moment and she wondered what he could see. How much of a state was she in? She had been feeling better than she had been in days, but she knew she still wasn't up to her full strength. But she had to do this. If she didn't shoot something soon she was going to scream.

Reese must have seen something in her look because he handed her a gun and they stepped out of the car simultaneously.

"What do you think? Bullet proof windows?" said Reese, handing her a spare magazine.

"Probably," Shaw said, checking the clip on her gun.

"Shoot out the tires to get their attention?"

Shaw nodded and they split up, heading for opposite sides of the road. Shaw ducked behind a low wall for cover, waited until Reese was in position. He signalled to her that he was ready and she took out the tires on her side and quickly took cover, listening carefully. She could hear car doors opening, men shouting. Then gunfire, a lot of it.

Bullets whizzed past her head, some of them clipping the wall, sending shards of stone and dust flying around her. She waited for a lull in gunfire then took aim. Two guys down before they even noticed her. And - Harold would be proud - kneecaps only even though she felt like taking them all out.

When the gunfire ceased, Shaw stepped cautiously out from behind her cover. All the Decima agents were down, some unconscious, some wriggling about in agony.

"Feeling better?" Reese asked, coming up behind her.

"No," Shaw said, staring at the blood flooding the street. She didn't think she'd ever feel better again. "Let's go find Root."


New York wasn't like Shaw remembered. People hurried up and down the streets, darting between the buildings for cover like they would during a thunderstorm. Except it wasn't raining. And there were more cops on the streets than Shaw had ever seen before. But even they looked different. People looked scared.

"This is just like after 9/11," Harold said. His voice was barely above a whisper, like he couldn't comprehend what he was seeing.

"Without someone chasing down irrelevant numbers," said Reese, "crime rates have gone up."

"That and whatever Samaritan was doing," Shaw added.

They deliberated where to go and in the end decided on the usual safe house. It was buried under about ten different aliases so they didn't think Decima would know about it.

Harold remained quiet for the rest of the journey and hobbled out of the car without saying a word to either of them.

"How long do you think he's gonna stay mad at me?" Shaw asked.

Reese shrugged. "How long are you going to stay mad at Root?"

"I'm always mad at Root," she said quietly, but she could see his point. Sort of. Finch would stop being mad at her when he stopped feeling guilty for everything else. And she'd stop being mad at Root probably… well, never.

They followed Harold up to the safe house, Reese bringing Bear along. It was strange being back after so long and she didn't remember the place looking so...untidy.

She glanced at Reese; clearly thinking the same thing as his hand moved to rest on his gun as they stepped through the threshold. Shaw saw movement to her left and she raised her gun before she could get a proper look at the intruder.

"Wait! Don’t shoot. It's me," said the figure, hands wildly covering a panic stricken face.

"Lionel?" said Shaw and Reese at the same time. Shaw rolled her eyes and put her gun away.

"What are you doing here, Fusco?" Reese said. "And what are you wearing?" he added, scrunching his face up in disgust.

Fusco was dressed in nothing but Spiderman underwear and a badly fitting white tank top.

"Nice boxers," said Shaw with a smirk.

"They were a gift from Lee," Fusco snapped, grabbing a couch cushion to cover up his modesty.

"Didn't think they made those in his size," Reese muttered in her ear.

Fusco grumbled in annoyance.

"Perhaps, Detective," said Harold from behind Shaw and Reese, "you would be so kind as to put some pants on?"

"Huh?" said Fusco, looking confused for a moment, "uh, yeah," and disappeared into the other room.

Shaw took the opportunity to suss out if there was any booze left in the safe house after eight months lying empty. But Fusco looked to still be on the wagon and she found a bottle of decent Scotch and poured herself a large measure. Harold frowned at her as she downed her glass and immediately poured another, but he didn't say anything. But she could feel the disproval directed at her from the other end of the room.

Fusco returned as she was sipping her second drink, dressed thankfully, and looking affronted at their presence.

"Where the hell have you guys been?" he asked. "I thought you were dead."

"Had to lie low for a while, Lionel," said Reese apologetically as he took a seat on the couch.

"Oh, because that's not cryptic," Fusco replied.

"What are you doing here, Fusco?" said Shaw.

"Have you been out there lately?" Fusco asked, pointing out the window.

"We've been out of town," said Reese.

"It's like the ’64 Race Riots out there," said Fusco.

"Still doesn't explain what you're doing here," said Shaw swallowing the last of her drink.

"Someone tossed my apartment over. Figured this would be a safe place to stay. That was until you three showed up," he added, eyeing Shaw and Reese warily.

"What about Lee?" Reese asked.

"He's in Philly with his mother," said Fusco. "You think I'd let him stay in the city after that attack downtown? No way. Things around here were bad enough before that."

"How bad?" asked Shaw, exchanging a dark look with Reese.

Fusco looked at her carefully. "Let's just say things were nicer when HR and the Russians were still around. Now are we done with the interrogation? I think it's time you told me where you guys have been."

"Long story, Lionel," said Reese, "and one we don't have time for."

"We need your help to find Root," said Shaw.

"Coco Puffs?" said Fusco. "What's tall, batshit and crazy got herself into this time?"

Shaw gritted her teeth in annoyance. "You going to help us or not?"

"Why do I get the feeling you're not going to give me much choice."

“Because I’m not,” said Shaw, patting her gun with a smirk.

"I hardly think that's necessary, Miss Shaw," said Harold and she wondered if he was going to call her out on every single thing she did, with that look of disproval that was starting to get on her nerves. As if he was completely innocent of everything.

"We need you to find the location of a company called Decima Technologies," said Reese. "They'll probably be buried underneath several sock companies."

"Oh sure," said Fusco, "I'll just wave my magic wand and get right on that. Did I not mention to you the riots going on out there? I'm a little busy."

"That why you're sitting around here in your underwear?" asked Shaw.

Fusco glared. "Some of us need to sleep," he said, staring at her pointedly.  Shaw wasn't sure, but she got the feeling she had just been insulted in some way.

"Lionel, this company is responsible for the riots going on out there," said Reese.

"Not to mention that bomb that went off," said a voice from the door that Shaw immediately recognised.

Shaw was up and had her gun out faster than she blinked, Reese not far behind her.

"Control," Shaw spat, glaring at her former boss as she stood casually in the doorway. "You've got about five seconds to explain what you're doing here before I put a bullet in your brain."

"Who the hell is she?" said Fusco.

"Not now, Lionel," said Reese.

"What do you mean Decima is responsible for the bomb going off?" asked Harold, taking a step closer to Control, much to Shaw's annoyance. Reese didn't like it either and he took a few steps forward until he was partially in front of Finch, his body ready to shield him if necessary.

"I'm sorry," said Control, but she didn't sound sorry at all. "But I find it so difficult to talk with guns pointed in my face."

Finch gestured for them both to lower their weapons, but neither of them moved.

"You're kidding me, right Finch?" said Shaw. "This is Control."

"Yes," said Harold, "and I'm sure if she had wanted to, she would have killed us all by now. So please, lower your weapons."

Shaw stared hard at her former boss. "If you so much as breathe wrong-"

"Yes, you'll shoot me," Control said. "I'm well aware of your methods, Agent Shaw."

Shaw debated with herself for one last moment then lowered gun, keeping it close at hand though in case Control tried something.

"Please," said Harold, "have a seat." Always the gentleman.

Both Shaw and Reese remained standing, their eyes never leaving the head of the ISA. She looked the same as the last time Shaw saw her – calm and collected, completely indifferent to the fact that there were two people in the room who would quite happily put a bullet in her. She hadn’t even come with a security detail.  Shaw wondered what it would take to get under Control's skin. The woman never even flinched when Vigilance kidnapped her and put her on trial eight months ago. Then again, Shaw supposed, you didn't become the head of a secret government agency by being jumpy.

Control took Finch's proffered seat and Harold sat opposite her, flanked either side by Shaw and Reese. Fusco stood behind Control, looking thoroughly confused but having the sense to keep his mouth shut.

"I’d offer you a drink," said Shaw, "but I kind of hate you."

Control said nothing, but her smirk was enough to set Shaw's tightly coiled anger off again and it took all of her self-control not to put a bullet between her former boss’s eyes.

"You want to tell us how you found this place?" Reese asked.

"Your boy here isn't exactly hard to follow," Control said, gesturing behind her. Fusco held up his hands innocently when three pairs of eyes turned to look at him.

"Nice one, Fusco," Shaw muttered.

"We figured one of you would show up eventually," Control continued. "We had eyes out front watching ever since."

"And what, precisely," asked Harold, "is it that you want?"

"To protect my country," said Control. "It's all I've ever wanted."

The other woman looked so sincere that for a moment Shaw almost forgot who she was. Even if Control was a patriot, it didn't excuse some of the things that she had done. Like try to have me and Harold killed. And Root’s stapedectomy… But Shaw pushed that thought away before it could go any further. Besides, it wasn't like Shaw was totally innocent. She had worked for the Activity for years, blindly following Control's orders. Orders that had eventually gotten Cole killed. That was another thought she didn't like to dwell on, and she locked it away along with Root in a corner of her mind where she didn't have to deal with it.

"What did you mean Decima were responsible for that bomb?" Reese asked.

"I'm going to assume you know Samaritan has been shut down," said Control. "In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you three had something to do with it."

"No comment," said Reese with a shrug.

Control ignored him. "When the system failed and the relevant numbers stopped coming in, the government refused to allow the set-up of another machine."

"So what happened?" asked Shaw.

"Decima decided to show them just how necessary Samaritan was."

One hundred and four, Shaw thought. It was like the building after the trial all over again.

"Sounds like Greer's up to his old tricks," said Reese, echoing her thoughts.

"That does not, however," said Harold, "explain why you are here." It was the first time he had spoken in a while and Shaw could tell those one hundred and four deaths were still weighing heavily on him.

"I can't believe I'm saying this," said Control, "but I need your help."

"And what makes you think we'd help you?" said Shaw disdainfully.

"Because this isn't about me," said the other woman shooting Shaw a look of contempt. "This is about saving innocent lives. Isn't that your purpose, Agent Shaw?"

Shaw didn't say anything to that, not entirely sure what her purpose was anymore. It was so lost to the maze of running and hiding that she wasn't sure she'd ever find it again.

"Please," said Harold when Control continued to stare long and hard at Shaw, "continue."

"Decima plan on bringing Samaritan back online," said Control. "Tonight."

Harold and Reese exchanged worried looks, but neither of them looked very surprised by the idea either.

"And you're telling us this because?" asked Shaw.

"Because I know where Decima are storing the new servers," said Control.

"And you want us to stop them from bringing it online?" Reese guessed.

"No," said the head of the ISA. "I want you to take control of it."


“This is a bad idea,” said Shaw for what felt like the hundredth time. Every instinct was screaming at her not to trust Control but, in the end, Harold had made the final decision. Shaw never thought she would have seen her current boss teaming up with her old one. But there it was.

Control gave them the location of Samaritan’s new servers and asked Harold if he knew what he needed to do from his end in order to make it a closed system. It was all just technobabble to Shaw, but Harold nodded resolutely and began to set up laptops on the safe house’s dining room table, with the air of a man who knew exactly what he was doing and on a mission that he was determined on completing.

Samaritan had been an open system - it took commands and gave orders, and that's what Decima were hoping to replicate with their new servers. But Control was adamant that they could not allow that to happen. That to have an open system again would be too much power.

"And Greer's all about power," Control said.

But Shaw wasn't too sure she liked the idea of a closed system Samaritan either.

"You know this means no more irrelevant numbers," Reese muttered to her, clearly thinking the same thing she was.

"Then I guess it looks like we'll both be out of a job when this is over," Shaw said.

"I tried retirement once," said Reese conversationally.

"Oh yeah," said Shaw. "How did that work out for you?"

Reese shrugged. "Ended up working for Finch." The way he said it made it sound like working for Finch had been an inconvenience, but his look said the exact opposite. They both knew what retirement meant in their line of work. You didn’t grow old and take up knitting as a hobby when you worked for secret government agencies and chased after bad guys for a living. You stopped working when someone put a bullet in you.

"Retirement is for wimps anyway," said Shaw.

Even when she was preparing her arsenal, packing enough heat to take on a small army, Shaw still had a bad feeling about the whole thing. She didn't trust Control. Neither did Reese, but he trusted Harold and Harold was taking the leap of faith by taking Control at her word.

Fusco, on the other hand, was just doing as he was told.  "When this is all over, you all have a lot of explaining to do," he said.

Control left them to it, never one to get her hands dirty if she could help it. But she didn't leave without getting one last jab in at them all.

"Oh, and by the way," she said turning to face them in the doorway. "My guys spotted your little hacker friend making her way to Decima's HQ. So it looks like Greer might be taken out of the equation after all. That is," Control added with a devilish smirk, "if she makes it in alive."

Shaw felt her heart go still in her chest and she could feel Reese watching her closely. But she ignored them both, put up the casual front that everything was fine, that her mind hadn't just played out a dozen different scenarios of Root getting herself killed.

"We should go," said Reese eventually.

Shaw followed him and Fusco out the door wordlessly. They were on the clock; Decima were planning on bringing Samaritan back online in less than two hours and the immediacy of the situation was felt by all of them. Harold wished them luck, his voice tinny and familiar as it came through Shaw's earpiece. Just like old times, when they were chasing down simple irrelevant numbers, before the world had gone to hell. But her life had never been simple. Not even before she met Reese and Finch. And it got ten times more complicated when she met Root.

Root, who was always finding ways to get under Shaw’s skin, when most people would have been swayed by Shaw’s glare alone. Root, who Shaw, against her better judgement, had spent the night with having what Shaw was starting to reluctantly admit was the most mind-blowing sex she had ever had. Root, who had ran out on her without a word to go seek out revenge against the man responsible for killing her God.

And, despite that, after everything, Shaw didn’t regret it.

I can’t believe you’re real. Shaw hadn’t understood what Root was saying at the time, and part of her still didn’t, but the way Root had said it, the look of sadness and regret in her eyes… Root knew she was going to die, that she wasn’t coming back from this.

They were almost at the car when Shaw stopped dead in her tracks. Both Reese and Fusco turned to look at her.

"She's going to get herself killed," was all Shaw could manage to say, her voice barely above a whisper. But it was enough for Reese to understand and he looked at her carefully for a moment, as if he was trying to determine something, way up the odds of just him and Fusco going after the servers on their own.

"Shaw," said Reese slowly, "she made her choice."

But that didn't mean it was necessarily the right one, and it didn't necessarily mean that Shaw had to accept it. Because no matter how complicated her life was, no matter how complicated this thing with Root was, Shaw wasn't about to let her die, not when there was still something she could do about it.

Eventually Reese nodded. "Go."

"Am I missing something here?" Fusco asked, looking between the two of them.

"Shut up, Lionel," both Shaw and Reese said at the same time.

Reese tossed Shaw the car keys. "Come on, Lionel, we're taking your car."


"Let’s move, Lionel," said Reese, dragging the detective away.

Shaw watched them leave until they disappeared around the corner then hopped into the car.

"Finch," she said through her earpiece, "I'm going dark."

"Miss Shaw, I really don't think-"

But she clicked him off before she could hear the rest of it. She knew what he was going to say anyway, that he was going to try and talk her out of it. But she didn't want to hear it. Because part of her knew that he could. That Harold could convince her to go with Reese and Fusco because that was the right thing to do. Even if Root was on her way to kill Greer, the risk to innocent lives if Decima got control of Samaritan again was far greater than the risk of Root going AWOL.

And frankly, Shaw didn't care. She'd had enough chasing after and working for machines.

And if anybody was going to be killing Root, it was going to be Shaw.