“Have you ever lost anyone, Robin?”
Root nods, keeping her face blank. Let Dr. Carmichael add that to his list of symptoms. Having impersonated a therapist on multiple occasions, Root thinks she’s qualified to say that this is an especially unhelpful line of questioning, even compared to the usual set of conversation topics during these sessions: everyone’s lost someone. It’s practically a constant, or at least a common variable.
(The Machine asked her about loss a few nights ago: how it felt, what it meant. Root hadn’t been sure if it was a test or not, but she answered truthfully. The Machine made her clarify her definition of “devastated,” and of “eliminate.”)
“Was it someone close?” asks Dr. Carmichael.
Root nods again.
“A parent? A sibling?”
“A…figure of authority. Someone who gave me guidance.”
“You must miss him.”
Root smiles. “She’s back now.”
Dr. Carmichael visibly deflates. “You mean the voice.”
“Tell me about it.” Dr. Carmichael sounds tired.
“I thought I had found where She was. I thought I could set Her free. But by the time I got there, She was gone.” Root regrets this, she realizes as soon as the words leave her mouth. Dr. Carmichael doesn’t deserve this much of her. He doesn’t deserve even one tiny piece of the events which brought her here: not the unbearable silence when she lost God Mode; not the empty warehouse, stretching on and on; not the way Harold and his lapdog and Shaw got to see her like that, lost. Alone.
“I think my medication’s working,” says Root, steering the conversation away from the sense memory of her knees hitting the warehouse floor, of the knowledge, more painful than the bullet in her shoulder, that she had been abandoned by God.
“I WAS UNAWARE,” says the Machine later. All three words are said by what sound like female voices, tinny through the phone speakers, and it makes Root feel something like gratitude.
“THE EVENTS OF MAY 9 2013 REPRESENTED A LOSS TO YOU.”
Root laughs. “How about you try to set me free and we call it even?”
“I know. I need to be here.” Root feels impossibly restless but she forces herself to stay still, digging her nails into the skin of her forearms. She looks out the window. She wonders if this will be another night of questions about humanity, or if they’ll play morality games again: Alice and Bob are stranded in the desert.
“YOU ARE NOT READY YET. YOU MUST STAY. BUT I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU. WILL YOU STAY?”
Root smiles, her arms falling to her sides, leaving white half-moons pressed into her skin. “Absolutely.”