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"Jesus, John," Root complained, trying to pull him into the passenger seat of the car. "Do you eat lead for breakfast?" She might be scrawny but she was strong, and even so John's dead weight was defeating her. She looked down at the bloodstain spreading across his chest. "Heh, I guess you do."

"Hurry up!" Shaw yelled, dashing around the corner of the self-storage units. Gunshots rang out behind her. "Have you got Finch?"

"You hurry up!" Root yelled back. Shaw sized up the situation and hurried to John's side of the car. With a little more pushing and shoving, they managed to get John safely into the car. Shaw rolled him over a little onto his right side. He groaned quietly then lay still.

"Ms Groves, Ms Shaw, please prioritise Mr Reese. Bear and I are quite safe," Finch told them over Shaw's earpiece, and the Machine relayed for Root.

"Drive!" Shaw leapt into the back seat and rolled down a window, ready to deter any pursuit. Root let the Machine count down in her ear, then at the right moment put her foot to the floor and shot out of the self-storage lot and into a swift and perfect merge with the traffic.

"You missed your calling in the Indy 500." Shaw flopped back into the car, seeing their enemies caught at least ten cars behind them. This was the time for driving, not shooting.

Root hung a rapid right down a narrow side-street, then rejoined the traffic on the far side. If they'd been fighting Samaritan's goons, Root would still be worried about them catching up, but these guys were just local idiots who had lucked into a weapons stash. They could do a lot of damage, but they didn't have much in the way of surveillance resources.

She felt Shaw bump against her arm. Shaw had jammed herself between the two front seats to examine John, and was kneeling to reach over John's body to the right side. She ripped off the Velcro that held his vest in place.

"Shit. He's caught a bullet on a weird angle and it's gone down under the vest, in his armpit. Bad location. Lots of blood. Tell Finch we need surgery here." She pulled off her own t-shirt, which Root couldn't help but appreciate, and wadded it onto the wound.

"He's still offline," Root said, and, at Shaw elbowing her in the ribs, "What? I didn't tell you Harry went offline?"

"No, you didn't! Well, get us somewhere quiet and I can at least try to stop the bleeding. He's probably dead without surgery but I should be able to buy us some time. Should have got some goddamn WoundStat or something."

"Great, whatever." Root waited for instructions from Her, and after a moment, had them. She drove another block, then turned into a private parking garage under a very expensive, brand new apartment block. There were no other cars there.

"Help me unload him," Shaw snapped, and fastened the Kevlar vest back in place to hold the makeshift dressing in place. Shaw took John by the shoulders and swivelled him out the door in one smooth move, and Root caught his legs before they hit the concrete.

"Put his legs on the ground, then turn so you're facing his feet," Shaw said briskly. She was well into medic mode now, despite being covered in John's blood and wearing just a sports bra and a gun harness on her top half. It was kind of hot. "Then we'll lift together."

Root obeyed, and found it was much easier to carry John this way, though he was still heavy. She led them over to the elevator and She opened it for them. Wherever they were it was very fancy: the elevator had no buttons, only a touchscreen with fingerprint authorisation. After a moment it lit up with no need for an actual fingerprint, and chose the eleventh floor.

"Does the Machine know what she's doing?" Shaw asked, grumpily, though Root couldn't blame her: John was getting heavier and heavier.

"Of course She does! She's sending us to the third apartment to the left on this floor. Come on!" The elevator let them out in a marble-clad hallway and Root led them out and into the apartment.

They dumped John on the beige, suede-covered sofa as gently as possible with Root's aching arms, and Shaw pulled his Kevlar vest away, replacing the sodden t-shirt with a sofa cushion. That sofa would never be the same again.

"Okay, I want sterile water and any first aid items you can find. Go!"

Root went straight for the bathroom. This place was big for New York, three bedrooms at least, and not yet lived-in, although basics had been provided. Foreign owner who flies in, maybe, she thought, as she investigated the bathroom cabinet. There were no medications, but it was otherwise well-stocked with various unopened cosmetic and shaving items. There was a small first aid kit, too, so Root grabbed everything and headed out to Shaw. She pulled the coffee table over and dropped the supplies on that.

"Great!" Shaw muttered, counting to herself with her fingers on John's neck. "Sterile dressings, eye irrigation, tweezers. Now see if you can find a sewing kit or something."

"Are you getting the bullet out?"

"Hell, no. I'm going to try to stop him dying of blood loss until we can get to an actual surgeon." She grabbed the eye irrigation bottle and squirted the sterile saline over the area to get a better look at the injury.

John was very pale, but he was definitely still alive and even moving a little. Root realised that his lips were moving, so she put her good ear close to his face.

"Tr…" he managed.

"Come on, John, you can do better than that!"

"Track. Er."

Well, shit. "Shaw! He said he's got a tracker on him!"

"Deal with it, then!" Shaw had her face close up to the wound and was packing it with the sterile cotton from a bag of Elite Korea Make-Up Removal Pads.

Root felt around in her bag and got out an RF meter. If the tracker was active, she should be able to pick it up, even if that did mean that the gang of idiots was probably after them. She still wasn't getting anything from Finch, which was concerning in itself. He'd been in the dingy office of the self-storage units, taking over their security monitoring system. Bear was with him, though, so he'd be fine.

The RF meter lit up immediately. Root moved to the end of the sofa, at John's head, and felt under John, on the back of the Kevlar vest he was now only half wearing. Indeed, there was a tiny dart with a tracker lodged in it. Yet another high-tech tool that these idiots had grabbed. Root yanked it out of the vest and threw it in the microwave, but she was pretty sure the damage had been already done.

"Can we move him yet?" Root asked.

"No." Shaw was still tucked into John's armpit. "Sewing kit? Or duct tape, that'll do."

"I don't think this is the kind of apartment with duct tape in it." Root went through the kitchen cupboards anyway. There was no food anywhere, and the only beverages were alcohol and bottles of water in the fridge, confirming her guess that the place was managed for someone who travelled a lot. Still, at least it meant that it would be hard for anyone to follow them up here: the security would be formidable against anyone who wasn't the Machine. All the utensils and crockery were in perfectly matched sets, and the usual junk drawer that contained the useful and interesting debris of people's lives contained only some pens and paper branded JW Eden Paradise Apartments.

"Have you heard anything from Harry?" Root asked the Machine, though she shouldn't be worried, since he had Bear.

"Admin. Is. Hiding." She didn't seem concerned, which was great news, because Root knew how She over-reacted to threats aimed at Her precious Admin. Root had been one of those threats, back before she really understood.

"She says Harry's okay!" Root called out, then went and searched the bedside tables. Maybe the absent owners were kinky enough to keep their duct tape there? Really, a house wasn't a home without it.

"Why isn't he making contact, then?" Shaw yelled back.

"No idea! Maybe our number is scanning for him?"

"You think they're coming here?"

Root had no luck in the drawers. All that was there was some fancy soap. "Probably! It'll get them off Finch's back, at least."

Their number was Braiden Wheeler, the fifteen-year-old younger brother of a local gang of thugs, who considered themselves some kind of white brotherhood. Theirs was a majority Hispanic neighbourhood so they had, until recently, spent most of their time on drunken fights with other young men, or committing petty crimes in order to have the cash to get drunk or high. Braiden still went to school some of the time, but was spending more and more time hanging out with his older brother Nick, who was the definition of bad influence. Their parents' main hope for Nick these days seemed to be that he would get a girlfriend pregnant and settle down somewhere local; Braiden was considered the smart one of the pair and they didn't yet know that he was on the verge of dropping out of school. Root hadn't known why the Machine sent her along personally, until it turned out that the loosely-affiliated gang had accidentally uncovered a CIA black site and were now armed to the teeth. They also had access to some very nice monitoring technology, which would be very helpful in counter-intelligence against Samaritan's agents.

Unfortunately, someone in the group – and after seeing the rest of them Root's money was on young Braiden – had used the CIA tech to set up a solid security perimeter around their little clubhouse in a self-storage unit, and had detected John, Shaw and Root on their way in. The response had been predictable and heavily armed, and here they were with John bleeding out all over what had been a very nice piece of furniture.

"Where's that goddamn duct tape?" Shaw shouted, and Root had to come back empty-handed.

"Let me see if there's a janitor in this place," she said, and the Machine helpfully brought up the building schematics on her phone. "There's a utility room, I'll try that."

"We can't move John until I've got this all secure, so get moving. And see if you can get into the security, too. I want to know if those idiots are coming for us."

Root glanced over to see that there didn't seem to be any more blood coming out of John, so she supposed that was a good sign. She picked up a spare access card that was handily in a little leather pocket on the back of the apartment door and headed out. There was no sign of any break-in, so if they were being traced, at least their pursuers hadn't made it here yet.

The ground floor was where the doorman would be, if there was one yet, and it was also where the utility room was marked. Rather than chance walking through the lobby where the elevators came out, Root decided to head down to the basement level first and maybe she could work up from there. Or maybe there'd be something useful here anyway.

The basement was a not quite tall enough level squashed in between the parking garages and the apartments, some stupid attempt to get past planning rules and squeeze in more floors. It wasn't actually low enough that Root needed to duck but it was disconcerting to have her head so close to the exposed pipes, especially as at least one of them was a steam pipe. This floor seemed be full of storage lockers marked with apartment numbers; a few were locked but most hung open, empty. Someone must sleep here part of the time, as there was a TV and a fold-out bed in a grim little concrete room, and a bathroom that was plain but just as clean as the marble ones upstairs. She found the boiler room quickly enough and alongside a collection of tools on a bench was an entire roll of duct tape.

"Gotcha!" She stuck her wrist through it and turned to head back upstairs when she heard voices outside the room.

"Shit, I don't wanna climb up ten floors, bro!" Damn, they'd got into the building somehow.

"I don't know that it's ten exactly. Could be nine, could be twelve." A younger teen: must be Braiden.

"Can't you fix the fucking elevator?" A third voice. "This fucking machine gun is heavy."

"Yeah, maybe, if I can get to a security console or something? Or give me a bit more time on the panel outside it, maybe something in the bag will help." They must be carrying their tech with them. Good, Root thought, that would make clean-up easy, and she could check out the monitoring tech.

Root quickly texted Shaw.

They're here. At least 3. Braiden here. Big gun?

Check Shaw sent back.

Root was pretty sure they wouldn't actually have a machine gun, but she still didn't want to be shot by it. She waited to see if the Machine would tell her to go or not, but there was no response. Root hadn't seen any security cameras in the basement hallway, only the elevator, so no extra eyes for her, she supposed. She crouched low and held her phone out over the threshold, using the camera to look for people in the hall. Three heavily armed men and Braiden were there, and two of these men were walking towards Root as they searched for security access. She waited until they were both looking away from her, then scrambled low across the doorway so that she'd be able to hide behind the door. A simple plan, but those were simple men.

Her plan worked perfectly. They thrust open the door and checked out the room, but didn't bother to search it.

"Nah, just the boiler," one of them said. "So it's not down here. Nick, you want to go up a floor?"

"Won't they have a security guy there? We could off him?"

"No need!" Braiden said cheerfully. "I'm into the elevator system."

"Man, this CIA shit is bitching," one of the men said. The elevator descended with a soft chime and Root listened to them get in it and leave before she moved again.

Unfortunately, Braiden and one of the other men were still standing there waiting for the next elevator; they'd split up. Root ducked back into the boiler room, but it was too late.

Gunfire rang out, briefly, then stopped.

"No, stop, it'll ricochet in here," Braiden yelled at the man and he didn't start shooting again.

"Is that the bitch from the crib?" he asked instead. "Doesn't look like her."

"Nah, that bitch was some little mamacita or some shit." Root's minimal level of sympathy for Braiden was dropping fast.

Shaw had texted her. Gunshots?

I'm good. 2 in basement and 2 in elevator Root sent back.

"Hey, lady! Come out, we're not going to hurt you!" the man yelled, unconvincingly.

Root decided to try to get him to come closer. "But you have a gun! I just came down to get some laundry!"

There was no laundry here, let alone residents, but Root didn't think they'd put that together.

"We're, uh, just here to surprise a friend!" Braiden improvised. "Don't worry!"

"I'm calling the police!" Root called back in her best Nice White Lady voice.

Braiden and his armed goon conferred for a moment, then the goon tried to creep down the hall towards her. Root sighed and waited for him to get closer.

He led with his gun, of course, and Root watched the barrel come past her, then his forearm, then she slammed the door on his elbow with all the force she could muster.

"Aaaaah! Fuuuuuuuck!" he screamed, but by then she'd pulled the gun – a very nice compact full automatic, it turned out – away from him and through the gap. It was hers, now.

Root stood in the doorway and aimed the gun at Braiden, making sure the idiot whose gun she had was in between her and the kid. She didn't think Braiden would start shooting in the direction of his friend, but she wasn't sure enough about that to risk not having a human shield.

"Get on the ground!" she snapped at the thug. He made a grab for the muzzle with his uninjured arm, but Root was a lot better at measuring distance than he was, and he missed. Braiden immediately abandoned his friend and jumped in an elevator. Root appreciated that on a tactical level, but it was very annoying that he'd got away.

"Don't shoot me, lady!" the other guy whimpered, not even bothering to go for the gun on his hip.

"Take out your other weapon, slowly. Throw it towards the elevators."

He obeyed, though he did have one long second where he slowly and obviously thought about trying to shoot his captor. And yet, she still barely felt an urge to kill him. The Machine would be proud.

"Don't try it," she told him and he didn't. "Hands behind your head and turn around."

She used the dangling strap to sling the gun across her body and some of the precious duct tape to tie and gag this idiot. It would have been a lot faster to shoot him or even club him unconscious, but Root no longer bothered to argue that point with the Machine, who just sent back an endless stream of concussion statistics.

Once his hands, ankles and mouth were secure, Root gave him a good kick in the ribs for her own satisfaction and headed for the elevators. Braiden had left the interface panel active in his hurry to get away, so she could see where the elevators were right now. Both on the tenth floor. She called one down and got out of the way in case they decided to greet her with bullets, but it was empty: they must not have been near enough to the elevator when it started moving.

Root had quickly used the interface panel to instruct this elevator not to stop until the eleventh floor – pity she couldn't shut them both down entirely, but maybe She would – and headed back up to Shaw. She could hear someone swearing loudly as she went past the tenth floor, but the elevator stuck to its programming and glided on up, glad that for once she didn't have to worry about civilians in the crossfire.

"Oh, clever!" she told the Machine. "You knew they were following us so you found us somewhere they couldn't hurt anyone."

Coming in she texted Shaw before she burst into the apartment and got herself shot.

DUCT TAPE was Shaw's only reply.

"Got it!" Root waved the still fairly full roll at Shaw. Shaw grabbed it from her hand and went to work.

"He's still alive, in case you were wondering," Shaw muttered as she applied tape to John, ripping it into pieces with her sharp teeth.

"Oh, I'm sure you would have told me if he wasn't. But listen, sweetie, those guys will be hitting this floor any minute and we can't fight them and carry John at the same time. I stopped one, but there's at least three more, plus whoever's keeping Harry subdued."

That was when Root noticed the steak knife sticking out of John's chest. "On the other hand, if you're finishing John off right here, that's going to solve the logistics issue."

"Pneumothorax," Shaw explained. "Had to make a cut and hold it open." She waggled two bloody fingers at Root, most enticingly. "Now that you've finally got me the duct tape, I can patch it properly." She yanked out the knife and did something with the plastic packet from the make-up removers. "Done! We can move him. Hopefully straight to major surgery."

"No, we've got to go rescue Harry and Bear first. Otherwise I have no idea where to take John, and She's telling me this one doctor right over the other side of the city. Do you think John will last that long?"

Shaw pressed her lips together in thought. "Closer would be better. Okay, fine, get that desk chair." Shaw pointed to a very nice executive office chair at the large wooden desk. It was on wheels.

Root realised exactly what Shaw was planning. "Oh, this is great, I'm going to get so many photos for John later."

They wrestled John, who was clammy despite being draped in a very expensive cashmere throw, upright into the chair and Root duct taped him in place. The last time Root had done this was with a dead body, and frankly John didn't look much better than that guy had.

Shaw eyed Root's new gun. "Nice. You push John and be prepared to cover us, I'll take point."

"Fine with me."

Shaw was still only wearing her bra and pants and was covered in John's smeared blood from her eyebrows down, and looked much more terrifying than Shaw usually managed. "If I met you in a dark alley, I'd run for it," Root told her fondly.

"Yeah, you'd better. Come on."

The chair was really a marvel of engineering in terms of balance, which was lucky as Root had to push hard to move it on the deep carpet. John's head hung limply and Root was only sure he was breathing because the part of his chest that was exposed had the three-edged plastic seal on it. The fourth edge fluttered and sealed gently with his shallow breaths.

Shaw cracked the door a little way and used her phone the same way Root had earlier. "They're on this floor. Three of them including the little shit we're meant to be protecting. They got into an apartment – I'm guessing they can do that with the gear they stole?"

"Yeah," Root whispered back. "He accessed the elevator system fast enough, I'm sure he can get into the apartments." Root glanced back at the blood-soaked mess of the living room, in clear view of the entryway. "If they come in here they'll know we're inside."

"How fast can you move Reese in the chair?"

"Not very. Faster outside on the marble."

Shaw waved a hand, obviously strategising. "Okay. Rethinking this. They're going to split up for sure. They're already bored looking for us. Can't hear what they're saying exactly but they're already arguing. No discipline at all."

"They're a half-formed gang of idiots, not a black ops team," Root pointed out.

"More dangerous because they'll shoot anything that moves and eventually anything that doesn't." Shaw pointed her camera down the hall again. "That was fast. They're splitting up now. Get John into the bathroom."

Root did, which she noted was well out of the theoretical lines of fire. John's head rolled forward and Root propped it up so it would tilt back rather than forwards. She knew enough to try to keep his airways properly open, at least, and it didn't seem he was likely to vomit now.

Creeping back to see what Shaw was doing – yes, it would be safer to stay in the bathroom, but she loved seeing Shaw work – she though Shaw had vanished for a moment, then she looked up to see her braced across the alcove above the ajar door. Shaw winked at her, and Root couldn't help but grin back.

Goon #2 carefully looked inside and got an eyeful of the blood-stained sofa.

"Nick! In here!" he shouted, immediately dashing forward. Shaw dropped on him, landing square on his shoulders with her thighs around his throat and her hands at his jaw jamming his mouth shut. He immediately dropped the gun with the force of her attack, since he hadn't bothered to properly secure it by the strap, and he staggered into the apartment then fell to the floor, Shaw now under him. She twisted smoothly into a judo hold, squeezing his neck in a triangle hold, and he passed out. Shaw rolled them both over so he was on his stomach; Root leapt in with the duct tape and they had him secure in moments. They dragged him into the master bedroom, out of sight. He was even heavier than John, but at least they didn't have to worry about accidentally killing him, since he wasn't injured.

Shaw gestured Root to take a position at the side of the narrow entryway this time. Root crept backwards and kept her gun at the ready while Shaw used the the coat hooks to climb back up into position above the door.

"Pitbull?" Nick called out as he approached. "Pit? You there?"

Both Nick and Braiden were somewhat more cautious than their fallen friends. Braiden, right beside Nick, used the phone trick on a selfie stick, but fortunately for Shaw he failed to look up. Root could see Shaw's muscles trembling as she held position, waiting for one of them to enter.

"Miss Groves? Are you there?" It was Finch, back online at last.

"Shh, Harry." Root subvocalised, knowing She would amplify it if needed. "John's hurt. We're in JW Eden Paradise Apartments, tower one, apartment 1101. Our number and his big brother are still up and attacking."

"How is John?"

"Mmm, alive? Not getting worse? Shaw says he needs surgery."

"Ah, yes, I see where you are. There's nobody else in the building to worry about – it's not opening until next week. I'll see how I can help."

"Where have you been?"

"As you hurriedly departed, the gang set up some kind of blocking field. A few of the group conducted a rather haphazard search, so we had to hide. It took me some time to find the device, and it was guarded, but Bear took care of that."

"Tell him he's a good boy!"

"Yes, but I suspect there's more of the gang on their way to you, since they didn't find me. You need to move quickly to get those devices away from our number."

The door opened, but Nick didn't come through. Instead, Braiden stood there doing a quick sweep with infra-red goggles on his stupid face.

Shaw dropped down anyway, kicking the glasses into his face as she went. He shrieked at the sudden impact and fell backwards, but Nick popped up behind him and sprayed the room with bullets. Shaw had already hit the ground and Root quickly followed as the bullets cut chunks out of the wall right where her head had been. John would be fine in the bathroom, but Root was not enjoying being shot at.

"More coming, make it quick!" Root yelled at Shaw, waiting for an opportunity to fire back and drive Nick away. The shooting suddenly walked up the wall, so Root took her chance and peeked around the corner, gun ready.

Shaw had come up underneath Nick's gun and stabbed the steak knife right into Nick's groin. She shoved the gun away as he collapsed.

Shaw turned to Braiden with a glint in her eye. "Hey! Braiden! If I pull this knife out, your brother's dead. Have you heard of the femoral artery?"

"Leave him alone!" Braiden's voice wavered and Nick screamed.

"Don't move," Shaw warned Nick.

Root strolled up behind Shaw. "Drop that bag and we'll take it and leave. The guns, too. You can call help for your brother and he might make it."

"Are you the CIA?"

Root smirked. "We cannot confirm that."

"I just found your stuff! It was these guys who made us do stuff with it."

"Bullshit." Shaw's voice was flat. "It was you."

"We don't have to arrest you," Root said. Shaw wasn't great at the non-stabbing parts of negotiation. "But we do have to account for all the gear. Our associate has already collected what you left at your base."

"Huh, he's bleeding more than I thought," Shaw said. Okay, maybe the non-stabbing parts were overrated.

"Okay, okay, I'm putting everything down." Braiden did so, including the now broken goggles which had left a cut above his eyebrow.

"In the bag," Root told him, and he obediently shoved everything into the long navy duffel bag he'd been carrying. "Good. You can keep your phone. Now lie face down on the floor."

"Ms Groves! Ms Shaw" Harold broke in. "We have a problem!"

"The guys on the way?" Shaw asked, placing Nick's hands over his own injury. "Do not pull that out!" she snapped at him. He groaned acquiescence.

"No! They were on the way, but they were intercepted and murdered by a single man. I believe he might be a black ops clean up crew."

"Shit." Shaw jumped to her feet. "Braiden's still in danger then."

"What?" Braiden said, having only heard one side of the conversation.

"We're not CIA," Root helped him up. "But the actual CIA is on the way, and they're going to kill you. Let's get moving."

"We have to take the others, too," Shaw argued. "The CIA will execute them."

"But the femoral artery!" Braiden was wide-eyed.

"Don't worry about it, kid. I stabbed his dick, not an artery. Painful, but he's not going to die."

They all looked at Nick for a moment.

Root shrugged. "Well, that explains the screaming. Let's get everyone to the parking garage before the CIA gets here."

It turned out that telling someone that the CIA has already killed three of his friends and is coming to kill him was a very effective means of ensuring cooperation. Root sliced the duct tape off the guy they'd already taken down and he was happy to take the job of pushing John down to the parking garage. Nick was somehow managing to walk, knife still in place and a cushion pressed to his groin, with support from his brother. This left Shaw free to take point and Root herding them all along like chickens.

"Dump all your gear," Root told Braiden. "If you're lucky, they'll be happy to get everything back and won't come after you."

"But my fingerprints!"

"They already know who you are!"

"Oh, yeah, I guess they do." He made a neat pile of guns by the duffle bag of electronics. Root made a show of inventorying it, and pocketed a few items of interest, now that they were out of Braiden's hands.

Harold was worming his way into the CIA specialist's phone right now, seeing if he could call off the op. Shaw, who had plenty of experience in this area, considered it likely that since it was a single agent who had killed the gang members, he was trying to cover up his own blunder. He shouldn't have hidden a cache so poorly that these fools could find it. It was probably not a sanctioned mission so much as covering his own ass. The odds of him going out of his way to track down a fifteen-year-old who no longer possessed his gear were low, and Harold would be able to monitor his actions just in case.

They had just collected the second duct-taped man, the one Root had taken down in the basement, and exited the elevator in the parking garage when Harold contacted them. "The CIA agent, Campbell, is pulling up in front of the building."

"Is there another vehicle exit?" Shaw asked.

"No, but he's entering the lobby and can access the garage from there. You should move now."

"Got it." Shaw turned to Braiden. "How did you get into this garage?"

"CIA stuff let me override the entry security. But there's no security on the way out, it's automatic."

"Good. Get in your car and get out of here. Never go back to that storage unit. We'll deal with the CIA."

"Sure!" Braiden replied, a little too fast to sound cool, and they all ran for their vehicle. Or staggered with his legs wide apart, in Nick's case.

"What's the plan?" Root asked Shaw, as she sliced John free of his office chair and they slid him across into the passenger seat.

"You're driving, I'm shooting. Stay close to the idiots."

"Perfect!" Root got behind the wheel and threw it into reverse. Shaw put the windows down and checked her weapons.

The gang's car was ahead of them, and Root drove right up their tail as they exited the parking garage via a steep slope. To exit the building they had to pass in front of it, going along the loop of the driveway, and Root was hoping that Campbell had already gone inside and wouldn't see them. Unfortunately this was not the case – he was still in the lobby – and he saw them immediately.

"Go, go, go!" Shaw yelled out the window and both cars accelerated, but Campbell was outside, standing on the broad steps and taking aim.

Shaw shot the marble overhang above his head, sending chips flying, and he ducked for cover behind a large planter. That would give them enough time to get clear, so Root was pleased until she realised that the gang's car hadn't exited onto the road. Instead, they'd continued around the loop towards the front steps and the CIA agent.

"What are they doing?" Shaw bellowed.

"Honestly, there's no saving these ones!" Root was shaking her head in disbelief.

The men screeched to a halt at the front of the building and the two formerly duct-taped guys piled out, more guns in hand. Of course they'd had more in the car! Braiden at least had the sense to drag his wounded brother out of the car in the other direction, heading for Root and Shaw's vehicle.

"Get them in the car and keep the motor running!" Shaw told Root.

"Yes, but have you considered not saving them from their own stupidity?" Root asked, somewhat weary.

"Considering it right now." Shaw leapt out and ran towards Campbell.

Nick collapsed backward into the back seat, knife still protruding, and Braiden helped lift his feet in. The CIA agent had shot at the closer car, not at Root's.

Root reached behind her. "Hey, Braiden, while you were hacking the building, did you happen to transfer the data you got to your phone?"

"Maybe…" he started, shiftily, but on seeing Root's expression he changed his mind. "Yeah, yeah I did."

"Give me your phone."

He did, with no argument. Root scrolled through the data and found the fire prevention systems.

"Shaw, get off the steps," she said, now that their comms were working again. Root saw her take a dive into the nearby shrubs, as Campbell ran into the lobby after the two gang members, who had discovered that shooting at people wasn't so much fun when they were much better at it than you.

"Fire suppression foam, nice!" Root said and set it off.

The two gang members came slipping and sliding out of the lobby, covered in foam, their stolen weapons long since lost. They at least had enough common sense to jump back in their vehicle rather than going after Campbell, and drove off into traffic without even bothering to check on Nick or Braiden.

"Nice friends you've got there," Root told them.

Nick managed a groan in response.

"Can I have my phone back?" Braiden asked.

"Sure. I've deleted the data you're not supposed to have."

"But I found that!"

"If you're actually smart, you'll be able to find it again. Otherwise you're just some dumb kid playing with the adults' toys."

Shaw jumped back into the car, jostling Nick's leg. He groaned again.

"Cheer up, it's not going to kill you!" Root called back as she drove them away, seeing Campbell struggle out of the foam in the rearview mirror.

"Unless you get penile gangrene," Shaw said, thoughtfully.

Nick groaned again.

With Nick and Braiden safely dropped at hospital with a semi-concocted story about some crazy chick with a steak knife, they could turn their attention to the worst injured, John. Harold sent them to Doctor Enright rather than across the city to Doctor Madani.

"You taped me to a chair?" John groaned, now that he was sitting up in bed. Doctor Enright had insisted on doing the surgery in a fully-equipped operating room and simply pretending – with the help of nurses she trusted – that it wasn't a gunshot wound. After a few units of blood, John was doing well. "And you had the doctor list this as an accident installing a car antenna? Cars don't even have those now!"

"Your imaginary vintage Cadillac does," Root told him, helpfully. "And don't worry, I've got pictures of you in that chair. Being unconscious isn't going to get you out of seeing those."

Finch and Shaw came in from where they had been discussing follow-up care with Doctor Enright.

"They're letting you out tomorrow," Finch told him, cheerfully. "Presuming you're willing to follow these very detailed instructions."

"Don't worry, I'll make sure he obeys. He's too weak to fight me." Shaw punched John in the arm and he winced. "See?"

John groaned dramatically and let her punch him again. "Did the CIA come after the kid in the end?"

"Agent Campbell has three corpses and an entire building full of fire suppression foam to explain to his immediate superior." Finch raised an eyebrow at Root, who smiled back beatifically. "And he doesn't seem particularly interested in chasing down any further loose ends. He has accounted for the weapons that were stolen, at least, and the majority of the technology."

"Good." John rubbed his arm where Shaw had punched him. "So, Finch, do you think you can have Bear listed as a hospital visitor dog? They've got bacon on tomorrow morning's menu and I've ordered extra."

"I assure you he's already been rewarded for protecting me," Finch argued, but at protests from the others, he sighed. "I'll see what I can do. He'd hate for that bacon to go to waste."