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muzzle to muzzle

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Shaw’s identity is simple; she’s an EMT. She wonders idly if Root did this on purpose, or whether it was Root’s god. Either way, she finds that the job is boring. In the end, Shaw isn’t even fixing people here. She is their purgatory, keeping them alive, until a more trained professional can save them. She is annoyed and frustrated and restless.

Perhaps that’s why she starts listening to the police scanner.

Initially, she has no plans to react to the calls. The echo of Root’s voice rings in her ears; “keep your head down”. But it’s so hard to do when there’s a domestic abuse disturbance three houses away.

The police is unhappy when they arrive on the scene and the abuser is pinned to the wall with a nail gun and the boyfriend just claims (quietly, timidly) that a beautiful woman saved him. They don’t know what to do with it, but when the abuser wakes up he swears, independently, that “some crazy bitch” pinned him against the wall.

Samaritan notices, and notes it down.

Overnight, that file gets deleted.

Samaritan doesn’t notice. Somewhere, a machine and her analogue interface share a metaphorical grin.


One too many interferences and Shaw is tied to a chair. Her hands are duct taped behind her back, but her legs are free. She comes to in a head jerk; she has never been one for slow realisation. A man is towering above her, muscles flexing as he looks down at her. Shaw looks up through her hair, and then glances around the room.

She is in a warehouse somewhere; there is a tall man, and then four henchmen. They needed all four of them to capture her like this. Shaw tilts her head; drug dealer from the look of them. From the tattoos, Shaw guesses it’s one of the Czech gangs. She killed one of their main operatives last Tuesday.

Shaw wiggles her hand; although her wrists are tightly bound together, she can shift them, slightly. She doesn’t let her success show on her face. She also feels the reassuring push of her ceramic knife, strapped to her thigh. Sadly, she’s wearing her long black skinny jeans tonight, so it isn’t easy to access. She tilts her head and looks up at the man.

“Well, this is a pleasant way to meet,” she comments casually. The man slaps her. It’s a powerful slap; Shaw opens her mouth several times to make sure everything is intact before she spits on the ground in front of the man. He looks down at her, cruel smile pulling at his lips.

“I’m going to teach you some manners, bitch,” he growls. Shaw notes his voice is accented, but only slightly. “But not before you give me some answers.”

“You’re gonna have to ask me some questions before I can give you answers,” Shaw points out. She is ready to flinch, waiting for the next slap, but it doesn’t come.

“Why did you kill my operative?” He demands instead. Shaw shrugs.

“He was causing trouble.”

“On your turf? Is this your area?” he asks. Shaw rolls her eyes.

“No, of course not.”

“Are you a cop?” he asks again. Shaw gives him an incredulous glace before she shakes her head again.

“No.” The man sighs.

“What is your interested in the area then?” he demands, exasperated.

“I live here,” Shaw replies simply. He growls again, and says something in highly accented Czech to one of his friends. A second man steps forward.

“Are you working alone?” he demands.

“Yes.” He doesn’t believe her; he scoffs, and makes to punch her again. Shaw rolls her eyes. “Well,” she starts, “I do have some help.” The man perks up. Shaw smiles up at him. “The police scanner that I stole about a month ago.” That affords her a punch to the face. The new man turns away too and barks something in perfect Czech to the two remaining men.

“Sergei and Vladmir are going to teach you a lesson, little lady,” he hisses, before he walks away, two men following him. Shaw looks up at the two approaching hulks of men and grins.

“I like this,” she tells them. They exchange a confused look.

“Like what?” The one of the left asks; Shaw barely has time to note that he has an American accent before she stands up and slams the chair down on the floor. It breaks underneath her. Before she can yank her hand out of the duct tape handcuffs, the silent thug comes at Shaw. She jumps up and slams a kick on his chest, forcing him to stagger back as she slips out of the duct tape. Hands finally free, Shaw uses the back of the broken chair as a weapon and slams it at American Accent Thug. Silent Thug has recovered, and tries to come at Shaw from the opposite direction. This would be a great time to have her knife, but the knife is trapped, securely, to Shaw’s thigh, and she doesn’t really have the thirteen seconds it takes to reach down her pants and extract that beauty. She sighs, and starts to play dirty.

Shaw waits until they are both close, before she ducks and slides underneath Silent Thug and kicks him in the back, using him as a shield against American Accented Thug, who seems to have a knife of his own. American Accented Thug grits his teeth and lunges for Shaw over his partner. The knife grazes her arm, and blood splatters, but Shaw compartmentalizes the pain and parries and attacks. She slams a fist against a chin and then knees a man to the groin, throwing his body to the left so she can deal with Silent Thug, swiping out his legs from under him and slamming a palm against his clavicle.

The sickening snap of bone is complemented by three quick shots. Shaw spins around, hand down her pants, desperately trying to extract her knife.

“Do I really make you that happy to see me?” Root’s standing in the door way, head tilted, grinning. Shaw extracts her hand, knife in hand, and exhales air. It sounds suspiciously like a laugh to Root.

“I had this in hand,” Shaw says instead. Root grins. She knows that’s synonymous with “thanks” for Shaw.

“I know you did, I’m just here to patch that up.” She gestures at the cut on Shaw’s arm. It’s bleeding more than Shaw realised. There are stripes of blood, trailing down her arm. Root pulls out some cream and gauze out of her coat pocket. Shaw raises an eyebrow. Root shrugs.

“She said you might need help. She didn’t specify what kind, so I came prepared.”

“She still talks to you?” Root doesn’t answer that. She just steps over the two thugs and gestures at the pile of boxes closer to her.

“Sit down,” she instructs. Shaw does.

“I thought I was the one who played doctor,” Shaw mutters while Root tusks over the cut. Root shrugs.

“I had to seduce a surgeon once. I know a thing or two about medicine.”

“When you say seduce…”

“He died of natural causes within the week too, but that didn’t teach me much about medicine.”

“I don’t think I need stitches,” Shaw mutters as Root pokes at the cut.

“Yeah, it’s clean,” Root agrees, as she puts the cold antiseptic cream on it. Shaw hisses, but stays motionless. Root grins and puts the gauze on the cut carefully. “There,” she whispers.

Shaw wants to get up, distance herself, and leave. But Root is sitting right there, grinning, because she knows she helped Shaw, and even if Shaw won’t admit it, she did kind of need someone. Something in Shaw reacts; it’s almost as if something’s off. She sweeps the room, but her adversaries are still out cold, and their all alone. Her eyes flick back to Root.

“I think I should leave,” she mutters. “My shifts starts soon.”

“How are you going to explain that cut?”

“I’m not. My coat will cover it.” And with that, she leaves. She doesn’t glance back, even though as she stands in the door way of the warehouse she feels a deep sinking in her stomach, as if she forgot something.


The next weeks are frustrating. The end of autumn is becoming colder, and it is as if it’s too cold to commit violent crimes anymore. The police beat Shaw to most crimes scenes again, and the ones she appears at, she has to hover in the background because they are being committed indoors, in the light of intrusive cameras.

That’s the only reason Shaw is so jumpy. Well, it’s the only reason Shaw allows herself to think about anyway.

“You look glum,” Karen, the driver of the ambulance, says. “Well, more glum than usual,” she adds.

“I’m not glum,” Shaw snaps.

“Yeah, perhaps it’s not glum – it’s more of a general disapproval with the world.”

“I am not disapproving.”

“Well, you are doing something.” Shaw wants Karen to shut up. Karen is chatty and likes to tell Shaw about her three cats and her boyfriend; Shaw doesn’t care. But Karen talking keeps her from asking intrusive questions, so Shaw turns to Karen.

“How is Sniffles?” She asks instead, as if the health of Karen’s oldest cat in any way concerns her. Immediately, Karen begins to recount a fun story of the cat sleeping on top of Karen’s fiancé despite the fact she has told the cat repeatedly that Mark is allergic and so Mark woke up sneezing (isn’t that funny, Shaw) and then Karen had to chase away the cats because Mark was sneezing, and it was all such a laugh.

Shaw just sinks down in her seat, and prays that someone somewhere is dying.


A magazine arrives in the mail three weeks later. “Psychiatrists Weekly,” the cover boasts. It should have been sent to a Nora St John, who lives in Brooklyn. Shaw has no idea how she got this magazine; she lives in Washington Heights. She slips the magazine into a mail box and doesn’t think much of it. People make mistakes.

But then two bills arrive for Nora St John again. The correct address (Apartment 3C, 1467 Union Street, Crown Heights, Brooklyn) is on both of them, clearly written where it should be. Shaw has had enough of it; she walks to the post office and, after waiting in line for nearly half an hour, slams the envelopes on the counter.

“This is the third time I have received mail for this woman,” Shaw snaps at an acne riddled American Postal employee. “Can you please tell whoever sorts the mail that this isn’t funny?” The boy looks confused and terrified.

“It’s all done with a machine,” he squeaks.

A machine; of course. Shaw glances up at a camera as she leaves the post office. Although she knows she is primarily staring at Samaritan, Shaw swears She is still around.


When it happens, everything feels meticulously planned. One of the EMT gal’s girlfriend is working on the 911 call center on her birthday, but she has a ten hour shift. So, shift over, Karen volunteers to drive the present over without giving Shaw a second to disembark. So there Shaw is, shoulder’s hunched uncomfortably, as she follows Karen to an operator in the chattering room.

The operator is chatty, and Karen asks questions.

“Yeah, I just had the weirdest call from a girl. The only thing she said, repeatedly, was to tell Sammy that Nora St John was in trouble.”

“Nora St John?”

“Yeah, that was it. There was nothing I could do with the information…”

Shaw turned on her heel and left.

“That was slick,” she mutters under her breath, though she suspects no one can hear her. She makes to take the subway home, but as she walks through the tunnels, the public phones start ringing. Shaw glances at the camera at the end of the tunnel; it’s off. She stops walking, but the empty tunnel continues to ring with footsteps. Shaw sighs and walks over to the phones.

If the Machine went through this much trouble to get Shaw’s attention, then she will at least answer the phone.

An electric voice begins rattling off a collection of numbers.

“40.6684877, -73.9424811

N40° 40.1093', W073° 56.5489”

When Reese had the machine, he liked it to be humanoid. He would talk to it, and expect answers in directions and names and indications. When Root talked to the machine, she did not want humanity. She wanted Morse code and binary. It figures, Shaw decides, typing the coordinates into her phone, that to direct Shaw to Root, the Machine adopts Root’s twang.

Because Shaw has no doubt that Root is Nora St John; her phone calibrates the numbers and turns them into an address for Shaw. Apartment 3C, 1467 Union Street, Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Shaw gets on a different train.


Shaw does not even have a gun. She breathes out and tries the door; miraculously a buzzer goes off somewhere, and Shaw is let in. She looks up again and nods at the security camera, just slightly. She walks up to the third floor and sits outside of the apartment, listening carefully. There is nothing to here; the apartment is empty. So she picks the lock on Nora St John’s apartment. “Payback,” she whispers as the lock clicks open; now she has gotten into Root’s apartment too.

The signs of struggle are apparent; there is a broken glass on the floor and Root’s taser is on the floor, next to the puddle of water. “What happened here?” Shaw whispers, looking around. Somewhere, something beeps. Shaw grins. Of course, She wouldn’t leave her out to dry.

There is a tiny camera hidden in the handles of the cupboards; despite Her hints, it takes Shaw nearly an hour to find it. When she figures out just how all of Root’s basic technology works and she finally has access to an incredibly high quality image, Shaw sees four men attack Root.

She wants to ask the computer how Root did this, before. How was Root Root without her God’s comforting whisper?

Her body slips back into this kind of work almost too easily. It’s like riding a bicycle, if bicycles required acute upper body strength and weapon skills. Once Shaw has faces, it becomes an easy task. She walks into three separate bars, baklava covering her face, shoots the security camera, and describes tattoos. She gets a boss; a boss has two body guards and a phone. Shaw breaks all of three and then introduces herself. “I think you have something I want,” she tells him, cracking her knuckles. He blinks, taken aback. His surprise turns to horror when Shaw holds a butcher’s knife with its tip on his chin.

“I could painfully slam this through your head until it makes contact with your brain and thus kill you, or you could tell me where you’re keeping my friend the doctor?”

“She’s not a Doctor,” the man squeaks; “she’s a liar and a thief.”

“That may well be, but she is still my friend.”

“She kidnapped me…” the man hisses, enraged, through clenched teeth. Shaw sighs, bored.

“Yes, she did that to me too. Now, location?” She presses down a little harder with the knife. The tip sinks into flesh, and a red bead of blood drops out. The man gulps and the knife shifts further; he squeaks and shouts out a location.

“She’d better be alive,” she tells the man, before slamming his head against the table and leaving him there, unconscious.