“I don’t understand,” Shaw grunts as she narrowly dodges another hailstorm of bullets. “Why can’t we just, for once, ask the Machine for a printout of everything about our numbers so we don’t have to run into a mess like this blindfolded?”
“Too much for you to handle, Shaw?” Reese smiles under his breath, but it was loud enough for the comms to pick up. Shaw can just picture the smirk on Root’s face right now.
“You just wait, Reese,” Shaw growls. She glares at him over the crates of probably illegal ammunitions that she’s using as cover, before stepping out in the lull and taking out the handful of shooters with several precise shots to the knees.
He pretends he’s too busy apprehending their number, an arms dealer who’d managed to seem incredibly innocent up until he tried to kill a competitor a minute ago, to catch the glare she’s still leveling at him.
Shaw decides she’s going to let Reese deal with figuring out what to do with the slimeball. Serves him right, she thinks smugly, as the arms dealer latches onto Reese’s shin with his teeth.
Humming slightly, she gets into the car and decides she’ll let Reese deal with figuring out to get home, too.
“I take it the number has been apprehended?” Harold’s voice sounds in her ear.
“More or less,” along with some panting, come in reply. Reese sounds like he’s struggling a bit.
“Made it out unscathed, Sameen?” Root’s voice joins the comms.
“Can’t say the same about John’s shin,” Shaw grins.
She can hear the exasperation in Harold’s voice without him even speaking. Resolving to cut him off before he delivers a lecture on teamwork or trust falls or something, she keeps one eye on the road while checking her ammo. “I’m running low, so I’m on my way back. Want me to pick anything up on the way?”
“I’m good, Sameen, but thank you. That was very kind of you to offer.”
“I wasn’t asking you, Root.”
“She has a point, Harry,” Root says after everyone’s disconnected from the comms. “Things would be so much easier if She could tell us a little more about our targets.”
Harold peers at her over one of his computer screens. “You know better than I, Ms. Groves, that that is simply not part of the Machine’s operational objectives.”
Root considers this thoughtfully, before swiveling in her chair and addressing the subway car at large. “Really? There’s nothing else you’re holding out on us that could be helpful?..."
"... I knew it! You do have something for us, don't you?…"
"... Sometimes every last thing counts. Information is power, you know…"
"... Well, yes, but it’ll be far more practical for the team than just fun for me…”
Continuing to clean up all the digital traces of their latest mission, Harold tries not to notice the delighted smile that’s growing on Root’s face as it appears from the one-sided conversation that her coaxing seems to be working on the Machine. Clearing his throat, he wonders if there’s a tactful way he can suggest Root make a graceful exit from the subway car before Shaw returns. Shaw seems particularly ornery today, and Root’s mischief seems to be in surplus.
Root beats him to the punch. “Hey Harry, guess what,” she smiles.
Harold glances at her briefly, before making a point of shifting in his chair to turn away.
With her laptop in one hand and a fresh cup of coffee (where did that come from? he wonders) in the other, she walks over and settles into the chair next to his. He pretends not to notice the coffee being offered to him, hovering dangerously over his papers.
He sees her shrug out of the corner of his eye before setting the cup on the part of his desk not consumed by mission-related notes or excruciatingly disappointing term assignments. For a few minutes, they work in companionable silence, their rapid clicking and typing away and the gentle hum of his computer the only sounds in the subway car.
“Harold,” Root says after a few minutes of solid work. Her voice is carefully moderated, but he can hear the excitement simmering underneath. “Take a look at this.”
With a sigh, he turns to look at Root’s screen.
“I know!” Root says happily.
“Wait, Harry, before you say anything else,” she says hurriedly, “She told me about it. So She probably means for us to make use of it somehow, right?”
He squints at the mess of code on her screen. Not for the first time, he suppresses the thought that the Machine might have a sense of humour.
“Ms. Groves,” he says after a beat, “Why am I looking at an algorithm that calculates relationship compatibility?”
“Did you know I hacked OKCupid once? It was for a job. Easiest half a million I ever made.”
Shaw is too busy keeping a wary eye on Root, whose chair somehow seems to have been slowly gravitating towards the bag containing her meatball sub, to register the non-sequitur at first. Once Root’s body posture shifts away from her food, Shaw pauses to consider the subject. There’s no possible outcome to this conversational topic that won’t end in her wanting to close her hands around Root’s throat, so she turns her attention back to Harold.
“I’m going to take off if there’s nothing else, then.”
“Yes, Ms. Shaw, for now we appear to be granted a moment of respite. I will make sure to call you the moment we receive another number.”
Shaw nods and makes her way back to where she’d set her sub down. Shoving her fully reloaded guns back into their holsters, she glances over Root’s shoulder to see what’s so engrossing about whatever she’s working on.
“I suppose She was able to easily combine similar algorithms with all the information She already has.”
Eyes narrowing, she briefly struggles internally before sighing and shaking her head at herself. She unwraps her sub and takes a bite, making sure to take her time and chew thoroughly, before finally asking, “Why are you talking about online dating?”
Root looks up at Shaw, bringing their faces a lot closer together than Shaw had expected.
Glancing down at Shaw’s mouth, a small smile curves its way onto Root’s face.
“I’m not talking about online dating, Sameen. I’m talking about soulmates.”
Shaw watches Root’s gaze linger on her mouth.
She brings the sub back up to her mouth and takes a grossly large bite out of it. Around the food in her mouth, she mumbles, “That didn’t answer my question.”
Root relaxes into her chair a bit, now eyeing Shaw’s extremely full mouth with a touch of amusement as she deciphers what it was that Shaw was probably trying to say. Half of it was meatball sub. “Well, remember when you asked Her to tell us everything about a number?”
“Considering it was less than two hours ago, yeah, I’d say I remember.”
“Well, everything includes soulmates, sweetie.” Root reaches up to brush a crumb from the corner of Shaw’s mouth, but gets her hand batted away instead.
Shaw wipes her mouth on the back of her hand, then scoffs. “Soulmates don’t exist.”
Root leans back in her chair almost imperceptibly, considering Shaw silently, her lips curving without the smugness that infuses her normal smiles.
After a few seconds, during which Shaw takes another unnecessarily large bite out of her sub – if nothing else but for a reason to break her gaze from Root’s unusually thoughtful one – Root’s trademark smirk winds its way back onto her face.
“Soulmates, highest compatibility match in the local metropolitan area. Same thing,” Root says airily.
Shaw shakes her head again. Her sub is almost finished, and this conversation is just as maddening as most conversations with Root are. “I don’t want to know about a number’s lovelife. I just want to know things like who he associates with, where he lives, where he pulled a muscle last week so I can shoot that part of him first.”
“The compatibility matches are based on all of that, sweetie. We just need to find a way to examine Her algorithm and isolate the variables that were used in the calculations.”
“Yeah, well, good luck with that. Try to work on that in your downtime, I’d hate to be stranded on a mission just because you were busy playing matchmaker with our numbers instead of tracking down killers.”
“What if I was busy playing matchmaker with you instead?”
Accompanied by a thunder of horror sounding in Shaw’s brain, her social security number is being typed out onto Root’s screen in the “input SSN” field. (Why does she know my social security number off by heart like that? follows the shock that’s bouncing around in her mind as well.)
“Root, I swear to God—”
“Hello?” Reese’s voice grumpily floats across the abandoned subway. “A hand would be nice here.”
“Mr. Reese! What happened?” Harold limps out of his computer chair while craning his neck to try to assess the drops of blood falling from Reese’s pant leg.
Shaw watches Root set the laptop down to check out the bite the last number had inflicted on Reese after she’d left him to wrap up the mission. With a quick glance over at the two fussing over Reese and his barely punctured skin wound (Baby, she snorts to herself), Shaw finds her gaze being drawn back to the blinking cursor at the end of the input field on Root’s laptop.
She looks back over at Root being ordered by Harold to run and get some bandages from the first aid kit at the other end of the subway car.
There’s just one number left in her social security number to type in…
With an unexpected tenseness in her muscles, Shaw punches in the last digit and hits “Enter” almost defiantly, before turning to watch Root striding back towards Reese with the first aid kit.
Satisfied that their attention is occupied elsewhere and not on the vaguely illicit behavior she feels like she’s engaging in, Shaw considers the error message returned to her by the program.
Feeling resigned to the probable result she knows she’s about to get, she enters “y” for the “return known alias instead?... y/n” prompt.
Her mouth twists wryly at the name printed out in the “highest match compatibility result…” line.
“99.607% match compatibility, huh?” she mutters to herself.
She erases the output window and clears the memory cache with the method Harold taught her a few months ago before heading over to take a look at the bite mark on Reese’s shin.