There's nothing quite like rewatching season 4 to get me back into this. It's a longer chapter than usual, so I hope that somewhat makes up for the delay.
As always, I appreciate the continued support for this - I love reading the reviews, so thank you.
Shaw didn't waste any more time in her search for Root. She travelled to the facility where Samaritan had shot Root with a cautious optimism, but that was soon replaced by a gnawing hopelessness. The place had been wiped clean by the time she got there. There were no people, no computers, nothing. Almost nothing. There was one area that hadn't been cleaned.
Despite what she'd initially found, Shaw was determined to search the entire building inside out for even the smallest hint as to what had happened to Root, but as she turned the corner into another corridor she came to regret that decision.
The whitewashed walls that were the same all over the facility were stained red with blood, with an even darker stain covering the floor. Shaw knelt down to find the smashed remains of Root's earpiece abandoned on the ground, sitting in what must have Root's dried up blood.
This was where it had happened. This was where Root had been shot, where, facing certain death, she'd used what precious time she'd had left to make one last call to say goodbye. Shaw doubted she would ever forget the desperation she'd heard in Root's voice during that moment, a tone she'd never expected to hear from Root. That conversation would haunt her for as long as she lived. If she'd just done more…
Shaw squeezed her eyes shut and tried to think. It was no good dwelling on what she should have done, especially at the expense of what she should be doing now. She needed to focus on the present, because Root was out there and she needed Shaw's help now. This time Shaw wouldn't let her down.
The staging had to be deliberate. Any other evidence of the shootout, bullets or anyone else's blood, had been cleaned. This spot, splattered with Root's blood, was deliberately left untouched. Shaw didn't know whether it had been done to mock her, to taunt her over what had happened to Root, or whether it was designed to lure her into a trap.
If Samaritan wanted to use Root as bait for a trap, that was fine with her. She'd jump at even the slimmest opportunity to get Root back. She would have traded herself in for Root in a heartbeat, but there was no doubting that Root was a far more valuable prisoner for Samaritan than she could ever be.
Shaw drew a long breath. Whatever the reasoning for leaving this here, it made one thing clear. She was too late. Root was gone, either dead or captured, and there was nothing for her to find in this facility that would give her an indication of where Root was now. Her search had only just begun and she'd already hit a wall.
Shaw didn't risk another sweep of the facility. She wouldn't have found anything anyway. Even as she left, she couldn't quite work out what game Samaritan was playing. After all, Samaritan knew she would come looking for Root - why else would the blood have been left for her to find? But why not just capture her? She had a feeling Samaritan's plan would reveal itself eventually, one way or another.
Shaw woke up to the sound of typing. She rubbed her temple and sat up on the couch she'd been sleeping on.
"Do you have to do that while I'm trying to sleep?" she grumbled.
Finch stopped typing abruptly and swivelled in his chair to meet her stare. "Maybe if you spent more time in your apartment, Miss Shaw, and less on my couch, you might get some more sleep."
"It's not my apartment." She stood and tried to stretch out the stiffness in her neck. "You got anything to eat?"
Finch gestured to a bag sitting on the edge of his desk. "I bought something on my way in this morning. I assumed you'd still be here."
Shaw opened the brown paper bag to find not one, but two bacon rolls, and they were still warm. She took one of them out of the bag and began eating. "You don't like having me around?"
"I am worried about you, Miss Shaw." Finch looked at her as he always did, with pity in his eyes. She hated that. She didn't want his pity, or anyone else's.
"There's nothing to worry about," she said, taking another bite of her roll. "I'm fine."
"Miss Shaw - Sameen, it has been months since we lost Miss Groves. You still haven't taken the proper time to grieve. It's not healthy."
"What are you, my therapist?" Shaw placed the half-eaten roll back down on the desk. "I don't need time to grieve, because Root is not dead. What I need, is for your Machine to come through on its promise to find her."
"Have you considered the possibility that there is nothing for the Machine to find?"
Shaw clenched her fists. "Why are you so keen for Root to be dead?"
"Because, Miss Shaw, the mere possibility of Root still being alive, is killing you. The thought of losing another friend over this…" Finch shook his head. "It's too much."
"I already told you I don't care what happens to me. I can't leave her." Shaw closed her eyes, picturing Root's teasing smile. "I can't move on."
Finch didn't say anything else. There wasn't anything left to say, nothing that he hadn't already told her over the past few months, and certainly nothing that could change her mind.
More than anything, Shaw was afraid to move on. Being with Root, she'd discovered a side to herself that she'd long believed not to exist. Shaw had come to like that softer side of herself, even the complicated feelings that came with it. But if she moved on, if she wrote Root off for dead, then she was afraid that part of herself could be locked away forever. She didn't want to go back to who she'd been before Root.
Shaw's phone buzzed on the couch where she'd left it, drawing her attention. She sighed and walked over to it. No doubt it was another task the Machine needed her to do. When the leads on Root had run dry, Shaw had made a deal with the Machine. She would go back to working with them, and the Machine promised to continue using its resources to look for Root. It hadn't produced much so far, but Shaw continued to remain hopeful. She had to.
The message was from the Machine, but it wasn't what she'd expected. There was an address, and then it just said 'ROOT'.
Shaw's heart was racing as she rushed into the backroom, not saying a word to Finch. "Have you found her?" she asked.
The monitor flashed on, and then the text started to appear as usual. Maybe. It is almost certainly a trap.
Shaw expected nothing less from Samaritan. "Even if it is a trap, do you think she's actually there?"
An image appeared on the screen, It was blurry, and it looked like a partially recovered corrupted file, but it showed enough. It was Root. It only showed her from the shoulder up, and her hair covered most of her face, but Shaw knew it was her.
Samaritan isn't this sloppy. This was deliberate.
"So it's a trap." Shaw shrugged. "So what? I'm going after her anyway."
I never doubted you would. Bring her back.
Those words carried a familiar sting. The last time the Machine had told her to bring Root back, Shaw had returned with nothing but grief and anger. It wouldn't be the same this time. This time, Root was there, and Shaw wasn't leaving without her.
The Machine believed that Root was being held in the unusually extensive basement that lay under an office building owned by a rather large stock company. It was unclear whether Samaritan was actually pulling the strings within the company itself, but either way the nature of the company meant that whatever business Samaritan had going on below the surface was well protected by a tight security network.
With a little help from the Machine and Finch, Shaw was able to gain access through one of the less well-guarded service entrances. Getting in was never going to be the problem. Shaw was more worried about getting back out, especially if Root turned out to be in no condition to fight. And if this was a trap, then of course Samaritan would want her to be inside so they could capture her.
"Take another left, Miss Shaw." Finch, using a rough outline of potential schematics devised by the Machine, was guiding Shaw to what they hoped would be the surveillance room. If she could get access to the internal camera feeds, then she'd stand a much better chance of finding Root than by searching every room in this maze.
By some miracle, Shaw made it there without being detected. The Machine had gotten the location wrong multiple times, which had led to no small degree of frustration on Shaw's end, but she made it. The room itself was nothing special. One man sat in front of a group of monitors, watching the feeds as they appeared on the screens. Shaw was surprised to find that Samaritan even bothered to have a human watching them, instead of just watching them itself.
Shaw pressed her gun against the back of the man's head. "Stand up," she said.
Shaking, he did as she instructed, raising his hands in a show of surrender. "I'm just paid to watch the cameras," he said. "Please - please don't hurt me."
"I'm not here to hurt you. I'm looking for a friend."
"Do you mean the prisoner?"
The man flinched as Shaw shoved her gun forcefully into his head. "What do you know about her?" she growled.
"Only - only that they brought her in about a month ago, and I haven't seen her since. They keep her in a sealed-off section of the compound that I don't have access to feeds for. I can show you where it is, though."
Shaw pulled her gun away from the man's head and he sagged with relief. "Show me," she said, stepping to the side so she could watch the monitors as he searched.
He began typing away at the keyboard but then, one by one, the monitors went blank. Shaw turned her gun on him. "What are you doing?" she demanded.
"This isn't me, I swear." The panic in the man's voice was enough for Shaw to know he was telling the truth. A gunshot sounded, and the man slumped dead in his chair. Shaw hadn't fired.
"You're unbelievably predictable, Sameen." Shaw recognised that voice. She turned to face Lambert, the man who'd been so kind as to shoot her in the leg the first time she'd escaped from Samaritan.
"So is Samaritan, it seems." Root probably would have entertained the verbal dance that Lambert wanted to play, but Shaw had no interest in talking around the point. "You lured me here for a reason. I want to see Root, then maybe we can talk."
"You're not exactly in a good position to be making demands." Lambert flashed her a cruel smile. "But you'll meet Miss Groves soon enough, once you tell Samaritan what it wants to know about your associates."
Shaw's stomach turned as the meaning of what Lambert was saying dawned on her. She fought the powerful urge to shoot him. He'd kill her in the process, but she knew she could get a shot off before going down. But if he was lying, it wasn't worth the risk.
"I see you've finally figured it out," he continued, still smiling at her. "Root is dead. We did try to turn her, but her body broke before her spirit. It's a shame, really. All that wasted potential."
Finch was saying something about how sorry he was through the earpiece, but Shaw ignored him. "If Root is dead," she said, the words almost too painful to say, "then you might as well kill me now. Get it over with."
Lambert paused, no doubt receiving instructions from Samaritan. Shaw's finger hovered over the trigger of her weapon, ready to go down with one last desperate act if she had to.
Neither of them had the chance to shoot. Shaw heard the shot, and then she saw Lambert fall to the ground, clutching a nasty wound in his side. Seeing the smug smile wiped off his face was enough to make Shaw smile.
It didn't compare to the way she smiled when she looked up and saw the shooter. Propped up against the room's only doorway, the gun still in her hand, was Root.
"Are you alright, Miss Shaw?" asked a worried Finch through her earpiece.
"I'm better than alright, Harold," she replied, her eyes fixed on Root. "I've found her."
Shaw ran over to Root, just in time to catch her as she collapsed. Up close, the extent of Samaritan's torture became all too clear. Besides the cuts and bruises, Root's body was dangerously frail in Shaw's arms, her skin too pale and her body too thin.
"What have they done to you?"
Root attempted to offer her a weak smile. "Nothing I couldn't handle. You shouldn't have come back for me, Sameen."
"What else did you expect me to do? You look half-starved to death."
Root shook her head. "You don't understand. You need to leave, and I can't come with you."
Shaw clenched her jaw. "I'm not leaving you again."
Root placed a feeble hand over Shaw's arm. "You don't have a choice. They placed a tracker in my head, Sameen. It does… other things, as well. There's a flaw in the system, one that allowed me to disable it for a short time. I think Samaritan hoped I wouldn't notice the limited nature of it so that I could escape and lead them back to you and the Machine."
"But you're smarter than that."
"Of course." They both smiled. "They never expected me to use it to help you within their own facility."
Shaw pushed Root's hair back so she could see the scar where they'd inserted the chip. "I can cut it out," she said. "I can get you out of here."
Root gripped her wrist. "There's no time. Martine will be here soon."
"An old acquaintance of mine. Turns out she's not too fond of me. We've been spending a lot of time together recently."
Shaw shook her head. She couldn't leave Root, not again. She'd made a promise to herself that she wouldn't leave without Root and she didn't want to break it. But she was running out of both options and time.
"Miss Shaw, there are Samaritan agents closing in on your location." Shaw wanted to throw her earpiece across the room. The earpiece…
"Cameras?" she said quietly to Root.
Shaw subtly removed her earpiece and pulled Root close to her. Using their bodies to shield what she was doing from the cameras, Shaw slipped the earpiece into Root's hand.
"Wherever they take you, I will find you. Next time, they won't know what's coming."
Root's eyes lit up as she realised what Shaw had done. "You always know how to surprise me, Sameen." She slipped the earpiece into her pocket. "I'll try to be in better shape when you come back."
Shaw cupped her cheek. "Just try to stay alive."
Then Shaw was forced to do the hardest thing she'd ever done. Root seemed relieved as she stood to leave, which only made the guilt Shaw felt even worse. She glanced back at Lambert, bleeding out on the floor. At least something good had come out of all this.
Each step she took away from Root was more painful than the last, but she forced herself to keep moving. Leaving Root now was a difficult choice, but if it was the only way for both of them to survive, then it was one she had to make. This time, they had a plan, and with that plan, came hope.
Root had no idea what Samaritan wanted from her. When she'd been recovering from the gunshot wounds that had almost killed her, things had been clearer. Samaritan has tried to convince her to return, to betray Shaw and the Machine in the process. She'd refused, of course, which was when she'd found out about the chip they'd put in her head.
She hadn't lied to Shaw when she told her it was a tracker, but that was far from its primary purpose. The chip was a torture device, one that Samaritan or its agents could activate remotely, emitting frequencies inside her head that produced varying degrees of pain. Most days, it had her curled up on the floor, screaming and begging for the pain to stop.
She didn't quite understand its purpose, though, which was frustrating in itself. If all Samaritan wanted her for was to use her as bait, then it could have just killed her and faked something to get Shaw's attention. Instead, it chose to take the risk of keeping her alive, which was a strange play for the ruthless AI.
Some days she wondered if Samaritan kept her alive because it enjoyed torturing her for her betrayal. She knew Martine certainly got a kick out of it. But for Samaritan to take such a risk over a personal grudge - it was an interesting development.
Other days Root simply didn't care. She rarely slept or ate, and that had left her physically weak and utterly hopeless. There were days when she just wanted it all to end.
But then Shaw had shown up. Root's only goal had been to get Shaw back out safely, but in giving her the earpiece, Shaw had given her hope. Samaritan wouldn't bother to look for it, as far as it was concerned she was nothing more than a broken soul. Now that she'd lost Shaw again, it wouldn't be hard to convince Samaritan and it's human agents that she was still broken.
All she needed now was time. If she could hold out for a little longer, Shaw and the Machine would be able to track her wherever Samaritan chose to take her next, and then hopefully she'd be able to escape. There was still so much that could go wrong, but at least now she felt there was actually a chance.
She heard Martine approach before she saw her. Over the past months, Root had learned to fear the sound of her shoes clicking against the concrete, as that sound was always followed by immense pain. As she looked up to see Martine's cruel face storming towards her, she knew this time would be no different.
"That was quite the stunt you pulled," said Martine, adjusting the strands of her blonde hair tied neatly above her head. "Such a shame you'll have to pay the price for it."
Martine's face was emotionless as she activated the chip inside Root's head, increasing the level at a rapid pace. Root's nails dug into her hands as she screamed, the pain flooding her head. She couldn't think, couldn't breathe as she started gasping for air. When it was over, she collapsed into a heap on the ground, unable to move as her ears continued to ring.
"That's only a taster," said Martine, standing over her. "We're going to have so much fun together."
She motioned for two other agents to drag Root's body to whatever their next location would be. Root didn't resist as the concrete rubbed and tore at the skin on her knees as she was dragged along. She kept her head hung low, and she waited. She would wait for Shaw, no matter how long it took.