“Can. You. Hear. Me?”
It wasn’t the first words that John Reese heard the Machine send his way. Of course, maybe their first conversation didn’t count, since the Machine had only been spitting out the Numbers for him to look for, track and protect or stop. He met Leon Tao that way and even got his beloved dog, Bear, in the process, but that hadn’t really mattered at the time.
No, what had mattered was that some crazy bitch had kidnapped Harold and traveled across the States with him while threatening his and everyone else’s safety while searching for the Machine and every second - let alone a minute, an hour or god forbid day - mattered and he didn’t have the time or the mind present to contemplate the significance of the Machine calling him. All he could think at the time was that he wasn’t going to lose yet another friend, yet another dear person. So he had ignored the monumental meaning behind that call - that Finch, that the Machine trusted him enough to label him the successor and Secondary Administrator for their mission with the Numbers - and instead threatened the Machine with quiting if it didn’t help him get Finch back. He had even less thought to the fact that the Machine had listened and understood. All he focused on was the new social security number he got and to getting Finch back, despite needing to fly across the continent to do it. All that mattered was getting Finch back to New York, to the Library and keeping him safe there.
And the next week or so didn’t give him much opportunity to think about it either, as he needed to offer Harold the comfort of his mere presence while the recluse recovered from his PTSD of being kidnapped. The poor man didn’t dare come outside without John walking by his side. John had no problem with that, but true to what Finch said over and over again, the Numbers wait for no one and he had to go out again, leaving Finch alone. Unprotected. And Harold had gotten so used to John’s constant presence for the first couple of days that the thought of being alone terrified him. John had to constantly stay on the comms for Finch’s sake but not even that or the presence of a military dog like Bear could comfort Harold for a long while. In the end, after a few outings with John and Bear, and then some outings with just Bear is what it took to settle Harold again. However, the genius still insisted on bringing Bear everywhere with him if he can, admitting to feeling a lot safer with the dog around. John never pointed it out nor did he try to stop him. Bear gave Finch comfort so he let it be. Still, Harold seemed to feel the safest with him around, a thought that strangely pleased John.
After that, life pretty much went back to normal. HR, FBI, NYPD, the Numbers, the mafia and mobs, Elias ... Even Cara Stanton, Mark Snow and a few other CIA or government agents like Shaw stopped by to break the monotony of their every day existences. Ending up in prison had never been anywhere in John’s calendar that year, but it had still happened. Everyone had pretty much panicked that the ‘Wonder boy’ was caught, that the secret identity of the ‘Man in the Suit’ was about to be discovered, but with the assistance of both of their detective friends, and surprisingly enough from Elias, managed to get him free. Only for Stanton to come out of virtually nowhere and kidnap him. John thinks he actually might have shortened Finch’s life by quite a few years when he disappeared. And the bomb vest on their reunion really didn’t help, either.
Their problems really began only then, when they realized that the Machine may have been partially compromised. A couple of days without Numbers, the arrival of Numbers on a far too short a notice for them to really act on it and save those Numbers ... And then the race really began. John still couldn’t fathom why Harold would go with Root, the woman who kidnapped him and caused him such trauma instead of his own partner when John was more than game to protect the Machine. But the fact was, he and Sameen Shaw paired up to track down the two Machine-obsessed hackers before Root could do any damage. The damage was already done, however, when Root answered a pay phone in a library at midnight and got unlimited access to the Machine for a whole day. The good thing was, so did John. Up until that point, the fact that the Machine had interacted with him had hung in the air between Finch and Reese, but there was simply no time to discuss it. John even forgot about it and didn’t care.
But then the Machine spoke to him again.
“Can. You. Hear. Me?”
Thankfully, Root’s access ran out at midnight the next day and they stopped her before she could hurt Harold. The Machine was safe and now in a location no one knew, not Finch, not the Government and most certainly not any foreign agents. They put Root into a mental health hospital and checked on her every other week.
Her access had been removed, so John had naturally assumed his own was, too.
He found out otherwise when he was at the end of his ropes on a mission.
Reese cursed under his breath as the big, strong metal doors of the police morgue’s freezer room closed behind him with a slam. In front of him, a woman, the new Number, Amelia Collins, 24, waitress, girlfriend of a Russian mob member targeted by Elias’ men so they could get to him, was knocked out cold and blood was oozing from the side of her head where they hit her with a crowbar. He was currently tied to a chair in between her and the door, struggling to get free as the temperature dropped by the second. If it got any colder, they both might end up getting hypothermia, not a good thing when Amelia might already have a concussion. She wouldn’t be able to get any medication she might need. He had to get her out of here, now!
So he started struggling harder, trying to loosen or break his restraints. He needed a few minutes, but he finally managed to get the plastic restraints to snap and he ignored the blood oozing from his wrists. He had had much worse, but Amelia hadn’t and she was in real danger now. John looking around, searching for anything that might be useful in taking the door down. He knew this wasn’t going to be so easy. If it was at least an ordinary lock, then he could pick it and they’d be out of there in a second. However, much to his displeasure and ill fortune, the lock was electric and if he broke the pad, they’d be stuck here until someone broke the door down or opened it from the other side. Neither of that was going to be happening anytime soon, even if Sameen arrived now. Harold would be useful if he could hack it, but it might take too long for Amelia to get the medical attention she needs. Reese needs to somehow break the door down from the inside.
Unfortunately, he had nothing that might be used as a battering ram so he decided to do things the old fashion, more painful way, slamming his shoulder and side into the metal door. It didn’t even dent the reinforced doors, much like the ex CIA agent had expected, but he hoped, futile as it might be, that this might at least disturb the lock or something. He needed to get the woman out of her, now!
Just as he stepped back a few more steps to have better momentum for when he slammed into the door, they started opening, much to Reese’s and the guards’ surprise. His running leap ended up being useful, as he knocked both of them down and they got knocked out when they hit the floor with their heads. He looked back at the pad and saw that it was still lit up from where the code had been inserted, but these two guys hadn’t done it, so he figured Harold must have somehow hacked into their system.
He didn’t think twice about it when he heard a phone ringing on one of the two kidnappers. He took it and connected it to his Bluetooth bug, rushing back to Amelia as soon as he took the two tugs’ guns. He took the woman up in his arms and began speaking to his friend before Finch could say anything.
″Finch, I need the location of the nearest hospital and if you can see any form of transportation nearby that I could use.″ He said, rushing down the halls and trying not to jostle the Number too much. When all he got in answer was silence, he called out his friend’s name again just before he got a ping on his phone. He looked down and saw the address of a hospital that was only two blocks away. He sighed in relief and continued on his journey out of the morgue.
When he came outside, he got the registration plate of a nice, black convertible that he easily broke into and started up, speeding off towards the hospital. He sighed in relief when he noticed Amelia had started shivering. That meant she would be fine after she warms up and has a little rest. But she would only be safe after someone with a medical degree checks her over.
A beep in his ear piece has him answering on instinct by now. “Welcome back, Finch. Sure took you long enough.”
“Are you alright, Mr Reese?!” The recluse asked frantically and John arched an eyebrow. Shouldn’t Finch know? It was him who helped him a few minutes ago. Right? “The connection was cut and I’ve tried getting our detective friends and Ms Shaw available to help you, but I didn’t even know where you were! Is Ms Collins with you?”
“We’re both fine, Finch, if a little cold.” The ‘Man in the Suit’ answered, pulling up into the hospital driveway. He put the car into park and took out Amelia, running into the hospital. “The perpetrators are still out there, though.”
“You can get them later,” the genius said and John heard the sound of typing in the background. “Just get Ms Collins to a doctor. I recommend Dr Maria Hendricks. She’s on the third floor, room 306. It’s all arranged. She won’t ask questions and she won’t dare tell anyone.”
“Got it,” he gasped out, forgoing the elevator and taking the stairs two at a time. A few times his charge whimpered in pain and John cursed under his breath. When he finally found the right floor and the right room, he didn’t even knock, just barged in. The middle aged woman jumped in fright, startled, but she soon saw the state the both of them were in and called for her nurse. The slightly older woman came quickly and gasped when she saw the state they were in. She ushered John to place Amelia on the bed for the doctor to look her over and then took him to the side, treating his wrists and even checking his shoulder. He stayed for an hour before he heard that Amelia will make a full recovery once the antibiotics wear off sometime tomorrow afternoon. Finch assured him Ms Collins can stay with Dr Hendricks and Reese was out of the room in a flash.
He didn’t say anything until he was approaching the first floor. “Finch, I need you to track those guys down. When they learn we escaped, they’ll come after her again. I need to hunt them down before they get that chance.”
“Unfortunately, they ditched the car we have been tracking. We’ve lost their trail for the moment, Mr Reese.” The recluse answered even as he typed away. “I’ll try to find them, but I’ll need more time and I promise nothing.”
“Just find them,” he sighed, getting off the comms and hurrying along. He will leave the hospital and find a nice place to wait for the results of the search. He had no doubt Finch will find their perpetrators. Harold has yet to fail him in anything. Just as he was entering the car, he heard an unmistakable beep coming from his ear piece and he checked it. “You find anything, Harold?”
“Not yet, John.” Harold replied not quite so pleasantly. “It’s unlike you to be so impatient.”
Now John was confused. “I’m not- The signal- Never mind. Sorry I interrupted you.” He broke off the connection before Harold could try apologizing for snapping at him. He leaned back in his seat and stared out through the dashboard, trying to figure out what was going on. Maybe there was something wrong with the connection? After all, it wasn’t John’s usual phone. He perked up when the ear piece beeped again but he checked his phone. He saw a text message and opened it. He saw another address and wondered why Harold wasn’t communicating with him how they usually do but through messages but brushed it aside as he put the card into the first gear and followed the lead. He can question Harold’s strange ways later.
When he got to the location, he asked finch if there was any good place where he could find a sniper. He got his answer in the form of a text yet again, so he just went with it. He found the sniper and took him out fairly easily, snapping his neck when he pulled out an army knife. John then took up both of his weapons and his ammunition and exited the room the sniper had chosen in the abandoned hotel and instead chose a different room, one that gave him a good view of the gang and the road leading up to their location as opposed to the other room that just watched over the drive in so that no intruders would interrupt whatever business they were conducting.
He told Finch to alert him if reinforcements arrived from the other drive in and settled in, starting to shoot down the gang members one by one. First the knee, then the shoulder and then the gun arm. He managed to take out four while they were still too stunned to even move but they were still easy targets even after the started running around. He got a ping from his ear piece and he looked down at his phone, seeing the message of ‘Incoming.’ Not ten seconds later, a white truck appeared in his line of sight and Reese quickly shot the driver. The truck skewered into a lamp post and came to a screeching, slamming halt.
“Finch, I got the perpetrators.” He said, touching his comms. All he was met with was silence and he frowned. “Harold?”
A beep. “Six. O’clock.” Two voices said one after the other and John frowned before he heard the creek of the door behind him and he spun around, shooting a man in a dark jacket just as he tried to shoot him.
“Finch?” He asked again, tapping his ear piece twice but a beep interrupted him from doing it again.
He whirled around the other way, shooting a guy who had started climbing up the emergency stairs as soon as the first shots were made. He must have been in John’s blind angle for him not have noticed that one. The directions kept coming and John kept following them, feeling as if he were chasing after Root and Harold with Shaw again.
“Go. Now!” John didn’t hesitate to follow the orders any more and he hastened out of the room. The orders guided him through the halls and out to a relatively safe exit with only two tugs. John had no trouble taking care of them. Reese saw another car near by and took it instead of the car he had come in. He started it and drove off, only for two bikes to roar behind him, going after him. The riders started shooting at him and John had to keep his head low so he couldn’t see where he was going. Luckily for him, he kept getting directions. “Right. 20. Meters. 40. Degrees.”
Needless to say, with such precise instructions, John had no problems escaping his pursuers. Although one of the instructions involved jumping out of the car while it was moving at a speed of 80 km/h. A beep sounded from his ear piece again and John awaited a new set of orders, yet all he heard was Harold’s panicked voice calling his name.
“John, what the hell happened?” He asked worriedly when he finally answered, even more confused now.
“I just took care of the threat, Finch, but a few of them tried to catch me. I got away.” Finch sighed in relief before focusing on the matter at hand.
“How did you find them?” Finch finally asked and John frowned in thought. Harold ... Didn’t know? How could he not know? The Machine had just contacted him again like it had during that chase to the fake nuclear reactor. ‘God Mode’, he recalled Harold and even Root referring to it. Then again, the Machine was now ‘free’, wasn’t it? Harold couldn’t access it when he knew where it had been, how’s he supposed to know what it was doing now that he had no idea where it was? “John?”
“I, uh, got a tip.” The salt-and-pepper haired man replied, frowning down at his phone as an image and a name appeared on the screen. “I ran into one of the tugs, Billy Smith. We had a ... little talk and he told me to the location. I even made him lead me there himself.”
“Oh. Well, I guess we were lucky.” Finch said, a strange tone to his voice. John couldn’t quite discern it fully, but he knew Harold was frustrated and disappointed with himself for not providing John with more support. He knew Harold worried about him enough as it is, especially so if he got injured while Harold could have somehow been of more help. He didn’t like feeling helpless any more than John did. “You should go home, Mr Reese. You deserved a good night’s rest.”
“I’ll check in on Amelia in the morning.” Reese answered with a sigh and started trudging off towards his apartment. “I’m ditching this phone now, Harold. If you need anything, tell me now because we won’t be in contact for half an hour after this.”
“Then I guess this is goodnight, Mr Reese.”
John smiled at the affectionate tone he could detect in his friend’s words. “Goodnight, Mr Finch.”
When John finally arrived at the apartment Harold had bought him for his birthday so he’d have an actual home instead of staying at motels and hotels, he found a small bow in brown wrapping paper sitting innocently in front of his apartment door. He approached it warily and even pocked it with his new sniper riffle. When it didn’t explode on touch, the ex CIA agent bent down to pick it up. He rattled it a little but it didn’t sound like there was a bomb in there. Still, he carefully unwrapped it and even more carefully lifted the lid if the boy open.
A phone began ringing from the inside of the box and John nearly dropped the package on instinct in fear of a trap. But he refrained from doing it and instead, carefully, opened the boy fully. He took out the phone and saw that the number was already dubbed TM. Not knowing what else to do and feeling rather curious, John accepted the call. Instead of answering it like it should, the phone instead connected to the bug still in Reese’s ear. The by now very familiar beep soon followed before a broken sentence reached him.
“Primary. Asset. Secondary. Admin.” John arched an eyebrow at the ‘tittles’ he received from the Machine and he briefly wondered if Finch knew his creation called him that. He wondered why the Machine even bothered to call him. “Can. You. Hear. Me?”
Whatever it was, it must be important, so there was only one way John could answer.
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