Wherein the convergence of the paths many characters have taken and will take becomes more apparent…
Canon Reference: Prior to "First Date" (S2E01) overlapping the second sabotage of the Intersect
Contents: Sixth and final epilogue chapter
A/N: Some of you predicted this. Let me know what you think…
Disclaimers / Easter Eggs: The author has made no profit or derived any other material benefit from this work. Lyrics are property and copyright of their owners. No ownership of CHUCK or Tron (or the video game Tron: Evolution) is asserted or implied. Also in this installment, no ownership of A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones, Braveheart, or of any songs by The Doors (Five to One) or The Police (King of Pain or Synchronicity II), is asserted or implied.
EPILOGUE: Something Somewhere (Part 6 of 6)
103: Many Miles Away…
…or… King of Pain
PROGRAM CORRUPTION DETECTED
CONTROL RETRIEVAL UNSUCCESSFUL
Many miles away
Something crawls from the slime
At the bottom of a dark Scottish lake
Synchronicity II, The Police
Southeast Asia, mid May 2008
He woke to the sound of automatic weapons fire, had a vague recollection of being pulled out of the squalor of his makeshift cell, squinting at his first glimpse of sunlight in weeks, and screaming at the fire in his lower leg from the badly set break suffered in his most recent escape attempt...
He woke again to the sounds of a chopper spinning up for take off, more automatic weapons fire, some of it plinking off the fuselage as someone tried to tell him not to worry. That he was "safe"...
The third time he woke was when his fever broke three days later. The blinding white of a hospital room and the rhythmic beeping of several machines. There was a tube down his throat and a PCA clicker in his hand connected to an IV drip. He ran a hand down his left thigh to pursue a persistent itch until his fingers came into contact with the gauze.
They must have performed surgery while he was out to correct the break in his lower leg and he guessed it was those stitches that itched so badly. He tried to reach further down his leg to scratch the itch but before he even made it to his knee the gauze began to curve around what should have been the rest of his thigh.
His stomach turned as his hand cupped the stump of his left leg, amputated above the knee due to the rot that had set in.
The beeping intensified and he began screaming for a doctor or a nurse - or trying to around the tube down his throat - until the PCA device remotely administered enough morphine to knock him out.
Classified CIA Clinic, Western Europe, Friday, May 29, 2008
Today was the eighth time he had woken for long enough to gain much sense of his surroundings. The past several times he had maintained his composure just as he had been trained and gathered as much intel as he could before collapsing from a combination of fatigue and pain medication. The first of only two times they had even indicated they noticed he had regained consciousness, they had provided the bare minimum of explanations.
He was suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, and the leg of course…
Of course, you butchers, he thought but kept to himself until he showed visible signs of distress and was knocked out again. To allow the healing to begin, he remembered hearing…
Apparently he was "lucky" that some analyst managed to determine his location.
He hoped he got to "thank" the analyst properly one day.
He managed two hours once, enough to flex and grip and will feeling into his remaining limbs and work out exactly how his restraints were affixed to the bed. Even at his advanced age for a spy, he had been an impressive physical specimen before - thanks to the 'Superman' program all of Graham's Kings had survived - and he should be able to regain some of that strength back despite months of atrophy while bound in an outdoor cage waiting to see whether he won the bet with himself by dying from dysentery or fever.
Abandoned by the CIA, after being sent around the world to clean up Graham's messes rather than the promised even more powerful program that someone had stolen just before he could participate, always second fiddle to some of Graham's more preferred agents…
His pulse had quickened and before he could calm himself he was knocked out again.
The last time he had been awake he had been questioned extensively about his most recent mission. He only shared the independently verifiable details; it was Graham who should have been debriefing him after all since it was all about determining the whereabouts of Graham's missing specials. Five were either unconfirmably KIA or had gone off grid and he was charged with locating them all.
Two had been trying to carve out lives for themselves - one with another missing agent who had not been on his list - and he had ended that pipe dream for all three of them. Spared them a lifetime of looking over their shoulder for him or someone like him to tie up the loose end they had become. Or spared them most of that pain. He used some pain of his own devising to determine that there was an actual pipeline of defectors from among Graham's top agents. A small one with a complicated series of red herring missions designed to feign their deaths.
Those three had given him enough currency with Graham to continue plotting his own path to avoid ever becoming a loose end himself. Because with the information he had not shared with Graham, he had found two of the other three as well, and struck a bargain with both of them. Including the identities of the remaining Kings - Hearts and Diamonds - for their recruiting efforts.
He didn't know much about, much less how to crack the King of Clubs - yet - but given enough time he would figure out what could motivate him. Everyone had a soft spot somewhere…
"Good afternoon, Agent," came a voice from the door as the agent dressed as a doctor entered and reviewed his chart. This made the third time anyone had bothered to interact with him. Maybe he was a doctor, but he definitely had a sidearm under that white coat... although his demeanor was far too relaxed to be an assassin of any kind... unless it was all an act... "How are you feeling today?"
Nice. They were all nice. He wanted to rip all of their throats out.
But he smiled and answered the questions politely in order to preserve his consciousness, slowly loosen his bindings, and subtly disconnect the sedative line from his IV and hide the loose end under his arm.
Today was the day he was going to get some answers.
Until alarms sounded through out the hallways and the doctor left his room. This was no time to back down from his original plan so he completely freed his hands and slipped his remaining leg out of the band holding him down. It was easier than expected with one leg rather than two but he thought that would likely be the last benefit to having only one leg once this show got started.
He listened closely to the second man the doctor had talked to outside his room, the one who wasn't even pretending to be anything other than an agent, but couldn't make out every word. Although he heard enough.
Graham was dead.
Their standing order was to burn the facility and all patients inside without exception orders... and there were no exception orders. That was an understatement as the one-legged agent had been designated by Graham as having no further usefulness once he had been debriefed. Either way, now that Graham was dead, they would use the same plan Graham had put in place as if they had been discovered by an oversight committee or other agency.
None of them could risk blindly hoping their secret existence would be well-received by the next CIA leader. They were all part time staff with other primary assignments they would now simply blur back into on a full time basis. The doctor looked like he might have wanted to object but he agreed to do his part as the agent turned back down the hall.
"What's going on, doc?" the agent asked calmly when the doctor returned.
"Apparently we've been compromised," the doctor lied, closing the last possible door that could have led to surviving the next hour as far as his patient was concerned. "We're moving everyone to a secondary facility. Here let me give you something to make transport a little more comfortable."
"Thanks doc," the agent said as the doctor inserted the needle into the IV extender and pressed the plunger of the syringe. It was fortunate that the doctor did not inspect the IV line to see it was no longer connected to his veins and the agent feigned wooziness while hearing a single pistol shot from down the hall. And then another.
The doctor leaned in to check his pulse and breathing, pausing to say, "I'm sorry, son" only for his patient to open his eyes and reply with a wicked smile.
The section of bed rail the agent had loosened crashed down on the doctors skull with less strength than the agent would have liked. He was still very weak. Luckily he had never relied solely on the physical tools Graham's physical enhancement program had bestowed upon him like the King of Hearts tended to.
Something the doctor - head bleeding from the strike that had stunned him - realized as he reached inside his coat. When he came up empty he looked up from his place on the floor directly down the barrel of his own handgun.
"I believe your friend is expecting to hear a gun shot from this room by now."
"No! Please! Don't sh-" and the single shot hit the doctor in the left eye before ripping his skull apart.
Only a few staff remained on his floor, literally burning documents in the middle of the hallway with no thought to ventilation. The fire system had already been shut down and smoke was starting to cover the ceiling and creep downward. He had to move fast - and upright was faster in his condition despite the encroaching smokeline. He just had one more prime target to remove from the situation...
As expected, the agent who had killed at least two other patients returned to clear the room. He saw the practically headless doctor on the floor, also hesitating for an instant at the fact that the doctor was missing his pants. Then his next gaze was at the empty bed where a nearly comatose patient should be.
This resident assassin was ruthless but clearly inexperienced and a makeshift garrote was slipped around his neck by the agent hidden behind the door before he could react. Given the assailants frail condition, he had prepared to end this quickly and sunk three syringes in one fist into his victim's thigh, pressing the plungers as one, and riding the man down to the floor as his heart quickly slowed to the point that he could not fight back before it stopped beating entirely.
He had observed the inventory of supplies in his room during a lucid moment and injected himself with a pre-loaded shot of adrenaline. He obtained a less bloody coat from the back of the door and used an IV stand until he could find a proper crutch in an adjacent room, its patient had not been as prepared for what happened. She had a hole in the center of her forehead and would not be needing it.
He only had to kill one more person on the way out as he was confronted by someone actaully checking badges at a bottleneck in the exit and pretty much just gumming up the works. That was easily concealed as a stampede injury though the guard's neck had been broken before he was ever trampled.
Even as he tore his way out of that chaotic facility, a plan was forming. A plan to destroy every part of every organization that had put him in this position. Withheld the tools from him that could have prevented his injury. Graham was dead. But there were others. Others who had allowed Graham to do what he had done to him in the name of expediency. Others who had not cared that their attempts to take Graham down had left him vulnerable. Whoever had stolen the new program that could have helped him identify the double agent on his last operation before he had been captured. The entire intelligence apparatus had failed him and if he couldn't take it over, he would burn it all down.
Once outside he heard the familiar FWUMPH of a contained explosion from below his feet. It was a good thing he acted when he did and made haste for the exit. He imitated the confusion of his peers as he scanned for landmarks and easily identified his general location. His closest option was a dead drop in Belgium if he could just make it there. Or at least get out of here before someone noticed that the left leg of his stolen pants was mostly empty and did not end with a foot anymore.
He had a long recovery ahead of him. Healing. Fighting off infection. He'd have to assess the actual surgical site and see what was needed. Then recovery. A prothesis of some kind. Learning how to walk again. Then run, or whatever semblance of it he could manage. Then fight. Shoot properly. Whatever it took to ply his trade with whoever would have him, at first. Work his way up from there. Prove himself. Wait for an opportunity. To be elevated or take over, he really didn't care which.
It was a good thing he hadn't eliminated all of the targets Graham had assigned to him. Maybe he could leverage their plans for a... how did they describe it?
A ring of loosely affiliated shadow intelligence agencies from within multiple governments.
He would have to operate from the shadows for a while. Gather his strength, build his influence.
Or he could disappear. Start his life anew. Like those two saps who tried to leave Graham's service together only to wake up to him standing over them after he injected each with a paralytic agent as they slept.
No. You win or you die. No one here gets out alive. So he wouldn't get out. He would take over.
Just then a jolt of pain from his phantom leg cemented his vengeful plan with no specific individual target. He would instead rip away at the heart of the organizations that left him in a dirty hole in the jungle and "rescued" him too late, only to have his leg ripped off by their butchers.
He would have to abandon everything he was but quickly realized there was nothing to abandon.
He would become exactly what Graham had intended. An agent of chaos, but also dedicated to bringing down and exposing the hypocrisy of all the nation's of the world by exposing the true nature of their intelligence efforts.
No longer Graham's King of Spades but rather a legion of aliases sowing chaos in various places.
Somehow he had made his way to a train station in Brussels having mugged a man for his first replacement clothing then robbing a house of clothing and a vehicle before switching vehicles roughly every 200 kilometers. He clattered through the station with his stolen crutch now properly sized and he still felt the pitying gazes of the civilians around him.
But he needed a new alpha alias - the base identity he would exist as to move about freely in normal society - and the random name on the emergency identity credentials would do as well as any.
His destination was in sight as he saw two Federal Police agents on a converging path. He calculated his options. Kill two Belgian Federal Police agents in the middle of a train station with dozens more seconds away? He would never get his go-bag extracted before he was surrounded. It's not like he intended to use a proper key. At least he had fresh clothes and no visible blood that he had noticed on himself or the crutch. But if they asked for identification before he reached the locker…
His calm exterior revealed none of this as he had already decided that - either way - the two men approaching would soon be dead. And resigned himself to the fact that this drop was not going to be retrieved today. His next closest ones were in Barcelona or Rome. London and Paris were options but he only had agency approved credentials in those. He may as well strip naked, paint himself blue, and stand in front of the US Embassy.
He turned his attention to the mannerisms of the two men and how best to disarm and kill them for the fight out of the station when one asked, "Can I help you, sir?"
Both men were looking at his crutch and the flopping pant leg with pity. Pity!
"No, I think I can manage. Platform twelve?" he said and gave a vague questioning gesture that saw both men follow his gaze and verbally confirm, also pointing oh-so-helpfully to the elevators.
They hadn't asked to see his ticket or identification. They hadn't even called in their situation. He was harmless. A cripple. He wanted to kill them both just on principle. But he thanked them politely as they walked away and he sat on a bench to "rest" until they were out of sight.
This feeling. Being treated like a helpless lamb among wolves when he was the wolf they should be worried about… He may be able to use it for a while, but this feeling would sustain him until he was ready to strike back.
The former agent finally made his way to the lockers, broke the lock, and retrieved his emergency bag. He moved as quickly as he could to a private handicapped restroom and extracted his emergency credentials.
Any agent had backup credentials. The really good ones and the really smart ones had several their agency knew about, and at least one that they did not.
The former agent extracted the 'rogue' passport from the others he had stashed so long ago and looked down to see who he would be from now on.
To refresh his memory of the new name of the man he would have to become so he could one day burn it all down:
"I am the perfect weapon.
Spread my pain...
Infect the Grid...
Destroy everything in my path...
My purpose is clear:
Everything is coming to an end"
- Abraxas, TRON: Evolution
AWAITING CONTINUATION COMMAND
RETURN CONTROL TO MCP
END OF LINE
END OF SUBROUTINE
Crazy-long AN2: I hope you all enjoyed this song fic within a song fic. I was originally going to make it even more blatant but each piece of the epilogue (Something Somewhere (Has to Break)) extracts a tiny piece of the song Synchronicity II by The Police for the primary title of each chapter.
Graham: "contestants in a suicidal race"; and of course that chapter was as much or more about Orion because I realize some might have said "Graham again?" (Also my last chance to use Evil-Graham directly! Other than possible flashbacks... hmm...)
Sarah: "(grandmother) screaming at the wall" and "something somewhere has to break"
Orion: "daddy (grips the wheel and) stares alone into the distance"
Chuck: "the pain upstairs (that makes his eyeballs ache)"
And while those scenes are all linked at this stage, like the song, there is a diabolical parallel story emerging elsewhere and unknown to the other players with Quinn ("many miles away")…
Some have noticed I've been setting Quinn up as a major player for a while now rather than having him just materialize in S5. His current position as the lurking presence off to the side of the main action drove the song fic approach. And, having spent some time inside Stephen Bartowski's head over the past couple of major arcs, I liked the symmetry of the Tron villain, Abraxas, contrasting with Stephen as Flynn and Chuck as Tron. I hope the combined effect added a little extra flavor and wasn't too heavy handed!
Also, especially to anyone who has lost a limb or has some other physical impairment or knows someone who has, all things considered, losing a leg is horrible but not the end of the world (although I'm sure most would require a lot of reflection and/or therapy to come to terms with that). Nor is it a reason to go completely psycho and I had no intention of implying that. But this guy was not all there in the first place and sees the loss of physical mobility as destroying his identity. And I needed something where you can look at the show and still see what is transpiring in this story. Next time you watch one of those last few episodes, let me know if there's any reason to think he DOESN'T have a prosthetic leg!
And I realize there is a spot where it could look like I messed up when mentioning the King of Hearts but I assure you I did not. You've seen who the King of Spades is, can guess who the King of Clubs will be, but I'll give you a hint about the King of Hearts and King of Diamonds: they are NOT OCs.
More on Characterizations (for this story; possible as extended canon / fanon but also the price of admission for the events herein):
I know some have difficulty reconciling the kindly Stephen with a murderous Orion but... welcome to the Intersect. And while it is eventually revealed that Stephen and Bryce worked together to steal the first Intersect, there is no canon reason given for why Stephen chose him, trusted him, or how much prior knowledge of him Stephen had prior to the theft. I suppose some fanfictions take their partnership all the way back to Stanford but I don't buy that and see no blatant inconsistencies with actual canon here.
Also, don't be too sure that there's not more to Mary's story that has yet to be revealed...
I have fielded some questions about whether I previously ruled out a sister for Sarah but the passage in question back in Ch 13 (deliberately) only states that the sunburn story as a nine-year-old was not Sarah's (it was Carina's) NOT that she didn't once have a sister (keep in mind, in this story - canon backtracks a bit / leaves wiggle room in S4 - Sarah ran away before she was nine anyway). Sarah is additionally cryptic about her own childhood and only (internally) expresses the thought that her childhood is a story she never intends to share with anyone. The misdirection was intentional because Sarah was unwilling to even think about it then, but is allowing it to at least creep into her thoughts now (waking and dreaming).
There were also some comments about Sarah's uncertainty that she is adequately conveying (and fearfully concealing) her feelings when she has, frankly, kissed the hell out of Chuck on more than one occassion and I appreciate the way that can be perceived (and how I am portraying her as somewhat "abnormal" relative to that perfectly-reasonable-for-most-people perception). Most people would rightly make the assumption that escalating physical affection often blurs into a committed relationship which sometimes blossoms into a long-term commitment. All I can say is that I have dropped hints all along about Sarah's "love life" being the inverse of most people's romantic experiences.
Rather than several progressively more committed and/or intimate dating experiences - some for long periods of time possibly leading to marriage (and maybe some "shorter-term" liaisons along the way; your mileage may vary) like most people, Sarah has had some causal encounters in college while coming to terms with the likely short life span of her new profession (toward the end of her training), many while she was with the CAT Squad, and the closest thing to a "relationship" was her equally shallow attraction to Bryce which has been described as not a constant partnership with lots of downtime spent together but rather their missions often resulting in recurring "hook ups" but deliberately kept out of "committed relationship" territory before they parted ways for solo missions.
They weren't exactly "dating", it wasn't a "relationship", and there's no reason to believe she was LESS closed off with an equally stunted Bryce but they were physically intimate and Chuck has made the same leaps of association that most normal people would. It was an important relationship to her even if just an extension of a solid and effective partnership because he was SAFE. She didn't have to share or overanalyze and he had her back in the field. It was the only kind of trust she had known for a long time. (A trust WE know Bryce violated by artificially pushing Sarah prematurely into a physical relationship with him, even though it only worked because she was already somewhat inclined to permit something like that between them.)
It's important context because while Sarah is very keen on the idea of a physical relationship with Chuck, and has been since she met him, the idea of it becoming something long-term is frightening and unfamiliar to her. She isn't yet willing to open herself up to that potential for hurt and also believes she will definitely inevitably hurt him. Yet he HAS become so important to her that she doesn't want to - or thinks she isn't strong enough - to let him go and neither of them can always control themselves given their cover and intense attraction for each other. I realize its highly dysfunctional but that's kinda the point!
She's a mess. And it takes someone as patient and understanding as Chuck to make her feel like she can work herself through it. Just as it takes someone as disruptively inspiring as Sarah to get Chuck back into the world of the living and awaken his true potential.
Even so, Sarah's misgivings (or at least the story supporting them and their paralyzing intensity) are slightly contrived just to enable me to work around the sheer duration of their inability to take the next step! Which is the primary reason that I often argue (with myself) that - if not for holiday-related episode "anchors" on the timeline - that the series actually makes more sense over a much shorter timeline than five years.
The Future of 'Becoming' (12/19/16):
I love writing this story. RL has been trying lately, with a contract job that was the soul-sucking equivalent of a vampire (now replaced by a better one). And I have many more parts to tell to get to my primary aim of a post-finale story. (Yep, we'll see if I ever get there but, believe it or not, this was originally conceived as a POST-finale story. And I know exactly how it ends…)
Part of the delay on this one was I wanted to wrap up loose ends before moving forward but started outlining and writing sections you won't see for a long while instead. That should take care of itself over time.
I just love exploring the unseen aspects of the characters. But where I originally intended to delve deep into Sarah's thoughts and motivations (since she is such a closed book) I inevitably found myself wandering into Chuck's headspace as well since he often holds the other part of the story. And, as recently discovered, sometimes Casey holds an important piece as well (and writing offscreen Casey-Sarah interactions are super fun!)
The treatment of 'First Date' was difficult. I did not intend for it to go so deep, be so lengthy overall, or for the publication of each piece of the pie to be spread over such a long period. It was a story unto itself in complexity and length and the publication of it dragged out with no indication of how long it would be.
So I will be taking a slightly different approach in the future...
First, I will TRY to get back to telling the overall tale in entr'acte vignettes rather than full blown novel style. I love to roll around in the material but I want to get to later parts in a (more) reasonable timeframe. Luckily most of the dominoes are set up now.
Second, I do not want to string out closely related updates over long periods of time. 'Beast' was a novel unto itself but far too spread out. But, like this set of epilogues, releasing it in quick succession would have meant waiting to release the first part of it until the end was at least in sight and I hadn't forewarned anyone of that.
So expect robust updates consisting of quicker-hitter chapters (still dense just not completely out of hand) and a larger number of those chapters with a well-defined arc delivered relatively en masse. The trade-off is potentially LONG delays (months) between updates. But when you see those updates they will be the beginning of a package of chapters meant to cover a large chunk of series events, probably (usually?) covering multiple episodes. Hopefully that will deliver a much better reading experience and not drive me batty and hopefully you've enjoyed that long-delay, quick-delivery once it's ready approach with this epilogue!
Effectively, it will not be much different than "waiting for the 'next story' from Arya's Prayers", I just want all those 'stories' collected in this one big compendium since pixels are cheaper than ink and easier to bind than paper. One stop shopping! We are still several years away from the finish line but if you follow the story I will tell the site admins to send you an email when it is updated for no additional charge! (shhh, they said they'd do it just this once…)
So anyway, Thank You for reading and my sincere intention is that 'Becoming' will return, continuing in this space, with Book II sometime early next year.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!