After a two-year hiatus, I decided to try one of the ideas I previously had for a story. It's been a long road, and unfortunately I've spent most of 2015 in the hospital getting a few things fixed with my heart. I thought about restarting my writing a few times since it'll still be a while before I can go back to work (not that I could find gainful employment before this). But my mind started to fill in a few of the blanks about this story, so I thought I would give it a try.
Although this is obviously AU, it takes many elements from the first few seasons of Chuck, which are the property of NBC and I'm not making a dime off of this. This chapter sets up the team that will soon be visiting Chuck. I also borrowed some elements from my Jimmy Slade AU, mostly for comedic value and to make certain subplots work. So Jimmy Slade will definitely be here, and if you're nice, maybe I'll let Alex Forrest try to hook up into his network.
Above all else, please leave reviews. That way I know people are actually reading this. Thanks!
September 21, 2015
Two figures ran along the side of the building, neither of whom were nervous or fearful. They had been partners for two years. The lithe blonde preferred it that way; her partner was unsurpassed in dealing with these situations. If only that was true of life in general.
The man unslung his backpack, and the woman hid behind him out of sight of surveillance cameras. Given her partner was three inches taller and one hundred pounds of solid muscle heavier than her, he made a great imitation of a brick wall as far as she was concerned.
Aiming at the top of the building, the man fired his piton gun. As the woman clipped a motorized winch to her belt, the man fired a second piton as well and attached the rope trailing it to the winch on his belt. The two activated the motors and were taken to the top of the ten-story building. They pulled themselves over the roof and quickly went to a skylight in the middle. The man fired two pitons on either side of the skylight while the woman took a small laser device out of her flak jacket and carefully traced a hole in the skylight large enough for the man to get through.
"You do realize these winches can only hold 250 pounds, right?" she said to the man. "You are really pushing your luck."
"Fine. Next time I'll eat a salad for lunch," he retorted with a significant amount of aggravation. "Do you know how to disarm a Soviet-era SS-18 nuclear warhead some idiot bought on the streets of St. Petersburg for two hundred thousand dollars?"
The woman made a face at him as she took a larger winch and attached it to the man's back. "You just enjoy being both the brains and the brawn here."
The man rolled his eyes as he pulled out a small toolkit. "No respect from the boss."
"Are you two done yet? It's like watching a bad reality TV show," said an older gentleman into their earpieces, who had to shout over the noise coming from the helicopter blades.
"Isn't bad reality TV a redundancy?" the man quipped as he did a handstand over the skylight.
The woman exhaled in annoyance as the man nodded that he was ready. She took up the slack in the ropes and activated the winch. The man pulled his arms in. He slid through the hole she cut in the glass and descended steadily towards the warhead, which was hanging by a chain fifty feet above the concrete warehouse floor.
"Hold there. That's good," the man said, and the woman immediately stopped the winch. He removed the outer casing. "OK, apparently they didn't buy this off the rack. There are some modifications."
"Like what?" the woman asked.
"They repacked the nuclear material to widen the blast area. Less people might be killed by the bomb but they must have known that already. The bad news is this thing could send out an EMP that would kill every electronic device for forty miles."
"Can you disarm it?"
"Disarm a jerry-rigged Soviet-era nuclear warhead while hanging upside-down and using a toolkit people would normally use on a PC? Yeah, I do it all the time."
"Somebody's cranky tonight," a red-headed woman in the helicopter said over their earpieces. "I keep offering him some stress relief but he's not interested."
"I don't blame him," the man in the helicopter replied. "You have the only bedroom that operates like a delicatessen. Take a number and wait until it's called."
"Could we please focus on the mission?" the blonde said to shut everyone up. "If we don't disarm this device, we'll end up dead."
"Why do you care?" the man hanging upside-down muttered. "You could have nuclear orange hair and still be fashionable."
The man accessed the circuit boards. A clock on it showed three minutes until detonation.
"Why do these things always have a clock on them?" he said to himself as he readied some wire cutters.
"You have company," the woman flying the helicopter said, the flirtatious lilt in her voice completely gone.
"How many?" the woman on the roof asked.
"A dozen coming up the south stairwell. We can be there in sixty seconds."
The woman saw the twelve head her way. "We may not be here in sixty seconds!"
The two agents leading the charge opened fire on the woman with automatic weapons. She ducked behind a roof vent, the shots missing her by mere inches. As she returned fire, one enemy shot at the stakes holding the man's ropes. He fell further down the shaft, away from the warhead, and he had to pull himself up to hang on to the remaining rope.
"Would you mind not dropping me when I'm trying to disarm the nuclear warhead?" the man called out. "Thanks!"
The two thugs with the automatic weapons slowed their approach. They went to either side of the vent, ready to shoot the woman.
They stepped to the other side but found nobody.
Suddenly, someone dropped down between them, grabbed their automatic weapons, and pushed in the triggers. The two men ended up shooting each other.
The woman then reactivated her winch, which propelled her back to the top of the roof vent, and jumped down to the other side. The remaining hoodlums were taken by surprise. She spun and took out the closest one with a back kick, then pushed off of the ground to send her boot into the throat of another enemy. Two others tried to grab her, but she somersaulted between them before they could get their hands on her. She then kicked her legs out to trip them. She flipped back in the air and landed a boot at the head of each. Four other agents managed to grab her and hold her in place.
"Need a little help?" the woman in the helicopter asked.
Everybody looked up to see the helicopter dive towards the roof. The woman took the opportunity to break away from the enemy agents holding her to find some cover. The man in the helicopter opened fire with his M134 minigun, screaming like a cowboy who just rode the toughest bull in the world long past eight seconds. Most of the agents took hits and fell. One or two decided not to test their luck and ran for their lives.
The woman ran for the ropes holding her partner up. She grabbed the one that was cut and pulled as hard as she could. There was less than twenty seconds before the warhead would detonate. The man hanging upside-down quickly got out his kit and exposed the correct wires. He cut the wires as the man who saved them with his M134 rappelled down to join the blonde woman.
"It's done! Pull me up quick!" the man shouted from inside the warehouse. The two pulled him through the skylight, and all three of them ran for the edge of the roof. The warhead exploded but did not go to nuclear yield. The three breathed a sigh of relief and walked towards where the helicopter was.
"Another day, another earth-saving mission," the blonde's partner said.
"Maybe they'll be nice and let us have a day off tomorrow," the woman replied.
"There's as much chance of that as your BFF up there joining a convent."
The blonde rolled her eyes as the three clipped on the ropes hanging from the helicopter. "Now I know why James Bond works alone." The trio was pulled up to the departing helicopter.
The buzzer sounded to end the scene, and the extras and crew applauded the group of four. The three people going into the helicopter were lowered back to the ground by their safety harnesses. They then sent the helicopter to the landing pad at the back of the studio while Langston Graham, the director, shook hands with his assistant directors and the camera operators.
The man who was upside-down in the warehouse winced in pain. "Are you OK, Jimmy?" the blonde woman asked.
"Yeah, I'll be OK," Jimmy replied despite having a pronounced limp. " 'Ol Lance McCall comes through again for…" he changed to his voice actor persona, "…Jen Burton: Spy Girl!"
He tried to stand straight up, only to growl in pain from his injury. "Sarah, did the mikes pick up my growling down there? I think the rig slipped and that's what got my ankle."
Sarah put Jimmy's arm around her to support him while he walked. "I didn't even hear it and I was close to you the whole time." She borrowed a walkie-talkie from one of the assistants. "Langston, do we have to shoot that again? Could they hear Jimmy growling?"
"No, we're good. Great work with the scene," he replied.
Sarah Walker breathed a sigh of relief. This was one of the toughest stunts the show ever attempted, and doing it more than once would have been risky and expensive. Of course Jimmy Slade, being the resident lunatic of the group, didn't have to be convinced to attempt it. If anything, they had to force him to wear a safety harness.
"By the way, did you go to the William Shatner School of Method Acting?" Jimmy asked the man who was with them. "That was a weird sound you made as you were shooting."
"That's how my character would have reacted," John Casey replied with a bit of offense.
"Yeah, but you're supposed to shoot the gun, not hump it. I think you owe it dinner and some jewelry."
Casey let out a low growl before Sarah interrupted. "It was fine, Case. You got that right."
The trio took the elevator down to the main floor. The redhead who flew the helicopter Casey was in was waiting for them.
"Who's up for celebrating?" Carina Miller asked them.
"No can do," Casey replied. "They're sending me ahead to gather intel on the La Ciudad situation."
Carina frowned. "Jimmy?"
Jimmy looked down at his injured ankle. "I better go take care of this."
"Are you sure you don't need to see a doctor?" Sarah asked with some concern.
"Nah, it'll be fine. Just rub some dirt on it. That's what they always used to say. Scraped your knee? Just rub some dirt on it. Broken neck? Just rub some dirt on it. Wife walked out on you? Just rub some dirt on it."
Sarah gave a little laugh. "Yeah, I'm a bit wiped myself. I could use some alone time."
Carina gave them a Bronx cheer. "You three are seriously no fun. We have the best jobs anyone could have!"
"Apart from the constant danger and possibility of death at any time," Jimmy replied.
"Two years and you still need to grow a pair."
"Yeah, he was real chicken shit when he pulled you out of that prison before that separatist group got their grimy mitts on you," Casey replied, surprising Jimmy in the process. He wasn't used to Casey defending him. Either that or Carina ranked lower on his totem pole than he did.
"See you later," Sarah said to close the conversation. "Graham will call us in the morning, I'm sure."
Carina took off to have fun while Casey went to his trailer to prepare for his trip to the Middle East to hopefully intercept La Ciudad. Jimmy went back to his hotel to ice his ankle while Sarah went back to hers to have a quiet night.
Sarah walked into her hotel room and was instantly grateful for her new assistant. "Thank you, Hannah!" she shouted to the room, even though Hannah was long gone by now. She prepared for Sarah's arrival with a room service tray containing a bottle of wine and a pair of chocolate croissants. Sarah quickly opened the wine and poured herself a glass. She left the bottle on the table and carried the tray to the bath.
As she stepped into the bath, the hot water and luxuriating bubbles instantly relaxing her, she couldn't help but think how crazy her life had become. Langston Graham, who was her boss for missions and directed the occasional episode of the show to maintain his cover, was the one to find her years ago. He had arrested her father to keep him protected from some very dangerous criminals from whom he swindled money. Rather than arrest her to keep her protected, Graham gave her an opportunity to put her considerable skills to good use. Four years of college and CIA training later, she was out in the field, looking like she did now instead of her meek, mousy appearance in high school.
To say nothing about the biggest chip on her shoulder any new spy could have.
When she first started, Sarah had a cold, calculating demeanor. Stealing from innocents was no problem. She knew over 200 ways to kill and put them to good use, and she bedded enough marks to make Wilt Chamberlain take notice. Spies had been known to get that way after many years on the job, but she was going to burn out long before that. They had partnered her up with several highly-rated agents to slow down that seemingly inevitable path to self-destruction, but there was only one who made any sort of impact with her: Bryce Larkin.
Given that Sarah eventually fell in love with him, it was quite an impact.
They worked together for several years, often posing as a married couple to reduce suspicions from enemy organizations. They were highly compatible in the field and even more compatible in the bedroom. Sarah had even given thought to giving up the spy life and running away with Bryce.
Then Langston Graham decided to promote both of them to the top level.
In the late 1980s, a little-known TV show premiered in syndication about a spy going on missions each week, saving the world with grace and sophistication. Rick Gallow: Spy Man lasted for five seasons, at which time they stopped production without explanation. Graham explained to Sarah and Bryce that one of the agencies top spies at the time used that as a cover to account for him being in so many exotic locales. Nobody could believe that Roan Montgomery, now a legend in the CIA, was the same person who was on that show. Graham wanted to revive the show cover with Sarah as the lead and Bryce as her partner. Within six months, Jen Burton: Spy Girl hit the airwaves. Unlike the prior show, which saw limited success only in the States, Spy Girl was popular all over the world and had been the biggest TV show for three years. Although, as John Casey was quick to point out, so was Baywatch.
The idea worked even better than it did when Roan was the lead. The skimpy outfits Sarah wore and the number of times Bryce went shirtless as Jen's partner, Jack Coulton, may have had something to do with the high ratings in the early days. But a few changes had to be made. After the first season, people complained Jen Burton did too many things that made her look evil or slutty, despite the fact she did far less than what James Bond did in a single film.
To combat this double standard, they brought in some help. Sarah's old friend through training, Carina Miller, originally started out as Sarah's assistant, both on the show and on missions. The producers of the show tweaked the formula so Carina's character, Jill Garrett, would take more of the seduction duties, leaving Jen Burton to act more like the leader of the group. It was an icy relationship when they reunited on the set, as Carina had betrayed Sarah when Sarah tried to help her retrieve the Nadan-I-Noor diamond during Carina's days with the DEA. But after a long talk, Sarah forgave her old friend, and Carina was quite interested in being a part of the Hollywood experience. And certainly she had no problem getting to know the cast and crew, especially the cute ones. There were even rumors she had a past relationship with John Casey, which Casey vehemently denied and Carina was only too happy to describe in Penthouse Forum-like detail.
As Sarah lay back in the tub, she shook her head and laughed. She still couldn't believe John Casey would sign up for something like this. But he had been with the NSA for more than 20 years as a cleaner. He got rid of problems for a living, such as nuclear arsenals or vile despots ruling in the Middle East. The fact that he enjoyed it so much started to concern both Graham and General Diane Beckman, who was the head of the Director of National Intelligence. Even Sarah had butted heads with Casey one time when a Chinese agent came to the U.S. to rescue her brother. They started Casey as a cameraman on Roan's show just to keep him occupied between missions. But like most other things in life, Casey excelled at his job and was made Director of Photography on Sarah's show. To help the writers out of logistical screw-ups in the plot, such as how Jen Burton and Lance McCall were going to survive this past episode against a dozen agents, they gave Casey a recurring role on the show as Duke Forrester, an ex-Green Beret who applied the proper amount of ammunition whenever the show needed it. Although he had a very acerbic nature, as Carina and Jimmy could attest to, he had a better relationship with Sarah. The two seemed to understand each other and respected the roles they played in the field and in each episode of the show.
Casey was also the one Sarah leaned on the most when Bryce abandoned her.
Two years ago, Bryce disappeared on a mission in Venezuela. Given the strained relationship the U.S. had at the time with Venezuela, rumors ranged from Bryce being captured, executed, or even betraying his homeland. Sarah couldn't accept any of those, but the fact remained Bryce was gone and hadn't been seen since. She took it personally; she thought she had done something to drive him away. That summer in 2013 was a difficult one for her. To keep her sanity, she buried herself in her work. Unfortunately, that meant that cold, calculating rookie threatened to return. Graham knew he had to put a stop to that, and he knew Jen Burton needed a new partner.
An agent Sarah had never heard of was put into the show. Jimmy Slade would play the role of Lance McCall, her new partner. Certainly he looked the part. Apart from the black hair and blue eyes, though, he was the complete opposite of Bryce. He was more classically handsome, as if he stepped out of a 1940s movie. He was much larger than Bryce, and not once did he ever step on Sarah's lines. Where Bryce was brash and cocky, Jimmy was quiet and humble. In actual missions, he deferred to Sarah's judgement 90% of the time. But he had a knack for improvising a way out of trouble when it seemed failure, or even death, was certain. There was little doubt this was an excellent agent they paired her with, albeit a little crazy.
She thought he was a good person. So much so, she asked him out on a date. But in the rush to clear her mind of Bryce Larkin, Sarah swung too far in the other direction.
She went on five dates with Jimmy. All of them were quality dates, including a couple of dinners, a movie, and even going to a few nightclubs. But he wouldn't make a move on her. A hug and a kiss on the cheek after the fourth date was the most she got. She was getting desperate. She wanted to sleep with him long before the required minimum five dates. She knew she had to make the first move and tried to following a date where they had a romantic walk along the beach. Any other guy would have been floored by the kiss she gave Jimmy that night. But all it did for him was give him an expression of pure terror.
"OK, I give up," Sarah said to him after they broke from the kiss. "Are you not attracted to me? Don't you want to go back to my apartment and have sex? I mean, seriously! You are straight, right?"
"I…um…I...," Jimmy stammered, although he did nod his head to the question about his sexual orientation.
"Then what is it?" Sarah asked, which sounded suspiciously like a demand.
"It's…I…" Jimmy turned and ran away. Sarah wasn't sure, but she thought she saw a few tears in his eyes before he took off on her.
She got in her car and got on the phone to Langston Graham. There was no way she could work with Jimmy if he was that afraid of her.
"Who is this guy?" she asked Graham. "I never heard of him before you brought him to the set. Jimmy has absolutely no fear when it comes to missions, but I kiss him and he runs away? What the hell is going on?"
She could hear Graham exhale a long sigh. "You remember how we brought you into the fold to protect you when you were eighteen? We did the same for him, only he was 37 at the time and it was a CIA experiment gone horribly wrong."
"I don't understand. What experiment?"
"The details of the experiment are classified, but suffice it to say there are many enemy organizations who would like to capture Jimmy Slade and use him for their benefit. He was locked up for many years to keep him from being captured, which was actually better than the traumatic childhood he was put through. Ten times as bad as yours."
Graham paused for a moment. "Wait, did you say you kissed him?"
"Um…yes," Sarah said, not believing kissing a co-worker could get her in trouble.
Graham let out a little chuckle. "I can hazard a guess why he ran away. You were probably the first person to kiss him. Ever. It never occurred to you that Jen and Lance don't kiss or make love on the show like Jen and Jack did?"
Sarah shook her head and smiled. "I just thought it was the writers making sure Jen never let herself fall for another guy again."
"Well, maybe it's good you found out because now you can talk to him. The writers keep wanting to have romance bloom between Jen and Lance. They think it'll boost the ratings. That, or we'll jump the shark."
Sarah smiled in that bathtub while sampling the second croissant. She did talk to Jimmy and they became close friends. She started going to him for advice; at least the advice she couldn't count on from Carina. And if it was possible, their relationship made him a better actor on the show and a better spy during missions. But she made sure she got a proper kiss from him, since they would have to start kissing on the show with the new plotlines. Thankfully, he was good at it. At the 2014 Comic Con, there were plenty of people who wanted Bryce back. After another season of the show with Lance McCall instead of Jack Coulton, the votes switched to keeping Jimmy Slade.
Sarah was so relaxed from the bath, she barely heard her iPhone ringing. She got of the tub and wrapped a towel around herself as she went to answer it.
"I need the four of you to report at 0800 tomorrow."
Sarah knew that voice well. Langston Graham was in business mode, which meant something important must have happened.
"What's going on?"
"Bryce Larkin is back from the dead and just attacked a CIA facility."
Sarah looked at her phone in shock.