Hello again. Sadly, I was right about starting this new job. It takes up a lot of my time, so I didn't get this update out as fast as I wanted. It feels so weird having what is effectively a full-time job for the first time in two years (even though it doesn't have the pay of a full-time job), but I'm doing my best to keep at it. It's actually pretty amazing that I'm teaching freshman students stuff that I didn't learn until my second or third year of college, and I wasn't an idiot (academically speaking, anyway) when I went through school. Although, as I'm sure you can tell by my writing, my grammar and punctuation skills could use a bit of work. (OK, a lot of it.)

I did leave you on quite a cliffhanger, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't do it again in this chapter. But you know me and trying to get you back for the next chapter. But two words to a very nice reader of my work regarding the first part of this chapter: you're welcome. ;-)

I will endeavor to get the next chapter out within two weeks (actually, some of it is already written), but you know how things go. And as always, NBC, Fake Empire, the usual stuff. And I do apologize for not sending out thank-you's to those who reviewed the last chapter. Like I said, it's been crazy around here. But I promise I will this time around.

Enjoy, and again, please review!


Buy More – Burbank, CA
June 6, 2016
9:30 PM PDT

"Where the hell is that medi-vac chopper?"

The normally unflappable Casey was starting to lose his hardened exterior watching Ellie and Devon desperately work on their father, trying to save him after being shot by Daniel Shaw. Seeing Chuck and Sarah barely moving themselves after being attacked made things a hundred times worse. Carina kept an eye on them as Alex and Ilsa had run to the front of the store to wait for the chopper while Jimmy and Cole tore into the Buy More to get the emergency stretcher out of the back office.

"Can you get to the bullet safely?" Ellie asked her husband.

"Maybe, but I'll have to keep the wound compressed so he doesn't bleed out," he replied. "I can't do that until the chopper is landing because I can only do that for so long before too much blood is cut off to the brain."

"We have the chopper spotted," Alex called out over her radio. "They'll land in ninety seconds. You need to get over here now."

Ellie and Devon turned back to the store to see Jimmy and Cole sprinting towards them with the stretcher. They laid it down next to Stephen.

"Ready, El?" Devon asked in as solemn of a tone as anyone ever heard out of him.

Ellie nodded, and Devon removed the bullet, immediately pressing his fingers against the wound. "Now!" he shouted.

Jimmy and Cole carefully lifted Stephen and placed him onto the stretcher. Ilsa strapped him in tightly as Casey and Carina pulled Chuck and Sarah up and led them to the front of the store. Jimmy and Cole lifted the stretcher and went as fast as they could while Ellie and Devon continued to work on Stephen.

The medi-vac chopper landed and the team got out, sliding open the side door and readying the chopper's gurney, along with the emergency kit and a supply of blood. They brought Stephen to the chopper and placed him on the gurney. Ellie leaped into the chopper and began to pull items out of the emergency kit as Devon continued his work. The medi-vac technician assisted with starting the blood transfusion as the rest of the team headed to the pair of SUVs near the entrance. The door to the chopper slid shut and took off for the hospital. The SUVs headed in that direction as well.

West Side Medical Center – Los Angeles, CA
June 7, 2016
1:30 AM PDT

The team sat quietly in the waiting room near the entrance to the E.R. awaiting word on Stephen. A doctor had attended to the wounds Sarah received from Shaw. No one was in any sort of a mood to even talk.

They saw Chuck walk slowly down the hallway. Sarah ran to him and hugged him tightly.

"Are you OK?" he asked softly.

"I am now, yes," she replied, her grip on him intensifying. "What about you?"

"It's still a bit foggy, but I feel better than I did four hours ago."

The two walked back to the group. "Did Ellie or Devon come out here?" Chuck asked.

Carina shook her head. "No word from either of them."

Chuck began to tremble at the prospect of his father not pulling through. "Chuck, he will be OK," Sarah said with renewed confidence, squeezing his hand. "Please believe that. He has the best hospital staff working on him right now."

She turned him to her and gently cradled his face in her hands. "And as all of us have learned, you never underestimate a Bartowski."

Chuck looked down at the ground momentarily before looking back up with a tiny smile on his face. Sarah gently caressed his cheek and pulled him to her. They held on to each other as they heard the sound of someone walking up behind them.

They turned to see Ellie there. Chuck looked at her in anticipation. Ellie exhaled in relief. "Dad will be OK."

A wave of relief fell over Chuck, who couldn't stop a few tears from forming. Ellie and he hugged tightly, who was also overcome with emotion. Devon came up to both of them and joined in on the hug, as did Sarah. Everybody else gathered around at the good news.

Georgetown – Washington, D.C.
June 7, 2016
7:00 AM EDT

Beckman checked herself in the mirror to see every piece of her uniform was in place and not a single thing was askew. Old habits were hard to break, especially ones developed through thirty years of Air Force work. She went to the door to walk outside of her house and to her car for the interminable drive to the DNI.

A team of federal agents awaited her.

"General Beckman, we have been ordered to take you into custody," the leader of the team said, showing his ID.

Beckman stood there in momentary shock. "On what grounds?" she demanded.

"You are under investigation on direct orders from the President. You are to be held pending charges of murder, extortion, and treason."

Two of the agents turned Beckman towards the wall of her house and placed her hands on it, frisking her and handcuffing her as the fourth agent read Beckman her Miranda rights. The team led Beckman to a government SUV and placed her in the back. The SUV drove away from the house.

Tangerine Hotel – Burbank, CA
June 7, 2016
8:00 AM PDT

Sarah went to the door when she heard the knock. She opened it to find a very tired Chuck, Ellie and Devon waiting for her.

"How's your father?" Sarah asked as she hugged all three of them.

"It'll take time for him to recover, but he will," Ellie replied.

"Thank God. I…I'm so sorry, Ellie. We never wanted this…"

"I know, Sarah. I know." Ellie exhaled and gripped Sarah more tightly. "I'm just glad you and Chuck are OK. What happened last night…"

"God, I feel so…"

"Stop." Ellie grabbed Sarah's shoulders. "You did nothing wrong. Chuck was right. This was some angry, obsessed person who blames you for something you didn't do."

"Shaw is definitely not sane," Devon agreed. "Hatred blinds a person. They don't think clearly and they zone in on what they think is the easiest method to get rid of it, whether it's right or not."

Sarah looked down at the ground and nodded quietly. "You're right. You're right. I'm…just…"

"We all are," Chuck replied gently, taking her into his arms. "But we're also all together. And that's how we'll get through this: together."

Sarah looked into Chuck's eyes and smiled, that look of calm in those puppy-dog brown eyes unwavering in spite of everything that had happened to them since last night. She gave him a gentle kiss.

"Everybody else should be across the hall by now," she said. "I could use some coffee."

The three nodded and turned to the door. Sarah opened it. Carina was standing there, about to knock.

"We have a problem," she said abruptly. She then turned and returned to the conference room. Chuck, Sarah, Ellie, and Devon followed behind her.

"What's going on?" Sarah asked as she entered.

"Just got a call from my assistant at the DNI," Casey replied. "Beckman's been arrested."

"WHAT?!" Chuck exclaimed.

"She's been accused of murder, extortion, and treason, and he thinks it has to do with us. But that's all he knew. I told him not to contact me anymore or tell anyone he had."

"How could this have to do with all of us?" Ilsa asked.

Casey stared ahead for a moment. "The warehouse. This has to be about the warehouse."

"The same warehouse where we were almost killed?" Cole asked.

Casey nodded. "Beckman's mole must have taken the data we implanted and spun the story in the Ring's favor."

Alex growled loud enough to send a grizzly bear running away. "Who wants to bet they're accusing her of trying to take out our own warehouse and making it sound like she ordered us to kill the agents who attacked us?"

"Which means sooner or later, they'll come after all of us," Carina replied. "Probably sooner."

"You're sure there's no Intersect data at the Buy More?" Casey asked Cole.

"We have it all," Cole replied as he gestured to the emergency drive he took out of the store. "The cupboards are bare."

"But it won't do us any good if we can't get to the computers," Chuck replied. "They know we were doing something there. They're probably confiscating the equipment as we speak. And now we don't have my father to build it."

"Not to mention dealing with this psycho who's after all of us," Carina said. "He said he saw you kill his wife?" she asked Sarah, who nodded with a look of defeat.

"The Ring had to have set that up," Chuck replied. "That's the only explanation."

"So now we have the Ring, Shaw, and the entire government coming after us?" Devon asked. Everyone could feel the air go out of the room. Devon sank down into his chair. "How do we get out of this? Everything's changed."

The entire group went silent for what felt like an eternity.

"Nothing's changed."

Everyone turned in Jimmy's direction. "Nothing's changed," he repeated, looking up for the first time. "We still have the same three goals we did twelve hours ago. Get the Intersect out of Chuck, get the new one into me, and take out the Ring."

They stared at him in surprise. He rose to his feet. "They think they have us. They knocked us down. Hard. But you know what? That's what we all have in common. All of us have been knocked down hard in our lives. Chuck, Ellie, you basically had to grow up on your own. Sarah, think of how much hell you went through in school. What Case had to endure when his father died, when Alex lost her fiancé, what happened to Carina in East Grande, what Cole and Ilsa have just gone through, what I went through. But we came back from all of those things. One way or another, we came back tougher and stronger. And somehow, we found each other.

"You were right, Sarah. We did change and we helped to change each other. We made ourselves into a family. And they want to take that away from us. But I, for one, am not going to let that happen. Beckman tried it before, and it almost killed me. If these bastards think they can do that to us, if they think they can tear us apart, they're in for one major-league shock."

"But how do we build the Intersect?" Ellie asked softly. "We need our father for that."

Jimmy turned to her. "You've been with him. You've studied what he's done and you're our expert on neurophysiology. If Chuck does the programming, can the two of you complete your father's work?"

Ellie stared ahead. She then looked at the hard drive of data containing her father's research sitting on the table. She breathed in and out slowly. "I can do it," she said with considerable resolve.

Jimmy nodded and smiled while Devon held her hand. "But what about the computers we would need?" she asked. "How do we get our hands on those?"

Jimmy turned to Casey. "Case, feel like breaking into the NSA and doing a little shopping?"

Casey gave a grunt of approval with a side dish of excitement. "I'll…take that as a yes? Carina, you, Cole, and Ilsa join him. Next, we have to get to Beckman. I get the feeling whoever the mole is, eventually they'll make their presence known to her. If for nothing else than to take a little victory lap. Alex, you're the closest with Beckman and you know where she's being held better than the rest of us. What do you think?"

She gave it some thought, and a little gleam came to her ocean blue eyes. "I have a few ideas on the subject if you and Case can help me set that up."

"Finally, we need to take the fight to the Ring. They got into our systems; it's time for us to take down theirs. And maybe get the proof we need they've conned Shaw into doing their bidding."

"That is a stupid, crazy thing to do," Sarah sharply replied.

"I know. That's why I'm doing it."

"Like hell! You're not going in there by yourself!"

"You have to protect Chuck and his family," he replied with equal force. "You have the most important job of all. Nothing we do means anything if they can't get those Intersects made. If anything happens to them, that's something none of us can ever come back from."

Jimmy's posture softened and he managed a little smile. "Remember what you told me when I had to seduce Sasha Banacheck? You said this is what we do. We help each other. And we make it work no matter what."

He turned back to everyone. "It's time to pull out all the stops. We go after these sons of bitches hard and with everything we've got. They pull out a knife? We pull out a gun. They put one of ours in the hospital? We put one of theirs in the morgue! We can do this. We WILL do this. Because that's what we do. It's who we are."

Everybody looked at each other. The doleful atmosphere that had permeated the team since last night began to be replaced with a renewed confidence.

Casey stood with a look that would make a pit bull cower. "Let's get to work, people," he ordered.

Everybody got up and started to organize their plans. Alex walked over to Jimmy.

"Um, I liked the talk, but why were you stealing lines from The Untouchables?" she quietly asked him.

"What do you want? I grew up in Chicago," Jimmy retorted with a grin. "When you give the big speech, quote Rocky 'til you're blue in the face for all I care."

Alex shook her head in annoyance as Jimmy walked over to Sarah.

"I'm sorry about stepping on your toes there," he said softly. "I know you're the boss. You lead us. I'm…I just…"

Sarah smiled. "I've been waiting three years for you to do something like that."

Jimmy looked down at the ground and gave her a shy smile. "I owe you this. Hell, I owe you a lot more than this. I'd be dead or pretty damn close to it had it not been for you. You and Chuck deserve a first-class flight to the land of happily ever after, and I know we'll deliver."

Sarah put her arms around him and hugged him tightly. "You've been a wonderful friend ever since we met," she said. "You've never owed me anything more than that."

"You deserve to be happy, kiddo. Chuck is the guy for you. We all knew that from day one. And he's lucky to have you."

The smile on Sarah's face got even brighter. "We all deserve to be happy," she replied. "Including you."

"I'll work on it."

"You better."

Buy More – Burbank, CA
June 7, 2016
11:00 AM PDT

Morgan walked around the store. He noticed neither Cole nor Ilsa were there, although a couple of the people Cole brought in to keep an eye on the place were. Something didn't feel right today. He noticed a fresh section of asphalt in the small parking lot behind the store meant for the employees. He hoped it was just a water main break the city had to fix last night, but given all that had transpired recently, that was a seriously-optimistic guess.

And Jeff and Lester acting even more oddly than normal was certainly no help.

He rolled his eyes at their blatant shiftiness. It never helped when those two believed they were cleverer than they really were, and this sure as hell wasn't the time for it. He immediately went over to them.

"What are you two doing?" Morgan demanded in a somewhat-less-than-friendly tone.

"Hey, keep it down!" Lester hissed. "They're here."

"What are you talking about?"

"Someone's here to watch us. They're after us."

"I knew the guys in the white lab coats would come back sooner or later," Jeff said, who was jittery enough to make coffee nervous. "You can't let them take us."

"You two are being ridiculous…even more than usual," Morgan tiredly droned.

"Oh yeah?" Lester was just getting started. "What about the back parking lot? Where did that hole in the asphalt come from?"

"We…had a delivery truck here late last night. They dropped the loading ramp down too hard, so we had to call and get that hole filled. You got to park back there today, didn't you?"

"OK, what about this?" Lester walked across the store to where the pictures were for Employee of the Month. "Who straightened Chip's picture?"

"What?"

"His picture used to be crooked and now it's straight!"

"Always looked straight to me," Jeff answered in a haze.

"Anybody could have done that. We have a lot of new workers here," Morgan answered, his agitation increasing.

"What about that CD?" Lester asked, pointing to one of the CD racks.

"I don't understand," Morgan said in confusion.

"That Nickelback CD was always in the wrong spot, but now it's in the correct alphabetical order."

"Maybe someone picked up the CD and was thinking of buying it."

"Why would ANYBODY buy a Nickelback CD?"

"OK, what do you think about this?" Jeff asked, holding up a long plastic wrapper.

"Um…when you buy condoms, you think really highly of yourself?" Morgan guessed.

"It's the plastic wrapping for a syringe. I found it in the parking lot."

"And somehow, I am not surprised you knew what that was for." Morgan was ready to tear his hair out. "NOTHING is going on! The only thing going on is the two of you acting like idiots. Just…just get back to the desk, OK?"

Lester gave Morgan an angry stare, while Jeff's was more from the highly-frightening department. They turned and walked away.

"Maybe we should have told him about Jimmy Slade and Tricia Helfer. Why they were here," Jeff said quietly to Lester.

Morgan had his back turned to the morons, so they didn't see his eyes widen in shock. They saw Jimmy and Alex here yesterday. That would take a lot more to explain if they got curious.

His smartphone began to rang. He quickly walked away from everyone when he saw Jimmy's number on the caller ID.

"Dude, what's going on?" Morgan whispered desperately. "Did something happen again last night?"

"I'm afraid so, yeah," Jimmy replied. "We'll be by the store in an hour. There's a lot to talk about."

"Wait, Jimmy. No, bad idea."

"What's wrong?"

"Jeff and Lester are getting paranoid. Even more than normal. They think there's something big going on. They saw you and Alex here yesterday. You know how those two can get."

Jimmy sighed. "OK, then. You and Big Mike come by the hotel. Have Big Mike tell everybody he's off to lunch. That'll buy us a lot of time."

"OK, I'll do that. See you soon."

"Bye."

Toluca Terrace Apartments – Burbank, CA
June 7, 2016
12:00 PM PDT

Casey quickly entered his apartment, followed by Chuck, Carina, Cole, and Ilsa. Given his codes still disabled the security measures that were installed, it was safe to say the NSA hadn't yet received word that the team was to be arrested. Unfortunately, their timetable was very tight. Beckman had been under arrest for several hours, and it wouldn't take long for the order to go out to bring the team in. He hoped Chuck could access the NSA's network on the apartment's computer and implant the ID cards they made for Cole and Ilsa, who wouldn't be instantly recognized by anybody.

"Are you sure you can handle this, Chuck?" Carina asked. "Those flashes last night put you through hell."

"I should be OK," Chuck replied. "This won't require the Intersect. My dad's encryption program should be able to give me access to the database in the NSA's L.A. branch. It'll just take a few minutes to drop Cole's and Ilsa's IDs and the work orders into the all the correct locations."

Chuck began to program as Casey pulled out Jimmy's tablet computer and brought up a schematic of the NSA office. "Once you're past the main gate, head straight down to IT," he told Ilsa and Cole. "Miller and I will work our way to the dock area and knock out the guards there. We can get into the bay, but only your IDs can get the big surveillance van from the IT section to the main shipping dock. Obviously if they spot us, we're screwed."

"The surveillance van has what Chuck and Ellie will need to keep making the Intersect?" Cole asked.

"This one does." Casey showed them a picture of the van. "This is what a surveillance van wants to be when it grows up. You can be two hundred feet underground surrounded by concrete and still hear someone ten miles away as if they were right next to you. Every intelligence agency in the world would give up their nuclear codes to get one of these. We used it when Slade had to go undercover to snag intel from an ex-Russian agent."

"Just don't ask him about the pool," Carina added with a smile.

"What pool?" Cole asked with piqued interest.

"He fell fourteen floors from a hotel balcony into a pool."

Cole shook his head. "Has he EVER had an easy day in his life?"

"That WAS an easy day," Casey quipped.

"OK, here we go," Chuck said. He took the IDs they made for Cole and Ilsa and entered their information into the NSA's network, careful to cover his tracks and make sure it appeared Cole and Ilsa had worked for the NSA for a few years. "You're all set. Cole and Ilsa walk in at 2PM, and your IDs should get you inside.

"Work fast," Casey warned them. "Miller and I will take out the dock guards and get the doors open at exactly 2:10. Once we have, there's only three minutes before the entire building comes down on us."

"Not a problem, John," Ilsa replied.

"Head back to the hotel," Casey told Chuck. "Once we have the van, we have to find a place to stash it. Have your sister and Sarah ready."

"You got it," Chuck replied. He exited Casey's apartment and headed back to the hotel. Casey turned to everyone else.

"Everybody know what they need to do?" Carina, Cole, and Ilsa nodded. Casey went to his closet and pulled out his two best tranq guns. He placed magazines in each and clapped the guns together to shove them in.

"Let's do this."

The four left the apartment.

Tangerine Hotel – Burbank, CA
June 7, 2016
12:10 PM PDT

Morgan knocked on the door to the conference room and Jimmy answered.

"Glad you two made it," he said to Morgan and Big Mike.

"Are you off somewhere?" Morgan asked, noticing Jimmy was loaded down with equipment.

"Just going to do a little bit of what Lance McCall does."

"You mean, do something stupid and crazy and crack a lot of one-liners while doing it?" Big Mike asked.

Jimmy rolled his eyes in annoyance. "I walked right into that one." He shook his head and exited. Morgan and Big Mike went inside.

"Have a seat, guys," Alex told them, gesturing to the conference table set up in the room. "Jimmy said you were having problems this morning?"

Morgan nodded. "Yeah. Jeff and Lester are starting to notice things at the store. Whenever you guys clean up the place, you can't do it so perfectly. The place looks…well, it looks like a real store. I mean, if they can figure it out…"

Alex nodded. "We'll work on that. Right now, we have even bigger problems. Jimmy told you that Chuck and Sarah were attacked again last night, correct?" Morgan nodded. "The Intersect really did a number on Chuck. And now, there's a psychotic ex-agent going after Sarah because he thinks she killed his wife."

"Someone's stalking Sarah?" Big Mike asked, the alarm rising in his voice.

"He even shot Chuck's father. Mr. Bartowski will recover, but we're really in a bind. Even more so now since our boss, General Beckman, has been jailed on trumped-up charges. That's the part where we need your help."

"Yeah, yeah Alex, sure," Morgan replied, although his confidence wasn't exactly going through the roof. "What can we do?"

"The three of us are going to fly to D.C. You two will pose as lawyers for Beckman. Whatever is happening, the Ring has someone high-up in Beckman's department, but we don't know who. However, Beckman does have the right to receive visits from family members or attorneys. The mole has to play it straight up and grant Beckman her rights or risk exposing themselves."

"We don't know much about the law," Big Mike said.

"You won't need to." Alex held up what looked like a small transmitter with a clip. "You'll attach this to the phone in the visitor's room. It'll overlay a conversation that will be picked up by the detention facility so they can't hear what you're really telling Beckman. Of course, take it with you when you leave. We don't want to give ourselves away."

"And what will we really tell her?"

"You'll update her on what is going on here and what our plan is. Just to be safe, we'll keep the details to a minimum. She just needs to know what our status is. But most importantly, she'll need to know about this."

Alex held up a small transmitter that looked like a crown for a tooth, a small wireless drive, and a pair of contact lenses. "This is some really cool spy stuff you guys have," Morgan said in amazement.

"Casey and Jimmy made these, and the team has used them before on actual missions."

"How do we get these to her?"

"You don't. I do."

"You will?" Big Mike asked. "You can just walk in there?"

"I worked in that building for six years. I know all the ins and outs. I can get inside and crawl through the ventilation systems and make it to Beckman's cell. Then I drop these in. We figure whoever the mole is, they'll have to show up at Beckman's cell eventually. And then we'll know who is behind all of this."

"I would think they watch her cell 24/7."

"They do. There are cameras watching her every move. But there's a two-second blind spot when the recording drives switch over. The cameras temporarily shut off, meaning you could sneak something in there if you time it right. Beckman puts on the contacts and the microphone, and anyone who visits Beckman would be recorded on the drive. Hopefully it'll work."

"This…this sounds like a lot," Morgan said.

Alex nodded. "You're right. "But I think you'd agree it's worth it if Chuck and Sarah can get out of the spy world together. There's nothing these people wouldn't do for each other. I imagine you feel the same way about your best friend."

Morgan keenly nodded. "Oh, no question."

"I only met them two months ago, and I'm the last person who would act like that. But they got to me, too. Especially Jimmy."

"I'll bet," Morgan replied with a grin.

Alex stared out into space for a moment, a tiny smile coming to her face. She nodded and then got up from the table. "Let's get packed."

National Security Agency – Western Branch – Los Angeles, CA
June 7, 2016
1:55 PM PDT

A nondescript sedan parked in the main lot at the NSA office, and two figures exited, both of whom checked their IDs and readied the equipment they would need to handle testing the facility's anti-hacking protocols. At least to the NSA, that's how it looked. However, Cole and Ilsa had other plans. They walked purposefully to the main desk at the entrance, taking note of the two officers with automatic weapons. They handed their IDs and work orders to a third security guard.

"OK…" the guard said, looking over the information on her computer. "Jennifer Mack, your ID checks out. John McKittrick…one second, the system's a bit slow…there we are. And we have the work orders confirmed. Thanks for your patience. Just present your equipment at the scanning station to your right and they'll process you through.

Cole and Ilsa took their IDs and walked over to the scanners, presenting their equipment for inspection. Luckily, Chuck, Casey, and Jimmy were able to gut a pair of laptops sitting at the Nerd Herd being ignored by Jeff and Lester in order to hide a set of tranq darts and gun. But this was the crucial part. They had no time to test if the laptops would pass a scan.

"Good to go," the guard said, handing them back their equipment.

Cole and Ilsa tried not to let their relief show as they went through security. They took the elevator down to the lower levels.

"I've been an agent for fifteen years," Cole said quietly. "I thought I had seen everything until I ran into these people."

Ilsa nodded. "I feel the same way. I can't say my time with the DGSE had been a positive experience."

"But then this group…"

Ilsa smiled. "It's funny how John tries to keep up that hard-ass personality when he's really a kitten underneath. I thought there was so much to him when we were together in Chechnya. But now…I guess hanging around with this group will do that to you. It's so obvious why they're such a great team."

"Agreed. If I had to deal with Amir's death on my own, I would have had a tough time with it. But everyone was so supportive when I needed it." He quietly chuckled. "I guess they got their hooks into us, too."

"That they did."

The elevator opened up to the basement level, and Cole and Ilsa walked down the hallway to the main server room.

"Good afternoon," Cole said to the technicians sitting around. "I'm John McKittrick and this is Jennifer Mack. We're here to verify and test the latest anti-hacking protocols on your servers."

"Everything's working just fine," one of the technicians spat with a considerable amount of condescension and contempt. "We don't need some D.C. flunkies messing around with our stuff."

"We've been all over the country this week, and we have four more of these places to test after this," Ilsa replied in kind. "So if you don't mind, park your attitude problem elsewhere and let us get to work."

The technician got up in a huff as Cole moved over to the keyboard. Ilsa moved to a table away from everyone else and opened up her laptop, carefully assembling her tranq gun out of sight of everyone. Cole did the same with the tranq gun in his laptop. Both of them checked the time and eyed the garage door at the opposite end where the surveillance van was. Casey and Carina would be opening the outer doors in three minutes.

~/^\~

"Are you in?"

Carina looked around impatiently as Casey attached the wireless transmitter to the junction box near the rear dock for the building. They needed to loop the video feed so they could get to the dock undetected. From there, they would tranq the four guards watching the docks. Once they used their access card to open the doors, the three-minute clock would count down. Unfortunately, they couldn't communicate with Cole or Ilsa; the building had gear able to detect any unauthorized signals.

"Just need sixty seconds," Casey replied. He quickly checked his watch. It was 2:07. The timing was critical. They had two minutes until Cole and Ilsa tranqued the technicians and grabbed the van. They would open the outer doors exactly one minute later.

"OK, cameras are set," Casey said after a moment. He closed the junction box and got out his tranq guns. "You up for it?" he asked Carina.

"Always," she said with a knowing glance. "And for this, too."

Casey exhaled. "Why did I volunteer for that mission in Prague?" he muttered in frustration.

Casey set his watch for a two-minute countdown. "Three…two…one…mark."

The two ran around the corner and headed for the dock. Before the guards could turn around, they fired away, sending all four of them to the ground.

"Get their weapons," Casey told Carina as he went to the doors. He readied the keycard and checked his watch. Thirty seconds until the doors had to be opened.

Casey then heard the click of a gun behind him.

~/^\~

The technician continued to glare at Cole. "You're testing the high-level protocols?" he asked. "The Level 8s?"

"That's right," Cole replied.

The technician straightened up. "Ours go all the way up to eleven."

Cole froze, and the other two technicians sat up in their chairs. Ilsa whipped out her tranq gun and shot each of them. The first technician tried to reach for the intruder alert button.

"Don't bother," Cole said, aiming his tranq gun at the man.

"Who the hell are you?" the technician demanded.

Cole fired, and the technician fell to the ground. "Not a wanker like you," he replied.

Ilsa went quickly to the storage bay and used her ID to open the door. Cole grabbed their gear and ran over, throwing everything into the back of the surveillance van. They got in the front and started to drive to the outer dock.

~/^\~

"Hello, Colonel Casey."

Casey gritted his teeth in anger and turned slowly to the man pointing the gun at his head, raising his hands in the process. "Given you know my rank, I'm guessing you're…"

"…with the Ring, yes," the man answered. He gestured with his gun for Casey to move over. "My buddy, Miles, made the mistake of letting you live, the sentimental idiot. Luckily, I don't have that problem."

He aimed the gun between Casey's eyes. "This is for Miles," he snarled.

Casey dropped to the ground. The Ring agent paused in confusion and then quickly turned around.

Carina opened fire with the automatic weapons she confiscated from the guards, killing him.

"And that's for Chuck's dad," Carina spat at the dead agent as she pulled Casey to his feet.

"Good dialogue," Casey said. "We should use that on the show next season."

"Yeah, because no one else ever thought to say that," Carina replied with ample sarcasm.

They got the door open just as Cole and Ilsa pulled the surveillance van up. They got inside and drove off.

Tangerine Hotel – Burbank, CA
June 7, 2016
3:00 PM PDT

"OK, Case. We'll see you there. Nice work."

Sarah hung up her phone. She had to smile: this WAS what they did. Breaking into the NSA to steal their best surveillance equipment was a high-risk play, but Casey, Carina, Ilsa, and Cole pulled it off. They even managed to eliminate a Ring agent in the process.

"How did they do?" Devon asked her, having entered the hotel room after dropping off Alex, Morgan, and Big Mike at the airport for their flight to Washington, D.C.

"They have the van. They're hiding out in an underground parking garage near Pershing Square. Once it's dark, they'll drive out to El Toro. We'll meet them there."

"And Jimmy?"

"He checked in from Bel Air a few minutes ago. He was checking those network connections he found at Victor Basta's house. He's then going to scout some of the locations we think the Ring had." She exhaled slowly. "I still don't think that was a smart idea."

"Yeah, but were we really going to stop him from doing it?" Chuck asked with a grin. "Especially after what he said this morning?"

"That's true," Sarah replied with a sigh. She turned to Ellie. "Are you sure you're up for this? Can you finish the two Intersects?"

Ellie nodded. "I want nothing more than for you and Chuck to be away from all of this. I want you two to be happy together. We'll get this done."

"That we will," Chuck replied, pulling Ellie close to him.

The two siblings hugged.

City of Industry, CA
June 7, 2016
11:00 PM PDT

Jimmy sprinted across the lawn behind the building just out of range of the exterior cameras. He reached the proper location and waited until the two cameras in front of him made it to the correct point in their sweeps. He then jumped forward and somersaulted towards the building while the cameras were pointed away. He pressed himself against the wall and slid along it, making his around the corner. A guard turned and saw him, but Jimmy delivered a spinning back kick at the man to take him down before he could warn anybody.

He stepped back from the building and studied it carefully. He pulled two large objects out of his backpack and placed them on the ground. He then loaded his piton gun and attached it to his harness. He fired at the top of the building, and the piton embedded itself into the concrete. He activated his winch and ascended to the roof, quickly pulling himself over the ledge.

He found the network interface for the building. He broke open the junction box and attached a wireless transmitter connected to the laptop in his backpack. He activated it.

"Stop," a voice behind him said.

Jimmy stood and raised his hands. The person behind him walked towards him slowly. Keeping his gun aimed at Jimmy, the man took his piton gun and pulled his backpack and harness off him.

"You won't be escaping that way now," the man said as he ripped the wireless transmitter out of the junction box. "Turn around."

Jimmy turned to face the man.

"The Ring wants the four of you dead," Daniel Shaw said with a smile. "You're as good of a place to start as any."

Jimmy exhaled. "Aaah, hell," he muttered.