Don't worry, folks, I haven't forgotten about "Chuck vs. the Pie Maker". It's just that I got inspiration for this one and wanted to get it started before I forgot about it.

24 December 2007, 5:32 AM

Chandler Boulevard and Woodman Avenue, Van Nuys, California

To say that Chuck Bartowski was not amused would be an understatement.

Half an hour ago, Chuck had been sleeping peacefully. For reasons passing all understanding, Big Mike had been kind enough to grant Chuck a day off on Christmas Eve. Chuck's plans had been to sleep, sleep some more, get up, eat, play Halo 2 for a while, go to church with Ellie, come back home, and go to bed.

And then, at 4:59 AM, his phone rang. Turns out that Lester, the Nerd Herder on call, had turned his phone off, and left Chuck's number on his voicemail message. And so, Chuck got the call to go fix a broken computer at...

"14203 Chandler," he muttered, squinting to read the addresses on the curb. It was then that he noticed a strange glow in his peripheral vision.

Turning to face forward and look out the windshield, he saw something very strange indeed...

"That looks like a stargate," he said incredulously. "But that's impossible. Am I awake?"

He pinched himself to make sure that he was, in fact, awake. When he realized that this was no dream, he brought the Herder to a stop. Peering through the windshield, he stared at the glowing portal in front of him. "What the hell is going on?"

"Six, this is Two. Bartowski is in position, and the door is ready."

"Two, Six. Proceed at your discretion."

As Chuck tried to wrap his mind around the apparition that had appeared in front of him, he realized that the Herder was moving.

Right toward the portal.

"No, no," he said. "Stop!"

He stood on the Herder's brakes. No luck. He put the Herder in reverse and floored it. The engine screamed, the front tires smoked, but he was still being pulled inexorably into the glowing rift.

When the Herder's tachometer went into the red, Chuck released the gas, put the Herder in park, and set the e-brake. He decided to try a different tactic.

Chuck took off his seatbelt and opened the door. He was about to roll out of the car, when he heard the crack of a bullet fly past his head and shatter the driver's window.

"Holy shit!" he shouted, slamming the door back shut and ducking as low as he could.

As Chuck hid himself from his unknown assailant, he realized that despite being in park with the e-brake on, the Herder was accelerating. Faster, and faster he was pulled in, until finally the glow filled his perception.

"Six, this is Two. Bartowski's gone. Larkin ain't NEVER gonna find him."

Suddenly, the glow was gone. Chuck noticed he was in what appeared to be a warehouse, but only very briefly.

With the Herder in park, and with the pull from the portal gone, it went from about thirty miles per hour to zero in an instant. Chuck, not wearing his seatbelt, was catapulted from his seat. He flew through the windshield, bounced violently off the hood of the Herder, and rolled to a stop, unconscious and bleeding, against the wall opposite.

A man working on a crate against a side wall turned around when he heard the squeal of the Herder's tires on the floor, and was just in time to see Chuck hurtle across the room. "What the rutting hell..." he muttered, pulling his gun and jogging over to Chuck.

He rolled Chuck over onto his back, and shook him awake. "Hey, you. Who are you? Where the hell'd you come from?"

Chuck's eyes flitted open briefly. He saw the face above him, and the man saw Chuck's eyes fill with recognition. "Casey? Is that you?" Chuck rasped in a weak voice. Then he slipped back into unconsciousness.

"Casey?" the man said. "Who the hell is that?"

Then, as if he remembered that there was a strange man that had just appeared in his cargo bay, he went to the wall intercom, and pressed the talk button.

"Captain," he said, "this is Jayne. We've got a situation in the cargo bay."

"Charles," the voice said.

Chuck slowly swam up toward the light. Consciousness was there. But who was saying Charles?

"Wake up, Charles," the voice said.

It was a pleasant voice. Certainly a nicer voice than any guy he knew. Who was saying his name, and why was he calling him Charles?

Chuck opened his eyes and blinked. Everything was a little blurry, but he was able to make out a man with brown hair looking down at him.

"Whaagghgami…" Chuck rasped, his throat dry.

The brown-haired man gave him a drink of water. "You're dehydrated," he said. "You've been unconscious for nearly twenty-four hours. You suffered a great many internal injuries, and I had to do extensive surgery to repair them."

Chuck's throat no longer feeling like the Mohave Desert, he whispered, "Where am I? And who are you?"

"My name is Simon," the brown-haired man said. "Dr. Simon Tam. You're onboard the Firefly-class transport vessel Serenity."

"Where's Casey?" Chuck whispered.

"Casey? I don't know a Casey," Dr. Tam replied. "When did you see him?"

"I saw him, right after I crashed," Chuck insisted. "I swear to you, it was John Casey… although he looked like he'd been homeless for two weeks."

"That was Jayne Cobb," Simon said. "He's part of our crew, although I don't necessarily know that I can give you an accurate description of what his position is. Hired thug is the closest thing I can think."

"How did I get here?" Chuck asked, leaving the question of the mysterious Casey look-a-like for another time.

"We don't really know," Dr. Tam said. "What's the last thing you remember?"

"Well, I was driving down Chandler Boulevard…"

"Where's that?" Dr. Tam interrupted.

"That's in Van Nuys," Chuck said, struggling to sit up a little.

"Careful," Simon warned. "I don't want you to break open any sutures. The scarring should be minimal, unless you move around a lot.

"Van Nuys," he continued. "I don't think I've ever heard of Van Nuys. Where is Van Nuys?"

Chuck looked puzzled. "You know, Van Nuys? San Fernando Valley? North Los Angeles?"

Dr. Tam's look of puzzlement grew into one of consternation. "Oh… my," he said.

Moving to the intercom, he pressed the talk button. "Captain Reynolds," he intoned, "I think you'd better come down here."

Mal Reynolds sat in the infirmary, contemplating this intruder. "So let me get this straight," he said. "You're from Los Angeles. As in Los Angeles, California, United States, Earth."

"I don't know of another one," Chuck replied.

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-six," Chuck said. "Why?"

"Born what year?"

"1981. Why?"

"What's that thing that is now parked in the middle of my cargo bay?"

"A 2006 Toyota Yaris painted in the colors of the Buy More Nerd Herd. You want to answer my goddamn question and tell me why you're asking me all this?"

Mal stopped short. "Wow," he said. "I haven't heard anybody say goddamn… well, ever, except in movies. It's always 'gorram'."

"What?" Chuck was getting close to the edge of frustration. "Seriously, who are you people?!"

"Well, I guess you could say we're space pirates," Mal said.

Chuck's eyebrows nearly crawled to the top of his forehead. "Suuuure you are," he said slowly. "And my name is Master Chief."

Mal looked confused. "But your ident card – it says your name is Charles Irving Bartowski."

Chuck just shook his head. "You have no idea who Master Chief is, do you?"

Mal shook his head too, a confused look spreading itself across his face.

"It's not Christmas Eve 2007, is it?" Chuck asked, realization setting in.

"'Fraid not," Mal said. "It's Christmas Eve 2518."

Chuck stared at Mal Reynolds. His mind was bombarded with a thousand thoughts.

Finally he spoke.

"Well… shit."