"John Marcus Bartowski, do you pledge yourself to Rebecca Casey? Do you swear that you will remain faithful to her, in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, better or worse, through the good times, and the bad, for as long as you both shall live?"
"This panel was convened by the United States Navy for the purposes of investigating the events of April 16th, 2038, concerning the submarine USS Montana and the submarine USS Seawolf. Of immediate concern to the panel were the following:
"One: that the captain of USS Montana was summarily executed by an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"Two: that USS Montana did knowingly take belligerent action against a friendly nation during a maritime patrol.
"Three: that USS Seawolf did knowingly take belligerent action against a submarine of the United States Navy on the orders of an agent of the terrorist organization known as Fulcrum."
"Rebecca Lynn Casey, do you pledge yourself to John Bartowski? Do you swear that you will remain faithful to him, in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, better or worse, through the good times, and the bad, for as long as you both shall live?"
"It is the judgment of this panel that:
"One: the United States Navy, and specifically its submarine service, must immediately enact stricter security measures in order to prevent such a future incident of enemy agents infiltrating its ranks, especially two agents rising to the rank of captain.
"Two: the crew of USS Montana, specifically Lieutenant Commander Lisa Bartowski and Lieutenant Richard Milliken, did commit such acts against the Commonwealth of Australia that could be regarded as casus belli.
"However, due to the unique nature of Montana's on-going assignment and mission, it is determined that Commander Bartowski and Lieutenant Milliken did both act within the charter of their mission, specifically, fulfilling the duties of the Intersect project. As such, all charges against them shall be dismissed. This panel will not order the convention of a court-martial, nor will it recommend disciplinary action against Commander Bartowski or Lieutenant Milliken."
1:30 P.M., Pacific Daylight Time
Saturday, June 19th, 2038
Zuma Beach, Malibu, California
"John Marcus Bartowski and Rebecca Lynn Casey, you have pledged yourselves to each other before God and before man. Therefore, by the power vested in me by God and by the state of California, I hereby pronounce you man and wife."
John and Becca smiled at each other. "What God has brought together, let no man put asunder," the priest finished. "Mr. Bartowski, you may kiss the bride."
And John did just that. He leaned in and kissed Becca, prompting a spontaneous standing ovation from the crowd.
Chuck and Sarah looked on in unabashed joy. "That's our son up there getting married," Chuck whispered to Sarah.
"I know," she whispered back.
It had been an ideal day at Zuma Beach. The temperature was in the high 70s, the sun was high in the sky, and the offshore breeze was just perfect.
Only one thing had been missing.
It had been Devin Woodcomb that walked Becca Casey down the aisle that afternoon. When she had asked him to do it, he had been moved to tears, which was the first time that anybody could remember anything like that ever happening.
But Devin had had a truly awesome trick up his sleeve. He had arranged for a small easel to be placed up by where Becca and John would exchange vows, on Becca's side. On that easel was a black and white portrait of John Casey.
It was taken from an old picture of him – a photograph of Casey in his dress blues, taken back in 1999, when he was a captain, and first getting involved with the NSA. But regardless of its age, it had still brought a smile to many people's faces – Casey was there to see his daughter get married.
As John and Becca walked down the aisle, Chuck and Sarah looked at each other and smiled. "I don't know why, but this makes me think of another beach, a very long time ago," Sarah whispered.
Chuck laughed quietly. "Would that be the time you asked me to trust you, or the time that I proposed and then we, well, you know…"
Sarah's smile got bigger. "I was kind of thinking of a combination of the two…"
Chuck's smile got downright mischievous. "Well, you know, I'm sure we COULD sneak away from the reception for a bit…"
Sarah stood on her toes, leaned in, and kissed Chuck. "God, you're a horny bastard."
3:30 P.M., Pacific Daylight Time
Tuesday, October 19th, 2038
US Naval Base San Diego, San Diego, California
"Lisa Erin Bartowski, by order of the President of the United States, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Captain, United States Navy, with all the responsibilities and privileges thereof."
Lisa couldn't help but smile. She had been tabbed for promotion to commander long before the whole debacle in Australia, but afterwards, the President had decided that due to meritorious service, she would jump right over commander and become one of the youngest captains in the history of the US Navy.
The only problem was, she was a captain without a vessel. Of the two she had served on, USS Seawolf had been declared unsalvageable when she returned to the United States. She had been donated to the City of San Diego, which planned to turn her into a floating museum.
USS Montana had gone into a dry dock there in San Diego, and never come back out. Not even Lisa was permitted to access the dock. She knew it was silly to worry about what was happening to the submarine, but Montana was HER boat, her home. Even if the Virginia-class sub was being dismantled and turned into high-quality titanium razor blades, she wanted to know.
Admiral Wayne Madden, COMSUBPAC (commander, submarine force, Pacific fleet), pinned the eagle signifying the rank of captain onto Lisa's uniform. "Congratulations, Captain Bartowski," he said quietly. "Would you like to see your new command?"
Lisa's eyes widened. "Yes, sir," she replied.
Admiral Madden smiled, and returned to the microphone. It was an odd crowd at the reviewing stand – the crew of the Montana, the crew of the Australian sub Brisbane, and the Bartowski and Casey families. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and pleasure to introduce to you Captain Bartowski's first command," he said.
A long blast on an air horn was heard – a ship was entering the channel. "This boat has, one could say, been to hell and back," Madden continued. "She has a long and storied record, most of which can't be revealed for many, many years to come."
Lisa's eyes widened. It COULDN'T be.
"Over a month-long period, a battery of intensive tests and studies were conducted on this boat," Madden informed the crowd. "It was discovered that for whatever reason, she is far more resilient and durable than the remainder of her class – which, given her record, surprised few."
This garnered a few chuckles from the crowd. Lisa looked out at the crew of the Montana – and Lieutenant Commander Rick Milliken looked back at her, a twinkle in his eye. What exactly did he know that she didn't?
"This boat was scheduled to be decommissioned," Madden said. "However, given her ability to endure, the Navy decided it would be in its best interests to instead refit the boat. Her electronics have been upgraded to state of the art, and her propulsion system has been replaced by the pumpjet system pioneered by the Seawolf class and perfected by Australia's Sydney class."
Madden smiled. "We also removed a particularly troublesome quirk from this boat. No longer does she have to worry about making too much noise when running at high speed."
Motion beyond Madden caught Lisa's eye. The submarine that had indicated it was entering the channel was moving toward them. She looked beyond Madden –
The sail of the boat said "789". She couldn't believe it. It was, in fact –
"I give you Captain Bartowski's maiden command, USS Montana."
Montana rounded the bend in the channel, displaying her port side to the crowd. The boat's crew leapt to their feet, applauding, whooping and hollering wildly. Lisa couldn't help it. She started laughing, and jumped off the reviewing stand, joining her crew.
"Captain!" she heard shouted. She turned around, and there was Commander Milliken standing behind her. "Isn't this fantastic?!"
"You have no idea, Rick!" she shouted back, her grin getting even bigger.
That's when she got the biggest shock of her life. Rick Milliken threw his arms around her and kissed her – right in front of the Pacific Fleet flag staff.
And she didn't object one bit.
9:10 P.M., Pacific Standard Time
Friday, November 19th, 2038
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Los Angeles, California
Rebecca Lynn Bartowski delivered a healthy baby girl just after 9:00 P.M., seven months to the day after her father's funeral. The little girl weighed eight pounds, three ounces, and was twenty inches long.
John and Becca had picked out a name for her nearly three months beforehand. Her middle name would be in honor of her great-aunt, but her first name would be a name that, while usually associated with a man in the minds of her family, could easily be a girl's name.
They named her Casey Eleanor Bartowski.
5:00 P.M., Mountain Standard Time
Monday, July 2nd, 2063
Mountain View Hospice, Flagstaff, Arizona
Casey Bartowski's car hummed as it moved through the streets of Flagstaff. It would probably not have been recognized as a car by somebody from a century before – it looked like a pod, with a clear bubble over the top. However, it was far safer than anything from a century before – technological advancements made for stronger materials, it ran completely on electricity, and as Casey had just discovered, it could drive 750 miles and still have enough charge for at least 200 more miles.
Of course, if it had had five people in it – one in each seatbelt – it probably couldn't have gone that far. But that was irrelevant.
Casey had decided, several months beforehand, to write her master's thesis on the incredible lives of her grandparents, Chuck and Sarah Bartowski. It had taken quite a while to get the federal powers that be to sign off on it, but finally, the CIA had given in, with the caveat that Chuck and Sarah both had to be dead before it was published.
Casey initially balked at that, but her grandparents – both in their eighties, with Sarah dying of a degenerative nerve disease – had persuaded her that it was worth it. And so, with everything finally cleared, she had set off from Palo Alto at 5:00 that morning, headed for Flagstaff.
She was headed through town on Route 66. It boggled her mind that there could still be a town as small and rustic-looking as Flagstaff. Despite the fact that the Phoenix-Tucson metroplex two hours to the south boasted a population of 44 million, Flagstaff itself was still home to less than 100,000, and could still legitimately call itself a college town, with Northern Arizona University being the main draw.
Casey supposed that that was why her grandparents had moved there – as they got older, they wanted to escape the insanity of Los Angeles, and what better town than one such as this? Then, when Sarah had begun to lose the battle to Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, there was a hospice right down the street from where they lived, so they didn't have to leave Flagstaff.
Casey turned left onto Switzer Canyon Drive. According to the map, Mountain View Hospice was two blocks north of Route 66… and, yep, there it was.
Her Toyota Spark rolled to a stop in the parking lot of the hospice center. Casey got out, pulling the handle to open the charging port as she went. Unreeling the car's cable, she plugged it into the outlet set up by the parking space.
She headed inside. "I'm here to see the Bartowskis," she informed the front desk attendant. He looked up at her.
"Name and relation?"
"Casey Bartowski… I'm their granddaughter."
He looked back down at a list. "Okay, they're expecting you. Room 114 – down the hall, on your left."
Casey headed down the hall, and knocked on the door when she reached 114. It was opened, and there was her grandfather.
"Casey!" Chuck Bartowski boomed with a smile. He wrapped her in a hug. "How's my favorite granddaughter?"
"She's still your ONLY granddaughter, Grandpa," Casey replied with a laugh. She had somehow ended up with two brothers and six male cousins.
Chuck smiled. "Right, of course."
Casey looked over to her grandmother's bed. Sarah Walker Bartowski lay there, her body wasting away, but a brilliant smile still on her face at the sight of her granddaughter.
"Hi, Grandma!" Casey said, crossing to the bed. She hugged her, and was shocked at how light she felt.
"How… was… the drive?"
Casey shrugged as she sat down in a chair by the bed. "It was seven hundred and fifty miles. It's a long drive, Grandma."
"Makes… me glad… I can't… drive anymore." Sarah let out a weak laugh.
Casey smiled and shook her head. "So, you gonna tell me some top secret stuff?"
"Not… secret anymore… been more… than fifty years."
"Oh," Casey said in surprise. "Okay… well, Grandpa's told me pretty much everything after you guys met."
Sarah smiled. "Thank… God."
Chuck rolled his eyes. "Oh, shut up. Fifty-four years of marriage, and this is the crap I still take."
"Come… closer and… say that, mister."
Chuck stuck out his tongue, and Casey laughed. Here were her grandparents, 82 and 81 years old, acting like they were 14.
"Alright… let's get… started before your grandfather gets into any more trouble."
Casey looked at Sarah. She hadn't heard her string that many words together without interruption in years.
"I can put together fairly decent strings of words if I really concentrate hard," Sarah rasped. "It just exhausts me, so I try not to do it too often."
"Well, don't strain yourself too much, Grandma," Casey said, worried.
Sarah smiled. "Don't worry. This is definitely worth it."
She propped herself up on one elbow. "So, let's go back sixty-one years, to May 15th, 2002… the day that I joined the CIA…"
Author's Note: And that, ladies and gentlemen, marks the end of the last story in the "Bright Side" alternate universe. Writing all the stories within this AU over the last five and a half months has really been quite remarkable and fun.
I truly hope you have enjoyed reading these stories as much as I've enjoyed writing them. And on that note, I shall say, always look on the Bright Side of life, and keep on Chuckin'.