Disclaimer: 'Chuck' and all it's affiliated characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. This fiction is written for entertainment only.
No profit was made.
A/N: This is the sequel to 'Hidden File Command', so I'd suggest reading that first, or you're not gonna know what the hell is going on.
The morning of May 17th was cool in Colorado Springs. The snow that had covered the ground all winter had finally given way to spring, although the surrounding mountain peaks were still dusted with the last of winter's snowfall.
Whistling the last song she'd heard before leaving home, Suzanne Holmes was going through the familiar routine of getting her shop, Byte Me Computers, ready for the day's business. When she'd opened the place three years prior her mother had told her she was starting a money pit. She'd also been quick to suggest that Suzanne go with a safer route...like getting married and finally providing the requisite grandchildren her mother deserved. Suzanne had phrased her response by way of her shop's name and then proceeded to enjoy three years of tremendously satisfying success.
The sound of the bell hanging above the door caught her attention, and she looked up to see her friend (and, perhaps more relevantly, employee) Simon Washburn. Despite his disheveled, post-run state, the young man grinned happily and gave a little wave. "Good morning, Suzie!"
She winced at the volume of his greeting and pointed at her ears. Removing his headphone, she sheepishly repeated his greeting and quickly made his way to the small locker room. An aspiring tri-athlete, Suzanne's first major alteration to the property was to have a contractor put a small locker room and shower in the back. When both of the people she hired, Simon and Lucy (who should have arrived by now) turned out to be fans of running and yoga respectively, Suzanne took it as a sign she'd made the right decision. She'd always been a believer that a healthy body naturally led to a happy soul, and she wanted her two employees to feel as enriched as she did when they came into work.
Her musings were interrupted when Lucy herself came wandering in, an extra large coffee clutched in her hands. Smiling softly at her employer, she shuffled toward to her small workspace behind the counter and threw her oversized coat over the nearest chair. Lucy might not have been the most talkative individual (at least during the AM hours), but the young Computer Sciences student was as sweet as could be and had proven to be a godsend time and again. Not only was she a master at sorting out the most unusual software errors, but she could make an espresso that would straight up knock your socks off.
Suzanne chuckled lightly, taking a moment to really appreciate her surroundings. There was something sublime about being exactly where you wanted to be in life.
That said, she has basically nothing at all to do with this story.
Hidden File Application
As if on cue, Simon emerged from the back showered and ready for the day. Running a hand through his short black hair, he looked woefully on the stack of repair jobs before him.
Lucy appeared beside him as if by magic. "Mornin' Simon."
"Gah!" Simon cried, whirling around. "Dammit, Lucy! Don't do that!"
"But Simon, you know I love to hear you scream my name." Lucy grinned, bumping her hip against his. "I just wanted to let you know that I finished up that backlog of format jobs for you. I'm sure you're desperately looking for a way to repay me. I'm thinking...dinner? I'm free tonight."
"How about I spring for lunch today, Luce." Simon offered. "But I think you could find better company for dinner."
"Hmm..." Lucy smiled, shamelessly running her eyes over his body. "I doubt that."
She gave him one last sultry smile before she walked away, leaving Simon shaking his head and marvelling at her persistence. He knew he should be firmer in rebuffing her advances, but as he watched her saunter back to her desk he'd be damned if he could think of a good reason to do so.
Sighing, he fell into his chair and fired up his laptop. As it booted he occupied himself by picking through the various computer parts scattered across his desk. As much as he wished otherwise he was a habitual packrat and could rarely bring himself to throw such parts away. Whenever a customer didn't want an old part back Simon was the first to grab it and try to return it to its former glory. Suzanne asked why he didn't just toss them out and his usual answer was that everything had a use, sooner or later. Oddly enough, most of his successfully restored parts seemed to end up being shipped out of state. All Simon would say is that he had a number of completely legitimate buyers and since Suzanne got 15% of the sales she didn't particularly mind his elusiveness.
His computer finished starting up and he opened his e-mail. Generally speaking the only e-mail he got was from a few online subscriptions and the occasional online message board. His few friends saw him so frequently that e-mailing him was largely redundant. Today he found an e-mail from an unfamiliar address on a mail host he'd never even heard of. Any other day he'd assume it was junk, but something compelled Simon to open it.
He skimmed the contents quickly and his heart stopped cold.
Hey there Washburn,
You're not that hard to find for a guy who knows how to look. Lucky for you I'm the only one who knows how to look. You wanted a change of scenery and I get that. Don't worry, I won't tell. I never wanted you to take that job in the first place. Thought you ought to know something. Those guys we were working for last year invited that cute doctor you were rooming with to work for them - the kind of offer she just couldn't say no to. I guess they're hoping you'll see the light and come back.
Anyway, if you're interested I can forward the pertinent info to you anytime.
By the way, you ought to open an account on this server. It's great. No spam and totally spyware free.
Enjoy the mountains.
PS – It wouldn't kill you to look up Goldilocks sometime. She's in Seattle and she misses you. I've attached her e-mail.
"Bryce fucking Larkin." He whispered, squeezing his eyes shut. "Son of a bitch."
"You say something, Simon?" Lucy asked, glancing up.
"No. Nothing." He replied calmly, despite the feeling of panic building up inside him. He stole a glance over his shoulder and guessed he could make it to the door in three seconds, but then what? If he believed this message, either the CIA or NSA had Ellie. He couldn't just abandon her.
OK, just calm down. He ordered himself, taking a slow breath. Bryce knows exactly who and where you are, so if this were a trap you'd already be dead.
He'd escaped certain death at the hands of the CIA six months ago. He'd drugged his handlers and left LA that very night. Hitchhiking his way to Denver, where he'd managed to get ahold of a halfway decent fake ID. Shortly after he'd moved on to Colorado Springs. He'd only been planning on staying a couple of weeks but after Suzanne hired him he ended up settling into a happy, if slightly dysfunctional, life.
His friends here all saw him as a friendly & affable guy, but try as he might he never managed to relax. He couldn't bring himself to own a cell phone, and the idea of accessing the internet from his apartment terrified him. He had bug-out bags at home and at work. The Smith & Wesson pistol he'd taken from Sarah, which was with him everywhere he went, had become a comforting presence at the small of his back.
There wasn't a moment that passed when he wasn't on guard. Everywhere he went he was always looking for the nearest exit. It was paranoid and he knew it. But with both the CIA and NSA hunting him, the line between paranoia and common sense was alarmingly thin.
Shaking himself from his thoughts, he calmly closed his laptop and placed it in the backpack he pulled from under his desk. He'd stayed here too long anyway. It was time to move on.
He rose from his seat and moved unhurriedly to the front door.
"Hey Suzie." He called back, as his hand came to rest on the door handle. "Going out on a repair call."
"Okay." Suzanne replied distractedly as she shuffled several piles of paperwork around her desk. "Seeya later."
"And be back in time for lunch." Lucy added with a wink.
Chuck smiled sadly, but didn't answer as he left the shop for the last time.
Simon Washburn had some good times. Chuck thought as he peered at the driver's licence in his hand. Walking slowly through the Greyhound station in Denver he pulled out a lighter and lit the card on fire, making sure it was throughly unreadable before tossing it into the nearest trashcan.
Chuck planted himself on a bench to wait for his bus, pulled out his laptop, opened the e-mail again. Humming thoughtfully, he began to weigh his options. Bryce had done a lot of things to him but he couldn't believe that his old roommate would intentionally try to get him killed. If anything, Bryce had always looked out for him...in a roundabout sort of way. And now he was apparently trying to help save Ellie.
Sighing, he looked up at the departures board. The 09:30 bus to Los Angeles or the 10:15 to Seattle.
Ellie or Sarah.
As if it weren't obvious. He thought, coming to a decision.
Chuck connected to the bus station's WiFi and opened his new online e-mail account, sending off two messages.
To: BrotherLazurus shadowmail
From: Leafonthewind shadowmail
I'm in. Send the info.
I'll call Goldilocks.
To: Sexyninja332 hotmail
From: Leafonthewind shadowmail
Nice e-mail addy.
The excrement has hit the rotary oscillator. I need help. Bruce says you're cool, so I'm gonna trust you. And I still owe you for that other thing.
I'll meet you in the Seattle bus station 48 hrs from now. Stand by the ticket window. No flash photography. I see a flash and I'm gone. No second chances.
By the way... I've missed you too.
Hitting the send button, he closed his computer and made his way to the ticket booth. On the way he reached into his pocket and produced a Kansas ID under the name of William Thrace. Sighing, he purchased his ticket to Seattle. "I should've known that getting away couldn't possibly be that easy."
But he could think about that on the way. Right now he had a bus to catch and a long ride ahead.