To my faithful remnant:
You may have noticed that I have not published anything in over a month. This last five weeks or so have been a particularly excruciating and frustrating period in which I have found myself unable to write anything.
So, in my desperation to break my writer's block, I have decided to go back to the beginning. My first big Chuck story was a crossover with Joss Whedon's Firefly, entitled "Chuck vs. the Future." It was a good story, and fun to write – but could've been greatly improved with a certain amount of polish, and knowledge of certain things that we now know about Chuck Bartowski.
I initially wanted to simply call this a redux of "Chuck vs. the Future". I plan to polish some parts, and embellish others, all the while maintaining the original plot and structure of the story. However, I have decided to move the timeframe up by one year, so that it follows "Chuck vs. Santa Claus" as opposed to "Chuck vs. the Crown Vic." Given that that causes a rather significant shift in the relational dynamic between Chuck and Sarah Walker, and given that the story now takes place a full year later, I feel obligated to classify this as a re-write, rather than a redux.
I hope I don't upset anybody by re-writing this story. As the author, I feel that it's my right and privilege to do so. I also hope that those of you who might be reading this story for the first time enjoy it.
In closing… "I aim to misbehave." – Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity.
Chuck vs. the Future, Chapter 1 - "Serenity"
CAST (in order of appearance):
Chuck Bartowski - Zachary Levi
Two - Andy Richter
Jayne Cobb - Adam Baldwin
Simon Tam - Sean Maher
Mal Reynolds - Nathan Fillion
2:20 AM, Pacific Standard Time
Thursday, December 25th, 2008
Van Nuys, California
To say that Chuck Bartowski was not amused would be an understatement.
Indeed, a far more accurate statement would be to say that he was massively annoyed.
Half an hour ago, Chuck had been sleeping peacefully – well, as peacefully as he could, given that he had seen a man shot in cold blood, not six hours before. Nonetheless, he had managed to work his way into a deep and dreamless sleep.
That was, until his cell phone rang. Ten minutes until two o'clock on Christmas morning, and Chuck had received a call from a frantic Buy More customer who was having severe difficulty setting up a computer that was supposed to be his children's Christmas present.
Chuck was, at first, not sure why he had gotten the call – after all, Lester, being Jewish, and therefore non-observant of Christmas, had been assigned Herder-On-Call duties for Christmas Day. However, when Chuck called the Nerd Herd Emergency line and was forwarded to Lester's phone, he immediately got Lester's voicemail message… informing callers to call Chuck Bartowski, and giving Chuck's phone number.
And so it was that Chuck found himself cruising through the Valley, down Chandler Boulevard, in the wee hours of the morning, cursing Lester Patel to the skies. Wearily, he looked out the passenger side of the car, watching for… "14203 Chandler," he muttered. Just past Hazeltine, if memory served.
As he squinted to see the addresses on the curb, something in his peripheral vision caught his attention. An odd glow – something had appeared in the center of Chandler Boulevard.
Chuck's attention was dragged away from the curb to the glowing ball in the center of the street. As Chuck brought the Herder to a stop, he was struck by the object and its resemblance to the so-called Christmas star. "If I didn't know better, I'd think the baby Jesus was below the street," he muttered to himself.
Shaking his head and blinking his eyes, Chuck tried to clear his vision. When the object didn't go away, he pinched himself to make sure he was awake. After confirming that he was, in fact, awake, he stared at the object with curiosity. "What the hell is going on?"
Nobody ever thought much of a Department of Water and Power van. Even at this very early hour on a holiday, nobody would have even so much as bothered to check on the Ford Econoline with the DWP logo painted on it.
That particular facet of life in Los Angeles was exactly why the man inside the van had chosen such a vehicle. They were ubiquitous, and nobody, not even the LAPD, would question his presence.
As he watched the red and white Toyota Yaris come to a halt less than two hundred feet away, he activated his microphone. "Six, this is Two," he said. "Bartowski is in position, and the door is ready."
Two did not know who Six was. Two did not care to know who Six was. Two was quite happy with his life in the Meadow Branch neighborhood out in Porter Ranch, and the less he knew about the command structure, the better.
"Copy that, Two," he heard. "You may proceed at your discretion."
Two nodded. "I don't know who you pissed off, Bartowski," he said quietly. "But you… are about to go where no man has gone before."
Reaching out his hand, he hit a button – and the glowing object in the middle of Chandler Boulevard flashed and began to pulsate.
"Whoa!" Chuck exclaimed. The glowing mass had suddenly gone active in some way. "What the hell –"
That's when he realized that the Herder had begun to move. It was in park, but it was moving forward – toward the glowing mass.
"Oh, no!" Chuck said. "No, no, stop!" This was not good. He stood on the Toyota's brakes, but to no avail. He threw the Herder into reverse and stomped on the gas. The tiny engine screamed, the front tires threw up a cloud of smoke – and yet, he moved, inexorably forward, toward the glowing mass of – of whatever it was.
As the Herder's tachometer climbed into the red, the engine started to scream in distress, so Chuck tried a different tactic. Putting the Herder into park, he set the handbrake, and opened the door.
Unbuckling his seatbelt, he stood up – just in time to hear a bullet crack past his head and shatter the driver's window.
"Holy crap!" Chuck squealed. Despite the clearly serious situation, he was annoyed with himself for sounding like a little girl. Oh, the crap Casey would give me for that.
Chuck dove back into the Herder and slammed the driver's door shut behind him. Cowering as low as he could, he prayed that another bullet wouldn't come flying in – and that was when he noticed that the entire Herder was glowing.
"Six, Two. What the hell is going on?"
Two heard a sigh in his headset. "Bartowski cannot be allowed to escape. Our orders were not to kill him. However, he holds the key to cracking Bryce Larkin. If we put him somewhere that only we know of, then we will be far more likely to find Larkin."
Two shook his head. Over a year now. Countless agents lost, including the half dozen agents expended in that debacle at the Burbank Buy More earlier that day. No man – not even this Bryce Larkin – was worth this effort.
As he watched, the little Toyota began to glow. Slowly, but inexorably, it was sucked into the glowing mass. And then – the mass disappeared. The Toyota was gone.
It was if it had never been there.
"Six, this is Two," he said again. "Bartowski's gone. Larkin's never gonna find him."
The Herder had been moving at nearly thirty miles an hour when it disappeared into the glowing mass. Had Chuck been thinking, he would have put his seatbelt back on. However, he was so exhausted from the events of the day before and from a lack of sleep, and he was so confused by what was going on just at that moment, that he never thought to do so.
So it was that when the Herder was deposited in its pre-determined destination, without the pull of the glowing mass to move it forward, it came to an immediate halt. Chuck, however, did not. The momentum of his body hurled him through the windshield, the right-hand side of his ribcage smashing against the steering wheel as he was ejected.
Bouncing off the hood, Chuck fell to the floor of – well, wherever he was. He couldn't tell, couldn't get a glimpse as he rolled, pain shooting through his body every time his ribcage contacted the floor.
Finally, he came to a stop. His eyes focused just long enough for him to see what looked like a small warehouse, and then he slipped into unconsciousness, blood trickling from a gash on the side of his head.
On the other side of the room, a man was working on moving a crate into a cleverly concealed closet in the wall when the Herder made its grand entrance. The noise of the tires and the shattering windshield got his attention immediately, and he whirled to face the intruder, his gun clearing his waistband in the blink of an eye.
His eyes narrowed as the young man bounced off the hood of the – well, it looked like some sort of modified Mule – and rolled across the floor. "What the ruttin' hell?" he muttered.
Re-holstering his gun, he crossed the room. Grabbing Chuck by the shoulders, he shook him awake. "Hey, you," he grunted as Chuck's eyes came open. "Who are you? Where the hell'd you come from?"
Chuck's eyes focused briefly. "Casey?" he whispered his voice a weak rasp, his eyes filling with recognition. "Is that you?"
Confusion crossed the man's face. "Casey?" he replied. "Who the hell is that?"
"Casey… get Sar… Sa…" Chuck slipped back into unconsciousness, his body going limp.
The man looked down at Chuck for a moment, at a loss. Then, as if remembering that a strange vehicle had just appeared twenty feet away from him and violently ejected its occupant, he crossed to the intercom on the wall, depressing the talk button when he reached it.
"Mal," he said, "it's Jayne. We got some sorta intruder in the cargo bay."
The gun came up. Chuck saw the charm bracelet, dangling from her wrist.
The gun fired. Lieutenant Mauser jerked, and then pitched forward, a spray of red erupting as he fell.
"Wake up, Charles…"
Then Sarah saw him. She turned toward him. Her face was blank, no emotion on it. But she looked like she had a halo – or rather, it looked like the sun was coming up behind her.
What the hell?
"Charles. Wake up."
Chuck's eyes slowly came open, and then nearly snapped back closed as a bright light invaded. He felt like the Sandman had paid a visit or five. His vision was blurry, but he was able to make out a man with brown hair, wearing scrubs, looking down at him.
"Wha… wha… what…"
"Water?" the man asked. No, I was trying to ask where I am, Chuck thought, but water would certainly help his case – and his voice – so he just nodded.
The brown haired man picked up a squeeze bottle and held the straw up to Chuck's lips. Chuck took hold of the straw and drank greedily, pulling back when his throat no longer felt like the Mohave Desert. "Ahhh," he sighed. He tried to take a deep breath, but winced as he felt like he was stabbed in the right side of his chest.
Taking a more shallow breath, he spoke quietly. "Where am I?" he asked. "And who are you?"
"My name is Dr. Simon Tam," the man replied. "You are very dehydrated. I have you on a saline drip, but you've been out for nearly forty-eight hours. You suffered six cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, and a minor concussion. Given what Jayne told me about the nature of your entrance, you're actually very lucky that that's all."
Dr. Tam paused, hesitant to go on. "As for where you are… well, that's a little complicated."
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "How is it complicated?" he replied. "I mean, Casey knows I'm here. I saw him right after crash. Where is he?"
Dr. Tam's face took on a confused expression. "I... uh… don't know a Casey," he said. "Are you sure you actually saw him?"
"I'm positive," Chuck insisted. "He asked me who I was and where the hell I had come from – which Casey should've known – but I'm certain it was him! I mean, it looked just like him, although he did look like he had been homeless for a while –"
"Oh," Simon interrupted him. "That was actually Jayne Cobb. He's part of our crew, although I don't necessarily know that I can give you an accurate description of his position. Hired thug might work."
"Crew?" Chuck asked. "Hired thug?" He shook his head, wincing again. "Okay, you're right. This is complicated. Where am I?"
Simon put a hand to his forehead. "Perhaps… the captain should come down here."
Five minutes later, a taller, older man stepped through the doorway. "Doctor," he said. "I understand our patient's returned to the land of the living?"
"Yes, he has," Simon replied. "And he needs things to be… uncomplicated."
The captain's face took on a pained expression. "Well, seein' as what we've been able to gather about him, I'd say that uncomplicatin' things might be a bit… well, complicated."
Turning to face Chuck, the captain withdrew a wallet from his pocket. "Hey!" Chuck said. "That's mine!"
"That so," the captain replied. "Then I'd be takin' it that you're Charles I. Bartowski, of 1355 Laveta Terrace, Los Angeles, California, United States, Earth-That-Was?"
Earth-That-Was? Chuck's eyes narrowed. "Seriously, who are you?"
"My name's Malcolm Reynolds," the captain replied, "and you're onboard my ship, the Firefly class transport Serenity. And far as I can see, I'm the one who should be askin' who you might be, given that you have an ident card sayin' you were born in September of 1980."
"I WAS born in September of 1980," Chuck shot back, a note of irritation entering his voice.
"Uh-huh," Reynolds muttered, clearly unconvinced. "And you care to explain to me what that beast is that you parked in the middle of my cargo bay?"
Chuck rolled his eyes. "A 2006 Toyota Yaris," he sighed. "Now, seriously. Are you gonna tell me who the hell you are or not?"
Malcolm Reynolds smiled. "Space pirates, for lack of a more fittin' term."
"Riiiight," Chuck laughed. "Suuuure you are. This is some elaborate joke that Morgan set up, isn't it? I'm supposed to tell you that I'm Master Chief, right? Well, that's my name. Master Chief."
Mal cocked his head. "Pretty sure that this here California driver's license says you're Charles I. Bartowski."
That stopped Chuck short. "Wait. You have… you don't know who Master Chief is, do you?"
Mal shrugged. "I do not. Not unless you're referrin' to somebody who was in the War."
"Oh God," Chuck whispered. Realization was sinking in – this was real. "It's not December of 2008, is it?"
Mal laughed in disbelief. "That it most certainly is not," he said. "Matter of fact, it's not even close. Today's Christmas Eve, 2518."
Chuck's eyes went wide. A million thoughts bombarded his mind all at once. He tried to speak, tried to say something, but only one thing came out.