Chuck vs The New Intersect
The light streaming through the window of the front bedroom of Casa Bartowski was causing the room's two occupants to stir. The beautiful blonde agent woke, sleepily opening her eyes. Once able to gain her bearings, she looked up at the man beside her in bed and smiled contently. I could get used to this, she thought as she recalled the events of the previous night. I could certainly do this every day. She leaned in closer to her lover and nuzzled him gently on his neck.
Chuck, eyes still closed, giggled softly at her touch, betraying that he was only pretending to still be asleep. Sarah's head perked up, and she kissed him on the tip of his nose. He involuntarily scrunched at the sensation.
"You're awake," she teased.
"No I'm not," he whispered back. "I'm asleep. Shh."
"Nuh uh. Shh." He smiled and he peeked one eye open, only to find her staring back at him. He immediately squeezed it shut and whispered. "Sleeping."
"Mmm hmm. How long have you been awake?"
"I'm not awake. Sleeping, remember?"
Sarah sighed, amused, and laid her head back on his shoulder. "OK, well, why are you still sleeping?"
"Because I don't want to wake up and have this only be a dream." Chuck answered honestly, with a hint of fear and uncertainty in his voice. He had been waiting two years for the chance to wake up next to Sarah for something other than a cover. He was pretty sure everything had happened as he remembered it, but he wasn't willing to take any chances. If it was really a dream, he wanted to hold onto it for as long as he could.
Sarah propped herself up on her forearms, and playfully bumped his shoulder. "Chuck, I assure you that this is real."
He grinned at her and the playfulness returned to his eyes. His mouth moved into a Cheshire smile. "Prove it."
Showing her trained dexterity, she rolled on top of him into a straddle position and kissed him deeply. Before coming back up for air, she nibbled at his bottom lip. Leaning back, she smirked. "Was that real enough for you?"
Chuck was wide awake now, lying underneath her with his mouth slightly agape. He was unable to speak, but nodded in the affirmative. After a few moments, he regained his sense. "Sarah? I'm stiff."
She wiggled a bit and grinded her hips down onto him. "I can see that."
"No," he grimaced. "Well yes. But that's not what I meant. I'm stiff from my injuries. I don't think I can move. My muscles and joints tightened up overnight."
Sarah hopped off of him in one swift motion. Clearly flustered, she fawned over him, and then bolted out toward the kitchen. "Chuck, I'm so sorry. I thought you were… I just… I'm so sorry. Let me go grab you some painkillers."
When she returned with water and a few small white pills, Chuck gratefully accepted her offering. "Don't be embarrassed. You know I would if I could. Again, for the fourth time." He sighed wistfully, "You have no idea how much I would. Last night was incredible. It was perfect. You were perfect."
She blushed, but her mind was racing for a way to salvage the situation in a mutually satisfying way. "Maybe a hot, steamy, shower would make…" She paused briefly to raise her brow suggestively. "… us… feel better?"
About 90 minutes later, the couple emerged, dressed casually, from Chuck's bedroom. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a tanktop that she'd stashed there several weeks earlier in an overnight bag and he was dressed in loose cargo shorts and a Stanford t-shirt. He was still shuffling about at three-fourths speed, but he was clearly feeling better than he had earlier.
The lingered in the kitchen, rummaging in search of things to make for breakfast only to find the normally well-stocked fridge and pantry now bare. Ellie had apparently banked on her baby brother surviving on takeout and junk food while she and Devon were on their honeymoon.
Chuck was trying to figure out what he could possible concoct from a package of string cheese, half a bottle of orange juice, some of Awesome's protein powder, and a box of baking soda when his and Sarah's iPhones simultaneous chirped in indication of a text message.
They both looked at their respective displays and groaned. It was Casey, inquiring "You two decent? We have work to do." Chuck texted back "Yes. Come on over. Bring food."
A few seconds after hitting the Send button, Casey walked through the front door carrying a carton of eggs, some peppers, and a tomato. He unloaded the food on the counter and helped himself to the stool at the bar. "I brought it. You cook it." He smirked and gestured dismissively. "Go on. Chop chop."
It didn't take the Intersect for Chuck to figure out that the only real option for the given ingredients was omelets, so he got to work. Luckily, it was one of the few things that he already knew how to cook well. Plus, he was buoyed this morning by the assistance of a lovely sous chef with considerable knife skills already dicing peppers.
"So Casey," he began as he cracked the eggs into a mixing bowl, "what now? What are our options? Where do we go from here?"
The gruff man responded, "Your nut ball antics with Beckman were enough to keep you out of a bunker for now. She liked the idea you pulled out of your ass last night, now we just have to figure out the logistics of how to pull it off. We need to determine our new covers jobs. We have to find a new base of operations. We need to come up with a story to throw the hounds off our scent."
"We have to establish new living arrangements," Sarah interrupted, smiling at Chuck. She sauntered over to him, tilted her head and batted her eyebrows melodramatically. She pawed his arm sweetly and spoke softly and innocently, for effect. "The hotel already thinks I'm moving out. You wouldn't leave little ol' me homeless and out on the street, would you?" Her demeanor suddenly turned lusty, and the grip on his arm tightened. "Besides," she purred, "I could make it worth your while."
Chuck tensed and his eyes bulged as he processed that she was hinting at wanting to move in together. She interpreted his shock as a negative reaction and retreated. "I could always re-up at the hotel or get my own apartment if it's too much too quick for you for you or if you'd just rather not…"
Chuck interrupted her rambling by pushing a finger on her lips. "Nothing would make me happier than getting a place with you. We've danced around our thing-under-the-undercover-thing for nearly two years. I'm not doing it anymore." He leaned down and kissed her. "This is for real."
Casey groaned and cleared his throat loudly. "If you two are gonna be like this all the time, I'm going to gouge my eyes and ears out."
Without breaking their embrace, Sarah grabbed a dishrag off the counter and hurled it across the kitchen, hitting Casey in the forehead, eliciting a grunt and a reluctantly mumbled "Nice shot, Walker."
Chuck plated their breakfasts, and the trio moved to the table. "I have a basic idea of what we can do, but I need to make a call first." He grabbed his iPhone and started scrolling through his contacts list as he kept talking, "It's really just a variation of my grand Charles Carmichael plan. There are still some rough edges to smooth out, though." Finding the contact he was looking for, he pressed the dial button and held the phone up to his ear. "I don't necessarily see the America's Cup in my future, but who knows? Maybe there's still time." He shrugged, then spoke into the phone. "Hey Dad, it's me. Want to come over for some breakfast? We need to have a chat."
Sarah and Casey looked at each other from across the table and communicated silently. Orion wasn't part of their assignment, but they both knew that keeping tabs on him and gaining his cooperation would be a huge advantage in their fight against Fulcrum's remnants and The Ring, not to mention in keeping General Beckman off their backs. Plus, equally if not more importantly, he was Chuck and Ellie's father. They would both do everything in their power to keep his family – a group they now are considered part of - together.
A few minutes later, a black Suburban SUV pulled up outside. Stephen Bartowski hopped out of the backseat and his three NSA bodyguards took up perimeter patrol around the residence. Inside, he greeted his son with a hug, Casey with a handshake, and Sarah with a peck on the cheek. Cutting right to the chase, he quipped, "So, what's the occasion?"
"Well, Dad. You see, here's the thing." Chuck began, stammering due to nervousness. After everything that the government had done to the both of them, and the months-long effort and coordination it took to remove the Intersect from his head, he wasn't sure how to explain that he voluntarily downloaded the Intersect again. He didn't have to continue.
"I already know, Charles. You downloaded it again."
"How do you…"
"I'm Orion. I know these things. I have my methods of keeping tabs on you."
"So you're not…"
"Mad? I'm certainly not thrilled that you are going to stay involved into this world. But that's the protective father speaking. I worry about you. I'm allowed." He sighed before continuing. "But as Orion, as the Intersect's creator, I can't deny that you have some kind of destiny with that thing. It's like it was built just for you. I have no doubt you'll do a lot of good as long as you keep your wits about you and don't let the agencies control you to the point where you lose what makes you you."
Chuck smiled and his expression visibly relaxed. "Great. I know that with Sarah and Casey and you around to keep eyes on me, I'll be fine."
Stephen looked down, purposefully avoiding contact. "Son, I can't stay."
Chuck's smile vanished. "Wh... Why not?"
"It's too dangerous. Our identities have been compromised. They know who I am and what I've done, and they know who you and your sister are. It's better if I disappear, fore your sakes. I can slip away from the suits outside and go back in hiding. It's safer. We make too tempting of a target together if I stay around. You're in good hands here."
A thousand emotions swirled inside Chuck: confusion, desperation, hurt, sorrow. Anger won out. "You can't leave. You promised Ellie you would stay. You promised me you would stay." He began to yell. "You owe it to us. You already left us once to fend for ourselves. I know now why you did it, but that doesn't make it hurt any less if you just go out and do it again. I can handle it, Dad, but it'll kill her. You have no idea how happy she was and how much it meant to her to have you back for her wedding. I won't allow you to do that to her again!"
Stephen spoke softly, still avoiding eye contact. "I'm sorry, son, but I have to. I have no choice."
"Yes you do! I can fix this!" The intensity of his son's suddenly authoritative voice made Stephen finally look up. He remained silent and allowed Chuck to continue. "I've worked this out. I can keep us all together." Chuck took a deep breath to renew his calm. "There's only one catch. You have to work with us. You, Dad, are our new cover."
Tension was thick as the four adults stood in Ellie's dining room. Seconds felt like minutes, and nobody said anything as Stephen debated internally whether or not Orion should rejoin the government ranks after several years as one of the most wanted men in the intelligence arena.
Finally, he walked to the nearest chair and sat down. "Alright, Charles, what's your plan?"
The two agents exhaled and joined him at the table. Casey muttered mostly to himself, "The nerd's idea had better be brilliant or we're screwed."
"We work together, as father and son, and try to figure out what's going on in my head and how to improve it and keep it running. If I'm going to be running around being a superspy, I need to understand it and learn to control it. Surely Beckman can see that it is in everyone's best interests for the only guy to can absorb this thing to not accidentally turn himself into a vegetable. I want you by my side, Dad." Chuck managed a crooked half-smile, looking like a puppy seeking its owner's approval.
Chuck began to nervously pace. "The gist of my plan is that we hide in plain sight. Since our covers are already blown in the spy community, we don't even try to hide it. In fact, we ought to play it up. We see to it that the leaks and informants within the agencies get fed the story that whatever you did, Dad, at Black Rock permanently fried by brain circuitry so bad that the Intersect can't be reinserted. We leak the results of Project Plato. We let them think that the Intersect died with Bryce. Hell, I'd go so far as to arrange a Congressional investigation Bourne-style to further emphasize that the Human Intersect Project is dead and written off."
Casey grunted approvingly and nodded. "Go on."
"So that leaves us with needing to explain to the spook-world why we're still out here together as a team." Chuck stopped and looked at his father. "The four of us." He paused a few more seconds, then continued. "We make it look like I've been recruited based on my prior exceptional untrained field performance and that Orion and I are working on a new project completely unrelated to the Intersect, and that you two," gesturing at Sarah and Casey, "are our muscle. Instead of watching one of me, you guys are now tasked with watching the two of us."
"OK, Chuck," Sarah questioned, "so what's the public cover? What do we tell the outside world?"
"I'm thinking it's about time the Bartowski family gets a little recognition and compensation, courtesy of one Ted Roark." Chuck grinned his megawatt smile. "It would be ideal if his soon-to-be-named replacement at Roark Industries were to discover in a legal audit that the dear company founder based some crucial work off of various designs he stole from his old college pal Stephen J. Bartowski without paying for them or giving proper credit. And not wanting to risk any unflattering public attention, he'd see to it that the issue was quietly taken care of with a nice hefty research and development contract. I'm thinking twenty mil might be enough to get us off the ground. That sounds like a good round number."
Casey did a spit-take, sending orange juice spraying across the table. "Did you say twenty million dollars?"
Chuck rocked forward on the balls of his feet, his smile growing bigger. "Yep. I figure Roark owed Dad at least that much. It's not taxpayer money, calm down. Anyway, we take this money and found a business that has the public cover of doing next-generation graphics processing hardware acceleration research. Well, Dad would be handling that part. I would be…"
Sarah interrupted him. Her own smile growing, she completed his thought. "Designing the next generation of video games, just like you always wanted to do. I think it's brilliant!"
"I think so, too" came the opinion of the elder Bartowski. "I'm in. This might just work."
He and Sarah stood up and hugs were given all around. Only Casey remained seated. "Hold up one second. Neither Walker nor I know squat about designing video games. What are we supposed to do?"
Chuck paused. "I haven't figured that out yet. I was thinking we could hire Sarah as an office manager or marketing director. Not sure about you, though, Cas. Maybe we can sell Beastmasters on the side?" That evoked a growl from the NSA agent. "Maybe we'll just play that one by ear. We'll figure something out."
Sarah put her arms around her boyfriend's waist. "I could do marketing or sales or whatever you need me to do." She then squeezed playfully and added, "As long as you don't expect to prance around as a booth babe." The brief thought of Sarah in a skimpy outfit made Chuck blush and zone out, but he was brought back to reality by her next question. "Have you given any thought to a company name?"
"I'm not sure about that either. I'm tempted to honor some of my geek roots in some way, taking a pop reference and tweaking it. Maybe FusionTech based on the Mr. Fusion power source on the Delorean in 'Back To The Future.' Or, how about ForceThree as a take-off of the Triforce in the Zelda series. Or, like, the company MacGuyver worked for was the Phoenix Foundation, so I'd twist that into something like Fenix Systems spelled 'F-E-N-I-X.' "
Casey groaned. "If I ever have to work at a place spelled that dumb, I swear I will not hesitate to K-I-L-L-Y-O-U. Why don't you stick to the basics like Nerds-R-Us or Dweebs-N-Things or Moron, Inc.?"
Sarah looked at him dully and chose not to acknowledge her partner's ever-helpful insights. "What about that show that one was on when we were kids? It had the guy from Battlestar in it?"
Chuck looked at her quizzically. "Miami Vice?"
"Huh? No. Not that one. The one where the guy jumped into people's bodies every week. It was the one show my dad would regularly watch every week. He always compared it to us moving around so often and changing our names and identities and backstories." Sarah was getting frustrated. "It was 'Jump' something. Or 'Hop' maybe. I had a crush on the lead actor guy. Ugh, it's on the tip of my tongue!"
Stephen stepped forward. "You mean 'Quantum Leap' with Scott Bakula? That was a damned good show for its time."
"Yes! That's it! How about naming the company 'Quantum' something?"
"Ooh! I got it. We'll call it QuantumFX, or QFX for short." Chuck beamed, pleased with Sarah's suggestion. "I like that. Unless there are any objections, I say we go with that."
Casey groaned again, "Oh boy." For some reason, Stephen looked at him and chuckled.
A few hours later, the group was in front of the main video screen in the Castle, with Chuck explaining their plan to General Beckman. After he went over the big picture concepts and basic logistical needs of their plan, she leaned forward toward them to give her verdict.
"I must say that you leave me in a quite an interesting predicament. Your proposal is as good as any that our strategists could come up with, as unorthodox as it may be, but leaving you and your father out in the relative open is a risk." She furrowed her brow and internally debated the pros and cons of the situation. "However, that may play out to our advantage. I'm going to give you the go-ahead. We'll dub this mission Operation Canton."
The team breathed a collective sigh of relief. Sarah bit the inside of her lip to force herself not to be overcome with emotion. Chuck – her Chuck – was not only going to stay out of a bunker, he was given the OK and financial backing to start pursuing his dream, and she was going to be there by his side. She snuck a glance over to him and found him doing the same back to her.
Beckman continued speaking and the two snapped back to attention. "Obviously, it will take a few weeks to get things setup and in place. In consideration of this and Chuck's need to recuperate from his injuries, I'm ordering you four to keep activity to a minimum until then. Your only objective is to scout for a suitable secure office location and new apartments and prepare for transition out of Castle. Consider it a vacation, it will likely be the only one you get for a long time."
The General visibly softened. "The final order of business is to process the formal paperwork for the Misters Bartowski." The video screen's display shuffled around to show employment terms, various NDAs, and other fine print legalese. "A retina scan will serve as your signature to make things official." The father and son stepped forward and both pressed the needed buttons at the console to illuminate their respective right eyes in green light. Beckman nodded, "Congratulations, Agent Carmichael and Agent Orion. I'd like to be the first to extend welcome into the National Security Agency."
The next afternoon, Sarah and Chuck were lounging at Casa Bartowski, sprawled across the living room couch, searching for their future home. She was going through the classifieds in the local newspaper and he was on his laptop browsing online.
Their iPhones simultaneously chirped again with a text message from Casey telling them to turn on CNBC. Chuck shrugged and reached for the remote, but it was slightly out of reach. Instead of getting up to grab it, he whined playfully to Sarah. "Saaaarah, I can't reeeeach it. Can you get it, I'm innnnjured." She rolled her eyes at him and stuck her tongue out as she pushed herself up to retrieve it.
She clicked on the TV in time for the anchor to announce, "Roark Industries founder and CEO Ted Roark was found shot dead in his Malibu home, authorities are reporting. Police have no suspects at the moment, but believe he was the victim of a botched robbery attempt. Chief Operating Officer Benjamin E. Gesserit has been named interim CEO."
Sarah was about turn the TV off again when the anchor moved on to the next story. "Buy More Incorporated announced quarterly earnings today, falling well short of analyst's expectations. Operating revenues were down 53% year-over-year. It is expected that the Southern California retail chain will undergo massive employee restructuring and the closing of lowest-performing stores."
Chuck and Sarah looked at each other, jaws dropped, before Chuck spoke up. "I've got a bad feeling about this."