This story picks up immediately at the end of Chuck vs. the Ring, Pt. II.
The vault beneath the house in Encino was not really what Chuck had been expecting. Of course, the truth was, he hadn't even set foot in the old house in years. He and Ellie each stopped by once a week, to make sure the sprinklers were working and to make sure there were no squatters in the house. But the truth was, Chuck tried so hard to avoid the house that he pretty much stayed out of the west Valley altogether. Even the mission to that godawful cookie-cutter neighborhood in Porter Ranch the year before had brought him uncomfortably close to the old Bartowski homestead.
It was clear, though, that Stephen J. Bartowski (deceased) had regularly visited the vault underneath the house. That alone made Chuck wonder just how many times over the years he and Ellie had just missed running into their father as he was at the old house. A mix of anger and sadness swept through him as he considered it – anger that their father had stayed away for so long, even if he had had his reasons, and sadness – well, as it had been for the last twenty-four hours, it was like a punch in the gut every time he thought of his father.
Goddamn Shaw. Shooting his father. After everything he had gone to to try and reconcile Stephen Bartowski to the family, Shaw had ruined everything. In the darkest recesses of Chuck's mind, he wished that he had pressed harder on Shaw's throat, shattered his trachea, watched him suffocate horribly. It was far kinder than the traitorous bastard deserved.
But Chuck had stopped. Stopped because he was better than Shaw. Stopped because he couldn't let Sarah watch him kill somebody in cold blood. Stopped because that was what his father would've wanted. He would've wanted him to back away from the precipice, let the powers that be take care of their own problems. It was, after all, why Stephen Bartowski had fled Los Angeles in the first place.
And so Chuck found himself in the old Bartowski vault. There were files everywhere. To Chuck's left, to his right, before him, behind him. Its extensiveness reminded Chuck distinctly of the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
"I wonder how far out this place extends," Chuck mused to himself. Underneath the next several houses in either direction, to be sure. At the very least, under the street, and maybe even out the next block, all the way to Lindley Avenue. Hell, maybe even as far out as Reseda High School. It would certainly explain some of the truly bizarre things that had gone on there while Chuck was in high school.
Making sure the GPS tracking app on his new Droid was turned on (after going through half a dozen iPhones in two years time, Chuck had decided maybe it was time to change it up), Chuck began to wander westward, deeper into the vault. Every file looked the same – a white banker's box, most printed with the Office Depot logo, a small card with black type on the front. But far off, a flash of color caught Chuck's eye.
Intrigued, Chuck walked toward the flash of color. It took him a moment to reach it, but when he did, he discovered a banker's box that was yellow, standing out against all the boxes around it. "This is interesting…"
PROJECT KALI, the card on the front said. Raising an eyebrow, Chuck slid the box out from its place and blew the dust off the lid. Seating himself on the floor, Chuck set the box in front of him and pulled the lid off.
A sign on the top served as a warning to anybody who might be so foolish as to take an unauthorized peek inside. CLASSIFIED , it proclaimed. INDIVIDUALS VIEWING THIS FILE WITHOUT ∆ CLEARANCE ARE SUBJECT TO PROSECUTION UNDER UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 18, PART 1924.
"Delta clearance," Chuck breathed. "Holy crap." Even he, Casey, and Sarah only had top secret clearance. He had heard of Delta clearance before, but never met anybody who had it. Well, General Beckman probably did, but Chuck had never asked. He felt like asking a spy what their official clearance was would be akin to asking a woman what her bra size was. You just didn't do it.
But it couldn't hurt to take a peek, right? After all, his dad MUST have left the files to him for a reason. Right?
Taking a breath and praying that he didn't get sprayed with anthrax (or, for that matter, fruit punch powder), Chuck lifted the clearance warning off of the top of the box. Underneath were several manila file folders, and a rather thick looking notebook. Emblazoned on the front were the words PROJECT KALI and nothing more. "Hmmm."
Chuck pulled the notebook out and set it in his lap. He opened the front cover to see the delta clearance warning again. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Chuck muttered, flipping past the warning page. "Table of contents… come on, where's the good stuff… oh, HERE we go."
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY, it read.
TO: The National Security Council
FROM: Stephen J. Bartowski
RE: Project Kali
DATE: 30 September 1989
CC: Agent Aeon, Agent Kronos
Regarding the feasibility of time travel: we have been operating under the concept that Einstein's Theory of General Relativity defines time travel as near impossibility. However, we must remember that this is merely a theory, not a physical law. Rather than operating under this theory, we must instead consider the use of quantum physics in order to achieve travel through time.
Agent Kronos has been conducting studies in the use of a quantum-folding device that would allow instantaneous travel through time and space – a quantum "jump" or "leap", if you will. A plutonium core generates a controlled nuclear explosion. The quantum flux that results from this explosion is then channeled through a specially designed capacitor –
At that point, Chuck stopped reading, and looked up from the executive summary. "Bullshit," he breathed. "There's no possible way…"
But then, why was Agent Kronos' name highlighted? His dad wouldn't have just cribbed from Back to the Future and then actually involved a real asset. Not unless something real was behind this all. Shaking his head, Chuck looked back down at the report.
- which is mounted in a vehicle that has been carefully selected to meet certain specifications regarding stress from the quantum field. Such a vehicle has not yet been identified; however, it must have a strong yet light frame, it must be highly electrically conductive, and it must be able to sustain a constant speed of 147 kilometers per hour in order for the vehicle's body to actually break through the quantum barrier.
This project is being overseen by Agent Aeon of the Central Intelligence Agency. Though he is not well-versed in theoretical physics, Agent Aeon does have a very active imagination that allows him to see theories in a way that other agents do not. Were he healthier physically, I would also recommend him as a potential candidate for Project Omaha; however, his penchant for heavy drinking leads to concerns regarding the physical health of his brain.
Further reports will be forthcoming as the project continues.
Stephen J. Bartowski
And there at the bottom of the executive summary, in Stephen Bartowski's distinctive handwriting –
Agent Kronos: Emmett L. Brown, Ph.D
Agent Aeon: Roan Montgomery
"Seriously…" Chuck muttered, his jaw hanging slightly open. "What the fu…"
His voice trailed off. This was unbelievable. There was actually a Doctor Emmett Brown, conducting experiments on time travel, in…
Chuck flipped to the next page, and then through a few more. Ah, there it was.
Agent Kronos: location, MCAS Miramar.
In San Diego. Time travel experiments at a Marine Corps base in San Diego. And Roan Montgomery was working with him. Chuck shook his head, and looked down at his left wrist. Nope, the governor was working just fine. This was definitely not a hallucination.
Chuck kept flipping through the book, amazed that he wasn't flashing on anything. "This must've been buried deeper than the Titanic," he whispered. If it wasn't in the Intersect… this was some seriously heavy stuff.
After a few minutes, he reached the last page in the notebook. It was another memo, again addressed to the NSC, from his dad, but this one was dated April 20th, 2009, and it was very brief.
I am concerned that the domestic terrorist organization known as FULCRUM may have attempted to co-opt Agent Kronos into building a nuclear device for them, and I am further concerned that Agent Kronos may have taken the nuclear fuel given to him in order to re-open Project Kali and conduct unauthorized experiments. I am hereby requesting that Agents Iuppiter and Turan be tasked to apprehend Agent Kronos and render him to a safe location until further information can be determined.
Now THOSE names, Chuck did flash on.
Agent Iuppiter – National Security Agency; tasked to Project VISHNU, based Burbank, CA; name: Casey, Lt. Colonel John, USMC.
Agent Turan – Central Intelligence Agency; tasked to Project VISHNU, based Burbank, CA: name: Delacroix, Lt. Comm. Samantha Lisa, USN.
"Lt. Commander Samantha Delacroix…" Chuck muttered – and then something happened which had never happened before. Auditory input from Chuck's own voice set off another flash –
Delacroix, Lt. Comm. Samantha Lisa, USN. Tasked to Project VISHNU, based Burbank, CA. Alias AGENT TURAN, JENNIFER BURTON, SARAH WALKER.
"Well, thank you, Intersect," Chuck remarked dryly. "Because I couldn't have figured out that a CIA agent assigned to a project in Burbank with John Casey was probably Sarah."
But there was another note written at the bottom of this memo – Request denied; however, Fulcrum neutralized? Slightly concerned about Ring – knowledge of fringe Fulcrum operations unlikely.
"So let's see," Chuck said to himself. "We've got a theoretical physicist attempting to build a time machine. His project gets shut down. Twenty years later, Ted Roark and his band of merry men approach the doctor to attempt to get him to build a nuclear device. He absconds with the nuclear fuel and resumes unauthorized experiments."
Chuck shook his head. "Jesus, even classified life imitates art."
That was when he heard a noise. It was a faint noise, but it was the distinctive sound of a heavy boot on a step. Oh, crap, Chuck thought. He had left the front door of the house unlocked and he had left the vault entrance in front of the fireplace wide open – and despite Shaw's apprehension, and the incarceration of the Ring's elders, there had to be splinter cells out there who were under orders to find Chuck at all costs.
Hands shaking, Chuck pulled his Droid from his belt and unlocked it. He was going to call Sarah, or Casey, get them over here, hopefully he could hide or hold out until –
Oh. The phone was on silent. Four missed calls from Sarah. Two from Casey. And a notification, from fifteen minutes prior – Your location has been pinged by JOHN CASEY.
"Uh-oh," Chuck said quietly – though apparently not as quietly as he thought.
"YEAH, YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT, UH-OH, BARTOWSKI!" the voice of John Casey roared through the vault. "I'VE HAD WALKER UP MY ASS FOR THE LAST HOUR BECAUSE SHE'S SCARED TO DEATH THAT SHE CAN'T GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU. GET YOUR SCRAWNY ASS OUT HERE BEFORE I FIND YOU AND WRING YOUR NECK LIKE A WASHCLOTH!"
Not good. Moving quickly, Chuck started packing everything back into the banker's box. He had just placed the clearance warning sheet on top of the files when a shadow fell over him.
Chuck slowly turned his head to see the face of John Casey looking down on him, a dark scowl on the NSA agent's face. "Find something interesting to read, Bartowski?" he snarled. "Something maybe above your clearance level?"
"Casey, it's in my dad's files –"
"IT'S A FEDERAL CRIME, BARTOWSKI," Casey growled. "And quite frankly, I think General Beckman has had just about enough of this particular team committing federal crimes."
Chuck sighed. "I'm sorry, Casey," he said. "I know Sarah must be worried sick, but I got so engrossed in this project –"
"Yeah, Walker's worried, but we've got bigger problems than that," Casey interrupted him. "The CIA research facility in San Mateo was destroyed less than an hour ago."
"What?" Chuck asked, incredulous. "Wait a second – San Mateo, isn't that where Laszlo was?"
"It wasn't him, if that's what you're thinking," Casey said. "He was found, crushed to death under a concrete beam in a research lab." Casey paused for a moment, and took a breath. "No, General Beckman got a call about ten minutes later from somebody who wanted to take credit for it. He said he was Fulcrum."
Chuck could feel the blood draining from his face. "No," he replied. "No, that's impossible. We destroyed Fulcrum. They collapsed when Ted Roark died."
Casey was shaking his head before Chuck even finished. "Think about it, Bartowski," Casey shot back. "You're supposed to be the smart one. Fulcrum's like a hydra. Whoever became the head after Roark died just laid low for a while and watched the Ring self-destruct, and as soon as his path was clear again, came back for seconds."
Chuck looked at Casey for a moment, then down at the open banker's box at his feet. "If that's so," he said slowly, "then we may have a problem."
"What?" Casey asked. "There something in that file about Fulcrum?"
Wordlessly, Chuck nodded. Reaching down, he pulled the notebook out of the banker's box. Opening it to the last page, he handed it to Casey.
"Fulcrum may have attempted to co-opt Agent Kronos…" Casey muttered. "Concerned that Agent Kronos may have taken the nuclear fuel given to him in order to re-open Project Kali and conduct unauthorized experiments…"
Casey looked up at Chuck. "If this is true…"
"Then there's an angry terrorist organization out there gunning for a theoretical physicist who worked on one of the US government's most sensitive projects," Chuck completed the statement.
"We gotta get to the Castle then," Casey said. "We have to inform General Beckman of this right –"
"No, we can't do that," Chuck interrupted. "If we tell General Beckman about this, she'll want to know how we got our information, which blows the existence of this vault –"
"Oh, for God's sake, Bartowski!" Casey snapped. "Are you suggesting we run off, rescue this Agent Kronos, and all comers be damned?"
"It's not like we haven't taken on Fulcrum before –"
"And I'm getting sick and tired of doing so singlehandedly!" Casey growled. "Jesus, aren't you? I know Walker's getting tired of watching you put life and limb in jeopardy. Your sister would probably kill you if she even knew you were considering it." Casey shook his head. "For God's sake, Bartowski, let the professionals handle it for once."
The older man's use of Chuck's first name was enough to make Chuck shut up. "Look, I know you still have the 'save the world' bug. I was the same way the first couple of years I was in the Marines. But sometimes you have to know when to let other people handle things."
Chuck nodded. "Alright, then," Casey said. "Let's get to Castle."
"This is not encouraging," General Beckman said. She looked exhausted, which, given her last few days, was not surprising. "Given Fulcrum's re-emergence, the fact that they planned to acquire a nuclear device a year ago is a real worry."
Then she frowned. "However, Fulcrum can wait just a moment. Mr. Bartowski, I'm going to give you thirty seconds in which you are going to tell me just how the hell you came into possession of a Delta clearance file, and exactly what you thought you were doing reading it."
"It was in my father's vault," Chuck replied. "He has an extensive collection of records related to operations and agents going back what looks to be at least thirty years. I feel obligated to him to make sure it's kept safe."
"I appreciate your commitment to your father's memory," Beckman said. "However, when this meeting ends, a team of GSA officers will meet you at the Orange Orange. You will take them to this vault, where they will secure its contents –"
Beckman's eyes widened, and a glow closely approximating a nuclear explosion lit up her face. "Excuse me, Mr. Bartowski?" she replied. Her voice stayed tight and level, but it was quite clear she had just gone from annoyed to irate.
"You just purged a third of the agents in the Directorate of National Intelligence," Chuck said, his voice calm but his stomach full of butterflies. "God knows how many other Ring agents you haven't found yet. I don't trust the government to secure my father's files. As long as I'm the only one who knows where they are – well, me and Colonel Casey – they should be safe. For now, at least."
Beckman just stared at Chuck for a moment. Oh God, don't let me crack, don't let me crack, don't let me –
Chuck's jaw dropped. "What?"
"I said, fine," Beckman gritted through her teeth. "However, you and your team will locate Agent Kronos and take him into protective custody."
"Uh, General Beckman," Casey interrupted, speaking for the first time since the conversation started, "our team is rather beat up. We were hoping for a little time off, that somebody else could handle –"
"As Agent Bartowski just reminded us all, the DNI just lost a third of its agents, Colonel Casey," General Beckman growled. "We are somewhat shorthanded right now. YOU will take care of this. That is, unless you want to lose your job again?"
Casey's face darkened at the reminder of his recent stint in civilian life. "No, ma'am."
"Good." Then Beckman's face softened, and she shook her head. "For God's sake, John, it's just a drive down to San Diego to pick up a physicist. Surely you can handle that."
Casey nodded sullenly. "Yes, ma'am."
General Beckman disconnected, and the screen went dark. "Goddammit," Casey muttered, as he stomped off toward the armory.
Chuck released the breath he had been holding in, and turned to Sarah. It was then that he realized that she had not spoken a single word since arriving. "Uh, hi," he said to her.
"Hi," she replied shortly.
"I, uh, think Ellie's gonna kill me," Chuck said nervously, drawing an irritated look from Sarah. "Because, you know, I told her I was going to stop doing this stuff."
Sarah scowled and muttered something under her breath. Chuck frowned. "What?"
"I said, she can fucking get in line!" Sarah snapped at him – and the floodgates opened. "I mean, Jesus CHRIST, Chuck, what the hell were you thinking? You know, I thought that you and I were going to spend a little while with our friends at your dad's wake, and then we were going to kick them all out and have a nice night together! INSTEAD, you disappeared, you turned your phone off, Fulcrum decided to start maniacally running around again, I couldn't get in touch with you – which, what the hell was I supposed to think, by the way? – and now I discover that you were looking at stuff you shouldn't have even been TOUCHING, and as a result, you've wound up landing us RIGHT back in the shit you and I were trying to get away from!"
Chuck's jaw fell open, and he gaped at his girlfriend. "Uh… I… I'm sorry?"
"I'm sorry doesn't even begin to cover it," Sarah growled, standing up from her seat and approaching him. "I don't even want to talk to you right now."
"Sarah," Chuck replied, "look, this is important. You know that. Hell, it's what you do, isn't it?"
That was a mistake. Fury flashed in Sarah's eyes, and her right hand flew upward. However, before the slap could connect, the Intersect kicked in, and Chuck's own left hand shot up to grasp Sarah's wrist. However, instead of jerking downward to disable her, as the Intersect tried to make him do, Chuck gently spun Sarah backwards and away from him, before using her wrist to pull him back toward her.
Still holding onto her wrist, his right arm encircled her waist. "That's not what I meant to say, exactly," he said sheepishly. She struggled against him, but her heart clearly wasn't in it. "I just meant that you're the greatest agent I've ever known. You don't back away from anything."
The look on Sarah's face began to soften. "You've got a long way until you're out of the doghouse, pal," she growled, although a hint – just a hint, but it was enough to work with – of humor began to sparkle in her eyes.
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "For running away without telling you where I was going…"
"Good start. What else?"
"For turning off my phone?"
"For getting into things I shouldn't have gotten into?"
"For assuming that you would just automatically get into all things dangerous and spy-related?"
A smile actually appeared on Sarah's lips. "There you go," she said quietly. "I may still work for the CIA, but they're not the most important thing in my life anymore."
Chuck smiled bashfully, and lowered his gaze a little bit, relaxing his grip on Sarah's wrist as he did so – which turned out to be a mistake. Reaching up her right hand, she grabbed his ear. "However, I will NOT hesitate to tell the most important thing in my life when he's being a total dumbass!" she growled. "I will also not hesitate to tell him when I am rather displeased that I'll be sitting in a bunker all night, trying to figure out where a rogue physicist is, rather than at home, having my way with the most important thing in my life!"
Sarah released Chuck's ear and pushed him away. Reaching up a hand to rub his ear, Chuck looked at Sarah in chagrin – and then started to smile. "What's so damn funny?"
"You're adorable when you're psycho," Chuck snarked.
In spite of herself, a laugh bubbled to Sarah's lips. "I'm not psycho," she growled good-naturedly. "Just horny."
"Oh, dear GOD," Casey's voice rumbled from the armory. "Save me from ever having to hear anything like that again."
"Earmuffs, Casey!" Chuck shouted. Then, he stepped closer to Sarah so he could speak more quietly. "I tell you what. I know a way that will allow us to get out of here in just a few minutes."
Sarah frowned. "What do you mean? We have to find this Agent Kronos."
Chuck grinned and shook his head. "No we don't. His handler was an Agent Aeon, and given the nature of the project, I bet that Agent Kronos and Agent Aeon are still in touch."
"And?" Sarah replied with a shrug. "That just means we have to find another…" She noticed the smirk on Chuck's face and narrowed her eyes. "You know who Agent Aeon is, don't you, smartass?"
Chuck's grin got wider. "One Agent Roan Montgomery."
"Oh, GODDAMMIT," Casey's voice sounded again. "I HATE Palm Springs in June."
"The weapon we received from Dr. Brown is completely useless. It looks good from the outside, but a circuitry test revealed a problem. When we opened it up, all it turns out he did was stuff it full of components from an old Pentium computer.
"If we are to re-establish ourselves as a credible power in this country, we must be able to make a statement. Blowing up a single CIA research facility is not the way to go about it.
"Bring Dr. Brown here, and force him to construct the device as we instructed. If he refuses…"
The new director of Fulcrum leaned over the head of the table, a look of disgust on his face. "Let's just say I wouldn't mind him winding up dead."
To say it was scorching hot would be an understatement. Only 9:30 AM, and it was already pushing 100 degrees. To make matters worse, the air conditioner in Casey's Crown Vic had quit – whether from overuse or simple despair – somewhere around Yucaipa, leaving them to drive the last forty-five minutes in stifling heat.
"Goddammit, where is the old bastard?" Casey growled, as Chuck rang the doorbell for the third time. Both he and Chuck were suffering from the heat. Sarah, however, looked cool, calm, and collected – for whatever reason.
Finally, the door swung open – to reveal a lithe, petite blonde, clad only in lingerie that didn't really cover much. "Can I help you?" she asked uncertainly.
Sarah waited for one of the two men to speak – but heard nothing. Turning around, she saw that Chuck and Casey were both staring at the woman who had opened the door, looks of disbelief on their faces. Rolling her eyes, she turned back to the woman.
"We're here to see Roan Montgomery," Sarah told her.
The woman frowned. "Is he expecting you?"
"Not particularly," Sarah said. "But do me a favor, and tell him that it's Agents Walker, Casey, and… Carmichael."
"Okay," the blonde replied. "Uh, would you like to come in?"
"Yes, please!" Chuck spouted off from behind Sarah, as Casey simultaneously said, "Oh, God yes."
The three entered the house, as the blonde turned and headed back toward the bedroom, giving the three a rather revealing look at her backside as she went.
Chuck turned to Casey. "Was that…"
"Sara Jean Underwood," Casey muttered in disbelief. "Playmate of the Year."
"2007," Chuck added. "How DOES the old man do it?"
"Confidence, Charles!" boomed the distinctive voice of Roan Montgomery from across the room. He finished tying shut his silk robe as he approached the agents. "Welcome to Palm Springs!"
"Nicest place this side of hell," Sarah cracked, although there was a distinct lack of humor in her voice. "Agent Montgomery, we need to talk to you."
"Agent, is it?" Roan asked, a grin on his face. "Well, go ahead," he said as Sara re-entered the room, now clad in a robe herself. "Oh, don't worry about her," he continued, noting the look of concern on Sarah Walker's face. "Anything you can say to me, she's okay to hear."
Sarah turned to Chuck. "Uh, Roan, this is actually about Project Kali," he said.
The grin on Montgomery's face instantly disappeared, replaced by a gravely serious look. "Uh, Sara Jean, sweetheart, I need to talk to these folks in private for a moment."
As soon as Sara had left the room, Roan turned back to the three agents from Burbank. "How in the HELL do you know about Project Kali?" he hissed. "That's so highly classified that the three of you should sure as hell NOT know about it!"
Chuck looked back at Roan. "Are you familiar with Agent Orion?"
"Of course I am," Roan replied, a hint of annoyance in his voice. "He was the project manager for three of the biggest Agency projects at the end of the '80s – Kali included – right before he disappeared."
"Yeah," Chuck said. "Orion was my father. Stephen J. Bartowski. He kept files on everything, and one of the ones I found was that on Project Kali."
Montgomery shook his head. "I don't understand why you're here, though," he said. "Kali was terminated in 1996."
"I know that," Chuck answered. "However, about a year ago, Orion issued a memo to the National Security Council expressing concern that Agent Kronos had been contracted by Fulcrum to build a nuclear device, but that he had instead taken the nuclear fuel to resume experimentation on Project Kali."
"A serious problem indeed," Montgomery said, his brow furrowing, "but Fulcrum was wiped out a year ago."
"Not entirely," Sarah interjected. "Apparently, they've spent the last year lying low and rebuilding, and last night, they destroyed a CIA research facility in San Mateo."
Montgomery was silent for a moment. "That is definitely a problem," he finally said. "However, I don't know how coming to see me is going to help. I hardly know Agent Kronos. Hell, I don't even know the man's real name."
"But you still have ways to contact him, don't you?" Chuck replied. "Some sort of flag, a message system of some sort?"
Roan looked at Chuck for a very long moment – and when he finally spoke, it had nothing to do with contacting Agent Kronos. "Something's changed about you, Carmichael," he said. "You aren't the optimistic young man you were a year and a half ago. You speak with the voice of a hardened agent. You have the look of a hardened agent." He fell quiet again. "You killed somebody, didn't you?"
Chuck shook his head. "Surprisingly, no," he said. "I thought I had –"
"Even worse," Montgomery interrupted. "You thought you had killed your target, only to find later that they were still alive?"
"It doesn't matter," Chuck insisted, shaking his head. "He's in a deep, dark bunker somewhere now. Can we get back to the matter at hand?"
Montgomery stared at Chuck for another moment, apparently unconvinced. "Alright," he finally said. "I have a very simple way to contact Agent Kronos. I should have contact with him within half an hour."
True to his word, Roan Montgomery had a message from Agent Kronos twenty-eight minutes later. It had been a matter of a coded message posted on the Portland, Maine Craigslist page, with a coded reply posted on the Fringe discussion form at Television Without Pity. Roan read over the message, decoding it bit by bit.
"Good morning, Agent Aeon!" he finally began. "It's good to hear from you! I've hoped you would contact me, because I have amazing news – Project Kali is a SUCCESS!"
"Oh, Jesus," Casey breathed. "Not good."
"I have to demonstrate this for you. Meet me at 2300 tonight at the San Diego Sports Arena, and you'll see! Then we can get in touch with Orion, and show the CIA that this works!"
Silence filled the room. Finally, Sarah spoke up.
"I think we need to get back to Burbank," she said. "Roan, you're coming with us."
As the director of Fulcrum spoke, an aide came up and handed him a slip of paper. He read it over quickly, and a feral grin broke out on his face.
"Well," he said, "it appears that Dr. Brown has saved us the trouble of locating him. We will find him at the San Diego Sports Arena, at 11:00 PM."
"I want you four to go to San Diego and apprehend Agent Kronos," General Beckman ordered the team. Chuck was only paying partial attention – he was more focused on being thankful that he was back in the blissfully cool air conditioning of the Castle. "Agent Montgomery, you're his contact, so you'll be the lead on this one."
Surprisingly, neither Sarah nor Casey objected – a move, Chuck suspected, designed to show their deference to the senior agent. "Understood," Roan replied. "Dia – uh, General Beckman, I would like to request a tac team for support on this mission."
"Request denied, Agent Montgomery," Beckman said. "Unfortunately, our ranks are spread a little thin right now. You'll have to make do." She looked at Roan curiously. "He's just a physicist. Surely you can handle picking him up on your own."
Montgomery sighed. "Yes, ma'am," he answered. "I would just feel more comfortable with a full team."
"Agent Montgomery, if you need further support, you're authorized to take Agent Grimes and Dr. Woodcomb –"
"NO," Chuck interrupted forcefully. "Not Morgan, and absolutely NOT Devon."
General Beckman turned a nasty look on Chuck. "Agent Bartowski," she snapped, "Morgan Grimes is a sworn officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. If he is ordered to participate in a mission, he will DO SO. As for Devon Woodcomb, he has agreed to provide logistical support when necessary –"
"General," Chuck said, "I understand what you're saying, but I'm already probably a dead man just for participating in this mission. If my sister finds out that I'm dragging Morgan and Devon back in as well… well, let's just say that I find the idea of being waterboarded more appealing."
General Beckman's look at Chuck would've felled a lesser man. However, after three years, Chuck had learned how to endure the wrath of General Beckman, and he stood his ground, staring right back at her. "Very well," she finally said. "However, Agent Bartowski, you must understand that this means that you will personally hold a far greater degree of responsibility for the success of this mission."
"Yes, ma'am," Chuck replied. "I understand."
"Report back regularly," General Beckman said to the whole team. "I want to know as soon as you have Agent Kronos in custody."
At 10:58 PM, John Casey's Crown Vic pulled into the parking lot of the San Diego Sports Arena. The old venue was absolutely deserted, save for an antique U-Haul parked around back of the arena.
"Where the hell is he, Montgomery?" Casey growled. "His note said 2300, did it not?"
"It absolutely did," Roan replied. "Have some patience, John. He is a mad scientist. They're not exactly the most punctual people in the world."
Chuck looked over at Sarah, sitting with him in the back of the Crown Vic. He rubbed a thumb across their interlocked fingers. I'm sorry, he mouthed. But I love you.
Sarah's grin could have lit up the entire San Diego area. I love you too, she mouthed back, and then leaned in. "You can make it up to me when we get back to L.A.," she whispered in Chuck's ear.
"You have a deal," he whispered back, and then sat back up, grinning. He looked at the clock on Casey's dashboard – 10:59 PM… and then it changed to 11:00.
Just as it did so, the old U-Haul suddenly lit up, without warning. Slowly, the back end began to lower to the ground, groaning loudly as it did so. A cloud of steam and smoke emerged from the back of the truck as the back end lowered, turning into a ramp. "What the hell…" Casey muttered, reaching for his Glock and making sure the safety was off.
Without warning, a car rolled out of the U-Haul, spun toward the Crown Vic, and started accelerating toward Casey's car at an alarming rate. "Shit!" Casey shouted. "Everybody out!"
The four agents all bailed out of the car, three of them aiming guns at the approaching car – but it had already begun to veer away from Casey's car, toward a more open area of the parking lot. It continued to accelerate, the whine of its engine growing louder – and then, in a brilliant flash of light, it disappeared. Not exploded, not crashed, but completely disappeared, leaving twin trails of flame behind it.
The four all stared in disbelief. "There is no possible way that just happened," Chuck finally said. "The governor must have stopped working. I have to be hallucinating."
Guns still up, Sarah and Casey started slowly making their way over toward the flickering trails of flame. "Bartowski, you read the file, mind explaining to me what just happened?"
"Uh…" Chuck thought for a moment. "Have you ever seen Back to the Future?"
"That's a negative. I don't watch anything with Steven Spielberg's name attached to it."
Chuck cocked his head to one side. What the hell? he thought, filing that completely random piece of knowledge away for later. "Well, you see, this project was designed to create a time machine –"
"That much I realize, Bartowski. Tell me HOW that just happened."
"The project was designed to fold actual space and time, causing the time travel vehicle to pass through quantum space. They did so by creating a controlled nuclear reaction, causing a quantum flux, which was then channeled through a specially designed electrical capacitor. This created a quantum flux field around the vehicle, which had to be travelling at a certain speed in order to break through the quantum barrier."
Casey stared at Chuck for a moment. "I understood… some of that," he admitted. "How fast did the vehicle have to be travelling to pass through the barrier?"
What was that number? Chuck asked himself. "Uh, 147 kilometers per hour," he replied. "I think."
That was when a stiff wind suddenly started blowing across the parking lot. "What the hell is that?" Casey asked.
A look of alarm appeared on Roan's face. "Colonel Casey!" he shouted. "Get AWAY from the tire tracks!"
A confused look appeared on Casey's face, but military training had long taught him to immediately obey an order of that nature, and he dove away –
Just as a sonic boom rippled across the arena's parking lot, the vehicle reappearing and skidding to a stop.
For a moment, Chuck just stood, staring at the car. Finally, he forced his jaw shut. "Unbelievable," he muttered.
"Chuck, what just happened?" Sarah asked. "Did that car just time travel?"
Chuck just nodded. "I think so," he replied, dumbfounded. "And I might be seeing things, but – is that a DeLorean?"
"Stainless steel body," Roan confirmed. "Perfect for what we needed in a vehicle." He shook his head. "I can't believe the old goat actually did it."
And that was when the driver's door of the DeLorean swung upward and open, steam rising off it as it did so. "Old goat, Agent Aeon?" a voice came from within.
"Agent Kronos," Roan said, stepping toward the car. "We need to talk."
"In a moment," the reply came, as a pair of legs swung out of the car. The man lifted himself out of the car and stood, revealing…
Somebody who looked not one bit like Christopher Lloyd. How disappointing, Chuck thought to himself. Here he was expecting a tall, scrawny, mad scientist looking individual, and instead, he got a shorter, stocky, grey-haired man who looked like he should be wearing a smoking jacket and being attended to by Playboy bunnies. Which Roan could apparently arrange.
"Aeon," Dr. Brown asked, "who are your friends?"
"First of all, stop calling me Aeon," Roan instructed. "My name –"
"No!" Brown exclaimed, holding up a hand. "We were never supposed to know each other's names, it's more secure that way –"
"My name is Roan Montgomery," Roan growled. "The time for subterfuge has passed, Dr. Brown."
Brown's eyes widened. "Who – who told you my name?"
"I did," Chuck replied, stepping forward. "Agent Carmichael. Charles Carmichael."
"Wait a second," Roan interrupted. "Is your name Carmichael, or is it not?"
"I'll explain later," Chuck told him. "Look, Dr. Brown, we believe you're in serious danger. About a year ago, you were approached by a terrorist group called Fulcrum. They asked you to build a nuclear device, but instead of doing so, you stole their plutonium, which I assume you used to power this vehicle?"
"Uh, yes," Brown replied, a confused look on his face. "But Fulcrum – they fell apart when Ted Roark died. I thought –"
"They're back," Sarah interrupted. "They blew up a CIA research facility in San Mateo last night, and we think they're probably coming for you next."
Brown's face drained of color. "Oh, God," he whispered.
"We'll protect you," Casey said. "But Dr. Brown, we need you to come with us, right now."
"No, no, no," Brown insisted. "It's not safe. There's nowhere you can keep me safe from them. Not really –"
He whirled back toward the DeLorean. "Look, I can go hide in the past until it's safe. I set the time computer to a date that I wanted to show you, because I want to demonstrate – it's the date that I came up with this technology, when I started –"
The man was babbling. Casey and Sarah both looked about ready to shoot him, and Roan just looked exasperated. "Dr. Brown," Chuck interrupted quietly. "Dr. Brown!"
The old scientist fell silent, turning back toward Chuck. Chuck had to get him to concentrate. "When… what date was it?"
In spite of himself, a grin appeared on Brown's face. "November 4th, 1980!" he exclaimed. "The day Ronald Reagan was elected President!"
"God bless America," Chuck heard Casey mutter.
Chuck turned his attention back toward the physicist. "And you plan to go hide there?"
"Absolutely," Brown replied. "I lived in San Diego then, I know the city. I have enough currency from before 1980 to survive for a while at least. And DeLoreans were rare but not completely unknown."
Chuck looked over at Sarah, who had a thoughtful look on her face. Finally, though she shook her head. "Okay," Chuck said.
"Dr. Brown, we need to take you into protective custody," Sarah said, advancing on him. "We will personally guarantee your safety. It would be completely irresponsible for us to let you go running around at some point in the past –"
And suddenly, the squeal of tires was heard. Chuck locked eyes with Sarah. "Oh, God," he heard Dr. Brown gasp. "They found me. I don't know how they did it, but they found me. Run!"
Abandoning the DeLorean, Brown began running for the safety of the distant U-Haul. The four agents all beat a path back to Casey's Crown Vic. "What about Brown?" Chuck shouted at Casey as the NSA agent started up the old Ford.
"He's on his own," Casey shot back. "He made his bed, now he has to sleep in it."
"Casey, we can't just leave him behind –"
"Oh yes we can, and we will," Casey growled, as he pushed the Crown Vic's accelerator to the floor – and just as quickly came to a stop, a black Hummer appearing from around the side of the arena to block their progress.
"Montgomery, open the glovebox!" Casey snapped at the older agent. "There's a set of buttons in there, one green, one red. Press the green one first, to target, then press the red one…"
Casey's voice trailed off, in a way that would've been funny had they not been in such a bad situation. "Your numbnuts brother-in-law used my missile on that armored truck," he breathed. "Shit."
"GET OUT OF THE CAR, AND PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!"
The voice that boomed from the Hummer's loudspeaker was familiar, but Chuck couldn't readily identify it. "It's not Shaw, I can tell that at least," he grumbled, drawing a smile from Sarah despite the trouble they were in.
The four agents all stepped out of the car again, hands in the air. "DROP YOUR WEAPONS ON THE GROUND AND KICK THEM AWAY!"
Again, they did as they complied, guns rattling as they were sent out of reach. And then…
"Mother fucker," Casey breathed as Cole Barker stepped out of the cab of the Hummer.
Chuck's jaw dropped. "Cole?" he gasped in disbelief. "What? Why?"
Cole looked at Chuck, a mixture of anger and sympathy on his face. "Simply put, Six was rather annoyed that I allowed myself to be so thoroughly compromised while working with your team," he said. "Please understand, I don't blame you – any of you, really. However, I will make Six pay for their ignorance, and I will make Dr. Brown pay for his transgressions."
"Cole, don't do this," Sarah pleaded with him. "This isn't you."
"Would you really know?" Barker shot back. "I seem to recall you turned me down for Mr. Bartowski over there, so while I appreciate your attempt to get me to see the light, I believe that you don't know me nearly as well as you think."
Cole turned his attention back to Chuck. "Chuck, please go retrieve Dr. Brown from his truck."
"Go NOW, Chuck," Cole growled. "I really don't want this to get nasty."
Silently, Chuck nodded, and turned to head toward the truck. He had just reached the DeLorean when he heard a commotion behind him.
Chuck turned to see Sarah punch Cole in the face. He went down hard, and that gave Casey and Roan the opportunities they needed. The two dove for their guns, and Sarah turned toward hers –
The shot that rang out at that moment would burn itself into Chuck's eardrums. He had no idea who had fired it, only that a red bloom had suddenly appeared on Sarah's chest. She looked down at her chest in disbelief, and then collapsed to the pavement.
"NOOOOOO!" Chuck screamed. "SARAH!"
And that was when the first bullet flew past Chuck's head. Startled, he dove into the DeLorean – but he couldn't stay there. If he just sat in the car, he was a sitting duck –
Keys. Keys were in the ignition. "Fuck," Chuck swore, wiping tears from his eyes as he reached toward the ignition. He grabbed the door strap and pulled it close as the engine fired up. Slamming the car into drive, Chuck stomped on the accelerator, laying rubber tracks as the DeLorean leapt toward the Fulcrum terrorists ahead.
If I can get to Sarah, I can get her into the car, maybe get her to a hospital in time, Chuck thought, ignoring the part of his brain that was telling him that given the rapidity with which blood had appeared on her chest, the bullet had probably pierced Sarah's heart and she was likely already dead. He accelerated toward the Hummer –
"JESUS!" One of the Fulcrum men had stepped out of the Hummer, a light anti-tank weapon launcher in hand. Chuck slammed on the brakes and popped the DeLorean into reverse, turning to look over his shoulder as he raced away –
And that's when the Intersect went active. A few seconds of flashing images later, he suddenly had professional evasive driving skills imprinted on his brain. "Alright, you bastards, let's party," he growled, flipping the car around in a skillful 180. He took off toward the other end of the arena, hoping to draw the Hummer away, so he could loop back around, get Sarah – maybe Casey and Roan could get her and escape in the Crown Vic –
"Oh, hell." There was another Hummer waiting on the side of the arena. Wrenching up the e-brake, Chuck slid to a stop, facing back the other direction. He had to figure out some kind of way out of this situation –
Bullets began spanging off the rear bumper of the DeLorean as Chuck threw it back into drive. As he did so, he realized that the other Hummer was coming his direction. "Let's dance, Cole," Chuck growled, pointing the DeLorean at the Hummer and hitting the gas.
The thirty year old sports car accelerated with alacrity toward the big SUV, the other one just a few feet behind him. Chuck laughed like a madman as it came toward him. "I'm no chicken, Cole!" he shouted. "I'm gonna save the girl, and you're gonna lose!"
And that was when something strange started to happen – the DeLorean's body began to glow, and sparks began to come off the front bumper. "What the hell…"
Chuck looked at his speedometer – 88 miles per hour. 88 miles per hour is… oh, shit 147 kilometers per hour…
He looked over at the time computer in horror. It was set for November 4th, 1980. In desperation, Chuck stomped on the brake, but the computer had taken over operations – the car was in terminal mode.
Eyes wide in terror, Chuck watched as the approaching Hummer appeared to fold in half, leaving sheer blackness where it had been. The DeLorean zoomed into the blackness –
And there was nothing.
Chuck Bartowski – Zachary Levi
John Casey – Adam Baldwin
General Beckman – Bonita Fredericy
Sarah Walker – Yvonne Strahovski
Roan Montgomery – John Larroquette
Sara Jean Underwood – herself
Dr. Emmett Brown – Martin Sheen
Cole Barker – Jonathan Cake