Disclaimer: I do not own Chuck and his fellow friends and agents. However, I do own the people that I made up.
A/N: Wow, it's been a while. Life really took me hostage. Anyways, here's the next chapter. And thank PJ Murphy for the polish.
Chapter 11: Taking Control
"Blow up their Intersect?" Chuck echoed faintly. He absently brought his glass back up to his lips and took a swig of apple juice. He looked dully ahead, not seeing what was in front. "What if someone dies when it blows up? I'm not a killer."
Ariel took the glass back and refilled it. She handed it to Chuck, hoping he had the presence of mind not to drop it on her new couch. Although it would not have been a big deal, given she had plenty of experience cleaning various stains on upholstery.
"Chuck, just take a moment and breathe. What were the exact parameters Ted gave you for this mission?"
"He mostly just said blow up the Intersect. We talked about how it should be blown up, but I barely remember it. I don't want to actually hurt anyone."
Chuck slumped down and buried his face in his hands. He massaged his temples as he tried to process the horror that Ted wanted him to do. Ariel watched him, and saw an opportunity.
"Chuck," she said as she kneeled next to him. "Look me in the eyes."
He did so. Worry etched his face, but he gathered himself up enough to pay attention.
"You are a very smart and creative young man," she continued. "So yes, you have to destroy the Intersect. However, you have the latitude to do it the way you want. This is the moment where you have to step up and find out how to execute your orders without violating your own beliefs. This is also a potential crowning victory if you can go above and beyond the call of duty. Are you getting me?"
Chuck focused on her face. She was intense and powerful, but gentle and warm. He turned her words over in his head and some solutions began to germinate. His formerly despondent look started to fade into thoughtfulness and determination.
"Yeah, I think I am," he replied with a fierce grin.
Tom Varnes took another look at the relay and compared it with his blueprints. He nodded in satisfaction and dreamed of having a drink or five after work to celebrate. He gave Chuck a thumbs-up.
With the approval from Tom, Chuck looked down at the Cipher they were making and started it up. His grin widened into glee and satisfaction as he saw the program do its magic. Tom meandered over and looked over Chuck's shoulder, sharing in the accomplishment.
"I think that about does it," Chuck said. "Is there anything else we need to do before we get the mission started?"
Tom looked thoughtful and tapped his chin. A snap of his fingers meant an idea had just blossomed.
"Yeah, I think we should change the message. Thank you, Fulcrum sounds a little too polite, kind of like a Hallmark card. We should do something a little more declarative. Something like Fulcrum Thanks You might twist the knife."
Chuck looked at Tom and then back at the computer. He shrugged. "Sure. I guess you have a point there." Chuck made the changes. "The next part is the easy part. We just have to steal the real Cipher and replace it with this one. The real Cipher is going to be in transit, and one of our operatives is going to intercept it."
"How are you doing the switch? Sounds kind of confusing."
"Well, my handlers will probably be charged with getting it back, so I would likely be along with them. The agent will have to make the exchange with me at some point during the mission, but I'm sure those details will be ironed out later. Should be easy."
"IS THIS REALLY NECESSARY?" Chuck shouted up at Colt, who was dangling him over the side of a building.
"Of course," he replied with an easy grin. "We have to make it look real to fool those handlers of yours."
"Can't we make it look real and menacing without dangling me over the side of a building? We are just supposed to exchange Ciphers. Dangling me over a building is taking away important Cipher-exchange time."
"Don't worry about it," Colt said, who seemed to be enjoying this too much. "I've got you."
"No. Bring me back up so we can make the exchange and be on our way before my handlers get here."
"Heh, you're no fun," Colt said as he started to haul Chuck back up. That was interrupted by the door getting blasted open and Casey and Sarah charging in.
"Drop the nerd," Casey growled, training his gun on Colt.
"No! Don't drop the nerd!" Chuck shouted.
Too bad for him, Colt thought as he dropped Chuck in order to get away. Chuck screamed and grabbed out at the fire escape. It broke his fall and he managed to get on it. He looked up as Sarah looked down with a look of terror.
"Chuck, are you alright?" she shouted down at him.
"Bruised. Everything is strained. Other than that, I'm fine." Chuck flopped back on the fire escape grate as he tried to calm down. He looked back up at Sarah and saw relief on her face.
"Is that the Cipher you have in your hand?" she asked.
"Yes," Chuck said in disappointment. "It is."
He started hitting his head back against the grate, angry at Colt for screwing up the mission.
"We still have time to make a change before their Cipher is taken back. Casey has it with him, so we just have to get one of our guys to pick it up. Can we do that?"
Ted typed a couple of things into his computer after Chuck finished. "Yes, we can do that. What about Agent Walker? Where is she going to be?"
Chuck fought a flinch. "Um, I think she's going to be in her apartment. Since her assignment here will be over, she'll probably be getting ready to leave."
Ted fixed Chuck with a thoughtful look and steepled his hands. "Chuck, do you think she might be the one to eliminate you?"
This time, Chuck couldn't hide his shocked reaction. His face paled and he stammered a bit as he heard the question and possibility that he had been dreading. "I-I hope not. That may be more of a Casey thing. But if you maybe tranq him when you get the Cipher, he won't be able to kill me on the way."
"It's cute that you're trying to blind yourself to your female handler's capabilities, but you really have to keep things in perspective." Ted gave Chuck a firm glare. "She is a highly trained and successful CIA spy. Sure, she might seem like a nice friend and potential girlfriend…"
Chuck tried to protest, but Ted bulled on. "…but you have to remember that she is a stone cold assassin. You are her mark, her asset. She is nice and friendly to keep you under control, but she will kill you in a heartbeat if she gets orders to do so. That is why we have to create a scenario where she won't get a chance to kill you."
Chuck looked away. He had a lot of things to say, but he buried all of it and took a moment. He murmured, "And how do you propose we do that?"
Ted smiled warmly. "Easy. You are going to ask her out on a going-away date."
"Hold on," Chuck interrupted. "We're just friends. Or something like that. We have been trying to keep things professional and there's nothing going on…"
"Chuck, just do it," Ted cut in. "Just go on this date and Colt will come in and make a scene. Then you will both know that the Cipher was taken, and Walker will then retrieve it." He directed a glare at Colt. "And this time, don't fool around."
Chuck looked on from far away as Colt was lead away to a waiting truck to take him to some secret prison. He clamped down on his imagination of what that would be like if he was sent to one before he could give himself a heart attack.
They were able to exchange the Ciphers and the plan was going swimmingly, except for the part where Colt was captured. Now he just needed to make sure that neither Sarah nor Casey would kill him before his Cipher did its job. He wasn't sure who would do it, but he had a feeling that Casey would be the one.
Sarah came over and squeezed his hand. "It looks like it's settled now."
"Yeah. The Cipher's going to go and complete the new Intersect. And then I'll be left to live my life again."
"It wasn't all bad, was it?" Sarah coyly asked with a touch of shyness. She was looking at him askance and Chuck felt the corners of his lips tug up. Buried deep in himself, he was almost positive that she would do nothing to intentionally hurt him. She wasn't his assassin, she was his protector. Even though he tried to fight that sentiment with the logic of what she was and whose side he was on, he couldn't completely suppress the guilt that said he was betraying her. He firmly told himself he wasn't betraying her because she was the enemy. But he could not dwell on that too long; the plan had to go on.
"So, now that everything is taken care of, how about we have a third first date?" Chuck asked.
The smile she responded with gave Chuck butterflies. He tried to squash those butterflies with the knowledge he needed her with him to possibly fend off possible assassins, like Casey.
The Cipher booted up and started to smoothly download. Graham smiled in satisfaction as he put his glasses on while the agents behind him took theirs off. The smile promptly left his face when the message FULCRUM THANKS YOU flashed across the screen. A countdown of five minutes started while Graham turned to the monitor in the wall.
"What is happening?" he called to the technicians on the other side of the camera. He ran out of the Intersect room and to the control center.
"Sir, it seems that the Cipher contained a virus," the technician said. "All of our files are getting downloaded and sent somewhere. At the same time, it has started a self-destruct sequence. We have to get out of here…now!" The technician was in a full panic as his fingers flew over the keyboard.
"What about our data? What are they getting?"
"Everything! But we have to evacuate," the scientist said as he scrambled for the door. Graham grabbed him and pulled him back.
"No! You have to keep Fulcrum from getting everything."
"It's too late," the scientist yelled in alarm. "There's only three minutes left before the building blows. There's no time to even think about stopping the download. Besides, everyone is already evacuating."
With that, he wrenched out of Graham's grip and ran out. Graham looked around and noticed that the lights and PA were broadcasting evacuation procedures. With a mild curse, he ran out as well.
He barely made it a safe distance before the whole complex blew up. He leaned against the car that he had taken cover behind and pulled out his cell phone. Fury played across his features as he figured the next step.
Looks like the time has come to test the Aurora Chair. If R & D is right, that should be able to rip the Intersect out of Bartowski's head, even if it leaves him severely brain damaged. But at least he'll be out of our hair.
Graham pressed Send for the number he dialed so he could give the order to bring Chuck in. He never even got the chance to lift the phone to his ear before his mind was forcefully rearranged on the car door.
Ariel looked up from her scope and gave a nod of satisfaction at another job well done. She smiled to herself as she packed the rifle away.
"Still got it."