Chuck vs The Pond
Chapter 1: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
The man was floating in his liquid environment, oblivious of the outside world. He had a relaxed expression on his face, as if he were in deep sleep, yet his eyes were wide open. He was alone in his room, surrounded by machines, cameras and screens. A bright, artificial light filled the room.
Addressing the figments of his imagination, he began to speak, his gaze moving from side to side, trying to make eye contact with invisible phantoms that existed only in his mind. His hands moved slightly, making gestures and holding imaginary objects.
Up in the adjacent elevated control room, a small group of people worked silently in the dim light that filtered through the Plexiglas window overlooking the pond room. A wall of large screens covered all angles of the man stirring in his liquid bed. His every word was reproduced in the room by multiple speakers.
"What's he saying?" asked the woman standing in the middle of the room.
I think he's making a toast of some sort," answered one of the technicians. "There hasn't been a flash in the last hour, and the preliminary analysis of his speech suggests that it's not mission-critical. I'm recording it and sending it for further analysis."
"Good. Notify me if anything changes."
"I want to propose a toast to my family," Chuck announced as he stood and lifted his wine glass. They had been dining for about an hour, appreciating the opportunity to relax and enjoy each other's company. He looked at the people gathered around the table, smiled at them, and began to talk.
"To Ellie, who has always been my rock, and to her Captain, who loves her so much."
Hearing that, Ellie rested her head on her husband's shoulder and smiled sweetly. Devon raised his glass, acknowledging the toast.
"To my almost-brother Morgan, who helped me get over the bad things in my past."
At this, Morgan made a gesture with his hand, embarrassed by the compliment of his hetero life partner. Chuck continued.
"To Casey, who was always there to catch me when I fell, and to his amazing new daughter, who can kick his ass."
There were some chuckles at the table at this.
"To our father, who will be with us in spirit always."
Chuck stopped for a second to clear his throat before shifting his eyes to the blonde beauty sitting beside him.
"And to Sarah, the woman who helped me start my life again. You are the most beautiful and incredible woman in the world. I love you with all my heart."
Right here, right now, this is the best moment of my life, with my family around me, he thought. The funny thing is, it shouldn't be. I just buried my father a few hours ago, yet I'm happier than ever.
Watching his entire extended family gathered around the table, he wondered about the reason for his unexpected bliss. After all, he was Chuck Bartowski, master of self-pity, black belt of mild depression. He had more than enough reasons to crawl into his bed and never come out, but he knew that he had two very good reasons to carry on. His women.
At this point, his eyes went to the tall brunette woman sitting at the head of the table. For as long as Chuck could remember, Ellie has been there for him. She was an odd mixture of parent, friend and sister. For most of his life, she had been the only one he knew he could count on. Now that she finally knew the truth, there was no need for further lies, for further disappointment. He'd always had Ellie to lean on, so she wasn't the cause of his newfound happiness. As much as he loved her, she wasn't the one that made his heart soar.
His eyes then scanned around the table until he found two cool blue orbs gazing lovingly at him and sparkling slightly. He felt his cheeks flush and his heart race. He had known her for almost three years, dated her for a few months, and fake-dated her for an even a longer period, yet he still felt a sense of wonder every time he looked at her. She was easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, even after years living in the spy world with its ridiculous number of gorgeous women. She was also (secretly) the warmest, kindest human being that he had ever known. Her contradictions fascinated him. She was a woman capable of shooting a man in cold blood (to protect him!), yet he knew that, on the inside, she was still the shy, insecure girl that had been mocked in high school. She was his kick-ass ninja girl, the Bad-Ass Agent Walker of legend, and he couldn't love her more. The miracle was that this incredible woman actually loved him back, and she loved him enough to fight for him, for them, time and again.
"How are you holding up?" Sarah asked Chuck, concern in her voice.
"Okay. I mean, I miss him, but I understand what he did. He died for me Sarah, for us. I'm going to live the best life that I can to make him proud."
He meant every word of it. He was going to honor his father's sacrifice by living his life with the people he loved. Drowning in sorrow was the last thing his father would've wanted. Still... Why the happiness? Why the contentment? He'd known a few periods of happiness in his life. He remembered Stanford, hanging out with Bryce and dating Jill. He had good memories of those days, even if they were tainted by the betrayal of his best friend and the woman he thought he loved. Those had been times full of promise, but these were times of fulfillment, the beginning of a new life. Just like his new favorite song said, it's a new dawn, it's a new day, and he was feeling good.
In his drug-induced sleep, with his eyes wide open, Chuck stirred in his liquid environment. With the strong, white lights reflecting off his naked body, he smiled.
"The Pond", home of the Human Intersect Project
March 31, 2008
Major John Casey wasn't a happy man. During his many years as a soldier and then as a spy, he'd seen some disturbing things. Hell, he'd even had to do some things that still gave him nightmares. Yet, in his many years in service, no assignment had been more distasteful than the present one. He'd always been the good soldier, following orders without question, but this assignment just felt wrong.
He opened the door to the control room and entered. It was a poorly lit room full of computers and medical equipment. The constant murmur of the monitoring equipment made it sound more like a hospital room. Half a dozen technicians were working inside. A large Plexiglas window overlooked the main section of the secure basement, known as "the pond". A bright white light filtered in through the window. To the side, an armed agent stood in front of the door that led down to the main floor, home of the human Intersect. On the walls, dozens of LCD monitors covered every angle of the naked form of Charles Bartowski, floating in his pool, muttering to himself and grinning like an idiot.
God, I hate this assignment.
As Casey threaded his way around the workstations, a few of the technicians stopped their work to look at him, but they quickly went back to their screens. It had been a week since the last time he'd been at the base, yet there were no greetings. These technicians were callous, impersonal professionals, doing their jobs and nothing else. It was the only way to survive an assignment like this.
Casey made his way to the center of the room where a tall, slim woman in her mid-40's dressed in a white lab coat was watching the screens without a flicker of emotion on her face. Casey thought that she might be considered beautiful if not for the cold, hard look in her hazel eyes and the perpetual expression of disgust on her face.
"Evans," he said.
"It's Doctor Evans, MajorCasey," she corrected him, a slight tone of annoyance in her voice.
Six months working together and that's the most emotional I've ever seen her, he thought.
Whatever," he grunted. "How's the moron? What's your diagnosis, Doctor?"
She ignored the sarcasm in his tone. "Brain degeneration is at 17 percent and rising. It appears that my initial diagnosis was correct. I'd give him a couple of years – three, tops – until full meltdown. However, with a mixture of chemicals and an Intersect update, we were able to solve the problem of the pain spikes and the flash malfunction."
"How did you solve the problem of the pain in his dream-reality?"
"We introduced a watch that helps 'cool off' the Intersect and regulates his body into the dream," she answered. Changing topics, she asked, "How was your trip to California? Any news?"
"It turns out that numbnuts here was right yet again. Special Agent Shaw was dirty. Graham put a sanction on him, and he was executed, by his girlfriend no less, also a CIA agent. You want to know who she was?"
"Special Agent Sarah Walker. That's right, the geek's dream girl killed the traitor. Small world, huh?"
"Indeed, Major Casey, Indeed," she commented with an uncharacteristically pensive note in her voice.
They both contemplated the floating form of the Intersect on the monitors. He'd stopped smiling and was muttering something.
"Major? Doctor?" called out one of the technicians.
"Yes, Hannah?" Evans answered.
"We have a flash. It appears that he's found the address of one of Orion's safe houses. It's in Encino, California. He's mumbling the address right now."
As she walked along the hallway to her apartment, Sarah Walker thought that this had been the most difficult year of her life, and that was saying a lot. First, her partner betrayed her by going rogue and dying. Then she was re-assigned, her status as one of the CIA's top agents was in question thanks to Larkin's actions, and she'd been demoted to a task force assigned to hunt down some bogus organization called the Ring. With all the good agents dedicated to the war on Fulcrum, her re-assignment was both a joke and a slap in the face. She'd gone from being one of the elite undercover agents of The Company to being a junior agent in a three-member team tasked with gathering intelligence on a group whose mere existence was in doubt.
However, a few months later, things seemed to improve. The Ring had become an even bigger threat than Fulcrum, which made her one of the most sought-out experts in the whole intelligence community. Her knowledge of this secret and traitorous organization was in high demand. She then began a relationship with her supervisor, Agent-In-Charge Daniel Shaw. Daniel wasn't exactly funny or charming, but he was there. He was safe.
His betrayal hurts her, not because she loved him (she wasn't sure if she had any feelings at all for him), but because, once again, she was alone. She hated being alone. When Graham told her of the sanction that they put on Daniel, she took the news wearing the cold mask of a consummate Agent. She decided right at that moment that the assassination of Daniel Shaw was going to be her last mission.
When the mission was completed, Sarah quit the CIA. Graham took her resignation quite well and actually helped her to speed up the whole process. Of course, after hearing her report on the death of Daniel Shaw, he understood that she was on the verge of a total breakdown. No sane person could ever do that to a former lover...
For the first time, ex-CIA agent Sarah Walker opened the door of her apartment as a civilian and prepared herself to initiate a normal life. A boring life.
She was greeted by a cold stare from the eyes of her previous partner and lover.
"Bryce," she murmured.
"Hi, Sarah," he answered softly. "I need your help to correct the biggest mistake of my life."
A/N: What, a matrix crossover? Not really, next chapter you'll know how The Pond actually works and I promise, there are no spikes in the head or Morpheus. I want to make a few quick notes: First of all, I want to thank my great friend Read7585 for his help and encouragement. I´d never be able to get this done without you, buddy. I also want to thank the amazing Jagged1, for her help and comments on this prologue.
PS: I don´t own Chuck
A/N 2 So, I decided to re-post the prologue to correct a few errors and typos, and to clarify and expand a few things. I think that it works a lot better now. A huge thanks to Verkisto for all her help with this chapter, and with my writing in general. As Devon would say it, she is one awesome lady.