A/N Quick poll question here, please leave an answer in the comments, or send a PM. Did you think the line Chuck gave about hospitals ("I know a very good hospital. It's not near here.") was at all threatening? I felt it was but I may be alone there. I'm trying to develop a tone for Charles that's like Chuck but a little harder. This story's going to take a more dramatic turn at some point, and I have to be ready for it.
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
"I'm trying to make it more…real."
"Please tell me I didn't hurt anyone."
"What the hell was that?"
Sarah really didn't have time for this right now. "Dimples, I want you to go back to your office, right now, and prepare for the man with all the documents you'll soon have to sign." He seemed ready to argue, but 'Agent Walker' turned to look at him and he chose the better part of valor. She turned back once he was out of sight. "Chuck, look at me!"
Chuck didn't look at her. "I can't move, Sarah! The program won't let me move!"
She pulled out her phone from her gear on the floor. "Ellie! Chuck just attacked someone. No, I was sparring and he was defending me," she said, keeping her voice as level as she could. "Out but not dead. I got Chuck to stop but now he can't move. What does that mean, an endpoint?" She listened for a bit. "No, I didn't see anything like that, I saw him about to break the man's spine! Well, probably not but it's what I—you're kidding." She sighed. "No, you're right. It has to be me. Fine. Send two stretchers." She ended the call. "Chuck, can you close your eyes?"
"Close them. I need to get Pebbles out of the way."
She came around into her husband's field of view, but he didn't move. Pebbles was big, but as most of her opponents discovered the hard way, she was stronger than she looked, and she didn't have to drag him far. She moved back, to stand in front of him. "Chuck, Ellie says you need to finish the routine, that's why you're locked up. You'll have to fight me."
"No!" He shut his eyes tighter. "I don't want to hurt you!"
She took a deep breath, knowing that the program could. "That's what we're counting on. Open your eyes, Chuck."
Chuck responded to female authority as he always had and always would. His eyes opened, and he saw her waiting in a fighting stance. Only the fact that she was much smaller than Pebbles and in a different position kept him from…killing her. "Sarah! It's not sparring!" Pebbles had said, 'take them all the way out', and Pebbles had been the opponent. Then.
She dodged a kick that would have broken her neck. Chuck was inside, and Chuck was holding back, turning a perfect opponent into a merely very good opponent. She threw a punch. The defense was perfect, only the offense had degraded.
She couldn't hit him. He wouldn't hit her. She was already tired and the program was tireless, and even with Chuck inside there was only one way for it to terminate. The only way to save Chuck would destroy Chuck.
She clenched her fists tight, and launched a flurry of strikes that the program blocked effortlessly. Her exhaustion made her slow, leaving an opening that the machine took advantage of.
"Sarah!" Chuck watched as his own arm lifted Sarah off the ground by the throat, choking her as she struggled. "Come on, Sarah! Kick me. Kill me if you have to!" He watched her struggles get weaker. "Do something!"
She went limp. Chuck's fingers registered no pulse. Chuck's eyes detected no breathing. "Sarah?"
The program terminated. Sarah dropped to the ground in a boneless heap and Chuck followed her down. He knelt by her side, sobbing. His wife was dead and he'd killed her. "It's not me."
"It's not me."
"Is she dead?"
YES! Rage brought him to his feet in a leap but Dimples was ready for that, Sarah's tranq gun in his hand and two darts in Chuck's chest the second he presented a target. He leaned forward so that when he fell down it wouldn't be on top of her body. "Thanks…Dimples."
Darkness was never more welcome.
Dimples approached carefully, just in case Chuck was faking. No, pulse and respiration were slow, but good. Then he checked Agent Walker.
No pulse. No breathing.
Dimples stood and walked back to Sarah's things, putting down the gun and picking up her phone. He hit redial on the last number. "My name is Dimples," he said to the female voice that answered. "I'm Tough Guy's boss in IM. You're gonna need another stretcher, Agent Walker's dead. Yes, I'll wait."
Beckman looked unhappy. "Sarah's dead?"
"That's what he said."
The General frowned. "You're the doctor. Fix it."
Chuck woke up in a familiar place, the recovery room of the Intersect area. He looked up and saw a bag, an IV of some kind of liquid. He couldn't feel a needle, though his arm hurt a bit. He lifted his arm, but his wrist was chained to the bed railings so he stopped and put it down again and closed his eyes. He couldn't blame them.
Someone cleared her throat.
He cracked his eyelids, just enough to see the golden glow. His head hurt abominably, and he shut them again. "Haunting me already, are you?"
"Chuck, I'm not dead." Please look at me.
"The Intersect killed you." It's not me.
"The Intersect is a stupid program. And you're almost as stupid, but that's a good thing. Just as well you were so worried about killing me you forgot about the dose of fakeadeathanol in the FRODO." Finally he opened his eyes. "I injected myself before that last attack."
He remembered her clenching her fists so tightly. "You faked your death! Just like Kirk in 'Amok Time'!"
Now she could smile. "Yes, you're better. I'll go tell Ellie."
He watched her stand and walk, a little stiffly. Just before she reached the door he said, "Sarah? Can I ask you something?"
She turned. "Sure, Chuck."
"What's your real name?"
"Sam," she said automatically, and then her hands flew to her mouth as if trying to keep the sound in.
Chuck laughed. "You were so busy with the fakeadeathanol you forgot about the truth serum in your other hand."
She looked down, saw matching punctures on both palms, and fled the room before he could say anything more, taking her light with her.
"I want them out, Ellie!"
"We can't do that, Chuck. Dad's program only does the data. The best I can do is revert the code back to what it was in the beginning. If you try to use the skills you'll just knock yourself out."
In his universe that counted as good news. "That'll have to do."
"Don't worry, little brother, we'll get it right. Download commencing."
The upside to the CIA variant of the truth serum was that it wasn't lethal anymore. The downside was that the antidote tasted so bad you wished it was. Sarah would have preferred to wait it out-alone in a locked room-but they couldn't keep Dimples on ice that long. Typical Chuck to think of such a thing, but that was a dirty trick, weaseling her name out of her. Still, it was a small price to pay, it got the point across, and it's not like he didn't deserve to know. So many things he deserved to know, would she ever—The door opened, and Dimples entered and sat.
She looked him in the eye. "This interview is not being recorded," she said.
"I've read your file. You look good for a dead man." She smiled at him.
He smiled back. "So do you."
"Did you realize that you're number twelve on the all-time greats list at the Badass of the Week website?"
His voice said "I try not to think about the past" but his eyes said Yes, I know.
"My point being that you appreciate the need for…discretion…in certain matters. On the other side of that window are three people who collectively outrank God, who are very glad to know that you can maintain a decorous silence."
"We outrank God?" said one of the two people behind the window.
"You're just a doctor," said the General. "That leaves it all on my shoulders." She stood up straighter.
"Nothing I'm going to tell you now ever happened."
He maintained a decorous silence, nodding to indicate his comprehension.
"You heard me call him Chuck, but I recommend you forget that. 'Chuck' was his first identity, and that's the one I know best. He's a civilian. His path crossed ours during a mission. We were searching for an enemy cell in a suburban environment, and he'd moved in the week before. A pure, and unfortunate, accident. The bad guys were collecting lab specimens from their neighbors, test subjects for something they called 'the program'."
His eyes widened slightly, and she knew he'd heard Chuck use that phrase after all.
"He brought over some cookies to welcome us to the neighborhood." Her voice turned sad. "Such a sweet, lovely man he was. The enemy used him as cover to capture me, and my partner was taken by a ruse.
"They tried their program on him first, and by some miracle he survived it. Sort of." She took a deep, shuddering breath. "They turned him loose on my partner. Pebbles lasted longer. Then they turned him loose on me. That thoughtful, caring man was turned into a monster by monsters, but he…resisted. You call him Tough Guy, you don't know how right you are. He fought the program long enough for my husband to get there. Chuck—Tough Guy held me in his arms, shielded me as my husband used their own program against them."
Ellie wiped her eyes. "I'm glad she took the antidote. This is a lie, right?"
The General stayed silent long enough to get her worrying. Finally she said, "The bad parts."
"And you brought him here?" Among my men. Without telling me.
"My husband never forgets, and he always takes care of his own. We keep him safe, and the CIA needs to study the program. Counter it. Hopefully remove it."
"Did you know he was dangerous?"
"He's not," she shook her head, not answering the question but rejecting it. "He's been in fights, but only to protect others. He always uses the least amount of force, like with Shaw, and runs away. We were hoping your sparring would help him learn control. He wasn't supposed to be there. I should never have let him see me in a fight. His reflex is always to protect me."
"That's a hell of a reflex."
"He was just doing what you and Pebbles told him to do. He held back with me, as I hoped. Anyone else would be dead for real."
"And you expect them to trust him now? The second Pebbles gets out of traction–"
"That's why you're here. No one can know."
Dimples stared at her thoughtfully. "How many survivors of this 'program' are there?"
He nodded. "They'll want him back."
"They don't exist anymore, Dimples. We take care of our own."
"Hi, John. And who is this?"
"Haven't you met Carina before?"
"I meant the guy with the bag on his head."
Casey grunted in distaste. "He's not a 'who', he's more of a 'what'." He pulled the bag off. "This traitor is Manoosh, good for nothing except getting me a free trip to WeapCon. Got a new laser pen, not that I got a chance to use it, yet." He gave Carina a dark look.
She held up her hands. "Hey, on bad guy handcuffs, FRODO trumps laser pen every time."
Casey didn't grunt, he snarled, and turned back to Ellie. "He's all yours, now."
"For my sins?"
"For these," said Carina, handing her the fragments of a pair of sunglasses. "He built the Intersect skills into these."
Ellie eyed her new subordinate speculatively. "Did he?"
Chuck winced as he closed the door. "Morgan! Turn it down."
Morgan grabbed the remote and complied. "You're home early. You wanna play? I can always restart–"
Chuck talked as he moved toward his bedroom. "No, buddy, I'm gonna crash. Got a splitting headache. How'd the apartment-hunting go?"
"Good, good. Got a few leads, some places to see tomorrow."
"Good work, remember, you have to explain to Sarah if you're still here next week."
"Yeah, thanks for the reminder."
"Take those off, will you, John?"
Casey removed the cuffs, grumbling.
Ellie grabbed Manoosh by his collar and dragged him over to the screen.
"Hey," he yelled, "You need me! Only I can make those glasses!"
Ellie slammed him up against the wall. "That's your first mistake, traitor. Don't ever assume that I need you. Stand right there." She left him where he was and marched over to her desk. A click on her computer and the projector flared in his face. She stalked back, grabbed him again, and spun him around, mashing his nose against the wall. "Do you see that?"
"What is it?"
"I don't know!"
Ellie leaned in close, speaking into his ear. "It's the code for my father's greatest invention, his life's work. Code that you pirated to make your silly toys." She spun him around and pushed him against the wall again. "I don't care that you're a traitor. I don't care that you're a thief. I care about that. The only reason I'll bother sharing air space with you is because you've already done the work I need to have done. You're convenient. Don't ever think I need you." She shoved him over to her desk. "Sit down and get started. I'll get a proper workstation installed, preferably in another room. And remember, there's always one more camera than the ones you think you found."
She walked out, and Casey and Carina followed. She turned, suddenly nervous. "So how'd I do?"
Casey smiled. "You almost scared me. That'll keep somebody like him in line a good long while."
Ellie paled. "And after that?" She was no fighter.
"After that," said Carina, "If he's got the brains he seems to have, he'll be working because he wants to."
Manoosh sat at the computer, staring at the words and diagrams. He could see the parts of the code he'd recreated himself, but this was so much more—The screen went black.
"What the hell?"
NO NEED TO CURSE
I SEE YOU MET MY DAUGHTER
"Met her? I almost peed myself!"
GOOD. JUST DON'T MAKE HER MAD
Chuck woke to the sound of Morgan rummaging in his closet. "What exactly are looking for?"
"I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually getting bored with all those games out there. I was looking for something different, but now that I see your impressive collection of GameBoys, I'm thinking maybe I'll go old school for a while."
Chuck closed his eyes, waved a hand. "Have fun, buddy."
"Hey, Chuck, what's this?"
Open his eyes again? Maybe tomorrow. "What's what?"
"I don't know," said Morgan. "It doesn't look a GameBoy. What is it, some kind of prototype? How do you hold it."
"By the handle?"
"It doesn't have a handle, dude, just straps. Like a computer you wear on your wrist."
Chocolate brown eyes opened, and their owner sat up. "Oh yes," said Charles. "That."
A/N2 not...ready...for it...
The Badass of the Week site is real, or it was. I don't know who's #12 on their all-time greats list though. This is a research-free zone!
Comments welcome as always.