CHUCK VERSUS THE CGI (Chuck 6-03)

Sequel to "Chuck Versus What Happens in Vegas," (you might want to read that first if you haven't) and the third episode of an imaginary Season 6 of "Chuck." In this episode, Chuck and Sarah infiltrate a major Hollywood animation studio to investigate industrial espionage, lose some serious sleep at night, and (with the C.I. team's help) try to work out where to have their office and their home.

A/N: I hope all the Chuck fans find this next imaginary episode to be authentic and fun—and that you all send in plenty of reviews! Reading your thoughtful reviews is what keeps me working steadily on this! Enjoy!

Disclaimer: As before, I don't own Chuck or any of its characters.


PROLOGUE

Chuck is strapped spread-eagled and face-down on a bed—a surprisingly soft, comfortable bed—but he's been totally immobilized. Fighting futilely against his bonds, he strains to lift his head just a little, trying to figure out where he is and what's happening to him. Dazzlingly bright lights are pointed straight at him. He squints and can just make out a single figure—a woman with long dark hair in a white coat—working at some kind of bench or desk a few feet away. The woman picks something up off the bench and holds it up to the light: it's a glass syringe with an enormous, pencil-thick needle! She turns and starts toward Chuck, holding the syringe out menacingly, her fingers already in position to give the injection. She draws closer and Chuck can see that there's some kind of miniature machine inside the syringe—a silver-grey robot, like an insect, with baleful tiny red eyes—exactly like something out of The Matrix!

"N-no! Don't! Don't do it!" Chuck cries, as the raven-haired woman lifts the syringe high over his back, ready to plunge it down. He tugs harder at his restraints, to no avail.

Then suddenly, he's rolling over, and his body is enveloped in a calming, warm weight gently pressing down on him. Sweet-smelling long strands of hair brush lightly across his face, and he feels her breaths on him—it's Sarah, it's his wife, his soulmate—but why is she scratching at his chest so frantically?

"I've got to get it out," Sarah is saying. "Got to save you—"

"No, no, no…not there baby," Chuck tries to tell her. "My back…it's sticking in my back…."

And they both jolt awake at the same instant. They're in bed. Chuck is lying on his back and Sarah is on top of him, with her head raised and both of her hands clutching his chest. For a moment, they look straight at each other, surprised and bewildered—then both emit long, deep, troubled sighs—and Sarah flops limply down onto her husband.


Four days earlier

(Music: "In My Place," by Coldplay)

It's the usual sunny morning in the Southland. With Chuck beside her, Sarah threads her sexy black Lotus Evora through heavy traffic on the I-5 north past Griffith Park, headed from their apartment out to a business appointment in North Hollywood. Distracted by his thoughts, Chuck stares out the passenger-side window as the endless sprawl of metro Los Angeles rolls by. As they reach Burbank, Sarah turns west onto the Ventura Freeway, and Chuck nods to himself as if he's come to a decision about something.

"Babe?" he asks.

"Yeah?" replies Sarah, focused on the road.

"Would you mind if we turned off at the next exit? We're a little ahead of schedule and I'd like to make one quick stop."

He eyes Sarah attentively, wondering if she realizes what he has in mind—but she just smiles at him and says "Sure, sweetie."

They leave the freeway and enter a tree-shaded suburban community at the base of the Hollywood Hills. Sarah looks mystified as Chuck directs her away from the commercial district and into a quiet neighborhood of single-family homes. Not until they are about a block from Chuck's intended destination does she realize where he's brought them: back to her onetime dream house—the one with the red door, the flowers, and the neat white picket fence.

Sarah pulls the Lotus to the curb and leans back in her seat.

"It was dark the last time I was here," she says, quietly. "I'd forgotten how pretty it is…."

"And still on the market," observes Chuck, pointing to the realtor's sign out front.

"Chuck…oh Chuck." Sarah turns to him as tears begin to appear in the corners of her eyes. "I wish you hadn't brought me here."

He runs his fingers through her hair. "But you once thought it was perfect. For us."

"I remember that," murmurs Sarah. "The candles, the wine…carving our names in the doorway…all of that—"

(Flashback to Sarah smiling in the doorway and telling Chuck, "One day this will all be ours…And when it is, I would like to always remember this moment.")

Her tears start flowing in earnest. "But I…I also remember every horrible thing I said and did to you in there."

(Flashbacks to Sarah sneering, "Our relationship was a cover, Bartowski, and always has been"…throwing Chuck into a mirror and kicking him down the stairs…to Chuck taking the blows and telling her "I'm never gonna fight you"…to Sarah coldly pointing her pistol at her own husband's head…to Chuck jumping in front of the bullet that Quinn meant for her…)

"You didn't do any of those things, baby—not really. Quinn is to blame."

"I wish I could see it the way you do," Sarah counters. "But I can't. Those two days of my life I'd give almost anything to take back—they're centered right here. I'm so sorry, but I just can't bear the thought of going inside again. Not now."

"I understand," Chuck replies, squeezing her hand and looking reassuringly into her sad eyes. "And I'm sorry too. Got to remind myself that we're taking things at your pace. Not mine."

Sarah smiles back at him, tentatively. "I know you mean well," she adds, "and I love you for that."

"Love you too, babe."

Neither of them says anything more as they ride away from the house and complete the rest of their short trip to North Hollywood and their objective: a sprawling complex of strangely proportioned domed and cylindrical buildings faced in deep indigo-blue glass, connected by spidery elevated passageways and meandering sidewalks painted in all manner of bright colors not found in nature. Small knots of young professionals are scattered among the buildings: some of them walking, talking, and gesturing wildly; some of them lounging or sitting in clusters on the well-manicured lawns. One foursome is tossing an enormous beach ball around in a circle.

Out in front of everything is a great arched gateway with a sign that proudly proclaims FLIXILATED PICTURES. Here Sarah stops, lowers her window, and flashes her ID to the security guard on duty.

"Charles and Sarah Carmichael. We have an appointment."

The guard checks his monitor and nods. "Right on time. There's a VIP lot just inside the gate on the right and you can park there. They sent a tram for you—all yours 'cause the regular tours don't start for another two hours." He leans out of the guardhouse window and points ahead to indicate the way.

As the Lotus glides through the entrance, Chuck looks around with barely suppressed glee.

"When I was in college," he tells Sarah, "this was way up on the list of places where I'd have killed to get a job."

"Really?" she asks. "Seems kind of lightweight for a badass engineer."

"No, not at all. With all the cool stuff they routinely do in here, FlixPix is as much a cutting-edge technology firm as it is a movie studio."

Sarah feigns disappointment. "Oh. So there'll be no schmoozing with the big stars then?"

"Not flesh and blood ones, at least."

After Sarah parks, and she and Chuck emerge from the Lotus—crisply dressed as usual, with matching reflective sunglasses and slender briefcases—they find that the security guard was referring to a tour tram that resembles a caricature of an Old West train, with a huffing-puffing locomotive and all. The tram is idling on the sidewalk just beyond the VIP lot and nobody is on board except the engineer: a cartoon man in baggy overalls with a huge head and tiny railroad cap. It's an animatronic figure, and it's gesturing directly at Chuck and Sarah to get on board the tram.

"They have got to be kidding," says Sarah.

Chuck laughs out loud. "That's Rudy Toute!"

"And that makes it better?"

"He's a CGI character from FlixPix's first big hit—The Daydream Train! Wow, babe…you and I would still have been in high school when that movie came out."

"I'll take your word for it," Sarah responds, shaking her head in disbelief. She and Chuck climb into the middle car of the empty three-car tram with briefcases in hand.

Rudy Toute's robotic arm pumps up and down, and a surprisingly realistic whistle emanates from the front of the mock locomotive—then the tram starts rolling smoothly forward into the main complex.

Sitting exposed in plain sight on a loud and flamboyant tourist ride, Sarah looks tense and uncomfortable at first. Then Chuck gives his wife a gentle shoulder-bump, and she rolls her eyes and laughs, giving in to the utter zaniness of their situation.

"It's full steam to find your dream!" Rudy Toute announces, as the tram chugs down a lane leading directly to a massive, windowless sky-blue-colored building with one large door.

(Opening credits and "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" theme by Cake)