A/N the First: So this is written for the one, the only, the incomparable quiste64, who is celebrating her birthday like the awesome person she is, probably by drinking martinis and hobnobbing with the coolest people on the planet. So while I know that she's busy, I also want to celebrate her most excellent day the best way I know how, which seems to be to insult everything she loves and stands for. So this fic is something I wrote because she's awesome and wonderful and I'm pleased to be considered one of her friends (that was a hard club to buy into; membership costs nearly what I make in a year but it's SO WORTH IT). This one's for you, quistie. Happy birthday. I hope the day was/is as awesome as you are (which is freaking awesome, if anybody asks).
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the work represented herein and here-out and whatnot and what have you, and sincere apologies to Tom Clancy fans.
Chuck vs. the Temple of Doom
"It's really called that?"
John Casey didn't pause from where he was unstrapping himself out of the climbing harness. Why exactly he'd needed one in the first place, Chuck didn't understand, as Team Bartowski had been able to stroll right in through the front doors of the somewhat unobtrusive building in the suburbs of Boulder, Colorado. But, judging from the fact that Casey had yet to take his hand off of his Sig and the way he kept eyeing every corner of the room as though Ring agents might burst forth at any second, perhaps the building was less unobtrusive than it looked from outside and more deserving of a name like the Temple of Doom.
"Yes," Sarah said. "This is the final stop in the CIA training. Only about half of the agents make it through."
"Alive?" Chuck asked, the joke sounding feeble.
She shook her head. "At all."
"Don't worry," Sarah said. "I made it through once. I'm pretty sure I can do it again."
"Only pretty sure, Walker?" Casey asked.
She shrugged and crossed the foyer—which only seemed to contain two very uncomfortable-looking chairs, a coffee table full of outdated issues of Highlights Magazine, a plain wooden door, and a map—in one stride. "Nothing's certain in the Temple, Casey. You know that. Didn't you study with Sensei Ping?"
Casey, nearly free of his harness, went still. "Sensei Ping designed this place?"
"Well, that's it. Bartowski's dead."
"Hey!" Chuck whirled on his teammate. "Why just me?"
"Because I highly doubt 'The Morgan' is going to save your ass against the best and brightest the CIA has to offer, moron."
Sarah, out of long practice, ignored the both of them as she studied the map. "I went through the piranha tank when I came through the first time," she said.
"Willingly?" Chuck asked, and then her sentence caught up with him. "Wait, there's a piranha tank in here? Is that even humane?"
"Yes, because that's what we should be concerned about," Casey said.
"You know, when you talk to me like that, it hurts me, Casey."
"Chuck's a better swimmer than either of us, but after the piranha tank, then we have to get through the mad scientist laboratory—"
"Seriously?" Chuck asked.
"Which would be fine, the Intersect has counter-measures installed against that, but I worry about the logic puzzle."
Chuck gave his on-and-off-again-will-they-won't-they partner-in-crime an offended look. "You think I'd fail at a logic puzzle? I'm a computer programmer! If there's one thing I can do, it's—"
"Get kidnapped fourteen times in a year?" Casey asked.
Chuck glared at him.
"It's not that kind of logic, Chuck." Sarah looked away from the map to give him a sympathetic look. "This is CIA logic."
"Nonexistent," Casey said as Sarah explained, "Who do you kill first?"
"Oh. Then maybe not," Chuck said. He shoved his hands in his pockets as he gave the map a frustrated look. There, buried deep in the building, was the trophy room that contained the intel they needed to collect in order to save the school bus full of orphaned, penniless children. Why the hell, he'd asked in the briefing, couldn't the CIA just give them the intel? But he'd been informed that the Temple didn't work that way, that only making it through would prove successful. Unfortunately, that meant going through rooms that were literally labeled "Mad Scientist's Lab" (though why it would have a cow, he couldn't possibly begin to know) and "Cave. WITH BRUINS (THAT'S A TYPE OF BEAR)." After a minute of scanning the map, he spotted the first break he'd had all day. He tapped it with a finger. "What about this?"
Sarah glanced at where his finger rested and went pale. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Because I've heard horror stories of that place. If you make it out alive, you're not considered one of the lucky ones, is all I'm saying."
Chuck gave her a confused look. "It's a library, Sarah."
"Gonna have to go with Walker on this one," Casey said. "Nothing good's ever happened to me in a library."
"That's because you like Tom Clancy," Chuck said. "Look, every experience I've had in a library is a happy one. Knowledge is power, okay?"
"Power corrupts," Casey pointed out.
"Whatever, I cast my vote for the library. Fastest way we're going to save those orphans."
"You don't know what you're getting into," Sarah said.
Chuck looked at her skeptically. "And you do?"
"Nerd wants to go to a library, big surprise." Casey snorted and checked the ammo clip on his Sig. "You know what? He wants to go the library, we'll go to the library."
Sarah looked from one partner to the other for a long moment. "All right," she said, pointing at them. "But I reserve the right to say 'I told you so.' If we survive."
"Aw, c'mon. Libraries are awesome." Chuck slung a friendly arm over her shoulders. "I'll tell you all about the fun things Bryce and I used to get up to in Green Library at Stanford. Man, Northern California really was the best."
Those plans were halted almost immediately, though: they headed through the door into the Temple and made the first right that would lead them to the library. Chuck had only managed to get halfway through the story of the time they'd released a wombat in the Scary Stacks, startling quite a few couples in flagrante delicto before they entered the library and were greeted with…
"Oh, walloping wabbits," Chuck said, gaping at shock at the large, circular cavern of a room they'd just stepped into. Bookcases rose to the ceiling three stories above, laden and practically groaning under the weight of the books upon their shelves. But beyond that, books covered every surface in the room, rising in lopsided and wobbly stacks so that there was only one clear path. Evenly spaced among these haphazard piles were eight desks, all of them manned by women with their hair pulled back into severe buns, cat's eye glasses, pencil skirts, and sourpuss looks.
At Chuck's surprised oaths, their heads turned as one. Eight fingers rose to eight sets of lips, and the "Shhhh" seemed to reverberate off of the walls.
"Holy crap," Chuck said, dropping his voice to a whisper. "Scariest library ever! Did you see that?"
The librarians turned their attention back to the stacks of books on their desks.
"Be careful going forward," Casey said, switching to his M-4. "Their disapproving stares have their own power, you know."
"Don't knock anything over," Sarah said.
"Just...don't." Sarah and Casey held one of those silent conversations they usually did whenever on a mission; Sarah took the lead, stepping cautiously through the stacks of books, her eyes constantly darting to the nearest librarian. Casey gestured for Chuck to follow, so he did, chills tingling up and down his spine.
"Are they going to attack us if we hit a certain point in the room?" he asked in a quiet whisper as they edged their way forward.
"I hope not. These ladies look mean."
"Aw, you're just afraid of librarians, Casey."
"And with good reason."
It took several minutes for them to move even so much as a few feet, being careful to avoid knocking books over as they were. None of the librarians so much as glanced at the trio, but Chuck couldn't help but feel a sense of danger anyway.
About twelve feet into the room, Sarah held up her hand for them to halt. "This part's tricky," she said, and Chuck felt a sneeze building. "Do exactly what I do, okay, Chuck?"
"Why does everybody I'm the one that's going to screw—it—" Chuck felt the sneeze build to a crescendo and couldn't hold it back. It seemed to explode from him, the "ACHOO!" bouncing off of the cavernous ceiling even louder than the librarians' admonitions had. For an eternal second, time seemed to still, snot and saliva clinging to the air like something out of The Matrix...
And then time sped back up, Chuck flailed, and his wrist connected solidly with a vicious copy of The Wreck of the Hesperus, sending the entire body of work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow flying.
All three of the spies stared in horror as the book tower fell.
It landed with a CRASH.
Immediately, eight heads rose, eight hands lifting to lower eight pairs of cat-eye glasses toward them. And then eight librarian rose, drawing eight identical Katanas.
"Uh, do the book jockeys have swords?" Chuck felt the need to ask.
Casey grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. "That was a dumbass move."
"Not to quibble, Case, but I think it's pronounced Doo-mas, like—urp." Chuck's air supply was abruptly cut off by Casey's hand; helplessly, he scrabbled and pointed at the librarians, who had risen and were circling around them, closing in.
"You have made a grave error," they said in one voice, which was eerie coming out of eight different women. It made Chuck's blood turn to ice. "Do you have your library card?"
"Uh—I have it, here, right here." Desperate, Chuck fumbled for his wallet and pulled out his Sunnydale County Public Library card, which was chipped at the edges and well-worn from much use. Casey and Sarah gave him baffled looks, but the librarians all tilted their heads as one, eyeing the card.
Finally, they spoke. "Invalid card," they said, and began repeating it as they stepped closer, simply stepping around book piles. "Invalid card, invalid card. Terminate card holder. Terminate card holder."
"T-terminate?" Chuck yelped. "But it's not even out of date!"
That didn't seem to matter, as the librarian closest to him whipped out a shuriken and knocked the card from his hand. He yelped.
Sarah grabbed his Nerd Herd tie and yanked. "Run!"
"Invalid card," the librarians intoned as Chuck, Sarah, and Casey began to run, knocking over books. "Remove from circulation, invalid card."
"We just have to make it to the other side of the room!" Sarah said, and ducked under a Katana blade.
"Yeah, before they use the Dewey Decimal system to catalogue our brains all over the wall!" Chuck called back.
"At least yours would be in order for once," Casey said, and mowed down the nearest librarian with a few headshots from his M-4. Chuck flashed just in time to avoid becoming bisected, kicking his librarian foe in the chest. For a little old lady in a pencil skirt, though, she certainly recovered quickly. He saw stars when she hit him in the gut.
Sarah, thankfully, round-housed her before she could slice and dice him.
"Wow, what's the penalty if you've got an overdue book, you think?" he asked as she helped him to his feet.
She rolled her eyes and hauled him along.
Casey managed to fight off his own foe, but the first one he had shot rose right to her feet, brushed off the bullet holes like they were butterflies, and kept walking slowly right toward them. "We've got a serious problem of undead knowledge guardians here," he said. "I don't think the regular means are going to stop these guys!"
"Man, I should have listened to Old Mr. Jeckle at the research desk when he told me how badass librarians really were," Chuck said.
Sarah dropped another one, blocked a Katana strike with a copy of Infinite Jest (possibly the only book long enough to stop a sword strike), and plugged that librarian with a few new holes for ventilation. "Seriously, ideas? Any ideas?"
"I don't know, I always thought you could fight librarians off by throwing a book at them." Chuck flashed and used a little Muay Thai to his advantage. "Guess that won't work here?"
"Probably not," Sarah said. She fought off one librarian, but Chuck could see another one advancing on her, just out of her line of sight.
As he raced over, inspiration struck. He stepped between Sarah and the librarian, waited until she'd raised the Katana, and asked her, "Hey, do you know where I can find a book on yoga for dogs?"
The librarian stumbled and blinked, clearly not expecting this. And to Chuck's infinite relief, she lowered the blade. "Any particular breed of dog?" she asked.
"Uh, Golden Retriever. Or Australian Shepherd if they have it. Boston Terrier, too."
"Let me check the system." The librarian turned and mechanically strode off.
Sarah gaped at Chuck. "What did you just do?"
"A librarian's biggest strength, or weakness, depending: research." Chuck turned to a second librarian. "I'm writing a paper on zombies and World War I, so do you know if there's anything I can read about the origins of zombies in the early twentieth century?"
The second librarian down, Chuck turned to Casey. "Ask her something!" he called.
"Ask her about Trickle Down Economics!"
Casey shot him the finger. It was through quick thinking and asking about subjects like the invention of ice cream, Ansel Adams, In N Out restaurants, and a myriad of other subjects that they were able to stop the fight. The instant every librarian was occupied, Casey grabbed Chuck by the arm and they hauled tail all the way to the opposite side of the room. Chuck's last glimpse of the library before he was pulled away was of eight fastidiously dressed librarians all bent over drawers in the card catalogue, searching their little hearts out.
Then he was in the hallway, a little bruised, sweaty, and out of breath. "Good thinking, Bartowski," Casey said, surprising him. "And nice work getting us into that mess in the first place."
"Hey, I still got us out of it," Chuck pointed out.
Chuck looked around; they were standing in a narrow hallway, apparently a break between the various rooms or torture chambers or whatever the Temple of Doom was going to throw at them next. He looked at Sarah. "You okay?"
"Peachy," she said, rotating one shoulder. "Everybody ready?"
Chuck and Casey both answered in the affirmative.
"Good, because the next room has singing nuns, and if you think librarians are bad, you ain't seen nothing yet," Sarah said, and pushed open the next door.