Chapter 1: Kidnapped
*** California ***
The shadow moved fast past the window, but not fast enough to escape the shots from an AR 15. Glass shattered, blood spattered and the split of a second later, the dull sound of a body colliding with the street below was heard.
Before the shock could get a grip on Chuck, Vincent grabbed his arm and hauled him up. "Move!"
The door behind the cracked as the opponents' modified shotgun was pressed into the wood right above the lock. When the blast hit, Vincent Smith and Charles 'Chuck' Bartowski were already out of the window. Under the cover of the night, they made their way down over roofs and balconies to the street. Shots hailed past them. Vincent pushed him out of fire's range and answered with a precise shot. Groaning, the pursuer tumbled over the handrail of a balcony.
Chuck trembled. Whoever that had been, they didn't care about killing him, too! "That was … close", he whispered out of breath. Vincent glared at him, clearly marking him as an imbecile child.
He watched Vincent smashing the window of a parking car. The next moment, he was pushed inside and remotely wondered how Vincent was able to start the engine. He had heard that modern cars wouldn't be that easily to hot-wire like in former times. Obviously, that guy had his resources! Chuck dared to take a deep breath. What a crazy day! He had seen a lot of those since the intersect had been loaded into his brain, but this one was on its way to the top! And that after it had started so perfectly normal. He had been working at his Nerd-Herd-desk in the Buy-More, had helped some kids with their x-box until he got a call to fix a computer problem in the suburb. He arrived there whistling his favorite song. Outdoor jobs were a good thing; he liked that kind of work. Only this time, the problem turned out to be the barrel of a 9mm gun with suppressor, pointed at him by none other than Vincent Smith.
His hopes that Sarah and agent Casey would catch up with him and free him quickly crashed when his kidnapper drained his GPS equipped watch in the toilet. Now Chuck could only hope someone would miss him, put the clues together and miraculously find him. However, Vincent was awfully good in covering their tracks! They switched cars three times until they ended up in the middle of nowhere around midnight. From there, they walked what seemed to be miles until they arrived at a rotten trailer. Chuck felt like dead. Vincent seemed to run on adrenalin and water. He opened the squeaking door, gestured his hostage inside.
In the flashlight's shine, Chuck discovered some army style metal boxes – and computer equipment that made his jaw drop in surprise. Vincent opened one of the boxes, retrieved a package and threw it in Chuck's direction. Clothes. Without another comment, Vincent undressed himself and changed into a dark colored combat gear with bullet proof vest. Its pockets held a preassembled survival kit plus ammo clips. The whole time, his H&K remained within reach and Chuck knew better than to try anything. And besides, whereto was he supposed to run? Nonetheless, he wanted to speak out. "I'll never betray my country to Fulcrum!" That sounded brave, at least. But he wasn't Casey. He still had that nasty lump in his stomach!
And Vincent wasn't impressed at all. "Fulcrum doesn't even exist", he answered and focused on another box. He took out a propane heater and placed a pot over it. Chuck wondered if the other man tried to make a joke – an option he discarded quickly -, tried to trap him into saying too much or if he was crazy. For now he didn't want to settle for anything. He just wanted to stay alive.
Chuck was slightly taller than Vincent and so the sleeves and trousers of the new clothes were a bit too short, making him feel like the lanky teenager from ten years ago. The food and coffee Vincent had prepared from army rations didn't taste as good as the meals his sister used to cook, but his hunger was calmed. While eating, he eyed the computers stacked into the place and mused about a possibility to send Sarah a message.
Hours stretched. Chuck lied on the bed in the back of the trailer, only inches away from one of the computers and pretended to be asleep. And he had a hard time not to do so in reality! From time to time, he shot a glance to Vincent, very cautiously, of course. His kidnapper sat directly behind the door, gun in his hand. He seemed to be asleep, after all. Well, he was a human being, wasn't he? Slowly, Chuck rose, waited again. Vincent didn't move.
Chuck felt sweat drop over his forehead and wet the back of his shirt. He was shaky. And his heart, did it not hammer loud enough to wake the enemy?! Yes, he thought, Casey is right, I'd surely make a lousy agent. But then, I never wanted that! No one asked me! He had almost reached the first computer. Its little lights communicated that it was under power, probably in standby. Yet a little further! Vincent? The dark silhouette at the door didn't move. Chuck stretched his hand, hovered one last moment over the keyboard, held his breath. The enemy still didn't react. Good. Now … the index finger down onto the keyboard. Slowly… The screen sprung into life. It was a Linux machine. The Email program was right -
A faint click made him freeze, his hand in mid air. "Now what do you think you're doing?"
Chuck swallowed. "Online game?" He whispered not very convincing. "I was… uh… kinda … bored."
"Very funny." Vincent grabbed him by his shoulder and swung the stool around. His H&K poked onto Chuck's chest.
"You won't kill me. You need me."
"Smart kid." With a short move of his head, he signaled his hostage to get away from the computer. "What will kill you is the thing in your head. But don't worry; you'll have lost your senses long before that happens. – Show me your hands!"
Before Chuck could react, he was cuffed and attached to one of the metal boxes. That hadn't been too great an idea! He racked his brain how to contact anyone or how to leave a trace, but couldn't come up with something. In the meantime, Vincent was doing whatsoever on the computer. From his position, Chuck was not able to decipher anything, besides the screen was half covered by his enemy's back. Then another screen was switched on, covered with symbols and lines like in the inside of a chip. It was almost hypnotic. What the heck was Vincent doing? Chuck the nerd thought it very interesting. Chuck the prisoner was afraid. Then, all of a sudden, a short beeping alert signal sounded and on all the screens two words announced "erase complete". Vincent stood up, freed Chuck and shoved him out of the door. "Get moving!"
Easy said! The terrain was wild; full of bushes and stones. Three steps ahead, Chuck stumbled down on his knees.
"Have you never done moving in the dark in your Boy Scout time?!" Again, he was grabbed and pushed along. A second later, a bright explosion lit the surroundings, taking the trailer with it. It awfully looked as if Charles Chuck Bartowski should get a crash course in Boy Scout skills. And Vincent didn't seem to be a particularly patient teacher.
*** Washington – DNI ***
It had been the worst morning after the worst night imaginable for General Beckman. First there had been a major security breach in an ongoing operation in the Middle East, then they had lost contact to a NSA-network and then, on top of all, the intersect had been reported missing. She always thought about it that way. "The intersect", not Charles Bartowski. That made it much easier to deal with possible unpleasant decisions. She couldn't allow any emotions to mix with her work.
Agent Casey had no clue, and agent Walker neither. The intersect's trace was lost shortly after Burbank. Knowing Chuck and his recent actions it maybe was possible he had simply gone to search for Orion himself. But the more logical explanation was that Fulcrum got him. Beckman had no illusions about an untrained civilian resisting torture methods as they were used by Fulcrum. If they couldn't get the intersect back very soon, only one other option remained: terminate him, before the knowledge fell into hostile hands! After making all the necessary arrangements, Beckman called in a team of specialists for emergency briefing. Casey was part of it; she trusted him and his abilities very much. She wasn't so sure concerning that CIA-agent Walker. She seemed somewhat … reluctant in following orders, when it came to the intersect. Still she was part of the emergency team as well, but Beckman had posted Casey as her guardian.
The general inhaled deeply, stood up, adjusted her uniform and headed toward the meeting room in the underground.
*** Somewhere in the United States ***
The room was plunged into darkness and the voice scrambler made it impossible to recognize anyone of the persons in this chamber. But one thing shone through: they were worried.
"Vincent has the asset, and the asset will lead us to Orion." A female voice.
"We can't be sure of that." A male voice.
"Vincent has never failed us. No one ever came that close to Orion."
"He's hiding something." Another male voice.
"I don't care about the skeletons in his closet, as long as he's delivering Orion."
"The project is in a critical phase. We can't afford any deviations."
*** Somewhere in California ***
The loud obnoxious Heavy Metal beats smashed down on the dirty street and the two persons standing there in a corner. The smoke of a cigarette rose into the air, while they spoke with hissed, angry words.
"Idiots, complete idiots! The best hired guns, eh?"
"The bastard was prepared."
"Of course he was! Did you think you would deal with a vegetable from the special care home?! You could've compromised the entire mission!" The cigarette landed on the ground and was stomped out.
"I'll get on his tracks".
"The fuck you'll do!" Given the music, the suppressor wouldn't have been necessary to muffle the sound of the shot. The other man sank backwards, hands pressed against his chest. The killer kicked him down and walked away fast. "I'm doing that myself!" The street lights washed over the hard face of a middle aged woman.