CHUCK VERSUS ROUTE 66—PART ONE (Chuck 6-05)

Sequel to "Chuck Versus The Amber Alert" (you might want to read that first if you haven't), and the fifth episode of an imaginary sixth season of Chuck.

Chuck and Sarah take a road trip from L.A. to Chicago to see Ellie, Awesome, and family—and intrigue, adventure, and romance ride along with them…as always. Back home, Casey reappears, with a problem for Morgan and Alex. Inspired by the unique early-1960s TV series Route 66. (There are a handful of Route 66 stories in the FF archive. This story will be very different from those.)

Disclaimer: I certainly do not own the unique late 2000s-early 2010s TV series Chuck or any of its characteristic characters…but where is Chuck now anyway, other than in the hearts of its fans?

I am happy and grateful to hear from my readers at any time!


"Hi—I'm Chuck! Here are a few things you might need to know, or maybe just forgot…."

(Flashback to Chuck and Sarah kissing on the beach at Malibu…she lovingly tells him, "I want this, Chuck. I want to be with you.")

(Flashback to Ellie in Las Vegas, reconciled with Sarah, and asking of her, "One thing you do have to promise me…Come to Chicago…for a few routine tests. I'd like to be able to give you a clean bill of health once and for all.")

(Flashback to Chuck viewing the Key—his father's last invention—with awe, as his mother Mary insists, "The future of the Intersect must remain the charge of our family.")

(Flashback to Professor Fleming counseling his former student, CIA agent Juanita Saldana, after the Deep Skillet affair: "Wait and watch…I think we should give him some rope—and if he shows any signs of imminent success, then we reel him right back in.")

(Flashback to Ellie teleconferencing with Chuck in Castle: "My new neuroengineering lab is almost completely set up…how soon can I have those Keys?"…and Chuck replying, "Just a few more days…Sarah and I are planning to take a road trip!")


PROLOGUE

A Saturday afternoon in May 1997, at a high-end used-car dealership in Los Angeles

Con-man Jack Burton, looking like every dime of a million bucks in a perfectly tailored suit and diamond Rolex, runs his fingers admiringly and knowingly over the sleek sapphire-blue finish of a mint 1962 Chevy Corvette convertible.

"My goodness," he tells the salesman with a delighted smile, "this baby's so beautiful! I know I've seen one of these before—exact same color, same year—can't place it though…maybe on TV…?"

The salesman laughs. "I guess we're both old enough to remember. 'Route 66'…that old series from the sixties? George Maharis? Marty Milner? They drove a blue '62 Vette that was exactly like this one. Great theme song. Bet you're thinking of that, aren't you…?"

"Riiight!" Jack slaps him on the back. "Well that makes it even better! But how's she perform? Out on the open road I mean?"

The salesman jangles a set of keys. "There's only one good way to find out."

"Just what I was hoping to hear," replies Jack. "I assume you'll want to see my driver's license."

"Yes," says the salesman, looking embarrassed, "and I'm afraid you'll have to leave a credit card too. I'm sorry, it's company policy—"

"No problem," Jack coolly assures him, and produces a thick black leather wallet. He thumbs through the cards inside, slips two out, and proffers them to the dealer, who studies them for a moment. Both the California driver's license and the triple-platinum credit card identify their bearer as Curtis Van Dort.

"Very good, Mr. Van Dort," the dealer says eagerly—scenting a big sale. He hands over the driver's license and the keys. "Now you be sure and take her out on the freeway—you'll absolutely fall in love with her acceleration and handling."

Jack smiles Cheshire-cat wide. "I'll definitely be sure to do that."

(Music: "Run, Baby, Run," by Sheryl Crow)

Several blocks away, a lanky teenage girl in blonde bangs, braces, and jeans sits sullenly on a bench, in a pocket park in a quiet neighborhood. She has her knees drawn up close to her chest and her arms wrapped around her long skinny legs. She's listening to a portable cassette player through headphones. A grey duffel bag is close by her side.

When Jack pulls up on the street in front of her in the blue Corvette, lightly tooting its horn and waving at her, she does a stunned double-take—but then immediately reverts to form, rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically.

"Told ya I'd get us back to San Diego in time!" he exclaims as he leaps out of the driver's seat and runs over to the bench where she sits. "And you wanna talk about style! Quick, darlin'—the license plate—and lend me your knife, would y'please?"

The blonde teenager slips her headphones down to her neck, and unhurriedly reaches into the duffel bag. She removes a maroon-and-white Arizona license plate, then extracts a folding knife from her jeans pocket, and hands them both to Jack.

He scans the surroundings to make sure that nobody is watching, then crouches down behind the Corvette and gets to work unfastening the California dealer plate with the blade of the knife.

Suddenly irritated, the girl jumps up from the park bench and puts her hands on her hips.

"Daaad…you're not supposed to do that with a knife!"

"It's okay, darlin'. I'll be careful." Jack replaces the rear dealer plate with the Arizona plate, then quickly moves to the front of the car to remove the second dealer plate.

"See—done already!" He drops the California plates into a storm-sewer grating in the curb, then folds the knife closed and gives it back to his daughter.

"Grab your things and let's go!" he instructs her. "Oh—and darlin'…?"

He jangles the keys.

"You can drive."

She softly gasps and her jaw drops. Her eyes gleam as she reaches out to touch the mirror-bright finish….

(Music: "Run, Baby, Run," by Sheryl Crow…echoes away in a flash forward to…)


A Saturday afternoon in May 2012, at a luxury rental-car dealership in Los Angeles

and the face of that awed teenage girl reflects back at her….

Momentarily lost in reverie, Sarah runs her fingers over the flawless finish of a 1962 Corvette convertible in sapphire blue. Nearby, Chuck had been eyeing a sunset-orange Ford Mustang Cobra, but one look at his wife tells him that the selection of their ride is over and done with. He smiles and waves to the rental agent.

"Ahh! Great choice!" pipes the agent. "That Vette is a fifty-year-old classic! And it's a resto-mod—that means that the look is all 1962, but under the hood and where the rubber meets the road, it's completely up to date."

"Great," says Chuck. "Gotta figure that it's getting pretty tough to find 1962 parts."

"Well sure," counters the rental agent, "but that doesn't really matter because for a nominal surcharge, you can get full road service and repair coverage anywhere you go. And…umm…where are you planning to go…if I may ask?"

"Chicago," Sarah replies, still gazing dreamily at the blue Corvette.

"Assuming it's possible to arrange a one-way rental?" Chuck asks.

"Of course…of course," the agent effuses. "Just a matter of another nominal fee." Chuck and Sarah look resignedly at each other: both of them envisioning dollar signs materializing behind the man's dark sunglasses, where his eyes had been.

The agent takes an iPad and stylus in hand and begins to draft the rental agreement.

"L.A. to Chicago, huh?" he asks. "So you could travel old U.S. Route 66. And nothing could be more perfect for that than a '62 Corvette convertible."

"What do you mean?" asks Sarah, joining Chuck as he walks slowly around the car, examining it for any scratches or dents.

"There was an old, old black-and-white TV show about two guys traveling 66 in a Vette a lot like this one, and getting into all kinds of exciting adventures. Dunno if you ever saw it, but I bet it's on Netflix."

"Well…we're certainly looking forward to a fun drive," notes Chuck, "but hopefully a touch lighter on the excitement."

"You never know," says the agent with a conspiratorial smile. "This particular blue Vette's already got quite a few interesting little tales tied to it. It's even been stolen—at least once—so I've been told."

Sarah gulps—though quietly enough that only Chuck hears her. When he responds with a mystified look, she mouths I'll explain later. Chuck nods and raps gently on the trunk lid.

"D'ya think it's got enough room in the trunk for our junk?"

"We won't need that much room, sweetie." Sarah takes his hand and turns toward the rental agent. "We're traveling light. Just like spies!"

"Didn't think spies traveled much by car these days," the rental agent replies, turning back to his iPad. "It's all done with satellites and drones now, I hear."

"Well, call us retro then," says Chuck.

"Or maybe resto-mod," Sarah suggests, and playfully shoulder-bumps her man.


Later that afternoon, at the Bartowskis' home

"I'm all set, babe. And look—ta-daaa!"

Chuck gestures proudly toward the open suitcase atop their brass bed. His clothes and toiletries take up less than half the space inside. Sarah—carrying her own comparably compact stack of folded dresses, blouses, slacks, and lingerie—tucks it in alongside his stuff and nods approvingly.

"That's packing light all right," she remarks. "Excellent tradecraft."

"Just like you taught me."

Sarah reflects for a moment. "Must've been Paris—going AWOL together—wasn't it?"

"Exactly!" They beam at each other, thrilled by Sarah's impromptu recollection. She moves in for a celebratory kiss, and Chuck takes her in his arms.

"Then there was the mission in Milan," he continues. "You showed me how to get full stealth outfits and formal wear for both of us into a carry-on."

Sarah looks up at him. "I don't remember that one," she murmurs.

"Not even the part when you rescued me from that nude gun-toting supermodel?"

Sarah snorts a laugh into his chest. "Okay. Now I remember. Not sure we really needed to revisit that." She nestles close to him for a little while longer, listening to his heartbeat. Eventually, she eases away to fetch her own toiletry bag, set it in their suitcase, and close it up.

"That's that. Now how about the package?"

"Ready to travel." Chuck takes a smaller, impact-resistant case off their dresser, opens it to inspect the five Keys within one more time, then closes it and activates both of its heavy-duty digital combination locks.

He hands that case to Sarah and picks the suitcase up off the bed. The two of them go downstairs and out to the rented blue Corvette parked in their driveway. Sarah pops the trunk and stands aside to let Chuck stow the suitcase first. Then she leans over with the smaller case….


The view of the case in Sarah's hands suddenly morphs to a transmitted image of the same view—displayed on the screen of an iPad in the hands of a woman spying on Chuck and Sarah from another location. All we see of her are slender, dusky fingers and cinnamon-red-painted, precisely trimmed fingernails.

One of those fingers softly, confidently taps on the frame of the iPad as the screen shows Sarah lowering the case into the trunk of the Corvette and closing the lid.

"Eso es perfecto," the woman says to herself.


Chuck holds the driver's side door open for his wife before climbing into the shotgun seat beside her. As methodically as if they had rehearsed it, Sarah and Chuck smooch—then fist-bump each other—then don brand-new pairs of sunglasses, before Sarah gracefully backs the Corvette out of the driveway.

"You think this is the same car?" Chuck asks her.

She replies with a shrug. "Not sure yet. I have to get it out on the highway first."

Chuck grins and squeezes Sarah's knee. "Kinda fun to think that it could be, isn't it?"

"Exactly."

They cruise away from their peaceful neighborhood, headed for the open road to points east….

(And the opening credits roll—but this time, the titles scroll over a scene of Sarah and Chuck in the Corvette, blazing across the wide expanse of California's Mojave Desert on an otherwise deserted two-lane stretch of old U.S. 66, with the setting sun at their back, to the jaunty accompaniment of the "Route 66 Theme" by Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra.)