A/N Tip: The nine2five series is a series of separate stories. Each episode will be 4 chapters, and then it will end, so following the story is of limited usefulness. If you want to know when the next chapter comes out (and I hope you do), I would recommend you follow me as the author.
"This was our last hope."
"I need that menu."
"Mr. Volkoff wants to deal with you."
"I can't believe I'm doing this," said Carina to no one.
"You stole that diamond and left your best friend under fire," said Chuck, typing away at his laptop.
She shrugged. Sarah could handle it. She can handle anything.
"You married an arms dealer to get access to his vault," he continued.
Not like I'm ever going to get married for real.
"But a simple midnight flight to Moscow makes you squeamish?"
"It's not the flight that bothers me," she replied. "It's the company. You shouldn't be here."
"I had to be here. It was my phone and my voice. If we're going to learn anything about my mother's connection to Volkoff Industries it has to be me asking the questions."
"I heard you the first time. Why do you think I let you come along?"
"Apparently for the conversation. I'm trying to work here." He tapped some more. "Not to mention that it's my mission," he muttered under his breath.
"On what?" she asked, ignoring the last comment. If she got lucky, his answer just might put her to sleep for the rest of the flight.
"This is Russia, not the Ring. I can't count on their computer equipment being all that modern, so my worms and decrypters have to be much more versatile." He got out his phone and plugged in the cable.
"We're almost on the ground. Did Sarah call back?"
"How should I know?"
By being you. "You can't work your magic on the plane's electronics and see if she replied? She has to be on the ground by now."
"Got better things to do with my phone right now, Red." He started uploading the code.
Sarah was on the ground, and cold.
So was Casey, but he was a bigger man, with a lot more clothing on. Given her position, sitting on a crappy chair, her wrists tied to the arms, she figured that Casey was probably in the same situation. Given that the only warm place on her body was her back, she figured he was sitting behind her, a standard technique to prevent them reassuring each other.
There, to her right, was a table, with their stuff on it, and an armed guard beyond that, muttering into his radio now that they'd moved. Somebody would be coming soon. No knives, no gun, no phone. She didn't know how they were going to get out of this one.
Something shifted at her back, Casey testing his bonds. "Don't know how we're gonna get out of this one," muttered Casey. "Cold and broken-down, has to be Russia. No one's gonna look for us here."
The door opened.
The limo ride was smooth and comfortable. The endless tapping was driving her crazy. That, and the uncertainty. "Any messages?" she asked, when he got out his phone again.
Chuck tapped the screen. "No messages, voice, text, or otherwise."
"That's not right," said Carina with some concern in her voice. "There should have been enough time between her landing and our takeoff to get in touch. I really don't want to step on her toes."
The limo pulled up outside and the doorman was heading for them. "It's my mission," said Chuck. "I'll take the heat. But here, if it'll make you happy…" He started typing rapidly.
When men started doing things to make her happy that she hadn't specifically told them to do, it usually didn't make her happy. "What are you doing?"
"Sending a text."
Sarah's phone chimed, only moments after Volkoff's man had delivered his threat and left them to stew, a classic interrogation technique. He'd focused more on Casey than her, even though she'd been the one to knock him out in Hong Kong. Next time she'd probably be the target, and he'd deliver more than mere threats. Any opportunity to escape had to be seized. She turned her head toward the table, slipping off her shoes.
The guard went to check, popping open apps at random. He found several photos, each of Sarah, each steamier than the last, a collection of unsent mail for her husband. He strolled around in front of her, leering back and forth from the siren on screen to the live agent in her chair. Then he stumbled upon something else, the message that had actually caused the chime.
VI/lap. Me + C 2 rusMsia.
Sarah watched the man's face screw up in confused concentration, his attention momentarily arrested, his eyes not on her. She kicked him and he fell, dropping the phone on the floor.
Casey looked over his shoulder at the lump. "Good job, Bartowski. Can you get the phone, get some backup?"
She could get to it but not pick it up, not with hose covering her feet. She'd have to type with her toes. Not what she usually did with her feet but an agent is nothing if not adaptable.
Carina looked away from the locked door of the server room they'd fetched up in. Orion's codes were still good, but other people could know them, and she hated surprises. Like Chuck saying, 'Let's just run, really fast.' Didn't he know how annoying it was to not be let in on the plan? "Chuck, your phone is ringing."
The servers weren't modern. He didn't look up. "Kind of busy here, Carina. It's your message anyway."
Carina took that as some kind of permission and went to Chuck's coat. The only thing in the inside pocket was the phone (rats!), but there was more than enough on the phone itself to make her inner gossip girl happy for a year. Oh my, Sarah! I have–I have–Goddammit! She finally had a good piece of one-upmanship come her way and she couldn't remember the line! 'Her grasshopper was ready to fly', or something like that, but grasshoppers don't fly, do they?
"Enough with the toes." Marco picked her lifeline up and looked at the screen, checking her messages sent and received. He liked pretty girls as much as the next man but pretty girls sending coded messages in his boss' factory he didn't like so much. He pulled his gun, a big semiautomatic that looked small in his hands, and pointed it at her. "I would love to put bullets in both your heads."
Marco wasn't pointing a weapon at him, so he had to be pointing it at Sarah. "Don't jabber, just do it," said Casey, drawing the big Russian's attention to himself.
Marco obliged him, stepping forward into his field of view and taking aim, smiling. Then he lowered his weapon, still smiling. "The problem is you aren't the agents I'm looking for."
"We can go about our business," thought Sarah, real hard. Marco kept talking. No bedbug mind powers for her. Then she focused on what he was actually saying. CIA agents? Closer than anyone? What were they, chopped liver?
"They're ghosts," said the Russian, pulling some photos from an envelope. "We only catch them at their embassies, brazenly entering like normal people, the last place anyone would look for a real spy." Sarah began to get a bad feeling. "They discovered our Greenland operation, forcing us to evacuate, and I didn't even know we had a Greenland operation! Who are these master spies?" He flipped the photo over, watching their faces for any betraying reaction.
Sarah and Casey stared at the picture with complete bewilderment. 'What has Carina done with her hair?' thought Sarah. 'Sunglasses?' thought Casey, 'In Finland?'
She almost didn't notice the actual message. It made her eyes cross, and not in a good way. Stood/VI/lap. SOS Me + C mosRcow VI SB4.
"Um, Chuck, you got a minute?"
Chuck stood back and watched the monitor as the progress bar crawled across it. "Yeah. My program will decrypt my mother's file but it'll take a while."
"Good. I think this message is for you…"
"Sorry," said Sarah.
"Can't help you," added Casey.
Marco's radio crackled. "Boss, the Americans are in the building!" He smirked at his prisoners. "Well, it seems they are here to help you. Their first mistake. I will make it their last."
"Carina, this way!" Chuck ran for the stairwell, Carina hard on his heels. Down below they found a sea of pistols pointed at them, and backed away. They turned, to find a similar array clustered behind them. "Go ahead, Chuck," murmured Carina, gesturing at the crowd.
"What?" Chuck's voice went up a notch. "What do you mean, 'go ahead'? Aren't you the agent here?"
"Oh, suddenly it's my mission now?" Carina lowered her hands, ignoring their captors to snarl at her partner. "After you drag me along with your whole 'don't worry, I have a plan' routine?" She flung her hands into the air. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this a second time."
Chuck gestured at the sea of scowls around them. "What, did you think they were just gonna let us waltz in and out like the wind?"
"Yes!" said Carina, nodding spasmodically. "I thought that was your whole damn plan!"
Marco let the whole argument play out. "Wow," he said, during an intermission. "I don't even need this radio." He held it out to Sarah. "Anything you want to say to your friends? I'll completely understand if you say no."
Sarah raised her voice. "Chuck, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be safe in DC."
"You're supposed to be in Venezuela," said the radio in Chuck's angry voice. "Looks like we were both wrong."
"Chuck, get out!" she yelled desperately. "Don't try to save us."
Marco pulled his hand back. "They couldn't anyway." Ignoring her pleas, he held the radio to his mouth and ordered his men to "Kill them."
The clatter of gunfire and screams of pain brought silence to the room.
Marco watched his prisoners' faces change, especially hers, and knew he had to act fast. If they ever got free he and all of his were dead men, even though they had both the numbers and the weapons. His mouth was saying something but he couldn't hear his own words, lost in the blue seas of rage that were her eyes. He clung to her partner's threat like a lifeline. "Somebody shoot this guy."
"You lied," said Carina.
"I did not," said Chuck, cut to the quick by her words. "I'll have you know I'm constitutionally incapable of lying. Sarah loves that about me."
"You said the fifty thousand on the right were mine!"
"They were!" Chuck raised his hand, three fingers up. "I just did a quick count and saw fifty thousand and one, and the one was about to cut you in half with a well-placed burst of automatic fire."
She blew a hair from in front of her face. "Okay, I forgive you."
"Thanks," he said, picking up a radio. "Hello?"
"Who is this?" It didn't sound like any of his men. It sounded like the guy from before, but that was imposs–
"You clearly have no idea who I am," came the man's calm voice. Marco could imagine the sneering smile that had to be spreading over the big man's face, even as he was tied to a chair and staring down a barrel. He didn't have to imagine the look spreading over this Sarah's face, not a better one from his point of view, just…different.
"If I were you I'd start running," said the big guy.
"Did I sound scary?" asked Chuck, his finger carefully off the transmit button.
"'What I just did to your men'?" said Carina. "What am I, your cheering section?"
Chuck threw the radio away. "I meant to say 'we', it just came out 'I'. Come on."
Marco ran. To the base of the stairs, his crew in tow. He'd have to come through here to get to this level, and they'd be ready.
"I'm waiting, mystery man." He didn't like to wait.
Chuck didn't land silently, like a cat. Not in those shoes. But he did land on top of Marco's goon, so the silent part didn't matter so much.
Carina landed like a cat, silent and deadly, but since everyone was already talking about missions and mothers, no one noticed. Typical. "Hey John," she said, giving him the finger. "How about I untie you this time?"
"Sounds good," he said, glad to see she had her FRODO with her, as usual. "I've got me some Russians to kill."
The chairs were empty, the ropes cut, the gear gone. Nonetheless, Marco smiled. He went to a secure terminal, entered his code, and initiated a command sequence. The entire building was a trap, totally automated, with its security system activated. It would gun down anything that didn't have a special ID tag, like he and his men did. He had only one thing left to do. Walk slowly to the server room, the only unarmed room, listening for screams and gunfire along the way.
"We're sitting ducks in here," said Casey.
Sarah started slamming open doors, looking for any advantage the room could give them. "Look!" She pulled a familiar case from a storage closet.
"Sarah, don't!" yelled Chuck as he turned from his monitor.
"Chuck, they're on their way," she pointed out, holding the EMP device in her hand. "What good will that file do any of us if we're dead?"
Chuck nodded. "Nothing," he agreed. "But setting off an EMP device in the middle of the capital city of a nuclear nation isn't the answer." Unless it was to one of Volkoff's questions. Chuck turned back to his laptop. "Sorry, Mom," he said, cancelling the upload with minutes to go, minutes they didn't have. "That guy just told the Piranha that he and his friends were in an automated building."
An automated building with an automated suicide switch. It didn't suicide at his first hack but at his last. The lights went out as the building powered down, but they could see pretty well when the servers caught fire.
"Time to go," said Casey, leading the way with Comrade Carina on one side and Comrade AK-47 on the other.
Sarah was at his back, pulling Chuck away from everything he might ever know about his mother, more interested in protecting his future than his past. Chuck had made the mistake of looking at the fire, and was blind in the dark. Casey had to provide lots of muzzle-flashes to let him see his way, but the big guy didn't seem to mind that a bit.
"Where's the getaway car?" said Sarah when they made it outside, freezing already.
"There!" Chuck pointed.
She watched as a broken-down bus pulled up outside. "A bus?"
"No." The bus pulled away, revealing the limo waiting just where they'd told him to wait. Chuck rubbed his hands together, not in triumph but because he was cold. "I had to pay him a lot to drive us here, but I promised him double to drive us away."
"Taxpayer money, Bartowski," said Casey, trying to find a place to hide his weapon and not doing a good job of it.
Chuck took off his coat and threw it around Sarah's shoulders. "Cheaper than training your replacement, Colonel."
Casey's you-got-me-there grunt was barely audible.
"Ellie, you're back!"
"Yes," she said, stretching, "He almost broke it."
Two sets of hands flew to cover ears, while Casey turned right around. "TMI!" yelled Chuck.
"Tell me more," urged Carina, who could always stand to hear more.
Ellie obliged. "I'm pregnant."
One set of hands flew to cover ears as two others dropped in shock. "You're what?"
"Birds and bees, little brother, I know you know, since I had to tell you."
"You also taught him Hawaii was a state, and look how well that turned out."
"Sarah!" said Chuck, turning red. She'd milk that one for years. He gave his sister a gentle hug, not sure how hard to squeeze. "How long are you back for, sis?"
Ellie sat gratefully in her chair. "For good, Chuck. The boxes are scanned and repacked, the basement locked up tight. Everything important is digitized and safe. We left the equipment where it was, a lot of junk, if you ask me."
"I'll have to go out there soon and look it over."
"Whatever." Ellie didn't care at all. "Mom?"
"Tracked her to Russia, and her trail went cold. And in Russia, 'going cold' means something!" He shuddered.
"So she's dead?"
"We don't know," said Sarah. "This was all I could find in our deep databases." She passed over a sheet of paper, heavily blacked out. "Look at the bottom."
Ellie looked. "Captured?" She looked up. "She could still be alive?"
Chuck didn't want to lie to her, so he didn't say anything. Just nodded. Maybe. Ellie stood and pressed the paper against his chest. He raised a hand to hold it and she walked away. He gave Sarah a look that she returned in kind. His mission was over. So was hers. Their mission had just begun.
She sat at the table, just one woman, surrounded by three tall men, poised to intimidate.
"You brought me here why?" She didn't sound intimidated.
"Someone is looking for you." He didn't sound threatening.
"A 'Mr. Charles.'"
If she recognized the name she didn't show it. She looked around, taking in the bare room and the dead hulk of a building it was in. Under. "Have you told Volkoff?"
She smiled. Of course not. No one would. Suddenly she stood, slamming the chair into the belly of the man behind her. She turned, drew his gun, and shot all three men in the room without turning completely around. She put on her coat and went to leave.
Marco still lived. "Please. I have…family."
She shrugged. "So do I."
"I had orders."
"You had my orders, not to harm or interfere with this man in any way."
"Why?" he whispered.
She raised her pistol, not a cruel woman. Right before she fired, she said, "Nobody kills him but me."
A/N2 So what do you think? Too dark? I'm trying to keep the story consistent, coherent, and logical, so Mary Bartowski may not be the woman she was in canon. I'll try to keep her in character as much as I can. My great thanks to the folks on the Chuck This Blog, who are even now discussing this season and giving me all sorts of ideas. Thanks also to those of you who've read and commented so far.