Chuck vs. The Epilog part 2
(Being another fanfic to resolve the unresolved issues from the finale to Chuck. Six months after the Goodbye, Chuck flashes an impossible flash, and discovers something that could save Sarah Bartowski’s memories, before Sarah Walker leaves him forever!)
Chuck vs. The Intersect
“My sister’s a spy?”
Ellie whacked him in the arm. “No, silly. The CIA isn’t just spies. Someone has to make all the gadgets and stuff.”
He rubbed the spot. “So you’re Q?”
“No. I’m your general’s intersect team.” She held a finger up to her lips. “Otherwise I work in Chicago under a research fellowship.”
“You’re the best man she said she was sending?”
Ellie nodded. “Fortunately Sarah’d already called, made a nice cover story, don’t you think?”
He nodded, smiled. “Yeah. Especially from Sarah.”
She nodded, then stopped smiling, all business. “We need to get to your base, are there any entrances around here?”
“No, we blocked them all off when we sold the place. We’ll have to go home, first, drop off the chair, otherwise she’ll get suspicious. We can always say we’re going out for a catch-up, she’ll understand that.”
Ellie waved her hands in surrender. “Okay, I’ll let you handle the spy stuff. I never was good at lying.”
Chuck looked up as his sister started removing the contacts from around his head. “That was fast.”
“Chuck, I’ve been working with this program for the last six months. There’s no one who knows more about it than me except possibly Dad, and he’s probably dead.”
“Probably? Ellie, we both saw him shot in cold blood.”
“Outside a resurrection chamber. I won’t count him as dead until I perform the autopsy. Anyway. As far as I know, aside from the one in your head, I have the only pristine copy of the Intersect left in the world.” She moved the screen aside, and raised the chair.
“Which you said was destroyed. For someone who’s terrible at lying you sure hit one out of the park your first time at bat!”
“I didn’t lie, Chuck. You asked General Beckman, she lied, and then I didn’t disagree with her.”
“Which means she wanted you to have it. Why?”
The screen lit up behind him, General Beckman staring down. “Because your sister was and is the only person in the world I could trust to make sure it never got used again. Every time the Intersect gets loose in the world it always comes around to you, and no one’s more devoted to protecting you and your family than she is. Continue, Dr. Bartowski.”
“Chuck, General, as my mother said, the Intersect was originally designed as a learning tool. I’ve examined it from that perspective, and I now believe the malfunctions seen six months ago and Chuck’s experience yesterday are symptoms of this origin.”
Chack raised his hand. “How does erasing memories fit in with a learning tool?”
“Because learning is a very slow process. Experience is fast. Memory is fast. Integrating the two is the bottleneck. By removing the memory, the insertion of the new data proceeds immediately. The problem is putting the old memories back again.”
He raised his eyebrows. “So they’re stored?”
“Yes. Like a zip file, they’re compressed, only it’s supposed to be temporary. Unfortunately my father was a computer scientist and engineer, not a neuroscientist. My supposition is that the program given to Morgan and Sarah was corrupted, and the code that restored the memories failed.. I’ll never really know.”
Beckman frowned. “I wanted to get her a copy of the corrupted version at DARPA but somebody destroyed it first.”
Chuck smiled weakly. Not his hand, but his virus. “So…we know what happened to Sarah and Morgan. How does this explain what happened to me?”
“Okay, this is pure conjecture on my part, but it fits what I know of the code, and the scans I just did of your brain function support it. I’m thinking that the DARPA team was trying to make an Intersect that didn’t need updates. It would load its own data from the user’s environment, tailored to his needs.”
“So this Intersect, in me, was picking up all that financial data I’d been researching, and then spontaneously dumped it during my hack?”
“Exactly. But your version has the key so the memory decompression didn’t fail.”
“Still hurts like hell.”
“That’s the image encoding. I guess they never got that far.”
“Or maybe it was just that I was only looking at numbers?”
“Possible. If you’d been walking down a street in Jakarta you may have had better images to work with. We’ll know the next time you flash on something newer than your last update.”
Beckman cleared her throat. “A problem for another time. Chuck, in light of this new information, I’ll authorize a payment for your work, and see about drawing up a new contract for Carmichael Industries. Is that all, Doctor?”
“These memories, the old ones. You say they’re compressed?” Ellie nodded. “Can they be restored?”
Ellie paled. “Sarah and Morgan?”
Beckman leaned forward, her face filling the screen. “Can it be done, Doctor?”
“Hey!” Sarah looked past him, confused. “Where’s Ellie?”
“Castle,” he said. “Emergency conference call.”
“Oh. Will she be home for dinner?”
“I hope so. Chicken Pepperoni good for tonight?”
Sarah put on her smile, the fake one. “Sure.”
“He’s here, General.”
Chuck took the stairs two at a time. “What have you got for me? Sis, we haven’t got a lot of time, Sarah’s expecting us back for dinner soon, and chicken pepperoni doesn’t take long to make.”
“You made that? Chuck…”
He tapped his watch. “Briefing.”
“Right.” She took a deep breath. “There does appear to be a way to reverse the effects of the Intersect. The compression modules are separate from the download module, and always have been. It appears that what happened is that the new version changes those files. As a result the compressed files got lost to the decompressor, and are never uncompressed. Even if we reloaded the same version of the Intersect into them those memories would stay lost.”
“And the fix is…?”
“There’s a device, it removes the intersect from people. When this device is used, the decompression module is supposed to decompress any compressed modules before it deletes, but it looks like the changes that were made to the intersect weren’t carried through. If we can modify one of these devices to match the new intersect version, upload the intersect and then remove it, the memories should decompress automatically.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, time out. Upload?”
“Can’t remove what isn’t there.”
“Can you modify this code?”
“Chuck, I am dreaming in this code, okay. For Sarah, and for Morgan, I’ll do whatever I have to do.”
“Okay, we have a plan!”
“Bartowskis.” Beckman looked less enthusiastic. “We have no suppressors available. We checked after the DARPA break-in. Quinn seems to have destroyed them all.”
“That makes no sense.”Ellie was glad of this new puzzle, it kept her mind off her brother’s driving as he raced home.
“It makes perfect sense, Sis. Quinn was a rogue who wanted the Intersect for himself. If he got it he’d want to make damn sure no one could take it away from him.”
“Make up your mind, Chuck. He’s either a master manipulator or a mad scientist, which is it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Only mad scientists test the only sample of something experimental on themselves without some way to fix it if something goes wrong.”
“You’re saying he’d want to have a cure.” One copy. Somewhere.
“If he’s the brilliant rogue you say he is, I’d bet on it.”
“We have to find it.” He pulled out his phone, pressed speed-dial. “Morgan, I need to talk to Alex…”
The phone rang, as Chuck was stacking the dishes from dinner. He looked at the display. “Hey, buddy, what’s up? Oh. Right, I was going to–yes, look, Ellie came out and–”
Ellie picked up her cue. “What’s the matter, Chuck?”
“Hold on a sec, Morgan.” He put his hand on the pickup. “I told him I’d help him with his new strategies for the Call of Duty tournament. I didn’t know you’d be here, though. I’ll just–” He waved his hand dismissively.
Ellie put out a hand to stop the gesture. “Don’t do that. You boys go do your thing, it’ll give Sarah and me a chance to catch up. Have an intelligent conversation for once.”
Not in the script but Chuck let it pass. He turned to his wife. “Are you sure–”
Sarah waved her own hand. “You had her all afternoon, Chuck. It’s my turn.”
“Okay, call me if you need anything.”
Morgan opened the door before he could knock.
“Are they here yet?”
In answer his friend simply cleared his throat and jerked his head. They went into the living room, where John Casey and Gertrude Verbanski were having lemonade with Alex. “John, Gertrude, thanks for coming–”
Casey stood. “Grimes said you had a plan for fixing whatever’s wrong with Agent Walker. Spill it, Bartowski.” Yeah, they were in.
Chuck spilled. “Quinn had a safe house in the city, where he made the bomb. He probably planned to go back there to upload the intersect and test it. I have to go check it out and I can’t take Sarah.”
Casey grunted an affirmative. “It’s a starting point at least.”
Chuck nodded a belated greeting to Alex, whose primary job tonight would be to keep Morgan from climbing the walls. “Morgan, if we get lucky, we’ll be back soon. If not–”
“You’ll be back later.”
Casey was unimpressed. “Shaw may have been a psychotic murderer, but at least he had style.”
Chuck had to agree. Shaw’s refuge had been a full apartment, with clothes, food, a government-installed safe, and a copy of the Kama Sutra. Quinn’s safehouse was just a hole. A bare mattress, an empty closet, debris from the bomb he’d put in the theater. “Look at the bright side, not many places to search.”
Casey gestured with his flashlight. “You start with the trash. We’ll sweep for traps.”
Chuck examined the trashcan carefully, not because he thought it was booby-trapped but because he wanted something to focus on other than Casey and Verbanski and their bomb-squad foreplay. Did he and Sarah sound like that? He tipped the can over and scattered the contents and gave them a quick scan. “Guys! Guys, I flashed.”
“Good,” said Verbanski. “There’s nothing else here.”
Casey took the little slip of paper from Chuck’s hand. “Looks like a ticket stub.”
Chuck took it back. “It is. How long has it been since you two crazy kids went to the drive-in?”
“Now we know why Quinn needed that chopper.”
Chuck could barely hear him over the wind and the noise, but he caught the gist. Yeah, the same reason we do. Barstow was no easy commute, but General Beckman gave them her best.
“How do we know this is the right place?”
“You know any other drive-in theaters with hidden Fulcrum bases under them?”
“Probably booby-trapped all to hell and gone.” Verbanski sounded like she was looking forward to it.
Casey shook his head. “I called in an air strike on it. Probably too unstable for that. I’d want to be able to clear out in a hurry.”
Gertrude gave him a look that made Chuck turn his head away. “Look!” He pointed. “Is that a car?”
Casey checked with his scope. “Yeah. Probably an entrance around that way too.” The pilot made a quick pass and they spotted the entrance, a small structure, easily. With no place to set down nearby they dropped from lines.
“Lead on, Macduff,” said Casey.
“That’s ‘Lay on, Macduff’,” said Chuck. “Honestly, no one gets that one right.”
“Ro-MEE-o, Ro-MAY-o,” snarled Casey, “Get a move on, Fearless Leader.”
“Wow. A Shakespeare pun, from you, Casey? I’m impressed.” Chuck looked around. “Okay, first stop, ticket booth.”
“Why the ticket booth?” asked Verbanski.
Chuck flourished the stub. “Ticket.”
The booth was empty.
“Now what, genius?”
Chuck scrutinized the booth. It looked like all the other ticket booths he’d ever seen, except… why was the microphone pointed outward? He stepped forward, tapped the head. Casey and Verbanski flinched, and he froze.
“Chuck! You’ve been targeted! Say something, quick!”
What do you say to an empty ticket booth in a bombed-out movie theater? “Uh…three, please.”
For a second nothing happened, and Chuck closed his eyes, anticipating a hail of bullets, or lasers, or whatever it was that Fulcrum used. He heard a noise, like machine-gun fire in the distance. Funny. He’d expected being shot to hurt.
“Take the tickets, Chuck.”
He opened his eyes. Three tickets lay on the counter. “Ha!” When he pulled the strip from the slot, a door opened in the back of the booth. Fingers trembling, he tore off two and handed them to his comrades.
“I’ll go first,” said Casey, “That car’s engine was warm.”
Door led to stairs, stairs led down. At the bottom was a slot, set in a recess. Casey looked unhappy, but stuck the ticket in the slot. “Ow!”
“What happened?” asked Gertrude.
“Burned me. I’ve got a barcode on the back of my hand!” He dropped the stub in disgust.
“No, Casey, keep it.” Chuck picked the scrap off the floor and put it in Casey’s hand.
Why? “Because the other guy did.”
The door opened, and Casey stepped through. It snapped shut behind him. ‘Admit one.’
When Chuck and Gertrude came through, Casey pointed at the side of the door. “Good instincts, Chuck.” On the other side was another scanner, and a slot for the second half of the ticket.
All the doors had scanners. One of them had a dead body. Chuck didn’t flash on his face.
“Probably Quinn’s Fulcrum contact,” said Casey. “Came down here after Quinn failed, to see what he left behind.”
“Found more than he bargained for,” added Gertrude. They both shrugged. “One less booby-trap for us to disarm.” They left the body where it was, a doorstop.
The outer room was bare of anything except a cheap chair and a cheaper desk. Even the bulb was bare. The inner room had carpeting, a much better desk, a leather chair, a box of cigars, several pairs of sunglasses on a shelf in the back, and a flashing red light on the phone. “Jackpot,” said Chuck.
“Deathtrap,” said Casey and Verbanski together.
Casey smiled at Gertrude. “You take it.”
She smiled back, then pointed with the gun at Chuck’s feet. “Tripwire at the door, cable runs up the jamb to the ceiling. Probably a deadfall, since the room’s ready to cave in anyway.”
“What about the light?” Chuck pointed at the phone.
“Might be a phone call. Might also mean the trap’s armed, numb-nuts.”
“So that means we can disarm it.”
Casey shook his head. “Why bother? He’s not going in there to do his business. That room’s for people like you to stumble into.”
Casey turned back to the modest outer office. “Here. Plain sight, oldest trick in the book, because it usually works.” Skipping the drawers entirely, he reached under the desk, felt around. “Uh-huh.”
Chuck took the package. “And what if you’d been wrong?”
“Taped up inside the drawers, or in back of one, would’ve been my next guess,” said Gertrude.
“Thank God for Recon.”
The package held two panels, but only one looked like a suppressor. Casey held up the other one. “What’s this for?”
Chuck winced in pain. “Ahh! Oh, that hurts!” Hands clutching his temples, he reeled back from the desk.
Too late. Chuck stumbled into the chair, and sent it rolling through the doorway into the inner office. It was a deadfall, as Verbanski had predicted.
Unfortunately, what Casey predicted came true as well. All around them the ground started to rumble, a sound anyone who lived in an earthquake zone would recognize. “It’s unstable! Let’s get out of here. Now!” He grabbed the wavering Chuck by one arm as Gertrude scooped up the panels.
Getting out was a lot easier than getting in, since Quinn hadn’t wanted to get trapped in a cave-in either, and had gimmicked the exit scanner. The helicopter got off the ground just before the whole area collapsed, and they flashed their lights for pickup.
“Alright, Chuck, what the hell was that all about?” Maybe Casey was shouting at him just to be heard. Or maybe not.
“That card. It made me flash, but there was nothing there to flash on.”
“I don’t get it, why would Quinn want that?” He looked over to Gertrude, but she had no experience with Intersect strangeness, and he once again missed his former partner. They’d have to wait until they got back. Ellie would know.
“You guys wouldn’t happen to have any Advil, would you? Nuprin, maybe?”
“Morgan? We’re back.”
Strangely, neither Morgan nor Alex came to the door to greet them, even though Chuck had phoned from the air to let them know they were returning. He hoped they weren’t practicing their tango. That could get a little embarrassing.
“We’re in here, sweetie.”