Morgan dove into preparation mode with zeal. In a way, he'd been groomed for this kind of work his entire life, planning quests for D&D, mapping out elaborate attack strategies on butcher paper for Call of Duty, and helping Chuck with off-the-record missions like finding his mom and proposing to Sarah. Chuck had assumed at first that Beckman invited Morgan mainly to be his babysitter (because of his admittedly fragile emotional state) and Chuck had welcomed him in that role, but that was selling his best friend short. The bearded one was truly gifted at this.
Chuck opened Beckman's email and pored over all the satellite and infra-red images of the bunker. He flashed on something about the shape and got the name of the manufacturer, which led him to the website where they had kindly uploaded various floor plans for perspective buyers. Cross-referencing the photos with the floor plans, he got a match and sent it to the printer, then he sent copies to Mom's and Sarah's phones. It was always nice to have a floor plan when you entered a building.
He had just finished spreading the blown-up version of the blueprint out over the conference table when his phone finally rang. Ellie's picture came up. He turned away to take the call.
"I got Mom and Sarah dropped off at the airport. How are you holding up?"
"Me? I'm sitting around doing nothing except when I can make myself useful at the Buy More. How are Devon and Clara?"
She sighed. "I hardly see Devon anymore. He's always at the hospital. But don't change the subject. How are you?"
"I haven't touched a cheese ball and I shaved this morning."
"Good. Don't give up. I just got started. In fact, one of the reasons I called was to tell you I'm flying back to L.A. tonight on the redeye."
"What? Ellie, you can't leave your new job and your family."
"I quit Carlos Shuman this morning. They didn't even ask why. DARPA is paying me almost as much to head up the Intersect Project, and I can do most of the work from home as long as I store all the data on secure government servers. They took Dad's hard drive to a secure building so there's nothing dangerous in my house. I can be with Clara more this way, which I need because we haven't been able to find a nanny yet." There was a touch of resentment in her tone, like maybe she thought Devon wasn't doing enough as father.
"If Devon's busy and you don't have a nanny, how in the world can you come to Los Angeles?"
"I'm bringing Clara with me. Babies are portable like that." He could hear the smirk in her voice.
"Well, you know I miss you, sis, but please tell me you're not doing this because you feel like you have to take care of your little brother. I am all grown up, you know."
She scoffed. "Chuck, you're doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. This is a business trip. Dr. Dreyfus has some things I need to see in person and I need to run some tests on you."
"T-tests? On me?"
"Yes. I ran tons of tests on Morgan while you were in Japan, but he had already been de-Intersected. I need to get some baseline data for how the brain is different when an Intersect is present and working. The only data the CIA has is for that time when your Intersect was suppressed and they were trying to get it working again."
Oy. The month of poking, prodding, and being a guinea pig, followed by Agent Rye and his Pure Fear of Death therapy which ended in Rye's actual death and Chuck getting kidnapped by the Belgian. "As long as it doesn't involve ninjas in my bedroom or hanging precariously from an aerial tram."
"Chuck, what are you talking about?"
"Never mind. What time should I pick you up from the airport?"
"In what, the Nerd Herder?"
"Sarah left her car. I'm sure she won't mind if I use it."
There was an awkward silence, no doubt Ellie questioning his assumption, but not sure if she should argue. "Um, okay. We're arriving at Bob Hope at 11:47."
"And you'll be staying with me, right? I never did convert Morgan's old room into a gaming theater. It's still got a bed. We may have to figure out something for Clara though."
"I'm bringing a portable crib. Even if I stayed in a hotel, I wouldn't want her sleeping on a public mattress."
"Do I want to know why? Is it bedbugs or baby snot or something like that?"
"Actually, more like germs. I'm a doctor, remember? I know they don't even do a fraction of the sterilizing they should in a hotel."
"Ah, yes. Germs. Good point. Do I need to go get anything? Formula? Diapers? Smooshed peas?" Was Clara even eating solid food yet? He had no idea.
She chuckled. "Nope. I'll bring everything we need. It'll only be a few days. That should give Devon enough time to think about his priorities."
"Oh ho ho. So it's not about me or the Intersect, it's about making Devon miss you?"
"Maybe," she said; however, her tone said 'definitely'. "But I really do need to see Dr. Dreyfus and run those tests."
"I have to run tactical support for Mom and Sarah once they get to their classified location."
"Chuck, I took them to the airport. I know they were going to Buenos Aires." And if she wasn't rolling her eyes right now, he'd be surprised. "But that's fine. I can do everything from Buy More's basement, just like I did for Morgan. I won't keep you from anything important."
"Okay, well, great then. I'd love having you. You and Clara. Both of you."
"See you tonight."
"I'll be there. Love you, sis."
"Love you, little brother."
Chuck put his phone back in his pocket.
"Ellie and Clara are coming home?" Morgan asked.
Chuck swiveled around and studied his friend. Morgan had been so intent on his work, it was amazing he even heard the phone ring.
"You said my name," Morgan explained in answer to his questioning look.
"I did. She and Clara are going to stay in your old room. It's just for a couple of days. She needs some tests off an active Intersect."
"Awesome's not coming?" His tone was matter-of-fact, guarded.
Chuck shrugged. "He's Head of Cardiology for a huge Chicago hospital."
Morgan shook his head. "Not awesome."
"I think that's how Ellie feels, too."
"Well, you tell her I said hi. I don't think I'll be leaving here much until your Mom and Sarah are done with their mission. Maybe a minute or two to check in with Big Mike and get a Subway, but not leaving the property."
"What about Alex?"
"I'll call her. She'll probably drop by on her way home from work."
"You can say hi to Ellie yourself, because she'll be coming down here to do her tests on me. She's an official DARPA scientist now."
"She is?" His face scrunched up a little, brows furrowed. "And how do you feel about that?"
Chuck sighed. "My dad left her all his research. I tried to prevent her from pursuing it for the same reason she made me promise to quit being a spy. We were both trying to keep each other safe. But neither of us was happy denying who we are. I couldn't talk her out of it, so there's no sense being resentful. It's what she wants. I think it's what my dad would want, too."
"And Mega-spy 'Mimi' certainly can't object."
They both laughed. If anybody had the right to hate the spy life, Grandma Bartowski would be at the top of the list. She could retire without shame and still be one of the greatest spies in history. But she wasn't resting on her laurels or slowing down because of her age. She was running off to the jungles of Argentina with her amnesiac daughter-in-law.
"I'm actually cool with it being official. We don't have to lie to each other anymore; she has clearance now. If she was going to continue working on Dad's research anyway, she may as well get paid for it and get some decent security."
"That's great. I'm happy for you. Um, one thing?"
"You tell me if Awesome is neglecting his family."
"What, are you gonna kick his butt?"
With a completely straight face, Morgan said, "Absolutely."
At this, Chuck couldn't help but burst out laughing.
The bearded one smiled an evil little grin. "Oh, not physically. You'd be surprised how many things Casey taught me that don't require size or weapons."
"Did he? Glad to hear it. But let's not forget the last time we all assumed something about Ellie and Awesome." Namely, that Ellie was cheating with that Ring scum, Justin.
Morgan cringed. "Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm jumping to conclusions. Don't mind me." He shook his arms over his head and then loaded a CD into his computer drive. Within seconds, Chuck recognized it as Pimsleur Spanish for Beginners.
"Spanish? That's in the Intersect, you know."
Morgan shrugged. "I know, but I should brush up. Never know when you might be busy with something else."
Chuck was pretty sure Sarah knew enough Spanish to get by, as long as that wasn't part of her lost memories. However, there was something kind of comforting about Morgan studying all this stuff for himself. Spanish was incredibly useful in Los Angeles. A guy whose middle name was 'Guillermo' really should know some Spanish.
Chuck stood and walked over to stand behind his best friend. He placed his hand on top of Morgan's shoulder. "I need to go home and clean up the spare bedroom. You sure you're good by yourself?"
Morgan paused the Spanish CD long enough to wave him off. "Yeah, I'm fine. Go, go."