Dr. Eleanor Woodcomb finished the last of her data input and exited Carlos Shuman Medical Center in search of her vehicle. She'd been there less than a week before she figured out her 'research' position had been nothing but a bogus lure to ensure Devon would have no reason to turn down head of cardio. They never wanted a husband-wife team. They wanted Devon. And in some ways, that was fine. She didn't really want to leave Clara for twelve hours a day, which was what it would require for her to accept a more prestigious post.
The air outside was already freezing—freezing being defined as any temperature requiring her to wear more than scrubs while outdoors—in other words, anything under 60 degrees. The worst part was, it was only October. She pulled her ski parka closer and shivered as she hurried through the parking lot. At least it wasn't raining at the moment.
She kept reminding herself how much she had hated Africa. No matter how cold she got, nothing would ever be as bad as the bugs and the snakes and the wretched conditions she'd endured while part of Doctors Without Borders. She would never tell Devon, but she thanked her lucky stars every day that he'd caught malaria and forced them to cut their commitment short.
Devon was so excited about his new job and the new house, and everything that came with moving here. How could Ellie complain about the cold or the fact her job was barely more than an over-inflated lab technician? It paid decently, but from what she gathered when sneaking around the hospital's financial database, they had simply offered Devon $10k less than the last Head Cardiologist and added that to what Ellie's job normally paid. Same net expenditure for the two jobs, but 'doctored up' to stroke her ego. Sneaky, but effective.
In truth, she missed her brother. It had been hard to leave him behind when everything was going well, like it had been when they went to Africa, but to leave him in the middle of a crisis felt like betrayal. And it was a crisis, whether Chuck admitted it or not. Sarah's amnesia left him just as lost and alone as if she'd died, but without any of the socially acceptable grieving and sympathy he'd have been afforded had it been the latter.
Ellie made it to the Toyota minivan, silently cursing Chicago weather for forcing her out of her beloved Mustang convertible. She engaged the key and turned the heat up full blast. If this is October, what in the world am I going to do in January?
The phone interrupted her musing. Chuck. Ellie hit the button before the second ring.
"Hey, El, how's Chicago?"
Be upbeat. "Great. Devon just unpacked the last box and Clara is sleeping eight hours at night. How are you doing?"
"Sarah spent the night last night—"
"Chuck, that's great!"
"...on the couch. She still doesn't remember, Ellie. She believes me, that I love her, that she once loved me, but it's not the same."
Ellie swallowed the lump in her throat. "I'm never going to stop looking for a cure, Chuck. I promise you—"
"That's actually why I called. General Beckman told me about your request."
"Oh, good. I wasn't going to hide it from you. I just wanted to wait until I got the CIA's answer to tell you about it."
"The answer, actually, is up to me. If I keep the Intersect, then they'll probably put you in charge of the whole project. You'll have access to all the data they've ever collected and you'll get clearance to collaborate with Dr. Dreyfus, our psychiatrist."
"You have a psychiatrist?"
"Uh, I may have been uh... committed, uh, to a mental institution. J-just for the weekend. That was back before Dad made me the Governor and fixed that little glitch—that little unstable-ness. B-But that's not the point. Dr. Dreyfus is a specialist on the Intersect and Beckman is ordering Sarah to see him too."
"Okay, that's great. So what's the problem?"
"I thought we agreed that the Intersect should be destroyed, El. That Dad would have wanted it that way. Isn't it just a little hypocritical of us to turn around and act like it's the greatest thing since wireless game controllers now that I have it instead of Nicholas Quinn?"
Wireless game controllers? She shook her head. "Chuck, what are you talking about? If you don't want the Intersect, we can take it out. That won't have any effect on Sarah's cure."
"Yes, it will. Beckman says if I become de-Intersect-ed, that's the end of the whole project. All of it. They're gonna redact everything. They will come take Dad's hard drive."
"Let them. I can start over from scratch. They can't stop me from studying the human brain, Chuck. I'm a neurologist, and a damn good one, I might add. It might take me a little longer if they don't cooperate, but don't let them force you into doing anything you don't want to do. I can still help Sarah without the CIA."
"God, I love you, you know that?"
"What are sisters for?"
"For talking little brothers out of their hero complexes?"
"Ellie, I wish Sarah and Morgan never uploaded the Intersect. It hurt them both and bad things happened. But I would never have met Sarah if Bryce hadn't sent me the first Intersect, and I know I'm being a hypocrite right now, but I don't want it taken out. Dad said I was special. As long as I have the Governor, I seem to be okay. I want to keep it."
"I don't think Dad would mind. Wasn't that why he had the password for you about one or eleven?"
"Oh my gosh, you're right. I forgot about that. That was after Mom used that suppression thing she found in our old basement. I guess Dad really did want me to have the Intersect."
"So you're keeping it then?"
"I still have to talk to Sarah." His voice sounded sad and reluctant.
Ellie could remember when the prospect of talking to Sarah would light up his whole face better than a kid at Christmas. "Is she not talking to you?"
"No, we talk. It's just... she asked to rejoin the CIA without discussing it with me. She doesn't remember how much she wanted to quit the spy life. If she gets her memory back, I think she'll be mad at herself for jumping back in."
"Chuck, after Dad died, I made you promise to quit spying and that was a mistake. You and Sarah are both amazing spies. I've seen you in action. I would never pressure either of you to be spies if it's not what you want, but you have to let her follow her heart. I think if you do, her heart will inevitably lead to you, because she really did love you."
"That was the other thing we should talk about. If you get CIA clearance, it could mean some danger. That's why Dad left us, you know."
"I know, but Sarah is family, too. If Dad could give up so much to protect us, then I can live with a little risk. General Beckman promised me there would be safeguards. I wouldn't be a spy. I'd just be a researcher, barely different from what I do here, just with guards and locked buildings."
"And what about your new job? Do you have time for this?"
"If not, I'll quit Carlos Shuman. It's not nearly as exciting or interesting as Dad's life work. I want to do this for Sarah, but I also want it for me. Dad's research is amazing and I don't want to see it lost."
"Thanks, sis." His voice had that tremor in it that meant he was losing a battle with tears. Sweet little Chuck, never afraid to show his emotions.
Ellie promised herself that if Sarah didn't get her memory back, she would insist Devon give up the Head of Cardiology and move them back to Los Angeles. The house was great, but it wasn't worth leaving Chuck like this. Somehow, she'd figure out a way to make it up to Devon. She inhaled and tried to sound upbeat. "Love you, little bro."
"Love you too."
The connection severed and Ellie stared out the windshield, into the cold, grey landscape. That pecan pie she bought yesterday better still be at home, and a gallon of ice cream too, because tonight felt like a major date with pie a la mode.