A tangled web
*** Nevada / Robertstown / Old Bank ***
Chuck stared at the man who just had emerged from the shadows, and still had trouble processing the truth. His father. Orion was his father! The man's eyes remained shaded; Chuck couldn't discern any emotion in his features. Did he even recognize him? His gaze at least seemed to be locked on Vincent.
"Bartowski! Step back to me!" Vincent barked. "Don't turn around!"
Chuck complied slowly, remembering all that junk that covered the floor. He didn't want to slip or stumble. Then he felt Vincent's breath in his neck – and in the same moment, Vincent's arm closed tightly around it, ripped him back into a painful embrace. Chuck gasped for air. Instinctively, he tried to break free. Instantaneously, a nauseating sound of cracking vertebrae filled his ears and he blacked out. With a quick move, Vincent pushed the motionless body aside.
"You monster!" Orion lunged forward. His chest collided with the muzzle of Vincent's gun and his glance with Vincent's icy glare. "I should never, never have taken you into my team back then!" Tortured, Stephen Bartowski looked down at the body of his son. "God, what have I done!"
"The wrong thing. – MOVE!"
Up on the roof of the old building, agent Casey swore loudly, as he saw Vincent emerge from the door, using another man as living shield. A man that no doubt was Orion. He couldn't fire from his position without killing HIM alongside with Smith. And Chuck was nowhere to spot! Dammit, I knew that son of a bitch'll betray us! I knew it and let it happen! That was the worst of all. He had walked into the enemy's trap! He, the vigilant NSA agent John Casey had fallen prey to a Fulcrum agent's devious lies! No, there was no way to shoot! Besides, the street around Smith and his new hostage started to fill with people. For a second Casey even thought to see a smile on his opponents face. It made him furious. Jumping to his feet, he alerted Sarah, who stood down in the yard as planned. Thankfully, she acted professionally, as she heard the unpleasant news.
"What about Chuck?" she asked out of breath a moment later, when she joined Casey inside the house.
"I don't know yet," he answered. Before he could speak out his dark musings, they discovered the body on the floor.
Sarah ran up to him, gently turned him on his back, and checked his pulse. "He's alive!" she said a moment later. Tears started to burn in her eyes and she blinked. She could not afford such behavior! Not in front of Casey, who now bent down next to her.
"Chuck? Do you hear me?" There were no wounds, nor bruises, no sign of any violence. Nonetheless, after the encounter with Cadie she knew that there were other possibilities to bring someone down! "Chuck?!"
He moaned and slowly opened his eyes. "Sarah…" Not out of the haze of unconsciousness yet, he smiled happily. Was she about to undress him… ? "Where are we?" But that bed was really … not very comfortable…
Casey? Okay… there was something wrong with the love nest version… He tried to sit up, massaged his neck. His memories came back. "Vincent… ahhh… he tried to kill me. He's gone. He's gone, with Orion!"
Chuck struggled to his feet. "He's my father!"
"What are you talking about?" grumbled Casey and, full of surprise, listened to the answer. "Great. But we have no time for family stories. We need to catch up with Smith. I'm looking forward to ice him personally!"
Sarah still steadied Chuck, when her eyes fell on a glinting little something lying in between old paper and empty bottles. Cautiously, she took a piece of rotten wood to shove the object into the light. It didn't explode right away – that was good. It was a cell phone. Still very slowly and as cautiously as possible, Sarah lifted it up from the ground.
"It's Vincent's", Chuck recognized. "He must've lost it."
"Well, even the smartest criminal makes a mistake now and then!"
Casey smirked. "Fine. Let's have a look!"
"I'm sure it's encrypted", Chuck said. "But maybe-"
"Okay, Bartowski, get to work! Crack the thing!" Casey snatched the phone from Sarah's hand and tossed it to Chuck.
"But I… need some equipment… and … and some time!" Everyone seems to think I'm a top-hacker!
"Concerning the equipment, you'll have more than enough I suppose, but we're running out of time, sadly." The agent grabbed him by his shoulders and directed him towards the still open door leading to Orion's hiding place.
*** Flat Point Creek Air Force Base ***
The old Air Force Base had been awakened from its slumber. Dozens of feet trampled over the weeds that in the past years had bravely pushed through the concrete. Windows were opened to let fresh air into stale smelling dusty rooms. However, it wasn't the Homeland Defense that swarmed through the main building, busy reconnecting the decommissioned satellite dishes and setting up high-end computer interfaces. Outside in the yard, a convoy of cars just came to a halt. At this solemn day that was supposed to see their triumph, the men and women decorating themselves with the designation of "Fulcrum" had decided to reveal their faces to the public. The old structures, the old government – soon everything would be history and they were ready to take America into a bold new future! For now however, some awkward looks grazed over faces with thick glasses, balding heads and wrinkles – somehow, everyone seemed to have thought his fellow comrades of the inner ring as equipped with an equivalent super-human physical appearance! They looked so perfectly normal! They recognized each other by the code words, though.
"We're here in this God-forsaken dust bowl where he wanted us to be," a round faced bulky man said. "So, where IS Smith?"
A woman in black suit opened her mouth for an answer, but that moment, another voice reached them: "I'm here."
Eyes turned into the sound's direction and discovered Vincent entering through the western gate.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Mr. Stephen Bartowski, aka Orion?" He nudged his prisoner forward.
"I told you he would make it in time", the woman now said, an arrogant smile flitting over her lips. "You would never disappoint us, would you, Vincent?"
"It is my honor to serve Fulcrum."
"I won't yield to anything you have in mind!" Stephen Bartowski's voice was coarse but firm, as was his glance.
"Well, we'd certainly regret having to apply harsher methods", the bulky council member said. "But the needs may overcome those regrets."
"I won't help you. You'll have to kill me!"
"We'll consider that option LATER," the woman answered icy, with a nod toward Vincent. "I'm quite sure someone's looking forward to this… As for now, get him to work!" She gestured to the henchman that had accompanied her in her car. The imposing muscle packed guy snatched Orion's arms.
"One small favor."
"Yes, Vincent?" She wasn't used to hearing him ask for favors. Normally, he was happy enough doing their dirty work. She had always mused how twisted a mind had to become to get satisfaction from these kinds of jobs.
"Let me go with him. I worked so hard for our success. Now that it's finally come, I want to see it take shape at close range."
She shrugged. Why not. One gun more trained at Orion was maybe not that a bad idea! She smiled full of anticipation. Only a few hours from now, their message would reach hundreds of thousands of people. And it would not even be necessary to convince anyone. Orion would spare America and later the world that choice! For a moment, she wondered how history would have evolved, had the great leaders and prophets of the past this mighty tool at their disposal! But history had waited for them. For her and her comrades! She held her head high, while she marched off to the old command center to witness the next step of evolution. Vincent and the bodyguard holding Stephen Bartowski vanished behind another door inside the building.
*** In Robertstown / Orion's hiding place ***
Casey paced nervously through the cramped space that was stuffed with books, electronics in various states of disassembly, printouts with source codes and technical designs. At one point, he almost stumbled over some cables and cursed loudly.
"Bartowski! Hurry up!"
How often he had been hearing that order during the past days, Chuck wondered. He sat in front of Orion's computer and just could not focus, despite Casey's constant pressing. I'm sitting here at my Dad's computer. I can't believe it. My Dad. Orion. Again, he stared at the old photograph that was pinned next to screen, instead of checking the code ON the screen. The photo showed him – probably six or seven years old - and his Dad at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. He didn't remember that trip very well. I just can't believe it. My Dad invented the intersect!
-"How is it going?" Casey asked for the second time in the past ten minutes. Sarah shot him a glance, but she was just as nervous.
"I … uh… I'm about to get in. The code is only slightly different from the one I-"
Chuck clenched his teeth. The code in front of his eyes started to blur again. Will I ever get this thing out of my head? It had looked that good. I thought everything would be over today…. -What is this bracket here? This must be a substructure of the script. … It's really similar to Cadie's phone code… - Crap. This would never have happened if I hadn't believed Vincent! How on earth could I believe him?
"Chuck?" Sarah's hand on his shoulder made him jump. "Do you want a glass of water?"
"No. No, I'm fine." He forced a smile. In fact, he felt like shit. It was his fault that Fulcrum had Orion. 'Fulcrum doesn't exist', haha. And I fell for it! He typed the next number almost accidentally. But then… "I'm in!"
"Very good. Now Smith just needs to have left us a clue where to find him and his bunch of terrorist morons!"
"I'll check the messages." Why is he supposed to have left a note? This is not a stupid tv-series! He's a pro. He'd never—Chuck's thoughts stopped as he saw something popping up on the screen.
"What is it?" Sarah bent over to see better. "Flat Point Creek?"
Casey whirled around and stared at the screen as well. "It's an Air Force Base. A decommissioned one. Not so far away."
"If it's no longer in use, what's the point?" Chuck's innocent question earned him a grim look from both agents this time.
"They'll probably hijack it! – Let's go!" Casey grabbed his gun and his jacket.
"What if it's trap?" Experience had made Sarah particularly cautious, when things seemed to be too easy.
"Fulcrum has no reason to still bother with us." He was at the door already. "They have Orion and they think Chuck's dead. They're probably thinking about the big party right now. Well… I'm going to pee in their Champagne…" Casey's angry muttered words were swallowed by the dark corridor.
Now Sarah and Chuck followed him.
*** In Washington ***
It was still dark around her, but the stomping headache and the fact that she could smell – and it smelled awfully after junk, especially rotten fish – left General Diane Beckman no doubt that she was still alive. She had no idea how much time had passed since this traitor Stevenson surprised her in her office talking to Agent Casey. Maybe it was too late, whatever she did now. Maybe the enemy had won. The thought only paralyzed her for a moment. If Fulcrum had won THIS war, there would be others still to fight. There was always an option to fight back, move operations into the underground, build a resistance.
Given I'll find a way out of here…
She propped herself to her knees and started to feel for the walls of her prison.