A/N For the benefit of those who don't know, there's a Facebook group for Chuck Fanfiction, and we'd love to have some new members.

So here we go, the end of a long and eventful night.

"That was dirty pool."

"I broke a nail."

"Just follow the bodies."

"Good luck."

Verbanski compound, outside...

The guards were making their rounds, a man and a woman this time. They weren't looking for anyone in particular, but they were alert for someone, and that someone was right behind them, watching through the leaves of a small tree as they walked away. They could turn around any second and walk back this way, though, so the enemy infiltrator lost no time moving to a low window, and disabling the alarm. The lock was harder, but fortunately 'covert' wasn't a mission parameter.

The intruder raised the window and crawled in under the sash, checking with every motion that nothing was about to fall on the ground. Noisy metal blinds above, potted plant here, garbage can there. Gloved hands moved the plant, bracing against the desk and the sill as the dark-clad body slid under the sash and booted feet avoided the garbage can to settled soundlessly to the ground. The intruder stood up and lowered and locked the window, and enabled the alarm. The blackout curtain got pulled down as well, before he turned back into the room for the next step of his mission.

The lights clicked on, activated by a uniformed soldier, too far away to jump, her weapon aimed at center mass, just like the textbooks said.

Echo Park...

Chuck's phone rang. Not an unusual sound by itself, but the caller ID almost threw him out of the zone. He answered it with the tap of a finger, not even pausing his typing as he worked to boost the efficiency of his decrypting algorithms. He didn't know if it was intentional or not, but these Ring codes were taking his usual processes down a lot of blind alleys. "What's up, Dad?"

Orion sounded more diffident than usual. "I can see you're really busy, but I have to ask, am I allowed to say 'son of a bitch'?"

Chuck typed more slowly, his attention diverted, but not nearly enough. "Do you want to say 'son of a bitch'?"

"I do, very much."

"Well, then," said Chuck, with no suspicion in his voice at all, "I suppose I can overlook it, just this once."

"Thank you." The taking of a breath was loud enough to hear over the phone. Not his first warning, but the only one Chuck caught, far too late. "SON OF A BITCH!"

"Ah!" shouted Chuck, clawing at his ears and the speakers in them. "Son of a bitch!"

His screen went black. THAT'S WHAT I SAID.

Verbanski compound, inside...

Weapons are tools, and it's the person wielding the tool who should be watched, not the tool itself. Watching this one, the intruder knew there was nothing to fear.

"I should shoot you now," said Alex neutrally. "But I won't." The gun dropped away.

"Ha!" Morgan yelped. Quietly. He pulled off his black balaclava. "How'd you know it was me?"

"A fine girlfriend I'd be if I didn't know."

Morgan grinned. "I knew she must have played the blackmail card."

Alex rolled her eyes in exasperation. As if there was a doubt. "Well duh. She said if I helped her, she could make sure Ellie and Devon stayed safe, otherwise..." She drew her hand across her own throat.

Morgan made a face. Unimpressed. "She really doesn't know anything at all about Ellie, and neither do you, if you thought that was a real threat."

"Well, no, I don't think it's a real threat, but isn't it a rule of war to never stop your enemy from making a mistake?"

Echo Park...

"The question I have to ask now is why did you say it?"

"Sarah's partner Zondra got me into Volkoff's computer," said Orion. "I found the name Roni Eimacher in his files and discovered where he'd been hiding his empire all these years. A state-of-the-art crystal repository shaped like a glass eye."

"You found that in the files?" Chuck laced his voice heavily with suspicion, for his non-spy father's benefit. That sounded an awful lot like a red herring.

"No, Zondra figured it from the fragments of glass eye in the ceiling from when Volkoff blew his bodyguard's head off."

Okay. "That's good, that's progress," said Chuck, trying to sound an upbeat note while wondering at the various heights and/or angles of the players involved. That Volkoff would kill his bodyguard for any slight provocation was taken for granted.

"Yeah, well, in this case progress is a bad thing. Here we've been looking for something next-gen and he took a step backward."

Just one? "Why stop there?" said Chuck. "It would be easy enough to pick up that trail."

"Good point," said his father. "Within limits, depending on how complex his empire has gotten. At least I know where all those footprints are, unless he takes a step sideways."

Chuck almost felt sorry for Volkoff. He would be out of business in a day, if Orion had anything to say about it, and Frost would be home the next day. Or she could be. That part was on him.

"How's it coming with those Ring files?"

"Coming along slowly but slowly," said Chuck. "It would be nice if I had any idea what I was looking for."

Verbanski compound, more inside...

The guard marched her prisoner into the detention area, only to find no prisoners and a guard, buffing her nails. "Red Three, what's going on? Where are the prisoners?"

"What does it look like?" said Red Three. "They knocked me out and skedaddled."

"Knocked you out, huh?"

"With a wine bottle." She checked her watch. "From the way you're holding that gun I'm guessing you're not playing a traitor anymore. I'll be out of it for another thirty seconds or so, so talk fast, if you don't want me to hear anything."

"I could always tranq you," mused Alex.

"Oh, that's gratitude." Taking her out of the action completely, not cool. "I could have played possum, you know."

"Don't know what your complaining about," said Alex. "Blue Six is dead already. You could have taken a tranq antagonist and been back in the game."

"Yeah, while wishing someone would kill me. Those things are brutal."

"Ladies, ladies," said Morgan. "There's a better solution."

"Twenty seconds before I hear everything."

"Fine. Wake her up, and the two of you take me to Verbanski. Since I can't rescue them, I'm going to have to get them to rescue me."

Echo Park...


Manoosh? What are you still doing up?


What's with all the shouting?

I HAD TO GET YOUR I had to get your attention

Attention gotten.

Why do you want my attention?

You remember how I was supposed to be watching the alerts and stuff while you were testing that firewall you made

I would hope so, Manoosh, that was just a few hours ago.

You know youre the only person I know who texts with punctuation

Yes, I know. What about the alerts?

I couldnt sleep and something was bugging me about the alerts so anyway I got up and decided to make sure they were all on the up and up and guess what

They weren't?

They werent

Well most of them were but we got this one early on that wasnt

It looked like all the others except the IP was all wrong

How 'early on' are we talking here, Manoosh?

about 4 hours

Send me everything you got around that alert, pull the logs.

I need to know what they were after and why they were after it.

Inside Verbanski HQ...

Agent Blond came back from his first foray into recon. His partner urged him to silence. "What's going on, ba-I mean, Agent Curls?"

"They got Agent Grimes. Alex and that guard I knocked out brought him in."

"Anybody else?"

"No," said Curls. "He may have come in alone."

"You think he was trying to contact us?"

"Probably. I only trusted Alex because she was Alex."

Who was apparently still a traitor. "What about the rest of his team?" The ones they didn't know.

"Headed for a slaughter if any of them come after him, from the looks of it, so it's up to us." No way Agent Curls would allow a slaughter on her watch.

"What's up to us?"

Outside Verbanski HQ...

"Is everybody ready?" asked Blue Four. "We do this right, they'll never see it coming."

Inside Verbanski HQ...

"Is everybody ready?" asked the boss, more concerned with the screens in front of her than the activity behind her. Grimes had acted on his anger, always a mistake. Good to see that once McHugh was turned, she stayed turned. "We do this right, we can take out Grimes' whole command in one strike."

Up above...

"Punch," said Agent Blond, pantomiming the action.

"Fall," said the guard, playing along.

"Good job," said Agent Curls. "You still have that tranq gun?"

"I've got zip ties in my pocket," said the guard as he lay on the ground playing unconscious.

"What, so you can escape the minute our backs are turned?"

"Can't blame a guy for trying."

"Sorry," said Agent Curls, not sounding sorry. "Tranq, you're unconscious."

"What do we do now, partner?" asked Agent Blond.

Agent Curls pointed. "That electrical panel." She pulled a needle from her hair.

"Aren't those dipped in poison or something?" asked Blond.

Curls looked at him funny. "No. Use a towel or your shirt or something, insulate your hand."

He looked at her funny. "You just want to get me to take my shirt off."

"Yeah, all right. Go."

Blond went to the panel and raised his hand, needle ready to strike, and...

The lights went out.

"What the hell?" said someone in the dark.

Verbanski turned, looking for a shadow that was where it shouldn't have been. When the power came back on from the emergency power supply, the shadow had almost reached Morgan Grimes. "Stop her!"

Grimes' other guard raised her weapon and Alex stopped, raising her hands.

"I'm disappointed in you, Private McHugh. I expected you to play straight with me, like I played straight with you."

"The traitor card allows for an optional betrayal, if the original conditions of the turn change," said Alex. "Ellie and Awesome escaped on their own."

"Two civilians," said Verbanski dismissively. "We'll catch them just as soon as we wipe out the incursion Grimes' team is staging." She turned back to her monitors, and...

The lights went out.

"What?" she shouted into the dark. "Again?"

The room erupted in chaos, lights flashing and sound cards making very realistic gun noises, as Blue Four and the rest of Morgan's command came to the rescue. Sensors tripped all over the room, as combatants on both sides screamed and died with gusto. Gertrude tried to take control of the situation, until she felt something touch the back of her head.

"Bonk," said Agent Curls, holding her wine bottle. "You're unconscious."

Gertrude sagged. "Goddammit," she breathed. "Concede!"

The battle stopped, except for the flickering of target lights on the dead combatants. "Grimes!"

"Yes, ma'am?" asked Morgan, with proper etiquette now that the exercise was over.

Verbanski noticed that his target light was flashing, while Alex' wasn't. "How the hell did you do that? You risked your entire command on the actions of two untrained civilians."

"Untrained, yes," said Morgan, snapping off his target light. "But not untutored. She interrogated Casey extensively."

Gertrude looked over to Casey, standing casually, leaning against a beam. "Taught her everything she knows," he said proudly.

Early the next morning, a phone call...

A reached out and picked up his phone without opening his eyes. "I am not a morning person."

The voice on the other end was breathless, either with fear or triumph. "Sir, we think we have her located."

A looked at his doodles from the night before to refresh his memory. He took the announcement with a healthy dose of salt. "Agent Walker?"

"Oh, no, sir. Agent Walker was far too careful to leave anything that might be called a trail. I was referring to the child, the banker's female offspring."

Someone on the team out-thought Agent Walker. She'd been pressed for time and cast on her own resources, but still, good to know. "And how did you achieve this breakthrough?"

"We had all the records of her father's wanderings in our files."

The gentle caress of Death's clammy hand on the back of his neck woke A completely. "In our files?" C had needed but been unable to acquire the asteris virus to regain access to the files, yet now this technician had them.

"They rather precisely indicate a certain area of California, centered around the city of Modesto. We compared new school admissions against birth records and such, filtering on the child's known physical traits, and we have a match with a high degree of probability."

"Whose idea was all of this?" asked A.

"Using the files was my idea, sir, before I went to get some rest," said the distant tech. "I left orders to wake me, knowing you would want to have the results as soon as possible. Robertson took it upon himself to ignore my instructions, and ran a trace against the father. Considering the favorable outcome I decided to leave the matter in your hands."

A considered the matter carefully, as the man breathed into his ear. "I am pleased with the outcome," he finally said. "Send the location to the usual address. What is the status of overall development?"

"We would be code-complete now if Robertson hadn't diverted himself."

"Excellent. Hardcopy all records for B's department. They'll take Jubilee and this man Robertson to the secondary site, he can finish his work there. Then he can babysit the project while the rest of you hold yourselves in readiness for a new assignment."

"Very good, sir," fawned the man in obvious relief. "Thank y-"

A hung up on him, and entered a new number, one which would require him to get a new phone. "Jubilee is near-complete, but the site is compromised. Take over the project right now, move it to the dark site. A tech is standing by to finish the work, name of Robertson. Once he's done C will take him into his department and he'll take over operations. Clean the primary site. Professionally."

A/N2 Well, that sounds ominous. I used the city of Modesto as a shout-out to JWatkins' use of that city in Home for Christmas. I hope you'll tell me what you think because this is really hard and it's nice to hear.