May 15, 2010

Chuck versus LuthorCorp

Chapter 6

Part 1- Ninety-three days after Sarah first put on the Ring

"Bartowski, go!"

Chuck leapfrogged Gordon to the next closer spot of cover.

"Clear!" declared Chuck, as he trained his weapon on their goal – a side door into what appeared to be an old, long abandoned warehouse.

Gordon raced passed his position. Quickly, she reached the door, gave it a brisk kick, and disappeared through the shattered remains.

And that action seemed to typify his partner's whole attitude and reflected the biggest difference between her and Sarah.

Sarah had been C.I.A. It had all been about secrets: subterfuge, hidden identities, stealth, and sneaking through back doors.

Gordon was F.B.I. It was all about being upfront and open. And entering through the front door, or busting it down when necessary.

Chuck put up his gun, as he ran after Gordon. The bulky armored vest chafed a little, but it added a sense of security he had rarely felt in the old days when some situation had blown up in their faces. Of course, Gordon's ten man support team following behind him also added to his sense of security.

Stepping into the warehouse, Chuck scanned the area. The cavernous space was gloomy and only dimly lit by dirt encrusted windows set high in the walls. More importantly, it appeared utterly vacant. All of their intelligence had said this was Lex Luthor's Gotham City headquarters and that the man himself would be here.

Reportedly, Lex Luthor had been killed in a car-bomb attack in Metropolis almost five months earlier. And officially he was still dead. The first inkling Chuck had had that he might still be alive had come from Lana. But it wasn't until Gordon had joined the team that they had received their first limited proof – Luthor's fingerprints in a place he couldn't have possibly visited before his 'supposed' death.

The trail to find the source of the spider war-bots had eventually led them to Luthor and then on to this warehouse. But suddenly, it looked like the trail had gone cold or had been another red herring.

Turning his attention from the warehouse in general, Chuck focused on finding his partner. It hadn't seemed like she had entered that far before him, but when he finally spotted her, she was already climbing the stairs at the far end of the building leading to a small loft office area.

"Gordon, wait for backup," said Chuck into his headset, as he began sprinting for the stairs.

"Fortune favors the bold, Bartowski," retorted Gordon, but she did slow her pace to give him a chance to catch up.

Chuck caught up with her at the top of the stairs. She raised her weapon and at a nod that Chuck was ready, she proceeded to kick down another door.

Empty was Chuck's first impression. But then he spotted a computer on a table in the far corner. Walking over, he put his hand on its CPU box. It was still warm.

"We just missed him, or someone," announced Chuck.

Looking over at Gordon, he saw her give a small nod of acknowledgement as she shuffled through a stack of papers on another table.

Chuck reached down to turn the computer back on, but was stopped by a sharp call from Gordon.

"Don't power it up, Bartowski. Wait until we can get it back to the lab, in case it is booby-trapped."

Chuck pulled his hand back. He should have known better, he was the Nerd Herd guy.

Chuck walked over to where Gordon was still thumbing through the papers. She had demonstrated her photographic memory before, so Chuck tried to wait patiently while she absorbed all their contents. Since it looked like all the potential excitement was over, Chuck took a moment to safe his weapon before sliding it into the holster on his hip.

The exposed hip holster made him almost feel like an old west gunslinger. Or it would have if he was carrying a 'real' gun. But his weapon was a combination taser and trank gun. In the old days he had occasionally used a similar weapon, but it had been because Sarah and Casey didn't trust him with a 'real' weapon. However now it was different; it wasn't just him. Gordon and her whole team carried non-lethal weapons. She claimed the reason was you could get a lot more useful information from a live captive than a dead one, but Chuck wasn't certain it was the whole story.

No, Gordon had become Sarah's replacement at Diana's suggestion, which indicated Gordon had spent a sufficient amount of time with Diana to gain her trust. And Chuck knew of Diana's anti-lethal force stance and her truly persuasive personality. He was certain anyone who spent much time with Diana would definitely be influenced.

Casey and one of Gordon's agents step into the room.

"The building is secure," began Casey. "The men have begun a detailed sweep of the main level."

Chuck looked over to where Casey stood in a relaxed pose in his own set of combat gear. He thought Casey, too, was enjoying the new dynamics of their team. Oh, he had complained bitterly when he was compelled to stop carrying his beloved model 1911 Colt 45, but otherwise he seemed happy with the more straight-forward tactics and lesser dependency on disguises and cover stories.

As Gordon put down the last piece of paper, Chuck asked, "Find anything useful?"

She shook her head and then took a moment to remove her black baseball cap with F.B.I. stenciled on the front in bright yellow letters. Her shoulder length fiery red hair came cascading down from where it had been tucked up out of the way.

"Nothing immediately useful, Chuck," said Gordon dropping the surnames now that the potential action was over. "Oh, there are a number of invoices for equipment we will need to pursue to see if we can reverse engineer what they were working on, but nothing that jumps out and says where they have gone."

As Chuck stared at her, he was suddenly reminded of the first time he had met her.

Part 2 – Four days after Sarah first put on the Ring

Chuck was moping around in the command center. His shift at the BuyMore wasn't due to start for another three hours, but he had found it impossible to hang around his apartment. His sister, Ellie, was working the afternoon shift at the hospital, which left her in the apartment, too, for the morning. And he just hadn't been in the mood to deal with her questions.

Whether it was a sister thing or a woman's intuition thing, Ellie hadn't truly accepted the 'Sarah gone to Kentucky to nurse sick Aunt' cover story. He knew it was his own fault. He had been taking the separation a lot harder than was appropriate if Sarah was just gone to take care of a sick aunt. No, he had been behaving like he had lost her forever. And Ellie had obviously picked up on that. Maybe he was going to have to tell her he didn't think Sarah was coming back. He certainly couldn't tell her the truth that Sarah had put on some mysterious ring and then departed for some destination halfway across the universe.

But sitting here, alone, wasn't helping his mood. He had no idea where Casey and Diana were other than not here. Casey and the computer geeks at the N.S.A. had somehow tweaked the BuyMore employee scheduling software so he was almost always scheduled to work the same shifts as Chuck, therefore it was unlikely Casey was over at the BuyMore. It was possible Casey and Diana were gone on some mission, but it was more likely they simply weren't working yet today.

Deciding it was better to kill the next few hours playing some mindless videogames than sitting around here by himself, Chuck had just pulled out his phone to call Morgan, when one of the command center's security monitors flared to life. Glancing at it, he realized it was connected to a camera mounted inside one of the secret entrances located across the street. He had expected to see Casey or Diana, but instead found himself staring at the image of a red-headed woman in a dark colored business suit. She quickly stepped out of the range of the camera, but he had seen enough to be certain he had never seen her before.

For a second his mind flashed back to the recent commando attacks, but everything had been quiet on that front since the battle at Fort Knox. The woman wasn't dressed like a commando or leading a team. And she must have the proper access codes as the alarms weren't blaring.

It was almost a five minute walk from that entrance to the command center and Chuck found himself anxiously fidgeting as he waited. At least for the moment the situation was almost enough to put thoughts of Sarah on hold.

Finally, the woman stepped into the room and Chuck got a good look at her. She was young. Oh, not impossibly youthful like the seventeen year old Diana appeared to be, but definitely still under twenty-five. Morgan's thirtieth birthday was coming up in less than two weeks and his own was only a few months away. And looking at the youthful woman once again drove home that he was almost out of his twenties and what had he accomplished? When he had been back at Stanford, he had had all these grand plans and dreams of what he would accomplish by the time he was thirty. But of all the things on the long list, he hadn't accomplished a single one of them. The closest he had come had been to have Sarah say she loved him. But saying she loved him and then disappearing in a shaft of green light was way short of the goal of being happily married.

Trying to shake his maudlin mood, Chuck straightened from where he had been leaning against the central table and extended his hand.

"I'm Chuck Bartowski."

The woman gave a guarded smile as she extended her hand. "Special Agent Barbara Gordon, F.B.I. I'm here to join the team protecting the Intersect."

"Well, that's me," answered Chuck with an attempt at a self-deprecating laugh.

Gordon gave him the once over and Chuck wasn't sure if she was pleased with what she saw. He glanced down and took in his white BuyMore shirt, black slacks and black Ked's hightops. He was wearing his usual attire for days when he would eventually end up at the BuyMore, but suddenly it felt exceedingly casual compared to the woman's business suit which would look perfectly tailored except for the obvious bulge of a weapon at her right hip.

"I just arrived in town," began Gordon. "And this is the first access I have had to a secured communications set up since receiving my new assignment. I need to talk to your Washington contact, a General Beckman, I believe."

Chuck glanced at the dark videolink monitor. He had never personally called the General. Usually, the General called them or Sarah or John called her. Oh, he had watched the procedure and was certain he could get a connection, but should he? Or should he try to track down John or Diana first?

"Ah, I don't have the necessary userid or password to reach the General. Perhaps we should wait for John Casey or Diana Prince to return," responded Chuck. Then he offered, "Or I could try to track them down."

"That won't be necessary, Mister Bartowski. If you will just show me to the equipment."

"Please, it's just Chuck," replied Chuck as he led her over to the appropriate computer workstation.

"Okay, Chuck. I go by Gordon. Only my parents call me Barbara," the woman said as she sat down at the keyboard. Then as she began to quickly type, she continued. "So tell me, Chuck, do you enjoy working at the BuyMore?"

Chuck wondered where the woman was headed with that question. Did he enjoy working at the BuyMore compared to what? If someone was to offer him his own software development firm, of course he would prefer that, but no one was offering him a dream job. And there were certainly a lot worse places to work than the BuyMore.

"It's okay," Chuck replied noncommittally.

The woman turned to stare up into his eyes for a moment. She didn't possess the soul-penetrating stare Diana had, but it still felt like she could read him like an open book.

Turning back to the keyboard, Gordon pressed a final key and the videolink screen sprang to life. When the picture firmed up it showed an earnest looking Lieutenant. Chuck recognized him as Lieutenant Scott Anderson, one of the General's staff.

"Lieutenant," began Gordon. "I am Special Agent Barbara Gordon with the F.B.I. I am on temporary assignment reporting to General Beckman. If she is available, I would like to speak to her. If not, I would like to schedule a time when I can."

"Agent Gordon," responded Anderson. "I know the General wants to speak with you also. Let me see if she is available. Please hold."

The screen went blank. While they waited, Gordon turned to Chuck.

"Chuck, I have read your dossier and all the mission reports filed by Agents Walker and Casey since they have been assigned to you. It seems only fair that you get to know a little about me in return. Is there anything in particular you would like to know?"

Chuck's mouth almost dropped open in surprise. Both Sarah and Casey had always been so reticent about discussing their backgrounds. And the only other person he had regular contact with was the General and he knew even less about her.

"Ah, you know, you are the first person I have worked with here who has ever asked me that."

Gordon smiled. It was the first real smile he had seen from her and Chuck suddenly realized how attractive she was. She certainly was in the same league as Sarah and Lana in the looks department. Oh, she definitely wasn't in Diana's league, but then no one was.

"Well, it is probably our different backgrounds. Most of the people you have dealt with before are from the C.I.A. or N.S.A. or military intelligence. And they are all about secrets whether it is keeping them or stealing them or whatever. It is not like that in the F.B.I. Oh, details of a specific case may be 'need to know', but most of our work is out in the open."

Chuck nodded. "Okay, since you are offering, a brief bio would be nice."

"I was born and raised in Gotham City," Gordon began. "My father has been a member of the Gotham City Police Department since before I was born. He slowly worked his way up through the ranks. He has been the Police Commissioner for the last six years. So I guess you could say law enforcement is in my blood.

"I studied pre-Law in college, but before going to Law school I decided some practical experience would be useful, so I joined the F.B.I. After graduating from Quantico four years ago, I have been a field agent working out of offices in Phoenix, Star City, Chicago, and most recently Metropolis."

"Do you know why you got selected for this assignment?" asked Chuck.

Gordon nodded. "Diana Prince requested me."

"You know Diana?" asked Chuck.

"We met on a case about three years ago. She was a big help in solving it, yet she made sure I got all the credit. It was a big boost for my career."

That sounded like Diana. She was more about getting things done than looking for personal glory. And Chuck couldn't help but think about the things Casey had told him he had witnessed Diana do while they had been inside Fort Knox. Then there was that whole secret Presidential protocol and Diana's enigmatic age. Diana was most definitely a meta-human of some sort.

Chuck wondered if Gordon knew Diana was a meta-human or if she knew about meta-humans at all. With Diana, Lana, and several of Lana's friends all having meta-human or meta-humanlike abilities, there was no way the topic could be avoided if Gordon was going to be around full time. And he realized not only couldn't the topic be avoided, but it shouldn't be avoided if Gordon was going to be useful or even safe.

"Ah, Gordon," began Chuck trying to project the seriousness of his question with his tone. "Do you know about meta-humans?"

Gordon's eyes widened at his question, but before she could respond the General appeared on the screen. Chuck was left hanging as to whether her response was due to her not knowing or her not expecting Chuck to know.

"Agent Gordon it is nice to meet you at last," began Beckman.

Chuck recognized the more-than-usual frostiness in the General's tone. He would have been wondering at the reason, if Gordon hadn't already told him she was here at Diana's recommendation. Chuck suspected the General was still touchy about a mere Lieutenant pulling rank on her.

"It is nice to meet you, too, General Beckman," responded Gordon. "I am glad you agreed to let me be part of this operation."

"Well, I didn't have much choice, did I?" snapped Beckman.

Gordon got a puzzled look on her face. Chuck saw it and the General must have, too.

"Sorry, about that Agent Gordon. I find this whole situation rather awkward."

"I'm sorry, General. I don't follow."

"Do you know why you received this assignment, Agent Gordon?" asked Beckman.

Gordon shrugged. "Diana Prince called me yesterday and asked if I was interested in a temporary assignment a little outside normal F.B.I. operations. I owed her a favor, so I agreed."

"How well do you know, Lieutenant Prince?"

"Not well," answered Gordon. "We worked a case together almost three years ago. Then I didn't speak to her again until yesterday."

Beckman nodded. "Okay, Gordon. Let's start over as I don't want us getting off on the wrong foot. I am not certain who Diana Prince is, but she certainly carries a lot more clout than any other Lieutenant I have ever met and probably more than most Generals or Admirals. I may have overreacted when she ordered me to accept you as a temporary replacement for Agent Walker, who is off doing who knows what for Prince.

"But based on your comments, I am going to assume you aren't part of some secret agenda of hers, but merely someone she had worked with before and believes can do a competent job. Now, my primary question for you, Agent Gordon, while you are here will you be working for me or will you be working for Lieutenant Prince?"

Gordon couldn't suppress the surprised look on her face. "To the best of my knowledge, I will be reporting to you, General, for the duration of this assignment."

"Good, Agent Gordon. Now why don't you take a couple of days to settle in and review the files about the Intersect and then we can go over your assignment in more detail."

"General, I am ready to go over the assignment now. I have already reviewed all the mission reports filed by Agents Walker and Casey. Based on what I have read, I have a few changes in procedures I would like to implement."

"Agent Gordon, I don't believe you have known about the Intersect and Mister Bartowski for more than eighteen hours. How could you have already reviewed all the mission reports? This team has been very active in the last eighteen months."

"I don't believe it is addressed in my personnel file, but I have a photographic memory. Generally, I can absorb all the contents of a page in a couple of seconds. It has been useful on some of my cases which have involved shifting through mounds of data.

"And that leads up to first change I would like to discuss. According to the field reports, Mister Bartowski has been placed in life threatening positions on thirty-four occasions in the last eighteen months, sixteen of which resulted in weapons fire. Assuming this pattern is going to continue, I am not comfortable putting what is in effect an untrained civilian into these situations. It is dangerous for him and, frankly, dangerous for the rest of the team.

"I would prefer to send him to Quantico for their twenty week anti-terrorist training program, but I assume you don't want him out of action for that long. However if I am to be a part of this team, I do insist you let me start him on a fitness and unarmed combat training program so he will be better prepared for situations that arise in the field."

The general nodded slowly. "I agree it would be better for everyone concerned if he was better able to look out for himself. Mister Bartowski, would you agree to participate in Agent Gordon's training program?"

Chuck was beginning to think the General had forgotten he was even present. But in response to her question, he turned to look at Gordon. Casey and Sarah had made noises about training him, but had never suggested an actual organized training program. It sounded like it might be a lot of work, but if it would improve his odds of staying alive, it was probably worth it. Had he really been in situations that ended up in shoot-outs sixteen times?

"Ah, I think some training would probably be a good idea, General," answered Chuck.

"Fine," answered Beckman before turning back to Gordon. "Good suggestion, Agent Gordon. Anything else?"

"Yes, just like police officers, when F.B.I. agents are in the field, they are required to wear vests. I think this should apply to Mister Bartowski, too. I don't know if you are aware, but the state of the art body armor is a lot less intrusive than in the old days."

"Agreed," said Beckman without any argument.

Gordon paused to take a deep breath. Now while the General seemed to be in an amenable mood, it was time for the big suggestion.

"General, I would also recommend dumping the BuyMore cover for Mister Bartowski and have him function full-time in his capacity as the Intersect. According to my analysis of the field reports, ninety-four percent of his 'flashes' that have led to arrests and convictions have occurred when he has been away from the BuyMore. Having him spend forty hours a week in a non-productive location is not an efficient use of a valuable asset. I am sure if I and Agent Casey and the analysts at the C.I.A., N.S.A, and F.B.I. work at it, we can find locations where he is much more likely to have useful 'flashes'."

"Wait a second," exclaimed Chuck. "I never volunteered to have the Intersect in my head. I received what I thought was a personal email from my old college roommate and, bang, I get saddled with the Intersect instead. I don't want to sacrifice my personal life just because it is convenient for the government."

"Chuck," began Gordon in a calm tone. "In what has effectively been your spare time you have aided in stopping seven groups intent on terrorist acts against this country. You have stopped eight groups from illegally transferring advanced technology and weapon designs to unfriendly foreign governments. You have broken up four drug transportation networks. You have uncovered six moles within various government agencies. And the list goes on. Think of all the good you could do, if you were working on a full-time basis."

Chuck could feel his heart beginning to pound. If he agreed, he was very afraid it would be the first step down the slippery slope to where he would be the Intersect 24/7 and room for his family and friends would be quickly squeezed out. He was just about to respond when he was cut-off by the General.

"Agent Gordon, I know you have the best intentions, but you have been here less than an hour and I think it is best if we take things a little slower. Get a training program set up for Mister Bartowski. See about acquiring the body armor you talked about. And I am interested in your thoughts about potentially more effective locations to place Mister Bartowski to cause useful flashes. But for the moment I am going to support his desire to remain at the BuyMore. As you say, his productive has been remarkably high for only working with us on a part-time basis. I don't want to risk upsetting the apple cart with abrupt changes. And I also don't want to risk burning him out prematurely. Take it slow, Gordon, and perhaps things will work out to your satisfaction."

"Yes, General," said Gordon. She saw so much wasted potential in the current set up and it had been worth a shot to make some significant changes up front. But Beckman had some valid points on her side, too, and had been dealing with situation for a long time.

Chuck was surprised the General had taken his side. He wanted to say thanks, but was afraid he would somehow screw things up if he opened his mouth at the moment. So he settled for a simple nod of thanks in her direction.

"Ah, one last thing, General Beckman, I am an F.B.I. agent not a spy," Gordon began and the way she said the word 'spy' made it seem as though she thought it was something dirty. "I am not interested in play acting as somebody's girlfriend or pretending to work in an Orange-Orange store. I believe it is best if I give my full attention to the mission."

"That is acceptable to me. Agent Casey can continue to provide security to Mister Bartowski while he is at the BuyMore. But you will have to come up with some reason to be around Mister Bartowski with some frequency without compromising his position at the BuyMore and with his family and friends."

General Beckman leaned back in her chair and then continued. "Well, we covered a lot more ground during this initial conversation than I was expecting. I still think you should take several days to get settled in and get acquainted with Mister Bartowski and Agent Casey and then we can continue this conversation. Beckman out."

Chuck stared at the blank screen for a moment. Beckman had ended the conversation as abruptly as always, but it had to have been the longest conversation he had ever participated in with the General.

Then he turned to look at the F.B.I. agent. "Gordon, you may have read the reports, but you don't have any grasp of the situation here. There is a large contingent in the government who want to treat me like the computer the Intersect was designed to be. They want to lock me in some dark room, feed me data from the outside world, and expect me to spit out answers. They would like to take away my whole life. I have had to fight hard to keep a semblance of my life while doing a job I never signed up for. I know you have the best of intentions, but please be careful you don't screw everything up for me."

Gordon looked at Chuck and realized he was right. Collating data had always been easy for her and sometimes she forgot some of the most important things weren't written down.

"I'm sorry, Chuck. Sometimes I get overzealous. It is probably my background. Gotham City has been mostly run by gangs and criminals as far back as I can remember. My father has fought against that and the related corruption within the department his entire career. You are already doing a lot to help the country be a better place, but I can just see the potential for so much more."

Chuck nodded in acceptance of her apology. He could see her position, he really could. And hopefully, she could see his, too.

"Okay, I think we better understand each other's position. How about we call a truce on the topic for the moment? You can continue to make your case in the future, but you have to understand my need to maintain my life, too."

Gordon nodded slowly and then stuck out her right hand. Chuck gladly clasped it and gave a firm shake. Then Chuck moved over to the conference table and pulled out a couple of chairs.

"Now, Gordon, did Diana explain the real reason you are here?"

Gordon dropped into the other chair. "Not really, she just said I would be replacing Agent Walker for several months while she was on a temporary assignment and that she would fill in the details once I got here."

"Well, we could wait for her to arrive, but I might as well get started with the parts I know. There are things going on, important things, that the General isn't aware of," began Chuck.

Gordon sat there almost in shock as Chuck began his tale of LuthorCorp, Lana Lang, meta-humans, and the Green Lantern Corp.

Part 3- Ninety-three days after Sarah first put on the Ring

A lot had happened in the three months since the day he had first met Barbara Gordon. As he stood there staring as Gordon continued to flip through the papers Chuck realized much of what had happened had changed his life for the better.

Gordon's training program had definitely yielded results; he was in the best shape of his life. He had been running and weight-training on alternate days in addition to the martial arts. He was bigger, stronger, faster, and had more stamina than he could ever remember.

But even more important, it was like they say, exercise is one of the best remedies for depression. He had been so down about Sarah's departure even his sister had picked up there was more to the situation than he had been letting on. However even as his body toughened up under Gordon's tutelage, so too did his feelings of loss for Sarah come under control. Oh, he still missed her terribly, but he was now better able to keep it in perspective.

And as Gordon pushed his skills and gave him more challenging assignments in the field, he had come to better appreciate the importance of his work and the good he was doing. This, in turn helped him understand why Sarah had chosen to go away. If she thought learning to use the ring would let her do good on a world wide scale, then he would have to support her decision.

"Well," began Gordon, straightening up from the table and breaking Chuck's line of thought. "We'll let the guys finish their search of the building, but I think this is going to turn into a dead end or at least a dead end for today."

Gordon looked up into Chuck's eyes and then smiled. "Chuck, we have been working really hard the last couple of days. I think we need a little break. Are you up for a big, fancy party? I happen to know the annual Policemen's Ball is being held tonight at Wayne Manor. And I'm sure if I call my Dad, he can scrounge us a couple of invitations."

Chuck recognized the sudden glint in Gordon's eye. "An extremely tall, stunningly attractive brunette wouldn't also happen to be attending this party?"

Gordon's grin broadened. "Maybe."

Chuck knew his new partner had it bad for the extremely young-looking, naval Lieutenant. And it had all started on Lana's last day as a Nerd Herder.

Part 4- Six days after Sarah first put on the Ring

Lana stood behind the Nerd Herd help desk. Morgan was standing next to her. It was one of those rare instances where Big Mike was standing on the other side of the counter facing them rather than hiding back in his office. He had been droning on for almost ten minutes, but after the first few seconds, she had mostly tuned him out.

Instead her thoughts were focused on how much longer she needed to pose as a BuyMore employee. She had promised Sarah she would keep an eye on Chuck and Casey, but that didn't mean she had to be tied down in the BuyMore for months. Both Chuck and Casey had her number and she could reach them from anywhere in the city within a couple of seconds. And it had now been almost a week since the events at Fort Knox without any additional LuthorCorp attempts against Chuck.

Plus Sarah's replacement, Barbara Gordon, had arrived several days earlier. Certainly, she didn't have Lana's metahuman abilities, but from what Lana had been able to learn, she had good, solid F.B.I. credentials.

So perhaps the time had come to start thinking about a graceful way to withdraw from her position. Oh, she didn't want to do anything too drastic, as she might still need to hang around the store occasionally to keep an eye on things. Should she just give the normal two weeks notice? Did she want to waste two more weeks of her life as a Nerd Herder, when the time could be better spent researching who had been behind the events back at Fort Knox?

She had just about decided to interrupt Big Mike to tell him she was giving notice when she spotted a familiar figure come striding in through the store's front door. Tall, blonde, insanely handsome, there was no mistaking Oliver Queen. What was he doing at the BuyMore? He was far more recognizable then her and would put her cover at risk. Then Lana wondered why that suddenly mattered so much to her, if she really intended to quit.

Oliver strode briskly up to the desk. It didn't seem to bother him in the least to interrupt Big Mike's monologue.

"Lana, I have uncovered a lead on the . . . ah . . . spiders. Can you accompany me to Star City? I can't reach Bart or Clark and could really use the backup. My jet is sitting over at Bob Hope and should be refueled and ready to go in thirty minutes."

Lana just looked at him for a moment. Then her eyes flicked to Morgan and Big Mike, who were both staring at Queen. At any second she expected one of them to recognize the famous billionaire playboy.

"Ah, you couldn't have just called or texted?" asked Lana, as she pushed her fake glasses more firmly up her nose as a subtle reminder she was undercover.

Oliver grinned and then did a long, slow scan of the surrounding store. "Oh, I was curious how the other half lives. What is a minimum wage lifestyle like?"

"Lana, what's this talk about jets, Star City, and spiders?" asked Big Mike.

It appeared he was going to say more, but he was cut off by Morgan.

"Hey, I know you. I saw you at Comic-Con last year. You were there for the launch of the new Warrior Angel game, 'Wings of Fire'. You're Oliver Queen."

Morgan paused and when he turned towards Lana, she could see the passionate fire burning in his eyes. Morgan probably couldn't care less that Oliver was the billionaire CEO of Queen Industries. No, all that mattered to a gamer like him was that Queen was the power behind Dragon-Queen Productions, the producers of Warrior Angel and a plethora of other comics, games, anima, and cinema.

"How do you know Oliver Queen?" asked Morgan. And then with an almost accusatory glare he added, "And why didn't you ever share?"

Before she had a chance to respond, Lana saw Chuck, Diana, and Gordon all enter through the store's front door. The gang is all here, Lana thought with almost a wry grin. Then she wondered if Oliver had called and asked them to meet him here. Perhaps it was going to be like Fort Knox all over again and it was going to take their combined efforts to handle whatever Oliver had uncovered in Star City.

Lana caught Oliver's eye and then nodded towards the front of the store. "Did you contact them, too?"

Oliver followed her gaze. "Ah, no."

Morgan had also followed her gaze. With a perplexed look on his face, he quietly asked, "Chuck?"

Damn. Lana realized she was so annoyed at Oliver for potentially wrecking her cover; she might have just done in Chuck's without thinking her comment through.

The others had nearly reached the Nerd Herd counter and Lana was furiously thinking about how to salvage the situation, when they were all distracted by what sounded like a jet engine cranking up somewhere in the back area of the store.

Instantly, Lana assumed this might be the start of another attack by LuthorCorp. Everything around her ground to a halt as she shifted into Prometheus Time to investigate.

Quickly in the sudden silence, Lana raced towards the back. While on the one hand the silence of Prometheus Time was calming, on the other it had the disadvantage of not allowing her to use sound to track the unexpected noise to its source.

However, she needn't have worried. As soon as she stepped through the swinging door leading into the back area, she couldn't help but see the cause. Big Mike's glass-walled office was filled with a literal blizzard of frozen-in-place white fluff. And before she took a single step closer, she knew what the white fluff was – popcorn.

Running over, Lana almost pressed her nose against the glass, as she stared into Big Mike's office. After three days, she had been beginning to think Lester and Jeff had given up on her hasty suggestion that they fill Big Mike's office with popcorn, if they wanted to watch her kiss another girl. And if they were going to follow through, she had expected them to try something in the middle of the night, not in the middle of the day when the whole store was full of people. She would definitely have to give them extra points for sheer audacity.

Looking over Big Mike's office more carefully, Lana realized three of the ceiling panels had been pulled back and that was how the popcorn was entering. At the rate the popcorn was flowing into the room, it would take hours, if not days to fill it to the brim like in the old 'Real Genius' movie. Since it was unlikely they had more than minutes before they would be caught and stopped, she was going to have to decide whether their effort, even if unsuccessful, was worthy of the reward.

Curious why their setup sounded more like a jet engine than anything else, Lana set off to check the situation out. Since they had to be in the second floor storage area, Lana headed over to the pull-down access stairway.

It was locked in the up position, of course, as though Jeff and Lester thought it would delay any interference. But Lana knew the upper level would still be easily accessible from the other end which was wide open to allow the forklift to place and retrieve shipping pallets.

Running back passed the locked cage room where the smaller, more valuable inventory was kept; Lana reached the large open storage area right behind the loading dock. In only moments she was standing beneath the open access area to the second floor storage area that extended over the cage room, the employee break room, and finally Big Mike's office. With a quick flex of her knees, Lana launched herself into the air and landed lightly on the second floor.

Winding her way through the haphazardly stacked boxes of inventory, Lana quickly reached the area over Big Mike's office and took in the complex claptrap of equipment Lester and Jeff had assembled. She found it hard to believe, but rather than preparing the popcorn and bringing it in ahead of time, they were actually using three large kettles to pop it in real time. The kettles were topped with a homemade construction of clear plastic and duct tape which led to three dust blowers like professional lawn care teams used. These were blowing through what looked like dryer vent pipe into the three lifted floor panels that had to exit through the ceiling of Big Mike's office.

It was a set up that would have done MacGyver, except for the heating source for the large kettles. Jeff and Lester were using open-flame blowtorches. Were they insane? They could burn down the whole store.

Immediately, Lana turned all nine of the blowtorches off. Then not knowing how long it would be before someone got up here for 'real' and not wanting them to try again, she completely removed them from the assembly and moved them back down to the main floor storage area.

Deciding she had done all that was necessary to ensure everyone's safety, Lana made her way back down into the main part of the store and resumed her position before dropping out of Prometheus Time.

"What is that?" exclaimed about five people at once.

"Jeff, Lester," growled Big Mike, as he began jogging towards the back of the store.

"Another attack?" asked Chuck, as the rest of them set off in pursuit of the irate store manager.

"No," answered Lana. "It really is Jeff and Lester. And I'm afraid it is my fault. Remember the little project I gave them to keep them out of my hair? Well, they decided to go for it in a more spectacular manner than I was expecting."

They pushed through the door leading into the back of the store and found Big Mike staring through the glass door of his office with a flabbergasted expression on his face. Lana might have removed the heat source from the guys' popcorn making device, but there had been enough in the system so that it was still spewing forth at an impressive rate. The office might not be filled to the brim with popcorn, but every flat surface appeared to be covered at least an inch or two deep.

"Jeff, Lester," rumbled Big Mike again and this time it felt like there was more than just simple annoyance in his tone.

Lana saw Big Mike glance to the office's ceiling and realized he knew in general what had to be going on.

Quickly, Big Mike walked over to the folding staircase that led to the second level and which was still in the up and locked position. He only gave it a quick glance before walking over to the area where the cleaning supplies were kept. He picked up a broom and walked back over to the locked staircase. Reaching the broom up over his head, it only took him two tries to stab the recessed latch which unlocked the staircase in an emergency.

The roar from the dust blowers up on the second level was much louder now and Big Mike climbed up five steps before beginning to shout.

It took less than thirty seconds before the dust blowers began to be shut off one by one. But it was almost another minute before Big Mike came down the stairs with a sheepish Lester and Jeff following in his wake.

When they were all back on the main floor, Big Mike pointed towards his office where the last of the popcorn was still trickling down from the ceiling.

"This has to be the worst stunt the two of you have ever pulled. I don't know why you felt it was necessary to blow my office full of popcorn, but you are going to clean up every last kernel. And you are NOT going to do it on company time."

Lester shot Lana a pleading glance even as he began nodding his head towards Big Mike.

Lana realized she felt a little sorry for the pair. She was the one who had put them up to it; she just never expected them to actually try to do it.

She couldn't just leave them to hang for it alone. And what the hell, she was planning on quitting anyway, so she might as well exit with a bit of flair.

"I'm sorry, Big Mike, I'm afraid this is all my fault."

Big Mike turned to look at Lana. A little of the fire went out of his eyes, but not all of it, as he nodded for her to continue.

"I think it was on my second day here, Lester was sort of annoying me and I didn't yet realize he annoys almost everyone the same way and I should just ignore it. So I decided I needed to do something to distract him for a while. We happened to be discussing old movies and the scene from 'Real Genuis' where the house is filled with popcorn and then literally busts apart from expanding popcorn when the satellite beam hits it came to mind. So I suggested the guys might want to do the same thing to your office. I just never thought they would actually do it."

"Tell him why we did it," said Lester at barely more than a whisper.

Lana looked over at Lester and gave him a small nod. They tried to fulfill her request and they were going to be spending hours, if not days cleaning Big Mike's office, so it felt like she should keep her part of the bargain. And besides, after thinking about it ever since the first conversation, she had to know what kissing Diana was like.

Quietly Lana turned and walked over to where Diana, Chuck, Morgan, Gordon, and Oliver stood slightly to one side.

Reaching Diana, Lana stretched one hand behind the taller woman's neck. Pulling lightly forward and down, Diana only resisted for a moment. In seconds, Lana's lips were pressed lightly against Diana's. At first she just extended the kiss to give Lester and Jeff their money's worth, but then Diana's lips slightly parted and her tongue danced out to touch Lana's. For a few seconds all thoughts of the guys fled as Lana focused on the kiss. And she had to admit Diana kissed better than most guys she had known.

It felt far too quick, but in a matter of seconds the kiss was over. Diana gave her a quick wink and a grin before straightening back to her full six foot one height.

Diana's motion made Lana realize she had been standing on her toes by the end of the kiss and now she quickly lowered herself before turning back to where Big Mike was standing. His mouth was gaping open, as were those of most of the others in the room.

"Big Mike, since I was at least partially to blame for the whole popcorn affair," began Lana once she found her voice. "I better help Jeff and Lester clean up the mess."

"Ah, Lana," interrupted Oliver. "Star City, remember? We need to go today while the trail is hot. Don't you think you've hung around this BuyMore long enough? We have bigger fish to fry."

"Miss Fordman," began Big Mike suddenly sounding all official. "What is he talking about?"

Lana sighed. She needed to extricate herself from this whole situation while trying to leave Chuck's cover intact.

"The name is not Fordman, Big Mike," said Lana as she pulled off the fake glasses and slid them into the pocket of her slacks. "My name is Lana Lang, or you might better recognize me as the former Mrs. Lex Luthor. I have been considering making a large investment in the BuyMore Corporation. But my experience is that you can only learn so much from talking to C.E.O.s and reading 10-K and 10-Q filings with the S.E.C. If I am going to buy a company, I like to have some idea how things operate down in the trenches, as the performance of any company always comes down to the performance of the employees. So, I picked a store at random and joined the staff."

"You're Mrs. Lex Luthor, the late billionaire's wife?" exclaimed Chuck, as he realized she was trying to distance herself from him to protect his cover.

Lana nodded. "How else would I know the famous Oliver Queen?"

Then Lana turned back to Big Mike and extended her hand. "It has been a pleasure meeting you and your staff. Sorry, if I caused some unnecessary disruptions."

As he shook the offered hand, Big Mike asked almost in a daze. "Are you really going to buy the BuyMore chain?"

"I don't know yet. I have some more research to perform and it will probably be several months before I make a final decision. And I may stop in occasionally with a few questions, if you don't mind."

Big Mike just nodded. He didn't run into billionaires every day.

Lana threw a nod in Jeff and Lester's direction and then turned to Oliver. "Shall we be on our way?"

Trying to put a little distance between the two of them and the others, Lana led Oliver back into the main part of the store and then on out through the front doors.

Part 5- Ninety-three days after Sarah first put on the Ring

Gordon pulled their rental car up to the valet parking, which was set up just outside the front gate of Wayne Manor for the gala event. After they exited the car, she took a moment to adjust Chuck's bowtie.

Taking a step back, she said. "There. I think you look quite handsome." In the three months since she had first met him, Chuck had taken to wearing his hair shorter and had trimmed a good inch from his sideburns. He now looked decidedly G.Q. in his black tuxedo.

Chuck glanced down at his formal attire. Three hours earlier they had been on a mission to track down the elusive Lex Luthor and he had never even heard of this party let alone thought to bring along a tuxedo when they had traveled cross-country from Los Angeles – not that he even owned a tuxedo. But Gordon had grown up here in Gotham City and had known where to find a tuxedo rental place that had gotten him fitted and out the door in under an hour.

Next Chuck turned his attention to his partner. Gordon was decked out in something shimmering and green which complemented her red hair. The neckline plunged deep in the front, the back was virtually nonexistent, and the dress stopped a good seven inches short of her knees. She was simply stunning. For a moment Chuck fantasized about seeing Sarah in that dress. Oh, he had seen Sarah in similar attire on several missions, but only ever on missions, certainly not on a personal, social occasion like this.

"And you are stunning," said Chuck returning the complement. "I think Diana is going to be impressed."

When he had first met Gordon, Chuck had been a little worried about working with another extremely beautiful woman while Sarah was gone. Oh, he was already working with Diana, but she was so far out of his league, it wasn't really a problem. But Gordon was in the same 'supermodel' range as Sarah rather than the otherworldly beauty of Diana. He had thought it would be awkward with Gordon, but she had quickly and firmly informed him she was gay.

And once he had figured out she was really attracted to Diana, it had become a little personal mission of his own to help Gordon connect with the other woman who looked so young yet was actually quite old. Of course, his progress had been limited as Diana had departed only shortly after Lana had left the BuyMore. Oh, Lana was still mostly in Los Angeles and they usually saw her once or twice a week, but they had only crossed paths with Diana a couple of times in the intervening three months. Diana had claimed when she had first departed that she had a mission of her own she needed to accomplish. But she apparently had some powerful sixth sense, as she always seemed to appear when they most desperately needed her help.

"Thanks, I hope you're right," answered Gordon. Then she threaded her arm through his and turned them towards the long driveway leading to their destination.

They walked in companionable silence until they were seventy-five feet past the main gate and reached the spot where the drive did a dogleg turn and the mansion first came into view between the thick trees.

"Holy shit," exclaimed Chuck. He threw in a quick apology for his rude language, but he felt inside the profane exclamation had been entirely appropriate.

He didn't know what he had been expecting, but probably something along the lines of what you saw from the street when driving through Beverly Hills. Oh, something way beyond what he would ever be able to afford, but still something he could grasp from various T.V. shows involving the rich and beautiful.

But Wayne Manor was something on an entirely different scale. The central portion of the giant façade towered a full seven stories and then wings extended far to the left and right which looked short in comparison but still stood three stories tall.

The only thing Chuck had ever seen that was remotely on the same scale was Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Hearst Castle might rival what he was seeing on a square footage basis, but it could in no way compete in terms of style. No, Hearst Castle was a strange mishmash of Ancient Roman, Medieval Northern European, and quasi-modern. But Wayne Manor had a very consistent style – High Gothic.

And even with the very bright illumination of the façade for this social gathering, the building still managed to loom up in a very dark and threatening manner. It reminded him of something that took a moment to come into focus. And when it did, a brief snippet of the old theme song played through his head. Collinwood, the ancestral mansion of the Collins family in the old 'Dark Shadows' T.V. show was what sprang to mind. He could easily picture the eerie, sprawling Wayne Manor infested with vampires, ghosts, witches, and assorted other demons. Morgan had always been a bigger 'Dark Shadows' fan than he was and he knew Morgan would just love to see this creepy home that looked more like an ancient insane asylum than a place where anyone would actually live.

"Wow," exclaimed Chuck when he found his voice. "This is the biggest mansion I have ever seen. And my first impression is that it is also the creepiest. Have you ever been here before?"

"Yeah, although it has been at least seven or eight years. And if you think it looks scary and intimidating now, you should have seen it in the good old days on Halloween. When he was in his late teens and early twenties, Bruce Wayne threw the biggest, wildest Halloween bashes. Whole crews would work for weeks getting the place ready."

"Do you know Bruce Wayne?" asked Chuck. Like Oliver Queen or Lex Luthor in his younger days, Bruce Wayne was another famous, or was it infamous, playboy. And like the other two, he was the scion of a rich, powerful family. All three men were within a year of Chuck's own age and he couldn't help but wonder what his life would have been like if he had had rich parents, too.

"I've met him a couple of times, but I don't think I would say I really know him," answered Gordon. "And the last time I talked to him I was, I think, eighteen, so he probably doesn't remember me."

Chuck glanced over at Gordon, who was walking up the inclined drive in four inch heels that added an interesting roll to her hips her normal flat, business-like footwear didn't. She was remarkably beautiful and he was certain if he had met her at eighteen, he would still remember. But then he wasn't a legendary playboy like Bruce Wayne who doubtlessly met equally beautiful women on a daily basis.

They had finally reached the broad circular drive in front of the mansion's main entrance. The area was brightly lit by a string of lampposts that looked straight out of Victorian England and which might have been converted from gas to electricity in only the last week.

A few clusters of people were scattered around the drive and Chuck quickly realized they each contained at least a smoker or two. But Gordon didn't pause and headed straight for the large set of double doors that stood wide open.

Just inside the doorway, they were greeted by a slender fiftyish man in white tie and tails.

"Good evening, Miss Gordon. It has been much too long since you have last visited."

"Thank you, Alfred. It is too kind that you remember me. This is Chuck Bartowski, my escort for the evening."

The older man nodded politely to Chuck and then sprouted a fatherly smile as he turned back towards Gordon. "Remembering people is part of my job and I would be very remiss to forget Commissioner Gordon's daughter. Now, I believe the people you are looking for are in the Armory, the third door on the left."

"Thank you, Alfred," repeated Gordon with a nod.

As they proceeded into the main hall of Wayne Manor, which stretched before them for at least a hundred and fifty feet and whose high ceiling towered at least forty feet above their heads, Chuck leaned closer and whispered. "They have their own Armory?"

"Oh, not in the classical sense with rows and rows of weapons ready to use, from what I remember it is more a museum of the history of personal weapons."

"And who is it we are supposed to meet there?"

Gordon shrugged. "I'm not absolutely certain, but I have learned to trust whatever Alfred says."

Chuck swept his gaze around the main hall as they walked. There had to be over two hundred people in the room, but it didn't feel at all crowded. Did people really live in places of this scale?

"So who is this Alfred? The head butler? He didn't seem to have any trouble remembering you, if it has been years since you have been here."

"Alfred is . . . ah . . . simply Alfred. I guess he is technically Bruce's butler, but he is also a lot more. Bruce's parents were killed when he was a boy and Alfred pretty much raised him. I think Alfred looks after a lot of Bruce's personal affairs and he has contacts all over the city. I know my father doesn't think of Alfred as just some servant, but more as an important asset of Gotham City.

"And sometimes I think Alfred has a photographic memory as good as mine," Gordon continued. "At least I have never seen him forget a name or a face. And sometimes he seems to have this almost magical gift for knowing the right answer. I mean he has probably been by the front door for hours, but yet he could tell you exactly where everyone currently in the house is located."

"Is he meta-human?" asked Chuck.

"You know, I never really thought about it before. Of course, I never knew about meta-humans back in high school, which is the last time I lived in Gotham, and I probably haven't thought about Alfred since then. But now that you mention it, he always did seem to have some slightly uncanny gifts."

By this point the pair had made their way across the broad hall angling towards the left wall. And along the way they had managed to snag a couple of flutes of Champaign from one of the nearly countless men in white livery.

The third set of double doors in the left wall were closed, but Gordon didn't hesitate to open one and step through. As Chuck pulled the heavy door closed behind them, the hubbub of the party, not to mention the music from the ballroom located to the right of the main hall, became surprisingly muted. The eighteen inch thick stone walls of the old mansion made for an effective sound barrier.

As Chuck turned from the door and took a good look at this room Alfred had referred to as 'The Armory', it seemed like it would be better described as a hall than a room. It was at least seventy-five feet long, but only fifteen feet wide. And each of the long walls was lined by life-sized mannequins attired in the military garb from many different eras. From a Roman soldier with a plumed helmet to a knight in chain mail to an American Indian in war paint to a World War 1 German infantry man with a gas mask, over fifty eras of soldier's attire and weapons were represented in this room.

It was almost overwhelming and Chuck stood frozen by the door trying to take it all in. But after less than ten seconds, Gordon grabbed Chuck's wrist and gave a firm tug to get him moving forward. And when he momentarily pulled his attention away from the war-clad mannequins, he finally spotted the room's three other occupants standing deep in conversation about halfway down the long space. They were two women and one man. Chuck instantly recognized one of the women was the statuesque Diana Prince. He was certain he had never met the other pair.

Gordon walked briskly in the direction of the others and Chuck almost had to jog to keep up. At their approach, the other three looked up and all began to smile. This seemed to cause Gordon to increase her pace even more and she seemed to virtually fly across the intervening space.

"Mom, Dad," Gordon began, as she pulled the fiftyish woman into a hug while reaching a hand towards the man. "It is so good to see you."

"It is wonderful to see you, too, Barbara," responded the woman. "I was so pleased when your father called and said you would be able to attend the ball."

By this time, Gordon had stepped away from her Mother to give her father a quick hug in turn. Then she took a step back to perform the introductions.

"Mom, Dad, this is my current partner, Chuck Bartowski. Chuck, these are my parents, James and Sarah Gordon."

As Chuck reached out his right hand to James, the older man asked, "So, Chuck, how long have you been with the F.B.I.?"

Before Chuck could respond, Gordon jumped back in. "Dad, Chuck isn't with the F.B.I. I am on a temporary assignment to help out another agency. It's all rather hush-hush."

The older Gordon nodded. "Okay, say no more. I have worked a few special cases like that down through the years and understand."

"Well, I didn't want to talk shop anyway," interjected Mrs. Gordon. "It is just nice to spend a little time with my daughter."

Chuck glanced at Diana, who towered over everyone else in their little group except him. Gordon stood five foot eight, the same as her father and a couple of inches more than her mother. But in heels Diana was easily Chuck's equal.

And height was certainly the only area where Chuck was Diana's equal. Diana was always so stunning that all conversations halted whenever she entered a room, but her current attire took her a notch beyond even that. She was wearing a floor-length ruby red gown that looked like it was being held on by magic. Her luxurious black hair was held back by a wide ornate clip that looked like a diamond tiara from some royal princess. Her only other jewelry was the wide silver heirloom bracelets that always adorned her forearms.

"Diana, it is good to see you again," stated Chuck with a nod of his head. "Are you a guest of the Gordon's?" Unless Diana had called Gordon to let her know she was going to be at this party, the only other likely source of her knowledge of that fact had to be Gordon's father.

"Yes, technically, I am their guest. But the real reason I am here is to get Bruce Wayne's help on a little project."

"You must not know Bruce, if you expect his help," stated the senior Gordon. "Unless, of course, you need help to get a date with a beautiful woman." This last was said with a quick glance to his daughter.

Gordon had never told Chuck whether she was 'out' with her parents and he hoped the situation wasn't going to turn awkward.

But Diana just displayed one of her dazzling smiles. "Oh, I don't need any help connecting with a beautiful woman." And as she finished speaking, she also shot a knowing glance in Gordon's direction.

Chuck couldn't help but glance in Gordon's direction, too, and her normal pale ivory cheekbones were now covered with a furious blush.

But Diana gracefully let the red head off the hook for the moment, as she continued, "But it is really a work related issue about which I need to speak to Mister Wayne."

"Did I hear my name?" asked a deep, almost gravelly voice from right behind Chuck's shoulder.

Chuck almost jumped. He was startled someone had managed to get that close to him without his even noticing. It used to happen to him a lot in the old days when he would be focused one hundred percent on solving some computer problem at work or sat enthralled before some computer game at home. But Gordon had been working on his situational awareness skills almost as much as his combat skills and it had been weeks since someone had caught him unawares. Was it the overwhelming presence of Diana Prince that had distracted him, or was Wayne as stealthy as some mythical Ninja?

"Bruce, it is good to see you again," stated the Police Commissioner, stepping forward and extending his hand. "I don't know if you remember, but this is my wife, Sarah, and my daughter, Barbara."

Wayne nodded in Mrs. Gordon's direction and then reached out to clasp Gordon's hand. "Barbara, it is good to see you again. What has it been - seven, eight years? I think you were a senior in high school the last time we met. What are you doing these days?"

"Yes," answered Gordon. "I was in high school the last time. I'm surprised you remember."

Wayne quirked a smile in her direction, "Oh, don't let all the stories about me fool you. I remember the important people like the Police Commissioner's daughter. And let me say I'm glad you take after your mother rather than your 'ugly as an old shoe' father."

Gordon grinned at Wayne's infamous charm. "Well, I do take after my father in one way. I am with the F.B.I. now."

Wayne looked at her for a moment and then nodded his head. "Good. I'm glad to see you are doing something important with your life like your father. The world is filled with too many bad people. If not for people like you Gordons, the world would be a much worse place."

As he finished speaking, Wayne flicked a glance in Chuck's direction. Immediately, Gordon made the introductions.

"Bruce, this is Chuck Bartowski, my partner on my current assignment and my escort for the evening."

"I hope I'm not your current assignment, Barbara," Wayne said with a small chuckle. "I promise I'll get Alfred working on all those unpaid parking tickets the first thing in the morning."

Then Wayne turned more fully in Chuck's direction and extended his hand. "Bruce Wayne."

All Chuck could think as he extended his hand was that this was the third Billionaire he had met in as many months. And a quick glance at Wayne's ten thousand dollar tuxedo and hundred thousand dollar designer watch told him he would never fit into the Billionaire boy's club.

"Chuck Bartowski," Chuck responded, as their hands approached.

And then, when their hands finally touched, Chuck 'flashed'.

End of Chapter Six.

Author's Note: Well, I had hoped to cover part of Sarah's parallel story in this chapter, but I had so much I wanted to do on the Chuck side of the story, it just didn't happen. Hopefully, we'll see more of Sarah in the next chapter.

Have a great day,

Duane