8/5/2010

Chuck versus Mom

Chapter 4

"Chuck, wake up. Chuck, please wake up."

Slowly, Chuck began to come awake. Then suddenly he remembered the nightmares. His eyes shot open and he tried to jerk erect, but a cool hand was pressing down against his forehead.

"Relax, Chuck, everything is going to be okay."

Focusing on the voice, he looked up at the head hovering above him. It was backlit by the overhead lights which made it seem like it was surrounded by some angelic halo. But the backlighting also made the face somewhat difficult to decypher. And when it did finally resolve, he couldn't suppress a gasp. It was the one constant across all the nightmares he could remember. It was the face of his long departed Mother.

Then more tidbits from the dreams came back and he realized there had been one other constant – the BFG. Frantically, his eyes darted passed his mother and around the rest of the room, or at least as much of it as he could see from his prone position on the floor. The weapon was nowhere in sight. He started to relax just a little until he recognized where he was. He was in the office at the back of the warehouse which had figured prominently in several of the nightmares.

"Chuck, you're going to be okay. You just experienced a very bad 'flash', but I think I have it under control now."

Chuck's gaze returned to his mother's face and suddenly he realized she looked surprisingly like Sarah Connor from Terminator. The movie version Sarah Connor, not the TV version. Oh, she looked at least twenty years older, but there were striking similarities in the shape of the eyes, the fullness of the lips, and the height of the cheekbones.

And that's when it struck him – the dreams had all been stolen snippets from the various movies. Judgment Day. Robots hidden under human flesh. Machines not realizing they were machines. The photo of Sarah with the German Shepard from the end of the first movie. Why hadn't he made the connection to the Terminator movies? But then that was the way of dreams, some key bit was missing and you never realized it.

Still the dreams were hard to shake, particularly the last one. And therefore he asked the most important question, more important than where he was or what had happened to him.

"Sarah?"

His mother smiled and it was something he realized none of the dream versions of her had ever done.

"I called her as soon as you collapsed. She should be here any minute."

Just then the door to the office opened and Sarah came rushing in. Quickly, she knelt next to Chuck on the opposite side from his Mother.

"Chuck, are you okay?"

For a moment Chuck felt a wave of déjà vu from the most recent dream. Sarah had used almost the exact same words when he had seemed to jerk awake from the previous dream within a dream. For a moment Chuck wondered if this was just another layer in the sequence of dreams. Awakening in each previous one had felt more real than the one before. Was the pattern repeating itself again? He couldn't help another frantic sweep of the room for the BFG. In each preceding dream the body count had steadily increased. In the first no one had died. In the second just he had died. In the third he and Sarah and Morgan had died. If this turned out to be another one, what would the death total be? And then some geeky corner of his mind wondered what order polynomial equation the curve was following. Or was it exponential or logarithmic?

"Chuck," said his mother in a soothing tone as she once again brushed her cool fingertips across his near feverish brow. "You need to stay calm. My equipment has nearly neutralized the adverse effects of the bad 'flash', but it will help if you stay calm."

And once she mentioned the equipment and brought it to his attention, he realized there was something hard and metallic covering the top of his head. Gingerly, he reached up with his right hand and fingered the device. It was smooth and hard and felt like the helmet Friar Tuck had worn in the original 1930s Robin Hood movie. Well, except for the bundle of wires he could feel extending out through an opening in the top.

"What happened?" he finally asked.

His mother, Mary, didn't immediately respond. Instead she asked, "Are you okay to sit up?"

Slowly Chuck nodded and then used his hands and elbows to lever himself up. Quickly each of the women provided a supportive hand under one of his upper arms.

Once he was sitting up his Mother pulled her hands free and then stretched the right one out in front of him towards Sarah.

"I'm sorry we had to meet under these circumstances. I'm Mary Bartowski."

Sarah took the offered hand. "Sarah Walker. And I'm just glad you called me. So what happened?"

Mary sat back on her haunches and let out a small sigh. "Chuck showed up at the door out of the blue. Of course, I have been keeping tabs on him and Ellie and in particular since Steve's message led him to the secret facility under our old house, but I never expected him to show up here today.

"But since he had managed to track me down, no matter how dangerous knowing my whereabouts is, I couldn't just pretend I didn't recognize him. So I pulled him into a hug and that's when he 'flashed'. And I'm afraid my enemies had loaded what was in effect a computer virus into the Intersect which would only activate when the two of us touched. We were just lucky it happened here, where I had the necessary equipment to counteract the worst of it."

"Counteract the worst of it?" echoed Chuck. "You wouldn't believe the nightmares I have been experiencing. I can't imagine how it could have been worse."

"You could have been trapped in one of those dreams forever or at least until you died," answered his Mother.

"But I did die, at least twice that I remember," Chuck said with a shudder. Just talking about it seemed to make those deaths feel more real.

"Yeah, but each time I was able to use it as the impetus to jump your mind closer to an awakened state."

In his head, Chuck could almost follow her explanation, but it still didn't seem to make his experiences in the dreams any less harrowing.

But he could worry about the details later, it was time to move the conversation on to more important things like the whole reason he had come here. For finally, all of his 'normal' memories seemed to be returning. He could now remember all the details of the months' long quest to find his mother after discovering hints about her life in the plethora of records his father had stashed in the facility Chuck had never known had existed below their original home.

"Mom," he began and for a second his voice started to break like he was suddenly a teenager again. Starting again, he continued. "Mom, why did you leave twenty-five years ago? And why didn't you ever come back?"

Mary realized it was time for some explanations. "It's a long story. Do you feel up to moving over to the couch?"

Chuck simply nodded.

"Okay, I'll need to take the device off your head first," his Mom answered. Then she paused to look at the display of the smartphone connected to the wire bundle exiting the helmet. "The device has been slowly reducing the field strength over the last few minutes, but it hasn't reached zero. So when I shut it off, you may feel some effect."

Chuck nodded and tried to steel himself against what he expected to be a blast of pain. But the effect wasn't anything like that. It was both more subtle and potentially much more dangerous. No, the level of paranoia he was feeling simply jumped up several notches. Of course, paranoia is something that is only obvious to an outside observer. From Chuck's perspective it was a case of the nightmares and their implications surging back to the foreground of his thoughts. And immediately his eyes darted around the room searching for the BFG since he suddenly knew it had to be there. And when he couldn't find it, he turned his attention to the women's eyes. He was certain he could almost see a trace of the red terminator glow peeking through.

"Chuck," his Mother said in almost a brusque tone. "You need to focus. Everything is going to be alright. Do you want to move over to the couch and listen to my story?"

For a moment he thought he caught a hint of a Schwarzeneggerian accent hidden in her words, but then he forced himself to take a deep slow breath. "Yeah, I would like to hear your story."

"Good," said his Mother as she took a firm grip on his arm to help him to his feet.

Briefly a spike of fear raced through him as he imagined her terminator-strong hand crushing his arm until the very bones began to crack. But once again he forced the almost overwhelming fear down and focused his attention on getting to his feet. He swayed for just a moment once he made it erect. Then he gingerly began making his way towards the couch, moving as though he was suddenly eighty years old.

Once they had crossed the intervening fifteen feet, Chuck slid gratefully into the soft, deep cushions as the women arranged themselves one to each side.

His Mom began to tell her story, but Chuck couldn't prevent a large portion of his attention from dwelling on his recent dreams. And in the fragile mental state he was still in, he wondered once again if this was real or just another layer to the nightmares. Even if this was reality and he had truly found his long-lost mother, he knew it was going to be a very long time before he would feel certain and would be able to stop looking for BFGs and terminators around every corner.

The End

Author's Note:

Well, what do you think? Was it an interesting way to work in a little terminator tribute for Linda Hamilton's upcoming addition to the show? I know it was a little darker than most Chuck stories, but it felt appropriate for one involving terminators.

And to me it doesn't feel as polished as most of my other stories, but I set myself a goal of writing and posting one chapter a day and I only had about two hours each to write and proofread. But considering those self-imposed constraints, I think it turned out pretty close to what I was hoping for when I started writing it.

Anyway if you liked it or even hated it, I would love to hear from you,

Duane