The Key was a device created by the original designers of the Intersect which was intended to materially alter the Intersect's original function. Since changing the Intersect this way could be dangerous, the key was designed to split into three parts, and a piece was kept by each of the lead designers, Stephen Bartowski, Ted Roark and Hartley Winterbottom.

It was later revealed that the pieces of the key ended up possesion of a former Fulcrum agent (Roark's piece, given to the agent personally), a former Ring operative (Hartley's piece, acquired by The Ring through unknown means) and General Beckman (Stephen's piece, given to "someone in the government", unclear whether Beckman was the original bearer).

The Key first appears in "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" when Nicholas Quinn, rogue freelance spy and a discharged CIA agent, is traveling around the world, reassembling the key, so he can fix the last known copy of the Intersect.

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