Disclaimer- Pixar of course owns Cars. Ebony Talon is mine and so is Seth and Damien Cain. I also own Briel and since I named Steve after a friend of mine he kinda owns himself.
Notes: Wow! This one took a while to get out but yes! It's over! Last chapter! This is it! hands out the tissue This is it until the sequel! Mwahahaha Ok I'm done. A few notes on this one. It gets dark in a few places. (After the end of the last chapter no duh...) I'm told it's a little spooky in a few places. Also... An extra cookie for anyone who can name the reference of Death! Want a hint? Pick up a history book! After all without history you have no future! Also note that this is the chapter that almost wasn't. My computer ate it! Ate this... As well as a term paper... A few essays I needed... Some graphics for class... Now we all must give my dear friend Kyle a hand. Not only did he get me back online but he saved my work to! I didn't have to rewrite this! Yay Kyle! This time... He Rocks On! Peace out ya'll!
Light... It was the first thing that truly registered. It was comforting... He seemed to be floating... It was a peaceful and saurian feeling. Like nothing in the world mattered... Time was nothing... The only thing that really mattered in his entire existence was the here and now.
If he thought, he could feel his friends. His family. He was loved. He could also feel that they where all ok. A forbidding danger hung overhead but it was alright. For now they where safe.
"Doc?" He knew that voice... Where did he know it from? It didn't matter to him anymore...
"Doc we kinda have you in a sort of limbo... It's gonna be weird for a moment..."
Again that voice. He honestly couldn't even begin to understand what it was saying.
"Hold on Doc just a few more seconds..."
Just like that the haze was gone. He blinked as it seemed to part and clear, the light darkening as he was pulled through what could only be described as a tunnel... It was never ending... He felt as if he were moving and yet he was perfectly still...
"Doc?" Ebony... The voice was Ebony...
"Where am I?"
"It's a long story Doc. We're sending you back."
He wasn't sure why but relief flooded him. He was going back... Despite the peace he felt... He was needed somewhere else.
"Listen Doc when we send you back... You're not going to remember this... I need you to."
He blinked as the viper came into his vision, a small pickup just behind her.
"I need you to listen very carefully. When you wake up I need you to give Sheriff a message. I can't get through, the entire system is screwed up... Once I send you back I doubt I'll be allowed to contact you. So I need you to remember this now. Tell Sheriff that Seth has done something very stupid and he needs to go home. No matter what Seth told him. He needs to go back to Radiator Springs and he needs to go there as fast as he possibly can. Seth needs his help."
Again Doc nodded slowly. "Got it..." He mused, another blink given as the viper backed up a bit. The pickup looked worried... Considerably so...
"Doc this is Steve. He's in charge of miracles." Ebony explained and rolled her eyes. "I owe him big for this one..."
"You have no idea how big..." Steve corrected. Ebony nodded and cast her attention back to Doc. "Message?"
"Tell Sheriff Seth has done something very stupid. He needs to go back home to Radiator Springs as fast as he can no matter what Seth has told him because Seth needs his help." Doc repeated gaining a nod of approval from Ebony.
"Ebony..." He started slowly, another slow gaze cast around. "Did I die?"
"Well yeah... Technically... I'm also suppose to take you back with me. I'm breaking a few rules here... So if I don't see ya'll again... Tell everyone goodbye for me? Sheriff and Seth... And tell them I said thanks." She offered, a slow smile crossing her grill.
"Eb-" He was cut off as Steve came forward. There was a flash of light, somehow managing to turn even brighter...
"This will be weird Doc but it won't hurt... Remember my message."
He felt as if he where falling. He flinched and waited for the impact of hitting the ground but it never came.
"Doctor... There's a murmur..."
A different voice now... He was back in the haze... Suddenly nothing mattered again. It could have been a few seconds... It could have been an eternity...
"Well listen... It sounds like a murmur."
"Alright, alright, hang on..."
Where was he? He remembered Ebony had been there... But it was as if it where locked in a haze... No! Message!
He focused on that. Curled himself around that message. Locked onto the words and repeated over and over.
"My God... Get the defib back over here!"
Blinding pain... A shock that coursed through every part of him.
"We lost it!"
The voices where becoming frantic... Didn't we already go through this? He was almost sure they had...
"I got it!"
Things where becoming clearer... The haze was parting and he could see a light... Though the light wasn't as comforting as the last one had been. The harsh light of a hospital room... Pain flooded back in a wave.
"I've got a pulse! It's leveling out."
The waking world was coming on fast... He shook awake, the images of the surrounding doctors a blur but there all the same... The pain was... Everywhere... There wasn't a part of him that didn't hurt... The sharp pain under his hood was rather debilitating...
"Sheriff..." He muttered, attempting to be insistent as the doctors moved around him.
"Doctor Hudson you're going to be alright. Do you know where you are?"
"Sheriff" He stated a bit more clearly. The message was fading... He couldn't even remember who had asked him to give Sheriff the message anymore... Nor did he understand the contents. Just that he had to repeat the message.
"We'll get him in a minute Doctor Hudson. For now I need you to be still."
"Sheriff" He insisted, twisting a bit. Nope... If they wouldn't get him he would find him.
A soft curse sounded from the Doctor as his attention suddenly shifted away. "Someone get the police car in here."
"Sheriff Carson?" Sheriff glanced up from where he sat, a flinch crossing his features. The doctor had been there a moment ago... Given him the news... Doc was dead. The code had been called.
He had just been gathering himself to call home... Picking himself up off the floor to get to a phone... Let everyone know the person closest to them was gone... Now what did they want?
"Sheriff Carson something has happened. Your friend... We need you to come into the room." She was a nurse he supposed. She had the hospital badge stuck to her fender, but the familiar logo that announced doctor wasn't worn... The one that Doc never wore. He had one... Sheriff had seen it on him once when he was headed for some conference somewhere. Doc always pointed out it wasn't as if he needed to be distinguished from a whole slew of other medical personnel that filtered around town...
"Into the room?" He questioned, a puzzled expression crossing his features. He didn't want to see Doc's body... What the hell was wrong with these people?
"Yes sir... I'm sorry could you come with me?"
"Look ma'am... I know ya'll are just trying to help and be professional... But I don't want to see his body. I remember him alive..." Sheriff pointed out with a shake of his grill. This hurt enough what in the hell was wrong with her?
"No it's not that Sheriff... I mean... Just come with me?" She looked as if something had frightened her... Possibly it was only that look but after a moment Sheriff found himself quietly following.
He had just crossed into the room when he froze. Doc was awake... What in the... His gaze shot to the doctor who looked just as confused as he did. The head of the code was barking out instructions... Monitors to be hooked up... That was it. They couldn't order anything... Because from the looks of it there was nothing wrong with him...
"He's asking for you..." The doctor to the right stated simply and backed off a bit.
"Doc?" Sheriff questioned, dumbfounded as he pulled up infront of his friend.
"Sheriff" He rasped out, his eyes locking on those of his friend. Pure relief flooded Sheriff. Doc was alive! He couldn't explain it but he was. A rush of happiness and for the moment all he wanted to do was hug his friend. Unfortunately Doc's tone was weak but urgent. It would have to wait...
"Message... Go home." He stated, deep breath pulled in between words. "Seth... Done something stupid... Go home..." He repeated weakly.
"Go home." Doc insisted once more, a shudder going through his frame. "Seth... Needs help..."
Sheriff gave a slow nod as he backed up towards the door. The doctors let him go as Doc calmed and allowed them to treat him.
The old patrol car gave a shudder, and muttered a silent prayer before he bolted out the door and down the hall. He was torn... His best friend needed him. However, it was his best friend that seemed to have a message from beyond the grave. He had no doubt who had given him the message. Ebony... He wouldn't have remembered anything of what happened if she hadn't told him to focus on the message in the first place. He knew how it worked... For the most part...
Why wasn't she contacting him? He guessed she wouldn't have been able to get through the grief before... Now the only emotion that was left was an almost light hooded relief... Twenty minutes... Twenty minutes he had sat in the waiting room with that sinking dread and pain... Trying to think of a way to tell the others... He would have to call them... What would he tell them?
Now relief. Nothing but relief... There was also urgency... Doc had spired him into flight... He didn't pause at the desk as he bolted through the waiting room and out the front doors of the hospital. As soon as he hit the streets his sirens clicked on. It was nearly an hours drive to Radiator Springs... He had to move and he had to move fast.
"It's cold tonight..."
They all couldn't agree more... Flo had voiced what they had all been thinking. A chill of dread and fear had touched down on the town... The kind of chill that crept up through the tires and seemed to touch every part of a car...
"It's been like this lately at night have you noticed?" Sally mused. Beside her Lightning gave a nod.
"Is this strange weather for this time of year? I always heard it got cold in the dessert at night."
"Well it does... Not this kind of cold though. This is a wet cold..."
"Oh..." Lightning muttered softly.
"Any kind of wet isn't normal for this time of year. This is the dry season." Sally explained softly.
"Then why has it been so... Overcast the last few days?" Lightning questioned, but Sally could only shrug. Damned if she knew...
"Lightning ain't it about time for your medicine?" Flo questioned, silently sliding a can of oil in front of Mater as she came over.
Lightning blinked and silently glanced up towards the café to the clock on the wall. Past time... An hour past time... No wonder the dull ache in his side had come back. "Yeah... About an hour past time actually. I was suppose to take it at nine." He muttered, a flinch crossing his features as he attempted to pull his tires up under him.
"Stay there." Sally offered, a smile crossing her grill as she got up. She leaned over and nuzzled his side, quiet chuckle given. "I'll get it for you. There's no sense in you moving around if you're hurting."
"Thanks Sal..." Lightning offered, a weak smile crossing his grill. "It's in Doc's office on the desk last I saw it."
She nodded and gave him another affectionate nudge before she set off down the road. That feeling of dread hadn't lifted from the town. That same feeling that seemed to have been over the town for days. She would be glad when all this stopped... She wished now she had never heard of Damien Cain... If that was even his real name...
The strangeness of the situation only grew deeper... Now there was a dead priest... Doc was sick... Sarge was... Something... Lightning was hurt... It was as if the entire town was crumbling. The very thought made her shudder.
Somehow they had to pull through this. All of them. Radiator Springs would not be Radiator Springs if someone was gone... If someone was suddenly gone... The town would die with them. She knew that... She wouldn't be able to stay at least... It would hurt to much to stay... Hell if anything happened to Lightning... She shuddered to even think about it.
She sighed and nudged the door of Doc's clinic open with her fender and stepped inside. The air was cool in there. To cool... It was freezing!
She shivered as she quickly stepped across the dark clinic, her path lit by a soft glow from further back in the clinic. Where was the light coming from? She shrugged it off as she flipped on the lights of Doc's office. The medicine was exactly where Lightning said it would be... Sitting on the corner of Doc's desk.
She picked it up and flipped the lights back off, turning back around to the clinic. The supply room... The light was on in there. That's where the glow was coming from. Had Doc left it on?
She frowned and silently edged forward. He must have. No...
She rolled her eyes at her own paranoid thoughts and sighed. Sheriff... He had been the first one there. Lightning had called him when Doc's engine failed. General first aide for that was an Asprin so he must have gone in there to get it. In all the commotion it would have made sense he probably hadn't turned off the light again.
Doc would be irritated when he came home. He was always careful not to waste electricity. She shrugged and silently moved across the clinic to the supply room to turn off the light. It hadn't been Sheriff's fault but really...
She nudged open the door, a tire reaching out to flip the switch and froze... The entire town caught wind of her scream...
It was so easy to get lost in the darkness... It would have been so easy to submit to it... To allow it to take him... To rest in it...
Those thoughts where shaken away with a snarl. Around him the shadows closed. Pulled at him. Tore at him... Tried to push him into their grip and through the veil. Seth refused to go.
"I will only submit to one." He snarled for what seemed like the hundredth time. The shadows where almost desperate as they pulled at him. He didn't run from them like most would have. He simply would not move... The shadows would not drag him as they would everyone else. He had been their boss. Their friend. He had been the one who was always fair to them. Who they could count on would turn them loose when their time was up. When they had served to the best of their ability. Not before and not after that... When their time was up... When their debt was paid... He would let them go. He had always been fair.
Now he was their charge. To drag him down to the pits and fires and he wouldn't go.
"Tell Death to come and get me. I will talk to him and only him. The Death. Not the Angel of Death. Death. I will submit only to him..."
The shadows pleaded to him as they tugged at him. Pleaded with him not to go there. To cooperate. He wouldn't.
Suddenly his world snapped back into focus. He was in the supply room... The shadows gone... He gasped softly as his gaze fell on that of his own body. He didn't know why... But it was as if the floor had dropped out from beneath him...
His tires felt weak... As if they couldn't support him... He backed up a bit, surprise shooting through him as someone hurried into the room. It was only then did sound begin to register. Someone was crying... Hysterical crying coming from the other room. He could hear Flo's soft and motherly voice from the other room trying to comfort whoever was crying. The one who had rushed inside was Ramone... Just behind him Chick came in, dragging something. The two of them pulled at what it was Chick was dragging... A sheet... They pulled the sheet over Seth's body and quickly left again... Seth followed.
They couldn't see him... Of course they couldn't he was dead. After only a few days he had almost forgotten how the whole thing worked. Not exactly a good thing... Hot on the tails of Chick he moved into the main clinic. Lightning quietly allowed Sally to huddle against his side, while Flo talked softly to the both of them, always the soothing voice. Not far away Luigi and Guido sat parked looking... For a better word floored. Of course... They remembered him as the son of the Sheriff... From the false memories set in this probably came as an extreme shock to them..
Flo speaking caught his attention again... With the Sheriff out of town they needed to call someone else. State patrol maybe? The next town over? They needed to call in a coroner... Theirs had moved away years back and they hadn't brought another in yet... They hadn't felt it necessary... Not with as few residents as their were in the town... Flo was taking Lightning and Sally and going home. They didn't need to see all this.
Guido and Luigi where going back to their place as well... Away from all this... Ramone and Chick would be trusted to take care of things... Just as well in Seth's opinion... Get everyone off the street. Away from this...
Already the darkness was coming in... Damien knew... Seth was sure he could feel it... Death knew... He could feel it as well... It was enough to lure him across the veil... Lure him to the living world and collect on a former Death. However, he was almost certain Death didn't know about Damien. When the two met... He felt there was going to be something that would make World War II look like child's pop gun...
The streets where empty now... Everyone had been instructed to remain in their homes... Mater had been sent to take care of Red, though the true meaning was to keep poor Mater out of this... Fillmore had briefly come into the street then hurried back to his vigil over his friend...
Rolling thunder sounded in the west as the clouds rolled in, the night sky darkening as the weather hid moon and stars, the ice cold winds ripping across the dessert. Seth stood alone in the street. Down the street in Sarge's home, Ralph and Henry curiously stepped out into the yard, bristling as they watched the clouds roll in... Like two angry guard dogs they paced the yard, able to feel something had changed. Able to sense all was not right... Seth had also told them what he was planning to do...
Another roll of thunder and Seth turned his gaze to the west... Strange weather patterns. It shouldn't be coming in from that way... It wouldn't if it was natural. Damien would be coming in from that way.
"Come on you Bastard..." Seth whispered, setting himself in to wait...
you peacemakers go to the same place as the soldiers,
If you want to make peace, well you gotta find the pain,
And you bring your words, but you're just like them,
Cause you don't know the terrain.
It's a war in there, it's a war in there.
Normally he actually liked that song... He wasn't entirely sure what it was or where it was from. Sometimes they played it on the alternative station though he couldn't for the life of him figure out why... It wasn't as if it fit with the norm... He honestly couldn't even say who sang it...
don't you know, I'll never give you a medal,
Made back on stateside in the central time zone,
The one that they pin to the outside, to the outside,
And it leads you all the way home.
It's a war in there, it's a war in there.
He couldn't take the song anymore... Silence filled the night as he clicked the radio off... Silence that was only cut by the scream of his siren and the sound of his engine as he tore through the night.
Seth had done something stupid... That could be any number of things... Any level of things... Just how stupid could a former Death get? Just how stupid could a reaper be? Not a single possibility was a comforting one. Not a single possible outlook was at all soothing. Seth had done something very stupid.
His exit was fast approaching. He had made the hour drive in just under twenty minutes... Impressive by any standards... He flew down the exit ramp, almost jumping the guard rail as he drove into the dessert. Within' moments he had crossed the tracks and made his way down to the town billboard, sirens echoing through the night.
He had thought Seth was stable now. That Seth wouldn't try anything foolish while he was out of town and Doc was sick. For the love of God didn't they have enough problems?
The town was disturbingly silent when Sheriff pulled into the middle of town and clicked his sirens off. His gaze traveled up and down the street to find it empty... What was going on? Where was everyone? Normally no one turned in this early...
He let his gaze travel up the street to Sarge's home. Henry and Ralph sat parked out on the lawn, tensed and ready for something. As if listening for something... He could have sworn they both looked coiled and ready... Past them he could see the clouds rolling in from the west... West? Odd...
He frowned and swept his gaze further and finally spotted who he was looking for. Seth quietly rolled down the street, his gaze seeming intent on the cloud bank.
"Seth!" He called out to the Mustang, causing him to stop in his tracks, the little car spinning around to regard Sheriff. Something was wrong...
"Sheriff!" The voice was Ramone's. He spun around to face the lowrider who was hurrying up to him. Much faster than he had ever seen him move before.
"Sheriff come with me." He requested, a nudge given to his fender. Sheriff gave a good shake, his gaze still on the Mustang up the street who was now watching him with what looked like an almost curious nature.
"Ramone what the hell is going on here?" Sheriff questioned, his gaze leaving the Mustang and locking on the Lowrider.
"It's Seth..." His old friend sounded as if he flat out didn't want to tell him. Of course... They all thought Seth was his son. Gaze once more traveled back down to Seth. The bastard...
"Sheriff we called in the State Patrol... We don't know what happened, we found him in Doc's clinic..."
"Seth is dead isn't he?" Sheriff stated flatly, drawing a startled nod from Ramone.
"Sheriff... Please come with me. You don't need to do this..." Sheriff cut him off with a shake of his grill, his full attention once more turning to the Lowrider.
"Ramone listen to me. Call the State Patrol and tell them false alarm. I'll take care of this... Whatever you have to tell them so they won't come out here. Then get everyone in town and go to the town hall and stay there. Don't come out no matter what you hear. Understand?" Sheriff questioned, drawing a slow nod form the Lowrider.
"Don't argue with me Ramone just do it." He snapped, turning and heading up the street at a fast click towards Seth. There was going to be some major explaining and he wanted it explained now...
He supposed Ramone went off to do as he said... The Lowrider was gone from the street. Perhaps he just thought Sheriff had gone nuts... Who knew...
Seth remained where he was, quietly watching as Sheriff approached. The Mustang let his tires twitch back and forth, seeming ready to go. As if he were just tolerating Sheriff's presence at the moment.
"What in the hell did you do?" Sheriff demanded as soon as he was in hearing range of the Mustang.
"Trust me Sheriff this isn't the option I wanted..." Seth offered with an idle shrug. "It figures, just when I began enjoying life it's gone in a flash. Is this what all mortals go through?"
"Oh don't give me that Seth. What killed you?" Sheriff demanded once more, pulling a soft chuckle from Seth.
"First off Sheriff... Why do you care? Those are false memories, I am not your son. Second... What killed me was enough sedatives to knock out a semi truck for surgery. Third... This was necessary."
Sheriff let out an explosive growl, suddenly grill to grill with the Mustang. "First off Seth... I care. You may not be my son but you are my friend. Second... That was a cheap way out and you know it. Third... How in the hell is this necessary?"
Seth for the most part actually looked a bit started to that information. "I'm your friend?" Seth questioned, honestly sounding pleased.
Sheriff sighed and rolled his eyes. "Of course you are. I don't want anything to happen to you, any more than I do anyone else in this town."
Seth gave a brief tilt of his frame as he seemed to consider that. "How ironic. It was for the sake of the town I took this method... Listen to me Sheriff. Damien will not stop with Sarge... He will gain strength in Sarge. Then he will attack every one in the town until there are a town full of bodies just like the priest. He will have no mercy upon your souls. Do you understand this?"
"Why in the hell was that a reason for you to kill yourself? We needed you Seth!"
"You need me more this way!" Seth yelled right back, his gaze narrowing. "I can not defeat a former Death in the living state. Neither could you. Neither could anyone... The only one who could have possibly done us any good was Death. The Death. I assure you there is nothing that will lure him across the veil like the death of a former Death. Give it a few minutes... For that matter get your fender inside. It's going to get ugly out here..."
Sheriff let out what could only have been described as a snarl and shook his grill. "Look Seth, you might think you can-"
"Sheriff?" The patrol car froze and ripped around to glare at the stock car that had come up behind him. Chick only offered a rather flat look in response.
"That look won't work on me."
"I told you all to get into town hall." Sheriff growled out. Chick only shrugged.
"No technically you told the people of this town to get to town hall. I live in California."
"That's not what I meant and you know-"
"Gentlemen..." Seth muttered, pausing Sheriff in his rant. At Sheriff's attention suddenly shifting, Chick's attention did the same.
"It Seth here now?"
Sheriff only nodded absently.
"Sheriff what..." Chick's voice abruptly cut off. His gaze had cast beyond the two of them. Ralph and Henry had started down the street, rolling silently in their undead state until they parked beside Seth.
"You two keep alert." Seth stated simply. "I doubt at this point Damien will have any want towards Sarge when the undead are wandering around Radiator Springs..."
Sheriff made a face at that, though at his side Chick looked horror stricken. "Dad?" He questioned slowly, pulling Ralph's attention.
The look that crossed Ralph's features were sorrowful. "Hey there boy..." A crack of thunder interrupted anything else that would have been said, lightning streaking down to hit a light post.
"Alright this is it. Sheriff you come with me this way. Ralph, Henry and Chick you three take the east side of town and keep an eye out. If you see something do NOT engage. Call me." Seth instructed and took off down the street. Sheriff silently followed, as Henry and Ralph nudged Chick in the other direction, the little group breaking up.
"I have been in charge of this group for a millenia now and never in my career in angelic management have I ever seen such insubordination!"
A flinch crossed Steve's features as he quietly backed up, pulling a sigh from Ebony. She honestly hadn't meant to pull Steve into this... Though in hindsight she did suppose it was un avoidable... "Sir it wasn't Steve's fault. It was entirely my-"
"Oh don't give me that Ebony! You couldn't have pulled off a medical miracle on your own. He's just as much at fault as you are!"
"But he wouldn't have done it if I hadn't asked him to!" Ebony pointed out, though that was only met with a roll of the BMW's eyes.
"Steve out!" He suddenly yelled. The little pickup truck backed up and quickly hightailed it out of the office.
The piercing eyes of the BMW then swept around to Ebony. "As for you..."
"Sir please, I didn't know what else to do. They need him!"
"That is not you're concern you are not to-"
"Briel?" The BMW paused and turned back towards his desk, stopping mid rant to answer the call. "Yes Lori what is it?"
"There's a surprise addition added to the death roster... I think you'd better take a look."
The BMW frowned but let out a soft sigh of acceptance in response, his attention turning to the open leather bound book spread out across the desk, watching for anything new to appear. "Very well..."
He ignored Ebony for the moment, the viper slowly shuffling a tire back and forth in the heavy silence.
That tired look that had been sported across Briel's features suddenly disappeared, to first shock, then irritation as he stared at the book that had once been the possession of Seth.
"Why that... Ebony!" She snapped to attention as he suddenly turned his full attention back to her. "I need to take care of this myself. You stay here. Do not under any circumstances leave this room or I promise you, you will find yourself in the very depths of hell before you can say 'Crispy Vipers' do you understand me?" She gulped and quickly nodded as he pushed past her and slammed the office door behind him, the sound of his tires and angry yells to anyone who came to close disappearing down the hall.
Ebony blinked for a moment, staring at the door, making certain he wasn't coming back any time soon. Curiosity got the best of her as she silently slipped around the desk and took a peak at the aged pages of the book. Right infront of her stared back a name. One name... No last name... Nothing else... Just one. Seth was highlighted as recently deceased... She had known that... That was stupid. She sighed softly and rolled her eyes. She had hoped she would be wrong. Apparently not... Beside his name was the Shadow's report. Seth had fought them. The Shadows refused to cooperate and drag him. Therefore Seth was still on Earth. Probably what had sent Briel out in such a hurry. Her eyes continued to scan, her gaze pausing on the information there... Another name... Flo? She blinked and scanned on. Red, Sally, Ramone, Lightning... That couldn't be! The entire town was slowly popping up highlighted as a possible newly deceased. It hadn't happened yet... However, the book felt it was going to... Death by fire?
She let out a startled yelp and shot her gaze back to the door. Briel was gone... Probably gone to talk to Death himself maybe... Or maybe he decided that he wouldn't even include Death and go to collect Seth on his own. From there she knew them. They wouldn't help the town only try to figure out how they were going to collect all those souls. Either way... She couldn't let it happen. Cautiously she edged back around the desk and bumped the door open. The hall was quiet but for the soft tapping of someone on a computer. She quietly edged out into the hall someone clearing their throat startling her.
"He's not going to be happy about that."
Ebony spun around to shoot Lori, a pretty little Nissan and Briel's personal assistant, a somewhat guilty look. The little blue coupe sighed and rolled her eyes. "He should be back in an hour. He went to talk to Death then go down to Earth. Be back before he comes back and I won't say anything." She stated simply then went back to her work.
Ebony could only grin and hurried out of the office as fast as she could.
The silence was thick and uncomfortable. Like walking through a haze. A morbid and disturbing haze...
"Oh come on you two! Even the chance of meeting up with Damien or Death isn't as bad as you two staring at each other!" Henry yelled, breaking the deafening silence that had fallen upon the three. The silence of two vehicles who absolutely did not know where to start, to even begin to speak to each other...
Chick gave Henry a sour look then set back to driving across the road, carefully keeping the other stock car between himself and his father. Only Chick's engine sounded among the trio. The other two held temporarily physical bodies but still their engines where near silent, only the soft unnatural whine of death emitting from beneath their hoods.
Henry glared at the two a moment more before shooting Ralph a smile. "Hey, ya know Chick won a Piston Cup..."
"I saw..." Ralph mused, his gaze for a moment turning to Chick. Chick gave a brief shudder and seemed to turn his attention flatly to the road ahead of him.
"You know..." Ralph stared but to his surprise Chick let out what close sounded like a snarl and rounded off on his father.
"Don't even start old man!" The green stock car yelled, standing his ground and for the first time in his life forcing his father to a grinding halt. The surprise that crossed the older stock car's features was clear, though it quickly faded to irritation.
"Listen here boy-"
"No you listen Dad!" Chick snarled, his eyes narrowing on the stock car. The last he had seen him he had looked old and feeble. Very briefly... He couldn't even remember when but it was after he had started making a name for himself. Now the car looked as Chick remembered from his childhood. Younger... Much younger... The high of his racing career. That face that would smile for the cameras that snapped his picture after a win, no matter how underhanded the win had been. That face that would smile for the reporters and claim that it was all about the win... That face Chick hated so much.
"I'm not afraid of you anymore old man!" Chick almost barked, the somewhat surprised look that crossed his father's face only pressing him on. "I'm not about to back down to you anymore. I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to know you. As far as I'm concerned you can go straight to hell where you belong." Chick snarled, pressing a somewhat sad look to cross Ralph's features.
"You just might get your wish boy." He mused softly.
"Good riddance." Chick snapped and turned on a tire to head back in the direction they where going. "You certainly put us through enough of it. I never could figure out why you hated us so much but I'm through. Let's just get this over with so I can go home."
"Hated you?" Ralph questioned, a somewhat irritated tone reaching into his voice. "Is that what you thought?" He called, but it wasn't about to stop the younger car who simply kept driving.
"Boy you hold it right there!" Ralph barked out, though for the first time in both living and death he paused and rethought that.
Henry stopped beside him and silently regarded the car that had once been a rival on the track... Though it had been closer to the end of his own career.
"Chick!" Ralph's voice rang out again, soft desperation touching his voice. His son would hear none of it.
"Chick please look at me!" Chick silently spun around to face off with his father, gaze narrowed at him in irritation.
"I never hated you or your brother and sister... I only wanted what was best for all of you."
"Was what was best for us screaming at us? Was what was best for Hanna and Jake kicking them out because they didn't do your bidding? Was what was best for us locking us in that damn shed all those years? Hell I still have dings from some of the things you did and was that best for us to?" Chick yelled, temper flaring.
"No... Maybe mine... I don't know. I was angry but that wasn't an excuse either was it?" Ralph mused softly, pulling a puzzled look from Chick. At that puzzled look Ralph couldn't help but chuckle softly. "You see things a little differently when mortal emotions fade." Ralph explained softly. "They call it mortal blindness... How... Are your brother and sister? Where I am they don't let me see you all as much as I would like..."
"Their good..." Chick whispered softly, his gaze dropping to the ground. "Hanna and her husband are happy... They have three kids. Jake is... Well Jake is Jake but he's happy..."
Ralph smiled and the look was almost... Fond... Something almost alien on the car that Chick had known. "That boy was always his own... Hanna to."
Chick paused for a moment, his gaze slowly lifting to meet his father's. "How's Mom?"
The look that crossed Ralph's features were unmistakable... Pain... "I... Don't know..." He admitted softly. "I'm not allowed to see her..."
Chick flinched and nodded slowly. "Seth... Told me that she was alright where she was... He said that she..."
"I know." Ralph offered, a brief smile crossing his grill. "Seth is a good car. He told me that as well... Once he even brought a message over from her. From where she is..."
A brief smile flickered across Chick's grill as he nodded.
"You know I'm proud of you son." Ralph muttered softly.
"I know... I got your letter..." Chick muttered softly.
Ralph had almost forgotten about that... He had written it before he died... Left it in the house. He supposed Chick would have probably found it when he came to claim the property.
"I also found the race clippings..." Chick prodded on.
"Ah those... Never missed a race ya know." Ralph stated, smile crossing grill at the thought. "Not a single one..."
Chick couldn't help the smile in response.
"Chick..." Ralph finally said, his tone turning serious. "About that Piston Cup..."
"I wanted to prove something..." Chick admitted, a shake of his grill given, speaking just a bit to fast now. "I wanted to prove to you I could do it."
"I know that now... Then I was just proud... Still am... But son it's not worth it."
"I know..." Chick admitted, eyes closing tightly. For a moment all he could see was the flash of blue as The King flew across the track. He had been lucky... He wasn't sure if he could handle it now, knowing that he had caused the death of his once friend... It was sad to think they had once been friends...
"Don't be me Chick. You're turning out to be the very car you don't want to be... It was stunts like that, that ruined my own career... Though forget the career. The career... It's your life but in the end it doesn't matter much. You know that... I know that now... It's just a job. It will get you absolutely nowhere if you're me..." Ralph insisted, drawing a slow nod from Chick.
"The only place it will get you is alone..." Ralph then stated simply.
That... For whatever reason stung just a bit. Chick blinked as he backed up a few inches. Pete and Max were like his family... His pit crew were his friends... Sometimes he would catch a drink or two with all of them after a race and laugh for hours as that pumped feeling of driving at break engine speeds around a track slowly wore off. It would be two or three in the morning and no one was in any shape to sleep, therefore the light would often find them sitting in an all night diner, exchanging stories and jokes and details of the previous day's race. Then there was Hanna and Jake... Sometimes they even came to races. Jake on his own, Hanna with her family when time would allow for it and it wasn't far to travel... What if he lost them? What if he lost Max or Pete or the pit crew? What about Jake and Hanna? What if that little stunt he had pulled with The King... Had cost him them? What if they had turned away from him to?
The thought was stunning... He had people to loose... He never thought he had... He did. He cared what they thought. He loved them... In the blink of an eye he could have lost them. Hell he could have been the one taken away from them! His stunts were dangerous. What if The King had been able to regain his traction faster? What if he had swerved and overcorrected towards Chick rather than away from him? He would have run Chick himself right into the wall. At those speeds... He could only imagine what that would have even looked like.
His family would have grieved for a little while... Other than them, absolutely no one would have thought twice of the grouchy old race car and he knew it. They would have said good riddance... Just as he had his own father a few minutes prior...
"Dad..." Chick whispered quietly the stock car slowly sinking on his shocks until his frame rested against the ground. "I'm so sorry..."
Ralph only nodded slowly and rolled forward nuzzling his son. Something he would have never dared do in life... "I love you son... I am proud of you weather or not you really know that... You're not me. Not yet. You're Chick Hicks..."
Chick smiled and nodded a bit, a soft chuckle let out. "Ain't no hick like a Hicks."
Ralph laughed out loud in response. "Quoting your grandpa I see..."
"He had some good ones..."
"Oh how touching..."
The three of them snapped to attention as the dark voice sounded out close by. Henry pulled his attention away from the duo who were quickly getting to their tires, and spun around to face off with the dark Roadster.
From the shadows, a slow malicious smile spread 'cross Damien's grill. "Surprise..."
"Go!" Henry barked out, sending Ralph and Chick off in a hurry, the red stock car quickly following behind. Seth had told them not to engage... However, he hadn't said anything about them being stupid enough to stand around and get themselves found...
"For the last time Sheriff! Calling me an idiot is not going to change the facts. I snuck into Doc's Clinic. I found the sedatives I would need. I took them. I killed myself. Those are the facts, deal with them." Seth snapped, as Sheriff pulled steadily up behind him.
"Dang it Seth I wish for just once you would stop and listen..."
"No Sheriff." Seth shot back. "I've done my listening. This town is going to go on. I had no other choice."
"There were plenty of other choices!" Sheriff barked, the two locked in a rather heated debate over Seth's own mortality. Rather currently lack there of...
"Like what?" Seth called back almost off handedly.
"Well..." Sheriff paused and blinked as he raked his mind for something... Anything... He came up with nothing.
"Seth!" They both spun around as a loud pop accompanied with the sound of Seth's name being screamed out touched down.
"Ebony? What are you doing here?" Seth questioned, sounding honestly stunned as her tires touched down and she rushed up to the two.
"Saving your bumpers! What the hell did you do?"
"We've been over this already... You were not present for the conversation. Must I further fill you in?" Seth questioned, one eye quirked but Ebony would only shake her grill.
"Forget it I already know what you did you idiot. That's not the point. Names are popping up in the book... Seth it's everyone! Yours, Flo, Ramone, Sally... Everyone in this town."
Seth blinked in honest surprise and behind him he heard Sheriff choke.
"How?" Seth questioned, his frame tilting to the side. If she had this information she probably had more.
The three of them jumped in place as lightning cracked across the night sky, the thick cloud bank that had descended upon the town rumbling like an angry beast. Ebony shuddered, her gaze once more dropping to meet Seth's. "I think the boss is going to be coming for you soon to..."
"That's what I'm counting on." Seth stated simply but Ebony shook her grill. "Not the boss boss... I think Briel is going to take matters into his own tires..."
Seth cursed softly in response his gaze narrowing for a moment. That wasn't good... It also didn't go with his plans at all... "Do you think he's going to attempt to hide all that is happening from Death?"
Ebony shook her grill quickly. "I don't know... He didn't say anything but he seemed very determined when he left the office..." Again lightning cracked across the sky, followed by an even louder pop that came with no light, nor was it any kind of Thunder.
Seth instantly snapped to attention as his gaze traveled across the dark streets. Another loud crack followed by a very clear rushing sound that signaled someone crossing the veil. "I'm guessing Briel doesn't know you're here." He commented, his gaze settling on Ebony. She quickly shook her grill. "Go... I can handle this from here."
She cast her gaze upward a moment and shook her grill once more. "I'll take whatever they can dish out. I've been in this to this point I'll ride it out from here."
"That's stupid." Seth stated flatly.
"So was suicide."
"...Valid point..." Seth admitted slowly quietly dropping the issue. If she wanted to throw away her own afterlife he could do nothing to stop her. All he could do was make sure she knew he disapproved.
There was a light coming in from... Somewhere... Light so bright it looked like fire had descended upon the town. Another crack of lightning came with it, disguising the touchdown under cover of storm. Then it was quiet but for the rushing wind...
"Time to face the music." Seth commented evenly and pulled into drive. Ebony and Sheriff exchanged a worried look and silently pulled forward, trailing along after Seth.
The humid heat of the desert was dropping in leaps... What had been uncomfortably hot and sticky was at the moment turning abnormally cool... Then dropping right down to freezing as fog formed on windows and just the briefest patches of ice formed on the streets where the water puddled.
"You two keep back." Seth whispered softly, as he silently pulled up into the street and waited, leaving Sheriff and Ebony to wait beneath one of the failing shelters of the businesses of the town that had long been gone.
Another crack sounded out, the storm briefly flaring up, then silence once more. If all the activity disturbed Seth he showed no sign of it. Several minutes they remained silent and still. There was movement up and down along the street. The shadows themselves seemed to quiver before lifting up off the pavement, shrieks let out from the locked souls as they lifted up from the ground and walls, sliding into the street like liquid fire.
Shadows flickered around Seth's fenders causing the little car to shift uncomfortably, resisting their pull. A final attempt to get him to go with them. They wanted him to come peacefully. There was no doing...
He wasn't moving. A little more force used. A rather bold shadow pushed against him, causing Seth to slide a few feet. Still he wasn't moving. The Mustang bucked like his namesake, and ducked out from under the shadow. That was it... They scattered. The shadows were done...
There was someone coming up the road. Three someones actually... Two vehicles a pure white in color. A BMW and what looked like a classic Corvette. Behind them... Something rather odd trailed along behind. It wasn't a vehicle... It walked on its two back tires, its entire body seeming to be vertical to the ground. It's two front tires where extended and hung limply at its sides. A dark cloth like a tarp of some kind had been wrapped around it, shrouding it in darkness. Dark mist seemed to cloud around it, hazing its form in the night.
"What is that?" Sheriff whispered softly to Ebony, gaining a shrug from the young Viper.
"I'm not sure... But I think it might be Death..."
Sheriff swallowed hard and fell silent.
"Seth!" The voice was booming and it defiantly came from Briel. Seth didn't even flinch as the BMW approached, almost seething as he stared down the Mustang. "What is the meaning of all this?"
"You know what the meaning of all this is Briel. I want to speak to Death. No one else will do."
"Seth this isn't debatable. You took your own life!"
"I'm not here to debate. I didn't do this to debate. I want to speak to Death." Seth stated simply, his gaze sweeping past the two. The Corvette... Gabriel... Only let out a soft snort, seeming to only be present incase things got out of tire... So long as there was nothing hostile he was remaining quiet.
"I am here. Speak." Sheriff set back against the side of the building he and Ebony where against, a shiver running from the treads of his tires all the way up to his emergency lights. The voice was a soft whisper, but it seemed to ring out and darken every part of him.
There was no where he could hide that the impossible cold and memories of death and pain couldn't touch him.
"Maybe you should go..." Ebony whispered from beside him. "From what I know... Death's voice isn't pleasant for mortals to hear."
"I'm fine." Sheriff insisted, drawing a soft sigh from Ebony but nothing more.
"Did you know that a rogue death has been tormenting these fine people?" Seth questioned, gesturing to the town behind him.
Death's reaction was impossible to read, but Sheriff could have sworn he picked up a soft growl. "No... I was not aware of this. Why was I not aware of this?" His attention had turned fully on Briel.
"Sir we have been dealing with the problem to the best of our abilities and there is no proof in reasoning that this is a rogue death. Just last week Seth here was positive that we were dealing with a rogue demon. Now he claims it's a death which as we all know has never happened before." Briel growled out, a sharp glare cut in Seth's direction.
"Sir it destroyed the soul of a priest! It's draining the sanity form a citizen of this town! I believe through its presents here its also managed to bring on engine failure in another citizen. In yet another citizen he plagues the nightmares... I have seen this creature do things that only death is even capable of dreaming of. Sir I'm certain of it."
The figure moved closer... Still shrouded in darkness, but one of the abnormally long fore tires reached out. Sheriff shuddered and pressed just a bit further back. At the end of the dark tire was a flat outlay, five short digits extended from it.
"What's wrong with his tires?" Sheriff whispered, causing Ebony to cast a quick glance at him.
"It's not a tire..." She only whispered. "It's called a hand... I think... I heard Seth once say that Death had hands..."
"It's... Odd lookin'."
"I'm sure he's saying the same about us." Ebony whispered, drawing a slow nod from Sheriff.
The 'hand' extended out and lightly touched Seth's prow causing the vehicle to jump and cringe under the touch of his former boss.
"You have come to full mortality..." Death mused softly, as Seth shuddered. "You care for these people..."
"I wouldn't lie to you Death. These people... Are good vehicles. I will go willingly from this plane but not unless I know these people are going to be alright. That includes this rogue Death. He can't be here."
Sheriff and Ebony jumped as what sounded like an explosion ripped through the air. Their attentions snapped upward towards the source. The sound had been the transformer from a power pole going, sparks raining down as lightning popped, the sound of an engine ripping through the night. A racer's engine...
"Damn it I told them not to engage..." Seth growled, turning until he faced the commotion. Another loud pop as electrical lines went down, sparks flying as lights around town abruptly shut off casting the town to darkness. Sheriff sighed and flipped on his headlights, attempting to see where the source was coming from. It sounded like it was coming from Flo's café... More sparks flew, this time he was sure of it... As sparks touched down, brief flare of light shot up. One of them had apparently crashed into the oil cans at some point. They lay scattered across the street. The brief thought that Flo would be pissed flashed through Sheriff's mind. However, it was quickly chased away as the oil sparked to life. Fire lit the fluid, quickly ripping along the ground towards the café.
Sheriff cursed and threw himself into gear, his engine roaring as he moved down the street. If the fire hit the fuel lines of the café the whole place would go up!
From somewhere to the right of his line of vision he spotted a streak of white Corvette moving past him.
"Chick get out of there!" Chick flinched under the assault, following Henry's yelled out instructions as he surged out from under the fallen beams that had managed to cut him off from his only exit. He was trapped...
Trapped like a rat... He really should have rethought this. Ralph and Henry were already dead. Of course this thing was going to come after something that was alive... Ever since they had taken off from it, it had zeroed in on Chick. The other two were only somewhat of an aggravation.
They rushed for Flo's café... Unfortunately that had proved an error as well. Within' moments Damien had brought the roof down on them... Literally... It couldn't keep Henry and Ralph bound in but Chick was trapped.
There seemed to be metal everywhere... Power lines went down, keeping him from his only possible escape... Though that wasn't what had him worried... Sparks flew and a few yards away from him near the street the spilled oil flared into flames. He shuddered and pressed back into the metal beams. The oil... He had spun out into it when Damien had chased them into the café... The realization that not only was it all over the ground, but it was all over him as well was... Disturbing to say the least...
"Chick!" From somewhere behind the building flames he could hear his father call his name. Flames flared up around him, spreading across the oil slicked streets and lightning the dry underbrush around the side of the café. The fire was spreading fast under the dry conditions... The underbrush lit, the flames leaping to Ramone's shop. From there it leapt to a deserted old building that had once been a bar back in the day... From there the flames leapt again, catching the roof of Flo and Ramone's home...
"Dad, Henry! Get everyone out of that house!" Chick yelled out, silently backing up until his rear fender hit metal.
"Oh I think it's yourself you should be worried about." The fact that Damien seemed to have appeared from nowhere, stepping through the fire as if it was nothing should have really surprised him he suppose...
As it was it didn't... "Chick... Really... A fine pickle you've managed to get yourself into now isn't it?"
"Screw you Damien!" Chick shot back, but it only seemed to bring the demon car a bit of humor.
"Oh Chick... Really... Couldn't outrun anyone in your races. Had to cheat. Couldn't outrun me either. Truly... This is an improvement. Don't you think?"
Chick pressed back against the metal behind him as the car rounded off, as if speaking to an old friend. Even so there was nothing more intimidating...
"Don't listen to him Chick!" Ralph's voice.
"Dad Flo's house is on fire go!" He yelled out but his attention was quickly turned back to Damien.
"Henry's got it!" Ralph shot back. An odd time to be having this discussion really...
"Chick... Your problems are right here in front of you..." The roar of the fire seemed to din to nothing as Damien cornered him up in the wreckage that had been the front of Flo's café... "You're going to die tonight Chick. I think that's something you should be more worried abou-at!" The last word was very abruptly cut off as the roadster was suddenly pulled backwards, dragging him hard across the lot and down the street, pulling with him half the burning wreckage and creating a clear path for Chick to move.
A path that wasn't taken for several minutes as Chick blinked dumbly at the space Damien had been drug through... "What the hell?" He questioned to the air around him as he was left with only the roar of the fire. Which was quickly overtaking that way out! He yelped and surged forward, the burn of fire licking at his tires as he scooted his way out of the wreckage.
He nearly hit the buildings across the street as he skidded to a stop, panting softly as he attempted to shrug off the sting of the burns on his fenders. His tires didn't feel right. He imagined the intense heat very well might have started them melting. He quickly shot his gaze up the street, the road lit to near daylight by the natural light the spreading fire was throwing off. Damien was nowhere in sight.
That bit of information caused him to once more give a rather dumb blink, unable to process that beyond what it was.
"Chick! Come on!" He shook himself out of his trance and quickly bolted after his father.
"That tow truck Mater! He was the first one out of the building. He got a hold of the Roadster with his tow cable and jumped into the back of Pete."
Chick blinked for a long moment unable to grip that information. However, sure enough off in the distance he could hear the low bellow of a semi truck, mixed with Mater's ecstatic woops, and Damien's infuriated yells, the Roadster to enraged and so much caught by surprise he seemed to have forgotten that he could have gotten out of that if he really wanted to.
"Don't look so surprised boy, that takes a whole new level of crazy to pull of somethin' like that." Ralph commented, quickly pushing Chick back and away from the fire. "Gabriel is helping Henry and Sheriff get everybody out of the house. Apparently the front caved in. They're trapped inside."
Chick growled softly, his gaze shooting back towards the house that was now fully engulfed in flames. "Well then come on!" He yelled, charging forward and back towards the flames.
Ralph sighed and surged forward himself, his tires hissing across the hot pavement.
The screams hit him before the roar of the flames or the heat... Cries of terror from people he had come to know as his friends... The smell of burning metal and oil churned his fuel tanks... Hell somewhere along the line he seemed to have become mortal enough to remember what being sick felt like.
Seth groaned softly as he watched Red struggle his way through the wreckage. The massive fire truck had holed himself up in the court house for over a week... Now he was all business, a determined look crossing his features as he poured water to the burning wood of the house. From somewhere Fillmore had come up, the van having left Sarge's side to help with this... Flames roared around them, the screams from within' pulling Seth to shudder.
From somewhere near Flo's café he could hear another commotion going on. A life and death fight... It seemed for a time Chick was holding his own, but he was still worried.
His attention was pulled from that back to the burning house as a triumphant cry went up. Red had pushed the fire back to the point that Mater had come out, his tow cable dragging behind him Lizzie. The old girl groaned softly, all the commotion way to much for her. Sheriff helped her detatch from Mater and quickly gave the tow truck a few instructions. All the commotion had brought Pete out of hiding the massive rig, jumping forward to offer his help. Apparently whatever Mater needed to do would require some strength that he just didn't have. Therefore Mater's tow cable was quickly removed and attached to the back of Pete, the little tow truck hopping aboard as they surged on through the flames and out of the area.
The fire wasn't giving up for a moment. It seemed to be pushing right back as quickly as Red was trying to put it out. From the flames, Flo suddenly emerged, leaning heavily on Lightning. The red sports car stopped in the doorway of the burning building as Flo struggled her way out, Gabriel quickly moving forward to help the show car out of the fire and into the yard. Once Flo was clear Lightning backed up and disappeared into the inferno again. Moment's later he reappeared, this time with Sally held between him and Ramone.
The young car was a wreck... Seth flinched as she was drug across the yard to safety, unable to so much as move. Behind them Luigi and Guido finally appeared and moved to the safety of the group, guided on by Henry who tagged along behind the old car having run a quick search through the house.
Seth let out a sigh of relief as the group quickly backed off, huddling in the night air. Flo slowly staggered to her tires, Ramone quickly moving over to her to check on his wife as Lightning gently nudged Sally.
"Is she alright?" Seth called over to the group, gaining a quick nod from Sheriff.
"Smoke!" He called back, pulling a nod from Seth. Smoke had overtaken their filters... A dangerous situation... There was a loud pop as some of the oil cans Flo had stacked blew, a wall of fire briefly shooting up before it quickly started to spread.
"Sheriff the café!" Flo yelled over the roar, drawing a nod from the old patrol car.
"Come on we gotta move!" He barked, nudging the group to their tires. They staggered forward, though only got a few feet before another round of pops sounded off, yet another stack of cans going up in flames.
Seth let out an aggrivated growl and set back, silently pulling out onto the street. "Seth did everyone get out?" Seth turned to face Chick, a morbid nod given.
"Yes but it won't matter if the café goes up."
Chick twisted around, a frown crossing grill as he nodded slowly. Above the steady roar of the flames, the low rumble of a semi broke through. Pete was coming back up the road, Mater hurrying along beside him, both of them noticeably without a Roadster.
"What happened?" Seth questioned as soon as they pulled up, gaining a somewhat morbid look.
"Little bugger disappeared on me." Pete grumbled, pulling a nod from Seth.
"Alright... Pete I need you to do one more thing for me. I need you to get together everyone who needs medical help and get them to the next down over. Got me?"
Pete nodded and quickly headed back for the group. If they played their cards right the entire town could very well clear out of here...
"Mater help him. I need you to go with Pete and make sure everyone stays together."
The tow truck nodded and leapt forward, surging on after Pete.
Seth's gaze then cut to Chick, who looked on stubbornly. "No way Seth."
"Chick this isn't your fight."
"Like hell it isn't! He had me cornered and my Dad is here. I have my reasons to want to be here." Seth only rolled his eyes and turned on a tire muttering something about stubborn mortals.
"You know you really should get out of here Chick." Ralph scolded, though that was only met with a death glare from his son. The older stock car wisely shut up about it.
From their viewpoint they could see the town loading up as much as they could. Lightning seemed to be the best off of them, his filters designed to take quite a bit of abuse as he surged around a track. Luigi and Guido were a bit out of breath, therefore chased onboard Pete with Sally and Flo.
Out of all of them, Mater and Lizzie seemed to have turned out fine. Mater had been the first one out, pulling behind him Lizzie. Within' moments the group was separated out and Pete was on the road with Lightning, Ramone, and Mater right behind him. Lizzie while not injured was quickly ushered into Sarge's house by Fillmore, the old hut about as solid as any military barricks. Sheriff felt they would be fine in there...
Red on the other had opted to remain out in the open. Fire hydrents had been opened in a desperate attempt to clear the streets of the burning oil, the building soaked. Flo and Ramone's home was gone, left behind with a burnt out shell of what was once a home. The apartment home Luigi and Guido shared was about to have a similar fate. The fire was spreading faster than Red could deal with it. Ramone's shop was still standing and it looked as if Luigi's tire shop was going to be alright if they could get the fire under control... That was a big if...
"Red get out of there!"
Sheriff's voice right behind him, broke through Seth's thoughts, the Mustang jumping straight into the air.
Red backed off of the fire, though kept a steady stream of water going. Though after the realization of just what was happening he quickly backed up, speeding back to where Sheriff and Chick were parked.
At that point, the fire finally hit the fuel tanks of the café. The explosion was thunderous. A fire ball ripped into the air as the fuel tanks caught a blaze. Just as quickly the flames seemed to freeze in motion, suddenly reversing and sucking back down disappearing into the tanks.
"Get back! It's gonna blow!"
If it wasn't for what was said time would have stopped in that instant. Red's voice boomed out above the roar of the flames shock alone driving the gathered group to hurry back and do as he said, tearing off down the street. Red wasn't about to let them stop. He was silent again, the blare of his horn driving them on. He had simply been around enough gas fires to know what was going to happen.
As quickly as the fire had disappeared under the streets, all hell broke loose. Flo's café went up in a second fireball, cracking the pavement around the place, a massive crater imploding the entire building in on itself. The crater spread, taking down Ramone's body shop with it, as well as Doc's garage with a heat so intense, the tires that were blown from Luigi's tire shop landed in heaps of goo when they finally came back down to earth. The intense roar spread just as quickly, moving down the street and engulfing buildings as it went.
The force was to strong. Way to strong. Red let out a sharp yelp of pain as he was thrown to the side like a toy fire truck, rolling several times before he came to rest safely near Sarge's home. Sheriff and Chick were caught up in the blast, the intense flame suddenly taking over the old patrol car as he was thrown into the side of the old library, the entire building coming down around him. Chick was pitched forward, rolling several times down the street before he came down on all four tires again, a little battered but none the worse for the ware.
"Wear's Sheriff?" Seth questioned, attempting to stop mid stride, but Ralph was pushing him on.
"Come on Boss!" He yelled out, urging him on. It was Henry who pulled off, quickly nosing his way through the wreckage that the old patrol car was locked underneath. Seth shot a snarl in Ralph's direction and quickly spun around, moving back to where he had last seen his friend.
There rubble everywhere. Dust filled the air, making it difficult to breath. "Sheriff!"
"Down here!" Not the Sheriff, but it was Henry. Seth moved quickly down into the wreckage, using the light of the flames outside to see by.
The old patrol car had gone through the glass of the front of the library, and flown into the rows and rows of books so seldom used. Now he was covered in them, only a corner of his fender sticking out from under the rubble.
"Come on, we gotta get him out of here." Henry barked, drawing Ralph to hurry to Sheriff's side. Between the two of them, they lifted him up, the three vehicles, dragging one alone with them as they moved back out onto the street. On the street, Red was just pulling himself to his tires. Chick was still sitting dazed in the street but it didn't look as if the fire was going to spread any further than it had. Unfortunately, the damage had already well been done...
Seth couldn't even look at the town he had grown to love. Flo's café was just a massive burning crater... The fire had been intense but short lived as it quickly burned off the bulk of its fuel. All the surrounding buildings were either gone or burnt out shells... The court house still stood, but even it had a little damage to the front... The impound lot as well as the Sheriff's station on the other side of town also still stood, but wreckage had been thrown all the way onto the roof of the latter, causing part of it to collapse. Lizzie's shop still stood but the blast had one wall of it clean off. The cozey cone was gone... The cone huts had been entirely ripped from the ground and tossed over like actual traffic cones...
It could have been worse... So much worse...
Seth shuddered to even think about it as they silently made their way back to a clearing well away from the burning remains of the town. Red let out a soft groan as he stopped to look back, the fire truck silently staring back at his home. Along side him Chick let out a soft groan of pain, his paint blistering under the intense burns of the fire.
As soon as Ralph and Henry released him Sheriff collapsed to the ground with a groan of pain. That pulled a look of worry from Seth. "Is everyone accounted for?" Seth questioned slowly.
"Fillmore and Sarge..." Henry muttered softly, but Sheriff was the one to speak up, a soft groan of pain muttered.
"In Sarge's bunker.. They'll be fine..." He muttered, gaining a nod from those gathered.
They were all fine...
It was a miracle that they were...
They were all fine...
"I think he went this way sir!"
Ebony's voice rang out through the desert, the ebony Viper leading on. The looks she was getting from Briel were not exactly complimentary and forgiving... Though Death seemed rather content to allow her to lead off in the direction she had seen Damien move.
Not that he so much needed her. Now that they were getting closer he could feel Damien... Like some siren's call. He could sense Damien very close by.
"Stop." The order was soft but both Ebony and Briel stopped in an instant. The air seemed thick around them. A cold mist seemed to hang over the little clearing where they had stopped. It wasn't that far from town... Damien was getting bold...
"Show yourself." Death ordered simply. It didn't take long. The mist condensed. Seeming to twist in on itself as it solidified, grouping together into a single form.
"Heya boss... Long time no see." The attitude was as cocky as he remembered it. Death sneered through the darkness his cloak cast across his face.
"Bold Damien. A bit to bold. I'm told you've been causing quite the stir in this little town."
Damien laughed out loud in response, his thunderous laughter pulling the rolling storm in a bit more, lightning streaking its way across the sky. "Bold? Me? Ah but you are the one who had become a little bold in your old age. A new tomorrow is rising."
"Bold and cocky then." Death stated simply.
"You have no idea." Damien growled out. The Roadster surged forward. The much smaller Death stood his ground...
The impact was unavoidable. Upon connecting Death's frail form flew over Damien's hood, flipping and twisting in an unnatural contortion as his body crumpled to the ground. Ebony and Briel flinched briefly, though the silence was broken by Damien's dark chuckle. "I believe they have a word for that... That was easy."
"Bold, cocky, and stupid..." Now it was Damien's turn to flinch. The voice seemed to come from everywhere as Death's body abruptly dissipated in a fine mist.
"Truly... Do you think... That would work?"
The Roadster backed up a few paces, low snarl rising.
"I am Death. I choose who lives. Who dies. When it is your time to go. I have seen more angels of death run through the ranks than I can remember. I have seen entire civilizations rise and fall within' a breath... Did you truly think you could simply run me over?"
Damien let out a soft snort further backing up.
The wind came from seemingly nowhere, shadows ripping forth from the very trees. Ebony let out a scream and pressed against Briel's side. Despite their differences he allowed it. Even pushed her back, and out of the way.
Damien let out a snarl of rage, the Roadster forced back as the wind ripped around him. "Show yourself!" He yelled out into the night, but was only met by the shriek of the wind.
Shadows ripped upwards again. Where they may have hesitated to touch a former death before... No longer... These were the shadows of Death himself... Damien let out an enraged snarl, struggling against the hold as he was thrown back against a tree and held there. Slowly the mist began to solidify into that small frail form that Death had first appeared in.
Slowly he approached the fallen Roadster as Damien struggled against the iron like grip of the shadows. Slowly he leaned in so that only Damien would hear his soft voice.
"You could have been great Damien." He whispered softly. Slowly dark hands of ebony would lift, needle like claws tipping each digit. Those claws briefly scratched across Damien's flawless finish pulling a flinch from the car. Soft chuckle rang out through the darkness, those clawed hands lifting to the hood of his cloak and slowly pulled it back. Monsterous grin stared back at him, eyes burning deep ember. Grill elongated into canine muzzle, razor sharp teeth lining maw as the face of a Jackal stared right back. "You were one of mine. The darkest and deepest levels of hell are reserved for those guilty of treason... I will see you there dear sweet Damien." He almost cooed a clawed hand dropping to Damien's hood.
The car let out a shriek as Death's claws raked deep grooves across his hood.
"Take him." The shadows fell back as one, Damien letting out a terrified shriek as they dissipated. He went with them, sucked down into the shadows, fading back like some horrible nightmare.
Slowly Death rounded on the two remaining, a slow smile spreading 'cross his canine maw. "Come my companions. We put things right."
Seth's attention abruptly snatched upward as the shriek echoed across the landscape like rolling thunder. Those gathered... Battered and injured still looked to him for an answer. Slowly the clouds parted, the clear stars shining through the darkness. Slow smile crossed Seth's grill as he visibly breathed a sigh of relief.
"I think... It's over." He whispered softly. He couldn't help but chuckle at the weak cheer that went up. It seemed everyone was rather content to remain curled up into a little ball and not move.
"Seth" The Mustang twisted around as Chick nodded his grill and snatched it to the right, suggesting the vehicle follow his gaze. Briel and Ebony were slowly making their way towards the group, with Death slowly trailing behind, his cloaked form a black dot against the sky. Gabriel silently got to his tires, the angel quickly moving to meet the group.
"Tell me you have good news." Seth pleaded. To his surprise the group stopped but for Death. The frail being slowly moved forward until he was just a few feet from the Mustang.
"Seth... You leave me with an impressive dilemma. What am I to do with you?"
"Give him his job back?" Ebony suggested, earning a slight glare from Briel.
"I'm afraid that's not possible." Death commented, a dark hand lifting from the confines of his cloak, settling about where his chin was.
"Why not?" Ebony pressed, gaining a flinch from Seth.
Death heaved a sigh and lifted both hands, his cloak pushed back from his face. Soft gasp rose up, as those still of mortal world backed up just a bit.
"I suppose I do owe you now..."
"I suppose you do." Seth agreed softly.
"Therefore I suppose it would be only proper if I did grant you whatever it is you wish... Therefore if you want your old job back... Or to... Reverse this state." He commented, referring to Seth's current... Deadness... "You have only to ask."
Seth was silent for a long moment, his gaze shifting back over to Sheriff. The old patrol car only shot him a smile. Seth could very well save himself. Either way... Seth had a lot to prove. Maybe he could never redeem himself but he could damn sure try.
"Give the Priest back his soul."
That brought on a long stunned silence... Even from Death himself.
"The one that Damien killed... Give him back his soul. I know you probably can't save his life... But let him go through judgement."
"Seth. Not that I do not approve of what you are asking of me... However, I feel I must warn you. You have caused quite a bit of trouble. If you die now... If you go through judgement now. You will go to hell. Do you understand this?" Death questioned slowly, his canine head tilting to the side in bewilderment.
"Yes. I understand. I accept that. If you will give the priest his soul. Let him go wherever it is he belongs."
Slowly Death would lift one hand. "Done." With a snap of fingers they where gone. Radiator Springs was left to its silent destruction. Sheriff blinked a few times at the empty field they now sat parked in. In the distance flames still burned... The sky was clear up above for the first time in well over a week... Red, Sheriff, and Chick Hicks sat parked alone in a field... It was over...
Slowly the old patrol car attempted to get up, a sharp pain shooting through him. What about Seth. He groaned softly and collapsed once more to the ground. It truly was over...
This was something he had seen before... Much different now... Seth had stood before this panel thousands of times before... He had stood holding souls... Screaming... Crying... Begging for another chance. Another shot at life...
Then there were the others. Those who had lived a good life. Those who smiled up at judgement and knew they would be ok. Asked if they could see their family. Those were greeted with smiles and nods. Yes... They would see their family.
Seth should have been one of the former. Should have been pleading... Begging... Anything. He met his horrible fate with stoic silence. It would change nothing. So why should he scream? Why should he cry? He had always wondered why the souls he held before judgement even bothered. Though now... He knew... It was desperation.
"What have you to say in your own defense Seth?"
"Only that in my career as an angel of Death I have done some things I am not proud of... I have crossed some people I shouldn't have... In life... I would change absolutely nothing. You can say I was wrong all you want." He stated simply and lifted his gaze up to the council. "You wanted me to be a part of them. You placed memories into my thoughts. Those are my memories. Those people are my family. You can send me to the darkest corner of hell... But I will never take this back. I will always be there to protect those people." He stated flatly, his gaze casting downward again. To his humiliation he felt tears sting at his eyes. Had he truly become mortal enough to cry? It was absolutely ridiculous but still he felt the wet trail across his hood as he waited for judgement.
"Seth... There is still much to repent for. However... You cast your own life aside for that of Radiator Springs... To call upon Death you used death. You saved the lives of many of these people you claim to care fore... And when offered the chance to live... For your old job back... To save your own hide... You instead opted to save the soul of a priest."
Slowly Seth lifted his gaze, slow nod given. "The priest deserved to go through judgement like everyone else... He did not deserve... That fate... No one did..."
"The priest has been judged... He holds a place in the afterlife. He led a very good and honest life."
Seth let out a sigh of relief and smiled. At least one of them was getting out of this.
"You should know Seth. Many people have spoken for you. Pleas for us to show you mercy. Your friend Ebony... Ralph and Henry... The priest... Prayers from Sheriff and Chick and even Doc... They pray for your soul tonight Seth..."
Seth swallowed hard and nodded. "I'm... Sorry I hurt them. I had to do what I had to do."
That brought a round of nods.
"Death... Speaks for you Seth."
His gaze shot upward in surprise. Death?
"He asks us to spare you. To give you what you most desire. Even if it is not what you thought you desired. We feel... He is right. Therefore Seth... We grant you, what you desire."
Seth blinked at that, but his world had gone dark. In that moment, there was only blackness as his world shifted.
The soft question was met with a groan as the patrol car shifted a bit. "Sheriff wake up."
Again that soft voice. One eye opened as light flooded his senses the old car flinching. He was truly getting to old for this...
"Yep. How're ya feelin'?" Doc questioned softly, his frame tilting to the side as he watched his old friend.
"Like I've been hit by a truck..."
"Funny... What you were hit with was a lot bigger than a truck."
Sheriff only groaned at the memory. "What happened?"
"Once Pete got to the hospital they sent back the state patrol to Radiator Springs. They called in the fire department... Well and here you are. You're in a hospital. You've been out for days."
"Is everyone alright?" Sheriff questioned gaining another nod.
"Yep, everyone is fine. Even Sarge woke up. He doesn't remember a thing."
Sheriff couldn't help but smile at that bit of information a slow nod given. "Good... Everyone else?"
"A little banged up but no worse for the wear. Sally was the worst I think. She breathed in a lot of smoke. They cleared her up pretty well. Then there was you... Chick says the old library came down on you."
Sheriff nodded slowly, the old car letting out a groan. "That and about half of Flo's café was blown into me I think..."
Doc nodded slowly as the old patrol car shifted, asking what he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer to.
Doc frowned, hesitation written across his aging features.
Any answer he could give was cut off abruptly as the door opened. "Hey Doc I got that magazine you wanted and they don't have a local Starbucks but everyone I asked raved about some other place that has good oil."
Sheriff stared, shocked to silence as Seth pushed his way into the room. He didn't look... His frame was the same. A classic Mustang of deep black... Golden eyes were the same... There was something... Different. As if a weight had lifted from him.
"Dad you're awake!" He suddenly blurted the Mustang moving in close as Sheriff shifted back. "How do you feel?"
"I feel... Fine..." Sheriff managed.
"You don't look fine." Seth commented, one eye arched. "Tough old cop. Always want everyone to think that you're just peachy."
To Sheriff's surprise Seth smiled at him, open affection written across features. "I was worried about you Pop. Don't do that again alright?" He offered, the Mustang briefly nuzzling against his side, before pulling back.
"Seth, do you mind going and finding the nurse for me?" Doc questioned softly. Seth grinned and nodded, the Mustang quickly moving out the door agian.
"He doesn't remember a thing." Doc whispered as soon as Seth had disappeared from them. The memories of the others are... Sketchy. It's like the entire event was simply blurred... I can't get a clear answer from any of them."
Sheriff nodded slowly, though a smile was creeping its way across his grill. "Seth... Was given a choice. They offered to save him. Let him live... Or give him his job back... He opted to ask for the soul of the priest to be returned."
Doc smiled and nodded. "I'm guessing that proved very good for Seth as well."
Sheriff nodded slowly. He couldn't help but laugh. After all that had happened... After all that had gone over... Seth was back. Seth was alive... Seth was his son...
It was difficult for it all to sink in. The door opened again, a small blue Sedan making her way into the room followed closely by a rather worried Seth.
The car truly did look as if a weight had been taken off of him... As if the weight of the world no longer rest entirely on him.
"Hey Seth?" Sheriff muttered, the haze of much wanted sleep beginning to creep up on him.
"What's up Pop? You alright?"
"Yeah... Just... Thanks..." He muttered quietly.
"Thanks for what?"
Sheriff only smiled at the puzzled Mustang. "Thanks for things I pray you'll never know."
That was met by a puzzled blink. However, Seth wasn't about to get any further answers. As sleep crept on, his vision hazed to darkness. Everything was right again... They would all be fine...
Twilight... Not exactly his favored time of day. Sheriff tenderly hobbled around the station, a flinch given every time he moved. He hurt everywhere... He felt as if he had gone a few rounds with a rig...
Outside the day was clear and bright. Hammers banged down the street as the town was put back into order. It had taken some doing but a few calls from a historical society, a little funding from disaster aide, and a lot of begging from some old friends who wanted to look like the good guys on race day... Radiator Springs was slowly but surely being rebuilt. It had been a good week since that night... A good week he had spent in the hospital with a few other citizens of the little town... Already it was moving. They would have their home back by the end of the racing season at this rate... He let out a soft chuckle, his gaze trailing out the window for a moment. Outside Lightning was pulling drills again under Doc's watchful gaze. The boy was determined to make the start of the season. Tagging along behind Sally was being put under the same drills. Therapy for the wheeze that was still in her system. Behind her Seth... Just for the hell of it...
Sheriff let out a soft chuckle and shook his grill as he turned back to the task at hand. For a few days he had truly thought he was going crazy. Until he had come home... Into the room he had given Seth for the first time...
There he found the journals. He had almost forgotten his suggestion that Seth write in the old case books... He certainly hadn't thought the Mustang had taken his advice... However, now he stared at boxes upon boxes of the books. All filled with things that had been on Seth's mind. How things worked... Memories... Things he needed to know... Fears... It was all there. Every word.
It had been a long and hard debate upon what to do with them. Now... He had decided. Now all that was left was to close the door he supposed.
In the twenties it had been used to smuggle out confiscated things that could fetch a price, the Sheriff at the time not exactly having been squeaky clean about the way he did business. Sheriff still remembered the former Sheriff he had taken over from showing him the trap door in the floor. In his younger days he had simply thought it to be the neatest thing he had ever seen.
The previous Sheriff had used it for storage. Filled it will old files he didn't feel like going through. Sheriff had cleaned it out and left it empty. Now... It was filled with journals. He had considered showing them to Seth...
He knew he would probably hear about that in the afterlife... He had felt it was Seth's right to know his history. However, one look at Seth's face... Not a care in the world but for the welfare of his family and friends... Not a worry... Not a problem... Sheriff's mind had been quickly changed. He couldn't take that away from Seth. Not now...
"Pop you in here?"
Sheriff jumped a bit as Seth's voice rang out into the station. "Doc wants you to come across the street. He says the fresh air will be good for ya!"
Sheriff smiled and nodded at the young Mustang, a good stretch given. "Tell him I'm just cleaning up a few things and I'll be out in a few minutes."
"Cleaning? Need help?" Seth questioned, stepping into the darkness of the station.
"No Seth. This is something I need to do alone."
Seth nodded a bit to that and silently backed out, leaving his 'father' alone in the station again.
Sheriff chuckled softly and turned his gaze back to the journals. If ever Seth asked about them he had decided. If ever he remembered... If ever he questioned... They would be there. Until then...
With a flip of a tire the lid slammed shut on the journals. He quickly locked the trap door and pulled the old rug back over it covering it from view. Maybe one day he would tell Seth about them. Let him read them... Until then, what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him...