This Photograph is Proof

The car tore around the bend in the road, the driver letting it lose traction for the briefest of moments. For a split second it appeared as if he had no control. Then with a slight release of the gas and a twist of the wheel he was flying down the straight stretch of road ahead of him.

The slightest smile touched Rex's lips as his vehicle ate up the road ahead of him. Easy, you know this isn't a race. You're not even chasing down a bad guy. He eased off on the gas, letting the car slow to a more respectable speed.

What am I really doing out here anyway?

Going for a drive. Simple. He hadn't even taken a sports car, yet he'd still ended up driving fast.

It had been barely a few days since his fiancé had called their engagement off. It had turned out deciding what last name they were going to be known as had been the very least of their problems.

Now Rex remembered why he'd probably been driving so fast. It cleared his head, and he didn't have to think about crap like that. How he now was all alone.

Hell, even the race fixers had gone quiet, or at least gone underground. Even Racer X had nothing to do. At least until the racing season started up again, but that wasn't for another few months. Racing would probably keep him occupied, at least until the races began to get fixed again. Or he figured out what else he was supposed to do with his life now.

Rex knew he'd never be the best on the track again, but that didn't really matter. At least he'd be able to watch his little brother tearing up the track. A frown touched his lips. But he'd never be able to see Speed – or the rest of his family – as Rex Racer again. He'd thought he could deal with that earlier. His fiancé would have been his family now and he'd start again. But she'd gone now. Who did he have?

The car's speed had dropped again, even to a point below the speed limit. Rex hadn't driven below the speed limit in years, but now he didn't even notice. He reached into his jacket's breast pocket, and pulled out a photograph of his family. It was a little old and tattered, but it usually brought a smile to his face. Today, it just brought a sense of longing.

Rex never had the photo on him as Racer X. He normally kept it in the glove box of his personal car – for when he was just plain old Rex. He was just in his normal clothes now. And with the rather unassuming looking car, right now he was just a nobody driving nowhere.

"Maybe…" said Rex, staring at the photo, "I should go back…"

As soon as he'd said it, Rex shook his head sharply and swore. Why was he doing this to himself? He'd decided long ago he wouldn't go back. He couldn't now; his family didn't deserve that pain, and he didn't deserve them. At least he'd managed to do some good as Racer X. He no longer hated himself as he once had.

As Rex mused over his, he didn't notice the heavy set car bearing down upon him from behind him. It was dark, and the vehicle didn't even have its headlight on. He didn't realise it was there until the whine of the engine was a roar right behind him.

Rex looked up sharply to the rear view mirror. His eyes widened, and he jerked the steering wheel hard to the side, trying to swing his car out of the way. If it had been a T-180, he may have just managed it. But this car responded slower; the vehicle behind smashed into the corner of the rear fender. The two cars skidded together, the larger vehicle pushing the smaller against the guardrail. The smaller car bounced back, hit the guardrail again, and then skidded off the road and down an embankment as the guardrail ended.

"Shit." Rex wrenched the steering wheel, concentrating on getting the vehicle to respond, and not let himself loose his head. What had he been thinking, daydreaming like that!? By the time he'd realised what was going on he'd had less than a second to react. Humanly impossible. If he'd been attentive, he'd have been sending them off the road!

Rex realised he now was in real trouble. He had practically no control, but he was still moving fast. The car hit something and bounced, and the beams of the headlights suddenly illuminated a large rock, directly in his path.

Rex activated the car's jacks, spinning the vehicle to the side. But it was uneven ground, and the car didn't complete the spin, instead smashing down on its roof. The impact jolted through Rex's entire body, something in the undergrowth slashed at his shoulder, and the ground was rushing past only inches away from his head.

The car shuddered, losing speed, and then came to an abrupt stop as it hit something. The front crunched in, and Rex felt pain rip through his legs. He just managed to stifle a yell.

The night was quiet again. Rex was disoriented for a brief moment, only able to hear his own ragged breathing. He tried to concentrate on that, knowing that blacking out could get him in even more trouble. Then he remembered his headlights. He took a couple seconds to find the right control, and he switched them off. Now there was complete darkness. Almost. The moon was out, and his eyes began to adjust to the darkness. At least he might be a bit harder to find now.

What had happened to the other car? Rex was sure hitting him had been no accident. The hit had been perfectly timed to send him plummeting down the embankment.

Rex drew in another breath. They didn't want a nobody driving nowhere. They wanted Racer X; and somehow they knew it was him.

At that moment, there was a brief flash of light from up the ridge, accompanied by voices.

Damn it! Of course they weren't stupid enough to think just throwing Racer X off a cliff was going to kill him. They were coming to check.

Rex knew he had to find a way away from the vehicle before they found it. That way, he might at least have a chance. He should have moved away from the car as soon as it'd stopped moving. Perhaps the jack jump, and the fact he'd turned off the headlights, would throw them for a few moments. But he couldn't count on it.

Rex pulled the door handle, and thankfully it opened a fraction. Probably enough to squeeze out, if he could get out from under the console. He gripped onto the dash and pushed himself backwards, extricating his legs from the mess of crushed metal. Pain flashed through his left leg again, and Rex had to grit his teeth to stifle another yell. He'd probably broken it, but he couldn't let that slow him down.

Free now from the metal that had been pinning him down, he made a quick check for his gun. He'd kept one in the glove box, just in case, but now he wasn't even sure where the glove box was. Instead, his eyes caught on the crumpled photograph he'd been holding right before the crash, and had since forgotten. Rex grabbed at it, crushing it even more than it was already. But that didn't matter, because the reaction had been far from sentimental. He didn't want whoever was after him to find it, and make the connection he'd been hiding for years. He couldn't risk them hurting his family.

Rex gasped, holding the photo tight, and then pulled himself out from under the car's body. He was wasting enough time as it was. He tried to stand, but felt dizzy. It was now he was starting to realise how hurt he possible was. He'd stand no chance if they found him. But he was close to passing out. He couldn't walk, and he could barely breathe. He dragged himself forward again, trying to get his legs under himself, and forced himself to take another deep breath. He could do this.

Suddenly, he was blinded by torchlight.

"There he is!"

A boot came out of nowhere and caught Rex in the chest, flinging him over and into a bush, coughing.

"Quit mucking around!" another voice said, accompanied by the beam of another flash light. "He's Racer X, he'll have you on the ground…"

"Racer X just fell off a forty foot cliff!" the first voice laughed. "He's just a man, you pussy cat!" As he said the last few words, he launched another kick at Rex.

This time, Rex was ready, and managed to grab the man's leg, twist it, and send him crashing down hitting his head on the ground with a loud grunt.

A gun shot rang out.

Rex felt a dull pain in his stomach, and looked down. The front of his shirt had a dark patch slowly spreading across it.

"Guess you're right…" the second man said to his semi conscious companion. "He is just a man."

Rex only just managed to crush the crumpled photograph beneath the leaf litter by his fingers before two more gunshots rang out and his world went black.