Chapter Seventeen

Mater drove up to the promontory point, where Holley waited, admiring the view. "Sorry I'm late, Miss Holley," he said.

"You're fine," she replied, not turning to face him.

"Somethin' wrong?"

Slowly, she backed up and turned toward him. "I've been doing a lot of thinking on the way over here. My biggest problem at this point is that I can't tell you everything. Period. It just can't be done as long as you're a civilian and I'm a spy. Now, I don't want you to change, because I like you the way you are. This problem is mine, and mine alone. My problem is that I like you, quite well, but I can't be sure if I can have an open, honest relationship with you."

"It's all classified?"

"Yes, pretty much. That, and I know that you like to tell crazy stories. Should a future target or outright enemy of ours happen to overhear a story of yours after I've told you too much, whatever mission I could be on would be compromised, and I could be burned and relocated."

"Is that like gettin' fired?"

"Yes, and they say that once you leave espionage, you'll never find a more fulfilling work, or an equally fulfilling work, for that matter."

"Well, I dunno if I'd forgive myself if I caused you to lose your job. You sound like you really love it."

"I do. It's the best job in the world. I may not like almost getting killed as much as Finn does, but I still love my job." After a moment spent examining the slightly forelorn look in his eyes, she asked, "Is everything alright?"

"I jus' been thinkin', well, that maybe you's got a relationship with McMissile."

"Are you jealous?"

"Nah, not jealous. Maybe a little bit bothered by it."

"So...jealous. Rest assured, Mater. I'm about as sure about Finn as I am about you, which is, well, completely clueless."

"Oh, uh, okay."

"Mater, I'm so sorry."

"'S alright, Miss Holley. I been wonderin' if we'd work out myself, considerin'. Maybe we should just be friends."

"You know that's akin to a break-up. It never works."

"Well, I dunno if we're right for each other, and it seems like you's thinkin' the same thing. Might be best, y'know, for us both."

Holley nodded softly, closing her eyes and letting out a small sigh. "Oh, this is so hard. I can't choose."

Mater rolled up and touched Holley's bumper. "'S all gonna work out, somehow. I ain't sure how, yet, but i's all gonna work out."

She looked up at him. "I hope you're right."

"I still owe ya dinner and a drive-in movie," Mater said, and Holley smiled.

CARS

Boost drove up to a very unassuming point in the desert, which looked very much like every other point in the desert, except Siddeley wasn't very far away, and Finn McMissile was only twenty feet away. "You, uh, wanted to talk to me?" he asked.

"Yes, I did," Finn replied. "Here, come with me. I told Siddeley to expect you." Finn drove toward the plane, and Boost followed rather tentatively. They rolled up the ramp and into the cabin. Finn drove up to the computer and entered Boost's VIN number into the system. "Find closest match," he said. "Search everything."

The computer ran its search, and a minute later, a computerized voice said, "Closest match found," and then gave a VIN number.

"Whose number is that?" Boost asked.

"My condolences," Finn replied. "It's Shorts'."

"Well, that answers that question, and besides, he's off the streets now."

"Yes, but I can still offer you an opportunity to turn your life around. At least now you have the freedom to accept."

"This about that invitation?"

"Yes. There's an academy that you can go to, to train to be a spy. The academy is part of a facility called the Command Headquarters for Reconnaissance Operations and Motorized Espionage, or CHROME."

"You really think I'm cut out for it?"

"You have more fight than you realize, Boost, and not only that, but you have potential. Take it from someone with more than twenty years of experience in the field. I'll send you the obligatory informational file and, like all the others, let you come to a decision in your own time."

"I gotta get this straight. You're tellin' me that, even though you're not my dad, you're gonna basically be my dad and give me this opportunity to turn my life around, y'know, do good?"

"Yes, that's exactly it."

Boost chewed his bumper. "What's the info file say?"

"You'll see when you recieve it."

"Okay. Hey, how's Axle holding up, what with his big boss put away and all?"

CARS

Axle set about cleaning and reorganizing his tools in order to have something to do with his tires. His mind wandered, dwelling on everything that had happened after Shorts' arrest. He helped the cops sort out all the parts in the warehouse and identify the frames so that they could recieve proper disposals from their families, if they still had families.

He'd helped get Finn McMissile's engine back, an action he knew at the depth of his frame would've made Torque proud, if he was watching from somewhere. A smile danced across his bumper when he thought of his brother, and he'd stopped cleaning his tools for a moment, before he caught himself and resumed his activities.

As Axle crossed the shop to the kitchen to fix himself up a quart of oil, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and for a second, he thought he saw Torque, watching him with a sort-of rough, but still patient, look. "Guess I wasn't in as deep as I thought," he whispered. "Guess I can still make you proud."