Pairings: Francesco/OC, Some Mater/Holley + Lightning/Sally
Summary: Crime never leaves the world of racing alone, and the MI6 never leaves crime alone. But Francesco Bernoulli has bigger problems like finishing off another winning season, preparing his pit crew for the new World Grand Prix, and dealing with an extremely annoying critic.
If Francesco loved anything almost as much as he loved racing, it was the way the press raced to meet him afterward. The cameras flashed in his eyes blindingly and the chatter was too loud to comprehend – it all overtook his senses in the most magnificent way possible, removing him from reality and placing him ten meters in the air. Twenty if he won. And today – like most other days – Francesco hadn't just won. No, Francesco had absolutely dominated the raceway. It was the final race of the season, and he could have all but not shown up and still become champion with how high he was in the standings.
But no, to be a real Champion, Francesco had to indeed show up and destroy his competition one last time, as he heard himself telling the press through the euphoric haze of flash bulbs and victory.
"I know! I'm the champion again! Sometimes, Francesco even amazes himself, if you can believe that!" The Italian continued to praise himself in both English and Italian, in no rush to get away from the press despite his pit crew trying to help him do so. "Maybe if the other race cars train harder, Francesco will have a challenge next year! Wouldn't that be exciting, no?"
"Francesco! Over here!" A reporter's microphone shoved its way past the others, although its owner could barely be seen within the crowd. "What do you think of the competition slated for the Neo World Grand Prix?"
"Oh, that does worry me. After all…" Francesco sighed dramatically, "Lightning McQueen won't be participating, so I have no idea who will be placing second to me in all the races!" The surge of flashes told Francesco his witty response had landed well, as always. He chuckled as his pit crew finally pried him out of the press area for his post-race checkup.
"You shouldn't indulge them so much," his crew chief, Giuseppe Motorosi, scolded lightly, albeit clearly amused himself. Giuseppe casually looked Francesco over on the way to their team's garage. "All the lights and stress is bad for your polish."
"Well, it's a good thing Francesco has the best pit crew to keep his polish up, no?" Francesco smiled at his old friend.
"Don't even joke. It's been a long season, you know. And there's still exhibitions and this New Grand World Racing thing." Giuseppe sighed. "Perhaps I am getting too old for this."
The duo drove into the team's garage. "Then hire some extra hands! I have no problem with that!" Francesco punched Giuseppe's tire with his own right before the rest of the pit crew could swarm him, bickering at him to hold still or risk his good looks. "Come on, you worry too much!" Francesco raised his voice to address the whole crew. "Tonight, we celebrate with good food, good oil, and a great team!"
The pit crew cheered, a couple of tools flying through the air. Francesco laughed heartily. "And then we crush opponents from around the world! Yes, it's so exciting! Can you imagine a life more exciting than that of Francesco?"
"Finn? Finn, can you hear me? I'm being followed."
At 0315 hours Central European Summer Time, in an "abandoned" warehouse not far from the Élorn River, all Shell broke loose.
While the dim lighting and the maze of shipping containers had helped the secret agents remain undetected for almost an hour, there was only so long the partners could hide and observe when their mission was to free a hostage. Even against such amateurs - cheap amateurs, who should have coordinated a better security system than simple carpower - it would have taken a much lower IQ than required to even put together a ransom message to not keep the prisoner well-guarded. Sure enough, alarms started blaring and red light filled the building when a guard spotted the infamous Holley Shiftwell.
It had been about two years since Holley was reassigned from C.H.R.O.M.E.'s technical department to the field at the request of none less than the British Intelligence's finest agent, but while McMissile's insistence on the rookie becoming his partner had shortened her transfer time to less than a day, she still felt more like Finn's trainee than his equal when it came to stealth and combat. What did make her an asset, however, was her advanced computing savvy. Even as the young spy raced through the halls to avoid getting shot until she could regroup with Finn, Holley was scanning every shipping container she passed, looking for differences of construction, heat radiating from inside... anything that could set it apart as a rudimentary cell. She was regretting not asking Finn more about the hostage's VIN, model, and other potentially scannable aspects during the briefing. Finn made an effort to tell Holley everything she would need to know for each mission, which in this case had simply been that some French resistance that apparently thought this was still WWII had captured a celebrity, but Finn's older systems meant he could underestimate what Holley's were capable of.
"Finn," she called over the communications channel, as she continued to scan boxes and occasionally use her electric shock system on a resistance member that got too close for comfort, trying to not let her nerves falter in her speech, "I'm being pursued by several assailants. Have you gotten any information on where the hostage might-"
The sound of metal being smashed over and over again echoed through the warehouse.
Holley kept driving as more of a habit in dangerous scenarios than by any rational thought. Her audio receptors scrambled to try and figure out where the chaos – possibly carnage – was coming from, and she kept mental note on the seconds that were passing without a response from her partner. Above scanning each box in an orderly fashion, her priority became losing her pursuers, and she started turning any corner she came across no matter how lost it made her.
"Finn!" Her communications grew frantic. "Finn, come in! Over! If you can respond, please-"
Holley found herself driving into a large, rectangular space in the middle of the warehouse, completely surrounded by shipping containers sans a couple entrances from the maze. She skid to a halt.
She was idling before at least a dozen French automobiles, all different models, all painted with the enemy logo.
All pummeled into submission.
Well, except for one last car Finn was just now tossing aside like a used oil can. He turned to Holley and the ghost of a smirk passed his featured before he pretended she wasn't there. "This is Finn McMissile responding to Holley Shiftwell. Sorry Miss Shiftwell – I was a bit tangled up – over."
Oh, hardy har har. She knew than Finn must have been truly caught up to not have responded immediately, but she still didn't appreciate his sense of humor. Especially when they were still looking for...
...The hostage, who was apparently in the red shipping container a few feet behind a moaning Bugatti Type 101. Holley drove over to the container and made short work of the lock with a precision laser she had been issued about fourteen months ago. Finn hovered behind her with several guns at the ready - in case of a last minute ambush - and Holley cautiously opened the container and drove inside. The only light was leaking in from the rest of the warehouse; Holley activated her headlights at the dimmest setting to avoid startling the poor soul. "Don't worry, we're from the MI6. We've come to rescue-"
The hostage interrupted her well-rehearsed speech with a delighted gasp. "Holley!"
"Ah..." The paint rushed from Holley's face and she switched to her high-beams."Mater?"
She didn't get to react any farther before the truck – far too lively for somebody who had just been in solitary darkness for at least 48 hours - swung his cable and zoomed out of the container, towing the staggered spy behind him and releasing her next to himself and Finn.
"I was wonderin' if you twos was gonna be the ones to rescue me! Well," his eyes diverted from the partners for a moment, "I was mostly wonderin' 'bout if anycar knew where I was to come rescue me in the first place, but when I thought 'bouts getting found I was hopin' it'd be you guys! How ya been?"
Holley just stared at Mater, aghast, her face still pale.
And then she turned to Finn.
"Mater! Mater was captured and you didn't tell me?"
And back to Mater.
"A-are you hurt? Have you gotten any sleep? Have they fed you?"
And back to Finn.
"Mater! Mater was the hostage! How was that not important information in the briefing?"
"Miss Shiftwell," Finn replied calmly, "this is exactly why I kept the hostage's identity under wraps from you. If you had known the situation beforehand, your emotions - and thus you - would have been compromised."
"No I wouldn't have! What makes you so sure of that?"
Finn didn't even justify that question with an answer. A couple seconds later, Holley took recognition of her behavior and the color started to return to her face. Just the red color, to be specific.
Mater picking this moment to close his eyes and snuggle Holley's fender didn't help.
"I'm good. Jus' glad to see you. What's it been now, a month? You get so busy with yer spy stuff, but I know you has fun and help a lotta cars."
Having fun? Not at the moment. In fact, times like this made Holley question her own sanity. After all, look at her choice in a partner/boss.
And look at her choice in a fiancé.
Yet no matter how many times Holley asked herself what her ideal life would be - not counting that Sir Tow Mater was the target of more criminals than she'd prefer - she couldn't find a single thing she would want changed, much less being without the two cars that meant the most to her.
A faint smile fought its way to her bumper. "Yes, it has. Good to see you too."