Maleficent held the obsidian orb in her hand, staring into its pitch black depths. She waved her free hand over it, murmuring a few words. An image flickered to life on the surface: two boys, a brunette and a redhead making their way slowly and cautiously down a twisting corridor waiting line lined with car parts.
Maleficent's lips twisted up in a cruel smirk. Finn Whitman and Dell Philby. How nice that the two most important Keepers chose to come to the Test Track. Now she could deal with them personally.
"Do you smell it?" the redhead, Philby, asked.
Finn sniffed the air, reminding Maleficent of that stupid little hound who made friends with the fox—what was that movie? Ah, yes, The Fox and the Hound. How obvious.
"Could be just the machinery," Finn said. "There's a lot of stuff in here."
"Or it could be her," Philby countered.
Both of them tensed and glanced uneasily at their surroundings.
Maleficent's smirk grew wider. She could practically smell the fear radiating from the two, and she was rooms away! An intense feeling of satisfaction overcame her. Her greatest foes next to Mickey himself feared her. Oh, that was music to her ears!
She watched them freeze at the site of a dummy: a fat, ruddy cheeked man sitting in front of a computer monitor. She snorted in amusement as they scooted past him on their tiptoes, inches at a time, eyes transfixed on its face as if they were afraid it would attack them. Well, of course it was going to attack them, but it was still amusing to see them so—what was the expression? High-strung.
"It isn't what we'd normally go through that worries me," Finn said, his voice barely above a whisper. "It's what we don't expect to happen."
"With you there," Philby agreed.
Maleficent raised an amused eyebrow. Oh yes, they were definitely going to get something—how do you say, 'out of the program' tonight. A last little surprise before they die.
She watched as they entered the loading area and moved to stand in front of the first car in line.
"Ready?" Philby asked.
"Are you sure this is even possible?" Finn countered.
"I don't mean to sound too much like Maybeck, but this is me we're talking about. I know every attraction, every ride, inside and out. That's my job, right? And I take it seriously."
Maleficent cackled, the harsh grating sound echoing through the garage-sized refrigerator space she was standing in—the extreme cold test, or whatever it was. That boy, Philby, thought he knew everything there was to know about the attractions? Well, he and Finn were in for the ride of their lives. A death-defying test course not offered to the general public. They should be honored to get to experience this one time crash—er, ride opportunity.
"There has to be at least one seat belt fastened for a car to move," Philby explained.
Maleficent's eyebrows arched in pleasure. That made her plan all the easier if that Finn boy were to be strapped down in his seat.
"Since the second car won't have any seat belts fastened, it won't start up. The others can't go either, but even if they could, the computer will hold them back."
Well, maybe the computer would have kept the other cars back before the Overtakers had tampered with the controls. Oopsie.
"It'll mean ours is the only car out there," Philby continued, "and I trust that a lot more than some car coming up from behind us and hitting us, or forcing us to go faster or something."
Ha! If the boy only knew. Which he didn't.
"But that also means I'll be strapped in," Finn pointed out, "and you won't."
"That's correct," Philby said. "If I hurry, I can jump into the car in time. The seat belt may not work at that point—I don't know."
Aw, Finn actually cared about his little friend! He wants to make sure he's strapped in for the ride so he can be a sitting duck too as Maleficent burned them to ashes. Yes, Philby, sit down and strap in with Finn.
"If I see something…" Philby continued, "if for any reason it's needed…if I'm not strapped in I can get out of the car and meet you at the start of the ride."
"We shouldn't separate," Finn protested. "That's one of the rules."
Yes, good rule! Then you both can die side by side.
"Rules are made to be broken, Finn," Philby said. "You know that. This is one of those times."
Of course rules were made to be broken. Why would they have been made in the first place? Maleficent loved breaking the rules, especially when it involved destroying her enemies in cruel, unnatural ways; like the ones she was watching now, for example.
"Couldn't we just skip the cars and walk the test track?" Finn asked desperately.
Maleficent pursed her lips. Oh no, don't do that, she thought. It won't be as much fun that way.
"The cars trigger the scene events," Philby said. "If Wayne left us a clue, if he wants us to see something, it'll be somewhere along the ride. We want—no, it's more than that—we need the scenes and events engaged."
Maleficent frowned. Wayne? Left a clue? She'd have to look into that once she disposed of these Keepers.
"I still don't love the idea of me being strapped in and you not being," Finn said.
And yes, you shouldn't, Finn, since Philby can escape and you can't, Maleficent thought 'sympathetically.'
"I'll hold on tight, believe me, Mother," Phliby said sarcastically. "But it's the only way to start the ride. It's this, or we bail right now."
Don't bail! Maleficent thought. I won't have my revenge!
She watched intently as Finn seemed to weigh his options.
"Okay," he relented.
The Green One grinned in anticipation. Here they come to their dooms. Willingly, even. That made revenge that much sweeter.
Finn climbed into the car and strapped in, the belt making a very satisfying click as it locked. He took a deep breath, and gave Philby a thumbs up.
Inside the control booth, Philby returned the gesture. Then he pushed a button and a loud popping sound erupted from the tracks. The machinery hummed, and the car Finn was in vibrated slightly before rolling forward.
Philby jumped out of the control booth, leaping and dodging around various obstacles as he made his way to the car.
Maleficent leaned forward so her nose practically touched the surface of the black orb. Any moment now…
As if on cue, the fat Audio-Animatronic from before rose up from behind the oblivious Philby, a giant wrench in one hand.
"Look out!" Finn shouted.
Philby screeched to a halt, ducking just as the guy swung his wrench, so it whistled harmlessly over Philby's head.
"Catch!" Finn cried, tossing the sword (Maleficent hadn't even noticed it until that moment) pommel first to Philby, who somehow managed to catch it perfectly. The car stopped under a sign labeled DISPATCH, and Finn whirled around to watch the fight.
The next time the robot swung the wrench, Philby caught it with the sword. The wrench was swung once, twice. The second time, Philby was forced to his knees.
Just as the car climbed up a hill and out of sight, the robot swung the wrench down toward Philby's head.
To Maleficent's intense disappointment, she didn't get to see the boy brained as the ball instead chose to follow Finn's progress through the course.
The car crested the small hill, and then clattered downwards, shaking and vibrating.
A piercing scream—Philby's scream—echoed through the tunnel.
"Philby?" Finn yelled. He wrestled with his seat belt, struggling to break free to no avail. In fact, if anything it just got tighter.
Maleficent smiled in mock sympathy. Philby had been eliminated. One down, one to go.
She shoved the seeing ball beneath her robes and stared into the extreme heat room before her, awaiting the arrival of a certain Finn Whitman.
She didn't have long to wait.
Not two minutes later, the car barreled into the heat test room, screeching to an abrupt halt and throwing Finn forward.
She could see the confusion on his face at the sudden stop as the heat lamps turned on and the temperature started to rise.
Finn began to sweat, the droplets running into his eyes as he yanked at his seat belt, trying to free himself.
The temperature continued to increase: 105…110…
Finn's skin began to dry out, getting darker as it absorbed the infrared rays, giving him a free tan. He pulled his hands in as the metal grew too hot to touch. His hair began to smolder, ready to catch fire any second. The plastic of the car began to melt, slowly sinking in on both sides and oozing onto the seats. Soon, they would meet in the middle, right where Finn was sitting. Smoke rose from the vehicle as it continued to burn, some sort of label bursting into flames and licking up the side of the car.
Finn was going absolutely crazy now, bucking like a bull against the seat belt.
Maleficent decided to make him aware of her presence before he combusted. Otherwise, what fun would it be if her enemy didn't even know that she was the one who killed him?
She stepped into the middle of the room, in plain sight of the car. "Welcome…"
Finn looked up, blinking like he was having trouble seeing straight. She could see the desperation in his eyes as he looked into the cold room, just twenty feet away. So close, yet so far.
She smiled cruelly. "You never know when to quit, do you, Finn?"
Finn flinched, like he didn't like that she knew his name. Then his eyes grew full of anger. "Where is he?" he demanded.
She sighed inwardly. Such bravado. What a waste.
"You never let well enough alone, young man," she said. She raised her hand and pointed at him, a bright red beam erupting from the tip of her finger and melting a line into the metal hood of the car, slowly creeping up to the stranded Keeper. "You are dabbling where you shouldn't be dabbling."
"You and Chernabog should have kept moving," he stated, "should have moved on. But you can't, can you? You can't leave the parks. You're stuck here, where you were created. You want so badly to scare us—scare everyone—but you're pitiful really. A sad, silly witch who can't do anything but make trouble. How sick is that?"
She turned the direction of the laser closer toward him, barely managing to keep her anger off her face. "Silly? You think so? It's fun to watch you burn. To watch you pay for all the trouble you've brought me. You and your self-righteous friends. You will come and go, the five of you, your friend Wayne. You'll see. But I will live here forever. I am immortal, am I not? Fifty years old and I haven't aged a day. You try that."
"Oh, I don't know," Finn said. "You look a hundred to me."
Her expression twisted as an intense feeling of anger and hatred welled up inside of her. "It wouldn't do to just kill you," she decided. "You must be made to suffer first."
He closed his eyes.
"Don't you dare pass out on me, boy!" she growled. "I want to hear you scream. I want to see you suffer. Open your eyes."
He just sat there, looking almost—was it possible?—peaceful.
She snarled. If that little brat just died on her…
Then the impossible happened: he sat forward, passing through the seat belt like it wasn't there as he stood up. The melted plastic joined in the middle where Finn had been sitting, bubbling and smoking in the heat.
Finn opened his eyes, his expression deadly calm.
She pointed her laser at him, dragging it up between his legs and to his chest, but it passed through his figure like he wasn't even there. She stared at him in total disbelief, then looked down at her knobby green finger. Maybe she should have sharpened her nail a little more this morning…
"Things are really heating up," Finn said, jumping out of the car.
Maleficent took an involuntary step backward, then regained her composure. She sneered at him. "Well, aren't you full of surprises. But unfortunately, I am too. And your little friend Philby isn't around to help you anymore, I'm afraid."
A mixture of grief, pain, and guilt flashed through Finn's eyes before his expression hardened, the pool of emotions easing into white hot anger.
"And for his death," Finn hissed. "You will pay."
Then he launched himself at her, completely empty handed.
Oh, that stupid stupid boy.
She closed her eyes and concentrated. She melted down into a puddle of muck, then slowly began to reform. A long, whip-like tail and body stretched out of the slime. A massive head with poisonous fangs and glowing yellow eyes poked out of the puddle. She opened her eyes and a forked tongue flicked out from her scaly lips. She had turned into a twenty foot python.
She saw Finn hesitate slightly, fear and indecision flashing across his features.
Before he could recover, she lunged with the speed of a wasp, aiming to gobble him up. Her fangs clamped down on empty air. She recoiled in surprise, wriggling around in an attempt to figure out where he went, but she found it was pretty hard to move in such a small space at her size.
"Hey, lizard lips!" he yelled. "Back here!"
She realized that Finn had jumped to the side at the last second, and was now hiding somewhere behind her tail. She squirmed in the narrow passage, trying to turn around when a faint sound caught her attention: the sound of a motor whirring.
She whipped around and realized that the half melted car was starting to move, creeping toward her slowly, but gaining speed with each foot. She would have to time this just right…
"Back here!" that annoying boy shouted. "Come on, you big worm, can't you catch me?"
Maleficent concentrated, shrinking back into a human and turning to face Finn.
He was standing defiantly at the edge of the cold room, his fists clenched tightly at his sides.
Maleficent smiled coldly. "It's been nice knowing you, Finn."
She leapt to the side just as the car raced up behind her.
Finn's eyes widened, and he tried to dodge, but was too late as the car slammed into his gut, bringing him along with it as it streaked through the course. He screamed in pain as the hot metal and plastic burned into his skin, keeping him firmly locked on the front of the car as it zoomed along.
Maleficent pressed up against the wall as another car came careening by, going much faster than the first one. She waited patiently, listening intently down the corridor. Sure enough, roughly three minutes later, the muffled sound of an explosion echoed back to her eager ears.
She smiled in satisfaction, clapping her hands together smartly.
Two Keepers down, three more to go.