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Carefully, they approached the front desk where a Glad Hander was bent over a stack of papers.
"Can you help us?" Catman asked.
The Glad Hander looked up and smiled. "I would be glad to offer you assistance! What do you need?"
"We need jobs, we kind of don't have any right now."
The Glad Hander sat deep in thought. "I know there must be a job nearby, but I forgot exactly where. Oh! You could get a job with my boss. He's in need of a secretary. You look like you'll do great." He pointed to Pink in her Sellbot Suit. "My boss's office is suite 24000. I'm sure he'll be more than delighted to see you."
The toons thanked him and quickly hurried away to get on the elevator. They shuffled inside and pushed the button to take them to the 24th floor.
"Harry, thanks for all that you've done for us," Evina said.
"And thank you, everyone," he said kindly. "I know you would never be able to do something like this on your own. Perhaps I'll be glad that we decided to go through with this insane journey. It may turn out to be worth something. But I want you to learn how to be a leader, Evina. If anything bad happens to me, you're going to be the next one to take charge."
"But nothing bad will happen to you! I couldn't do it by myself. I never was the smartest toon in school. I can't lead these toons through Cog Nation. You know we're going to be alright, don't you?"
Harry gave him a somber look and sighed.
"I just can't do it. I'm not ready," Evina continued.
"It seems just like yesterday we were in Toontown Central, and you were complaining about how bored you were. Things have changed now. I know you're not ready, but soon you will be. Don't worry, though. I don't plan on having anything bad happen. So, we'll be all right... for now."
The elevator opened up, and they stepped out into the hallway. It was long and lined by bright lights on the ceiling. The first door on the left was twenty-four thousand. Pink opened it up, and they entered one by one into a small waiting room. There were benches along the walls and an empty secretary desk in the center.
"Come in," a voice said from behind the door. Pink cautiously stepped forward and opened the door. It revealed a Mr. Hollywood behind it. The last time they had seen a Mr. Hollywood was in a Servicebot suit at the forest fortress, the same suit that Catman was currently wearing.
"I was told from downstairs that you could help me," the cog said.
Pink nodded nervously and walked into his office. The rain was still pounding on the window behind his desk. The cog shut the door for privacy, and the others were left sitting in the small room. Ironically, they still were able to hear the conversation pretty clearly.
"Can I see your résumé?" he asked.
"I uh... don't have one."
"Oh, well do you have any programming in statistics?"
"Are you a hard worker?"
"Never really worked much."
"Can you take phone calls?"
"What's your serial number?"
"I have no idea."
The Mr. Hollywood was becoming frustrated. "This is odd. I've never seen a cog that's acted this strange before, or at least not one that was trying to get a job. I'm calling the boss."
After a minute of silence, the toons shuddered as the voice of the Vice President shot out from of the Mr. Hollywood's cell phone.
"This is the Vice President of Cogs Inc. What is it this time?"
"Sorry for bothering you. This is Mr. Net; I've got a Sellbot who can't remember her name."
"Really? What's her serial number?"
"I'll scan it," he said. There was a small beeping sound. "The serial number is 00587432."
There was silence on the other end of the phone for a moment. "Ms. Chip?" the V.P. muttered. "She's a really hard worker. I have no idea what this is all about. You must be talking about another cog. So, I'm really busy now, but I would send her to the mechanic if I were you."
Before the Mr. Hollywood could speak again, the V.P. hung up. For a moment, there was no sound but the dial tone. "GET OUT!" the Mr. Hollywood finally shouted.
Pink immediately came running out, and the group of toons exited to the hallway. The Mr. Hollywood scowled at them as they left his office.
"That didn't go so well," Pink said nervously.
"Yeah, it didn't," Catman smirked as he pressed the down button for the elevator. There was a Two-Face standing in there already. He did not seem pleased to have his elevator ride interrupted by this large group of tiny cogs.
Once they reached the lobby, the Glad Hander saw them arrive, and he walked over to them. "Good news! I remember where the employment center is now. It's about six blocks away, down on 310th Avenue."
"Thanks," Harry said softly.
"Did you get the job?" the Glad Hander asked.
"Uh... no," Harry answered.
"Ah, I knew it," the cog muttered.
The rain had almost completely stopped. The streets were dark, wet, and slick. The smell of oil was strong. The toons were walking to the bank to get a loan on a fairly decent-looking apartment they had discovered.
Once they got there, they had to wait in a long line. It was a really small place, and Cashbots were running everywhere to help all the cogs as soon as possible. They eventually got up to a window where a Loan Shark was sitting.
"Can we take out a loan for a hundred thousand cogbucks?" Harry asked.
"Please wait a second," the Load Shark said dully. He counted out a hundred thousand cogbucks and handed him a paper and a pen. Harry read it all as fast as he could. "Hurry please, time is money," he said.
"There's a 100% monthly compound interest rate? That's madness!" He almost forgot for a moment that their bank teller was a literal Loan Shark. However, he had little choice but to sign it. The Loan Shark handed them the money.
"Thank you," the Loan Shark said in that same monotonous voice. They pressed their way through the crowds and onto the sidewalk.
Harry didn't dare risk losing the money in his bottomless pocket but instead put it in a very tight bundle in his suit jacket pocket. "It's time we start heading to the employment center. After trying to get a job, then we can walk to our apartment. It feels like it's been a long day already."
They walked over to the nearest bus stop. A bus arrived within a few minutes, and Harry spent the first bit of their money on their tickets. By now they really hated being squished into tiny seats between cogs. The only good thing was that the bus was a lot cleaner on the inside than the outside. The toons were grateful someone else was driving; the traffic in Cogtropolis was wild.
The bus rolled down one of the seemingly endless streets. They passed several buildings they had passed before. They also saw the police, investigating the crime scene of the incident they had caused earlier that day. They passed the tunnel to the airport. Then the bus turned onto another street that also appeared to go on forever. It hurt their minds to imagine how big this city really was.
About ten minutes passed until the buildings started looking more residential instead of the normal commercial skyscrapers. They passed a building with a long line coming from it. It was the employment center located adjacent to their chosen apartment building. The bus stopped nearby, and they flooded out.
The clouds were clearing away to reveal the sunlight they saw earlier. Evina saw that there was no face on the sun as it faced away from the cogs, looking at the other side of the world.
It was late in the afternoon, and they still had a lot of work to do. The fast-moving crowds were pushing them in the direction of the employment center. There was a big sign glued to the side of a brick building. It read in bold letters:
A new breakthrough in technology!
We present to you the new digestive system compatible with v2.0 cogs and higher. It will process any organic material! Get your own today! Starting at only 2,000 cogbucks! *
* Price does not include taste bud drive (sold separately)
Visit your local mechanic for more details.
Cog Digestive System (CDS), Patent pending
After reading this, the toons suddenly noticed how hungry they had become after the day's stress. They had not eaten a single thing since they got off the plane that morning. They thought there had to be a restaurant nearby for those cogs who recently got the digestive system. But it could still be many hours of waiting before they could reach the front of the line.
It actually moved a lot faster than they thought. There was a lot of yelling going on, and a large group of cogs exited the building, looking infuriated. The toons got in within half an hour. There were a few flunkies handing out papers to the incoming cogs. Each toon took one and filled it out as best as they could. After their first attempt to get employed, Pink has discovered that their cog serial number is on their left wrist. They returned their paperwork to the v3.0 level 5 Flunkies then sat and waited to get into an office.
Harry went first, then Ricky, Pink, Zany, Goopy, Simeon, Rocky, and Catman. They were all successful, and Evina felt the pressure of everyone waiting on him as he went in last. "What an exciting adventure this turned out to be," he muttered to himself. There was a Big Cheese in the office with his elbows propped up on the desk. He was wearing a Servicebot suit and looked bored out of his mind.
"Good day to you," he recited, "I am here to give you an appropriate career if you answer my questions as honestly as possible. So, let's get this over with."
Evina nodded to indicate he was ready to start. "First of all, have you had any other jobs?"
"Any experience in manual labor?"
"Not too much."
"Do you have any experience making phone calls, repairing, programming, translating, leading, organizing data or calculating?"
"I uh... I have been told that I am becoming a good leader, and I always know what is best to do if there is a problem. I am highly proficient in English, and I could probably accomplish any simple task I'm told to do." Evina couldn't believe he just said that. Now he thought that they would give him a really hard job. And he wondered how he suddenly knew what the word proficient meant.
"I think you'll do well in Cogs Inc., just like everyone else," the cog muttered. "You can be a level 1 Technician or start as a Flunky."
Evina was devastated. "You mean I have to start at level 1?"
"You said you have no prior experience doing any other jobs, so I have no idea how you got those levels on your suit in the first place." He stood up and removed a paper from a filing cabinet. "You have three choices: Bossbot, Technician, or unemployed."
Evina figured it would be best to be a Bossbot because he already had the Bossbot suit. "I'll be a Bossbot."
The Big Cheese filled out some things on the paper and put it in front of Evina to sign. The paper looked like things Legal Eagles say. Evina couldn't understand anything it said. Sadly, he had no choice but to sign it. He wondered what kind of work a Bossbot had to do. He also considered what it would feel like to be a Flunky and how he would fit in with the other Bossbots. Many other things he pondered as he signed his name.
The Big Cheese with the dark suit glared down at the paper and then back to Evina. Evina's heart pounded like thunder in his ears. He wondered if perhaps he should not have signed his real name, 'Evina.'
The Big Cheese looked like he was still confused. "Oh, never mind, just leave," he finally said.
Evina let out the breath he was holding and ran out of the office.
"How did it go?" Harry asked him.
"Not that good, but it still worked," Evina gasped. They stood up and walked out of the office. "I'm a Flunky now," he continued.
"I guess everyone is a Flunky now," Harry said, "except Pink who is a Cold Caller, Catman who is a Short Change, and I, a Bottom Feeder."
Evina looked at him. "Why would they make you a Lawbot?"
"I guess I do well in law and government," he shrugged. "After all, I am on the Toon Council. And I know a lot about the law. I don't think cog law should be too different... I hope. Actually, it's probably completely different. At least I don't have much training to do before I get to work."
They were almost at the entrance to the apartment when Harry stopped. "I just forgot! I need to go pick up my Lawbot suit and Catman's Cashbot suit. Do you mind taking the others to the apartment, Evina?"
Evina was startled. "I guess so, but I don't think I'm ready to do these things alone."
"I promise nothing bad will happen while I'm gone," Harry assured them. "Expect to see me at around nine or ten tonight." And with that, he gave Evina the stack of money. "Don't do anything stupid, and just act like the cogs."
Before Evina could say or do anything, Harry had already run away.
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