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The track went level again, and the subway train quickly slowed down. The toons were shaken by this catapult into the sky, but they were even more shocked with what they saw.
They were traveling on a track high above the ground. The train wove in and out of huge buildings. There was one building that looked like a silver needle standing in the sky. It seemed to be so close, yet it was so far away.
"That thing must be at least two toonmiles, I mean, kilometers high!" Harry gasped. The monorail took them into a tunnel in a very wide, white marble building. The train stopped smoothly in the tunnel, and the police left the train as soon as the doors opened, annoyed by their noise. The toons left to let other cogs come in.
This must be the capitol building, Evina thought. There were elegant sculptures everywhere, and the floor had an unusual, abstract tile pattern. The subway train zoomed away behind them, and they took the nearest escalator to go down.
The toons didn't take the time to see everything in the building, because they were walking down as fast as they could. They seemed to be in some kind of atrium with doors everywhere. There were seven glass levels in total; they were on the middle one. There were three levels underground below them and three levels above them. Escalators connected the levels through a square opening in the middle of each floor. Exiting subway trains went above the rail in the center of the atrium. Cogs were moving everywhere. Most of them went in through doors that stood next to each other.
They were very curious about the giant needle building so they went outside. Many crowds of cogs were trying to push their way in. A little way ahead of them was the Central Park. There was a fountain with trimmed shrubs made to look like cogs with smiles on their faces.
The mysterious, needle-like structure was spotted again, and they were lured toward it. For the first time in their lives, they saw some real level 50 cogs. Only a few of them were v2.0 though.
"I think that is the Cogs Incorporated HQ," Harry said pointing to the needle-like building they were headed to. "We have to go there for our welcome meeting, and we certainly need to make a good impression."
"I can't believe that I'm actually working for the Chief Executive Officer!" Evina exclaimed as they crossed a busy street. "I hope he doesn't recognize me from all the times I've defeated him."
"No," Harry assured him, "remember you don't have your gloves. We can only be seen by other toons."
"Oh yeah, I knew that. But I'm just afraid I won't be cog enough for them."
"Each day we are becoming cog enough," Harry said sorrowfully. "It will eventually become part of us. We just need to finish the job and get out of here as soon as possible before we become like one of them."
The building was seen with width now. It was larger than words could describe and brought terror to the toons. It went up into the clouds, and they could see no end to its height. Zany pulled out the book and read some more to them.
"The headquarters of Cogs Inc. is the tallest building in known existence. It has hundreds of floors and is the symbol of all cog achievements," she read. "It has eighty-six departments within, a small auditorium to seat ten thousand, and seventeen restaurants. Since its beginning, Cogs Inc. has taken every opportunity to demonstrate its wealth and power."
Harry was astonished. "I wonder what kind of material they used. This type of technology is like a dream, even to toons. It can't be possible!"
Zany continued reading. "The secret to the corporation's magnificent skyscrapers is the mysterious metal called gralt. Gralt is an extremely strong alloy with reasonable weight. It is comprised of extremely condensed base metals and minerals using a special, secret technique to make an unbelievably strong atomic structure. The chairman of Cogs Inc. refuses to tell anyone their secret technique to making it." She looked up at them. "I'm glad we didn't get sent to the iron mines." The other toons nodded in agreement.
She continued. "The building is made just like the newest cogs, almost indestructible. Its foundation is embedded several kilometers into the ground. They have a special meeting once every five weeks for new employees working in the area.
"Perhaps the most interesting tradition of the cogs is adding to all office structures the eyes of their original leader." At that moment, Zany bumped into a fierce looking Big Wig level 50 who scowled at her before storming away.
"Yeah Zany, we don't want to pick fights with nearly indestructible cogs," Ricky laughed. She grinned sheepishly and put the pamphlet away. Fortunately, there was a sign in the grass ahead of them that said:
Leading the world of business,
Leading the world to victory
"Victory against what?" Pink wondered.
"Us," Harry replied.
She grimaced. "Oh, that's not good."
They were approaching a congregation of cogs outside the building. The Vice president, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Executive Officer were up on a little platform in front of the main entrance.
"Shall we begin?" the V.P. asked the C.E.O.
"Yes, you go first," ordered the C.E.O.
The V.P. rolled up to the little microphone. He showed the audience the smiling side of his head. "Welcome everyone to Cogs Incorporated! We are delighted to have you work here with us. We will give you a brief tour of what to expect before you go home and commence work tomorrow."
He rolled away as the C.F.O. came forward. "TIME IS MONEY!" he bellowed. Everyone jumped with surprise. "You need to work efficiently! Soon you will learn to love your work, and you will love money. If you obey us, you will be rewarded with money! If you are lazy, you will not receive money; you'll be fired!" He rolled away to make room for the C.E.O.
"Welcome, everyone. We will be doing as many promotions as we can tonight, from one to eight o' clock. Then we must return to Toontown. Just so you know, this building we are standing by is the headquarters of Cogs Incorporated. It is the headquarters of the largest and most powerful corporation that ever existed." Every cog in the audience cheered. "I am so glad to have been appointed C.E.O of this great company, and work in the tallest building in the world, but it has been an even greater pleasure working with brilliant cogs like you." None of the toons were brainless enough to believe him as the cogs cheered once again.
"This building may not hold the record for volume like the capitol, but it is large enough to fit all of us! Together we are one mighty force working together to save the world! I should note, we are sorry for such security measures, but the toon sightings have forced us to take special precautions.
"Now, my good friend and father, the chairman, will speak to us next. The chairman started this wonderful business and continues to lead for a better world." The cogs all clapped until the C.E.O put his hand up for silence and rolled away.
The main doors to the skyscraper swung open, and many high-level policemen filed out and lined up on the left and the right.
"I present to you," the C.E.O shouted from behind, "William Gears, the chairman of Cogs Incorporated!" All the toons' hearts were beating rapidly. A figure emerged from the darkness. The chairman had arrived.
The toons were completely astonished. It was the same cog they had seen in the shadows on TV. He was the size of a normal cog with a plain, gray suit. The most shocking feature about him was his silver face. It was as solid as stone, unchanging, unsympathetic, and unemotional. He made everyone feel as though he was staring right at them, though his eyes were squinted so they could not be seen.
"Thank you for joining us here today," the chairman said in a deep, dull tone, but it was with booming intensity. Once the toons heard it, they knew they would never forget that voice. "I think we've had enough pleasantries," he continued. "You all know why you're here. You are going to work, and it begins now! Ignore the ridiculous claims of toons in the area. Help us build the great society. It is your duty to make our nation live on. We will defeat the toons very soon. When we're ready, they won't even know what hit them. Until then, get to work!" He snapped his fingers, and a thick cloud of smoke formed around everyone. There was a strange sensation that overcame them, and when the smoke cleared, they saw that they were all promoted to level 1.
The chairman stepped back from the microphone, the security guards surrounded him again, and they walked back inside. Harry gestured for the toons to follow him back home.
"I don't like that idea of the cogs defeating us. The chairman said we won't know what hit us when it happens," Harry said. "I don't think they'll risk a full-scale invasion, because the high-level cogs are too important to them."
The other toons thought about this while crossing the street to Central Park. "I have no idea what that would do," Evina said, "but it can't be good, whatever it is. I hope I never have to see the chairman ever again." He shivered at the thought of the silver face and looked back at the skyscraper that went higher than he could see. He sighed and turned away.
They passed a strange brick building on the capitol street that had a golden gear painted on its entrance door, in an alley. It seemed hidden from the rest of the city. There were rusty cans and heaps of garbage everywhere around it. It looked like it led to nowhere important. Evina looked up and noticed there were hardly any windows on the building.
"Have you guys noticed this before?" he asked them. They shook their heads and looked in bewilderment at the strange building.
"I wonder what's in there, but I'm also a bit afraid," Harry said. "Something just doesn't seem right... oh, let's just forget about it."
They walked into the capitol building and got in line for the next subway train going back home. It looked so odd seeing all the cogs walk in and out of hundreds of doors that were only inches apart from each other.
"There are so many doors," Goopy said in awe.
"I think we've all realized that by now," Zany said. "I personally think they're elevators."
Harry thought about it. "I don't think they're elevators, but I don't know what they are," he admitted. "Doors that close together can't be separate rooms." The toons stood over by the handrail and looked down. There were three underground levels below them and thousands of more doors. Then they looked up. There were three levels visible above them too with thousands of more doors.
"Well now, I'm actually starting to think Zany is right," Harry said. "I don't see any elevators here, and the escalators don't go to floors higher than what we can see." He glanced over at the very end of the atrium where there was one very large door. It appeared to be guarded.
"Will we get lost?" Simeon asked. They all looked around and saw the subway approaching.
"Don't worry, Simeon; this is the largest building in the world, by volume. I think it can be very easy to get lost. The security, the traps, and the hidden passages could drive anyone crazy... unless they're a cog with all the building's maps stored on their hard drive."
They got on the train right before it departed, crammed between a few very agitated looking cogs.
Simeon was nearest to the window. He was afraid of heights, and he almost screamed as he saw the train seemingly floating over the atrium to the other side. He closed his eyes and tried not to look down at the underground levels they were passing over.
Then the train went into a tunnel; it turned around a corner, and nothing could be seen. The toons were frightened out of their mind when they suddenly plummeted. They had to hold onto the bar to keep from falling over while the other cogs were so bored they were falling asleep. They looked like their feet were nailed to the floor. When they stopped falling, they slowed down, and the doors opened up at the bottom level of the atrium.
Evina wiped the sweat from his forehead as more cogs came in and crammed him even farther into the corner. With his face pressed against the wall, and metal pressing on his back he wished the ride home would be smooth. The train quickly accelerated, and Evina was pressed further into the wall. It was a very long and painful ride home.
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