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Evina stood up and walked to Mr. Alumi's Office. An infuriated looking Pencil Pusher stormed out, and the Head Hunter invited Evina to come in. He tried to avoid looking out the spacious window behind his desk.
"So, how are you doing?" the boss asked while propping his hands on his desk.
"Much better than yesterday," Evina replied, irritably but honestly.
Mr. Alumi appeared puzzled. "Did your work yesterday not meet your satisfaction?"
"No, not really; I almost got fired, and that's not very fun, is it?" Once he said it, he knew it was the wrong thing to say.
The boss tried to hide his anger, avoiding any potential arguments with his new and possibly most valuable employee. Evina noticed he did a lot better at controlling anger than most other cogs he had met. "There is one crucial thing you must learn to be successful, Mr. Evina. Nothing is supposed to be fun." He stood up and began strolling around the room in a slow circle. "We get all our determination to live from our labor. We understand that working is our life energy. It makes us seem more lifelike than we really are."
The boss turned and gazed out the window. "We have accomplished things that toons could never even dream of, and in reality, we're just metal. How do we go so far with so little? To continue our progress and development, we must never have fun. Sure, we may have temporary pleasure in a game of golf. A little competition is always nice now and then, but we do it sparingly. We wouldn't want to compromise this nation that we built and become more like toons."
He spun around swiftly and glared into Evina's eyes. "We must be better than those toons. It's something you will eventually understand. Toons don't make good use of this planet. We have proved we are much more determined to build a great society than they are. We can and will defeat them. And we will take from them what we rightfully deserve."
Evina looked into the cold, dark, metallic eyes of the Head Hunter before the cog sat down again. He wondered if he would experience the destruction of Toontown soon.
"So, is there anything I can do to make your experience here more pleasant?" the Head Hunter finished, looking a bit calmer.
Evina thought as quickly as he could for the things Harry needed. "I would like to know how to get carbonium silk and siliconium flodine," he replied.
The Head Hunter was silent and still, as if he was calculating something very complicated. "According to my records, carbonium silk is only made with pure carbonium. It is a substance that has been found only in the root of the Laff-O-Dil. It is an unusual flower that only grows in Toontown. The toons' stupidity is clearly demonstrated as they ignore such a valuable resource that it is. I don't know how you'll ever find it."
Evina didn't get the answer he was expecting, but he trusted the other toons would have better luck.
"Maybe you can find synthetic carbonium," the Head Hunter considered. "It's very expensive, though."
"Um, thanks," Evina said happily, "but what about the siliconium flodine?"
The Head Hunter instantly became amused. "Poor Flunkies, they don't know anything. Everyone knows that it's a very important ingredient in the cog recipe for dip. I'm sorry to say the dip factory is somewhere hidden and off limits." He rubbed his chin and pondered. "Its main function is to retain and distribute negative energy. I would maybe see a mechanic. I think they might have some that they use in spare parts."
Evina could barely contain his excitement. "Thank you so much. I'll get it when I can." He stood up and was about to leave when Mr. Alumi stopped him. "Why in the world do you need those things anyway?" Evina froze while he considered the possibility of his boss destroying him. He was just about to speak when his boss interrupted him. "Sorry," the cog apologized, trying to sound friendly again, "I hope you have a good experience at the meeting."
Dread filled Evina once again as he left the office. He knew it was all too good to be true. All the other toons would be inventing superpowers while he was sitting in a meeting, taking notes on the destruction of Toontown. He probably needed the super toon supplies much more than they did. He hated his work with a burning passion. He didn't know how much money they had to earn before they could pay for an escape. He didn't even have the supplies yet, only a vague idea of where they could be found. He felt like he had made no progress at all. He was so alone. Nobody knew exactly how he felt.
Evina slept on the way home in the subway. It was as uneventful as before. He had almost gotten accustomed to the sudden ups and downs of the train now.
He didn't want to get mad at the other toons. It wasn't like him to be angry so much. In fact, usually toons were seldom every angry. He couldn't explain it.
When he exited the train, he and the other toons walked to the apartment and staggered up the front steps sleepily. It was raining again and awfully cold. He thought it matched his mood at the moment. They arrived at their room, walked in silently, and sat down at the table. Another day of work was finally over, and they didn't know how much more of it they could take.
"How was work today, Evina?" Harry asked him again. "Did you get the supplies?"
"Well," he began to summarize, "I went there depressed, and I tried my best, but I didn't get anything because, apparently, carbonium only grows in Laff-O-Dils, and the synthetic stuff is expensive. And did you know that the siliconium flodine is an ingredient in dip? We'll have to get it from a mechanic."
Harry was in deep thought; probably considering the amount of money they still had left.
"Excuse me," Ricky interrupted their silence. "What are we? Invisible?"
"Oh no, sorry," Harry said.
"It seems like we were just dragged along to work and be ignored," Ricky continued. "Why do you spend all your time talking with Evina? Are we just your tools or your backup plan?"
Harry was ready to argue if he wanted it. "It's just simply the fact that I've known him for a long time, and it doesn't mean you are any less important. Everyone here is critical to the success of this operation. I actually would love to hear about your day."
Ricky shrugged guiltily. "It was alright but hard."
Everyone turned to Pink next. "It was okay but extremely boring. I'm tired of writing tables and graphs," she said.
Catman rolled his eyes "Oh yeah, I saved the day with my awesome coin bagging skills."
"We Flunkies actually did pretty well," Simeon spoke.
Zany carefully backed away.
"Are you alright?" Goopy asked her.
"Yeah, I'm fine, but something sort of strange happened today."
The group became perfectly silent again as they listened to Zany. Finally, she decided to speak. "I uh, okay, there was this weird cog that came over to me. I didn't know what kind he was, but he was wearing a black suit. He seemed really friendly, and he seemed interested in me. We started talking about things I liked to do, and he led me to some odd questions. He almost squeezed the fact out of me that I'm a toon."
Everyone stood mortified. They glanced at each other then back to Pink. Then they turned to look at Harry.
"What?" Harry said. "I really don't know what to say, but he sounds like a spy to me. I think some cogs are getting suspicious about us, and they may have sent a cog to investigate. We should remember to be careful in everything we do to not arouse suspicion. I don't think they can know that we're toons unless we act like them or say it."
"Thanks, Harry," Ricky smiled before turning to go to bed. The toons followed him and got into their regular places.
Harry stood with his mouth open. "I never said it was true! I said that's what I think! One day I'll say something I don't mean, and you'll take it literally!"
"Ah, don't worry Harry. You've always been right," Goopy assured him before promptly going to sleep.
Harry sighed and turned off the lights before sliding into his own bed. They were so tired tonight, and the stress was continually on the rise.
At least there's only Friday tomorrow, Evina thought. Too bad I have that meeting to make it my most miserable day ever. He closed his eyes and tried to relax.
Suddenly, there was an extremely loud bang on the door. "OPEN UP NOW!" ordered a loud voice. Evina rose out of bed in a mechanical way. He went over to the door, sweating with fear. The other toons were snoring, but they didn't seem to be waking up. Once again, he felt alone. He opened up the door to see the person he expected. It was a large, tall cog in a black suit. He immediately seized Evina.
"I'm amazed you made it this far, toon," the cog smiled and turned around to see the chairman waiting there in front of hundreds of cogs in the hallway.
The chairman was holding a glowing, green barrel. "You'll be great with a few chips... and dip," he remarked before dumping it on him.
Evina woke up in the darkness, flailing his arms like he was drowning. There were still a few more hours left before the alarm would go off. He wondered why he had to have all these terrible dreams, and why nobody else seemed to be having them. He knew the fear was going to come back each night, and he knew he was dreaming the whole time, but yet it had felt so real. There was no way he could stop it.
He just had to remember that things were real from the time he woke up until the time he went to sleep again. If he didn't remember those things, then he had to be dreaming. But then the dreams might keep coming back, no matter how many times he stopped them. He figured he would just have to forget them eventually. Where his mind could take him next, he didn't know. Lying down in bed again he drifted off to sleep.
"I wonder what things will be like when I return, or even if I return," the unknown man said.
Something squeaked in response.
"Do you think we'll live?"
There was more squeaking.
"I guess you're right. If we survive this, we'll be killed when we return... or at least I will."
The squeaking sound seemed to become frantic.
"No, it's not your fault at all! If there's anyone to blame, it's me! But we don't even know if it's failed yet!"
There was one last screech.
"Yes, I suppose the chances of success are very slim, but that's what I had to do. I can only hope nobody gets hurt, at least not permanently."
There were short squeaks, and the little thing seemed to be jumping up and down with excitement.
"Yes, you're right! We're almost there! And when was the last time you got oiled? Your squeaking can get quite annoying."
The alarm was ringing again. Why does it have to mercilessly jerk me awake from my rest? Why must I go to that meeting? Who is that man in the dreams? What is that squeaking thing? I still can't see clearly what's going on! And why does nobody experience it except for me?
Evina leaped out of bed and set out some more rotten throw gags to eat.
The other toons began to stir. They promised Evina that they would get the supplies while he was gone at the meeting. Knowing the cogs, they all assumed it was impossible for a meeting so exciting to them would only last two hours, especially one involving cogs so important. Maybe the cogs had already suspected him of being a toon and would get him while he was helpless and alone. That had to be the reason.
But there was also no way he could avoid going. The cogs would know the truth for sure if he ran away. He would have to use all his skills to act as cog-like as he could.
They headed out the door. The rain had stopped, and the streets were wet. It was so cold that they were afraid ice was hidden there. It was no longer summer here. The toons back at Toontown probably forgot all about them. There would be so many leaves everywhere that they would spend hours raking them.
"I wonder where Harry Oldman went," Evina imagined some random toon saying.
"I think he went with that weird duck named Evina to find out where the cogs were made," another one said. "Who knows where they are now?"
"I heard they jumped over the fence and were never seen again."
"I think they went crazy and lost their minds. No toon can do that kind of stuff and still be sane."
"Yep, I agree. It's probably better we don't have lunatics like them hanging around us anymore. I always knew Harry Oldman was starting to lose it. I voted against him in the last election."
"And he had to bring those naïve little toons with him too. What a shame."
"I hope something bad happened to them. We wouldn't want them showing up around here again, do we?"
The real Evina was still alive on the other side of the world, living the life of a cog. If only they knew what we're going through! He shouted in his head. If only they knew the cogs might be close to destroying them!
Of course, he had no idea how they were going to do it. The powerful cogs had to work here and were much too important to risk defeat during an invasion. But whatever their plan was, he was most likely going to find out about it today, assuming it wasn't simply a trap.
Mr. Alumi had given him the day off for the meeting, as he had expected. Evina was going with Harry to wait until the meeting started.
"Going up!" the speaker in the train said as the toons went up. Evina thought his breakfast might come up too. He was so nervous that he started shaking. Finally, the train stopped, and they departed.
"Well, uh, good luck," Zany smiled at Evina.
"Yeah, thanks," he said drearily as all the other toons walked away.
"Don't worry Evina, you'll do fine," Harry said boldly.
Evina gulped and nodded. He walked with Harry through the glass atrium. It seemed to go on and on and on forever as they went deeper into the building. They took one of the hundreds of escalators up to the third glass floor.
There seemed to be a ton of police scattered around the atrium today, but especially on the third floor. Evina wondered why there were so many cogs on this floor compared to the other ones. They were much more concentrated around an elevator door that all cogs were blocked from going through.
"I'll meet you here after work," Harry reminded him. "The meeting should be over by then." He walked Evina over to a bench where he sat down.
"Wait here until it's time to go then... just do it. You'll be fine." Harry had kept saying that, but his voice was quivering now. Evina wasn't sure if Harry knew what he was saying. Just then, the old rabbit walked away. Evina was alone. He was a toon amidst hundreds of cogs and police. Harry walked over to one of the doors, and it closed. He was gone. Evina was the alone.
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