A New Boss
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It was Tuesday, and the alarm commenced its daily ringing. It wasn't as bad because the toons were used to it, and they no longer got nightmares that kept them from sleeping well. The thought of Mr. M didn't seem to worry them as much as they thought it would because they were sure that they would be able to think of some good plan to avoid it before Friday arrived.
"Mr. M," Harry muttered. "It's a cheesy way of hiding his real identity. I think it's safe to call him untrustworthy; however, I don't know what to do about it. He sounds pretty serious."
Evina looked at himself in the mirror. He looked strong, bold, and brave in the black suit, but he felt afraid and weak. There wasn't a reasonable way to escape this Mr. M. His luck couldn't save him from the Micromanager. It couldn't save him from the chairman. It couldn't save him from the man in his dreams or whoever the president was. So, how could he trust luck now?
How could I have fooled myself for so long? They call this the 'Great City,' but there's nothing great here for a toon. The only reasonable thing we could do now is collect our money and run back home. We already took our chances. We already completed our mission of finding the origin of the cogs. They started here in Cog Nation. What's the big deal about it?
No matter what Operation D.R. is, we won't ever stop it, no matter what we trick ourselves into believing. Mr. M probably knows that we're toons. He's just a simple lure into a more elaborate trap. If we really 'valued their lives,' we would get out of here.
Maybe it was their obsession to be seen as important, perhaps even famous. No other toon could have done anything of this magnitude before. Maybe it was their pride. Maybe it was a genuine desire to do something to save others. But whatever it was Evina was certain it was wrong. He knew they would die if they stayed here, not that fleeing was any safer.
So, why not stay? If we're probably going to die either way, it's better to at least try to do something than surrender to the cogs. The chairman was right. The dream was right. We have to try to save the world.
What a stupid idea. There's no way we can defeat Cog Nation. Our plan must be logical, it must make sense. We'll just play along until Friday. We have the whole week, after all. Operation D.R. won't be finished until next month, at least they said. We'll figure out something by then... I hope.
They slipped on their cog suits over their toon suits as usual and went to work. Evina almost forgot about having the Micromanager as a boss now. What an unfortunate mistake that was, he thought. The best thing he thought he could do was to mess with the Micromanager's plans for the new nation, so things won't be so good for the cogs in the future. Then he dropped that thought. That won't work. She watches my every move; she always knows what I'm up to.
The train rocketed out of the ground and into the sky. They were no longer affected by it anymore. They pulled into the glass station in the capitol. They were different now. They had flexible, heat resistant, magical, toony ninja-like suits. They waved goodbye to Harry and walked to Cogs Inc.
"Subjects are now visible, sir," a dark figure whispered into a microphone as it hid in an alley.
"Don't lose track of them," a deep and terrible voice spoke. "I believe it's almost time."
The dark figure turned its attention back to the street. "Subjects are passing the G.G.H. All recorders are now activated."
Evina sleepily slid into his chair by the desk. There was a lot of stuff on it, most of which had his new boss's name on it. Within a few moments, Mr. Alumi came up to him. His mouth opened, but he hesitated for a moment.
"I am really pleased to see you have accepted a job with, uh... Ms. Bolt," he said in a very monotonous voice. The Micromanager peeked up over the cubicle wall and waved at him. Mr. Alumi pretended to ignore her, and he continued. "She now works with the engineering department at the Sparx building."
Evina tried to seem pleased although he had no idea what that meant. "Where would that be located?" he asked.
"It's right by the Southwest Marketing Office. It's where the V.P.'s main office is."
"I thought the V.P.'s office was at Sellbot Headquarters in Toontown," Evina said.
The Head Hunter looked puzzled. "In Toontown? No, that's just their local office. Only the toons would be foolish enough to think the cogs would put their real headquarters in Toontown. The Sparx building is the true Sellbot HQ."
"Oh, okay," Evina said with embarrassment.
"Be easy on him," the Head Hunter told the Micromanager. "He's just a Flunky."
"Yeah," she admitted, "I could be easy on him. But with a push in the right direction, he could become greater. Don't forget, he was the one invited to go to that big meeting. He has a lot more potential than you think."
Alumi gave her a contemptuous look. "The Flunky is still mine until Thursday!" he said before quickly scurrying away.
The Micromanager smiled down at Evina in a peculiar way. "Just forget that idiot; I'm opening my office in just two days. Then you'll never have to come back here again!"
Evina wondered how he was going to like having to work for her. It didn't sound like something he would enjoy at all. He would have to travel alone and work farther away from all the others. It's not as though he loved being here working so close to the chairman, but change was scary. Evina was not like any other cog.
Whenever someone mentioned the chairman, everyone would jerk their heads toward the source of that voice. If I were a cog, Evina thought. I guess the chairman would be my best friend. Ms. Bolt isn't the only one who keeps the latest picture of Bill on her desk. To serve him, to be his slave seems to be so exciting to them. It's like their ultimate goal.
Ms. Bolt had told Evina about this during one of their previous meetings. She said that with every new cog being built, the mechanics install this strange software titled Corporate Pleasure. It contains the details and all the data necessary to do anything the boss says. And what's even more surprising, it makes them actually enjoy doing it. Evina didn't know if this was really true, but it was the most logical explanation he had heard. How could someone program emotions and feelings into a robot? They can't really think for themselves, can they?
He passed the time by doing nothing. His thoughts seemed to be the only good thing he had left. He tried to keep himself entertained as long as possible.
After work, he walked the familiar route to the capitol with the other toons at his side. They met Harry and went home. But as they had feared, they still had not found a way to get around the Mr. M problem. They did value their lives a lot. The only explanation they could think of was that Mr. M knew they were toons.
"Maybe there isn't a way to get around this," Zany muttered. "I don't know about you guys, but I think we're going to be doomed either way."
It was Wednesday, Evina's last day of work in the tower. He could barely concentrate. His new boss was going to show him around the new office that afternoon. His work at the moment consisted of filling out some last-minute paperwork and cleaning up his cubicle so another cog could use it. He received an old briefcase from the pile of surplus office supplies to carry his stuff with him. After hastily stuffing everything inside it, he marched to his new boss's old cubicle.
It was odd that he had begun to get used to the place, even though he had only worked there for a week. He felt safer knowing there were other toons nearby. That was a very comforting memory compared to this new, unpredictable adventure ahead of him.
Now that he thought about it, Harry's job didn't sound that appealing. Neither did Catman's or Pink's. He had fantasized about a better job when there probably wasn't one. His life in this office had not been as bad as he imagined at the time. He had forgotten that he was not the only one suffering. How could I forget how everyone else felt? It was my fault, after all, that brought them all here. We're at the capital of the savage nation that covers half the planet because of me and me alone.
It was an awful lot of work to risk his life and come here just to find out where the cogs came from. He wanted to learn more and make his difficult time more productive. He wanted to do something, he had to do something. His mission was to find a way to escape the Micromanager and the Mr. M trap as well. Then he needed to learn more about the cogs. There wasn't any point in coming to Cog Nation just to run away empty handed.
After knocking on the door embossed with the gear, Mr. Alumi's voice was heard. "Come in," he said.
Evina walked inside and saw the Head Hunter with his arms up on the desk as usual. He stared his most piercing glare into Evina's face. "Hello, sir," Evina said.
The boss did not seem very content with letting Evina go. It surely wasn't Evina's work quality that made him valuable. It must have been that hidden reason why he was chosen for the important meeting. "I hope you... enjoy your time with Ms. Bolt. You'll become a very diligent, hard worker for her. I'm sure you'll get along just fine with the Sellbots." Nothing he said was very convincing.
Evina handed him his papers, and the cog took them with unnecessary force. Evina got one last look at the cog's face and the clouds floating outside the large window behind him before turning to leave. He walked as fast as he could to Ms. Bolt's cubicle. The sooner this was over, the sooner he could stop thinking about the past, the sooner he would hopefully be happier.
All her junk was already packed into several bulging suitcases. "Can you help me take these down?" she asked. Evina nodded and struggled with two of them, realizing he did not have the robotic strength she possessed.
He left the office for the last time and looked back with a final glance to remember it. He knew where all the other toons were, and he longed for them to come with him. His new boss tugged at his sleeve, and they left.
They walked down the silent hallway. Evina tried to keep up with her swift pace but almost tripped. She pressed the down button, and they waited for the elevator to come. It appeared to be coming down from a much higher part of the building. When it stopped, the elevator opened to reveal two black-suited cogs with the chairman in between.
The Micromanager was so surprised, she immediately dropped her things.
"I didn't know you would be here," she said.
A guard put its hand forward to keep the door open, and the chairman spoke. "This is my office building, you know. Are you coming down?"
Ms. Bolt was stunned for a moment. "Oh yes," she said in a voice higher than usual. She swung the suitcases into the back of the elevator, and Evina had no choice but to follow her.
The doors closed, and the dark, evil feeling returned to his mind. Evina was close enough to touch the chairman, and it was terrifying. The invisible eyes bore into him once more. If he knew that Evina was a toon, why didn't he just seize him now? He felt as though his life was fading away.
The Micromanager was gazing at the chairman lovingly. It was the first time Evina had seen a cog smile in real life.
"Oh yes, you're that scribe from the meeting," Bill remarked.
Ms. Bolt turned her attention away from the chairman and scowled at Evina.
Evina was sure that she was wondering if he could be more valuable than her in the chairman's eyes. She was envious. Why was it that he seemed to attract trouble like a magnet? Once the elevator reached the bottom floor, the doors slid open. Evina hurried out before any of the others. He could not bear to be near the chairman any longer.
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