Dust and Depression
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Evina waited for Ms. Bolt to come. She eventually left the chairman and led the way to the subway. This was his first time on the train without the other toons.
Fortunately, the ride to the Sparx building was uneventful. Evina was mostly desensitized to being around normal cogs, yet it still felt so weird to be alone without the toons. The train went beyond the stop where they usually exited for their apartment. Instead, they got off near the place Pink had tried to get a job before. It wasn't too far from the airport.
The Micromanager scurried out, and Evina still struggled to keep up with her with the suitcases in his arms. She seemed to be striding away from the Marketing Center and the airport. It was an area that Evina had not seen before. After several minutes, he noticed the buildings began to thin. They were positioned farther and farther apart from each other.
They followed a crowd of Sellbots to the left and walked down a wide path that led them to a wide building. There were sculptures of famous Sellbots at the center of each fountain, surrounded by wide fields of gray flowers. The spacious structure loomed ahead with the Sellbot logo at the top.
"That's the vice president's office," the Micromanager remarked, pointing to the top of the building. "This place is old. They recently had to replace his elevator, so it could hold more weight," she smirked.
As they approached the plaza, Evina felt a lot more insecure. He stuck out like a sore thumb. And it wasn't just the fact that he was a toon, but he and his boss were the only ones that weren't Sellbots.
A large, silver sign was mounted above the new sliding glass doors. It read:
"Marketing is the spark of life."
Jared Sparx (V.P of Cog's Inc.)
"That pretty much explains the Sellbots in one sentence," Ms. Bolt murmured as the doors whooshed open. Evina saw how she was right. The entire building looked very old. It was surely as old as the V.P. himself, if not older than that. This place was probably around even before the cogs if that was possible.
"If you think this is old," the little cog said, mysteriously answering Evina's thoughts, "then you should see the First National Bank where the C.F.O. is. And the old Courthouse of the Chief Justice has seen better days too. It's because of many reasons like this that I am proud to be a noble Bossbot."
The two of them marched up to a Two-Face behind the front desk.
The cog grinned. "Hello, and welcome to—"
Ms. Bolt held her hand up to silence him. "We don't need any introduction. Just tell us where the engineering department is."
The eyes of the cog on the other side of the desk narrowed. "Oh, you're that special lady who is trying to revolutionize the infrastructure of the nation. And just who is that Flunky with you?"
The Micromanager glowered up at the cog behind the desk. "This is Mr. Evina. He is also one of these so-called special cogs... AND HE HAS THE POWER TO FIRE YOU AT WILL!"
The Two-Face trembled with fear and wordlessly pointed to a hallway behind him.
"Thank you," Ms. Bolt sighed as she tugged at Evina's sleeve in the direction of the hallway. "Those Sellbots make me sick. They think they're so cool and smart. When are they ever going to learn a few manners?"
Evina knew better than to respond to that sarcastic, rhetorical question. He wondered if Ms. Bolt was right about his ability to fire people. Then he was dragged through a door into the engineering department. There were several other Bossbots there. He saw Flunkies and Pencil Pushers working, and some Big Cheeses and Mr. Hollywoods who were chatting in the corner.
Ms. Bolt walked quickly to the other end of the office without speaking a word to any cog. There was a locked door without any lights on inside.
She let go of Evina, and he dropped her bags. Then she pulled out a silver plaque that read:
Michelle Bolt Civil Engineering
She also whipped out a hammer and some nails and hammered the plaque into the door. Once she was finished, she shoved the tools into Evina's hands and pulled out a key. She unlocked the door and swung it open with unnecessary force. Evina was enveloped in a large cloud of thick dust from the opened room.
A curious Cold Caller came by to see what all the commotion was about. "Do you need a vacuum cleaner?"
"Yeah, sure," Ms. Bolt replied without looking at him. The Cold Caller returned within seconds, and she took the vacuum, shoving it toward Evina.
Once inside, he realized much work was ahead of him. He had never imagined having to vacuum this much in his entire life. It was a fairly large office that clearly hadn't been used for many years. There was nothing except for some old, worn-down desks standing gloomily in a corner.
As he was vacuuming around some of the desks, he reached what appeared to be a short wall. It was about as high as his waist. No lights were turned on, so he didn't know what was beyond it. He was about to jump over it to start vacuuming the other side when Ms. Bolt gasped.
"What it is?" Evina asked with one leg already hanging over the other side of the wall.
"I don't think you want to be climbing over that little wall."
"Why not?" he demanded.
She rushed over to the light switch and flicked it on. There was some flickering, then all the lights flashed on. Evina got a sickening view of the other side of the wall and quickly pulled his foot away.
If he had gone over, he would have fallen into a seemingly bottomless hole. He had to stare at it for a few seconds to be sure he wasn't dreaming. It was a very familiar room, one that was identical to the middle floors he had seen in cog building in Toontown. The ironic thing was he was not on the platform down below. He was a cog in one of the office rooms along the walls. Nothing had made him feel more homesick than this.
The Micromanager interrupted his nostalgia. "This is the standard small office design. You probably knew that, right? It would be a shame to lose you, and I don't really feel like making an emergency trip to the mechanic. Why don't you take the elevator down to the center platform down there and vacuum up?"
Evina nodded and headed in that direction. He reached the old elevator and waited for it to arrive. He wondered how many times he had nearly died since he arrived at Cog Nation.
The elevator opened with a ding and released another cloud of thick, gray dust. Evina tried to muffle his toonish coughs. He vacuumed the interior of the elevator as he went down. This was an experience so strange to him, riding the elevator of a cog building he felt he knew so well.
He continued to vacuum for several more hours. The gigantic office room continued to make him feel like he was back in Toontown. His silly concerns that had worried him before were fading away. He longed to be back home. For all he knew, he could've only been an elevator ride away from Polar Place. Instead of fighting cogs in the building for toontasks, he was vacuuming.
Did the black suits really help them at all? They still seemed to be depressed, even though they were wearing gloves now. Maybe the bad effects were slowed down just a little bit, but still not very much. Evina considered the possibility that he was affected by this more than the others. Maybe it was the guilt from feeling like he was responsible for them being here, but other things couldn't be explained. Why was he the one having the strange nightmares that none of the others had seen? Why was he learning about the cogs' fancy vocabulary and way of life so rapidly? And most importantly, why did he feel like he couldn't control his anger so often? Was something strange happening to him?
One of the elevators suddenly opened, and it disrupted his thinking. Cogs had arrived from the level below. They approached him. It was like a battle he had fought weeks ago, but he was on the wrong side of the platform, and he thought the cogs were coming up to complete their task, to defeat him. But their frowns turned to looks of admiration as they examined the room.
"This isn't that bad, Flunky," a Money Bags said, rubbing his chin. "I'm here to take care of Ms. Bolt's finances, and I found that the level below is absolutely filthy. Go down and vacuum the ground floor."
Evina stood there awkwardly for a moment, not sure if he had heard the words through his deep thinking, but he did as he was told and boarded another elevator. When he arrived at the bottom floor, he was hit with yet another cloud of dust. The vacuuming felt like years to him. All he did was clean dust all day. After cleaning the floor below, he went farther down to the boiler room. Nothing was under the boiler room except a street in Toontown, so he had no idea what to expect.
As he exited the elevator, he saw he was standing in a parking garage. All the dreams of being back in Toontown disappeared. He was still trapped in Cog Nation.
Someone had already put a Bolt Engineering sign above the bottom elevator door as well. Cogs came out from behind him after moving the last bit of furniture from the old office. They loaded it onto a moving truck and climbed inside. Evina thought he knew what was coming but, before he could move away, he was hit with a thick cloud of black exhaust. His eyes stung, but he still saw the trail of smoke moving as the old truck disappeared in the distance.
"Well, at least I finished vacuuming," he said optimistically to himself, wiping some of the soot off his face and taking a deep breath of dirty air. The elevator opened behind him again.
A few of the cogs that had come to see the new office exited the elevator with Ms. Bolt.
"Wow, I didn't know it was six o' clock already!" she said. "You can go home now, Mr. Evina. I think our new office is all cleaned up and ready for work. I'll see you at the opening ceremony tomorrow. It's going to be a big day!"
Evina followed the Micromanager out of the parking garage to the entrance of the Sparx building, and they went their separate ways. It felt awful to know that every cog was staring at him. He was covered in dust and soot from head to foot and, worst of all, he forgot which way the subway station was.
He arrived back at the apartment around eight o' clock feeling extremely fatigued. And even worse, the other toons didn't seem very happy about him being late.
"What happened to you?" Pink hollered. "You look like a chimney sweeper!"
"You scared us half to death! We thought for sure something bad happened to you!" Catman cried.
Evina stared straight ahead, trying to ignore them. He was too tired to retaliate or explain his day. He could barely feel his legs. "I got lost... It's such a long story," he said quietly. "I'm sure you wouldn't want to hear about it."
"Um... ok," Harry said, still sounding confused. "When you're all cleaned up, grab some leftover throw gags that we found today. They're in the fridge."
Before Evina left to go to the kitchen, he remembered something he wanted to ask them. "Could you guys come to my new boss's office opening ceremony tomorrow?"
Everyone paused, staring back at him blankly. Ricky was the first one to speak. "It's not that we don't want to support you but... we need to continue getting money to pay off that big loan. And we need to figure out a plan to avoid Mr. M."
Everyone else nodded in agreement.
"Well, you're going to come anyway!" Evina said hotly, his patience finally gone. "Something tells me this is going to be something big, and I don't think I'll be able to handle it by myself."
The other toons didn't argue. They just finished their meal, cleaned up, and went to bed, as usual, dreading whatever the next day might bring them.
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