A Catastrophic Ceremony
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The alarm woke them up again the next morning. Evina climbed out of bed and stretched sleepily. He was almost disappointed that he hadn't had a dream about that mysterious man for several days now. He had a hunch that it was the key to something important he needed to figure out.
It was Thursday. Ms. Bolt was going to have a huge ceremony for the opening of her new office, although Evina knew nothing about it except its location. He had also heard a rumor that the V.P. was scheduled to speak there before he returned to Toontown.
The toons had finally come to a conclusion. There was no way to avoid Mr. M. When Friday night would come, they were just going to play along. They remained certain that they had no friends in Cog Nation, but they had to do it if they really valued their lives. They began to put more faith in their black suits that were working almost as well as they had hoped so far. If something went wrong, maybe they would have the agility and strength to run away.
Today was one of the weirdest days they had seen since they arrived in Cogtropolis. There was a layer of snow and ice on the streets, yet it was also a warm day. The sun was as bright as ever. The light's reflection off the buildings, and the snow was blinding.
"So, where is this ceremony going to be?" Harry asked.
"It's at the Sparx Convention Center. That's about a block away from the real Sellbot HQ," Evina said, reciting the address in his head.
After breakfast, they left the apartment and walked out into the street. A few minutes of time passed, then they climbed onto a smelly bus and traveled to Sparx Street.
They arrived at the convention center just moments before the ceremony began. It was a large, round building with a glass dome on the roof. The doors closed behind them as they walked inside. While the Micromanager approached the microphone to speak, the toons scurried over to their seats and sat down.
A security guard walked over to them and whispered in Evina's ear, telling him that he needed to be up on the stage.
"Welcome, everyone! Thank you for coming!" Ms. Bolt greeted the audience enthusiastically. The cogs were not staring at her; they were staring at Evina. He was running up to the front as fast as he could.
"I am proud to finally be opening my new workplace. My colleagues and I have worked very hard to get this thing together, and we are satisfied with the result," she continued.
Evina looked for an empty seat while his boss wasted time at the microphone. Unfortunately, the only one he could find was placed next to the V.P. He sat down, feeling stupid compared to all the other intelligent, powerful cogs working with Ms. Bolt.
"So, once again, thank you for coming today. Cogs Inc. Vice President Jared Sparx will speak to us next." Then she stepped down and took her seat.
The V.P. rolled up to the microphone, showing the smiling side of his head to the crowds. "I am so proud to have Michelle opening her office. She's not such a bad cog for being a Bossbot. Uh, I know Bill was supposed to come and speak as he usually does during these very special occasions, but apparently, he is busy with the secret project. So, what I'm trying to say is, I am proud to have her, along with her coworkers and friends, to join our engineering department. With noble cogs like these sitting up here, we can be confident that profits will soar, and the toons won't stand a chance against us!"
The many cogs down below were applauding, but Evina was only paying attention to one detail. The V.P. appeared to be really nervous today. His voice shook noticeably whenever he mentioned the chairman. It was almost as if that insane dream they had seen was true. But they were under the influence of noxious gases when they saw that stuff; it was nothing but nonsense. It had to be. The chairman wasn't actually planning to destroy the V.P. and the other cog leaders like that. It was inconceivable to think he would do that.
Evina was sweating in his seat, nervous of all the strange cogs staring at him. He was also getting very hot. The blinding sunlight coming in from the glass roof was shining on him. Ms. Bolt, however, was acting quite the opposite of Evina. She was soaking up the sunlight and the audience's applause like a sponge. She grinned arrogantly, looking very pleased with herself.
Evina changed his focus to examining the architecture of the building more closely. It seemed odd to him that it was almost entirely made of glass. It was only supported by an intricate, thin steel frame.
The cogs in the audience were smiling. Some of them even looked like they were about to laugh. Evina suddenly felt like a comedian under a spotlight. He started to forget what this ceremony was actually about. He feared that Ms. Bolt would tell everyone about this Mr. Evina she had met. It wasn't unrealistic to think they had all come just to admire him as an oddity.
Just as he thought this, another worry came to his mind. There was a possibility, however unlikely, that the Micromanager wanted him to speak. He had never been good at public speaking, and he feared it would be much worse with an audience of cogs instead of toons. Would they even want to hear from a simple Flunky?
A Telemarketer with a Servicebot suit strolled up to the microphone and gave a speech. He droned on about cogish things that Evina didn't even begin to understand.
Evina was so busy trying to keep his mind away from the ceremony that he almost didn't notice the Micromanager tugging at his sleeve. Her little habits were beginning to annoy him. He didn't know how he was going to deal with the annoyances of having her as his boss.
"I'm going to need to talk to you... alone," she whispered in his ear. Evina stood up and followed her quietly off the stage and into a small back room behind the stage. The tone of her voice sounded serious. This terrified him more than anything else that day.
The lighting in this room seemed dark compared to the sunlight of the stage. He couldn't see anything until his eyes adjusted. Then he noticed that the Micromanager was gazing at him in a peculiar way while he stood under the glow of the small light above.
Ms. Bolt locked the door. Evina didn't know what would come next. It was unusually quiet. She shifted her attention to her feet. She was speechless, although her mouth struggled to say something.
"Um, I am surprised that we made it this far. I never expected business to turn out this way." She slowly gazed up at him then suddenly looked away and sat down in an old chair in the corner. She gestured for him to sit next to her. There was a long pause before she spoke again.
"Bill is a very amazing cog... man. But I've never realized until now how busy he is. I should've realized long ago that it was never meant to be. After all, there are billions of cogs out there. What was I thinking?"
Evina was feeling a little uncomfortable. He didn't exactly understand what she was trying to say, but he had an idea.
"The first time you walked into Alumi's office, I knew you had something special. I felt like that special thing is what I needed. It's what I've been looking for." She began twiddling her thumbs. Evina's heartbeat was clearly audible in his ears. "I don't really understand how it could have happened," she continued. "It's... not really natural. I'm sure you know what I mean. I've never felt anything quite like this before." She slowly turned her head to make eye contact with him.
Evina felt the temperature of the room rapidly rising. "I, uh... I d-don't know w-what you're talking about," he stammered, trying to back away from her.
"Oh, I'm sure you do," she insisted while leaning closer. "I'm in love with you, Mr. Evina. I can't explain it but it's true." She was getting unbearably close now.
Evina's nightmare was once again unfolding. It was emerging from within him to strike again. He knew what he had to do. "It's not true!" he shouted.
"And why not?" She jumped up from her chair.
"Because," he said nervously, starting to grip the collar of his cog suit. He knew the time to act was now. He couldn't let this conversation continue. The pressure was building. Another chance to test his luck had arrived. It was inevitable. Finally, he leaped out of his chair. "I'M A TOON!"
Evina ripped off his cog suit and watched the look of horror on the Micromanager's face. He didn't wait for her reaction, but he reached for his gag bag. He was better in his black toon suit. He was free. He was able to move, ready to fight, and ready to escape and run for his life.
"YOU LOATHSOME MONSTER! YOU EVIL FIEND! I WILL DESTROY YOU!" she screamed with malice. Her eyes were fixed on Evina as she made a very quick semicircle around him to reach the door. He splattered a cake in her face with all his might, but she managed to swing the door open before exploding.
Everyone in the audience witnessed the explosion, and Evina accidentally stumbled out onto the stage. The cogs turned their heads around to see him emerging from the dark room. The Micromanager's pieces were scattered on the floor. The toons were exposed once again.
The audience jumped out of their seats and fled.
"HELP!" Evina hollered. Immediately the other toons ripped off their cog suits. Security guards ran to lock all the doors and trap them inside. Everything was absolute chaos.
The V.P.'s mouth dropped open in disbelief. "Toons in disguise? Oh no! Not here! Not now!" He backed away and started hurling large gears at them.
One of the giant gears hit Evina in the leg, but he was still able to walk. It bounced off his suit without hurting him too much.
A couple of cogs surrounded Simeon and Goopy. They were hurling everything within reach at the toons. Goopy kicked away one of the flying chairs and threw a cake at another cog who was also about to toss a chair.
Simeon followed Goopy through the crowds of enraged cogs to help the girls.
Zany and Pink were in combat with several powerful Sellbots that were throwing vases, tables and drinking glasses at them. Fortunately, they were able to dodge the flying objects and their exploding fragments.
Harry was fighting the security guards. He wasn't as fast as he once was, and part of his toon suit sleeve was blasted off by a sadness gun. Then another guard smacked Harry in the face, and he collapsed.
Harry tried to get to his feet, but he didn't see the Bean Counter standing right over his head, about to strike him with an ethanol bottle. Before the cog could hit him, though, Catman landed on his head. The cog fell down and exploded.
"Thanks, Catman," Harry gasped.
"It's no problem at all. I'm just doing my duty!" Catman gave Harry a wide grin.
"Hey everyone, look over here!" Rocky exclaimed. He threw a skelecog arm at a large window, and it shattered. The rest of the glass dome started cracking. The toons dashed over to him. They tried to jump over the power trips that the guards were relentlessly firing at them. Some of the remaining cogs continued hurling things at them until they had all climbed out the window to escape. Ricky grinned and tossed something red into the window behind him before they ran away.
The V.P. was disgusted. He pushed heaps of broken cog parts off of him as he saw something fall from the sky. It landed inches from him. It was a large bundle of Ricky's special dynamite. The cog stared down at it, unbelievingly. "What the—"
The glass building exploded. Flames, cog parts, and millions of glass shards erupted into the air. Time seemed to slow down as glistening pieces soared through the sky, like sparkling mist. The guards that kept the doors locked were blasted apart. The huge steel frame collapsed. Billows of dust rose from the heap of rubble that remained.
The toons stopped to catch their breath. Many cogs that had been walking by stopped and screamed when they saw the toons. Others just stared at them in disbelief.
Just then, dozens of police cars raced toward them from every direction and screeched to a halt right in front of them. Helicopters were descending from the sky. Legions of policemen ran at them with their blasters pointed. The red and blue lights flashed intensely in their eyes. A loud voice from a helicopter above shouted to them. "Put your hands up! Surrender now!"
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