A Storm Approaching
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Surrender was certainly not an option. The toons turned around and darted behind the remains of the building. Several shots from sadness blasts nearly hit them but they were quicker than before. Fortunately, there was a small side street behind the rubble that would lead them to the subway.
"Darn," Goopy spat after seeing the blocked street. Police were coming at them from both directions. It would only be a matter of seconds before they were caught. Everyone began to panic, looking for a way to escape, but Goopy was examining the wall nearest them.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Princesspinkcat screamed.
"It's been a long time." Goopy said in a sad voice. He looked like he was unaware of the chaos.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN? ARE YOU CRAZY?"
Evina didn't know what was going on. This certainly wasn't the time and place to be admiring walls. They only had moments before the police would reach them. If Goopy was in a trance like he was in the desert, then they were in big trouble.
Then Goopy waved his hand over the wall. "Do you trust me?"
Everyone shot nervous glances at him as the cogs climbed over the pile of rubble right behind them. "I do!" Evina shouted.
Goopy was becoming pale. "Hold onto me!" he commanded. All the toons put their hands on his shoulder then he hit the wall with his fist.
There was a loud crack. The wall appeared to have torn apart. There was a gray emptiness behind it and they were immediately sucked into it.
They were traveling somewhere fast, although they didn't know where. They couldn't breathe. They were being flushed down a whirlpool of what looked like murky water. Finally they fell onto the floor of their apartment.
The toons stood up, gasping and rubbing their heads. It was a little painful. They had a few cuts and bruises from the fight but it really wasn't much.
"What the heck was that?" Zany cried.
"You mean you don't know? It was a glitch, a crack in the corner of a building that opened into the gray zone. It's a good thing I found it."
Harry patted Goopy on the back. "It's nice to know that we have someone with us who has a master's degree in glitches. I never thought we would need it!"
Each of the toons took turns to thank Goopy for their narrow escape. "It really was nothing." He insisted, "It's all in a day's work."
"Everyone did a great job." Bebop said. "We actually make a pretty good team. I didn't think we would get out of there in one piece."
Paddlewhip turned on the TV. All of the news headlines were about them again.
"Look at this!" An anchorman exclaimed. "The V.P. was actually right! The toons have cog disguises! Unfortunately, he was destroyed by the blast. It's the only time the V.P has ever been destroyed outside of Toontown."
Another Newsbot appeared on the screen, standing in front of the rubble. "This is the place where the toons were reportedly seen running away. They completely destroyed the Sparx Convention Center. Engineers say the toons must have escaped using some sort of glitch. They were extremely lucky to have stumbled upon one. There are very few glitches in Cogtropolis that are big enough for a toon to enter. The Constructionbots haven't been around to fix them because of their recent strike, but they are currently making plans for an operation to seal all known glitch tears and prevent another stunning escape like this."
"Yeah," A third Newsbot said, "they must be really smart for being toons. Studies show they are supposed to have very low intelligence and the experts never suspected any attack of this magnitude. Their close escape was frightening."
"But at least we have their suits that they carelessly left behind." The first Newsbot sighed. "There shouldn't be any more phony disguises. In other news, there have been recent claims from the government that say there is a dip deficiency. Dip tubes will no longer be manufactured. No further information was given. So if you see a toon, contact a law enforcement officer. They have some dip rations if needed."
The screen switched back to the second Newsbot. "This just in: There are orders from the government that say 'never search for the toons again'. I don't know of anyone who has a clue what that means, but I'm sure the boss has always known what is best for us. Remember not to worry, everyone. Trust our leaders and they will protect us."
Harry turned off the TV. "I've seen enough!" he declared.
"Well that stinks!" Dynoboom griped, "Now what can we do without our disguises?"
Harry quickly pulled out several suits from his bottomless pocket. The toons were amazed. "I somehow managed to grab these during our last little battle." He said. "They're not in the best condition but they'll have to do."
They each got a suit to try on. It looked like they had outsmarted the cogs once again. They might even have a fair chance at surviving in the future.
"Uh guys," Evina said nervously, "I think we forgot something." He held up the Mr. M note and everyone turned around to look at it. It was that dreadful feeling again.
"We got our paychecks and we have all the money we need. Now all we should do is fly back to Toontown!" Catman insisted. "We know where the cogs came from so our work here is done!"
Harry and Evina thought about it. They had completed their original goal and now did seem like the perfect time to leave. They could avoid Mr. M altogether and get out of here before they were caught and dipped.
"No." Harry said and Evina stood by his side.
"Are you crazy?" Lizzy asked.
"We are all going to die! Let's get out of here before things get any worse!" Paddlewhip shouted.
"No, I agree with Harry." Evina said. "Do you know why?"
Everyone was puzzled. They all wanted to get back to Toontown, right? No toon could enjoy being a cog. It was amazing that they had survived even a week of it.
"Yes, so we know where the cogs came from." Harry said sarcastically. "So what? It's an awful lot of work to travel around the world just to figure that out. I think we all know now what we are truly here for. There are several things that I want to answer, but first I want to remind you of your promise. When we were out in the desert, we said we would do everything we could to keep Toontown safe. Attempting to run back home is foolish, and with this news it would make us look like cowards. We were destined to do this and be famous. We need to prove to the cogs, like the chairman in the dream said, that we are better than they are. We will save Toontown or die trying."
Everyone looked like they were about to go back on their promise. They didn't know what to say. Things suddenly got much quieter.
"I'm not a person who is going to go back on my promise." Harry continued, "I would rather die as a hero than live as a coward. We must do what we know we're capable of!"
The look on Paddlewhip's face was fierce. He clearly didn't feel the same honor and duty that Harry did.
"Ok, so it's decided." Bebop said happily. "We are all going to die trying to save Toontown from this... Operation D.R." He said it in a cynical tone. "And we don't even know a single thing about Operation D.R.!"
"...except the fact that it's going to destroy Toontown. Why does it matter to us? We're already scheduled to die tomorrow evening at eight, am I correct?" Paddlewhip laughed.
"We don't even know if Mr. M is an enemy. He might be someone who wants to help us! He might not even know that we're toons!" Evina protested.
"We have no friends here!" Paddlewhip shouted. "We're on the other side of the world from Toontown. Everyone here is desperate to see us melting in a pot of dip! Maybe I value our lives more than anyone else in here!"
He stormed over to the window and stared out into the now cloudy Cogtropolis sky. The sun had been blocked by a few clouds seemingly came out of nowhere. Everyone was contemplating what the consequences would be if they didn't go to see Mr. M.
"Are you absolutely sure that it's correct?" A familiar dark voice asked.
The figure in the alleyway checked the scanner. "Affirmative and I don't think it will be long before it happens. It could be tomorrow or Saturday."
"Are you absolutely sure? I don't have all the time in the world, you know."
"Yes, sir, I'm sure of it. If all of our other data is correct, they should come.
The toons ate throw gags for lunch again. They needed to pay back their loan the next day to get that threat off their chests. Then they could not afford to waste any more money. They were bored and depressed. They had nothing to do. And even if they had some idea of what to do, they would be too nervous to do it. Tomorrow they would meet Mr. M.
Goopy started up his laptop. He discovered that the next flight to Sparksville was in half an hour. They couldn't get there in time. The flight after that would be on Saturday and Mr. M would probably get them by then if they didn't go see him.
Evina felt like he had to go somewhere. He couldn't bear any more sitting idle. Being caged up in the room was just too much to handle. He needed a place where he could be alone to think.
He walked out the door without telling the other toons what he was doing. He found a staircase and walked all the way up to the roof.
Strolling over to the edge, he sat down, letting his legs dangle over. It was not a very tall building compared to others around, but yet he was still unable to see much of the tiny cogs below. In the distance, he thought he could see the Cog's Inc. HQ building.
The sky was very cloudy and it continued to darken. Cogtropolis was a city of black onyx. It looked to him like an endless field of glimmering black stone. Even the snow had turned into black ice. Hundreds of spikes protruded from the ground. They were the buildings of Cogtropolis. Even from the roof he could not see the boundaries of the city. He felt trapped, but he had comfort knowing he was a little closer to the sky. Somewhere up there was the sun, the same sun that shined down on Toontown every day. It was not yet night, and although the clouds blocked it, he knew it was still there.
Looking back at the day's events felt like reliving a nightmare, one that didn't feel like it actually happened. He felt alone, more alone than he had ever felt in his life. He didn't feel like part of the crowded city but he even felt distant now from the other toons.
A breeze rushed over the tops of the buildings. Evina heard nothing but the wind. He felt safe here, very safe and very alone. He took off the spare cog suit he was wearing and stood up in his black toon suit. The wind ruffled through his feathers. It was a surprisingly warm and comforting breeze.
Those were the days. He was alone in Toontown Central. He was so bored. He probably got more sleep during the days than the nights. The warm wind blew and the trees bent. He liked the cool shade of the trees.
Going to fight the cogs was a bit boring after a while. It was just the same thing over and over again. Why did we break into the Sellbots' office supply factory, defeat a guard in the control room, run back to an HQ and get some jellybeans or a piece of cog suit? Cog suits are uncomfortable. The toons back in Toontown should try them on for a few months instead of an hour and experience what it's really like. What is this I smell? Is it salt? Is there an ocean nearby?
Thinking of Donald's Dock brought back many fond memories too. How long would it be before he got back to Toontown? Would he ever see it again? Would he be welcomed there after all this time of slowly transitioning into a cold, hard businessman? Would he ever be safe or happy? These questions ran through his mind and he opened his eyes.
He looked over the edge of the building "Yep, I'm still here." he murmured. "That would be a big drop." He turned around, lied down against the concrete roof, and gazed up at the dark clouds. The roof was surprisingly clean like it had just been rained on. He had a temperature resistant suit on. No matter what surface he would lie on, he wouldn't feel hot or cold. Everything would be soft and comfortable. Clouds gently swirled like a dark sea in the sky.
When you're away from home you take the little relaxing moments for granted. When you're in Toontown, there's no Chairman, no work, no fears, no nightmares as a result of fears, and nothing accomplished. They did nothing good and nothing bad because they knew neither. They were always in a neutral state. They didn't know enough sadness to enjoy the happiness. This sounds familiar somehow. Where have I heard it before? When you're at war, things are quite different. Everything is demanding your life. A minute of relaxation is heaven.
Evina sat up quickly. "War!" he said it aloud. It was something that he hadn't given much thought to before. It was one of those things that toons never dealt with before. They had never been tempted to be dishonest or violent because their lives had been perfect. But now their lives depended on it. This was the complete transition from innocent to savage. This was the final transition from toon to cog.
Evina stood up now and thought about it. "War." He said again, slowly pacing the roof. "This is war..." He looked over the edge and saw the millions of tiny enemies below. "We're doomed..." He sighed.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and twisted around. He was scared half to death by it. Princesspinkcat was there.
She paused a second before she spoke. "I'm scared."
"Me too." Evina replied.
"Are you sure we can't leave now?"
"We can't." He confirmed, turning his attention to his feet. He didn't want to see the tears welling up in her eyes. Ms. Bolt had proved to Evina that the toons had missed something. She was a robot, but yet she had loved. She felt emotions. How was that possible? What kind of monster would have started all this? Who was the dirty fiend who built that machine? He had to learn it for sure. He was desperate for the answers, and he had a feeling that maybe the mysterious Mr. M. would be able to answer them. Besides all that, he would never forgive himself if he let Toontown suffer the result of Operation D.R.
"We've known each other for a while now, ever since we bumped into each other in Toontown Central." She sobbed. "You are just like a brother to me."
He hugged Princesspinkcat as the first raindrops began to fall. "I know," he said, "but this is war."
Thunder echoed in their ears and shook the ground. The sky began to grow even darker. A storm was approaching, and when it hit it would be strong.
Evina was reawakened to the present situation. He no longer cared about going home or going to work. That was not important. Nothing was important. He thought about the horrible things looming ahead of them, the dangerous things they would have to do, the horrors they would have to witness in order to save the world.
It rained and it rained hard. The sky around them slowly faded away from their view. Two toons stood on the roof of a building, a building in a great city that they could not see, and thinking of the tremendous war they were about to fight.
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