The Prisoner's Tale
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Harry and Scrooge made eye contact. "IT'S YOU!" they shouted in unison.
Harry ran up to Mr. McDuck and shook his hand vigorously. "I can't believe I'm seeing you!" he cried. "It's been years!"
"I know it has," Scrooge said. "It's been many years since I've seen another toon, let alone a familiar face."
The other toons stood still, staring at someone they had been taught was lost forever.
"Where are my manners?" Scrooge said, slapping his forehead. "Please, come in and enjoy yourselves!" He clapped his hands once, and the remaining dark parts of the room lit up. To their left, there was a dining table with elegant food set on it. It looked so appetizing compared to the rotten cakes they had eaten exclusively for so long.
As the toons walked over to the table, Catman chose to speak. "I'm confused. Would you mind giving a full explanation of what's going on?"
"Oh, it's a very long story," Scrooge said as they sat down. "Please sit down, and I'll tell you as much as I can." As they began eating, he got ready to tell them his story.
"It all started a long time ago," he said. "I was on my way to do something about fifteen years ago. I don't quite remember what it was. Maybe I was visiting someone? I'm fairly sure the cogs erased that part of my memory. I only remember screaming after seeing something terrible. I seem to have forgotten everything that happened for the next few weeks or maybe even months.
"I woke up with a robot standing above me. I was in some kind of hospital. It was in Cogtropolis. The city wasn't very large back then. Many of these buildings weren't there at the time. I was escorted by other robots to this tower. It was one of the first buildings built. I was told that I was in Cog Nation, and that these robots called themselves cogs. They said that their mission was to eliminate all the toons and establish their empire throughout the rest of the world. I was shocked. They told me this building would be my secret home, and that they wouldn't destroy me because I might be worth something to them in the future. I was ordered to never reveal my identity to any cog.
"Over the years, I grew accustomed to the cog traditions. Cogtropolis was built up around me. One day, I heard about the discovery of a Sellbot place in Daisy Gardens. All the cogs were losing their heads! It was a huge blow for them. They announced they were going to try harder to keep the other cog places hidden, mentioning how they underestimated the toons and their intelligence. They had a security device put in me, so now I can't wander out of the boundaries of Cogtropolis or an alarm will go off. I've never been foolish enough to try it, though.
"Whenever something big or important happened, my captors tried to keep me ignorant. It was a fruitless attempt. They want me to know as little as possible because I am their prisoner, a dangerous one in their minds. Why they still keep me alive I cannot say, even to this day. I figured that by now, nobody back at Toontown would remember me. I don't even remember much of it myself. I was given every luxury I ever wanted, and yet, I despise this wretched life. It's incomplete without others to share it with, or something like that.
"But all of that changed when I heard the news of toons a week or so ago. The paper said that they could be in the city. So, I decided to go out and about.
"I considered the possibility that someone might find me and rescue me from here. Then I caught a glimpse of you defeating that Name Dropper by the airport."
"How did you see us?" Harry asked.
"Cog disguises work well on cogs, but a toon can see another quite plainly," Scrooge replied. "I haven't turned into one of them yet, you know. I marveled at the fact that you were here. I studied hard to find your address and send you that letter. I was afraid it might be intercepted so I had to be very cryptic about it. Sorry about that. I never intended to scare you. I've been getting interrogated by many cogs lately including the Chairman himself. They've all been asking me the same question: if I knew where you were. But I honestly didn't know the answer until just last week."
"Wait," Pink interrupted, "I thought the Chairman canceled the search for us. We thought he didn't want to find us."
"I am just as clueless as you are," Scrooge said, "but I'm sure he still wants to find you. Though I wish I could tell you more, that's all the information I have."
It was amazing what we never knew, Evina marveled. All this time, a toon was being held here in Cogtropolis. It's astonishing, a toon on the other side of the world for fifteen years!
"I don't understand how you could've survived!" Simeon exclaimed. "Why haven't you gone insane?"
"Who's to say? Sometimes I think I have gone mad. For all I know, you could be a figment of my imagination."
They sat in silence, thinking over all that they had learned.
Then suddenly, Harry jumped up and glared at Scrooge with insanity in his eyes. "How do we know that you are who you say you are?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Maybe you're a figment of our imagination!"
"I assure you I'm not."
"Oh, so you exist! But how do we know you're not working for the cogs? How do we know you're not a cog yourself? An undipped toon in Cogtropolis is absolutely absurd! Everyone knows that!"
Scrooge lifted his cane at pointed it at Harry's face. "For all I know, you could be imposters yourselves. Maybe this is something the cogs set up to torture me further than they already have!"
"How could we be such fools?" Harry shouted, rolling his eyes up at the ceiling. "Look at this place! Look at him! We cannot fall for any of their devious plans. We refuse to be puppets for the cogs anymore!"
There was plenty of contention. Both Scrooge and Harry were yelling and moving closer to each other every moment.
Catman rushed up to stop the fighting. He tried to get between them, but his attempts were fruitless. Harry finally succeeded in pinning Scrooge down on the floor. The old men stared at each other for a long time. What they were thinking, the other toons could only imagine.
"I've been through far too much to fall for a trick like this!" Harry said.
"But what if I really am a living toon?" Scrooge asked him, struggling to smile up at the angry rabbit. "What if I can help you with what you're trying to accomplish? What if I can get you out of here? What if I know something important that you don't know? What if I'm your only hope?"
Harry continued to stare down at Scrooge, and Scrooge continued to smile feebly back up at him. There had to be a choice.
"So, what'll it be?" Scrooge concluded.
After a moment, Harry stood up and helped Scrooge to his feet. The old duck wiped the dust off his Cashbot suit and returned to the table.
"What interesting manners you've picked up," Scrooge muttered. "I am a toon. I am the one and only Scrooge McDuck. I have lived here for fifteen years, and yes, I do know something you don't know."
Peace returned to the room. Catman scratched his head with his robotic arm, looking confused.
Scrooge paused a moment and took a deep breath with his eyes closed. He leaned back with his arms behind his head. A large burly cog with no suit came up behind him, and all the toons gasped. The duck looked up and smiled. "Ah, let me introduce you to my butler, Frederick. He looks intimidating, but he's really a gentle giant. Fortunately, he's not all that intelligent. He probably doesn't even know the difference between a toon and a cog, so don't worry about him turning you in to the police."
The toons waved at him cautiously. He stared back blankly with the eyes that looked at them through the door in the alley. Then he turned around and lumbered away slowly.
Scrooge continued. "And let me tell you something else interesting. I bet you wouldn't even be here in Cog Nation if it wasn't for me."
"Oh, why is that?" Goopy asked.
Scrooge leaned forward and pulled something out of his suit pocket. It was a small slip of paper that he handed to Evina. The group gathered around to take a look at it.
It was the same paper that Evina found flying around Toontown Central. There were millions of copies of this note floating around the world.
"I certainly hurt my handing writing all of those. Sometimes I would get on the roof and release them when the warm wind was blowing toward Toontown. Sometimes, I would hide them in cogs' pockets. Sometimes I would load them onto airplanes going to Toontown. It was silly of me, but it seems it worked. The truth is that I knew someone would find one and come looking for some answers. I knew that at least one toon would find a note eventually. I knew that they would discover that it wasn't from Toontown. So, I suppose it was a trap, and you fell for it. You came here to rescue me. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to stay here before something dreadful happens."
The toons looked at one another with sad, confused looks. Pink decided to speak. "If you think we came here to rescue you, then you're wrong. We're unsure if we're even going to survive."
"You will survive," Scrooge said as he brought a drink to his mouth. "I know that you can and will save Toontown."
"What do you mean?" Rocky asked hesitantly.
"I mean, you will save all of Toontown from the cogs. You will conquer them."
"You mean, stop the cogs once and for all?" Ricky inquired.
"Yes," Scrooge grinned.
The silence that followed was frightening. It had never been that quiet before since the toons arrived at Cog Nation. For all they knew, they could have gone deaf.
"There are more than a hundred billion cogs out there," Harry said in a hushed voice. It was a statement. It was true. "You and I both know that it's impossible to fight that. Out here there are no silly happy endings. There are no heroes. There is no place that's safe. There is nothing to be happy about and no hope at all!"
Scrooge continued to smile. "Nothing is impossible," he said. "Our mere existence is proof enough."
The other toons just sat there, not knowing what to do, think or say.
"Have you ever considered how cogs could feel emotions? Isn't that impossible?"
They were still unable to respond but sat silently listening.
"I can't tell you how I know, but I do know that you can do it," he said. "This is all I may tell you: There is a president, and this president has big plans. These big plans involve the total destruction of every living thing in this world. These plans are very well thought through and nearly flawless, but not completely. No plan is completely flawless."
The toons were holding their breath in fear.
"I'm afraid you don't have much time," Scrooge sighed and looked up at the ticking clock. "Everything that we know and love is in danger. There is no way out of this. If you can't find the flaw in the plan, or if you fail in any little detail, in any way, death and destruction are inevitable for us all." He looked up at the ceiling and stroked his bill. "But, if you choose to do nothing at all, we will also die. As you see, there really isn't another option."
Still, the toons did not speak. The only sound they heard was in their heads. It was their hearts beating the drums of death.
"The fate of Toontown lies in your hands," Scrooge spoke, gazing sincerely into their eyes. "I wish you the best of luck. I know you promised to do your best. You are the chosen toons, and nobody else can do this for you." There was no more smiling. There was no joke. He looked as grave as a cog.
The chairman's face flashed into their minds. The toons knew that, if they were to live up to their potential, they would have to fight this war. The chairman would never give up without a fight.
Logic told them this was impossible. There was no way they could do it. They had no plan; they had no hint of anywhere to begin. In Cog Nation, there were no happy endings. They knew that they were meant to die, and absolutely nothing could change that. But they still had to fight.
"Are you ready to save Toontown?" Scrooge asked.
The terrible silence continued until Evina rose from his seat. "Yes, and it's not a responsibility that we take lightly."
"That's nice unless you want to surrender to them, or come play a game of golf," Scrooge said, "that's fine with me."
All the toons jumped out of their chairs and shouted together, "No!"
"Well then, farewell! May we meet again someday! I'll tell the butler that you're always welcome to visit me... if we ever get the chance again."
Without another word, the toons boarded the elevator, and Scrooge smiled at them nervously until they disappeared behind the golden doors.
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