Above The Clouds
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The toons exited the Golden Gear Hotel as quickly as they could. Harry pulled them back into the alley where he thought nobody could see them.
"Everyone, please listen," he begged them. "Many years ago, toons from Earth came to this world to start a new life. It would be a disgrace to them if we surrendered now. We will fight this war until the end. Tomorrow, we will go to work and offer our resignation. The cogs will get suspicious if we don't go to work. After that, we will return to the apartment, and I will tell you my plan. It's not a very good plan, but it may improve with time."
"Can you tell us the plan now?" Zany asked.
"Uh... no," Harry smiled. "Let's go get a good night's sleep first. That's the most important thing right now. Without rest, we will have terrible reflexes, and we won't be able to think properly."
The toons started to go, but Harry stopped them again. He held Evina against the wall and whispered in his ear. "If anything happens to me, you are the second in command."
"I understand," Evina replied somberly, "but I hope it will never come to that."
Harry opened his mouth to respond but decided against it. Then together they walked back to the subway.
"Don't you ever get the feeling that you're being watched?" Evina asked. The other toons nodded.
A pair of eyes had been spying on them in the dark from behind a dumpster. It whispered into its communication device. "Tomorrow."
The alarm was ringing, waking them up early in the morning. The toons knew that they had much to do today. There was no time to waste. They ate their usual rotten throw gags for breakfast and jumped into their cog suits.
It was a very cloudy day. They got onto the subway and headed to the capitol. But for some strange reason, Evina had a feeling that something bad was going to happen, and it was going to happen very soon. He didn't want to tell the other toons, because they already had plenty of other worries on their minds.
The train rocketed into the air, and they walked briskly to Cogs Inc. HQ. Many cogs were walking in with them. They got on the elevator to go to Mr. Alumi's office and turn in their resignations.
The elevator ascended. Evina told the toons about his suspicions. "I really have a bad feeling about this," he said. "Something terrible is going to happen. I just know it!"
Harry shook his head. "You must still be shaken up about Scrooge last night. Relax. You'll find that my plan is pretty easy. There's nothing to worry about right now." The elevator stopped, and the doors opened with a ding.
From the very first moment, they know something was wrong. It was unusually quiet up here. There was not a single sound. They hurried along to the office and opened the door. A shocking sight met their eyes.
The office was completely empty. Not a single cog was there. Not even Mr. Alumi was there. How could every cog in the whole office get the day off? And strangely enough, the lights were still turned on. A giant sign hung in front of them, stuck to the side of a cubicle. It had a huge number scribbled in red ink, 786.
The other toons were beginning to think Evina was right. It was very strange to walk into an empty office and just find the number 786. What was that supposed to mean, anyway?
Then Evina got a sudden idea. "Follow me," he said. They rushed back to the hallway and called for another elevator. "What is the highest level of this building?" he asked them.
Each of the toons started scanning the buttons on the walls. The highest number that they found was 785.
"Let's go there," Evina said as he pressed the button. The doors closed, and the elevator ascended very rapidly. There was a slight creaking noise as the elevator tried to go faster than it normally went. It continued to accelerate toward the sky. Events were getting stranger all the time.
Then the elevator finally stopped on level 785. They were dizzy at first. The air pressure was much lower at this elevation. After resting a moment, they sneaked out of the elevator. They were in a long, abandoned hallway with the lights turned off. Only one remained on, and it cast enough eerie light to let them navigate. This entire level seemed to be empty as well.
Evina was determined to figure out what was going on, even though he was extremely nervous. He sprinted down the hallway, looking at the different doors. Near the end, he found a door that read:
Chairman of Cogs Inc.
The chairman's office was here, but it didn't look like he was present. The toons were puzzled. It looked as though all the cogs were taking the day off, but they knew it couldn't be true.
"We're not there yet," Simeon reminded them. "The sign said 786, not 785. We still need to go higher. That means we need to go... up to the roof!"
They couldn't wait any longer. The fear was too much for them to bear. They had to find out the truth for sure. Evina found a ladder at the end of the hall. The toons climbed it and crawled out a hatch door onto the roof.
One by one they emerged from the building and arrived in absolute serenity and silence. Evina slowly paced the huge roof. The sky was bright, and the air was cool. There were no more dark clouds above them. They could see the sun.
It was like nothing they had ever witnessed before. He peeked over the edge and saw the clouds like a fluffy white blanket below them, or maybe it looked more like a white meadow. The building went down and down until he couldn't see any father. It was ridiculously high. He felt a little queasy at the sight, but it was still amazing. Cog Nation felt like another land far away from here. They were free. All of their troubles were hidden below. He could breathe and enjoy perfect relaxation. Nobody wanted to move or say anything to ruin the peace. They were in heaven, or so they thought.
They felt so comfortable that they took off their cog suits and enjoyed the cool and relaxing sensation. They stood above the clouds in blissful peace, forgetting all their troubles ahead of them.
Then the peace vanished in an instant. Evina immediately knew something was wrong. He felt an eerie chill sweep over him and overwhelm his senses. A wave of evil engulfed him. He spun around and let out a horrifying scream of terror. "NO!!!"
The chairman was standing near the hatch on the roof. He wasn't too far from them. He stood absolutely still, staring at the toons exposed in their black toon suits.
At first, they hoped it was another dream, but they quickly realized it was not. Only the chairman himself would bring such a feeling of hate and misery to reality like this.
The perfect world around them had been tainted. They forgot where they were. They forgot how to move. All they saw was the chairman. Time was still, and the air was frozen.
The cog took a small, slow step forward. "Hello, toons," he quietly spoke. The deep words rang in their ears.
"Hello, Mr. Gears," Evina replied. The rest of his body was still paralyzed with fear and hatred. He almost forgot that he had a body. It was as stone. "May I ask," he continued, wishing he had not. The Chairman rotated his head toward him. "Why did you cancel the search for us?"
There was a squeak as a grin stretched across the chairman's face, perhaps for the first time in his life. "It's simple," he said. "Oh, that's just one of the many things I did. I had to jump through hoops to make sure nobody would find you. Do you want to know why?"
The toons were listening avidly but were still confused and unable to move.
"I had to have the pleasure of destroying you all by myself!" He roared a wicked, metallic laugh that pierced the toons hearts and shrilly echoed in their ears. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard. It drained their souls of all strength, happiness, and hope.
Although they didn't know how, the toons suddenly received the ability, and they charged toward the Chairman. The cog was, however, faster than they thought. He clapped his hands together, and in a bright flash of light, the toons collapsed to the ground. They felt as though they had been kicked in the face.
The cog walked over to Harry and lifted him off the ground by his throat. "You toons are no match for us!" he mocked. "There is nothing you can do to stop this great nation!" Goopy and Catman tried to stand up, but the cog hurled Harry at them and easily knocked them back to the ground.
Evina and the other toons were throwing all their gags at the chairman as hard as they could. Cream soiled his gray suit, and he turned to them with a loathing glare. "You toons and your gags," he scoffed. "Do you actually think you can defeat me with your silly toys?" He reached down to pick up Pink.
"Don't touch her," Goopy gasped, struggling to get up again.
The chairman ignored Goopy and punched Evina away with his remaining hand. Evina fell unconscious. The cog then turned around and picked up Rocky with his other hand. "Who might this little beast be?" he asked.
Ricky switched to using squirt gags. Zany, being the most skilled of the toons in combat, except Harry, changed to using drop gags.
A safe plummeted out of the sky and hit the chairman in the head. He dropped the two toons but turned around and power tripped Ricky. "I guess I underestimated your determination, but you need to learn when it's time to give up!" The remaining toons struggled to get off the ground. "I have a few tricks of my own, you know." With a snap of the cog's fingers, the toons cried out in pain as some mysterious force fell over them. Now everyone was on the ground.
They had gone beyond sadness. They were too weak to move. Their view of reality was fading.
"What's wrong?" the chairman taunted them, kicking Harry carelessly along the roof. "Are you too weak to fight? Are you giving up so soon? What kind of idiot would send this disgrace, this old toon, to challenge me?"
Evina didn't know how, but he pushed himself beyond the limits. He rose up slowly, using effort that he didn't know he possessed. Before the chairman could strike again, he used all of his fingers to press every trigger box at once. All of his drop gags fell from the sky one by one. The chairman was crushed under tons heavy metal. He couldn't take the force of all of them at once but still struggled to get to his feet. Before the cog could stand up again, Evina pulled out his last birthday cake and hit the chairman straight in the face.
The cream slowly slid off the cog's gruesome, silvery face. "What's wrong?" Evina asked. "Are you ready to enjoy a laugh? Are you ready to admit that there could be somebody better than you?"
"Never!" the chairman bellowed. There was mechanical whirring as he fought to stand up under all the crushing weight of the drop gags.
Evina fell down because of the lack of energy, but he managed to light a bundle of dynamite and toss it in front of the chairman's face. It exploded, and all the drop gags flew away in the fireball. Dirt and dust rose up. Soot covered the chairman's face.
Then suddenly the eyes of the Chairman opened. They were bright and silver. Evina's mind was taken back to the vision that the toons had shared. He knew now that everything the chairman had said that night was true. It was not just a simple dream. The chairman had always known that the toons possessed something he didn't, but his desire to find them and destroy them singlehandedly was too much to resist. And he had planned to eliminate the other four cog bosses to gain more power.
After a moment's pause, the cog reluctantly examined his own body and saw how ridiculous he looked. Then he turned back to Evina. He began to laugh, and it sounded awful. He was malfunctioning. With a bang, he fell onto his back and looked up into the sky with unfocused eyes.
Evina's vision was going away due to his weakness. He couldn't see anything clearly, but he crawled up to where the Chairman lay. He gazed into the face of the very first cog, the cog that he had feared more than anything else.
"You have defeated me," the cog admitted, "but don't celebrate yet. You've brought an even worse fate upon yourselves. The president will seek revenge. The business... Cogs Inc. will die without me. The C.E.O... can't do everything on his own. I won't be here to witness the destruction of Toontown... but you will!"
The Chairman collapsed into hundreds of pieces, and a cloud of smoke rose into the air. A giant gear slowed to a stop after its many years of spinning and fell out of the cog's chest.
Evina was horrified. The fear welled up inside him again even stronger than before. All at once, the knowledge of what he had done sank into his mind, and it was impossible to believe. He held up the magnificent gear and placed it on Harry's chest. He knew Harry deserved this much more than he did. He was the reason they had survived this far.
The toons were on the ground and scarcely breathing. Evina was starting to faint, struggling to take in every breath. He didn't know how much longer he would survive.
A small, jeweled gear rolled out of the chairman's pants pocket. It looked very fancy and strange. Evina picked it up and put it in his own pocket. He had a feeling that it was something very important, or else the chairman wouldn't have been carrying it.
Evina was almost blind now; everything was a blur. He could barely move or speak. He called out for Harry. "I assume you have to change your plan now," he gasped.
Harry was barely stirring. "No, Evina... I have no more plans," he whispered. "I only know that we're doomed. Do you have any idea what we've just done?"
"I know," Evina whispered, "the war has begun." He heard the wind blowing, and through his eyelids, he saw the cog suits fall off the roof. Now they had no more disguises. There was nothing he could do about it. Although he was much too weak to walk, he tried to do it anyway. One step forward, and he fell off the edge of the roof.
He had no energy remaining to scream; he plummeted through the clouds, unable to see what was happening. All the colors and objects danced wildly before his eyes. He fell further, and further, and there seemed to be no end. His body tumbled and turned in the wind. He was barely conscious. His eyes closed, and everything was gone.
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