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"I don't believe it!" someone yelled. It sounded like the voice of a cog. "You mean the chairman was actually destroyed... by some toons?"
"I don't understand it either," another cog voice spoke. "Nobody doubted he was indestructible. Something bizarre must've happened. Something must have made him laugh."
"And he's tricked us from the beginning. It's amazing how many stupid things he tried. His bodyguards have already spilled all of the information regarding his secret plans. I can't believe the truth is finally being revealed after all this time. They say he convinced the president to stop the search because he wanted to defeat the toons himself. I mean, he's even had cogs hide in alleys to spy on them and figure out where they were going."
"Wow... do you think he malfunctioned? I'm sure he was never programmed to act that way."
"I'm not sure. It's been fifteen years. Anything might've happened to him, but now he'll never be able to tell us his side of the story. It looks like the damage is simply too much. He'll never be repaired. Have you ever wondered how the C.E.O. will feel about this?"
"The C.E.O.? About an hour ago he admitted he hasn't done anything useful since he was created. He said that his father told him everything he needed to do since he was promoted. All he ever did was play golf."
"What!?" the other voice shouted in disbelief. "What are we going to do now? If the C.E.O. won't do anything, then who will? Someone needs to talk to the president."
"I heard that the president is aware of everything, but he hasn't done anything about it yet. The word spreads fast around here. As long as the news doesn't get to Toontown, we're alright."
"If they found out their toons killed our chairman, they'll celebrate. They might even send more toons into the nation."
"You're right, that wouldn't be good. I wish the president would finish that special operation he's been working on; then, we wouldn't have to worry about them anymore. But I still have one more question. How did the toons get into the nation without any real identification?"
"The goons at Sparksville were found buried by the sandstorms. And there's a rumor that one of the toons might actually be..." the cog paused nervously, "part robot."
Evina opened his eyes. He was still alive, but quickly wished he was still asleep. Every inch of him ached. He had fallen into some shrubs around the perimeter of the building and was hidden from view. But although the cogs couldn't see him, he knew something was wrong. He was paralyzed and completely flattened. He tried to hold his breath and re-inflate himself, but it didn't work.
There were footsteps. A police car had just arrived, and a policeman joined the conversation on the other side of the shrubs.
"I got news for you two. We asked the president again if the search for the toons should continue, and he said no."
"What the heck? I hope he's not going to try the same thing as the chairman," the first cog remarked.
"No, the toons couldn't possibly reach the president, and even if they did, he's perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He's literally a billion times stronger than the chairman ever was." The policeman got back into the car and drove away. Then the other two cogs started a heated argument.
"So, is the president just going to let them stay here? Does he think the toons are our honored guests? They came here to destroy us! They've already destroyed the chairman! Is he really going to let us be torn to pieces while he relaxes in the comfort of his office?"
"I'm not sure."
"He can't do that!"
"Look, if you have a problem with the president's plans then you can go talk to him yourself. But I'm not foolish enough to try."
There was silence for a moment. "I just decided that I'm fine with it. The president can do anything he wants."
"That's what I thought you'd say."
Evina was looking out through of a hole in the bush. The two cogs, who were also policemen, walked into the front entrance of the skyscraper. They came out a minute later with some other police, carrying a large black box with the remains of the chairman inside.
Evina was a little relieved. The cogs had confirmed the fact that the toons were not caught. They had to be safe somewhere. He assumed they went back to the apartment because there wasn't anywhere else they could've gone.
Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do now. He was too weak to move, and all the cog suits were lost. He had to wait until the night before he had any chance of sneaking back to the apartment alive.
He estimated it to be sometime in the late afternoon because of the light above him in the sky. He had been knocked out for several hours.
He reached out for his gag bag, but his arm hurt too much. After half an hour of deep breathing, he almost finished re-inflating himself. He found a squished cream pie remaining in his bag and ate it. His strength along with the magical toony feeling came back, but it wasn't as strong as before. He was grateful that he had the black suit still completely intact. If he hadn't been wearing it with its toony protection, he could have easily died.
After a few more hours of waiting and resting, the shadows of the buildings crept over the streets, and the sky darkened. Evina carefully crawled out of the bushes and hid against one of the dark walls of the building. Fortunately, nobody saw him.
He spent a few more minutes looking for some more edible gags in his bag. So many of them had been used up on the chairman, but he knew he needed more energy if he was going to make it back to the apartment alive.
Before long, it was dark enough for him to travel. Although he was extremely nervous, he was certain no cogs could see him if he moved carefully. Looking around, he wondered which way would be best to go. "I wish there was an easier way," he whispered to himself while leaning against the wall. Without warning, suction cups popped up on his hands, elbows, knees, and feet.
"Harry put more gadgets in here than I thought," he mumbled. He began by climbing up the wall of the skyscraper he fell off earlier that day. He worked his way behind it and around to the other side, so he would be completely out of sight from the bright plaza. Obviously, he wanted to avoid being seen under any lights.
But the capitol is the perfect place to go. I need to latch on the top of one of the trains to go home. He looked both ways to make sure no cogs were coming then dashed across the street to the capitol. He didn't dare go inside, though. The lights were too bright, and he would be seen instantly.
He chose to wait near the tracks outside. When the train dived underground, he would jump down and latch onto it with the suction cups. It was extremely risky, but it was his only idea. The fact that the suit had saved his life once already was comforting.
Soon enough, lights could be seen approaching him from the capitol. A subway came rolling down the rails toward the tunnel. It kept falling lower and lower, and then Evina jumped into the tunnel right behind it. The timing was just right. The suction cups stuck to the back of the last car. He used all his might to climb up onto the roof. Then when he got there, he stuck all eight suction cups on the roof and rested. It was strong enough to hold him there.
He felt worried now. What if there isn't enough clearance for me to be up here? And what if I don't find the toons back at the apartment? But it was very late at night, and he was exhausted. Even though the train rattled, he felt secure. So, he relaxed and watched the lights in the tunnel zoom by. He closed his eyes. Just moments later, he was abruptly awakened by the jets of water that sprayed the train clean as it sped by. He could see brighter lights ahead. The train was approaching the first station.
As the train slowed down, he did his best to safely climb onto the opposite side of the train from the doors. There was a chance that someone could see him up there. When the train stopped, the doors opened. For a minute, he heard cogs getting in and out of the car. Then it started moving again. He climbed back onto the roof before the train accelerated too fast.
The tricky part was figuring out how to get off the train at the next station. After a few minutes, he arrived, and he had only seconds before it left to some other part of Cogtropolis.
He crouched low on the roof, waiting for all the cogs to get on and off. Then the train began to move again. He jumped up and suctioned to the ceiling of the station. The train sped away, but luckily, he was still there, hanging on the ceiling, and none of the cogs seemed to notice him.
He crawled as quietly as he could along the ceiling to the stairs that went up to the street. When all the cogs walked away, he jumped down and dashed across the street to the apartment. It was a miracle that no cogs saw him, not even the Number Cruncher walking on a sidewalk nearby.
Now Evina proceeded to climb up the wall of the apartment. It took a lot of strength. He was growing weaker all the time. He counted the windows that he passed until he was sure he was at the 89th level. Never once did he dare look down. Wearily, he knocked on the window, hoping it was actually the right one. A pair of eyes peeked through, and then the curtains were parted.
Pink opened the window and let Evina climb inside. He was breathing heavily. There were many times that day he expected to die, but he was grateful that it was finally over now. Being home was such a comfort. And before anyone could bother him with questions, he collapsed and fell asleep.
"I wonder what this could be," the voice said. Several lights on a communication device were blinking. Evina was seeing everything from the eyes of the man, and he felt like he was actually present. His surroundings were no longer blurred anymore but very detailed. Of all the visions he had seen, this one was the clearest. He appeared to be seated in some kind of strange transportation vehicle. Outside the windows, there was nothing except a black expanse with thousands of little glowing dots. This must be the tooniverse, he thought. The dots were planets and stars.
A nervous squeaking was coming from the other chair, but it was turned away from the man, so Evina could not see what it was.
"I haven't received a call for years," the man remarked. He hesitantly picked up the communication device and spoke. "Hello? This is the master speaking." There was a pause. A voice was coming out from the communication device, but Evina could not hear it properly. Maybe the interference was too strong, or maybe it was encoded. "WHAT?" the man cried out. "Um, please don't panic, I'm on my way right now!" He turned off the communication device nervously. "Take us into hyperspace!"
There was a little bit of squeaking, then the spaceship blasted forward at such a speed that the stars outside the window stretched into thin white streaks.
Evina woke up, spluttering. Rocky had just sprayed him with a seltzer bottle. He jumped up off the floor, and the water dripped from his suit. "What was that about?" he demanded. He was also angry that his vision of the man had been disrupted.
"We let you sleep, but now we want to have everything explained," Harry said.
Evina went to the table to sit down. He was grateful that the suit kept him dry because it was another frigid morning. "Well, where should I begin?" he asked. "I got this really strange feeling when I defeated the chairman. I felt like I was using strength that didn't exist inside me. Then the suits blew off the roof. I fell off the roof trying to grab one of them. I passed out before I hit the ground."
"That explains why you're slightly flat," Catman said.
"Yeah, but aren't you glad that I made it here safe?" Evina said.
"But we're not safe," Harry said, causing Evina's smile to disappear. He looked more dismal now than ever before.
"But I heard the cogs say that the president isn't allowing a search," Evina protested. "We must be safe!"
"Oh, but they're infuriated! They're rebelling against him. They are going on a huge hunt for us, anyway," Harry said.
"And how did you get home without a cog suit?" Zany interrupted.
"I used the suction cups on the suit to latch onto the roof of a train."
"There are suction cups on the suit?" Zany gasped with amazement.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you all the things I put in those suits," Harry smiled, but he immediately became serious again. "Now, we have no more time to waste. Let's finish the job. Goopy, I want you to find out precisely where the cogs are being built."
The purple dog looked at Harry then obediently opened his laptop without a response. After a minute of typing, he said, "I hacked into a security camera at the capitol to track all the cogs entering and leaving each day. And all the data says there are a lot more cogs exiting the capitol each day than the number who enter it, several thousand more!"
"I think that's our answer," Harry said. "Now, I want you all to stand up in a line." The other toons stood up and formed a line as ordered. "We are going to do the impossible," Harry announced. "Now, as you may imagine, a task that is considered impossible will be quite difficult to do." He walked up Pink, the first in line. "I see great potential in you," he said. "Do the very best you can."
She smiled. "Thank you, Harry."
Harry turned to Rocky. "This is no time for laziness." Rocky looked up from his burrito and made eye contact with Harry. "You will do the best you can, right?"
"Yes, I promise." Rocky saluted him.
Zany was next in line. "You are our most experienced toon, except for me, of course. Keep your concentration, and you can conquer."
"I won't let you down, I promise!" she answered.
Then Harry stood before Ricky. "Your explosives may prove useful, but we'll have to be sneaky and quiet in there."
"Ok," he said, "I'll make no noise! I'll be as sneaky as a weasel!"
"Goopy, do everything you have to do. Hack, glitch, or whatever else. Just make sure we stay alive."
"I will, sir."
"Simeon," Harry addressed him with a smile. "Stay positive and follow my orders. Everything will be fine."
"Yes, sir," Simeon said with uncertainty.
Catman looked Harry straight in the eye. "What about me?"
"Forget about that robot arm," Harry said. "It doesn't make you a cog. What matters most is what's on the inside, not the outside. You can be a hero again. I know you can do this."
"Thank you, Harry. Of course, I can do it. I am Catman, the hero of Toontown!"
"Not yet," Harry reminded him, moving to Evina, the last one in the line. "Lead them to safety when I'm gone."
"But nothing bad will happen to you!" Evina insisted.
Harry didn't listen to him but turned around to speak to them all at once. "Are you ready?"
"What about the cog suits!?" Zany cried.
"The cogs are not that stupid now. They're taking extra precautions, especially at the place we're going to break into. It doesn't matter whether we are in cog suits or toon suits. We need to be invisible, not disguised."
The group looked nervously at Harry, and he looked back at them with determination. "For Toontown!" he said.
"For Toontown!" They cheered as energetically and quietly as they could.
"So, can you guess what the new plan is?" Harry asked them.
"The capitol," Evina said, "behind the big, black door."
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