The Legend of Toontown

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Chapter 10

The Labyrinth

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	"Space: the final frontier. These are the adventures of the foolish passengers of a small, unnamed ship. Their mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out the human civilization, to boldly save others as no toon has done before."
	Kate groaned loudly.
	"What?" Glue Stick protested. "It's from this show I've been watching today. I feel like we can compare our experiences to it. All we need to do now is wear more colorful shirts."
	Evina tried to ignore him, but he wasn't irritated by him anymore, just bored. Ever since he returned from the cave, he felt like a brand-new individual. The thing living inside of him could still be felt, now more clearly than any other time before. It was like a strange, cold, weighty presence somewhere around the area of his stomach. But now that he was no longer fighting it, it was no longer hostile. Now he could relax properly. He was getting used to it.
	"But just listen," Glue Stick pleaded. "Don't you think it would be cool to like beam places? Just think about it. It's a shame this ship can't do stuff like that."
	Gyro smirked but tried to conceal it.
	Glue Stick had seen it. "What was that? Are you hiding something?"
	"Maybe," Gyro grinned. Even he seemed to be in a better mood.
	"Fine, if you're too busy to talk to me then... I can still have fun on my own. Yeah, I am just as busy as you are! Even busier!" He turned back to the monitor and started another episode.
	Evina noticed that Glue Stick was upset with Kate now. The lazy toon didn't like standing in a funny way and breathing slowly for hours like she did. As much as the idea of being a ninja was appealing, he wasn't up to putting all that effort into it. Likewise, Kate wasn't fond of Glue Stick. She spoke her mind without holding back any criticism.
	Then there was a small beep that interrupted everyone's activities. Gyro looked down at a small, red light and turned it off.
	"What was that?" Evina asked.
	"Oh, it's nothing."
	Of course, Evina didn't believe it and, sure enough, the light turned on again.
	"That's interesting."
	Evina walked up to the control panel. "Does interesting mean good or bad?"
	"Well, just look at our energy readings." The pilot pointed to a dial with its needle jumping up and down. "Even though we're in hyperspace, there is something out there that's strong enough to cause these fluctuations. No, we're actually losing energy. Without it, we'll be in serious trouble!"
	"Will we have to drop out?"
	"I really don't want to, but now I don't think we have much of a choice. It's dangerous to go on like this. But there's nothing that's supposed to be out in this region except the empty void of space!" His hand moved toward the warp lever and hovered there for a moment. He worried about whether he should, but the energy readings were too troublesome, so he gave in.
	After the ship's repairs, the hyperspace transitions were smoother, but it was still shocking to someone who wasn't expecting it. Glue Stick leaped out of his seat, slammed the headphones down, and stormed over the cockpit. "You scared me half to death! Why didn't you tell me we were dropping out?"
	"It's because our energy is dropping out!" Gyro angrily pointed to the dial again. "And if you don't want to miss your show, how would you feel if we got stranded out here literally in the middle of nowhere?"
	The two of them argued while Evina watched. He was getting tired of seeing all this contention going on. It was too predictable, but what he didn't expect was what happened next.
	"Hey, guys. What's this?" It wasn't the voice of anyone in the cockpit. Kate has spoken from the back.
	Evina turned to see her pointing at one of the monitors. "What is it?" He walked over to take a look. And even though he wasn't an expert, it still alarmed him to see it.
	"Is everything alright back there?" Gyro asked.
	"Um, you might want to take a look at this," Evina replied, his voice shaking a little.
	The pilot rushed over to them and glared at the image. "Holy cog sprocket, what is that?"
	Indeed, that was the question on all their minds. Out here, in the middle of space, where there were no stars or planets to be seen, a world had somehow been detected by the computer. It was very close to them. It was barren, but there were huge waves of magnetic pulses coming out of it. There was no way it could've been natural. This is what was draining their ship's power.
	"We need to get out of here. Now!" Gyro was sweating, and he jogged back to the controls.
	But the thing inside Evina tightened painfully. This was the strongest impression he had ever felt from it. The answer was so obvious and so clear. "We have to go down there!"
	"Are you out of your mind!?" the father cried. "There's nothing there but certain death!"
	"No, dad. There's something calling us. And the feeling is so strong that I know you can feel it too. Don't deny it."
	Gyro was panting. He carefully withdrew his shaking hands from the controls and inhaled deeply. "Ok," he admitted quietly, "I can feel it too. But can we really trust it?"
	Evina paused for a moment to think about it. All eyes were on him. The feeling inside was so intense that he couldn't ignore it. "I do trust it."
	"You're going alone then?"
	"Yes."
	"No!" Kate cried. "I'm coming too!"
	Gyro scratched his head, still trying to figure out what to do with this unexpected turn of events. "Well," he started, "I guess that means we only have one option now." He turned to the little robot. "Helper, activate battle mode."
	"What?" Glue Stick cried.
	The helper pressed a large, red button. The images on the monitors changed, and all the lights in the ship turned red.
	"Battle mode engaged," the ship computer responded.
	"You two," Gyro ordered Evina and Kate, "into the back room, now!" Glue Stick stood frozen in the main area with his mouth wide open. The helper made sure he didn't follow the others.
	In the back room, Gyro hastily threw a drawer open and took out the briefcase he had received from Harry. He dropped it in Evina's hands. "Meet me in the main room when you're ready. Then I'll explain everything."
	He ran off, and the two of them were left standing clueless in the room. Evina carefully flipped the latch on the case and opened it. He gasped when he saw what was inside. It was his black suit, the one from his last adventure, complete with the gloves. He turned to Kate. "Do you mind giving me a minute?"
	She stepped outside but left the door open a crack to talk to him. "Would you kindly tell me what this is all about?"
	"Yeah, we went on another adventure last year," Evina explained. "We explored a nation of robots called the cogs, and we fought them. Our toony energy was draining. The suits helped protect us against our laff dropping. Oh, and it made us stealthier."
	"Ah, I can see what you mean with the black and all that. But in fighting those cogs, did you win?"
	"Yes, um, actually sort of. They're our allies now. It's complicated."
	"And what about this thing you keep talking about? You're feeling something?"
	Evina chuckled lightly. "Ironically, I found out toward the end of the adventure that I'm part cog. Or the thing that makes them alive is inside me too. It's also in my dad."
	"Now that makes sense. I usually try to learn all I can about the lives of the rookies I work with."
	"Hey, about that, why are you coming, anyway?"
	"What? You think that because I'm a girl I couldn't handle it?"
	"No!"
	"You men are all the same. That's why I don't listen to you."
	"That's not what I—"
	"So, I'm coming with you, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!"
	Evina paused. "Um, ok." He slipped on the last glove and could feel a sensation of power wash over him like a warm wave. It was wonderful, and he felt so excited again. There was one more item in the suitcase, but it was unfamiliar to him, so he brought it with him to the main room. Kate followed right behind.
	"Wow, you look... good," Glue Stick remarked.
	"Thanks," Evina said. "That's the best compliment I've heard from you so far. By the way, do you know where Gyro is?"
	A door opened up, and the man in white emerged from the pilot's room. It was Gyro in his odd technology-packed suit. He wore the helmet that formed eyes out of tiny blue lights. Evina had once feared the sight of this thing, and it surprised him again, even though he knew it was just his father inside.
	"Good," Gyro said. "I take it the suit still fits well?"
	"Perfectly. But what's with this battle mode?"
	"Oh, it's just precautionary. I don't want to be attacked out here, but I don't plan on doing any attacking either. In a place like this that could possibly be filled with all kinds of terrible things, we can never be too safe."
	"Glad to hear it. So, are we going now?"
	"Wait a moment." The pilot went to his seat in front of the controls. This made Evina remember pieces of his old visions. "When Harry gave me your suit, I was overjoyed. He isn't that bad of an inventor. But I took the liberty of adding some more features to it."
	"Like what?"
	"You'll see," he said. "Now step onto this circle, both of you. I am going to beam you down there. Evina, in your hand you have a mask that I made. It's not so much to protect your identity, but it is armored and has inferred vision. Squeeze your left wrist to signal pickup. And remember that I can't help you at all once you're below. All that's left is to wish good luck to you two. Don't get yourselves killed." He sounded worried as though he knew this was all a very bad idea.
	"I promise you, we'll be fine," Evina said, although he wasn't sure about it either. He really hoped that the thing inside of him knew what it was doing.
	"Ready?" the father asked.
	"I'm always ready," Kate said.
	Evina put on his mask. He took a deep breath and exhaled. "Yes, I'm ready."
	"I hope to see you soon."
	There was a bright flash of light, and Evina found himself standing deep in frigid snow. The wind was howling, and he was very nervous all of a sudden. But at least he was fully alert.
	"You good?" he asked Kate.
	"Yeah," she assured him, rubbing her head like she was disoriented. "We need to get out of the snow."
	Though the visibility was low, Evina could see a metal structure a short distance away. "Over there. Quickly!"
	It looked like a small station, probably just one of many leading to the interior of the planet. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they found that it was locked with a keypad combination.
	"Yeah, I don't know what we're going to do," Evina confessed. Even though he was insulated with his special suit, the bitter cold was starting to get through to him. Even Kate couldn't hide how cold she was.
	Then they both looked up to see something at the same time. A security camera from the roof was looking down at them, and they knew they were being watched. Kate panicked and sliced it off the wall with a swing of her sword.
	"What did you do!?" Evina cried. "Now they're definitely going to know we're intruders!"
	Just as he finished that sentence, the ground opened up, and they fell down a deep tunnel. It was pitch black all around them with nothing but the sound of air rushing by. It was terrifying, but after a few seconds, there was some kind of force that slowed their fall until their faces rested on the hard ground. Bright lights flickered on, and they jumped up to see where they were.
	It was a small, simple, concrete room with no windows or doors. It was illuminated by cool, eerie light that came from the cracks along corners in every wall. They were trapped.
	Kate tried to kick one of the walls even though they both knew it was pointless. It was thick and solid. "Let us out of here you cowards!"
	"Stop it. There's no point," Evina calmed her. "Our plan messed up big time. We shouldn't have come in here following that stupid voice in my head." He watched her keep on kicking for a while. He was at least grateful that it was warmer in here. Then he got bored and turned his head. He gasped in shock. They were at the end of a long hallway now.
	"What?" Kate marveled. "Wasn't there a wall there?"
	"There was," Evina said. "But now, it looks like the room has stretched itself."
	"Why?"
	He thought about it. "I don't know, but it might mean we're meant to go over there."
	They made their way to the other side of the mysterious hall. It still gave off a feeling of being unusually alien.
	Then when they reached the end, Evina turned around again and jumped in fright to see he was inches from another wall. "What the heck! I wish it would stop scaring us!" They were stuck in another box.
	"I think I saw it," Kate said.
	"You did?"
	"As a ninja, you are trained to notice every little detail. It moves lightning fast, but this whole place seems to be made of tiles that silently rearrange themselves into different shapes."
	Evina considered this. "But why? What is it all for?"
	Kate shrugged and pointed to the ceiling. "Maybe we should press that button and find out."
	It was true. There was now a red button protruding from the ceiling, and Evina jumped up to press it. When he fell, he didn't hit the floor because it had already opened. He landed on a padded area much further below.
	"Very good," a robotic voice spoke, although it didn't sound very friendly. It emitted from the walls around them.
	They were now at a crossroads between four different paths. Each one was identical and unmarked. There was no way to tell which path was the right one.
	"Go with your gut," Kate said.
	Evina chose one of the paths randomly, and they walked in that direction. They followed maze-like halls until they reached a larger room. A huge metallic cube lay nearby with three large buttons on the floor.
	"What the heck? Is it supposed to be a puzzle?" Evina wondered.
	"I believe so," Kate said. "Strange, isn't it?"
	"Yeah, but at least they seem easy."
	"Something tells me they will become harder soon enough," she added.
	Each of them stepped on a button, and they used the big cube to hold down the third button.
	"Very good," the voice repeated again in the same tone. "Now, try this."
	One of the walls opened up, and the opposite wall began moving inward to force them to move into the new area. Finally, they were sealed in the new room, and for some reason, Evina had lost track of where Kate was. It couldn't be possible.
	"Hello? Kate? Where are you?" he shouted. Then he started to panic again. Finally, he spotted her. She was lying on the floor at the opposite side of the room and appeared to be injured. "What happened?" He ran over to her.
	Then she faded away abruptly. Obviously, it was some kind of cheap illusion. Evina turned around to see he was trapped again. This time, he really was alone. "NO!" He pounded his fists on the wall, even though he knew it would do nothing.
	The mysterious announcer spoke again. "As part of testing protocol, test subjects are required to work alone."
	"Evina?" a muffled voice called out. It seemed to be coming from the other side of the wall. "Are you in there?"
	Evina jumped in glee when he heard Kate's voice. "Are you alright?"
	"I'm fine," she assured him. "But I don't think they want us working together anymore."
	Evina growled in frustration. "What's the point of this, anyway? Why do they want to test us? Is it a form of torture or brainwashing? It makes no sense!"
	Then the sound of gunfire was heard from behind the wall. It lasted for half a minute. Then there was an awful silence.
	"Kate, are you alive!?"
	"Yeah," she said. "A wall opened and surprised me with some robotic turrets. It's a good thing I have such fast reflexes. They won't get rid of me that easily."
	Evina looked around the room and spotted an air vent on the ceiling. It was just large enough that he thought he could fit inside. "I think I found a way out."
	"What? Oh, that's great," she replied in an unenthusiastic tone. "Hopefully it's not just another part of the test. Go on without me, and I'll catch up with you."
	"Really?"
	"Yeah, don't worry about me," she insisted.
	Evina imagined suction cups in his mind. Then they popped up on his hands, elbows, and knees. It was just as he had done in his last adventure. He jumped onto the wall and crawled up to the vent as fast as he could. He was scared of being crushed if the room changed itself again.
	"When I find what I'm looking for, I promise I'll come back for you!" He ripped the grate off and climbed inside.
	"Good luck!" she shouted back.

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