Man vs. Metal
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Evina was speechless. His mouth was open, but no words came out.
"Are you alright?" the Glad Handed asked.
"How did you all get here?" Evina demanded.
"Shouldn't it be obvious?" a deep voice answered. The crowd of cogs parted, and the chairman stepped forward. "Remember, you have a connection to our minds. We heard your cry for help and came to assist you. That was our promise."
Evina was still frozen but finally managed to laugh. "Wow, that's great! We're in serious trouble with these soldiers."
"That'll be no problem," a Big Wig assured him, cracking his knuckles. "We'll bring justice to those fiends."
The soldier who had just been knocked out was starting to stir. He looked shocked to see he was surrounded by robots now. "How weird can this day get?"
The Big Wig walked up to the soldier and slapped him in the face. "Shame on you for such bad behavior!"
The man raised a shotgun and blasted the cog to pieces. That was when the chaos continued again.
The other members of the squad had heard the shot and ran back through the exit of Splash Mountain to face the cogs.
"We'll distract them," the chairman said to Evina. "What you must do is get out of here as fast as you can."
"What? That's the same plan as before!" Evina exclaimed.
"Let those boys fight," Kate said. "As for me, I'm getting tired of all this." While the soldiers began fighting the cogs, and bullets ricocheted noisily off the metal plates all over the room, she sneaked behind them to escape the ride. Gyro, Glue Stick, and Evina followed.
"And where is my helper, anyway?" Gyro wondered. "I'm worried about it, and that last time I checked, it was with you!"
Glue Stick was nervous again. "I don't know! I lost track of it for a while, then it showed up at the end of the pirates ride."
"Did it escape!?"
"I swear it did! I was sure it was following me, but now it disappeared again, and it wasn't my fault!"
"Well, I'm going to help Kate and Evina get someplace safe. You should go back and find it."
"Are you kidding? I barely got out of there alive!"
"Well, you aren't getting any medal of honor until we all get out of here alive, and that means the helper too. Besides, you have a way of being really lucky in these situations, for some reason."
"What! I— I— ugh... fine." Glue Stick jogged back to New Orleans Square. It was quieter there now. He only heard the crackling of the fire from the pirates ride. The smoldering remains of the building glowed where it once stood.
The helper was standing still, looking out into the ash and smoke with determination.
"What are you doing now?" Glue Stick demanded. "Gyro is mad at me now because you—"
A squeak interrupted him. The helper pointed to the glowing embers.
"Look. You and I both saw what happened in there. He's dead."
The helper shook its head.
"Oh really? Then what are you going to do when he rises out of that pit of fire? You think you can stop him then? What's the plan?"
"Hide," it squeaked.
"You're pathetic," Glue Stick said, crossing his arms, and turning around in rebellion, but the helper wouldn't move, and he was certain it would not like to be picked up from that spot. So, with a sigh, he turned around again. "Ok, have it your way. Where do you want me to hide?"
It pointed to what looked like an old mansion a short distance away. The building was mostly white, artistic in an old way, and different from anything else in the area.
"Fine, see you around then."
It didn't look like there was anything special about that place, but he didn't have a reason to argue with the helper. As he arrived at the building's doors, he opened them with a creak and walked inside. It was darker than he expected. The lights were off. But then his eyes adjusted, and he saw that the lights were actually on; they were just very dim. The lights were candles hanging on the walls and a chandelier on the ceiling. He thought he saw spider webs. This was unexpected.
"I think they call this the Haunted Mansion or something," Glue Stick said to himself. "It's not as impressive as I imagined." He walked onward into a large, circular room that was eerily empty. "What is this all about?"
He looked up at the ceiling then turned around to see everything else. There were four paintings on the wall. Then he realized something was wrong. "Hey! Wasn't there a door just there?"
A creepy voice suddenly spoke, and it frightened Glue Stick enough to yelp. "Our tour begins here in this gallery where you see paintings of some of our guests as they appeared in their corruptible, mortal state."
He didn't know if he was hallucinating, but the paintings seemed to be growing, showing detail that wasn't there before.
"Your cadaverous pallor portrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis."
"You're t-telling me," Glue Stick stammered.
"Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination? Hmm? And consider this dismaying observation. This chamber has no windows and no doors." His ghostly laugh echoed through the room.
Glue Stick was sweating now. He could now see that the people in the portraits were facing imminent death. He didn't know how this was possible.
"Which offers you this chilling challenge: To find a way out! HAHAHAHAHA! ... Of course, there's always my way."
Glue Stick gulped. "And what's that?"
There was a clap of thunder, sudden darkness, and a brief flash of lightning that revealed a skeleton hanging from the ceiling. Glue Stick's eyes popped out from his head. He screamed louder than he ever had before. Fortunately, the lights returned, and an opening appeared in the wall. There was a way to escape.
"Oh, I didn't mean to frighten you prematurely," the voice said with amusement. "The real chills come later. Now, as they say, look alive, and we'll continue our little tour."
Glue Stick took tiny steps into the next room. He was shaking nonstop. "What if I don't want to continue the tour?"
He was in a long hallway with windows. There was a storm outside that created lots of noise. He thought he saw something unusual in every portrait in the hall whenever the lightning flashed.
"I'm sorry I offended you or something. Okay, I get it now, this place is scary."
"We have nine hundred and ninety-nine happy haunts here, but there's room for a thousand. Any volunteers?"
"I'd rather not," Glue Stick said.
"If you insist on lagging behind, you may not need to volunteer!"
He whimpered and started walking faster. He had the feeling he was being watched. Now the real ride was in sight. Some mysterious black vehicles were moving in a line down a track. He didn't know if he should get on, but he entered one of them anyway. The safety bar lowered itself.
He buried his face in his gloves. "Oh, please let this be over. Please. Why did the helper send me in here? I bet it's laughing its little lightbulb head off. Son of a weasel."
The ride was unusually creepy. He wasn't sure how any of this was possible to simulate. Then at one point, when he was starting to feel a little safer, a different voice spoke out of the darkness.
"Just you wait. I'll teach you the real meaning of fear."
It was Johnson, but Glue Stick knew it had to be an illusion. That guy was gone, and he knew it. Still, his heart kept beating faster. He went deeper into the mansion for several more minutes. He went into a graveyard with lots of singing ghosts. The ride has to end soon, he thought.
Just then, the ride announcer came back to speak. "Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!"
The vehicle moved into a room full of mirrors. Johnson appeared as a ghostly figure sitting beside Glue Stick. His clothes were burnt, and he looked angry. Still, the face briefly grinned in a sickeningly sinister smile like he knew a secret.
Glue Stick was panting. As soon as the safety bar lifted, he darted away to the exit as fast as he could. He could see the beautiful daylight up ahead, but it was only a minor comfort. All he could do now was run to the helper who was still staring at the ashes of the pirates ride. "What was that all about!?"
The helper didn't reply.
"Because of you, I'm being haunted by Johnson's ghost!"
It hesitated before replying. It raised a finger and pointed behind him. "No! Alive!"
"What is that supposed to mean?" Glue Stick demanded.
"It means I'm still alive, you idiot! But very soon, you won't be." Glue Stick spun around, and, to his horror, he saw that Johnson was indeed alive. The man looked tired and beaten but still able to fight.
"New plan," Glue Stick said to the helper. "Let's not hide but RUN!"
Johnson didn't let them out of his sight. He was determined to finish this.
Evina had barely reached Fantasyland before he ran out of breath and had to stop. Gyro and Kate looked similar. It was only a matter of time before the soldiers would catch up with them. Then the worst possible thing happened. A military truck carrying reinforcements arrived at the park. It skidded to a halt in front of them. They couldn't afford to rest anymore.
"Are you kidding me?" Kate cried out.
Evina ran to the nearest visible ride, a snowy mountain.
"I hope this thing is fast," Gyro said.
"Me too," Evina agreed. They hopped inside, and Kate pressed the button. Together as a team, they were getting faster at doing this routine. In the noisy, pitch-black tunnel, going up the hill, he spoke again. "Man, they sure do have a lot of mountains around here. At least this one seems fast, though."
There was a pause. "Do you think they're behind us now?" Kate asked.
Evina tried to find out. "I can't see or hear anything."
There was a roar, and they were faced with a ferocious yeti. It surprised them, but they weren't too scared. They were at the top of the hill now and starting to roll down the track. A few seconds later, they were scared by something else. Soldiers were both in the bobsled behind them and the one to their side. They were using the other track as well.
The ride was old and shaky. As they accelerated, the bumps became harder. It would be very difficult to fight from here.
Kate still managed to maneuver her sword to deflect the bullets shot from both sides. Sometimes the other track would take a different turn and leave them as they went through a tunnel, but often there would be a moment when they saw each other and were shot at. They had to do something else.
Evina tried to stand up even though it was foolish to try. They were moving fast, zig-zagging through icy tunnels, and sometimes the clearance was dangerously low. "I'll take it from here."
"You sure?" she asked.
"Yeah." Evina took her sword and deflected the bullets until the blade began to glow. He didn't notice until they passed through another tunnel how bright it had become.
"Duck!" Gyro shouted.
Evina turned around and saw that he was about to slam into a stone arch. The bobsled would make a quick dive underneath, but he wouldn't make it. It was extremely dangerous, but he decided to make a sudden move. He jumped to do a front flip, and his body barely cleared the arch, slicing it apart with the sword, causing it to fall apart into many pieces behind him. He landed with his feet on his seat down below. It had worked flawlessly.
The bobsled behind them was derailed by the rocks, and the soldiers were launched out of their seats, landing in the water down below.
Now Evina could see the other track. The sword was still glowing, and he now tried something new. He threw it onto the other track, and it stuck in the ground. When the bobsled hit it, there was a shockwave of energy released which flipped it over. The soldiers were catapulted into the water with the others.
The three heroes arrived back at the entrance with amazement.
"That was close," Evina said, wiping the sweat from his face.
"That was amazing!" Gyro beamed. "Did you see that blast of energy?"
"All I saw was Evina being stupid with my sword," Kate murmured. "It's not replaceable, you know."
Some of the soldiers were crawling out of the water slowly, groaning with pain. "I can't believe it!" one of them shouted. "How are we going to explain this?"
Kate ran to the sword, picked it up from the ground, and returned to the soldiers. "Ok, drop your weapons!"
The same man put his hands up and replied, "We lost them."
"Oh, I see... Then everyone, follow me. And don't try any funny business!" She led them to what looked like a storage room concealed behind some nearby bushes. She made them go inside and locked the door. Immediately afterward, she dropped to the ground, looking exhausted. "Ok, now we're safe."
"WAIT!" a metallic voice shouted. A Pencil Pusher was running down the street toward them, his feet clanking on the ground with every step. "I have to talk to you!"
"What is it?" Evina asked. "Is everything alright?"
The cog looked very scared. "No, we are losing! We can't hold them back forever! That man, Johnson if I heard correctly, has returned, and we can't stop him."
"Great. That's exactly what we need." But right in the middle of Evina's sarcasm, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. The cogs were swarming through the streets like they were fleeing something terrifying. Glue Stick and the helper were in that group with them. Their shouts were heard louder and louder as they passed by the Matterhorn. Not far behind them were the soldiers. Johnson was at the front of the group. He looked infuriated but, when he spotted Evina, his rage was about to boil over.
"Dang!" Evina spat. "I wish I had something else that could help!" Then he remembered it, and it had been with him for such a long time that he wasn't sure if this was even the right time. He took the vial of red liquid from his pocket, given to him by his friend Rocky. It was only to be used in an emergency, and this was one. He popped off the cork and held it up to his mouth. "Well, here it goes." Then he swallowed it all in one gulp.
The effects were immediate. His mouth was burning. The heat rose higher and higher, and it never stopped. Something had gone wrong. This was unbearable.
"AHHHHH!" Evina screamed, and the pain gave him sudden energy and reflexes. He began to glow and emit steam. It wasn't the power of The Shadow, but it was still very useful.
A soldier ran up to him, and Evina disarmed him with ease, moving out of the way from any incoming attack. This went on and on, and soon the troops were dumbfounded at how they were losing. He fought alongside the cogs until the heat died down and he was exhausted. The soldiers were knocked out left and right until they were each disarmed. They were escorted away to the storage room that Kate had found. It must have been really crowded in there.
"NO!" Johnson bellowed. He was pinned to the wall of the castle; the cogs had stapled down his clothes.
The chaos was dying down. All of the soldiers were locked up, the toons were on the ground resting, and the remaining cogs were down for repairs. The entire park was a mess scattered with broken pieces of rides, buildings, and cog parts. The head of the Walt Disney statue was missing. But despite all the destruction, Evina was glad that they had finally won the battle.
"I think we really did it, Evina." Gyro smiled at his son. "We saved Toontown."
"Yeah, you did an okay job," Kate admitted. "But I was doing most of the work, of course."
"I appreciate your help," Evina told her. He then went over to check on Glue Stick and the helper. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm ok," he mumbled.
"You really did save us, Glue Stick," Evina said.
"Yep," Evina grinned. "So, um... thanks."
The helper squeaked.
"Oh, and thank you too," Evina added.
With nothing else to fight, Evina knew that the last key to this mystery lied in that man in black stapled to the wall. Johnson had a lot to explain. So, Evina wiped the dust off his shirt, put on a bold face, and marched confidently up to the enemy to stare him in the face. "Alright, you're going to tell me everything!"
The pale face didn't change. His eyes looked up into Evina's eyes with unnatural coldness, almost unreal. "As you wish," he agreed, "but you might not like what you hear."
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