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The excitement was almost too intense to bear. Evina ran through the Goofy Speedway tunnel to find his kart. But he wasn't the only one; there were hundreds of others rushing to get their vehicles, preparing to go out and explore.
One of the old grease monkeys was leaning up against the outside of the kart shop, watching the other toons with a kind smile. If anyone here could remember a time when the highway was open, it would be him.
Evina walked up to the toon. "Hi, um, would you happen to know how to get to Duckburg?"
The monkey turned to look at him. His eyes focused on the medal around the duck's neck. "I see you're one of the toons that helped clean up the cog mess."
"Then I must thank you again for your service to Toontown. If anyone deserves to get to Duckburg, it would be you. Now, let me think. Alright, you should get on Highway Blue going north. Take this for a few miles until you get to Pluto Park. There you should get on Highway Green going westbound to Calisota."
"Thank you so much," Evina beamed. He ran to the highway, hopped into his kart, and sped away. It was finally time to be free.
This was unbelievable. The world that he thought he knew so well was in fact so much better. Toontown was huge and beautiful. He was flying through the desert on the highway with the warm wind blowing through his feathers. Every minute he had to check that this wasn't just a wild dream. He had judged everything so wrong and didn't want to think badly of the toons again, even if they had kept all of this secret.
Signs along the road told him he was getting very close to Duckburg. The first indications of population were visible. The road winded back and forth up a series of hills, the anticipation rose, and when he made it to the top he gazed down at the other side with amazement. In a valley between the hills, on the coast of a huge sparkling ocean, there was a gorgeous city. Evina instantly felt like he belonged there, even though he was only seeing it from above.
He rolled into the city in awe. Some of the ducks were on the streets waving to new visitors. He wondered if any of them could be related to him, even in a distant way. Deep inside he wanted to have toons who would love and accept him. And where did dad go to, anyway? If I remember correctly, he just disappeared once the ceremony ended.
As he went further, he saw some teams of ducks cleaning up piles of scrap metal, large gears, and other debris. There must have been some really strong cogs here. I guess I can see why the Toon Council didn't want anybody to come and get hurt, even though the ducks could've used the help.
Now, he was feeling properly responsible. He was living in his own house, albeit a small one, in an old neighborhood, not very far from where his father resided. They would now have plenty of time to meet and talk together whenever they wanted to. He was happy, and his life was unusually peaceful. Money was something he had never really had much of, but that didn't feel like such a big problem. He had explored the town and met some nice toons, although he didn't expect he would make close friends anytime soon.
Today, however, was very odd. There was one thing that he couldn't explain. Why did Scrooge want to see him so badly? Evina was wearing his best clothes as he walked up the path to the mansion. It was so large and opulent that it was almost intimidating.
He nervously rang the doorbell, and, after a few moments, the butler opened the large door. He let Evina step inside to behold the magnificence. This was even larger and more luxurious than The Golden Gear Hotel in Cogtropolis. Every detail from the paint to the floor to the furniture was a statement of extreme wealth.
"Ah, if it isn't my favorite nephew!" Scrooge said, slowly coming down the staircase.
"You're everyone's uncle, aren't you?" Evina replied.
Scrooge chuckled. "I have been wanting to properly meet with you for some time now."
Evina stepped forward to shake the billionaire's hand, but he didn't expect to receive a tight hug. "Uh... thanks."
Scrooge released him. "You saved us, but more importantly, you brought me back home to all of my money."
"Really, it's not that big of a deal. I didn't do it for fame."
"Follow me," the old man said. Evina followed him reluctantly to another long hall with a high ceiling. Each of the walls was lined with dozens of extremely large paintings in golden frames. "You live in Duckburg now, so you should learn about its history, a history that you have diligently preserved and are now a part of."
Evina was going to protest, but he kept his mouth shut and continued following Scrooge. He was trying to enjoy his time here as much as he could.
"For example, Michael Mallard the Maverick. His traits remind me of you: strong, courageous, handsome, and continuously fighting for freedom. Wouldn't you agree?"
Evina was nervous. He looked up at the impressive painting and just shrugged. Scrooge continued talking about famous leaders and heroes of duck history until they reached the end of the hall where there stood an empty frame.
"And this... this is for you," he said. He turned toward Evina who looked really confused now. "Well, aren't you excited to be in the hall of history? Don't you want to be one of the greats?"
"Well, to be honest, I'm not sure. Do I really deserve all of this?"
"Why, of course, you do! You destroyed Cog Nation!"
"Yeah, and it's nice. But will I ever be able to have a normal life? Will this ever fade away? I want the toons to remember working together to fight the cogs. I want them to remember what they were supposed to have learned. History is supposed to remember their progress, not just one toon who became a war hero. That was never the point!"
Scrooge stood there silently with his mouth slightly open. He leaned more heavily on his cane.
"Anyway, thank you for the tour. It was... nice." Evina excused himself to leave.
What is all of this about? Evina was watching some kind of rally in a park. A duck stood in front, and he was covered head to foot in paint to make him look red.
"Cogs... they're so stupid, am I right?" the actor said.
The crowds cheered. The real Evina looked on at this horrible demonstration. He couldn't believe his eyes.
"Yeah, well I'm normally modest," he continued, "but I did DESTROY THEM ALL!"
The fans cheered. Now Evina noticed that many of them were holding signs with crossed-out pictures of cogs and wearing shirts with Evina's face on them.
"But now I have nobody else to save. So, if anyone has their doodle stuck in a tree, you know who to call. Me!"
Evina stormed away from the scene as the crowd went wild. He couldn't stand to watch it anymore. He didn't want to be angry or cause any trouble. He only wanted everyone to just keep their mouths shut and forget about him.
He closed his mind for a minute and stood in the darkness to rest. The memories speeding through his head were getting more and more unpleasant, so he decided to try and reflect on something more interesting. He sent his mind to another time and place.
A large group had gathered in the Toontown Central park. Evina walked over to this scene to see what was going on. They appeared to be shopkeepers from all over Toontown. It was quite a peculiar sight to see until he noticed who was standing in the front. Then everything suddenly made sense.
A brown duck was standing there with oddly-shaped feathers on his head and a smug look on his face. Evina recognized him as Jared Sparx, the former Vice President of the cogs. Evina had brought him and his coworkers back to life as toons after Cog Nation was destroyed.
"Now, I know you have been trying to do your best," Jared began in a professional tone, "but come on, people! We need to do better than this!" His eyes turned to Sticky Lou who gulped and looked back with fear. "What do you sell, son?"
"Uh... blue glue."
Jared found this a little strange but dismissed the feeling after remembering that toons were accustomed to strange things like that. "Alright, but how do you convince people to buy your product?"
"I... sit on it to prove how strong it is."
Jared's eyes grew large. He backed away, looking disappointed.
"But I speak in rhymes when toons come in. I get extra points for that, right?"
Jared ignored him. "And what about you?" he pointed to another toon.
"I sell ice cubes on a stick."
"Well, first I take water, freeze it into cubes, and then I put them on sticks. It isn't very popular, I must admit."
Jared's face tightened more in frustration. "Toontown no longer has a gag-based economy! How are we supposed to build a fiscally healthy future with products that serve no functional purpose?" He pointed to a graph on an easel behind him. "If you don't adapt, your businesses will fail! Toons are looking for products that suit their needs, and it is your job to provide them. Why? It's because, as I used to say, marketing is the spark of life!"
Evina turned away from this scene smiling. He was glad to see that the V.P. had found his new purpose in life.
"What are you doing?" the blue horse shouted above the noise of the machinery. A pig looked like he was about to doze off. "All these coins must be in perfect condition!"
Evina had just entered the busy Toontown mint that Mike Grease, the former C.F.O. of the cogs, had taken control of since he became a toon.
Mike spotted him. "Ah, Evina. How good it is to see you. I take it everything is going well for you?"
"Yes, thank you," Evina said. "You look like you're doing a good job here yourself."
"I am. Still, we have a lot of work to do if we're going to replace the old jellybean currency with a more sustainable one. I mean, money shouldn't rot or decay, and it should never be... edible."
"Well, it's nice to hear you have a plan. So far you guys have been doing pretty well, you know, adjusting to toon life."
"Well, it has its perks. Most importantly, there's not a single train around for miles! Ah... those things are going to give me nightmares for years to come."
Evina didn't want to evoke any more awkward thoughts, so he smiled and turned to leave. "See you later."
The red rabbit sat in his tidy office with his papers sitting in unusually orderly piles on his desk. His hands were gently folded together. "Come in."
Evina entered and took a look around. "Nice place you got here."
"It will do," George Sprocket said. He was formerly the Chief Justice of the cogs and now performed that duty for the toons.
"I'm just visiting everyone who... changed. I want to make sure that you're adjusting to your new life."
"Yes, I'm doing just fine," George said. He tried to grin, but it was difficult.
"Is there something wrong?"
"This world seems to have more issues than I anticipated. Have you seen some of the things going on in Toontown?"
Evina's mind briefly glimpsed back to the demonstrations, the rallies, and the imposters. "Yeah, I think I know what you mean."
"It's my responsibility to maintain social order," George said, "but that will only continue to work if the toons take responsibility and show respect for their leaders. They must never forget the lessons that Mr. Gearloose taught them."
"I don't think things will be as bad as before. The cogs helped them get along very well. And you are a great lawmaker."
"Perhaps I would be better as a law enforcer. Well, the backup plan, if needed, would be to bring back the cogs."
"No!" Evina shot back. The suggestion frightened him, especially now that both sides were his family. "A war worked once, but we cannot let history repeat itself, maybe with much worse consequences than before."
George sighed. "Well, I'll do my best."
"Please do. You're doing a great job." Evina turned and exited the room.
A pink bear raised a golf club to swing.
"Stop! You can't use your driver for that!" The light green dog was Robert Gears, former C.E.O. of the cogs. He bent over and picked up a different club, handing it to the bear. "This is your putter, much more suitable for this type of hit."
Evina was striding toward them, and he was quickly noticed. "Evina! That is the real you, right? I haven't seen you around here for a while."
"Well, becoming a celebrity overnight can make one very busy and stressed. Anyway, how are things going for you?"
"Oh, excellent," he smiled. "Golfing full time is something I've always dreamed of doing."
The bear waited patiently, watching as the two of them talked.
"I have a personal question to ask if you don't mind," Evina said. "Do you ever... miss your father much?"
Robert sighed, looking back at his memories in the old days. "Sometimes I do, but other times," he paused, "I don't. I'm not as sad as I thought I would be. I mean, after I found out he was a crazy toon hunter who wanted to destroy me, I lost my trust in him."
"So... you wouldn't want to see him again?"
"No, and I think I can speak for the others too. We are content with what we are. Even after I heard your story of talking to him in a dream, I'm glad those days are over."
"Well, I wish you the best of luck," Evina said. "And I hope a life of golfing is all you wanted it to be."
Robert watched him walk away, but then he had a sudden thought. "Wait! So, what are you going to do next, Evina? You know, after all that has happened, are you going to find a normal life?"
Evina stopped in his tracks, and his smile disappeared. "I don't know. Maybe I—" He walked away without finishing, feeling confused.
Evina had had enough rewinding through the memories of his past, and he was ready to return to the present, but a final vision came into view without his consent. He wasn't sure when or where it had happened. No, this wasn't his memory, or anyone's for that matter. This was actually happening in the present, live through the eyes of his father. A sudden connection had been made, and now Evina had a clear view of the interior of Flippy's office. The cyan dog sat behind his desk and didn't look very happy at all.
"—so, that's basically the plan," Gyro finished.
Flippy remained motionless. He stared back into the inventor's face with his mouth open slightly, looking rather menacing. "What plan? That's no plan at all."
Gyro looked surprised. "So... are you going to wish us luck?"
"Do you think this is some kind of joke?"
Gyro began sweating, and he hesitated before speaking again. "Um, excuse me?"
"You probably think this is funny, don't you?"
"I... I don't think I understand—"
"Let me put it to you this way," he explained. "For the last sixteen years or so, you've been a rebel away from home, fighting monsters, doing who knows what else, and disregarding the law. All of this while your robots changed the fate of our world."
Gyro didn't answer. He looked back at the leader of the Toon Council with fear.
"I don't like this at all."
"Ok, it wasn't perfect, but it helped Toontown!"
"That was luck! You should be happy that your little war didn't destroy everything! And no matter what you may think, you're not the leader here. These decisions aren't yours to make. How can you expect me to trust you? How can I know that when you take these situations into your own hands everything won't turn out disastrous? You have no idea how serious this situation is, do you? How can you expect me to believe anything you say?"
Gyro's mouth was sealed shut.
"Because, if you've been hiding this information from us, that concerns me. The security of Toontown is of utmost importance to the Toon Council. You aren't holding back any details, right? If so, then I would like to hear about it this instant."
Flippy sighed loudly and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes, and raising a paw to rub them. "Sadly, you leave me with no choice but to let you go. All I can do is pray that you can fix this mess."
"I will fix it."
"And you can't come back until this problem is resolved."
"Then go," Flippy finished, "and um... good luck."
Gyro stood up to leave the terrible tension of the office.
Evina's mind quickly zoomed back to his own body in the present. He still wasn't sure what was so bad on Earth that was putting Toontown's safety in jeopardy. He especially didn't want to tell Gyro what he had accidentally seen. It was best to just forget about it and enjoy their adventure as best as they could. He had to try.
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