The Lost Slave
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Evina believed he was fully content and ready to start the new adventure. This was finally the time for some real awesomeness to begin. "So, away we fly, I guess."
Gyro looked sheepish. "Uh, I need to make one more stop." Evina shot back a distrustful glare. "This is the very last stop! I promise! I want to make sure we have all the supplies we need, stuff that could be found in Cogtropolis. For an adventure of this scale we must be completely prepared."
Evina decided to accept this last stop and he rested again to save all possible energy when the time came to explore. This time they were traveling to Cogtropolis across the ocean, a different way than the route they had taken last year going the opposite way.
The ship rose higher until there was nothing but a blue blur below. Whereas it took the toons weeks before to get to Cog Nation, Evina was getting a trip there in an hour and a half.
But after resting and possibly dozing off for a short time, he looked out and saw an end to the blue. There was a stretch of grey needles out there, Cogtropolis, the capital of the extinct Cog Nation. It was tremendous in size, especially when visible from high about the ground. The edge did indeed touch the ocean.
Evina suddenly remembered his night long ago on the roof of their cog apartment, smelling the seawater in the warm wind. This memory brought back so many others, and he had to assure himself that his friends at home would be safe. He lost them once and he was determined he wouldn't let that ever happen again.
"Welcome back to our city." Gyro proclaimed. "Population: us." He landed the ship on a random street. "This really won't take too long."
"I'll be patient." Evina answered, but he exited the ship as well.
"Please, don't wander too far." His father begged him.
"Seriously, dad, this place is one hundred percent empty."
Gyro smiled weakly, something he did quite often, and then slowly walked away.
Evina strolled in the opposite direction. Because it was the other side of the world, it wasn't day yet. The tiny lights from dawn were barely visible on the horizon, but it was just enough light for him to see where he was going.
It was a very strange but thoughtful experience. This was the great empire he had inherited, a giant city of gray and metal with not a single living thing in sight. All he heard was the sound of wind blowing through the gaps between the buildings.
He looked up and saw the countless rows of needle-like towers pointing up to the clouds, giants standing in the darkness. One of them far away stood above the others. It was the headquarters of Cogs Inc. Today it looked much less intimidating than before. This was probably due to the fact that the cogs were no longer a threat to anyone, but the faint light of dawn also made it look beautiful. How is it possible that I survived falling off that thing?
Although some things appeared be the same as before, there were so many details that were different. As he walked down the street, there was tons of litter everywhere. Rusted pieces of cogs and cars blanketed every surface on the ground. Up above, the city lights were gone as the power was cut off. Many of the buildings had broken windows, caused by the explosion of cogs. Together, the whole place looked like some abstract piece of art.
Now he figured he had walked far enough, and he turned to head back to the ship before he got lost. After all, everything in each direction looked very similar.
But an unfamiliar noise scared him. It didn't belong. He immediately stopped and turned around to see where it had come from. Was it really that manhole? No, that can't be. He thought. But then he heard it again. There was something under there, and it sounded alive.
He approached it cautiously. He had not expected to encounter anything unusual until after their adventure began. Lifting the metal cover, he slowly peeked inside. The sound was louder, and he could smell food. Is it possible that someone could live in here? But somehow after all I've seen happen, I'm starting to believe that anything is possible. He shouted down. "Hey, is someone down there?"
A small yelp was heard and the scuffling of feet was heard. A pair of eyes stared back at Evina, the rest of the body hidden. "Are you going to hurt me?"
"What? Why would I-"
"Oh, well in that case, feel free to come down."
Evina hesitated, but it did not sound like someone unfriendly so he climbed down the ladder and into the tunnel.
The place was set up like a tiny house with everything stuffed into one room. Trash and food were lying everywhere and a television was tuned in on a soap opera broadcasting from Toontown. A toon was sitting in a dingy armchair in front of the screen. It was a horse, and even though the lighting was bad, he thought it looked brown.
"What... how are you here?"
"I could ask you the same question." The horse replied.
"But... don't you realize this is Cogtropoilis?"
"Uh, duh." The other shot back.
Evina wasn't sure how sane this toon was, or how it was even possible for him to live in a place like this.
"So anyway, how did you get past the cogs?" the horse continued, interrupting Evina's thoughts. "I thought there weren't supposed to be any toons in Cog Nation."
"All the cogs are gone. The whole nation was destroyed."
"Oh really? I was beginning to wonder why I haven't seen one lately. It felt like a while."
"Half a year to be more precise. Now you have to answer some of my questions." The duck demanded. "How did you get here?"
The other toon sighed and turned off the TV, leaning back into his ugly chair. "Well, it was long ago. I was the victim of a strange event. I used to be normal like you, honestly I was. One day I was in the Sellbot Factory in Toontown, fighting cogs, but when we got to the supervisor, he was busy talking to someone I didn't recognize. It was a level 32 Mr. Hollywood, apparently the supervisor's supervisor. All the toons with me immediately fled when they saw him, as you could imagine. And I stood there alone facing a bunch of Sellbots, and nobody frightened me more than that Mr. Hollywood. He kidnapped me, seriously.
"After traveling with limited oxygen for a while I arrived in Cogtropolis. The cog wanted me to be his slave and perform a lot of menial work for free. I had no choice, and for a while I wondered what my life was worth. But that cog became more nervous every day. It turns out he wasn't supposed to be taking any toons into the nation, and he didn't want me to be discovered.
"And so he hid me in these sewer maintenance tunnels. Nobody ever came down here so it was the perfect place to live. My work for him became less and less frequent until at last he gave up on me. I still had a huge supply of stuff like food so that wasn't a problem, and meeting a cog became very rare. Then I suddenly stopped hearing them at all."
Evina was shocked. "So you mean to tell me you've been living down here for years and never left?"
"Yeah, I guess. Time flies when you're doing... well, I don't really know what I'm doing." He tossed another empty bag of chips away.
The duck rubbed his head and leaned back against the tunnel's metal wall. "I can't believe this."
"Yeah, well stuff happens, man." The horse told him. "It's a thing we call life."
"What is your name, anyway?" Evina demanded.
The slave looked up and pondered. "Hmm, I don't really remember. But the cog nicknamed me Glue Stick."
"Actually, I think I've become accustomed to it. Now who are you?"
"I am Evina Gearloose."
"Pleased to meet you. Anyway, it was a nice chat but I have some more shows to catch up on."
If anything shocked Evina, nothing was as strong as this. "No, you have to get out of here!"
"Come on!" He grabbed the horse and dragged him to the ladder. It seemed like the other toon had become too weak to climb so Evina had to push him out.
"It's cold out here." He said as soon as he stepped out.
"Get used to it!" Evina climbed out and sat next to the freed slave who looked like he completely forgot what the outside world looked like. "Now we need to get you back to Toontown."
"Uh, no offense, but I don't think I belong there anymore. Those days are long gone. Do you even have a clue what I've been through?"
Evina felt like retorting with a lengthy explanation of his troubled past, but he ignored it. "Alright then. Would you like to come with me and my father?"
"On an adventure out to other worlds."
The horse didn't seem to believe him.
"Really it would be great."
The other one sighed. "Ok, why not..."
"But as long as you are willing to accept danger."
Glue Stick gave him a weird look. Evina suddenly realized that he shouldn't ask that sort of thing so soon after saving some guy's life. "You know what? Anything that happens will probably be better than going back to Toontown... as long as it's not boring."
"Alright, let's go!" Evina took the horse's dirty hand and led the way back to the ship. Although this guy was annoying, he once again felt that excitement at the thought of having someone else to come with them. Hopefully this guy will prove to be useful. Wait, okay, maybe not. I'll ask Gyro anyway.
"You're weird." the horse said unexpectedly.
"Well how come your eyes are all funny?"
Evina didn't want to explain, he just led the other back to the ship. Once they came up to it, Evina opened the door and let him step inside.
"Hmm, nice place you got." Glue Stick remarked. "Can it really fly?"
"Oh yeah." The duck beamed. Then there was a loud squeak behind him. He didn't realize that Gyro's helper had stayed in his ship. Looking at the little robot, he could clearly see its anxiety of having an unfamiliar toon in the ship.
Evina tried his best to him it down. "Don't worry. He's a good guy."
The tiny robot didn't seem to believe him, and turning to look out of the back window it saw Gyro returning to the ship with a ton of random stuff.
The old chicken slid a door open with a free finger and looked up at the others. He instantly dropped all the objects when he saw Glue Stick and his mouth fell open.
"It's alright dad." Evina calmed him. Then in great detail he explained how he had found the horse and what had happened to him. The whole time Gyro's expression told him he was unconvinced.
"So even if he is telling the truth, how will he be of any use to us?" Gyro asked with his arms folded. He sat down in the pilot's seat and glared at the horse.
Evina wasn't sure how he was going to answer. He didn't seem to think this through very well. And maybe Gyro had also become too used to the idea of going alone with his son.
"Well, I know a lot of stuff." Glue Stick answered.
"Like?" demanded Gyro.
"For example, all that cog tech that you dropped." He pointed out each item. "That's a neutrino modulator, and that's a negative energy battery unit, and that is... ooh, a full set of industrial grade gralt ion turbo engine fuses."
Gyro looked mildly impressed, and even Evina hasn't been expecting that. "Oh, alright. You can come."
The horse looked pleased and comfortable for the first time in who knew how long.
Gyro took out a clipboard. "Now it's time for the final inventory." He glanced at his helper which saluted back at him. "Food and water supply." He began. There was an affirmative squeak. "Fuel." Squeak. "Backup energy." Squeak. "Spare parts." Squeak. "Pencil." Squeak.
Evina jerked his head to see where the helper was pointing to. The giant magical pencil they had stolen from the cogs last year was locked away in a drawer at the back of the ship.
"Good, good." Gyro smiled. "And now for the systems."
The helper walked over to a series of computer controls against a wall and turned it on. Evina hadn't seen this system turned on before. It was covered in lots of multicolored lights and monitors and emitted a mechanical hum.
"All systems are go." The chicken announced. "Seal hatches."
There was a suction noise and the doors were sealed airtight. They didn't look like they would ever be opened in this state.
"Prepare for liftoff."
Evina made sure that everyone's seatbelts were secure, and then he gave his father a thumb up.
"Here we go!" Gyro grinned. The ship rose into the air, above the street, above Cogtropolis, and higher than they had ever gone before that year. With incredible speed it blasted away into the sky.
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