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Evina's eyes opened. He didn't know what time it was, but he felt relatively well rested. No, it was actually very hard to tell how he felt. If I could get a clock in here, it would be useful, he thought.
He stood up and felt his way to the doorknob in the dark. He opened it and stepped into the dimly lit main chamber. The clock said 7:13 in the morning, so it wasn't quite so bad. The helper apparently charged quickly, because it was already checking the systems, reading the monitors, and pressing buttons.
"Are we on course to get to Gyro's first stop?" Evina asked. The helper nodded in reply. "That's nice." Now that he was standing up, he could begin to notice how tired he still was. Sounds of movement coming from the other rooms told him that the others were beginning to wake up as well. He decided it was time to make some food.
There was a cabinet devoted to breakfast, and he scanned the items. A breakfast burrito sounded interesting, and it suddenly reminded him of his friend Rocky. While he waited for his food to heat and inflate, he checked his pocket, making sure that the glass vial he was given was still there. He still had no idea what the thick red liquid was, but it needed to be put somewhere safe, so he quickly returned it to his room.
"How are you doing this morning?" Gyro asked at the kitchen table. Although they were in space, the aroma of food after waking up was something familiar and comforting, and the inside lights were turned up brighter to mimic daylight.
"I'm fine," Evina replied sleepily, still unaccustomed to the effects this strange adventure was having on him.
Gyro finished a glass of orange juice then looked over his shoulder to read a monitor. "Oh, we only have three minutes until we drop out."
"We need to get into our seats," Gyro said. He rushed to clear everything off the table. "Did you bring any formal clothes?"
"What? No," Evina answered.
"Hmm, well, it probably won't matter too much. Just make sure you and Glue Stick have your seatbelts on tight."
Evina went to his seat and buckled up. It didn't matter how tired his body still felt because he was excited to see what their first stop would to be. The countdown timer only had a few seconds left.
"Brace yourselves," Gyro warned. "This may be a little rough."
Suddenly, Evina felt like he was being pushed forward out of his seat. It was the reverse of what he felt yesterday. The sudden deceleration only lasted a few seconds. Then everything returned to normal. After a slow, blurry flash, the stars could be seen outside the window again. They were headed toward a planet that shined silver. "Is that where we're going?"
"Yes," Gyro confirmed.
As much as Evina tried, he could not think of a reason why they were going to this place in particular. But he also found it hard to contain his excitement to see a new world.
The glimmering silver sphere grew larger as they neared it. Something down there was very shiny. The ship fell faster and faster. This world didn't look like it had any atmosphere.
The helper turned off the artificial gravity as the gravity from the world began to take hold of them. Gyro was navigating to a point on the surface that his computer was guiding him too. Soon it looked as though the ground was made of glass, in towers of every height and shape.
They approached the world rapidly, and Gyro attempted to brake as they sunk down past the glass structures to a circle in the ground. A glass dome shut over the circle, trapping the ship inside.
Evina was confused and worried at first. Then he was startled by a sudden flash of red light. Several lasers seemed to be thoroughly scanning the ship, inside and out. After the lasers stopped, there was a hissing sound. Air was moving. According to one of the monitors he looked at, the outside pressure increased until it matched the pressure inside the ship.
"Unseal hatches," Gyro ordered, and promptly the suction sound was heard.
Evina opened the door cautiously and looked out at a beautifully bizarre alien world. He took a step out on the polished metal floor. Then he looked up at the black sky and the many stars and galaxies out there. "Where are we?"
"You'll see very soon," Gyro answered.
Just then, on the far side of the dome, a door opened, and a cog walked out. It was definitely a cog, and Evina was certain of it, but it looked different than anyone he had seen before. It was wearing a formal white suit with a gear on the front.
Evina was finally beginning to understand where they were. He remembered Gyro saying the previous morning how he had sent the President's hard drive to another world. But he didn't know how they had built it all so quickly.
"Welcome, honored guests," the cog said in a familiar, cogish tone. "Please come with me."
Gyro followed it, and Evina was about to go as well, but he noticed that Glue Stick was still sitting in the ship.
"Are you coming?" he asked.
"No way! I just escaped the cogs, and now you come to see more of them? This is cruel. I'll stay here, thank you very much."
Evina smiled a little then turned and ran to catch up with Gyro. As far as he could see, everything was made of glass. Every building and hall could be seen out of every wall. He was walking with Gyro and the cog in a long hallway, lit by bright lights. They soon reached another set of doors that looked like a wide elevator.
"He wishes to see you upstairs," the cog finished, bowing to them as they passed through the doors.
Even the elevator was made of glass, and Evina could see the rest of this huge place behind him. They didn't need to press a button on the elevator because one was automatically selected, and they began a smooth ride upward. They quickly arrived at another set of doors identical to all the others they had seen before. After the doors opened, they stepped out into a large, oval room with guards standing around the perimeter and leather seats set neatly at the center.
In the middle seat sat William Gears, the former Chairman of Cogs Incorporated. He wore a smile, a white suit like the others, and had his eyes wide open.
Evina had seen the eyes many times before, mostly filled with anger in dreams and once on the rooftop above the clouds, filled with confusion and fear, but this time was different. Now the gleaming, silver eyes were full of compassion. The face was no longer tight and rusty but friendly and polished. It didn't look the least bit threatening anymore.
"Welcome Masters Gearloose," the cog spoke in a calm and deep voice. "What a pleasant and unexpected visit."
"Well, I'm sorry that I didn't call ahead of time, but you know, we do live on another planet," Gyro said sheepishly.
"It's perfectly fine," Bill said with a wave of his hand. "Please come and have a seat." Both Evina and Gyro went and sat in leather covered armchairs facing the chairman.
He waited for one of them to speak, but neither did, so he continued. "Um... would you like a beverage?"
"No, thanks, we're fine," Evina said.
The chairman was silent for a moment. "Okay, I'm curious, what are your first impressions?"
"It's wonderful," Gyro answered.
"Yes, I do like your new style," Evina agreed. "But, uh, how did you manage to do it so fast. Weren't you all... extinct only last year?"
"Our new Buildbots work extremely fast and efficiently. This planet is perfect for us as it is filled with metal that's easy to extract. And as for the glass, it's a nice theme, but you wouldn't believe how much work it is to keep clean." He paused for a while, still looking confused at their presence. "Why made you decide to visit The Crystal City?"
Gyro shrugged. "You are our friends, well, our family too, and I created you. We wanted to say hello. That's all."
"Then I take it things are going well back in Toontown?"
Evina hesitated to answer. "Well enough."
"And what about Jared, Mike, George, and my son?"
"They're doing fantastic. Each of them has found the place in Toontown where they fit in."
"That's marvelous. I feel guilty for the way they were treated back then, you know." His eyes drifted away to bad memories. "And I hope that the scars of war have healed," he finished softly.
"They are still healing," Evina replied honestly, "but at least there is progress. Still, I'm afraid we'll find ourselves in war again."
The cog's eyes opened wider than any other time before. This looked like the new information he was seeking. "How so?"
"Well, you see, we have just started another journey. It is also for exploration, as it was before, but there is more to it. We believe there could be a... threat to the entire tooniverse. And it probably has to do with the humans."
The chairman sat perfectly still for a minute, and the silence was awkward. Evina began to wonder if it had been the wrong time to tell him that. "Well, that does sound a little worrisome, but there is nothing that we can't accomplish when we work together."
"Actually, there are only three of us," Evina explained. "The last one is still in the ship."
"What I mean is that we, the cogs, want to be your allies. We want to help you in any way that we can."
The father and son looked at each other. They were flattered.
"So, if you ever need us," Bill went on, "well, we will know. There is that connection, you see?"
"By the way, where is the president?" Gyro asked, looking around.
"Oh, he's busy being retired. He appointed me to be the president now. After all, I once showed to the world that I enjoyed that leadership sort of thing. Perhaps too well."
"So, speaking of this connection," Evina interrupted. "It's obvious that my father and I have this sort of bond, and it likely has something to do with you."
"Well, would you please explain it in some way?" Evina asked. "Did he give some of his life to you? How can metal be alive and have feelings? Well, no offense, I've seen so much of cogs in Cog Nation that I know you are fully aware of your existence. What happened?"
The chairman dropped his head and sighed. "I wish I could tell you, but I still know hardly more about it than you. There seems to be a connection somewhere between us. That much is certain, and it is further evident by looking into your eyes. However, I am also confident that this is not caused by natural means. The source of it I can't even begin to understand."
"So, you don't even have the slightest idea of how to... cure it?"
"No, although I thought you would've been prouder of who you are, master. Have you ever considered how you could be alive when you are technically the product of some human's imagination?"
Evina was now more curious about this thing than he had ever been before. Whether he was going to accept what he had received still remained a puzzle to him. The emotions were all too confusing.
He looked out the glass to see the rest of the city in clear view. It was nothing short of breathtaking. He saw the millions of cogs moving through the glass passageways with that beautiful rhythm that he admired before. In his heart, he was very happy for them, happy for this special side of his family. They had finally reached what they had always wanted, and there was nothing to stop their progress anymore.
Gyro decided to take this brief moment of silence to ask a question of his own. "Say, how did you manage to get that pencil?"
"The pencil? I had almost forgotten about it. We found it, though I don't recall exactly where we found it. Its origins are unknown. Our tests confirm that it is very old. It probably passed through many owners throughout history."
Gyro looked dissatisfied. "But it is unusually powerful."
"Extremely powerful!" the chairman exclaimed. "We were not foolish; we wanted to keep it safe for study. So, until more knowledge is found about it, you should never let it fall into the wrong hands!"
"We are doing all we can to keep it secure."
"Good," Bill said with relief. "Are there any more topics you want to discuss? I'm rather enjoying this."
"Probably not now," Gyro apologized, "but we will meet again."
"I know. So, until then, have a great journey," the cog smiled. It was amazing to see how much he had changed since the last adventure.
The father and son stood up to leave. The chairman rose and saluted them. Evina returned the salute with a smile. He was glad that there was someone in this humongous tooniverse, other than Gyro, who cared for him, wouldn't judge him, and understood his suffering at a personal level. How many others could look at him as a toon instead of a mysterious heroic figure or some peculiar exhibit?
On the way back to the ship, even Gyro had a lighter disposition. Evina had seldom seen this side of him before. "This visit was a very good idea," Gyro remarked. "Even though I still have questions, it gave me the courage to face whatever we do next."
Evina agreed with him, but he smelled something as he approached the ship. It was the odor of cheese.
As the hatch was opened, Glue Stick jerked his head to see them. He was sitting casually in the dark, watching some random film on one of the monitors with a slice of pizza in his hand. It looked like it wasn't the first piece because the place was a mess, and there was already trash scattered around.
Gyro looked noticeably distressed, but surprisingly, he did nothing but groan. The Gearlooses got into their seats, and the hatches were sealed. The helper looked like it was pleading with Gyro that it was innocent and had nothing to do with the horse's behavior.
"Buddy, you still have a lot to learn," Gyro said sternly, but with a faint smile.
The dome opened, and the ship rose into the air. The planet grew more distant. Once again, Evina turned around to looked back at the sphere in awe.
"Next stop, unknown," Gyro announced. They went into warp with a blast.
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