A Cog's Work
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Evina knocked, and a voice told them to come in. Simeon shuffled in nervously behind Evina.
"We were wondering if, we were wondering, we were..." Simeon couldn't seem to get the words out. The Head Hunter's beady little eyes bore into him.
"We wanted to switch jobs," Evina explained.
Their boss looked up at him. "Well, that's quite unexpected. I see no problem with you two switching. But you must be a more productive than before or you'll both be fired."
"Yes, sir," Simeon said, and he carefully inched his way over to the window.
"What is it?" the Head Hunter asked.
"I just wanted to see how high we were," Simeon explained as his eyes looked down. He saw clouds, some above the window and some below. There were countless rows of windows below, and the ground could not be easily seen.
"Are you satisfied?" Mr. Alumi inquired.
Simeon wobbled away slowly, his whole body shaking. "Yes, sir."
"I expect to see you all finished with your work soon," the cog reminded them as Evina closed the door to the office.
Simeon had to grip onto the gear logo embedded in the door to stand properly. "I'm kind of afraid of heights," he said in response to Evina's puzzled look.
"That's what I thought," Evina sighed. "Why did you have to look down?"
The afternoon continued just the same as the morning, but now there was a different task to do. Evina had a list of phone numbers in front of him. Simeon's cubicle was surprisingly close to his. He seemed to be a lot happier now that he was stapling papers. It was just their first day as a cog, and Evina believed he was really not going to enjoy it any more than he did now.
Evina believed most cogs would be excited to work on their first day in the headquarters of Cogs Incorporated. After all, they would be so close to the boss, their idol, the chairman. They found him charming, clever, and classic. They liked him so much that the Sellbots carved his face above the entrance to their Toontown factory! He was just like any other cog with all the nasty traits multiplied a hundred times. He was merciless, cruel, deceitful, and conceited. Evina somehow knew all these things even though he still had barely spent any time seeing the chairman.
It would only be a matter of time before the toons would be booted out of this office. They didn't feel important enough to be working in this building. Evina longed to be with Harry who always had all the right answers. It would be fun to work together, he thought. Harry always knows what to do. He always makes things right, but he isn't here with me now. Evina was alone, and Simeon wasn't all that comforting. He had to use his mind. Already he noticed that the boss was becoming increasingly suspicious of them. He considered the possibility that Mr. Alumi already knew about their plot. Is he going to call the police and have us all splashed with dip? He started to panic.
Suddenly, he stood up and looked around, trying not to attract attention. There were normal cogs surrounding his cubicle. They didn't notice that he was staring at them. They were just busy and normal like they always appeared to be.
Then suddenly he saw it. It was a security camera in a black dome on the ceiling. He knew he had to pretend to be doing something. He had the impression it was looking straight at him. He went to the water cooler and got a drink. Is this the correct way cogs fill their coolant tanks? He panicked and questioned if their hidden identity was already ruined. He saw the camera. It was definitely looking at him while he drank. He sat down with his heart throbbing. He was losing control. Panic was the only emotion he could feel. All the sights and sounds were drowned away. Everything around him was something terrible.
Then there was the voice of Mr. Alumi coming from around the corner. "Take them away."
"What do I do with them?" another cog asked him as their footsteps got closer.
"Destroy them all! Don't let any escape in one piece!"
Evina was screaming inside. The toons were counting on him to keep them safe, and now, he thought, they were all doomed because of his bad acting. He was about to dive under his desk as the cogs walked by. Mr. Alumi was talking to a Downsizer who was carrying a box of credit cards.
"It would be a terrible thing to let one of those fall into the wrong hands," Mr. Alumi finished.
The Downsizer nodded. "Alright, boss." Then he walked away to another room. The sound of shredding was heard.
The Head Hunter looked down at Evina disappointedly. "What are you doing? Are you trying to lose your job on your first day? It's a good thing I came down to see you. You just can't seem to stay on task."
Evina looked up at him. "I'm sorry sir. I was just figuring things out how things work. I promise I'll start work right away."
"Ok," the boss said, "I'm more patient than most other cogs so I'll give you one last chance. Get the work done or you're fired!" The Head Hunter looked up at the black dome on the ceiling and sighed. "I wish they would fix that ridiculous camera," he grumbled. "I want to know when you're working and when you're not!" Then he walked away.
Evina knew there was something wrong with him. Working in the office already seemed to be driving him insane. He didn't know how he would be able to tolerate this for weeks or months when he was already falling apart after barely starting any work. He considered the idea that the thinner air up here might have something to do with his inability to think straight. Then he became curious as to how the other toons were doing. Maybe they already slipped up. Any one little mistake, and you're a dead duck, he reminded himself. But although he was deeply worried, he couldn't allow his fears to stop him from working.
Evina looked at his business cards in the box with his name on them and the words Cogs Incorporated all over it. I wanted an adventure, and this is what I got, he thought. He faintly heard his own familiar voice ringing in his ears.
"This is what I've been looking for!"
"This is my adventure! I'm going to find out where this note came from. It must have something to do with the cogs. And I want to know where the cogs came from! Will you come with me?"
"Whoa! Wait a second! That could be nearly impossible! It could take years, and we might not even survive! Anyway, I have some work to get to."
"Yes, Evina," he told himself sadly. "You have a lot of work to get to."
Evina felt more like a Cold Caller than a Flunky. This was most likely what Pink would be doing all day. He made some of the stupidest phone calls in existence. They seemed to have very little meaning, but the company apparently found them important.
He looked down at his phone list. He only had twelve more calls to make. He figured he had to get it over with, so he punched in the keys and waited while it rang.
"Hello?" a confused voice answered.
"Yes, this is Mr. Evina from the Client Communications Department of Cogs Incorporated," he said with authority. "I am calling about the new product we sold to you. We believe in customer satisfaction and—"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's fine," the voice shot back, and the cog promptly hung up. At least Evina could inform his boss that almost everyone seemed to like their new test product, whatever it was.
There was another moment of ringing, and an annoyed voice shouted, "WHAT IS IT?"
"This is Mr. Evina from the Client Communications Department of—" He didn't have time to complete the sentence before the crazed voice interrupted.
"GET OFF MY PHONE LINE YOU—"
Evina was glad he hung up before the cog finished what he was shouting. Some of the phone calls were just plain scary because they made absolutely no sense at all. Fortunately, there was only one name left on the list.
There was a lot of ringing, and a rusty feminine voice said, "Hello there, is that you?"
"This is Mr. Evina from—"
"Ah, don't cry dear. I got my CDS today, and I'm ready to start eating. Please come over to my place, and we can have a cup of tea. I insist!"
Evina was frightened the first time this happened, but he knew what to do now. "Try calling the nearest mechanic at UFJS-2829-4839-0952" he suggested kindly.
The old cog woman giggled. "What are you doing that for? Come inside before you freeze your circuits off."
Evina hung up and jumped out of his chair feeling very much relieved. It appeared to him that he had finished all of his work. He had never enjoyed having free time so much. After a minute of stretching, he sat back down and called his boss. He told him he finished the phone calls. All the cogs that could reasonably respond to him said they liked the new test product.
"Hmm," Mr. Alumi said. "I would normally give you a lot more work, but it's only your first day. Most level 1 cogs don't find joy in their work until they get a few promotions. You're free to go home at five."
Evina thanked him and put his phone down. He looked at the clock. It read 4:30. He was a bit disappointed that his boss expected him to actually enjoy his work after a few more promotions. That was a bit too much to ask a toon, but he figured he had worried enough for one day, so he needed a break from his troubles.
He looked around at his little cubicle. It did need some decoration, but if he got anything that looked too eye-catching, he knew he would get distracted from his work. The cogs would know he was a toon, and they would all be dead. It was not a risk worth taking.
Everywhere Evina looked, he saw death. He longed to see something toony, but he couldn't find it. He, like everyone else, made the promise to keep each other out of danger. He decided to call Simeon and the other toons to see how they were doing.
He picked up his telephone. Because of his work he had come to hate this particular telephone. Fortunately, he had memorized Simeon's office number. The office was SWPK-3847-1102-5859, and Simeon's extension was #778036.
"Hi, Simeon, this is Evina again. I am finished making those calls you had to make. I have to agree with you when you said some of those cogs were scary."
"I finished stapling, organizing, and filing those forms two hours ago," Simeon said.
"Seriously? Then what have you been doing?"
"I've just been playing Tic-tac-toe with myself."
"Um, no, I don't think it works that way. Anyway, can you get me the extensions for the other Flunkies?"
"Sure thing." It was a good thing Simeon was close to the records room. He went in and found all the phone data for the toons. He told Evina all of the toons' phone numbers.
"Thank you so much, Simeon. I'll call everyone to see when they'll get off work. I'm only glad I don't have to call any more strange cogs."
"Wait, it seems I found the office numbers of several important cogs. The V.P., the C.F.O., and the C.E.O! You won't believe some of the names I found in here. Let's see... Chief Justice... the Chairman!"
"Phone numbers for important cogs? I don't believe it!"
"Well, it's true," Simeon assured him.
"Wait!" Evina exclaimed as Simeon read the phone numbers. "The chairman is in there?"
"Yeah," Simeon replied, "it says here that he's always busy. You would most likely need to leave a message, and the phone line is monitored by high ranking security officials."
Evina thought for a minute. "Knowing how famous and important the chairman is, I don't think he would ever give out his real phone number. I think it's phony, maybe even a trap! I need to talk to Harry about this!"
"Alright," Simeon said, "good luck with that. Just get me out of here when you can!"
Evina hung up and looked at the new number list he quickly scribbled down. He picked up the phone again and began dialing Harry.
"Hello," a metallic voice said from above. Evina was startled and dropped the phone before he could finish dialing. He looked up into the eyes of a Micromanager. She was looking at him from over her cubicle wall. "I'm Michelle," she continued. "Mr. Alumi told me to keep an eye on you. It's something I do quite well."
Evina was already sick of his boss. He wasn't happy to have any more cog relations. "I wish you wouldn't scare me like that," he groaned.
Michelle laughed a little. "I wish this wall wasn't so high. I have to stand on twenty phonebooks to see you."
"Well, I have to make some calls. So, I guess I'll see you later," Evina said with a weak smile.
"Oh, do you need any help? This is one of those terrible days when I don't have enough work to do."
"Oh, no thank you. I appreciate your enthusiasm but can do it myself."
"You're just like all the others. You hog all the work," she rolled her eyes at him before descending.
Evina dialed Harry again. "Hi, this is Evina."
"Hi, why are you whispering?" Harry asked.
"My boss has set up cogs to spy on me." Evina looked up. He was very grateful to know he could hide without the camera recording his suspicious activity.
Harry was shocked. "What have you done!? Now there are spies looking after you?"
"No, no, no, my boss just doesn't trust me much."
"Oh, I see. I was afraid you gave away our identity. I got off work a few minutes ago after spending all day signing papers. Being a Lawbot is not that fun."
"Ok," Evina said. "I'm going to call the other toons and see if we can meet at the station to go home, but I wanted to tell you one thing first."
"What is it?" Harry asked in a weary tone.
"Apparently, we found the chairman's phone number."
"Not a chance, I need to look into that. There have been a lot of strange things happening since we got here. We don't know why the chairman stopped the search, but I know he must have a terrible plan set up."
"That's what I was afraid you would say." Evina set down the phone with a sickening feeling in his stomach and the face of the chairman in his mind. He wondered how one cog of such small size could cause such big trouble. He called the other toons as quickly and quietly as he could.
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