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Evina passed the time by watching the cogs walk by and disappear through doors. The unusual atrium was unlike anything he had seen in Toontown. He decided to walk over to the center and look over the balcony. He could see the seven glass levels. Three underground, three above ground, and the main level. He was amazed at how all the cogs were moving. They walked smoothly and carefully in perfect relation with each other. A robot may not seem like much, but when they work in sync they make something amazing, he thought. The movement of the cogs was mesmerizing and somehow beautiful.
Evina was reminded of something that he was taught. A famous Micromanager once said: "A company is like an enormous clock. It only works if all the little cogs mesh together."
His eyes were drawn to the wall farthest from the main entrance, the giant, black door. It was the easiest thing to see because it was even larger than the door going to the C.F.O.'s vault in Toontown. There were always several cogs in black suits guarding that door.
Now he understood it. That's where he had seen them before. The black-suited cogs were only found in the capitol. That was the type of cog that interrogated Pink.
Evina reasoned they had to be some sort of secret security for whatever was in there. The toons would obviously never be able to get through such a highly guarded area as that. The door guarded by cogs nearest to him was clearly the elevator to the 84091005 hall or something like that, the meeting hall he was supposed to go to.
He ate a cream pie slice secretly when he got hungry and looked at a clock on the wall that read 12:45. He couldn't believe how fast the time went by. He was sure it had been moving slowly.
The traffic of the cogs in the atrium didn't seem to decrease. In fact, it seemed to increase, especially on this level. A lot of them were trying to get into the highly guarded door, which looked just like all the other doors.
"No!" a policeman shouted. "This hallway has been reserved for the secret meeting!" A Newsbot was trying to bring a news crew in, but they were denied access. Evina decided it was about time for him to go, so he pushed his way into the crowds.
"Get out of here, Flunky!" one policeman shouted at him.
"I have to go to the important meeting!" he said.
"Oh... sure you do!" the policeman shot back sarcastically. "Don't make me arrest you," he spat.
Evina pulled the memo out of his pocket to show the policeman.
The cog looked embarrassed as he saw the paper. "Oh, go ahead."
The police let him slip through into the elevator. He was alone in the small room. All the cogs were trying to push their way through, and one of the police turned around and closed the door before anybody else could get in.
The shouting of the cogs instantly stopped. The only thing left was the echo ringing in his ears. He was stuck in a little elevator box with a single light above his head. The sudden silence was a shock to him after the many hours of hearing cogs talk.
"Going to section 84091005," a female cog voice said from a speaker. A gate slid between the elevator room and the door, and the room moved backward slowly.
"Please hold on tight, keeping all parts in the vehicle at all times," the voice continued.
Evina held onto the bars with all his might. He appeared to be in a prison cell that was moving farther and farther away from the door.
He knew something was about to happen and then it did. There was a rumbling, and he rocketed backward at an incredible speed. The door disappeared in the distance. The elevator box was on a monorail track, and it was shooting through the tunnel like the subway, maybe even faster.
Then he went into a giant, white room. There were thousands of monorail tracks weaving in and out in hundreds of different directions. Little elevator boxes like his own were traveling to different parts of the building. There appeared to be no visible ceiling and no visible floor to the room. It gave Evina a terribly lost feeling. He wasn't sure if it was real or not because it was so indescribably huge.
The elevator was slowing down, and he was no longer held to the gate by force. He observed all the hundreds of tunnels going through the wall. Evina wondered how many off-limits parts of the building there were. There were countless different rails and countless destinations.
The elevator box screeched to a halt, and Evina watched the other elevator boxes zoom by. He wondered if it was broken.
Then the elevator squeaked and shot up vertically. He realized it had just switched tracks, and he was now heading up. He felt lost seeing so many boxes and rails in a tangle of confusion. The elevator ascended a few hundred feet up the building before it went through a hole in the ceiling.
Then the elevator stopped again, and it switched to another track. It went left this time, and Evina was pushed against the right wall. As the lights passed him on the ceiling in the tunnel, he could catch glimpses of tracks branching off from the one he was on now. The elevator turned onto one of them, and then it reached a dead end. It was another door.
The elevator approached the door slowly, and it stopped with a loud clang. "Welcome to section 84091005: private conference rooms," the voice said as the gate started to slide away.
Evina noticed that there was no doorknob on the inside of the door, and he began to panic. He was about to attempt kicking down the door when it clicked and opened automatically. He fell out onto the hallway floor, and a security guard stood there looked down on him. He was miles away from the atrium, but the whole journey took only about a minute and a half.
He stood up awkwardly and closed the elevator door. He was in a long, narrow hallway. There were no windows, so he knew he was deep inside the building, and there was no way to escape. Everything was made of black marble, and the only light came from a few dim lights in the ceiling, making him feel even more nervous than before.
He looked at the security guard who was still eyeing him suspiciously. "Get under the scanner," he said, and Evina obeyed.
It was the same process as the airport. He was scanned for weapons and dangerous materials. After a bit of whirring, it was complete.
"And now for the toon test," the cog said dully as he picked up a glowing, green dropper. Evina's mind screamed. He wondered how he could have forgotten about the toon test.
"Some cogs have submitted complaints of scars on their arms," the cog informed him, "so we've diluted it to one-tenth strength. It should still have the same effect, though," he said.
The cog pulled away the sleeve on Evina's left arm. He placed a single drop of the dip solution there. Intense pain suddenly seared through Evina's arm, and it began to spread. It instantly burned him, and he felt it sink like a nail being hammered deep into him. "It doesn't look like you're melting that much," the cog said. "You can go. It's in room D," he told him.
Evina tried to smile and walked away. The dent in his arm was growing wider and deeper. He felt a hole forming in his arm. He ran down the empty hallway as quietly as he could. Luckily, the guard wasn't paying any attention to him. He looked at the sign on the nearest door. It was the maintenance room. He ran inside, turned on the sink, and put his arm under the stream of cold water. The burning feeling instantly went away, and Evina sighed with relief.
The room appeared to be empty. He looked up at the mirror to make sure nobody was coming in. His face was covered with sweat. Then he hesitantly pulled up his sleeve to the light. He nearly screamed from the shock. There was a large hole that cut completely through his wrist. If the dip was full strength, he knew he would be completely melted away by now. He pulled his sleeve down as low as he could so nobody would see it. Then he walked back out into the hall.
The guard was still standing there. He still didn't seem to notice that anything was wrong. Evina went further down the marble Hallway until he saw a door with a golden Conference Room D engraved into it. This was the room. He opened the door a crack and peeked inside. There were several cogs quietly gathered around a long, polished wooden table in a black room. A spotlight was shining on the table. At the end of the room, in the shadows, was a silver gear mounted on the wall.
He opened the door all the way and courageously marched inside. It was just as dark as the hallway, almost scary. He pretended he was alone and tried to ignore the cogs that were staring at him. There were a few level 50 Lawbots, but almost all of them were wearing black suits. One of them silently pointed to an empty seat on the left side of the table, and Evina took it.
"How are you?" one of the black-suited cogs asked.
"I'm fine," Evina said; he hated how everybody was so terribly quiet. The only noise heard was the deep humming of the air vent above. All their attention was focused on him.
"I'm pleased to meet you, Mr. Evina," the same cog replied. "I am the secretary of the UCN Department of Security." He put his hand across the table, and Evina shook it lightly, so he wouldn't reveal the hole in his arm to everyone.
"I wonder where Bill is," another black-suited cog remarked.
"I wish he didn't have to come," the Secretary of Security said. "We don't need to hear his ridiculous theories and pointless monologues. This is no place for the talk of commerce. Bill acts like he's the president."
The door opened, and the chairman came in with two policemen. "Did I hear someone call my name?" he inquired in the familiar eerily deep voice.
Evina's nightmare had come true. The terrible cog with his evil, piercing eyes was here. He knew it was bound to happen sometime, and now it was true. He hoped the meeting would be short, very short. He couldn't bear to be in here with him.
"Hello, Bill," another black-suited cog addressed him.
"Good day, cabinet members," he replied drearily as he and his guards walked over to them.
Evina thought he felt a wave of evil rush over him as the chairman walked by. He tried to remain motionless, but he couldn't stop quivering from fear.
"How is the president doing?" the chairman asked nobody in particular. "I haven't talked to him for a while."
"He is doing just fine, Bill," an irritated Secretary of Security spat. "Now, may we begin?"
"Now, now," the chairman said irritably, "we haven't even taken role yet!" The chairman snapped his fingers, and there was a cloud of smoke. It cleared away quickly, and Evina saw a typewriter had appeared in front of him. The Secretary of Security now had a sheet of paper in his hands.
The Secretary of Security gave the chairman a loathing glare before reading the paper. "We begin this meeting on October 18th, year 15 of the cogs. Secretary of Security for the United Cog Nation, Thomas Tin, will preside. We apologize for the mistake on the meeting memo. This conference will end at five o' clock, not three. I will now take roll. Secretary of State is present. Secretary of War is present. Secretary of the Treasury is present. Secretary of Security is present. All congressional representatives are present. Mr. Evina, the scribe is present. Special guest William Gears, Chairman of Cogs Incorporated, is present, and Robert Gears, C.E.O of Cogs Incorporated is..."
Everyone looked around, but the C.E.O was obviously not there.
"...not present," the cog finished.
Just at that moment, the door swung open, and the C.E.O. came rolling in. He was on a smaller platform in order to fit through the door. He wasn't wearing his usual golfing outfit but instead a formal Bossbot suit. Evina was not used to seeing the C.E.O. without his hat.
"I apologize for being late, Mr. Gears," Robert said.
"That's alright, son, we're about to begin," the chairman told him. Robert rolled over to a corner and waited.
Mr. Tin looked like he was going to explode with impatience. "All members are present. The conference will now begin. All guards are dismissed."
The guards that came in with the chairman left and locked the door behind them. The chairman took a seat at the end of the table and waited for the Secretary of Security.
Mr. Tin was an odd-looking cog. He looked kind of like a Flunky with smaller glasses. He had black hair and gray skin, and he was much taller than real Flunkies. "Who invited you, anyway?" he demanded of the chairman.
Bill smiled smugly. "You did, of course! We are here to help develop products that could aid the government. I believe we are all working toward the same goal. Isn't that right, son?"
"Yes, sir," mumbled Robert.
"And please do not be late again," Bill said sternly. "I am not pleased with cogs who don't keep their promises. You remember what happened last time, don't you?"
Robert looked at Evina in his Flunky suit and shuddered. "Yes, sir."
Mr. Tin let his anger go. "Mr. Gears! This is my meeting! You don't run the nation, you know!"
"I believe we are all aware of that, Tom; however, I seem to be benefitting this nation much more than anyone of you." The chairman seemed to remain calm the entire time. He seemed pleased with himself. He knew nobody was going to argue with him.
"Let's get started. Begin typing, Mr. Evina," ordered Mr. Tin.
Evina immediately ran into a problem. All the letters were in the wrong order. He couldn't figure out why the keyboard began with the letter 'Q.' He typed as fast as he could but could not type everything that they were saying.
"First of all, it is my job to keep everyone in this nation safe. Sure, we all know that a group of toons trespassed on our lands, but nobody should fear. After talking with the president, we finally have a plan." Mr. Tin waited for anybody to comment, but they didn't, so he continued.
Evina was trying to type, but he had the feeling that the chairman was staring right at him. He didn't look up from his work, but he was sure of it. He felt the piercing glare penetrate his body. Nevertheless, he tried to ignore it and act normal. After all, he wasn't wearing any gloves. He knew the chairman couldn't possibly know he was a toon. It was impossible. Or maybe he was special in that way. If he could see him as a toon, then why wasn't he doing anything?
Mr. Tin talked for a very long time, mostly about cryptic things he didn't understand. "And so, with Operation D.R. underway, we have little to worry about. There really is no need to explain it further," he finished.
Evina stopped typing and cleared his throat. "Mr. Tin, what is operation D.R.?"
Tom paused for a second. "It is a very confidential operation," he said coldly. "We do not speak of it out loud. You have no right to know what it is." He turned his attention back to the other cogs. "The workers in our secret facility are working day and night to complete it. We've never before accomplished so much work so efficiently."
"So, how long do you think it'll be before it's finished?" Robert asked.
"It'll be ready in about a month," Tom answered.
"A MONTH?" Bill cried with outrage. "Isn't that a little dangerous? You know there are toons at large!"
"That's because you stopped the search for them!"
"I assure you, I have my reasons."
"It was illegal. You had no right to do that! Only I am authorized to make decisions regarding national security."
"Not anymore," Bill finished and folded his arms.
Mr. Tin knew he was not going to win any argument with the president's favorite pet. Bill was trying to make him mad, and he wasn't going to let it work.
"Do you have any better ideas?" Mr. Tin demanded.
"As a matter of fact, I do," the chairman said. "I think you should finish it sooner than a month unless you want to spend the rest of your existence as a cube of scrap metal."
Evina thought he could feel the heat from Mr. Tin's anger. "Words can't describe my hate for you!" he shouted.
Bill obviously found him amusing. "Thank you, Tom, that's what I was hoping you would say." He got up and walked to the door. The guards were there to escort him away.
"Forget about him, Tom," the Secretary of State said.
"Thanks, Jim, I'm fine. I only wish Congress passed a law against his monopoly." He looked toward the Lawbots. "Well? Why didn't you!?"
The Big Wigs shrugged. "We never knew what Bill was capable of," one of them replied.
Mr. Tin looked at the wall for a long time without moving. Finally, he spoke. "Let's hope this plan works. We cannot afford to fail. The meeting is over."
Evina stood up and removed the stack of papers he had typed. He didn't record all of it, and it was full of typos, but he wasn't sure if that mattered. Most of the meeting was arguing. The time went by much faster than he thought, maybe it was wishful thinking, but what he was really concerned about was what the cogs seemed to be planning. It seemed to him that they had something in the works that no toon would ever suspect. He was about to leave when Mr. Tin spoke.
"Thank you for your work, Flunky... I mean, Mr. Evina. Because of the importance of this meeting, I think you deserve about five hundred Stock Options."
Evina sighed with relief. If nothing else, he had some good news to tell Harry. He decided to not get on the tiny elevator with the chairman but to wait for the next one instead.
Bill gave the duck that terrible, piercing glare again until the moment he and Robert disappeared behind the elevator doors. Evina knew there had to be a reason for this. The chairman suspected something. Maybe he already knew who they were and was just waiting for the right moment to attack. His heartbeat slowed down a minute after the doors closed, but he felt no safer than he was before. He hit the button and another elevator arrived shortly. Hopping into the little box he awaited his ride back.
"Going to the Atrium," the voice said.
Evina had a lot of things to tell Harry. This news would keep them busy for a very long time.
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