A Whole New World
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"That was a close one," Evina gasped, feeling entirely out of breath. They pried the lids off of several yellow barrels and started loading up on the gags that the cogs accidentally brought with them to Cog Nation. It was sad to think of the toons that these had belonged to who had gone sad. They filled up their laff and gag bags, and then filled their stomachs with throw gags. They felt so much better. Rocky also felt better; his color returned and remembering he had stolen a burrito from Ms. Chip's house, he took it out of his pocket.
There were some policemen pacing outside, talking to other cogs. "Have you seen any toons?" they asked.
Most of the other cogs scoffed and said things like, "Toons in Cog Nation?" and "Why would I ever see a toon?"
Then the policemen explained, "They're probably in disguise."
The toons felt a little worried that they might be caught. Although they were still hidden, for now, there was something unusual about this closet. Even though they were full on gags, there was one barrel that had not been opened. It was labeled with a sign:
DANGER! DO NOT OPEN!
Evina reluctantly walked over and pulled the lid off. The first thing everyone experienced was an appalling stench. The barrel glowed with neon green fluid that seemed to flow in large, slow-moving ripples. The whole room was illuminated with eerie, green light.
"Don't move... at all," Harry ordered.
Everyone froze; they could feel their hearts beating faster and faster. They had tried to deny it, but they could not lie to themselves what was before their very eyes.
"Just one drop," whispered Harry, "and you're gone!"
Evina reached slowly for the lid. He took great caution to avoid touching any of the lethal fluid. The eerie light was gone once he shut it on tight, and everyone sighed with relief.
"We're going to be dipped!" Simeon shuddered. "We can't stay in Cog Nation! Let's get out of here!"
Just at that moment, there was a sharp rapping on the door. "This is the police!" a voice shouted. "Open up at once!" Catman opened the door to see several police officers glaring down at them. Although their eyes were covered with dark glasses, they looked like they were very impatient. "What are you doing in here?" one of them demanded.
"I uh... was checking the barrels. It seems like nothing is wrong with them."
"And why are there Bossbots and a Sellbot in here?" Everyone looked around at each other, hoping someone would answer.
"Oh, forget it," another policeman interrupted. "Just give me that barrel of dip." Catman and Ricky picked it up and handed it to him.
The policeman opened it and poured its contents into a funnel connected to a device that filled thousands of little glass tubes. Then the police collected the tubes in a bag that glowed ominously. They handed one tube out to all cogs walking nearby. "If you see a toon, throw this at them. It will break and destroy them instantly," they said.
When they finished passing them out, one looked back at the toons in disguise, standing with blank expressions in the gag room. "Oh, you should have some too," he said, reaching in his bag. He pulled out the last few tubes. He quickly handed them out and walked away.
Zany looked down at the glowing tube in her hand. It pained her mind with fear just by looking at it.
"I'll take those," Harry said once the policeman was gone. He took everyone's dip tubes and dropped them in the trash can.
They were still shocked by their close encounter with dip, but glad to still be alive. Miraculously, their suits seemed to be fooling every cog.
They walked across the large entrance room to the ticket counter. A Two-Face behind the counter was examining his dip tube with interest as they came up to the counter. When they arrived, he dropped it in his suit pocket. "Hello there, how may I help you?" he asked.
Nobody had a clue as to where they were going. "Um," Ricky began as he gazed up at the board above the desk, "Where is a place where lots of important cogs are?"
The Two-Face looked like he was going to literally explode with laughter. "Do you mean the capital of Cog Nation?" Each toon nodded. "There are nine of you, correct?" Everyone nodded again. He chuckled to himself again as he printed their tickets. "Are you new to Cog Nation?" Everyone nodded a third time.
"Well, it's about time you learn your cities and capitals. Anyway, that will be twenty thousand cogbucks."
They were astonished by the cost, and their mouths dropped open.
"It's a long way away," the Two-Face said, taking out his glowing tube again. He twirled it around in his fingers dangerously. "You can't expect it to be cheap."
The group collected all the cogbucks they had and combined them. "There goes my Cashbot HQ promotion," Ricky said sadly.
The Two-Face handed them their tickets. "Have a nice flight! Oh my, it seems like they're raising security. Apparently, there was some stupid report about toons in Sparksville. Personally, I think those reporters are malfunctioning." The toons walked away, and they pushed through the crowds comprised mostly of policemen. One of them tapped Catman on the shoulder.
"Do you not remember? All Servicebots are required to carry a sadness blaster. I have a spare one you can use."
"Um, thanks," Catman replied weakly. He took the very familiar looking weapon and slipped it into the holster on his belt.
They walked with many cogs through a long hallway. Some of them seemed to be in a rush, some of them were eating lunch. One of them, a Mr. Hollywood, was shouting at the crowds trying to get them to buy his bestselling book, The Toons' True Secret. There appeared to be no end to the hallway. After what felt like ages of walking, they were stopped at a security checkpoint.
"There are reports of toons in the area," a Servicebot announced. A Security guard level 12 approached them and said, "It's time for the toon test."
The cogs passing through were pulling up their sleeves. The guards were putting a glowing, green patch on them for a second before letting them pass.
"What do we have to do?" Pink asked.
"We have to check to see if you are a toon or not. Just let me see your arm as I apply some dip."
Catman quickly jumped forward. "They're with me," he interrupted.
The Security guard stared at him incredulously. "Oh, really?"
"Yeah, they've been, um... tested already." He didn't think his lie would convince the cog.
"Fine, you're free to go," the cog said.
The toons let out a sigh of relief. They passed the security checkpoint and entered the concourse. Now they were in a large room with glass windows. Airplanes could be seen all around outside. They ran over to their gate and boarded a large airplane. After cramming into their seats with hundreds of other cogs around them, a Mover & Shaker walked up to their row.
"Would you like some help with your baggage?" he asked them.
"Um, no thanks," Pink replied. "We travel really, really light." The Mover & Shaker gave them a perplexed look before walking away down the aisle.
A few minutes of resting passed, and the explorers were feeling much better about their journey, almost to the point of being excited. Maybe they were becoming delirious again. Their trip to the capital of Cog Nation looked smooth and easy, almost too easy. Still, they couldn't pretend they weren't disturbed at the thought of being locked up in a tight area with hundreds of powerful cogs. The doors of the airplane slammed shut, and the plane began to move out to the runway. It was becoming dark outside, and the tall, gray buildings of Sparksville appeared to be nothing but silhouettes. It couldn't be night already; it was a storm.
A Name Dropper slid into the aisle and pulled her microphone down from the ceiling. Her voice was heard all throughout the plane. "Hello, everyone, I am Kelly, and I will be your flight attendant for this flight. I hope I get to know you all during our flight to Cogtropolis. We should arrive there tomorrow morning."
The toons were surprised once more. They had not planned on being on the plane that long. They wondered how they would survive that long. A Robber Baron adjacent to them was eying them suspiciously. They couldn't see his eyes behind the glasses but knew he was watching them.
The toons braced themselves for takeoff. The lights went off, they were pushed back against their seats, and the plane went up. It rose above the dark storm clouds, and the sun could be seen again straight ahead. It was a hopeful sight.
"I feel like I'm flying!" Ricky whispered excitedly. "I never knew it would be this fun." Evina and Zany looked at him with amused expressions.
"Flying isn't anything that special," Zany said with dignity, "it's just an art that we ducks excel at."
The other toons rolled their eyes. "First duck tape and now this? Who has ever seen a toon fly?" Ricky said.
The other cogs on the plane didn't appear to notice the talking toons. Most of them plugged themselves into a power outlet and dozed off. For a few hours, there wasn't very much noise.
After thinking in silence for a long time, Evina glanced out his window. There was a vast gray wasteland below. As they went further into Cog Nation, the land became devoid of vegetation. Then he saw a lake of water. It was sparkling in stark contrast to its surroundings.
The Name Dropper pulled out her microphone. "I need your attention, everyone. Besides the fact that I will be serving lunch soon, I would like to provide you with a word of warning. We are flying over a large body of water, Lake Rusty. In the rare case of a crash, please tighten your center control cover plate. You wouldn't want any water to seep in there."
"Imagine a squirt gag that big," Pink said.
After a few minutes, the Name Dropper came over to them. "I wouldn't expect cogs of your rank to have the digestive system installed. Would you like some ethanol?" Nobody moved, and they wondered if she had just insulted them. "How about an oil change or some coolant?"
Only Harry had the courage to speak. "We, uh, can digest food. We don't need ethanol." The toons took their orders then reclined in their seats again, but Harry was disappointed. "You freeze up whenever a cog looks at you. If you keep acting like this, the cogs are going to become more and more suspicious."
"It's not as easy as you think," Simeon said. "We happen to be a little more scared of cogs now that we're in Cog Nation, and we know dip exists, and there is a 100% cog population!"
Harry struggled to find something comforting he could say. "Well, you could just pretend that you're talking to a toon. Just remember to be cogish. No talking about defeating cogs, getting gags, doodles or anything like that."
Despite their quiet whispering, a Corporate Raider seated behind them was listening in on their conversation. "What was that about toons?" he asked.
Nobody replied, so the Bossbot sighed and went back into sleep mode. Then a short moment the Name Dropper returned with their food.
The plane tilted to the left, and the lake beneath them reflected a dazzling blue light. There seemed to be a little island in the center of it with palm trees swaying in the breeze. Later the plane was flying over land with more and more cog buildings. Evina wondered how much of this world was controlled by the cogs. Some of the buildings had weird shapes, and the farther the plane went, the bigger they got.
"Harry, why are the buildings such weird shapes?" Simeon asked.
Harry's expression became solemn. "I knew you would ask that sooner or later. I first noticed this with those blue-suited Servicebots. There are many more than just four types of cogs. I see now that the familiar business cogs are only a piece of the whole. There are lots of simpler labor cogs, and maybe hundreds of different ones for all I know."
Evina thought about it. "Imagine if there were toontasks to defeat all the different cogs," he said. "We could earn so many laff points!"
Harry gave him a strange smile. "You know, Evina, I think there might be more than twelve levels too."
The toons heard this and nearly choked on their food. They imagined cogs with nearly unlimited strength, ones that they had failed to consider before.
Harry continued in this unusual tone. "I don't think they promote cogs to level 50 for nothing."
The day quickly passed, and the sky became dark, but there were no clouds above them. In the evening, they ordered their dinner and ate. The toons began to drift off to sleep. But Evina caught a glimpse of something out the window. He was astounded and sat completely still, struck with amazement.
He nudged the other toons impatiently. "Wake up, wake up! You have got to see this!" The other toons did not seem to be happy to be shaken awake, but they turned to look at him anyway.
"What's this all about?" Rocky asked.
Evina pointed out the window. "Do you see that?"
The toons peered out his window to see a cascade of stars. The sky was completely black, and there was a gigantic partially gray, partially green sphere below them that was surrounded by a thin layer of light.
"What is that thing down there?" Pink asked in awe. "It looks like we're floating above it."
Harry gasped. "This proves my theory. Toontown is a planet!"
Catman turned to face him. "And just what exactly is a planet?"
"It is a world on a sphere. It floats in outer space. Most of the time it orbits a star." Everyone returned confused expressions. "It means the world is round, and there are most likely a lot more out there."
Ricky laughed. "And all this time I thought the world was flat!" A few cogs turned uneasily in their sleep, and he cringed.
"You're not the only one, Ricky. I almost didn't believe it myself." Harry gazed out the window again. "It would be my dream to explore other worlds in the tooniverse," he said sleepily.
"Yeah, but we need to finish the adventure that we've already started," Pink said before she drifted off to sleep. Evina gave a quick glance at Harry's pocket watch. It was about 11:00 at night. Soon, everyone had fallen asleep, dreaming of the whole new world they had discovered.
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