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The sky turned pink, and the playground was bathed in light. It was a strange sight. The toons were hopeful for the first time in years. A cheer broke out in Toontown Central louder than was ever heard before.
"WHO IS WITH ME?" Evina shouted.
"WE ARE!" the toons shouted back.
"Excuse me, Evina," Kyle said from behind him. Evina turned around to see what was going on. Someone had dumped a large truckload of gags onto the playground. "The chief doesn't have any more sadness blasters, but he thought maybe these could help."
Evina grinned widely and turned back to the crowd. "Everyone, take up your gags! When those thugs return, we will show them what we're made of!"
The toons scrambled to the pile to collect as many gags as they could. Every kind of gag was there. There was no way the gangs would see this coming.
Deputy Grunt ran into the crowd and everyone jumped out of his way. "Evina!" he growled. "I've just received reports from the other HQs. We have about seven hundred volunteers coming from the surrounding playgrounds."
"Only seven hundred?" Evina asked with dismay. "I think we need more than that to defeat s<um."
"There might be more," Grunt said, "but some of them have to stay behind to guard the other neighborhoods. s<um might still have a trick up their sleeve."
"I understand. And what about the situation at Toon Hall?"
"We have taken the guards prisoner, and I don't believe they had time to notify their leaders of what we're doing."
"Excellent. Keep up the good work," Evina said. Grunt left and Evina looked out over playground which was bustling with activity. He felt pretty confident that they could win this battle, but it wasn't going to be easy.
"Hey!" someone else shouted. Evina saw a light blue duck running towards him. It was someone else he had not seen in ages.
"Zany? Wow, it's been years!"
"You're looking healthier than I remember," she said. "Nice speech, by the way. Also, look who I brought along."
Hiding behind Zany was Pink. She ran up to Evina and gave him a huge hug. "Oh, I missed you so much!" she cried.
"I missed you, too!" Evina said. "Now, come on, there's no time for crying."
He looked around and spotted some other familiar faces. Simeon was standing near the HQ, looking strong and courageous. He winked at Evina. Next to him was Catman, complete with mask and cape, ready to give some criminals a world of pain. A little way past them was Ricky and Rocky. Ricky held a large bundle of dynamite, and Rocky held a burrito. Even after all this time, they hadn't changed a bit.
Over by the gag shop, Evina saw Lil' Oldman stacking pies next to his parents, Harry and Clara. They were hard at work helping the crowds stock up on gags. As much as he wanted to talk, he couldn't afford to distract them now.
"I know we didn't come with you before," Zany said, "but we stand with you now. We did it before, and we can do it again."
Evina wasn't used to all the intense emotions he was feeling that day. Everyone was here, everyone except for the one he met that fateful day in a library. Evina waded through the crowds. He had to find her, but he didn't have to search for long.
"Lily," he said.
She turned around, dropped all the gags in her hands, and ran up to him. "I knew you could do it!" she exclaimed.
"I did my best," Evina said. "Let's just hope it was enough. We can't celebrate until it's over. Are you ready to fight?"
"You know I am," she smiled.
At last, everyone was here. It felt like a family reunion. Everyone he cared about was gathered together, maybe for the last time. He tried to stop himself from crying again. Time was quickly running out.
The playground grew increasingly crowded. Toons came to join them from the surrounding neighborhoods. Even toons from Duckburg, Pete's Palace, and other places arrived. Some stood on the roofs of buildings, watching for suspicious activity. Others guarded the entrances to tunnels. The hundreds that could not fit in the playground stationed themselves on the streets and at the speedway.
A horse wearing nothing but underwear walked up to Evina. "Excuse me, do you know what's going on here?"
"Yeah, that's my name," he said. "How do you know me?"
"I'm Evina! We went to Earth together. Don't you remember?"
Glue Stick paused for an unusually long time. "Oh yeah," he mumbled. "You know, for some reason, I feel like I'm still dreaming."
"I wouldn't doubt it. Is that why you're in your underwear?"
Glue Stick looked down at himself and giggled. "Well, would you look at that? On the one day I decided to come to Toontown Central..."
"So, are you going to help us fight?"
"Huh? Fight who?"
"s<um!" Evina exclaimed. "Don't you know we're at war?"
"I don't think I know anything that's happening anymore," Glue Stick confessed.
"Well, pick up some gags or get out of the playground! Now, if you'll excuse me, I still have a lot to do."
Evina had already assigned captains to the various toon troops. As the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, they met together at the trolley to discuss their strategy. Among them were the former cog bosses.
"I've just received news from Duckburg," Grunt announced. "d!rt has been defeated. s<um is coming back to Toontown Central."
Evina looked nervous. "We don't have any more time. Chief, you must shut off teleportation access the moment they arrive. They can't be allowed to escape. Goopy, get The Debugger ready to activate."
Goopy and the chief saluted him then left to go to their stations.
"Gyro, load some drop gags into your ship. I hope you know what to do with them."
"Yes, sir," Gyro said. His little helper was by his side, lightbulb blinking, saluting Evina.
"Jared, take your troops to the north. Mike, your troops will take the east. Bob, it's your responsibility to defend the west. Are there any other questions?"
Postmaster Pete raised his hand. "Yeah, will this conflict affect my delivery schedule?"
"Yeah, and I have a shipment of clown cars coming in an hour," Loony Louis added.
"And I need to feed my fish," Sharky Jones added.
"Enough!" Evina said. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it!" He rubbed his face and sighed, trying to regain his composure. "Captains, please focus on the tasks I've given you! If you stick to your assignment, everything should go smoothly."
At last, once everyone had been given their orders, Evina took out a megaphone and turned to the crowds. "Toons, stand ready! The enemies are coming!"
All the commotion died down and the playground was suddenly silent. Minutes passed without so much as a whisper. Thousands of toons stood with gags in their hands, sweating anxiously.
Then there was an extremely loud popping sound. Holes opened up on every surface, some natural, some unnatural. Toons in black clothing poured into the playground like a swarm of black insects and froze in fear. They immediately saw that they were surrounded in broad daylight.
"GET THEM!" Evina cried.
Chaos broke out. The battle of Toontown had begun. Pies were flung through the air. Pianos plummeted from the sky. The s<um members took out sadness blasters and fired back at them.
"Running from the fight already?" Jared asked, hurling a gear at a fleeing thug. There was a metallic bang and it felt to the ground.
"I hope you can take the heat!" Ricky said, throwing his dynamite at a cluster of s<um members. They were blown away in a bright explosion.
The criminals were caught by surprise. They were disorganized and falling quickly to the toons' attacks. Those that tried to escape slipped on banana peels or were slammed in the face with cream pies. The police used banhammers to silently send them to jail. It was going to be packed after today.
Mike dropped a safe from a roof and flattened an enemy. "Ha-ha, now you know what it feels like!" he said.
Only minutes after the fighting began, many of Evina's volunteers had been saddened by the blasters. Some of the toons were crawling through the crowds with bags of Pixie Dust to heal them.
"Bombs away!" Gyro cried from above. His ship sailed over the playground while his helper worked on pushing out dozens of anvils onto the enemies below.
Evina was engaged in combat with three enemies on a rooftop. He tripped one and knocked it off the roof. Another he hit with a cake. The third one he trapped with marbles. It tripped and rolled off the rooftop screaming. Luckily, he had not been hit with a sadness shot, but the battle was only picking up steam.
"FORE!" Bob announced. He raised his golf club and sent a stream of golf balls into some enemies' faces. Half a dozen of them fell to the ground. "I'd call that a hole-in-one!"
Just as they thought they were winning, a wide tear opened up in the side of Toon Hall. Dozens of s<um members poured through the glitch.
"Goopy!" Evina shouted to the dog on the roof. "What's going on!?"
"I'm trying to calibrate it!" he replied. "I just need a few more minutes!"
"We don't have a minute to spare!" Evina protested. "So, hurry!"
Kyle was by his side now. "Hey, look over there!"
Evina glanced in the direction the mouse was looking and saw a weasel with a fedora slithering through the crowds and scurrying up the side of a building. "McKillden!"
"Please, let me!" Kyle pleaded.
"He's all yours," Evina said.
Before he was done speaking, Kyle sprinted across the rooftops toward the weasel.
"Good luck, Kyle," he whispered.
Things were looking pretty bad on the ground. Hundreds of unconscious toons were laying on the ground, some good, some bad. Explosions had left holes in most of the buildings. Evina wasn't sure if they had the energy to keep this up.
The chief was surrounded by thugs, but he appeared unfazed. "Prepare to taste the power of justice!" he said before knocking them out with a majestic roundhouse kick.
Evina jumped down from the roof and flattened a black-suited toon in Loopy Lane. Broken glass and splattered gags were everywhere. The destruction was worse than the playground. s<um was sending more forces from this direction than he predicted. He picked up a blaster and began firing at as many as he could.
Harry came up beside him with a blaster. "It's good to see you again," he smiled.
Evina fired at a few more ruffians and dodged their shots before answering. "I see you came out of retirement."
Harry kept shooting. "Of course, I wouldn't miss out on this for anything. I had to see you again."
"Yes, but this isn't a convenient time for a friendly chat."
Harry continued shooting with incredible accuracy. Together, they took down over twenty of s<um's men. "You're not too bad at this, but here's my secret: I've been practicing with these things for years."
"Really? How good are you?"
Harry turned around and blindly shot behind his back. A criminal cried out in pain. "Beat that!"
Evina laughed. "Maybe I will, someday. I'll see you later, Harry!" He ran down the street and found Zany on the ground, pinned down by a hooligan. He ran and kicked him away, then he triggered a giant weight to fall on him.
"Thanks for the help," Zany said between breaths. "This is so intense!"
"That's an understatement," he said. "I wonder if we're winning."
"Maybe it's my imagination, but I think we are," she said hopefully.
Evina was struck in the neck with a sadness shot, shouted, and fell.
Zany immediately applied Pixie Dust and pulled him to his feet. "Come on, we're sitting ducks out here. I think everyone is regrouping at the playground, anyway."
Evina jogged with her through the tunnel until they reached the playground. It was madness. Dust and smoke were in the air. The ground was soaked with water and cream. At last, he saw some familiar faces. Jared, Mike, and Bob were standing in a corner looking shocked.
"Why are you standing here?" Evina demanded.
"Our troops are scattered," Jared said. "And it doesn't matter, anyway. s<um has us outnumbered. They're going to capture Toontown Central and lock us in a dungeon forever."
"No, they won't!" Evina promised. "Try to gather as many toons as you can! When I give the signal, we will drive them back into the speedway where they'll be trapped!"
"We'll try our best," Bob promised.
Evina ran to the other side of the playground to see what was going on. Simeon, Catman, and the dog twins were taking a beating from s<um. They were on the verge of sadness, but before Evina could do anything, a blast of water came down from the sky. Glue Stick stood on the library's roof with a firehose, washing the thugs away from their victims.
"I'm glad you decided to join us!" Evina shouted to him.
"So, you're happy to see me for once? I guess there's a first time for everything."
Evina turned to Ricky who was struggling to stand up. "Ricky! I need you to fill the Kart Shop was as much dynamite as you can!"
"What? As much as I can?"
"Yes, fill it up as much as you can! Trust me, it's the most important thing you've ever done."
Ricky went running in that direction.
Grunt growled with rage and threw some of his assailants across the park. "Evina, the toons are rallying at the Silly Street tunnel! You'd better hurry!"
Evina ran in that direction, and he saw that s<um was trying something similar, separating themselves from the crowd to combine their strength near Punchline Place.
The former cog bosses stood in front of the lines of toons, examining them.
"Are we all ready to go?" Evina asked.
"Yes, sir," Mike replied.
"Toons!" Evina shouted to them. "Our work is not finished yet. Now is the moment where we will succeed or fail. Don't hold back! Give them everything you got! We will not stop until they are pushed out of the playground! Now, on my signal..."
s<um was gathered opposite to them. There was a moment when things were strangely quiet again.
Evina stared into his enemies faces with contempt. He didn't know how so many of his fellow toons could become traitors to their world, but it was about to end. "CHARGE!"
The toons shouted and ran forward as fast as they could. s<um was terrified by their courage and forgot what they were going to do. They tried to turn and run away. The chief had already blocked the tunnel to Punchline Place, so they couldn't escape that way. They were corralled toward the speedway tunnel and tried to squeeze through as fast as they could.
I really hope Ricky did his job and got out in time, Evina thought. His forces kept pushing until every last black-suited toon had passed through the tunnel. Then he picked up a trigger box and pushed the button.
The speedway was engulfed in an enormous fireball, a shockwave shook the ground until the buildings nearby collapsed. Debris was thrown into the air, raining down onto the toons below. Then everything stopped. It was done.
"VICTORY!" Evina cried.
"NO!" a voice screeched. "You haven't won yet!" McKillden was on the roof of Toon Hall, the last building standing. "I will rebuild my army and take you down!" he said.
"Are you sure about that?" someone else shouted. From behind McKillden, a mouse stood. It was Kyle.
"That's right! I'm getting out of here!" McKillden tried to open a glitch to escape, but it didn't work. He tried it again and again. "Why won't it work!?"
"Trying to run from me again, huh?" Kyle ran toward the weasel with all his might, jumped with him off the roof, and landed on the ground on top of him. He put a pair of handcuffs on the disgusting creature's wrists and stood up with a wide smile. "Ah, revenge feels good!"
The toons cheered while Kyle and Jenny led the weasel away. The battle was over. s<um was defeated. Their conflict was finally over. They didn't care that Toontown Central was destroyed because they were finally free.
Ricky was found hidden under some rubble, covered in soot. "I'm still alive," he said. "But, dang, that was a blast!"
The toons slowly began to disperse to find their friends and families.
Evina stood quietly for a minute to look out over the destruction. Toontown Central was unrecognizable. "This has been the weirdest day of my life," he muttered.
Grunt ran up to Evina again. "I've received an update from every neighborhood now. All criminals have surrendered or been defeated. It's finally over now, and all thanks to you."
"I can't take credit for this," Evina said. "I didn't really do all that much. This victory belongs to all of us. We must never forget it, we must never forget the strength we showed today."
Harry strolled up to Evina. "I guess we have to build a whole new Toontown," he sighed.
"This is a chance to change, and change is good sometimes. Besides, I think we're up to the challenge."
"Also, I don't know if this is the best time, but it seems like s<um locked something in the bank vault. Some toons are trying to open it right now, but I think you'll want to take a look."
"Sure," Evina said, strolling in the direction of the bank. Amidst the rubble, the giant vault stood undamaged. A few lockpickers were trying to open it. At last, they broke the lock, turned the wheel, and swung the door open. It was too dark to see inside.
"Who is it?" a voice said from within. Evina knew that voice well.
"Yes, get me out of here!"
Evina ran inside and untied the mouse. Flippy was there as well, but he was silent and looked oddly detached from reality.
"They had me here in there for months!" Mickey said. "Can you believe the nerve of some toons?" He stepped outside and gasped at the sight of the playground. "What in the... how did this happen?"
"Ooh, yeah," Evina said sheepishly. "I guess you don't have a town to run anymore."
Flippy came out of the vault and stood by them, still staring off into space, not saying anything and not moving.
"Would you look at this?" the chief marveled. "They had the Crystal of Yensid in here, and millions of jellybeans, and a bunch of other stuff I've never seen before! I wonder how they planned on spending it."
"You can ask McKillden yourself when you get back to the station," Evina said. "But as for me, I don't want to see a weasel ever again."
"Speaking of weasels, we never did find his brother, Lucius," the chief remarked. "I can only wonder what he's doing."
Evina thought back to his time in Cog Nation. "I think I saw him at the cog's dip factory," he said. "The president destroyed him, so we won't have to worry about that."
"What a relief! But what do you think about all this, Flippy? You haven't said a word yet."
Flippy stared forward, unmoving as a statue, and still didn't speak.
Evina went to stand in front of him. "Um, Flippy, are you okay?"
As soon as Flippy saw the duck's face, he started shaking. "YOU!" he shouted. "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!"
"What are you talking about?"
"YOU DESTROYED MY CITY! YOU DESTROYED MY LIFE!"
"Well, it was actually s<um and The Shadow that ruined our lives."
"I DON'T CARE!" he screamed. "YOU DON'T KNOW HOW THEY TORTURED ME! I'VE HAD IT WITH TOONS! I NEVER WANT TO SEE ANY OF YOU EVER AGAIN!" And with that, Flippy took off running to the hilltop. Nobody knows where he went from there.
"Wow," Gyro said. "That happened quickly."
"Yeah, what's his problem?" Evina inquired.
Gyro sighed and lowered his head. "I was afraid that it might come to this. Even though The Shadow's work has been undone, some of its effects will linger. Flippy was a noble toon once, but he has dealt with more trouble than any toon could handle. He tried to use pride as a shield, but it didn't work. Time and time again, his life has been turned upside-down, and this was the last straw. He's broken."
"Do you think we will ever see him again?"
Gyro frowned. "I don't know. I have a feeling we will, but it will only be when he's ready, however long that takes."
Evina stared off at the hilltop where the dog disappeared. He wished he could comfort him, but he couldn't fix all the world's problems.
"Let's go," Gyro told him. "We can't finish this day without a celebration."
"I guess you're right," Evina said. Then he looked down at his disheveled appearance and sighed. "But I need to change first."
"Ok, I'll see you back here later," Gyro said.
Evina woke up at his old house. He had rested for what felt like a moment and slept through most of the day. It was nearly night. He had almost forgotten how tired he was and how good it felt to sleep without the constant interruption of crazy dreams.
Then he remembered the party and knew he was already late. He jumped out of bed. He threw on some clean clothes as fast as he could and pulled out his portal hole to return to the playground.
Once he appeared at the hilltop, he noticed that the sun was already below the horizon. He saw the ruined remnants of Toontown Central in the twilight. Even though it was getting dark, there was no more danger here, no more fear. Without the artificial lights, the stars of the sky shined brightly, even brighter than they were in Donald's Dreamland. Somehow, everything seemed more beautiful now that The Shadow was gone.
The park was illuminated by tiki torches. Loud party music blared from speakers, and toons were dancing all over the place. Evina walked down to the party and examined the food table. He was starving. He wondered how long it had been since he last ate. He picked up a plate full of food and walked around until he found Gyro.
"I'm glad you made it," Gyro said with relief. "You almost had me worried there!"
"I'm just exhausted. Can you blame me?"
"No," he admitted. "It could just be my anxiety. I'm still scared of losing you again."
"You won't," Evina assured him. Then, after a moment of silence, he changed the topic. "So, the party planners did a great job with this, right?"
"Yes, and there's one on every street and playground in Toontown. I don't doubt that the Toon Council will make this an annual holiday."
"I'm sure they will." Evina stood there and ate in silence for a while until someone else saw him.
"Evina!" Lily cried out. "I'm so glad you made it!"
"Yeah," he said nervously. He wasn't used to being seen with her in a crowd, so it felt really awkward.
"Do you want to dance with me?"
Evina cringed. "You know, I've never been much of a dancer."
"Oh, come on, it'll be fun!"
Evina took her hand and reluctantly went with her as she dragged him to the dance floor. The music suddenly changed to a slow song. He was nervous. He didn't want to be seen dancing. It was like everyone's eyes were suddenly on them now.
Lily started to dance, and Evina tried to keep up with her. He hated dancing. He looked down into her eyes, reflecting the light of the torches, and his nerves started to calm. His anxiety melted away, and he felt at peace out here tonight.
No words were spoken. Sometimes the deepest conversations are conveyed in silence. He danced with her until the party died down and the crowds dispersed to go home.
It was nearly midnight, and he couldn't stay awake any longer. Everyone left, leaving him alone in the playground. He stood there for a moment, still thinking about all that had happened that day.
Evina felt like he was being watched. He turned around and glimpsed some figures standing on the hilltop, overlooking the destruction. He nodded to them. The monks saw what they needed and returned the way they came. No other toon knew they were there. Finally, he sat down on the ground and fell asleep.
Evina woke up again to see light. He was all alone. The sun was rising for the second time. It was beautiful, even more so than that the sunsets he remembered from his past. Truly, this was a new world. This was a new beginning for all toonkind.
Everything was peaceful. Everything was perfect, and yet, he still felt that something was wrong. Evina searched his mind to figure out what it was. He had saved Toontown, he had defeated The Shadow, and all his friends had come back to fight with him. Even Gyro was healed now. He had achieved every goal. He had won every battle. So, what could possibly be wrong now?
He stood up and walked around the playground. Everything was serene. It was hard to imagine that this had been a war zone a day prior. Everything had happened so fast. Was it shock? Could that be what was bothering him? Why couldn't he shake the feeling that something was wrong? No, it was more specific. Something was missing. But what?
He turned toward the sun. He knew it wasn't safe to look at directly, but something drew his gaze. There was someone there on the hilltop now, standing in front of the majestic, glowing circle. He couldn't see who it was, but there was something in his heart that yearned to see them. Evina took off running in that direction, not sure who it could possibly be.
At last, he reached the place where the person stood. He fell to his knees and started bawling. Nothing could stop the tears. It couldn't be true. It was too good to be true.
The woman walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "I'm here, Evina."
Evina reached up and held her hand. It was so warm, so full of life. He didn't know how it was possible, but here she was. Now The Shadow's work was completely undone. "I've missed you so much," he whispered.
"I told you before," the mother said with a smile. "I was always with you, and I always will be."
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