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The adventurers were bored, sitting in the ship, trying everything to waste time. Evina eventually settled in front of one of the monitors and read about scientific topics for a few hours. He read statistics, maps, history, and other things. It was good enough to keep him content for a while. He had always had a hidden hunger for knowledge, not just for adventure only.
Gyro spent time navigating the ship, but it was easy to tell how bored he was too. In warp, he was unable to do a whole lot except check every few seconds if something was going wrong. The ship was maintained well enough that nothing was likely to ever go wrong. Occasionally, he opened a dusty old book, his journal, where he read the old memories from his past before writing another page in it. Evina began to wonder what his life was like back in Duckburg long ago. From what he heard, Gyro was a different man back in those days.
The helper wasn't needed to help now, so it sat idle most of the time, sometimes looking at the monitors with Evina. Later it turned on its lightbulb head and made shadow figures to entertain Glue Stick.
The horse was very difficult to live with. He rolled around on the ground lazily and groaned or complained every once in a while. It was hard to imagine him spending all those years alone in this condition. Maybe it was that he had tasted freedom, and doing nothing was no longer interesting to him, or more likely it was because Evina was using the monitors for reading so he couldn't watch the ship's movie collection.
Finally, Gyro decided enough was enough. He shut his book and marched over to the others. "Alright," he announced, "now I know how easy it is to veg out and do nothing all day, especially in this little ship, but we have to stay active. This adventure could eventually take its toll on us, and we need to be fit."
Evina turned away from the screen, knowing that the words were true. He got on the floor and tried doing pushups. He instantly discovered how weak he had become since the last journey. For that short while, he had to be fit to survive, and he did many physically intense things such as climbing on buildings with suction cups.
"Oh, and you too," Gyro grinned teasingly at the Glue Stick. The other rolled his eyes and tried doing a couple pushups before giving up.
"Don't you think we could drop out and find a place to spend the night?" Evina asked.
Gyro considered it. "Oh, alright. But I want to cover a lot more distance tomorrow. Into your seats, everyone."
The ship dropped out of warp, and they scanned their surroundings, being in an entirely foreign part of space. There appeared to be several habitable planets within range.
Evina was eyeing a world in the distance that was clearly visible because of how brightly colored it was. "I wonder what's over there."
"I don't believe it. I think I remember being in this area before," Gyro remarked. "I've seen that world before, and it's doing fine being left alone." His eyes darted away without looking at the other two.
"You really did do a lot of exploring, didn't you?" Evina asked.
"Sure did. I've seen thousands of worlds. I was obviously an outlaw from Toontown and had a whole lot of time to waste. That's when I developed a lot of my new ideas. I learned to love exploration, and it became my new goal in life. It was so different from the things that other toons did that I was sure I could do it fairly well. I was always like that... different from the others."
"Well, now you won't have to do it alone," Evina smiled.
"Ok then. Try choosing another world, and we'll go there," Gyro promised.
Evina studied the map and thought about his choices. Then he pointed to one that was a lovely shade of green.
Gyro hurried away and steered the ship in that direction. "Nice choice. This should be interesting."
"So, you really have no idea what might be down there?" Evina asked.
"Nope. That's what makes it so fun! The vast majority of them aren't dangerous. You just need to take the first step out into the unknown."
The colors of the world they were going to had patches of other colors on it. They all looked like forests. The side that they were facing had a spot of yellow that they were going toward.
As they entered the atmosphere, and the ship began to rumble, Evina was excited to see something entirely new and finally get out to breathing real fresh air again. It was something he had taken for granted before.
It looked like there were lots of trees, just as he thought. They blanketed the mountain and the slopes of the valleys in brilliant yellow.
The ship landed on the soil, the engines turned off, and the hatches unsealed. As Evina opened the door, he was suddenly hit with cool air.
"I'm not going out," Glue Stick said defiantly.
"Oh no, you're not getting out of this so easily," Evina retorted. "We didn't bring you on this adventure so you could hide from anything new."
Glue Stick grimaced as he looked outside toward the forest. "You know, I take everything back that I said about Toontown. I could probably get more used to it if I tried."
"Too late now," Evina smirked. "Now, get out."
Everyone stepped outside together. Even Gyro's helper hopped off the ship to see the bright sun and the clear blue sky. Once they were outside, things looked even more spectacular than they originally thought. Off the mountain, they could see the trees stretching on forever, a golden paradise with leaves that looked like coins and shook with the sound of a gentle whisper.
"Okay, I guess it's not all that bad," Glue Stick admitted.
"Exactly," Gyro said. "Now, let's stop complaining and enjoy the scenery."
Evina inhaled the air and discovered it was thinner and drier than the air he was used to, but it was very fresh. Only moments later, he decided he would go off on his own again. "I'll see you guys later."
Gyro suddenly looked concerned again. "Wait a minute. Are you thinking of going alone?"
"Well, Cogtropolis was one thing, but this place... We have no idea what could be out here!"
"I thought you said we had to take a step into the unknown."
"Yes, but..." He paused and grunted in frustration. "Just don't go far, okay? If anything happens to you, I don't know what I would do."
"I'll be safe, dad. I promise." He headed off to the trees with confidence that everything would be alright no matter how far he went. There wasn't the slightest hint of danger here.
Once he stepped under the leaves, he noticed that the trees were dropping them slowly just like autumn time back home. They crunched under his feet and, when he looked up, he could see the sunlight coming in through the cracks between the golden leaves. On the ground, he could see how the light danced around playfully. It was mesmerizing, and he almost felt dizzy, but in a good way. This was nothing like the strange forest he had been through on his last adventure back in Toontown. After he was satisfied with a good spot, he sat down on a log and rested. He had seldom seen anything as serene as this before. It was a place where even the thing residing inside him was happy. The world felt completely open and honest. He couldn't even begin to explain it.
There was no intention of staying close to the ship like his father had told him. The farther he was from everything, the deeper the peace would feel. And there was nothing dangerous out here anyway. He stood up again and walked away even further down a random path he chose to make. Because everything looked the same, the feeling of being dizzy and disoriented returned, but it didn't feel scary at all.
Then suddenly a thing caught his attention. It wasn't a tree. He turned to look at it. A couple hundred feet away there was a toon. It was white like many of the old toons he had known before, but he had never seen this one before. He couldn't identify it, but he knew it was a toon standing there. Then he blinked, and it vanished. He was scared now. The image was still burned into his memory. It had been looking straight at him. Even though all his instincts told him to panic, the thing living inside him ordered him to remain calm. Its influence was so much more recognizable out here. He could almost hear it.
He listened to the thing inside him and took a deep breath. This was probably a sign that he needed to head back to the ship. But he also knew it was a little too late for that. There were no more landmarks, and he couldn't help from feeling worried. He had forgotten what direction he came from. The leaves were everywhere on the ground, and there was no track to retrace. There wasn't anything good enough to guide him back to the others.
Once again, the thing told him to relax. It was taking control of Evina and told him to close his eyes. Evina obeyed and soon felt the forest fade from his senses. He saw Gyro away at the ship, but he looked like he was getting ready to leave. The connection was so strong it was almost tangible. It was like a compass to guide him home.
Evina opened his eyes and ran in the direction that he felt was leading to his father. It was a long walk but one that he knew was the right direction. Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as long as he thought because Gyro was spotted not too far away. He and Glue Stick seemed to have left the ship to do a little exploring in the forest.
"So, there you are!" Gyro exclaimed, looking in the direction of his son. "Didn't I tell you not to go far?"
"And did you get lost?"
"Well, yeah, but somehow I found my way back to you."
Gyro looked unsatisfied with the explanation.
"The connection with you inside me," Evina continued, "it sort of pulled me here. It felt like it was talking to me."
"Well, that's... odd," Gyro admitted, still in disbelief. "But at least you're back with us safe."
Now Evina began feeling nervous thinking about what he had seen. He decided to be honest and tell Gyro when the right moment came.
Gyro continued to talk. "But I do suppose this world is harmless from what I've seen."
"Yeah, about that," Evina said nervously. "I saw something."
"You did? What?"
Evina stared into the gray eyes and wasn't sure if he had the strength to speak. "It was... a toon."
Gyro didn't break eye contact. They just stared at each other in silence for a minute while Glue Stick looked at them awkwardly. "I think you need to get some rest."
"Dad, I know what you're thinking—"
"You're seeing things." Gyro interrupted. "And whatever is causing it can't be good. Let's head back to the ship now. I think we've had plenty of fresh air."
Evina went back to the ship, glad to be safe again, but still, not at all convinced that what he saw was just an illusion.
"If you want, I can give you a science lesson about how I invented those food cubes."
"Interesting idea," Glue Stick admitted, "but that stuff is probably way beyond me."
They were sitting in front of one of the monitors, watching some pointless movie that Glue Stick had suggested. The ship still needed to charge more, so they decided to stay the night on the planet and camp out. Gyro had brought a lot of popcorn with them, for some unknown reason, and they were putting it to good use.
At some point, Evina wanted to go back to his room. He had collected some leaves and shiny rocks that he wanted to keep as souvenirs. As he entered the dark room, he located a drawer and set the items inside. It was beginning to get dark outside, and he looked out his window to see the peaceful forest in a different light. In the distance, he heard a low rumbling, and he didn't know what it was. It was tempting to go to bed early because his sleep was still hardly adjusting to this adventure. Overall, the day was interesting, but he was going to need some rest for the exciting stops in the near future.
Yet this was the perfect opportunity to do something else while the others were distracted. He crept out into the hall and went to the lockers where Gyro kept his most protected provisions. He had figured out the combination that held the pencil and used it to open the door. Sitting inside was that giant, magnificent artifact. It was so beautiful. The act of simply touching it filled Evina was a sense of power. Last year he had held this and used it. He had personally witnessed its strength. What hands of previous generations have used it before? How can any other toon know of this power?
He finished admiring it then closed the door quietly. But unknowingly to him, it didn't latch shut all the way. Then he headed back to the main room.
"Do you want to do something else?" Gyro asked, turning away from the screen.
"Yeah, maybe," Evina replied. "And by the way, do you know what is causing that sound?"
"I heard it back there. It was a low pitch noise like... like that."
There was something that sounded like growling. It was louder than Evina had remembered hearing a minute ago.
"That's interesting," Gyro remarked. "I don't think that makes sense."
They sat wordlessly to listen to it, but the sound stopped. It was replaced by what sounded like quick feet on the leaves.
The ship was violently hit with a crashing sound, and everyone was jolted in the same direction. Some creature had rammed into the side of the ship and didn't sound like it was stopping. Heavy breathing continued directly outside. All of them, including Gyro's helper, huddled together with their eyes shut, not speaking, hardly breathing, and just hoping that everything would be alright. The sound of the beast seemed to be circling around the ship now. It was standing near the side where they were seated. Soon there was the shrill noise of claws scratching the exterior.
Evina mustered the courage to open his eyes for a fraction of a second, and he regretted it. He barely glimpsed what looked like black fur and a huge dark eye staring at him. With his eyes shut again, he hugged the others tighter. Why did I have to choose this stupid planet? It was supposed to be safe! Did I get us into too much trouble too quickly? We aren't even close to Earth yet!
Time passed, and Evina wasn't keeping track of it. All he knew was that he was scared the ship wouldn't be strong enough to keep them safe. But there came a point in time when the monster was gone, and they felt comfortable they could open their eyes. Looking at one another, their faces were sweaty and looked ill.
"What was THAT?" Glue Stick cried. Evina was feeling similarly.
"We need to get some sleep. I'll assess the damage tomorrow," Gyro said. "We can't do more than that."
Feeling relatively confident that they would survive the night, Evina went to his room. He still glanced out his window every few minutes, afraid that he would see the eye of the monster. But he fell asleep soon enough. The last thought on his mind was the figure of the white toon standing in the golden forest. It was etched so deeply in his mind. And even though bizarre things had happened to him so many times before, he couldn't help but linger on this image. It had to be something important.
"Oh, this is awful," Gyro grimaced. He was pained by the sight of his precious ship when he stepped outside in next morning. The surface was covered with nasty dents and scratches.
"Is it still going to work?" Evina asked nervously.
"Yes, only a couple parts got damaged, and my helper is working on the repairs right now. We can fly, but the rest of this has to be fixed soon." He climbed back into the ship, and Evina followed him.
Evina looked out once more at his first truly alien world, not counting the cogs' planet.
"Get your seatbelts on," the pilot directed. "You can grab breakfast while we're flying. We need to get moving as soon as possible."
According to the monitors, Gyro's helper was turning the warp setting to a pretty high level. They planned to travel a lot of distance today. With a blast forward, they were off to another unknown destination along their journey to the Earth.
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