Mercedes Paw, a tall, red bear clad in a pale blue shirt and black trousers turned around to make sure her students were all present and accounted for. As far as fighters went, she was not particularly powerful. A 48 Laffer, she could hold her own against most of the higher level Cogs but would not stand much of a chance against the Cog Bosses without the Cold Callers Guild’s help. But she did not mind. While most Toons continued to fight the Cogs, Mercedes had opted instead to train new fighters instead.
The Toons that assembled before her now were a group of ten 15 Laffers. They had yet to fight their first Cog and by the looks on their faces were eager to do so.
“Try and stay together, everyone, there shouldn’t be any Cogs out this late, but if you do get separated, give us a toot on your whistles.”
A brown hand was raised.
The brown bear, Teddison Carter was dressed in a blue t-shirt and red shorts. “Miss? Aren’t we going to get to fight Cogs?”
“Not yet, Teddy, this is just a tour of the neighbourhoods.” She smiled at their disappointed faces. “Come on, follow me.”
The group hustled after her. She took them through Toontown Central to Donald’s Dock. They’d just entered Daisy’s Garden when a series of whistles sounded ahead.
The young Toons exchanged nervous looks. Mercedes looked concerned.
“Stay here,” she told them. “I’ll go and check it out.” Mercedes reached into her gag bag and gave them a selection of higher-level gags to defend themselves with. “Just in case.” Then she ran off into to the dark.
Teddy swallowed. “We don’t have any training in these gags.”
“Miss Paw said it was unlikely for Cogs to be out this late. Just relax, we’ll be fine,” Chicken McNugget, a lavender duck clad in dark turquoise dress and shirt with dark blue stripes assured him.
“Yeah, what she said. Besides, it can’t be that much different to a cupcake, right?” said Lolly Dolly, a small pink mouse in a purple dress.
“Don’t forget, we can always run,” added Bubbles Pop, a light blue rabbit in a green jumper and maroon jeans.
Mercedes Paw sprinted to where she had last heard the whistles. The red bear rounded a corner and ground to a halt, a look of shock contorting her features. Nine Toons were sprawled out across the street. Mercedes ran to the side of nearest Toon and turned her over. It was Antoinette O’Toole, her teaching assistant. That meant the other Toons were the rest of her class.
Mercedes wiped a tear from her eye, pushed the hood of Antoinette’s grey hoodie out of the way and began to pat the yellow dog lightly on the cheek. “Come on, Annie, wake up.”
Her eyes fluttered open and met her friend’s concerned gaze. “Sadie?”
“So. . . fast. . . “
The red bear frowned. “What?”
But Antoinette had fainted again.
“Darn!” she cursed. She couldn’t leave her unconscious students and teaching assistants here. “Double darn!” But to transport them to hospital she would have to- Wait. There was an idea; her students would have to help, even if it would traumatise them to see their friends in such a state, but at least they would get training in how to use their black holes.
Mercedes stood up and headed back.
The young Toons were entertaining themselves with Toon Whispers as they waited for Mercedes Paw to return.
Teddison turned at the sound of footsteps approaching. “Hey, Aunt-er, Miss Paw is back,” he got to his feet. The group followed his example.
“Um. . . why do her footsteps sound so. . . harsh?” asked King Alvin Dynocrunch, a tall cyan dog in a tie-dye shirt, orange shorts with blue stripes and yellow stripe on the sides.
Chicken frowned. “Like she’s wearing something on her feet.”
Lolly swallowed. “She sure isn’t in a rush to get back to us, either.”
The Toons huddled together, reached into their Gag bags to pull out some gags and stood ready for a fight.
What emerged from the shadows was not Mercedes Paw, nor even another Toon.
The Telemarketer grinned around at the frightened Toons. “Is this a bad time?” he asked, cheerfully. “Good.”
Banana Rama, a yellow monkey in a red shirt and skirt frowned. “What’s with the scarf?”
“It’s my distinguishing feature.”
The 15 Laffers exchanged looks.
“Why would you have a distinguishing feature? I got the impression that Cogs didn’t go for individualism,” said Bubbles.
The Sellbot smiled. “It means I’m special.”
“Get ‘im!” Alvin yelled lobbing a cupcake.
Nine more Gags followed. He dodged every one.
Teddy gawked. “No way. Surely one should’ve hit him.”
The Telemarketer glanced over his shoulder at the mess of Gags splattered along the street. He smiled at them once more. “Like I said. I’m special.”
Mercedes Paw’s eyes widened when she heard whistles up ahead. “No. No!” Her group was in trouble. She increased her speed to flat out sprint and preyed she would get there in time.
The Telemarketer had his back to her and was standing over her unconscious students. In one hand, he held his trusty Rolodex, in the other a bag of confiscated Gags.
“NO!” she howled.
From the way he spun around to face her, he must not have heard her coming. Mercedes glanced at her students then glowered at the Sellbot.
“You’ll pay for that,” she growled.
He gave her an infuriatingly cheerful smile. “It shall be entertaining to see you try.”
The bear glanced around at the amount of Gags that littered the floor, then at the glowing health metre on his chest. It was green. From the looks of it not a single gag had hit. Granted most of them were low level Gags, which, she quickly checked her Shticker book to assess his level, against a level six Cog would have a higher chance of missing. But surely at least one would have hit. Most of her students were a pretty good shot.
Every Gag she threw at him, he dodged.
“What is with you?!”
The Cog smiled. “I told your students that I was special. I didn’t say why.”
“So shoot. Why are you special?”
“I am one of few Cogs who have a prototype gear type and set up.”
“And that’s why you’re so fast? You’re. . . built differently to most other Cogs?”
“That is correct.”
Mercedes grit her teeth. “Wonderful. Just my luck.” Even though her Laff points were dropping, she was not going to give up. She could hit this Cog. She knew it. She just had to keep trying. All of a sudden, the Sellbot yelped in pain and grasped his knee. It appeared to have seized up. The red bear smirked. “Perfect,” and threw a cream pie slice at him. It hit the Telemarketer square in the chest.
“That was a cheap shot, Toon,” he scolded wiping it away.
“This coming from the level six Sellbot that picked on two groups of 15 Laffers,” Mercedes replied in an equally scathing tone. She stared at his health metre in surprise. What was up with that? Judging by the colour his health had dropped drastically considering his level and that of the Gag. The red bear gave him in a smirk. “Oh I get it. So you’re really fast at the cost of being really weak. So all it takes is a few lucky shots and you’re dead.”
The Telemarketer’s fists clenched. Reluctantly, he replied. “That is correct. For increased speed, my Huff points are halved.”
Mercedes nodded and smiled. “Right. No problem. I just have to you hit once more. Piece of cake.”
He smiled, tilting his head to one side. “That is, if you don’t run out of Gags first.”
The red bear scowled and prepared to throw, but she was distracted by voices from behind. The Night Watch! About time too. “HEY!” She hollered and waved to get their attention. When she heard the sound of fast approaching footsteps, she turned back to finish the Telemarketer off. But he had vanished. Mercedes looked around, surprised. “ . . . Where’d he go?”
The Chief Executive Officer, a dark brown suited archaic Big Cheese poked and prodded at the contents of the cream pie that was before him.
What, he wondered, was the special ingredient? The one called sugar that had caused the Senior Vice President of Sales to go insane from something the Toons called a Sugar Rush. This was not what he wanted. After calming down, the VP had displayed apparent immunity to their Throw Gags, but at the same time had also gained some other, unwanted side effects. If the CEO could isolate the sugar and using it, find some way of immunising the Cogs from the Throw Gags at the very least without also reproducing the other side effects that had plagued the Sellbot Boss, the Cogs would gain an upper hand. Granted they would still be vulnerable to the other Gags, but Throw was the staple of the Toons' arsenal. They relied on them too much, he thought to himself, smirking. And this would prove to be their Achilles Heel. . .