Inside the elevator, Brook found that there were a lot of floors to choose from. While he tried to decide which one to go to, Amelia read the nearby directory. “General Manager’s office is on floor five,” she said. “Maybe they can tell us what the hell is going on.”
Feeling that this plan was more likely to work than just picking a floor at random, Brook jabbed the “5” button. He was already eager to get off the elevator; its dim red light lent the whole thing a horror-movie vibe. When they got to the fifth floor, he practically jumped out as soon as he could fit his large frame through the elevator’s door.
“I don’t see anybody,” Amelia said. They were in another lobby that was mostly in darkness, other than the light near the elevator. Brook wasn’t feeling brave enough to stumble around in the darkness hoping to come across the “General Manager”, so he was about to suggest that they try a different floor when, all of a sudden, more lights flickered on.
On the far side of the lobby was a hulking, robotic figure. Blazoned in black lettering across its metal body were the words “General Manager”. When it started walking towards them, Brook turned around and hit the button to go back down on the elevator, but it didn’t light up. They were stuck.
Amelia, for her part, seemed less frightened than Brook was. “Where are we? Who are you?” she asked.
“One question at a time please,” answered the General Manager. It had camera lenses for eyes but didn’t have a mouth; its synthesized-sounding voice must have come from a speaker located in its head. “You must see already that I’m the general manager. I make sure everybody…stays on task, shall we say.”
“Who’s ‘everybody’?” Brook asked.
“All the people in these offices,” the General Manger answered. “You don’t see them, and you never will see them, because they never get to leave.”
Pressing on from this disturbing answer, Amelia asked again, “But where are we? And when do we go back to our real lives?”
“It’s cute that you think this isn’t your real life,” the General Manager replied. “This is Adulthood.”
“But I’m already an adult,” Brook said. “I have a job.”
The General Manager chuckled. “Adulthood isn’t merely an age or an employment status. Adulthood means casting aside childish things. And when somebody clings on to their childhood for too long, as you two have done, with your comic books, your Rugrats-focused fanfiction, and your Disney obsessions…then you are brought here. Now let me show you to your new offices.”
Brook looked around for a way to escape, but there wasn’t one. There were no doors or windows, only the elevators that had gotten them there. The General Manager was taking stiff, robotic steps towards them, with his claw-like hands extended forward. When one of the claws grabbed for him, he ducked under it and ran to the other side of the room.
“There’s no point in resisting,” the General Manager said. “Nobody has ever escaped from the responsibilities of Adulthood.”
Brook closed his eyes as he found himself slipping into the thought patterns of his youth. He was the superhero, the star of his own comic book, and here was a big, bad villain that had to be vanquished. Sure, this thing was taller and stronger than he was, but why should that stop him from using his superpowers to destroy it? When he opened his eyes, he saw that he was wearing the uniform that he had designed for himself when he was little: a black-and-white bodysuit with a blue “B” on the chest. His already-sizable muscles had grown in size, and he was taller, too, seeing eye-to-eye with his foe. Amelia had shrunk against the wall, looking shocked.
“How is this possible?” the General Manager said. “My city was supposed to crush your inner child and turn you into a compliant drone!” Now it was the robot’s turn to feel threatened as it backed away from newly-heroic man in front of him.
“My inner child is me,” Brook replied. “And as long as I’m alive, so is he.” With a swing of his mighty fist, he caught the General Manager in the midsection; the metal plating there dented with ease. When a claw grabbed at his face, he got out of the way easily and landed more hits. Soon, the General Manager was on the ground with his circuitry exposed. Amelia ran over and pulled out memory modules as Brook ripped out wires.
“No…” the General Manager moaned, its voice modulating oddly as its inner workings were dismantled. “Put those back…” But its weak struggles soon stopped, and the light behind his eyes dimmed to darkness.
“Being an adult doesn’t mean discarding the joys of childhood,” Amelia said, addressing the robot-corpse more than Brook himself.
Brook smirked. “Even if one of those joys is Rugrats fanfiction,” he said, prompting a laugh from Amelia. He wanted to say more, but his vision was filling with white light, and was feeling a strange tugging sensation on his body. Their foray into Adulthood was over.