by Philip-Todd Franklin, Drivtaan, Cassie Foxx, Blackwolf247 and Comickook
As the back of the mini-jet opened, Commander Fowl quickly jumped out the open way and curled up into a tight ball for a few moments, enjoying the feeling of freedom as he fell toward the ground. After a few seconds, the bionic eagle flattened out and activated the jets in his feet, slowing his descent toward the castle, the whole time scanning the area with his bionic eye.
With a second glance, he spotted the other heroes and took note of their own descent. Feeling that they were all right, he slowly changed his angle and headed toward what looked like a rather large wooden door. “Nothing like taking the direct approach,” he said as he softly landed before the front door.
As the heroes continued their assault into the castle, their every action was being observed on a bank of monitors within a dark and spooky room in the castle, where even the glow from the monitors was not able to push the darkness back.
From within the darkness, a sinister, creaking voice could be heard. “No! This can’t be happening! Those stupid simians. I should have known they would fail me again. What’s worse, the master will not like this at all if we fail.”
Slowly, a fragile-looking hand clothed in black reached out and flipped a few switches, and the voice spoke once again. “This is command! Prepare to repel the invaders! Remember, we fight for the great master of all!”
Outside the front of the castle, Commander Fowl took a second look at the large door barring his entrance to the castle. “What is this door made of?” he wondered. “Can’t be wood. My last punch should have shattered it.”
Reaching to his left wing, he flipped up a small panel and touched a couple of buttons before slowly gazing at the door, starting from the top and working his way down to the ground. At about the halfway point, a shrill beep came from his wing. Glancing at it, a surprised look crossed his face as he once again reached and touched a second sequence of buttons. Within seconds, the tips of three feathers on his bionic left wing receded, and a moment later, deep blue flames formed at the ends. Aiming the flame at the door, he began to slowly cut his way inside. “Should have known this wasn’t all going to be easy. Just hope I don’t run out of fuel before I get this door open.”
While Commander Fowl began making a large hole in the supposedly wooden door, the battle outside taking place between Comic-coo-coo, Firefox, Black Lighting Bug, and Block Wolf and the flying monkeys was concluded, and the heroes began to head toward the castle to join their comrades. Within the halls and passageways of the castle, many animals and even a few strange creatures began to move into their assigned locations.
After a few moments, the flame at the end of Fowl’s bionic wing went out. “Dang! That’s empty. Hope I don’t need that again,” he said as he keyed in the sequence that returned his wingtips onto his left wing.
Looking at the door, he grinned at the hole he had made and, without looking back, he stepped boldly into the castle and straight into the waiting arms of four of the strangest creatures he had ever seen. These four creatures were living playing cards.
The room Commander Fowl had entered wasn’t very large, looking more like a guard post than anything, with another door straight ahead from the one he had entered. It was at that moment that he noticed the four living playing cards, each holding what looked like weapons. One of them screamed, “Get him! It’s either off with his head, or it will be off with ours!” And with that, the four playing-card soldiers rushed toward Commander Fowl.
So far, the Plaid Porcupine had encountered very little resistance in his effort to enter the castle. Of course, had the plaid-clad hero actually chosen a door or window, the opposition might have been greater. As it was, few creatures would have thought to guard the privy. He had gambled on the castle having no modern plumbing, and it had paid off. There were, however, obvious drawbacks to this route. As he removed the grate and saw the steep, muck-covered incline that lay before him, one thought popped into his head.
Removing two strong quills from his back, the Plaid Porcupine leaned into the passage, stretched a paw up as far as he could, and drove the quill into the mortar. After testing to see if it would bear his weight, and convinced that it would, he pulled himself up and drove in the second quill. Pulling himself up a second time, he began the slow process that would take him into the castle.
Pausing just long enough to make certain the way was clear, the quilled avenger extricated himself from the passage. As he did so, he spotted a bag of lime in the corner. He took a deep breath and realized that the lime could definitely be put to good use. Grabbing a handful, he began to cover himself and his clothing. Another deep breath, and he was satisfied with the results.
Making his way to the door, he listened intently. Hearing nothing, he opened the door and slipped out.
Unbeknownst to the hero, his exiting the privy did not go unnoticed. Fortunately, he had not taken into consideration his now-ghostly appearance and did not see the winged monkey’s eyes widen as it passed out from fear.
Hugging the shadows, he went from room to room, trying to find his teammates. Every few minutes, the porcupine would pause and listen for sounds of combat.
Moving through the corridors, he detected a sound unlike any other he had heard since entering the castle. Perhaps one of the others has made it in, he thought. Pausing just long enough to narrow in on the sound’s location, he finally determined which door he needed to investigate.
Trying the handle, he discovered that it was locked. Reaching across to his left elbow, he removed a couple of quills, then went to work picking the lock. In less than a minute, he heard a click, and the door began to swing open. What he saw inside wasn’t even close to what he had expected to find.
Tables filled with monkeys strapped face down were everywhere. Each and every one had had their feathered wings removed. Despite the fact that these were his adversaries, the Plaid Porcupine couldn’t help but feel sorry for them.
A grunt from somewhere to his left caught his attention. Turning, he found, much to his dismay, the reason the monkeys were losing their wings.
Two of the simians now faced him with wicked gleams in their beady eyes. Gone were the feathery wings, and in their place he saw sleek metal plates tipped with lasers. In the center of their backs was what he immediately recognized as jet-packs. There was a whine as their jets activated, and they lifted from the floor. A glow at the wingtips let him know that their lasers were powering.
Knowing that this could definitely end his hero career, all that he could think of was who was going to buy his grandmother’s milk.
Suddenly, the jet-packs ceased to function, sending the winged simians hurtling to the ground. A figure wreathed in flames morphed out of the wall behind them, eyes glowing as she shattered the crystals in their lasers and welded their wings to the floor.
“No one messes with my friends! No one!” she declared as she landed on the floor. Growling, she made the cybernetic equipment the monkeys were equipped with just vanish, and while it released them, it also rendered them fairly harmless.
Firefox looked at the Plaid Porcupine and smiled. “You OK?” she asked. “We’d just finished up outside when I saw you go in, so I decided to keep track of you. When I heard these two power up, I knew you could use a hand, so I just came in.” She looked around at the other moneys, her eyes softening when she saw what had happened to them. “You think we should let them go?” she asked the Porcupine.
In the fields of corn outside the castle, Bull Toro looked over and signalled to Buck Wheet, who, in turn, flashed one to the third member of their strike force, Armored Dillo. They had been monitoring radio traffic when they chanced upon Black Lightning Bug’s signal back to Quackum Labs, and these three great hunters had made their way to the same supplied coordinates in Kornsas.
The three self-proclaimed defenders of the Animerican way were true exemplars of the concept of United Species of Animerica — a bull, a white-tailed deer, and an armadillo. All three wore camouflage and carried heavy-duty firepower. From their vantage points, they had been watching the battles between the Outhyders and friends and the strange forces of evil and were preparing to move in and offer back-up to the good guys.
Dillo revved up his tank, even as Toro and Wheet locked and loaded their assault rifles.
Meanwhile, the heroes inside were closing in on the villain of this story, or so they thought.
“Sweet mother of Julio Iguanius!” Black Lightning Bug muttered as he dodged behind a wall, narrowly avoiding an array of arrows from what appeared to him to be a bunch of playing cards with arms, legs, and heads. He energized his electrical power and prepared to face them.
“Eat heat, you!” he shouted as he let fly his electricity and sent them running away, trying to put flames out. If all went well, none would die, but all would think twice about continuing the attack.
Elsewhere, Stink Bomber and Block Wolf were facing something out of a nightmare. Angry-looking, decrepit, and mean apple trees were tossing rotten fruit at them.
“I am not sure my powers can stop those things!” Stink Bomber said, then added silently to himself, unless maybe I can combine three of these compounds to make a defoliant.
“A defoliant would be good, stinky,” Block Wolf said as he prepared to enlarge and try battering at these trees again.
What the–?! Can he read minds, too? Stink Bomber wondered.
Block Wolf looked at him and winked.
Still elsewhere, Where Wolf was invisible and had her force-field in use as she snuck deeper inside the castle of terror, or whatever they called it, and had a surprise when she opened a door and spotted a very ugly woman peering into a large crystal ball.
“Why, that woman don’t look like any animal I’ve ever seen!” she gasped, and with that, the Wicked Witch of the West turned around and looked surprised.
“Just because I can’t see you, me pretty, doesn’t mean I can’t destroy you!” cackled the green-skinned witch, raising her wrinkled hands to cast a spell.
“Oh, don’t be too sure of that, you hairless ape,” said Where Wolf, and she turned around to find the Plaid Porcupine standing next to the witch’s crystal ball.
“No fooling. I can think of several good reasons why you’re going to lose,” Firefox announced as she came in for a landing.
“That’s very true, Wicked Witch of the West,” Comic-coo-coo said as he flew in with his anthro-bat form. “My trans-dimensional viewer allowed me to already know about the strange inhabitants of Oz and Wonderland, though I must admit I’m surprised to see the playing-card troops of the Queen of Hearts working together with your flying monkeys, since I the last I heard of your two worlds, they were at war. (*) Anyway, I’m glad my anthro-bat form includes great built-in radar and sonar. Made it easier to maneuver through this place.”
[(*) Editor’s note: This is a reference to The Oz/Wonderland War #1-3 (January, 1986, to March, 1986), though technically Oz and Wonderland weren’t really at war but united against the Nome King.]
“And my own tracking equipment was able to find you via your mystic energy signature,” Ducktor Quackum commented.
“And your playing-card commandos were no match for my bionically enhanced strength and reflexes, even if your door was stronger than it looked,” Commander Fowl said, following Quackum into the villainess’ presence.
“We should have guessed you were behind all this,” said Duck Quackum. “The clues were all there. Monkeys worked for you. You chose a drink company, Koala Cola, that originated in Aukstralia, also known by a nickname: Oz.” The sound of several hands slapping their foreheads could be heard as the clues finally connected for the rest of the heroes.
The Wicked Witch had visibly lost some of her confidence. True, she still felt like she could take on six of these heroes, but it wouldn’t be an easy fight.
Black Lightning Bug came in after that, as did Stink Bomber and Block Wolf. The electrically powered feline simply looked at Quackum and commented, “Check it, Duck — all nine heroes in this posse, present and accounted for.” Turning to the Wicked Witch, he added, “Which means that, however you do the math, witchie-poo, it all adds up to you going down hard.”
After Comic-coo-coo used his pen to refuel Commander Fowl’s wing-torches, the young avian, still in anthro-bat form, asked, “So, are you going to surrender quietly?”
“Or is this going to get loud?” Block Wolf finished with an eager expression.
The Wicked Witch of the West, who was actually the second individual known by that title, didn’t know if she was going to win this battle for her great master, to whom she owed nearly everything. But she sure as heck at least intended to go down fighting, as she demonstrated by pitching fireballs from her broom. The magic in the broom itself protected it directly from Firefox’s powers and Comic-coo-coo’s pen, but most of the heroes could still easily dodge the fireballs for the most part (well, except for the giant Block Wolf, but he could increase his size and proportionate power enough to be able to withstand the fireballs, anyway).
However, Ducktor Quackum still couldn’t resist getting off a few shots of his freeze-ray-blaster gun at a few of the fireballs, which was a diversion that proved useful to the other heroes. Commander Fowl tossed some cable at the Witch’s broom, after which he, Comic-coo-coo in his anthro-bat form, and Block Wolf at triple normal size and proportionate strength, all combined their strengths and separated her from the broom.
“Firefox, turn some of the tiles above her into water!” Comic-coo-coo called out. “Water’s her principle weakness!”
“Really? So why didn’t you mention that earlier?” Firefox asked, then proceeded to do so, only for the Witch to barely dodge the deluge of water in time. Where Wolf, employing her invisibility, was unseen and was able to simply slug the Wicked Witch with all her might.
“Well, I kind of wanted to wait until she was separated from her magic broom before I said anything,” Comic-coo-coo answered. “Anyway, water causes her to melt, believe it or not.” And the young avian hero unleashed a sonic blast at the same time that Black Lightning Bug employed an electric attack, and Stink Bomber hit her with some tear-gas in a coordinated attack.
As the Wicked Witch was getting up, the Plaid Porcupine struck her with a flying kick that knocked her back to exactly where Ducktor Quackum had created a patch of ice with his blaster. As the Witch was slipping on this, Commander Fowl grabbed her and threw her right into the nearest wall. After this, the Plaid Porcupine fired off a few quills from his back that pinned the Wicked Witch to the wall. Immediately after this, Comic-coo-coo used his pen to create a giant squirt-gun full of water, while Firefox also created a water-loaded squirt-gun with her powers.
“How can you critters be so mean to a poor, old woman?” cried the Wicked Witch.
“Save it for someone who gives a darn, Witch,” said Firefox. “Do you surrender now, or do we use these big squirt-guns to melt you?”
To this, the Wicked Witch of the West nodded frantically and said, “I surrender! I surrender! Just please don’t melt me! I have too much to live for!”
Comic-coo-coo grinned at this and wrote up a new portal to send her right back to Oz as well as a strong cage to securely hold the Wicked Witch there upon her return. Block Wolf tossed the cage, with the Witch in it, right through the portal.
“You’re not in Kornsas anymore, witchie-poo!” shouted Comic-coo-coo, who then used his pen to write the portal closed.
Ducktor Quackum thanked all the heroes for their help and offered to get them all some pizza to celebrate after calling in the authorities to arrest all the now-unconscious flying monkeys left outside. They were, of course, startled to find a group of three self-proclaimed Animerican patriots — a white-tailed deer, an armadillo, and a bull — shooting at some of the strange creatures from Oz that had escaped the castle during the commotion but had nowhere to go except through the endless cornfields surrounding the castle in every direction. Thankfully, all three of the mighty hunters were terrible shots, and the heroes were able to prevent any bloodshed until the local police arrived.
With that, the case was closed, though many questions still remained. Why had the new Wicked Witch of the West attacked Earth-C? Who was this “great master” of hers who had given her the power to so, and who had supplied her with playing-card soldiers from Wonderland? What was the real goal behind the attack on Earth-C during the Zoo Crew’s absence? And would the Plaid Porcupine ever pick up that bottle of milk for his grandmother?!