OMAK awoke to find himself trapped in a metal box with only his head showing. Inside the box, his hooves were trapped in manacles. As he gave one a tug, testing the strength of his restraints, a jolt of energy shot through his whole body. He screamed.
“It appears that our guest is awake.”
Through eyes blurred with tears, the moose looked up and found himself staring into the face of the oldest, ugliest nannie goats he had ever seen.
“That’s Granny Goatness,” a voice off to his left said. “She works for Barkseid. The funny-looking lamb beside her is Devillambs — of course, the two of you have already met.”
“And the babbling fool trying to narrate this meeting is Scott Flea,” Granny Goatness said.
“I prefer to call myself Mister Miracollar,” the voice said.
“Need I remind you that you are a prisoner?” Granny asked.
“Not necessary,” Mister Miracollar replied. “The shock shackles are handling that task just fine.”
“Then shut up,” Granny said.
“We’ll talk later,” Mister Miracollar whispered to OMAK.
“Where am I?” OMAK asked the old goat.
“You are in the Orphanage,” Granny told him. “Devillambs captured you and brought you here.”
The moose turned his head as far as he could to the left and to the right. “This doesn’t look like any orphanage I’ve ever seen.”
“Granny’s orphanage is a breeding ground for Alpo-kolips’ elite warriors,” a new voice said.
The bent dalmatian emerged from the shadows and joined Granny Goatness and Devillambs.
“That’s Dogsaad,” Mister Miracollar said.
“What is he doing here?” Dogsaad asked, glancing at the canine.
“Kolliebak and Vermin Vundabark captured him,” Granny said.
“Actually, it was Kolliebak that did the capturing,” Mister Miracollar corrected her. “Vundabark just stood there and watched. I’ve never understood how he made it into your clique.”
“He’s a second cousin to Barkseid’s niece’s husband… or something like that,” Dogsaad replied. “But never mind that now.” He turned his attention back to Granny Goatness. “What are you planning on doing with our guests?”
“My precious Glorious Dogfrey has gone out for a bag of charcoal,” Granny said, “and when he returns, we were planning on firing up the dreaded Barbecue of Doom.”
Dogsaad smiled an evil, crooked-toothed smile. “I’m sure Barkseid won’t mind if you make it a two-for-one deal.
At the sound of air exploding in the area behind them, Devillambs, Granny Goatness, and Dogsaad turned to see a flamboyantly dressed sheepdog emerging from a kaboom tube. As the spatial distortion faded away, the newcomer lifted both paws high to reveal two bags of charcoal.
“I’m baaa-aack,” he said, stepping toward the group.
Turning their attention back to the prisoners, the trio began to laugh.
“Now, don’t you boys go anywhere,” Granny said sarcastically. “We’re going to have a barbecue, and you two are the guests of honor.”
With a roar of laughter, the quartet of evil turned and left the room.
“So,” OMAK heard Mister Miracollar say, once they were alone, “are you interested in hanging around for that, or would you like to escape?”
OMAK wasn’t amused by the stupid question. “Of course I want to escape,” he snorted, “but I don’t see how that is possible at the mo–”
The rest of the word died in his throat as the red, yellow, and green-clad canine walked around and stood in front of him.
“How… how…? Wait a second,” OMAK said, suddenly recognizing the costumed dog. “You’re that escape artist from Earth.”
“Actually,” Mister Miracollar said, pulling his mask on, “I’m from New Kennelsis. I just work on Earth occasionally.”
“What are you doing here?” OMAK asked.
“Well, I could tell you now,” the dog said, “or I could free you, and we could discuss it later.”
Before OMAK could respond, he felt the energy to his shackles power down and saw the box that held him begin to open.
They could trade stories later, the moose decided. It would be better to escape while they had the chance. When Granny Goatness returned a few minutes later, her cry of rage could be heard throughout the Orphanage.
“Release the hungry dogs!”
Once they had left the Orphanage, the two escaped prisoners took to the air, constantly aware of the possibility of more parrotdaemons. OMAK relied, once again, on the flight ability of the hummingbird, while Mister Miracollar had produced a pair of silver disks that allowed him to break the law of gravity.
“So,” the canine escape artist said, “what’s a nice moose like you doing in a place like this?”
OMAK felt he could trust this citizen of New Kennelsis, so he decided to explain his mission. “I was contacted by a mysterious hare who wanted me to retrieve something from this world’s ruler.”
“Whoa,” Mister Miracollar said, bringing his flying disks to a dead stop.
The flying moose also came to a dead stop, although he was several yards ahead of his new companion. He flew back to the hovering canine. “What’s wrong?”
“What did this hare tell you about Barkseid?” Mister Miracollar asked. “For that matter, what did he tell you about Alpo-kolips in general?”
“Not much,” OMAK said. “He did tell me that Barkseid would be expecting me, and he would try to stop me.”
“Do you know anything about Alpo-kolips’ ruler?”
OMAK nodded. “I contacted the Just’a Lotta Animals and asked them for information.”
“A good bunch,” the dog said, nodding. “What did they tell you?”
“They said that this was a very dangerous place, and that he was among the most evil canines in the universe.”
“Did they mention that he smells bad when he gets wet?” the escape artist asked.
“I believe Aquaduck mentioned that,” OMAK said. “He said that he discovered that nauseating fact when Barkseid attempted to conquer Catlantis a couple years back.”
“Let’s see,” Mister Miracollar said. “Just a couple more questions, and everybody should be up to speed.”
OMAK looked around. “What do you mean ‘everybody’? There’s no one here but us.”
“Never mind,” the dog said. “Big Yarda says I tend to play to the audience. Anyway, how did you get here?”
OMAK shrugged. “OK, I’ll tell you. My life’s an open book, or at least a well-written short story.”
Mister Miracollar nodded. “I feel like that sometimes, too.”
OMAK answered the question. “On Earth, I am part of an organization called the Global Pet Agency, or G.P.A. I am partnered with a super-computer called Brother IBEX. Brother IBEX was able to generate enough energy to open a portal to Alpo-kolips, and poof, here I am.”
Mister Miracollar nodded. “One more question, and then we should really be going. I’m surprised we’ve been able to hover here in plain sight without being attacked by parrotdaemons or hungry dogs.”
“That does seem a little odd,” OMAK said, “almost like it was planned.”
“Anyway,” Mister Miracollar said, “how do you plan on retrieving this item for the hare?”
“There is a phrase I am to speak,” OMAK said, “and once it is spoken, Barkseid will be unable to harm me.”
“Must be some phrase,” Mister Miracollar said.
“Shouldn’t we go now?” the moose asked.
The canine looked around. In the distance, he spotted a group of parrotdaemons flying in their direction. “We’d better,” he said. “Are you sure you want to go to Barkseid’s fortress?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” OMAK replied.
“OK, let’s go.”
Glorious Dogfrey slowly raised a paw. “We don’t actually have any hungry dogs here at the Orphanage,” he said.
Granny Goatness glared at him. “Then get out in the streets and stir them into a frenzy.”
“How do you plan to do that?” Dogsaad asked.
Granny slapped her forehead in frustration. “I don’t know. Tell them that the alien is the reason they have no food. Promise whoever brings him back a bag of kibble.”
Dogsaad began to nod. “I see. We turn him into a scapegoat.”
Granny Goatness and Devillambs glared at the dalmatian. Dogsaad began to tug at his collar.
“Is that some kind of cheap shot?” Granny asked, angrily.
“No,” Dogsaad said defensively. “A scapegoat is simply someone you put the blame on for something.”
“But, why a scapegoat? Why not a scapedog?” Granny asked.
“Or a scapemoose?” Devillambs added. “That’s what he is, after all.”
“OK, OK,” Dogsaad relented. “We’ll make him a scapemoose. Whatever we call him, him and Mister Miracollar are getting away.”
“All right, then,” Granny said. “Stir up the hungry dogs.”
Within minutes, several of Granny Goatness’ students were going door to door, spreading the word of OMAK’s escape, and how he was the reason they were all hungry.
Not far from the Orphanage, two of the students were waiting for someone to open the door.
“Seems like a waste of time to me,” one of them said.
“What do you mean?” the other asked.
“Well, if the old goat would have just sent us in pursuit, we might have captured the prisoners by now.”
“Instead,” the second student said, “we are wasting time trying to rouse the hungry dogs to do the chasing.”
“Exactly,” the first student said.
Before they could continue with their conversation, the door opened, and the students found themselves face to face with the occupant.
“Can I help you?”
The students looked at each other. One of them finally spoke.
“Um, you aren’t a dog.”
“No, I’m a cat,” the occupant replied.
“We are looking for hungry dogs,” the student said.
“Oh,” the cat said. “You must be looking for Fred. He’s my roommate.”
“Is he here?” the second student asked.
“No, he’s not,” the cat said. “Is there a message?”
“Well, we were hoping to stir up the hungry dogs to chase an alien that could be the reason they are so hungry,” the first student said.
“I’m not real busy at the moment,” the cat said. “If you want, I can fill in for Fred.”
“Well,” the second student replied. “I’m not sure. I don’t guess there would be a problem.”
“I am bilingual, if that helps,” the cat told them. “I speak fluent dog.”
“It is getting dark,” the first student said. “I don’t see why not.”
“It’s settled, then,” the cat said. “I’ll leave Fred a note and grab my jacket.”
Several moments later, hundreds of hungry dogs and one only slightly peckish cat were hot on the heels of the escaped prisoners.
While the hungry dogs (and one slightly peckish cat) scoured the slums, Granny Goatness, Glorious Dogfrey, Devillambs, and Dogsaad made their way to Barkseid’s fortress. While they did not relish the thought of informing their master of the alien’s escape, they saw that they had no other choice.
“Escaped?!” Barkseid howled upon hearing the news.
It was Dogsaad who was pushed to the front of the little group to explain. The dalmatian hemmed and hawed several seconds before the ruler of Alpo-kolips demanded an explanation. As Barkseid’s eyes began to glow a bright red, Dogsaad panicked. He stammered again, then blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“It was Mister Miracollar’s fault.”
“What was that canine escape artist doing in the Orphanage?” Barkseid demanded.
“Kolliebak and Vermin Vundabark captured him and brought him to Granny,” Dogsaad said.
“I seriously doubt Vundabark had anything to do with it,” Barkseid said. “If it wasn’t for my niece’s constant whining… Anyway, why didn’t you keep them separated?”
“We were planning on letting them die together on the Barbecue of Doom,” Granny added.
Devillambs decided to speak up. “Master.”
“Yes?” Barkseid replied.
“As we speak, the hungry dogs are out chasing the prisoners,” the wicked lamb said. “We also saw several squadrons of parrotdaemons searching the skies.”
“Then,” Barkseid said, turning his attention to his hunter, “why aren’t you out there taking part in the search?”
Devillambs knew that the only response his master required was for him to leave immediately and find the moose. He wasted no time in doing just that.
As the lamb joined in the search, OMAK and Mister Miracollar had landed and taken to the shadows less than two blocks from the fortress.
“We’re going to have to be cautious from here on out,” OMAK said.
“Not if you really want to get to the fortress,” his companion replied.
The moose started to speak, then raised a hoof and motioned for the dog to be quiet. From somewhere nearby, the sounds of barking and growling could be heard, and it seemed to be getting louder.
“The hungry dogs,” Miracollar whispered.
“Hungry dogs?” OMAK asked.
“The unwashed masses of the slums,” the canine replied. “The old goat must have promised them extra kibble or something.”
“My guess is that they have been told to return us to that Orphanage place,” OMAK said. “If we stay here much longer, they will have us surrounded.”
Mister Miracollar crept to the edge of the alley and peered out into the street. A little over a block away, he spotted a mob moving toward them. A second mob was approaching from the opposite direction. Glancing across the way, the dog saw something that made him smile beneath his yellow and red mask.
“I’ve got an idea,” he said, motioning for OMAK to join him.
As the moose approached him, Mister Miracollar stepped out of the shadows and began waving his arms. OMAK looked across the street and saw a large, hairy dog stop and look their way. He was accompanied by a large brown dog in a red military uniform.
“We surrender,” Miracollar said.
“Dis is twice in one day we have caught you, Scott Flea,” Vermin Vundabark said.
“It is back to Granny’s for you,” Kolliebak added.
“Oh, thank you,” Mister Miracollar said. “We were afraid you were going to take us to Barkseid.”
OMAK immediately caught on to what the escape artist was doing. “Please,” he said, pretending to beg. “Don’t take us to Barkseid, whatever you do.”
Vundabark began to scratch his ear. A thought made its way into his head, so he decided to share it with his companion. Whispering in Kolliebak’s ear, he said, “If we take them to Barkseid, there might be a reward in it for us.”
Kolliebak slowly began to nod. He had always had to fight for his father’s affections, even after his half-brother Orihound had become loyal to the dogs of New Kennelsis and even began hanging out with that insufferable Lightstray. But this was a cunning plan worthy of Muttron that was sure to please his father. He spoke to his prisoners. “You will be taken to Barkseid.”
The two heroes began to protest, but falling in behind the massive Kolliebak, they allowed themselves to be led toward the fortress. Within a matter of minutes, the quartet was standing at the massive doors.
As they were about to enter, the doors swung open, and Granny Goatness, Glorious Dogfrey, and Dogsaad started to step outside; behind them, Barkseid stood, his arms folded behind his back.
“Ah, Kolliebak,” the lord of Alpo-kolips said to his son. “You and Vundabark have arrived just in time to join the hunt.”
The two creatures looked at each other and grinned.
“That won’t be necessary,” Vermin said.
As the dog spoke, OMAK and Mister Miracollar stepped from behind their captors. Barkseid’s eyes grew wide with surprise.
Reaching into his belt, OMAK removed a cloth sack. As he opened it up, he moved to stand in front of Barkseid. Smiling, he repeated the phrase he had been told to say.
“Trick or treat.”