by T Campbell and Comickook
Webbed feet walked on air, not quite touching the river. Samantha Drake, the Siren Belle, shivered. Even with her powers, it was a long walk, and of course one had to dress appropriately for the party; but there was the boat, up ahead.
The Steamboat Hatchez continued down the Mew Orleans riverfront. Inside, Mew Orleans’ higher animals glittered in jewelry and sequins. The conversation drifted around how wonderful it was to see one another, how much they all loved that dress, how horrible the world situation was, and how difficult it was, since the recent unpleasantness in Afghanhoundistan, to find fresh imported caviar. Rova Barkitt was right at home.
“And now you say it all the time, whenever any old Swinefeld actor starts a new project,” said Jason Alligator. “‘This project is doomed. It’s the curse of Swinefeld.'”
“Oh, pooh-pooh, dahling!” Rova replied. “What do we simple entertainment reporters know, anyway? You’ll come back bigger than ever!”
“Ahhh, I don’t really mind,” said the short, balding, bespectacled Jason. “I mean, I used to be worried that I wouldn’t live up to high expectations, but now everybody’s expectations are through the floor! I do a Kentucky-Fried Chiclets commercial where basically all I do is smile and squint, and everybody says–”
Yankee Poodle! Stay alert!
Rova tensed but tried not to show it. “Can you excuse me for a minute, Jasie, dear? I’ve got a sudden headache.”
It wasn’t a lie. In the privacy of the females’ room, Rova tapped her communicator and hissed into it, “Don’t do that!”
“She’s close, Y.P. You were right.”
“So call me on cell! Stay out of my head!”
“I assumed you’d want me to contact you quietly.”
“Sheez, you really don’t know anything about show business, do you? Nor about your hometown, apparently. These animals are as, aheheh, ‘free-spirited’ as any I’ve met in Follywood. How did you manage to live her so long and stay such a doe-eyed innocent?”
There was a silent pause, during which Rova was fairly sure she could hear Alley-Kat-Abra doing a breathing exercise to keep her temper. “Just get into costume–“
“Already done, dearie. This little chat isn’t taking too much of my concentration.”
“–and get out there. I’ll teleport in once you make your move.”
“Just in time to steal most of the credit. Got it.”
Rova got out of the room just in time to dodge a flying hippopotamus.
Sure enough, the Siren Belle was there, and she wasn’t wasting any time. The males were all immobilized, and the females were helpless before a telekinetic storm straight out of Stephen King-Vulture. Wallets, credit cards, and jewelry were all floating out of their places and into a pile in front of her as she finished her song about lost love and missed alimony payments.
Rova had learned the best time to quip was just after the first attack, when they’re trying to think of a defense. Never quip before you attack, no matter how good it feels, or you’ll lose the surprise.
Stripes shot out of her left hand and wrapped around the Belle’s bill, duck-taping it shut. “Consider this music criticism.”
Cheers went up among the females who could still stand: “Animerica! Animerica! United Species forever!” Rova had been wearing the flag since before it was fashionable, but it was very fashionable this year. Of course, Rova, though a proud patriot, was hardly Captain Americat. Someone else might consider it a little declasse to accept those cheers. But Rova wasn’t someone else.
She never saw it coming. The Belle made no gesture, and the air gave no glow. Rova just felt an invisible truck smash into her, smash her into the nearest wall, and pin her there.
For a few seconds, they both struggled, Samantha Drake to open her beak, Rova to wriggle her right hand free. Rova was making slow progress, and Samantha was making none.
Desperately, Samantha applied small telekinetic bursts to either side of her bill. They hurt, but they got her mouth open, and she opened it to sing again…
And her breath caught in her throat.
There was a flash of light in front of her, and then there was a black cat, large, imposing, and levitating just above eye level. Samantha knew of Alley-Kat-Abra, had seen her once or twice before, but barely recognized her now. Abra’s eyes gleamed. Her wand gleamed. Even her tail gleamed. “Surrender,” she said, and the word was more than a word.
Samantha had never been more afraid in her life — but her words were more than words, too.
“Life is sore surrender, life gives endless pain,
But life can offer splendor if you know how to gain,
Gain trust, gain friendship, yes, gain love, the kind that makes you free,
I need a friend, a soulmate, someone who will fight for me.”
Felina Furr felt, rather than saw, the males beginning to respond, to step toward her. Rova was free, but still unsteady. “Wanda, quickly, close her jaw! Hurry up and — clench her… maw!”
Magic Wanda sputtered, complaining, and nothing happened. “Look, Wanda, these are ad libs! What do you want from me?”
She was unprepared for the answer. Wanda flew out of her hand and into Samantha’s. Samantha stared, not understanding.
“…what?” said Felina, wobbling in the air.
It’s always something, thought Rova darkly, shooting stripes out of her fingers, hoping to yank that dumb stick out of the battlefield before things got any–
The stripes touched Wanda, and Wanda didn’t like to be touched. She exploded with force in all directions, sending everyone but Samantha flying backward. Felina barely had time to go limp before she slammed into Rova and into unconsciousness.
Samantha looked around at the room, then back at the wand. She tried a few more rhymes, experimentally. Wanda glittered happily with each one.
And Samantha began to smile. “Y’know, ah was thinkin’ ah might want to borrow one of your lifeboats, but now… Ah don’t think Ah’ll… we’ll… be needin’ it. Thank y’all for your hospitality. G’bye, now!”
And Samantha, Wanda, and the pile of valuables levitated out a broken window, with Samantha laughing like the pealing of a bell.
“‘Oh, don’t worry, my friends,'” muttered Rova sarcastically, moving painfully under Felina, reaching for her signal device. “‘I have this totally unique, semi-conscious magical object under my complete control!’ When you wake up, I’m suing you.”
The Zoo Cruiser sliced into the Mew Orleans sky with more style and power than any jet. Byrd Rentals flew it in a holding pattern, caressing the curves of nearby clouds, and practiced his lady-killer smile.
The magical alarm had gone off about fifteen minutes ago, so one of two things would probably happen soon. One: Abra and Rova would report they’d captured the Belle, and Byrd would get to help with the interrogation. Two…
The alarm sounded on his wrist, and it was orange alert. So it was number two: that the ladies needed help bringing this dastardly duck damsel to justice. That was much better, especially since Byrd’s method of restraint was to turn himself into an avian body-wrap. Byrd cranked the Cruiser‘s radio to the max and began his dive.
Rubberduck saw the Siren Belle flying off with the loot and Alley-Kat-Abra’s wand, while Fastback was zipping in to grab Yankee Poodle and Alley-Kat-Abra and carry them safely out of the grasps of the attacking mob still under the Belle’s control. Confident in the precautions he took (i.e. the special lens and the ear plugs), Rubberduck steered the Zoo Cruiser right after the fleeing villainess.
Unfortunately, the radio was still loud enough to alert the villainess to the incoming hero. With an all-too-easy aerial side-step, the Belle dodged the incoming vehicle and almost nailed it with a blast from Alley-Kat-Abra’s wand. However, Rubberduck was a skilled enough pilot to dodge the blast.
As the Siren Belle was getting ready to unleash a telepathic assault on the Zoo Cruiser, she got nailed by one of Yankee Poodle’s star blasts, though the Belle was somehow able to absorb enough of the blast to remain not only conscious, but relatively unharmed. In fact, all Yankee Poodle’s star blast did was make the Siren Belle’s powers stronger.
As Alley-Kat-Abra started to come to, she looked at Wanda and telepathically called to it via the psychic link they still had, and said, “Look, Wanda, I really am very sorry for snapping at you. I should have tried harder to come up with a good rhyme. I also shouldn’t have bragged about having any real sort of control over you; nobody controls you but you. I shouldn’t have taken you for granted, expecting you to work for me. Still, if it’s not too late, I’d like you to come back to working with me as an equal partner.”
Touched by this heartfelt (if sickeningly sappy) apology, Magic Wanda broke itself free from the Belle’s grasp and started flying back toward Alley-Kat-Abra, though it was detained by the Belle’s telekinetic power. Fortunately, this tug-of-war took so much of the Belle’s energy that the villainess was left wide open for one of Yankee Poodle’s stripe-traps. Desperately, Samantha Drake started singing again, and this time Fastback fell under her control as well as every male on board the ship (Rubberduck was protected by the special ear plugs he was wearing, but Fastback wasn’t so fortunate).
Under the Siren Belle’s control, Fastback used his super-speed to grab Yankee Poodle’s stripes and zip them again and again around Yankee Poodle and Alley-Kat-Abra. Though Abra was able to free herself and Rova from the stripes with some help from Magic Wanda (help she made absolutely certain to thank Wanda for), this still provided enough of a diversion for the villainess to make good her escape — or so she thought, since Rubberduck discreetly followed her after landing the Zoo Cruiser.
A quick freeze ray blast from Magic Wanda made it possible for all the entranced males to be stopped without being hurt; well, all the entranced males except Fastback, who was able to vibrate his body until he melted through his ice block. Fortunately, those same vibrations also freed Fastback from the Belle’s control. “Much obliged ta ya ‘n yer wondrous wand, Miss Abra, ma’am,” Timmy-Joe Terrapin said matter-of-factly.
“Hey, you freed yourself with your ultra-sonic vibrations — Magic Wanda merely gave you an excuse to use them,” Abra said honestly. She added, “There is one positive aspect to Magic Wanda’s thankfully very brief bonding with the Siren Belle…”
“Which is?” Yankee Poodle asked in an annoyed tone.
“That positive aspect is that Magic Wanda now has a mental marking of our quarry. That means we can now follow her anywhere, assuming, of course, Magic Wanda is feeling up to it,” Alley-Kat-Abra answered as her sorcerous stick started leading the two furry female felon foilers as well as their fleet-footed reptilian ally on the villainess’s trail like a magic-powered bloodhound.