by T Campbell and Comickook
If you had been looking out over the docks, about ten minutes later, you would have seen a black cat, a white poodle, and a blue tortoise shell float overhead at nearly sixty miles per hour. You wouldn’t have been able to hear their words, but you would have heard that they were shouting over the wind.
“CAN YOU POINT THAT THING IN ANOTHER DIRECTION?” shouted Yankee Poodle.
“DON’T CALL HER A THING!” replied Alley-Kat-Abra. There was anger in her voice, and something else.
Rova Barkitt was pretty sure she overheard a telepathic whisper from Abra afterward: “Shhh. Shhh. It’s OK. It’s OK.” There was kindness in the telepathy, and something else. The same something else as before. It took Rova a moment to recognize what that something else was:
If you’d asked her, Rova herself couldn’t have told you why she started thinking back to the day she got her powers — when Byrd Rentals — her best friend — had started swelling and stretching like a CGI effect, and magnetics started shooting out of her hands, smashing everything they touched.
What if she’d never learned to completely control the powers?
And what if they had a mind of their own — a mind she had to placate with improv poetry, a mind that could stop liking her at any time?
It’d be almost as bad as being married.
And despite herself, Rova felt a moment of worry on Abra’s behalf, followed by a much more typical moment of worry on her own. As they descended through the streets of Mew Orleans, homing in on the Siren Belle, Rova’s mind drifted to a line from the Super-Squirrel movie:
“You’ve got me, but who’s got you?”
A few minutes earlier, when the Siren Belle had just blasted Alley-Kat-Abra, Yankee Poodle, and Fastback with some telekinetically moved smoke from a chimney during the midair chase, she had landed gently for a brief rest and had hidden from her foes up until now. “Finally lost them three,” the Siren Belle said, “but jus’ in case…”
With that, the villainess telekinetically ripped out three rather large chunks of earth and flung them at Abra, Rova, and Timmy-Joe while they were still reeling from the improv smoke screen. Though the smoke and the earth chunks hardly posed any real danger to the three heroes (they’ve all certainly dealt with much worse — most recently a second run-in with Frogzilla), they did provide just enough of a distraction for the villainess to feel secure in feeling she had escaped.
That was, until she saw a flash of green drop down on her in the form of a living coil and felt that green coil squeeze around her tightly. From the top of this coil emerged a duck’s head, which made the comment, “So, you beauteous bad bird. Come to Mew Orleans often? Seriously, though, how about stopping over by the Cats-bah before I finish bouncing you over to the police.”
Samantha Drake tried singing to get Rubberduck to let her go, but his ear plugs’ protection held. Instead, Rubberduck leered at her and quipped, “You don’t need to sing to put me under your spell; I’m already under it.”
The Siren Belle then tried her gaze, but those special lens Rubberduck wore kept him protected from that aspect of her mind-control, too. “You’ve got very nice eyes, gorgeous, but I’ve still got to turn you in to the police-dogs,” Rubberduck said with a sigh of half-regret.
Finally having enough of the super-stretching would-be Duck Juan, the Siren Belle telekinetically pried herself loose of Rubberduck’s grip and then flung him right into a wall, keeping him pinned telekinetically. Oddly enough, however, Rubberduck didn’t mind that much. In fact, he replied, in all honestly, “I like a gal that plays rough and hard-to-get.”
However, keeping Rubberduck at bay took enough of Samantha’s telekinetic power to leave her wide open for one of Yankee Poodle’s star-blasts. “Back away from our teammate, you baleful bird bandit,” Rova said in a heroic tone as Alley-Kat-Abra signaled Fastback to get Rubberduck back to the Zoo Cruiser while she and Rova dealt with the Siren Belle.
Samantha got up from the blast looking rather pained, surprised the star blast didn’t make her stronger like it did the first time Yankee Poodle tried it. That’s when it hit her — the reason the star blast made her stronger last time was because the wand was protecting her. Now Magic Wanda was back with her original holder, and Rova, Abra, and Wanda never looked more focused. This caused the villainous female waterfowl to gulp loudly. After all, she knew she was no match for all three when they were that focused.
Still, she also realized that all her efforts to elude the trio would be doomed to failure, because one of that trio had her mental marking, which left either surrender or fighting against seemingly hopeless odds.
If she surrendered, she was afraid would be the laughingstock of the super-villain community. However, she knew fighting would prove futile with no males around for her to entrance into helping fight her foes.
That’s when it hit Samantha again — she let fear cloud her mental faculties. She still had one trick left open to her, courtesy of some rather lonely evil scientists she had seduced with her mind-control powers. She wasn’t going to use it unless she absolutely had to, because, though she was a criminal, she wasn’t a killer. Still, she believed in being prepared.
With that thought in mind, she pressed a button on a remote control unit she kept in her purse. In a flash of light, a one-quarter rabbit, one-quarter turtle, one-quarter-duck, and one-quarter pig monstrosity emerged.
“Say hello to CFRP-One, the Multi-Critter,” she drawled. “You will find he possesses the combined might of all four o’ your Zoo Crew teammates, though the scientists who created him found a way to make the Captain Carrot powers permanent in this critter. I truly did hate to call him in, howevah, since it seemed a bit on the drastic side, and I am, by nature, not a killer. But you left me with no othah choice.”
The words flew out of Rova’s mouth as unexpectedly as the first stars and stripes had flown out of her hands: “Joking… right?”
CFRP-One replied: “PRIMARY TARGETS IDENTIFIED. COMMENCING LETHAL–”
The poodle and the tabby’s reflexes and skills responded before their conscious thoughts. In less time than it took to tell it, there was a stripe-shaped cocoon around them both, glowing with Wanda’s xanthic protection.
“–MANEUVERS,” the robot finished, and all high holy Heck broke loose.
Samantha ran, not stopping for anyone or anything, but shouting all the way, “Y’all brought this on yourselves! It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!”
Imagine the combined strengths of Pig-Iron and Captain Carrot in one creature. Combine that with Rubberduck’s ability to throw punches from any direction, using extended arms like twenty-foot snakes. Finally, add Fastback’s speed, which was nearly supersonic even in close quarters like these. If you could imagine all that, you could just about imagine the punishment Rova’s cocoon was taking. It would have taken an outrageous optimist to hope that they would be safe for long — and Rova was nothing if not a realist.
“Get us out of here!” she shrieked.
Abra was levitating inside the cocoon, twitching and thrashing as if half-possessed, sweating and growling, muttering, “Concentrating…”
“Concentrate faster!” Were there cracks in the cocoon already? Rova strained, shot out more stripes, and built up a second cocoon inside the first. But she couldn’t keep doing that; the air was already getting thin.
“This is much harder than — it’s the magnetism in your stripes, I can’t find the ley lines…”
“Sorry, dearie! I’ll try to–”
Abra’s eyes glowed yellow-green, a glow that spread along her cape, and she called in a voice that was not quite her own, “Félicette, spirit of the astronauts! I call upon you! Heed us! Help us! Open your doors!”
There was a blinding flash within the cocoon, followed by an equally blinding darkness, and then silence, save for Abra’s labored breathing.
After a minute, Rova pulled a few of the stripes back into her hand, just enough to open the cocoon a tiny crack, and let in a bit of air and light. She saw nothing through the peephole. “It’s… gone?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Abra, getting enough breath back to laugh a little. “It’s really gone.”
“About fifty miles up.”
“Wanda and I and… a third party… were able to teleport it up there, even through the stripes. And tough as the Captain and Pig-Iron are, even they wouldn’t survive a fall from that height. I have to give Wanda credit: I wouldn’t have thought of that.”
Rova widened the peephole. “Didn’t Pig-Iron tell us he met Rod when he caught him from falling out of the stratosphere?”
“Yes, I’ve wondered about that, too. I believe the Captain might have some latent levitational ability, which he isn’t consciously aware of. It’d be interesting to see how his powers worked on a magical world, where the laws of gravity and physics are more flexible. But I doubt the scientists who built this robot could duplicate that.”
By now, Rova had widened the peephole into a door. “Well, faaascinating as this is, dahling, we should be going. That crooning crone is a lot more dangerous than we expected. And I was hoping to get to the sauna tonight.”
She looked back at Abra and saw she was still squatting on the floor and breathing hard. “You all right?”
“Yes. I just… remind me to sacrifice a sardine on Wednesday.”
“I’ll put it on my day planner. Is that for that spirit you paged? Felic–”
“Shhh. Don’t say her name.”