It was a warm, sunny day in Southern Califurnia. The sky was clear, the breeze cool, the sand hot, and the bikini-clad beach bunnies bouncing along the boardwalk positively incinerating. Four members of the Zoo Crew — Pig-Iron, and three others in their secret identities: Byrd Rentals, Rova Barkitt, and Timmy Joe Terrapin — were relaxing on some beach chairs on this well-deserved day off in Los Antelopes.
“Ahhh…” Pig-Iron said, sitting on a beach chair made of quadruple-reinforced steel to support his immense, muscular, metallic purple and blue frame. “Guys, maybe it’s me, but I just can’t think of a better way ta unwind after a whole week o’ battling nutty super-villains than a nice, peaceful day layin’ out on th’ beach.”
“Pig-Iron, ol’ chum, you won’t get any argument from me,” said Byrd, a green-feathered duck wearing a red and white Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap that shadowed his face. “The only thing that could possibly make this soirée any more enjoyable would be the exclusive company of some of these young ladies, who most likely possess a keen enough sense of taste to be Byrd Rentals groupies.”
A wide-brimmed straw hat laying on the sand rose, revealing the black-and-blue-furred head of Felina Furr underneath (but don’t worry, Zoo Crewophiles; she was just buried up to her neck in sand). “A pity you’re not here as Byrd Rentals,” said Felina. “But then, if you weren’t using your Rubberduck powers to alter your familiar facial features, you wouldn’t have been able to join us without the usual crowd of gawkers and assorted star-hounds flocking around you.” Frowning, the pretty feline thought, By the creatures of Kratt — this sand is stirring some form of primitive urge within me, but I can’t quite place it.
Turning to Rova, Timmy Joe said, “Gawrsh, Miz Barkitt, if’n that’s th’ case, why ain’t y’all wearin’ some kinda dee-skies, too? Ain’tcha as famous as ol’ Byrd?”
Rova lowered her sunglasses and gave the shorts-clad green turtle a cold look. “Turtle, be silent and rub some of this Coppertoad sunscreen on my back. I’ll tan just fine without it once I’ve made certain I won’t obtain fur cancer. Just a second…” Laying on her stomach, the white-furred poodle unhooked her bikini top to allow easier sunscreen application.
“Ulp! G-g-gallopin’ galapagos!” said Timmy Joe. “Miz Barkitt… uh… hey, ah think ol’ Byrd’s had more experience at this sorta thang than li’l ol’ me. Ah gotta go… uh… ah think Chet might need some help performin’ his monitor duties back at headcort’rs.” The terrified turtle made his way to the boardwalk, a touch of red gracing his otherwise green skin.
“Why, I do believe I’ve made our Timmy Joe blush,” said Rova.
“It might just be the first symptom of systematic shock,” noted Felina.
“At least I embrace my femininity, feline,” said Rova. “You barely give yours a hearty handshake.”
“Pig-Iron, be a dear and call 9-1-1,” said Felina.
“Before or after he eats the phone?” drawled Byrd.
“Don’t think I didn’t heard dat, stretcho,” growled Pig-Iron. “Yer lucky I’m too roasted to get steamed, otherwise I’d be usin’ ya as a brisbee. An’ if ya must know, I don’t eat phones! … Well… maybe not public phones, anyways.”
“Byrd, if you would?” asked Rova.
Sighing, Byrd said, “Ahhh, I might as well. At least I get to say that I laid my mitts on some form of female today, even if it is just Rova.” At that, Byrd took over Timmy Joe’s task of sunproofing Rova’s back.
“You’re too good to me, Byrd dahling,” Rova said sarcastically. “Hmph!” Turning her head to face Felina, she said, “Look, Felina, much as it pains me to admit it, you’re not so hard to look at. Perhaps if you vamped it once in a while, you might just snag our long-eared leader someday.”
“Wh-who says I’m looking to ‘snag’ him, as you put it, in the first place?” Felina said, blushing fiercely.
Pig-Iron, Rova, and Byrd all cocked an eyebrow at Felina for this pathetic excuse of a cover-up, and Felina meekly concealed herself beneath her hat once more.
“Hiding yourself again, dearie?” said Rova. “I’d have thought you’d be covered up enough, what with wearing a one-piece to the beach for the umpteenth time.”
“Aw, geez, Rova, cut the kid a break, will ya?” said Pig-Iron. “Our Felina just ain’t dat kinda girl.”
“True, true… or maybe she’s that kind of girl — the kind of girl who likes to play softball,” teased Rova, causing Byrd to chuckle. “What say you, O wielder of the Magic Wanda? Thinking of trading in your emblem for a pink triangle, perhaps?”
“Rrree-yowr!” screamed an enraged Felina Furr, leaping out of the sand to reveal her one-piece bathing suit and fur covered in granules of sand.
“Eek!” cried Rova as Felina grabbed her, flipping her right side up, and nearly costing Follywood’s top celebrity interviewer her top. A feline fist struck toward her person, and as Rova winced, bracing herself for the impact, she began wondering if she had wisecracked her last, when suddenly she found that Byrd had blocked the blow by using his elastic powers to cancel out the punch.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said Byrd. “Easy, there, whiskers! This ain’t the Califurnia Poodle Exhibition!”
Felina backed off, somewhat surprised at the way she lost control. “Suffering séances! Rova… I’m sorry. I should know better than to take you seriously during our repartees. Please forgive me, my friend.”
Rova, smiling but still stunned, said, “Er, I’ll let you know if I do… once my heart slows down to at least a hundred beats per second!” She thought to herself, My stars! She was going to knock my block off! I could see it in her eyes.
Meanwhile, Felina thought to herself, This is what I get for forsaking my meditation to watch Late Nut With David Fettermane.
“Sheesh,” muttered Byrd. “Hey, where’s Rodney during all this? He’s the one who’s supposed to keep the fur from flying when in-fighting happens.”
“Hey! Speaking o’ flyin’ fur,” said Pig-Iron, “where’re all da beach-goers runnin’ off to?”
“He’s right,” said Rova, looking at the crowds passing them by in droves. “Everyone’s running away in terror.”
Elsewhere on the beach, Rodney Rabbit had been utilizing his recreational time constructing an elaborate sand sculpture resembling a prostrate Wonder Wabbit.
“Sizzlin’ celery stalks!” said the brown-furred Rodney as he adjusted his thick glasses. “I oughtta come down to the beach more often! I can’t remember the last time an artistic endeavor was both deadline free and fulfilling.” Sighing, he said, “Diana, my love, I hope that somewhere on Earth-C Minus you’re thinking of me as I’m thinking of you. If only you could be here with me, and this sculpture could take your place…”
Suddenly, a stray tail swung forth, and the mild-mannered cartoonist’s magnum opus was no more.
“Hey, ya big oaf!” cried an angry Rodney. “You just totaled two hours’ worth of creative ex… pres… sion?” His voice trailed off as he looked up to see a very formidable figure staring down at him. This was a very large armadillo covered in protective tan armor over his scaly orange exoskeleton — it was none other than the one-animal wrecking crew called Armordillo.
“Aw, were you buildin’ that?” drawled Armordillo. “Ah sure am sorry ’bout yer sculpcher, li’l partner, but ah owe ‘at dere long-eared sand-witch — heh — an’ all her compadres for helpin’ ta truss me up an’ send me up the river for a spell.”
“How dare you speak that way about Wonder Wabbit?!” cried Rodney indignantly. “Captain Carrot will defend her honor!”
Rodney attempted to tackle Armordillo, but in his blind fury, he forgot that he had been neglecting his veggies — namely his cosmic carrots — and slammed into Armordillo’s double-tough armor plating, nearly taking himself out.
Armordillo, chuckling, said, “Ah bet he an’ his team’d try ta do just that, if’n he was here. But this tahm, ah’ve got m’self a team uh mah own ta watch muh back.”
As he moved to one side, he revealed a bevy of bruising baddies behind him. “Allow me ta introduce mah buddies,” said Armordillo. “This here’s Digger O’Doom, the Cheshire Cheetah, the Squawker, and Stinkerbelle!”
Leapin’ lettuce! thought Rodney. It’s a rogue’s gallery of some of the Zoo Crew’s most dangerous enemies!
“Tremble in yore swim trunks, folks,” shouted Armordillo, “’cause A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C. is back — A Costumed Revenge-Oriented Super-villain Troupe In Cahoots! As fer who we all’s in cahoots with…”
An unidentified feathered object swooped down from the skies and landed in the midst of the costumed criminals, to be revealed as none other than Doctor Hoot, piloting a hi-tech antigravity platform.
“Now that the gang’s all here, keep your eyes peeled for that infernal Zoo Crew,” said Doctor Hoot, a tan-feathered owl wearing a long-sleeved green sweater with the words Bad Guy emblazoned across the chest.
“But, boss, why’d we come to the beach instead of attacking the Z-Building directly?” asked Digger O’Doom, a muscular, shaggy, dark-brown-furred mole wearing torn green pants and a blue shirt.
“Because my platform’s cosmic radiation meter’s going haywire, which means they must be hiding somewhere on this very location,” explained Hoot.
“And me without my stinc oxide,” said Stinkerbelle, a female black-and-white-furred skunk wearing a purple sleeveless minidress, mauve leggings, and purple slippers, flying with the aid of two gossamer wings sprouting from her back.
“My dear,” said Doctor Hoot, “after hearing that pun, I daresay that God knew what he was doing when he made you a skunk.”
“As far as the Zoo Crew’s concerned, villains, you’re all a bunch of stinkers!”
Doctor Hoot turned around to see the Zoo Crew members Alley-Kat-Abra (who had spoken), Pig-Iron, Rubberduck, and Yankee Poodle.
Covering Rodney with a mystic energy bolt, Abra said, “Fear not, beach-going citizen, Magic Wanda will teleport you to a safe place from these ruffians!” She silently added, To be precise, under the boardwalk for a quick cosmic carrot break.
“Excellent,” said Doctor Hoot. “We’ve got them outnumbered! Attack!”
Both teams charged at each other, and the battle began.
“If it isn’t my old nemesis, the Squawker,” said Yankee Poodle, clad in her star-spangled, red, white, and blue costume. “I didn’t think you were stupid enough to come back for a second helping of my bio-magnetic barrage.” She thought, I must have really been fazed by Felina’s attack earlier, or else I would have picked up on Polly Wannacracker’s bioelectric aura before now.
Yankee Poodle fired a salvo of stars and stripes at the masked red-and-blue-clad parrot, but the airborne Squawker dipped sharply, avoiding the attack altogether.
The green-feathered brunette villainess squawked and said, “Are you kidding, Poodle? If Doctor Hoot and Brother Hood hadn’t promised me that I’d get another shot at you, I never would’ve signed up with A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C. — Acronym-Crazed Roster Of Sociopathic Tetrapods Invading Califurnia.”
“Tetrapods?” cried Rubberduck, wearing his usual green and yellow costume and goggles. “You guys spend your nights leafing through a thesaurus, don’t you?”
“Now ya’ve gone an’ made me mad!” said Pig-Iron. “I’m gonna flatten you bozos fer wreckin’ our sunbathin’ time — not ta mention I still owe you guys fer shanghaiing me back in issue number two!”
“Good heavens, man, this isn’t some sort of comic-book,” said the Cheshire Cheetah, a yellow-furred, spotted grinning cheetah wearing red running shorts and a green polo shirt. “Let me help you bury any ‘issues’ you might have with A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C… thusly!” Using his super-speed to run around Pig-Iron, the Brutish villain loosened the sand beneath the hero’s hooved feet and quickly buried him up to his neck.
“Jumpin’ jackhammers, I’m stuck inna ground like a tent spike!” said Pig-Iron, trying unsuccessfully to gain some footing to push himself back up. “Well, least he didn’t come up wit’ another version o’ what A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C. stands for!”