Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew: The Dark Side of the Crew, Chapter 3: Calling in Reinforcements

by T Campbell and Comickook

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“You’re seriously suggesting this,” repeated Rova Barkitt. Yankee Poodle’s tone was not welcoming.

“Yeah,” said her old friend Byrd Rentals, a bit more hesitantly.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with her being an attractive female, especially one of the avian persuasion… dah-ling?” Rova was serious, but for Byrd’s sake she curled her mouth into a sarcastic smile. Much as she didn’t want the Siren Belle on this team, she also didn’t want to embarrass Byrd or savage his ego. In Follywood, your ego was your life.

“No! N-no,” stuttered Rubberduck. “She’s been getting great behavior reports from the wardens–”

“Well, I should hope so, honey! She’s an ex-super-criminal at Sting Sting, and if she doesn’t make friends with the wardens, the inmates’ll tar and de-feather her! She knows which side her breadcrumbs are buttered on!”

Byrd hesitated. He didn’t want to tear Rova down, either. “I really believe animals can change,” was all he finally said.

“That’s one of the differences between us and them,” said Rodney Rabbit, picking up the slack. “To these three-foot ears, it sounds like one of the ways that we’ll beat them. They try to kill their enemies, and we try to turn them into friends.”

Alley-Kat-Abra, who’d been watching the conversation with increasing distress, finally spoke up. “Captain? May I speak with you privately?”

Captain Carrot glanced at her, nodded, and followed her off to stage right.

“Well, we’d better break out the card table,” grunted Pig-Iron.

“Why?” asked Doctor Hoot.

“Yeah, why?” asked Chester Cheese.

“Yeah, it’s time for another one of those looo-ooo-ooong talks,” said Rova, rolling more innuendo into the phrase than Jennifer Antelopez could manage on her best day.

“Whut’re y’all talkin’ about?” asked Fastback.

“You guys have mean, petty, dirty little minds,” said Byrd, almost keeping a straight face as he said it. “Abra and the Captain’s relationship is strictly, strictly professional.”

“Oh. Of course,” said Hoot, mentally kicking himself for not realizing it sooner. Details; it was always just a few tiny details he missed.

“You mean…?” Chester began to blush. Little Cheese was starting to get it, but it felt like imagining his parents naked. “You mean — you, you really mean…?”

Timmy Joe Terrapin looked at each of them in turn. “Ah don’ get it.”

***

“Do you have any idea — I mean, any idea — what a bad idea this is? This could be a ‘Bad Idea Furs’ sketch on Saturday Night Wildlife.”

Felina Furr’s intensity left Rodney almost speechless. Finally, he stammered out, “Th-these are tough customers. We’re going to need power and surprise…”

“If we all blew ourselves up with a very powerful grenade, then I’d say yeah, the Nasty Menagerie would be surprised. But we might need a bit more than that.”

“I’ve heard Byrd’s case. Let’s hear yours.”

“She was powerful, Captain. Too powerful to trust. She found ways around our defenses and enslaved half the team. And she… seduced… Magic Wanda. Now we’re talking about letting her control five super-villains more powerful than we are? I don’t know if I’d trust Rova with that much power!”

Rodney was listening carefully to every word she was saying and not thinking at all about how her green eyes flashed when she was angry.

“She tried to kill us, Captain. All the while telling us — or maybe telling herself — that she wasn’t a killer. I don’t think she’s quite evil, not like Starro or Roquat, I just think she’s weak. So far, her morals have bent according to circumstance. It’s easy to say you’re going to turn over a new leaf when you’re in prison and you don’t have to prove it.”

“But she should get a chance to prove she means it.”

Maybe she should. But not when the fate of the world hangs in the balance.” She paused, and so did he. There was really nothing more to say.

And then she laughed. “I really just said that, didn’t I? ‘The fate of the world hangs in the balance!’ Hoo-hoo… you’re rubbing off on me, Roger…”

“R–” Rodney stopped himself.

“Rodney,” she finished. The ice was broken, and for the first time in days, Felina looked relaxed. “What made you change, anyway? You never told me.”

“I… I guess I just like Rodney. It’s more, you know, heroic.”

“But you never went by it before.”

“I didn’t feel like much of a hero before.”

“But you do now.”

“Yeah. I feel more, heh, powerful, I guess.”

“I feel like I should encourage that, but I’m not sure I like it. You do remember when I told you that there was nothing wrong with being Roger Rabbit?”

He blinked. Suddenly he felt like his real name was something much more modest and unassuming than Roger, like r. rabbit, or “meep meep meep.” He tried to say something, but no words came. Until one came, seemingly at random. “Oz.”

“Hmm?”

“We liberated the rulers of Oz. Maybe we can ask them for help.”

“Captain.” Felina used the word more tenderly than before. “Why are you avoiding the obvious solution?”

“I… um… I guess it’s not obvious to me, Abra.” Now he was calling her Abra. He was retreating to formality just like she had, and yet he couldn’t stop himself.

“The magics of Oz and Wonderland don’t translate well into our world. But there is another world with powerful super-heroes that owes us a favor.”

Supermac’s world?” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “This Bunny Unbound,” The New Teen Titans #16 (February, 1982) and “The Pluto Syndrome,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #1 (March, 1982).]

“Earth-C-Minus.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis on Earth-C,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #14 (April, 1983) and “Crisis on Earth-C-Minus,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #15 (May, 1983).]

Rodney swallowed. He had been avoiding thinking about this.

“I don’t think we can beat them alone, Captain. And pretty soon, it’s going to occur to these animals that our world is still here for them to plunder.”

“Can you get us over there?”

“You and me, I think. Not the whole team.”

Great, he thought. “Well, let’s get back to the others and tell them to guard the planet till we can get back…”

“You can put Pig-Iron in charge until then,” said Felina, smiling mischievously.

Rodney looked at her.

“…Or Byrd.” Felina turned somber again. “I assume that… the things we aren’t discussing… are also not to be discussed with certain members of the Just’a Lotta Animals. But since we’re all on duty, it really shouldn’t be an issue.”

Rodney ran his buck teeth nervously along his lower lip. “Sure shouldn’t.”

When the pair returned from their chat, the Captain explained, “Well, Abra and I are heading for Earth-C-Minus to recruit the Just’a Lotta Animals’ help.”

“A very good idea, especially since mind-control will not work on Ultra-Rabbit or Fantastidrake,” the Earth-Reverse-C Doctor Hoot explained truthfully. “It’ll work against Iron Pig, Slashback, and Big Cheese, as well as the Menagerie’s troopers, but Ultra-Rabbit was made immune to mind-control by a spell cast by Katastrophe before she went as far off the deep end as she did. This spell not only made Ultra-Rabbit immune to mind-control, it also immensely strengthened his willpower around any female except her while weakening his willpower around her. Even after Katastrophe’s insanity had set in, that spell still held securely. As for Fantastidrake, well, he was able to create a willpower-enhancer ray that not only increased his willpower enough to make him immune to the mental control of others, but also increased the power of temporary mind-control that he stole from Owlrat.”

“Thanks for the warning, Doc,” Captain Carrot responded honestly. “It actually makes me glad Abra talked me out of letting Byrd recruit the Siren Belle’s help. In the meantime, we’re trusting you six to keep an eye out for trouble in case the Nasty Menagerie returns before we do, or in case somebody else starts to stir up trouble.”

“Understood, Cap,” Rubberduck said with an exaggerated salute.

“And please, R.D., no arranging the early releases of any super-criminals just because you think they can help and would be the lesser of two evils,” the Captain finished.

“Who, me?” Rubberduck asked, grinning sheepishly as he did.

“Yes, you,” Abra and the Captain both said in unison, along with Pig-Iron, Yankee Poodle, and Fastback, a moment before Alley-Kat-Abra teleported herself and Captain Carrot to Earth-C-Minus.

After their departure, Doctor Hoot asked, “You’re going to see her anyway, aren’t you?”

Rubberduck gazed at Hoot and asked, “What makes you think that?

“Simple,” answered Hoot. “The look in your eyes — the look that says that you’re not going to take no for an answer, and that you are sticking to your plan no matter what. I’ve seen a nastier version of that look in your counterpart’s eyes more times than I care to count.”

Yankee Poodle sighed quietly and said, “All right, Byrd. You, Hoot, and I will go see her and try to arrange things with the Sting Sting warden. If you are going through with this crazy idea of yours, I might as well be on hand to make sure Sammy doesn’t get too far out of line if and when it turns out she can’t be trusted.”

***

The Menagerie Cage, Earth Reverse-C:

Iron Pig, Fantastidrake, Swanky Poodle, Slashback, and Big Cheese were playing five-card-stud poker, trying to ignore the twin moans and screams of intense pleasure coming from Ultra-Rabbit’s sleeping quarters. They all knew how hot ‘n’ heavy Ultra-Rabbit and Katastrophe’s relationship was. Even Big Cheese, who had only been a member of the team for a few weeks, had heard the noise those two made when Ultra-Rabbit rewarded Bast-Felina’s loyalty enough times to be used to it. This time, however, they were going at it with an intensity that was unusually high, even for them.

“For crying out loud,” Fantastidrake hollered as he tossed his cards down onto the table, face down. “Those two are celebrating prematurely. We should have stayed to make sure the Zoo Crew was destroyed.”

“Aww, you worry too much, Fantas. Did you see the storm Bast-Felina and S.P. cooked up? Nobody could have survived a storm of that intensity,” Big Cheese said, with Iron Pig and Slashback nodding in agreement.

“We didn’t stick around to check for the bodies,” Fantastidrake responded. “Believe me, Big Cheese, one of the rules of this game is no dead bodies, no death. If we stuck around long enough to search for Hoot and the Zoo Crew’s bodies, and then if we actually found their dead bodies, with no less than five forms of identification, then I would be a lot more satisfied.”

“Well, their (censored) world is still there, and we pretty (censored) much have this one cowed into (censored) submission,” Swanky Poodle replied, “so let’s (censored) go back over their (censored) world after the (censored) boss rabbit and the (censored) spooky sorceress finish (censored) ‘taking care of (censored) business,’ which probably won’t be for at least another three (censored) hours, judging by their (censored) particularly intense… well, intensity. We’ll gather our (censored) troopers and launch a (censored) full-scale (censored) invasion of the (censored) Zoo Crew’s (censored) world.”

“Yes. Good idea, Rova. This way, we can make absolutely certain about whether or not the Zoo Crew is truly dead. If they interfere, they’re still alive, but won’t be for long, because next time, we’ll stick around until the job is finished,” Fantastidrake said with a sadistic grin as he started calling up the Nasty Menagerie’s troopers. They were underworld gunsels that Fantastidrake had bio-engineered to possess super-powers of their own — not enough to pose a serious threat to the Nasty Menagerie, but enough to handle the blunt of the Menagerie’s dirty work — and outfitted with armored silver outfits greatly resembling the garb of Star Warts storm troopers except for their color.

***

Just’a Lotta Animals satellite headquarters, Earth-C-Minus:

Captain Carrot and Alley-Kat-Abra stood before the assembled presence of Super-Squirrel, Batmouse, Wonder Wabbit (who the Captain was making a conscious effort to stay at least fifty feet away from at all times), Green Lambkin, the Crash, Aquaduck, the Martian Anteater, Zap-Panda, and Stacked Canary, nine of the Just’a Lotta Animals members; all the others were unavoidably occupied with cases of their own. Somehow finding the willpower to just barely keep his mind on business, the Captain explained the situation to the nine assembled heroes.

“Our world has just been attacked by a group called the Nasty Menagerie who are, in a nutshell, the evil counterparts to ourselves and the rest of our Zoo Crew. To make matters worse, they not only have all of our powers, but also the powers of the Crime Critters. They left after leaving the Crew and an alternate-reality Doctor Hoot from their own world — one who happens to be one of the good guys — for dead. However, we fear they will return to lay waste to our world, either to make sure we’re dead, or to take advantage of the fact they think we’re dead.”

Alley-Kat-Abra nodded, silently noticing how Rodney was making an honest effort to control himself around Wonder Wabbit. He was avoiding direct eye contact with her and, as aforementioned, keeping at least fifty feet away from her at all times. She could tell from the look in his eyes going in that, even though it was very hard for him, he really was making a genuine effort to get over his crush on Wonder Wabbit (and indeed, he was).

“Count us in, Captain,” replied Super-Squirrel confidently. “We were wondering why we hadn’t heard from the Crime Critters for a while. Furthermore, we were wondering why, when we finally did hear from them again just yesterday, they had doubled their membership to include, as I seem to recall the names, Chaos Canard, Rubberworm, Bird Eye, the Martian Aardvark, and Sundown Salamander. I guess tangling with your evil counterparts and having their powers stolen by said counterparts would most certainly explain both.”

***

Sting-Sting Prison, Earth-C:

The cell of Samantha Drake, alias the Siren Belle, was so well-kept and so well-furnished that, if not for the bars on the door, one would almost assume this was a posh hotel room rather than a prison cell. Indeed, model behavior did have its benefits for the sultry former villainess.

She had so endeared herself to the warden and the guards that, not only did she have pretty reliable twenty-four-seven security against the inmates that might have otherwise tried taking the super-chick down a few pegs, but she also tended to get the best food and furnishings that the warden could provide without even having to ask for them. Granted, Samantha never asked for this fine treatment, but she wasn’t complaining about it, either.

Still, as much as Samantha enjoyed being treated like a queen by the warden and guards (some might argue better than a queen by the warden, who, it seems, she unintentionally did too good a job endearing herself to, as he had fallen in love with her), the fact remained that she was still bored out of her skull in prison. She meant what she had said when she promised to turn over a new leaf, but she was actually itching for a chance to prove how much she had changed.

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    animals can change look at the apostle pauly the parrot