by T Campbell
The fourth dimension:
Samantha Drake shook her head.
“Well, I thought it was goin’ to be hours before you could raise your purty li’l head, Rubberduck,” she said.
Rubberduck was up and flexing his flexible joints, and seemed to have returned to the green of health within about twenty minutes. Yankee Poodle had recovered surprisingly quickly, too, and thanks to Magic Wanda, so had her uniform.
“Thanks for the repaired duds, Abra. But they are a little loose on me. I’m not your size, you know.”
Alley-Kat-Abra ignored the dig; that was just Rova being Rova. She met the Time-Keeper’s eyes instead, just long enough to confirm her suspicions. Time was moving more quickly than normal for Rubberduck’s and Yankee Poodle’s healing processes, but just slowly enough that they might not realize why. Abra didn’t know exactly why the Time-Keeper was being secretive about his help, and since she figured it probably had something to do with his feelings for her, she didn’t dwell on it.
Tied in a distant part of the fourth dimension’s endless landscape, Bast-Felina was recovering, too. Superbunny’s lasso was too enchanted to teleport out of, and too enchanted to break, but it wasn’t a magic lasso like Wonder Wabbit’s, and with Bast-Felina’s very magical struggle, the enchantment got a little weaker.
“So where to now, O chauffeur cat?“
“To the Z-Building, Yankee Poodle. The Menagerie has taken it. We’re taking it back.”
“Suits me right down to my flippers,” growled Byrd Rentals. “I can’t wait to get my flexible fingers around Fantastidrake.” He turned to Samantha as they began to fade out.
“Do you really think my head is pretty?”
The lasso snapped.
And the Time-Keeper, who had watched it all passively, pointed his clock-hand at Katastrophe and watched her disappear, too.
He took an hourglass out of his belt, with a tiny planet inside it, and watched it for a while.
And Katastrophe woke up in Ancient Egypped, and she hovered about the ground, and she snarled, “This won’t stop me,” and she teleported back to the Z-Building, but there wasn’t a Z-Building there anymore, and she flew around three days before understanding what had happened to her, and she tried to transport herself into the future, but of all her spells, only her time-travel spells seemed not to be working, and she mourned the loss of her lover and prayed to other aspects of Ra for guidance, and finally she returned to Ancient Egypped, where He had dropped her, and was properly worshipped as Goddess-Pharaoh for the rest of her satisfying life.
“I’m sorry, my dear,” said the Time-Keeper, even though Katastrophe couldn’t hear him. “But I’ve seen all kinds of lives from start to finish, and I know how their stories go. I know what would have happened to Alley-Kat-Abra, and eventually to you, if I had let you go after her. Despite your tastes in boyfriends, you both deserve more happiness than that.”
Eventually, he sat down, and decided to take a short nap.
The landscape stretched on all around him.
It seemed to go on forever.
“Don’t tell me you don’t have power fantasies!” shouted Ultra-Rabbit. “I’ve seen your scribbles! Dozens of little moles… hah! Try billions! Every single one of them jealous that we have the power, that I have the power, and they don’t. Every one of them trying to pull me back down to their pathetic level…”
“Oh, sizzlin’ celery-stalks, you just can’t miss the point any more thoroughly, can you? Those moles don’t represent animals. They represent despair. Super-Squirrel is struggling against the darkness of his own soul…”
“What kind of a vill — what kind of a super-hero is it whose most powerful enemy is himself?“
“The best kind, Roger Rodney.”
“Don’t ever call me that!“
“The best kind. The kind who will never be a slave to his own animal impulses. You think you rule the world? What good does that do if you don’t even rule yourself?“
“What is this nonsense about animal impulses? We are animals! We’ll always be animals!“
“We are animals. That’s true. We are,” Rodney said. “And we’re more.”
Wonder Wabbit and Batmouse materialized within Sting Sting Prison. Hairy whipped out his pistol and began walking backward quickly to the door. Guards at Sting Sting were given clear instructions: if it looked like the prisoners were getting the upper paw, don’t try to stop them — run.
“Stop,” said Wonder Wabbit. “We’re not villains. In fact, you should recognize us.”
Hairy squinted at her. “Batmouse… and Zebra, Warrior Princess, right?”
“Close enough. We have urgent business with that prisoner on the right–“
Batmouse had been scanning the prison and now joined the conversation. “That collar on her; I trust it removes her powers? If so, can you open her cell, please?”
Hairy opened the cell, and Wonder Wabbit stepped forward, lasso in hand. Swanky Poodle tried to avoid her, but there wasn’t much room in the cell, and she barely had time to say, “This is too (censored) kinky for words–” before Wabbit’s lasso had bound her, and she was quiet.
“I order you to tell me… everything you know… about Ultra-Rabbit.”
Preparations in the laboratory were nearly ready, but they were still too noisy for Doctor Hoot’s liking. He’d lived in hiding all his adult life, and knew even more than Chester Cheese about stealth.
“Shh-hhh,” whispered Hoot to Pig-Iron for what felt like the hundredth time.
The Iron Pig had finished his snack and was heading down to the lab to look at his captive double, when he started hearing voices.
“Shh-hhh,” whispered Pig-Iron to Little Cheese.
The Iron Pig could hear movement in the next room. Faint, muffled, but definitely there. Someone was in there, freeing Pig-Iron, maybe doing more. And he knew that Big Cheese had been correct about one thing — things had been going wrong for them since they got here. At this rate, they’d all be in prison before long.
“Shh-hhh,” whispered Little Cheese to Fastback.
And the Iron Pig also thought about all the humiliations, great and small, that he’d suffered as a Menagerie member over the months, and honestly, prison didn’t seem so bad.
He lumbered away from the lab, looking for a place to nap.
“Shh-hhh,” whispered Fastback to Hoot.
Hoot rolled his eyes.
Ultra-Rabbit was suddenly looking at the floor — no, Rodney Rabbit realized, through the floor. His ears were better than Rodney’s, too, but it didn’t take a rabbit scientist to guess that the Zoo Crew was doing something in the Z-Building, and Rodney had to try to buy them just a minute.
“Aw, don’t go yet! You haven’t heard the best part! You haven’t heard how we’re going to beat you!”
That definitely got Ultra’s attention. “What do you know?” he yelled, half-throttling Rodney. “Talk!“
“Can’t… maybe if… you… loosen… grip…”
Ultra took his fingers off Rodney’s throat but glared at him, and the glare was so hard that heat-vision might have been involved.
“When I say we, I don’t mean just the Zoo Crew. You’re stronger; I know that. But do you know how many friends we’ve made in our careers? Do you even know what friendship is?“
Ultra looked at him, and beneath the hatred, Rodney thought he could read desperation, as if Ultra didn’t know what friendship was, but desperately wanted to.
“Do you know what it’s like to admire somebody, and know that that somebody admires you, too? Do you know what it’s like to know someone else will watch your back and keep it safe? Do you know… do you know what it’s like to meet the most beautiful female you’ve ever imagined, and leave her for someone else, just because the someone else is the one who likes the real you?”
“Shut up!” roared Ultra. “Shut up! Shut — up — and — die!“
He hit Rodney again, harder than before, and stars exploded inside Rodney’s skull as the ice-block smashed down onto the side of the hangar. Ultra was leaping over him, feet together, ready to smash-kick him down through the floor.
And a blue-brown blur smashed into Ultra on the way down, which made Rodney feel a little better about passing out.
Ultra kicked the blue-brown whatever-it-was into the sky, swept the area with his vision, and froze.
All around him were heroes — heroes everywhere: Super-Squirrel, already recovered from the kick, Alley-Kat-Abra, Aquaduck, the Crash, Green Lambkin, Martian Anteater, Rubberduck, two Siren Belles, Stacked Canary, Yankee Poodle, and Zap-Panda.
He was surrounded by enemies, with no escape.
Just as he had been all his life.