by Comickook and Marc Drayer
Gnudini smirked as he watched from a crystal ball from his hidden location. “You won’t find me, fools — I’ll find you… but nobody else will…” he said to himself. “…at least nobody in Follywood will.” And he started casting a time-vortex spell that would simultaneously send the Zoo Crew centuries into a certain time and place in the past while stripping them of their super-powers.
The Great Gnudini laughed as the members of the now-powerless Zoo Crew were cast through time and space into the distant past.
“What th’–?!” cried Byrd Rentals, coughing up some sand. He looked around in confusion, finding himself in a sandy desert instead of Jackson Retriever’s mansion. Byrd had only just left to get Samantha a drink, when he suddenly found himself whisked away to this place, wherever this was.
Even stranger, he realized he was back in his Rubberduck costume, and the rest of his Zoo Crew teammates, including an irate Yankee Poodle, were likewise picking themselves up off the ground. “What’s going on, here?” he yelled, and made to move quickly over to his teammates for an explanation. Unfortunately, when he tried to stretch his body beyond the norm, he found he couldn’t. A quick examination of his teammates indicated that not only were all of their powers gone, too, but Captain Carrot and Pig-Iron had even changed back into their original non-super-forms as Rodney Rabbit and Peter Porkchops.
“I don’t know, dah-ling,” said Rova Barkitt. “But nobody interrupts one of my celebrity interviews!” But when she attempted to make her point by firing off starry blasts into the air, nothing happened. “Oh, drat.”
“I think I know what happened,” said Alley-Kat-Abra, who had given up trying to get her now-useless Magic Wanda to work. “I believe we’ve been sent back through time!”
“Wow,” said Rubberduck, recalling similar events from a few years back. “Déjà vu.”
“Not really, Byrd,” Peter Porkchops commented factually, now that he’d lost the power of his Pig-Iron form and reverted back to his original size and personality. He’d already scrambled behind a large rock to provide some cover until they could find some suitable attire in his size. “For one thing, all eight of us landed in the same era, unlike that business with the Time-Keeper long ago, when he tossed five of us into three separate eras. (*) Secondly, at least the Time-Keeper let us keep our powers.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Killing Time,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #8 (October, 1982) and “Time Varmints,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #9 (November, 1982).]
“Which means we have only our courage and our non-super skills and wits to help us get through this and find a way back to our era to stop Gnudini,” Rodney commented as he put his glasses back on.
“And that isn’t going to be nearly enough,” the suddenly appearing Gnudini cackled as he super-sized four scorpions near the eight heroes and gave them fire-breathing abilities as well as super-sized wasp wings and the added power to shoot lightning bolts from their stingers. “You’re in the Hare-abian Desert during the time of my genesis thousands of years ago, Zoo Crew! And in this one place and time, you’re completely powerless and at my mercy!”
As the eight former heroes frantically dodged their assailants’ flame and lightning attacks, albeit just barely, they couldn’t help thinking they were all in serious trouble. After all, without their powers, how could they prevail against these four monsters?
Stormwing realized it was all up to him. After all, even without his powers, he could still fly. And he had an idea. He took off and landed right in the middle of the four scorpions, which roared as they closed in on him. Just as they almost had him, he took off straight up. That had been Gnudini’s mistake; he didn’t provide these scorpions with any brains. Two of the scorpions incinerated each other with fire and lightning, and the other two got into a fight, stinging each other repeatedly and tearing each other to bits until they had killed one another.
Still, that was only the first of their problems. They were still centuries in the past and had no powers. There was no way to get back without some miracle. It was then that Peter Porkchops, still hiding behind his rock in the altogether, had an idea. He hadn’t been in this predicament since his encounter with his old pal Wolfie when he’d become the Wuz-Wolf. (*) He called out tauntingly, knowing Gnudini would hear, “Yeah, yeah. You’re too chicken to fight us yourselves, so you send us far away without our powers. You can’t handle us in a fair fight.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Curse of the Wuz-Wolf,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #10 (December, 1982) and “The Wuz-Wolf’s Night to Howl,” Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #11 (January, 1983).]
Stormwing saw what Peter was doing and landed, then joined in on the fun. He strutted around like a rooster, giving clucking sounds in a grotesque parody of the evil genie.
“Mock me, will you?” cried Gnudini, and he used his magic to bring them all back to their own era, which simultaneously restored their powers. He now faced the Zoo Crew alongside Power Platypus.
“All right, you stinking heroes, let’s see what you can do!” said the duck-billed mammal.
“You seven keep Power Platypus busy,” Alley-Kat-Abra replied. “I’ll handle Gnudini.”
“Are you sure you don’t want any back-up with Gnudini, Abra?” Captain Carrot asked in a concerned tone.
“I appreciate the concern, Captain, but it’ll take all seven of you to keep Power Platypus busy until I can defeat Gnudini,” Abra said in a tone that, though half-reassuring, still held a hint of concern for her teammates. She knew they’d be able to keep Power Platypus busy until she was done with Gnudini, but she still couldn’t help worrying about her friends. “Fear not. I know his weakness, and I’ve been keeping in practice; since he’s been in captivity, he hasn’t had a chance to do likewise.”
The Zoo Crewers had their paws (and wings) full with Power Platypus. Yankee Poodle tried firing one of her magno-blasts, while Stormwing summoned up a massive wind-and-lightning storm, and Fastback backed up Stormwing’s wind with two twin cyclones of his own, but Power Platypus summoned forth the equivalent of the combined powers of all three combined with those of the Squawker and Solar Bear. Fortunately, Fastback grabbed both Stormwing and Yankee Poodle and was able to move fast enough to create after-images of all three in order to draw his fire, since the ex-stunt-mammal had their powers, but not their experience.
While Fastback drew the villain’s fire, Captain Carrot and Pig-Iron tried to sneak up behind him. Though the platypus’ super-hearing picked up their sneaking, and he was able to conjure up a massive freezing rainstorm to slow them down enough for him to subdue them with a Squawker blast, it still provided enough of a distraction for Fastback, Yankee Poodle, and Stormwing to nail the ex-stunt-mammal with the combined attack of winds, bio-magnetism, and lightning. However, the platypus was far from out of this fight, which he demonstrated by very easily getting up from that attack.
“Not so fast, old chum,” said Rubberduck, apparently trying to rope the super-powered criminal with his rubbery arm. “You and I have some unfinished business!”
“Nah. I think I’ve outgrown you, duck.” At that, Power Platypus simply grabbed Rubberduck at super-speed and whipped him into Yankee Poodle and Stormwing, though Fastback was able to get out of the way just in time.
While Power Platypus was using Rubberduck to spin the tied-up Stormwing and Yankee Poodle around and around so fast as to render them too dizzy to think straight, he felt something creeping around his body. “OK, so Rubberduck was trying to slingshot you onto me, not rope me, eh, mousie? Nice try, Little Cheese, but I’m not ticklish,” the ex-stunt-mammal said as he grabbed Little Cheese off his body at super-speed.
However, Little Cheese was able to employ his full-sized strength, which he still retained at his shrunken size, and had enough leverage to flip Power Platypus over. I have to remember to thank Felina for those martial arts lessons, Little Cheese thought to himself.
Meanwhile, Alley-Kat-Abra was in the fight of her life with the Great Gnudini, who hoped to trap her so that she would be forced to watch helplessly as Power Platypus decimated her teammates.
Finally, the evil genie from the bottle managed to strike Alley-Kat-Abra with a magical bolt, and he cried out in triumph. However, Gnudini found out too late that the Abra he fired on had merely been a realistic mystical energy duplicate designed to decoy him until the heroic sorceress, turned invisible and intangible, could creep up behind him from under the sand.
Suddenly, he found himself once more trapped in a bottle that had suddenly shrunk down to the size of a twenty-ounce pop bottle. This time, however, the cap was sealed on with super-super-glue, and the bottle was levitated into a reinforced steel vault, which Alley-Kat-Abra permanently fused shut. “For you, the bottle and safe combination is more secure than any jail cell could ever be,” the prestidigitator pussycat replied with a smile.
Drat, Gnudini thought to himself, realizing too late that his ring-rust had led to his defeat. If it weren’t for that blasted genie rule about being powerless when confined to a bottle, he wouldn’t have been so out of practice and have forgotten so much. Of course, if he hadn’t let those Zoo Crewers’ mocking get the better of him, he wouldn’t have gotten careless enough for that to be an issue.
Nearby, Captain Carrot and Pig-Iron had regained consciousness and were working at untying Rubberduck, Stormwing, and Yankee Poodle. Power Platypus was about to attack Captain Carrot and Pig-Iron with a combination of their strength, Fastback’s speed, and the combined added strength of the Armordillo and Digger O’Doom, when Alley-Kat-Abra suddenly zoomed in for an air attack, magically increasing her own strength, reflexes, and endurance to match those that Power Platypus now had.
Abra had used the mystic adrenaline rush spell to give herself a temporary strength, speed, and endurance increase before, most notably when faced with her evil counterpart, Katastrophe, who’d had her magic and martial arts skills plus the strength, reflexes, and endurance of Wonder Wabbit. (*) But every time she did this, it took a lot out of her after the fact. With a superb kick to the bottom of her enemy’s stomach, Abra was actually able to faze her more powerful foe despite his super-resilience.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew: The Dark Side of the Crew.]
While Power Platypus was shaking off this kick on his back, Alley-Kat-Abra grabbed him by one arm and one leg and started spinning him around faster and faster, until he was incredibly dizzy. As the ex-stunt-mammal wandered around in a daze, the feline felon-fighter then nailed him with a massive right uppercut, which put him down for the count. And it was a good thing, too, because her super-adrenaline spell had just worn off at that very instant.
“Once again, experience is more important than raw power,” observed Captain Carrot with great admiration, “and fortunately, our foe still wasn’t experienced enough to know all of our tricks.”
“Well, he’s too powerful for even Sting-Sting’s super-maximum security super-villain wing, so what do we do with him?” Stormwing asked.
“‘May it help you double your heroic efforts on this world’… hmmm…” muttered Alley-Kat-Abra, who was deep in thought.
“What are you thinking, Abra?” said Captain Carrot, recognizing the phrase.
“I believe I’ve got an idea,” Alley-Kat-Abra replied with a grin. “Captain, do you still have that device the Cosmic Watch-Hare gave you this afternoon?”
“Yes,” said the puzzled Captain, handing it over to her. “But why? It’s just a hologram.”
“I don’t think an alien would travel all the way from another galaxy just to give us a nice little picture,” said Abra. “No, I think this hologram has another purpose as well. I’ve been practicing an energy-draining spell, but I’ll need all of my willpower, and I’ll need to telepathically link to the combined willpower of all seven of you to penetrate Gnudini’s magical wish-field. If this alien device does what I think it does, we can drain off enough of his power so that we can stick him in Sting-Sting with relative confidence, along with an added benefit.”
Captain Carrot looked at her and finally shrugged, not understanding what she meant but willing to trust her judgment. And so, with supreme concentration and the telepathically added willpower of all seven of her teammates, the wondrous whiskered witch started draining off the excess power of the still-unconscious Power Platypus. Slowly but surely, she managed to drain off the equivalent of her power and the power of all seven of her teammates, using the alien device as a focal point. She knew her hunch about the alien device had been correct when it suddenly began transferring those drained powers into her teammates, doubling their powers.
But as soon as that was done, Abra was unable to drain off the rest of the platypus’ power, despite everything she tried. The alien device had obviously been meant for the one purpose of making the Zoo Crew twice as powerful as before. Power Platypus was thus left with the combined powers of Solar Bear, the Squawker, the Armordillo, and Digger O’Doom, leaving him powerful but still manageable enough for security at Sting-Sting’s super-villain wing.
“All in all, things turned out pretty well on this case,” said Stormwing.
“That’s easy for you to say,” said Rubberduck, checking his watch and realizing it was now 8:30 P.M. — two hours later than it had been when he was whisked away from the Easter charity ball. “Samantha’s going to kill me!”
“At least she might still speak to you again, given enough time, dah-ling,” said Yankee Poodle. “But I’ll never get another chance to interview Jackson Retriever!”
“Well, you’re both still welcome to join us for our Easter dinner,” said Captain Carrot. “With all that food we’ve got, and no guests to feed, we’re going to be eating leftovers for weeks!”
“Don’t bet on it, bub,” said Pig-Iron with a grin.
After the Zoo Crewers took Power Platypus in and booked him, they returned to the Z-Building to have their Easter dinner. That was, if there was still a dinner to be had after Pig-Iron wolfed down as much food as he could before the others could get to them, leaving the rest of the Zoo Crew with slim pickings.
Meanwhile, Stormwing had to make a little detour to the studio to make his weather forecast for the ten o’clock news as weatherbeast Terry Dactyl.
At the end of the newscast, the anchorbeast, Lani Badger, turned to Terry and said, “Still haven’t gotten that interview with Stormwing, have you?”
“Uh, no,” said Terry. “I might just save that interview for Rova Barkitt.”
With that, he ended the newscast and headed back for the Z-Building. There, Rubberduck was drowning his sorrows with hot chocolate and a bunch of chocolate Easter bunnies. Predictably enough, Samantha Drake had refused to speak to him after he had abandoned her at the Easter charity ball, and he wasn’t sure if she would ever give him the time of day again.
The problem had been made worse by the fact that, shortly after Rubberduck and Yankee Poodle had been magically abducted by the Great Gnudini, Jackson Retriever’s mansion was attacked by three dozen jaguars, all highly trained in the ninja arts, who had been hired by the Afurrican prince-turned-master criminal called the Dandy Lion and enhanced with advanced cybernetics provided by arch-criminal’s evil scientists. While these jaguar ninjas had provided the party with more excitement than Jackson and his servants had planned on, the team of Skirt Chaser, Duck L’Orange, the Siren Belle, and the new armor-suited hero called the Golden Retriever (Jackson Retriever himself) had managed to fight them off in a thrilling team-up story that would likely never be told.
Nearby, Yankee Poodle was celebrating, as Rova Barkitt had miraculously managed to convince Jackson Retriever to give her another interview the following day, though Retriever had actually done so as a favor to Skirt Chaser for helping him in his battle against his arch-enemy, the Dandy Lion. After the Easter charity ball ended, Rova brought Pepe Le Pew back to the Z-Building, along with Doggy Pardon and Elkton John to provide entertainment for the Zoo Crew’s Easter-dinner-turned-impromptu-party. And all their immediate neighbors joined the Zoo Crewers at the Z-Building after missing out on the planned dinner earlier. They all had a first-class wing-ding.
“What an Easter this was!” said Fastback. “All’a us came outta this adventure twice as powerful as before, an’ no worse for wear!”
“Aw, we ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Pig-Iron. “Now let’s see if the local MacDarnold’s is still open. We’re runnin’ outta food.”