by Comickook and T Campbell
Ultra-Rabbit gave a quick gulp and, before any of the heroes could advance on him, used his super-speed to burrow into the ground like a living diamond-tipped drill, spinning his way through the reinforced floor of the Z-Building, making his way outside, and zooming into the air. Super-Squirrel, Green Lambkin, and the Crash headed out to confront the villain, while Alley-Kat-Abra used her magic to cast a healing spell on Captain Carrot.
Unfortunately, much as Batmouse feared, Ultra-Rabbit did have an ace up his sleeve, or, rather, concealed in the lining of his silver cape, and merely faked the cowardly exit so that he could pick off the heroes just a few at a time. It was an ace he had snuck from the super-maximum-security vaults of Fantastidrake’s lab just before they got to Earth-C, just in case the Zoo Crew did have powerful allies like this — the time wand of the Earth-Reverse-C Time-Keeper, the wand the Nasty Menagerie had acquired after Katastrophe successfully seduced that Time-Keeper into using his time mastery to help the Menagerie with their crimes. This had been during a time just before she started thinking she was the reincarnation of Bast, and unlike Alley-Kat-Abra, Katastrophe had no qualms about using that Time-Keeper’s attraction to her to her own advantage at that time. That alliance, however, quickly ended when Ultra-Rabbit thought that the Time-Keeper and Katastrophe were getting too close, and he murdered that Time-Keeper in an insanely jealous rage, though his super-villain ego hadn’t — and still wouldn’t — allow him to admit to that sort of jealousy concerning Katastrophe.
Now, Ultra-Rabbit used the time wand to age Super-Squirrel, Green Lambkin, and the Crash into feeble, ancient versions of their former selves. The Martian Anteater and the two Siren Belles tried combining their respective powers of telepathy and a super-hypnotic singing voice to bring Ultra-Rabbit under their control, but Katastrophe’s anti-mind-control spell held strong even under this combined mental attack. Unknown to Ultra-Rabbit, she also subtly combined that spell with a powerful love spell when she cast it, so that he would be cooperative enough to never turn on her and to ally himself fully with her, but his wonderfully dark mind would otherwise be intact. In fact, the latter of the two spells had actually increased in potency, since it was cast just shortly after the Menagerie was first formed.
Ultra-Rabbit fired a time-bolt at those three, only for the Martian Anteater and the Earth-C and Earth-Reverse-C Siren Belles to be safely moved out of the paths of the blast by Fastback, Rubberduck, and Doctor Hoot, respectively, all of whom just missed getting blasted themselves. “Are you all right, Samantha, err… I mean, Miss Drake?” Rubberduck and Hoot simultaneously asked each of their world’s Siren Belles in a tone that, whether intentional or not, implied that their concern was a bit beyond professional.
As both Samanthas assured Rubberduck and Hoot, respectively, that they were fine, Alley-Kat-Abra produced a magical flare that blinded Ultra-Rabbit just long enough for the just-recovered Captain Carrot to leap up and grab his evil counterpart by the legs, using leverage and the element of surprise to slam his more powerful evil counterpart down to the ground, not hard enough to be seriously hurt but certainly hard enough to drop the time-wand, which Abra levtated safely out of Ultra-Rabbit’s reach. I have to remember to thank Felina for the martial arts lessons, Rodney Rabbit thought to himself with a smile.
While Zap-Panda used her own magic to de-age Super-Squirrel and the Crash back to their rightful ages, and Green Lambkin was using the mighty power of his ring to reverse the aging spell cast on him, Ultra-Rabbit pressed the button on his belt that seemed to be the order for the silver troopers to march in on Follywood. From the images Fantastidrake showed him on the dimension-vision view-screen, and from what his heroic counterpart had told him while he was being interrogated, Ultra-Rabbit knew these heroes would be more concerned with saving Follywood than capturing him, so in the confusion, he flew off.
In short order, Captain Carrot and Pig-Iron swatted their way through several dozen of those troopers without even breaking a sweat, while Fastback and the Crash used some super-speed teamwork to maneuver most of their troops into unintentionally attacking each other and then used that same super-speed teamwork to securely ensnare those troopers they outflanked.
Super-Squirrel used the combined powers of super-speed, flight, and heat-vision to melt down the weapons and armor of the troopers he took on before simply using a few well-aimed blows to put those troopers out for the count, while Green Lambkin and Yankee Poodle trapped the troopers they battled in emerald energy-enhanced magno-stripes, and Doctor Hoot used well-timed sneak attacks and well-aimed energy disks to non-lethally subdue the troopers he battled.
Rubberduck used some carefully planned super-stretching trickery to get the troopers he went after to non-lethally take each other down, while the two Siren Belles used their powers to disarm the troopers they fought and used their super-hypnotic voices to take control of not only them but also of Iron Pig and the physically recovered Big Cheese.
The Martian Anteater used a restrained telepathic assault to take out the troopers he battled, while Stacked Canary used her sonic powers and martial arts skills to make quick work of the troopers she battled, and Abra and Zap-Panda almost effortlessly bested the last of the silver-armored troopers.
“Well, that’s the last of the troopers, but I’m afraid Ultra-Rabbit got away,” Doctor Hoot replied grimly.
As for Ultra-Rabbit, while the Zoo Crew, Doctor Hoot, the two Siren Belles, and the Just’a Lotta Animals were busy rounding up Iron Pig, Big Cheese, and the Nasty Menagerie’s silver troopers, he was flying around Earth-C looking for a weapon he could use to even the odds a bit, carefully using his x-ray, telescopic, microscopic, and infrared visions to aid in his search. Finally, his hyper-eyesight finally caught the glimpse of a familiar green glow somewhere in the deep part of one of Earth-C’s oceans.
Diving down to investigate, the strong ocean pressures not even an annoyance to Ultra-Rabbit’s invulnerabilty. The villain found what he was looking for — Power Ram’s ring. The evil rabbit carefully slipped the ring on his own finger and willed himself into Limbo, where he would not be harassed until he had mastered the ring’s use.
“Don’t worry, Captain,” Alley-Kat-Abra said with a reassuring smile. “Zap-Panda, Wanda, and I just caught the energy signature of Power Ram’s ring as it was being used. Our combined magic has sealed him inside Limbo, where he has sought refuge. He may be able to use the ring to get out — in about three hundred years — by which point all three of our worlds will have advanced enough technology to be able to securely imprison him, even with your powers combined with those of Super-Squirrel and Green Lambkin at his command.”
Ultra-Rabbit grumbled. The power ring assured him there was a magical barrier too strong for him to break through. Simply put, he was trapped there. Well, there was one positive note — Power Ram’s ring did not require recharging, and he could use the ring to not only maintain his youth and stamina until he found a way to escape, but to also keep himself permanently in his super-form so that, if he ever saw Bast-Felina again, he wouldn’t have to worry about be caught out of it.
“Besides which, it gives me a chance to truly master the ring’s use before I take my revenge on Hoot, the Zoo Crew, and this Just’a Lotta Animals,” Ultra-Rabbit said with a cackle.
Batmouse and Wonder Wabbit returned to the group and said they knew how to beat Ultra-Rabbit. “Too late, old friend. Abra and Zap-Panda already placed him securely in Limbo for at least the next three-hundred years,” Super-Squirrel said with half-regret as he placed one paw on Batmouse’s left shoulder.
“Well, this world seems to have the capacity to hold the Menagerie, and even if they do escape, the Zoo Crew will be on hand to stop them here, so I propose we simply leave them on this world permanently,” Batmouse said, actually partially grateful to having the permanent solution to the Menagerie problem he sought without having to violate his oath against killing.
“Furthermore, we also have at least a partial solution to the weakened dimensional barriers problem,” Super-Squirrel said simply. “As soon as the Earth-Reverse-C versions of Hoot and Miss Drake return to their own world, and we return to ours, then we can combine Zap-Panda’s magic with G.L.’s emerald energy, Abra’s magic, and Hoot’s equipment to strengthen the dimension barrier — not enough to permanently stop dimensional crossovers, but enough to make them more difficult to obtain.”
Two hours later, Doctor Hoot was still on Earth-C, wrapping up one last chore. Alley-Kat-Abra and Captain Carrot had agreed to escort him, and the three of them were levitating down to a prison in Kornsas. Hoot spoke into the Captain’s communicator.
“Wait for me in our lab on our world, Samantha,” Hoot radioed. “This world’s version of you is a convicted felon, and I don’t want to unnerve this prison’s guards any more than necessary.”
“Our lab?” Samantha’s voice came back. “You mean your lab, right?”
“I mean our lab, Samantha,” said Hoot cheerfully. “Just as it is our world… for the first time in a long, long time.”
Their feet touched the earth, and they walked into prison. Guards flanked out and stood at attention, out of respect for the Captain and Abra — and kept their rifles’ safeties off, out of a different kind of respect for Hoot.
They entered and passed the warden, who nodded once to the Captain, and once to Abra.
Hoot whispered to Abra, “They really do have nothing but contempt for me here, don’t they?”
Abra replied, “Not you. But I don’t think you’re going to enjoy this meeting, Doctor.”
Doctor Hoot was quiet for a moment as they walked on. Finally he said, “That’s the real reason why I didn’t want Samantha along.”
Hoot rounded the corner. Abra and the Captain, as they’d planned, stayed just out of sight. If anything went wrong here, they’d intervene, but this was meant to be a private meeting.
Doctor Hoot looked at… himself, wearing a gray jumpsuit that muted his orange feathers. The other Hoot looked back at him.
“Ah! So I did do it, after all! I invented a time machine, upon my escape, and now I, which is to say you, have come back to break me out even earlier!” The evil Hoot looked at him fondly. “You are such a genius.”
“I’m afraid not, Hieronymous,” the noble Horton Hoot replied. “I’m not here to set you free.”
The other Hoot’s eyes narrowed. “Then what do you want?”
“I came to inform you… that your ‘son’ is badly damaged. I don’t know if he’ll be repaired.”
“My son? What son?”
“The Salamandroid. I remember what it felt like when I lost my Salamandroid. Fantastidrake forced him to… but the details aren’t important. I just felt… responsible for letting you know.”
The evil Hoot was too confused even to be scornful. “He was an experiment! Nothing more! Suffering succotash, if I wanted children, that’s what genetic engineering is for!” He sighed. “I don’t suppose he managed to take any of those Zoo Crewers down with him, did he?”
“I am afraid not. But he was… he was loyal to you, to the end.”
“Well, yes! That is part of the design… Who are you, anyway? You’re far too idiotic to be any alternate-Earth version of me…”
Hoot just turned on his heel and walked away.
Wonder Wabbit returned to Earth-C-Minus at about the same time, leaving only Batmouse unaccounted for. She and the Captain had talked for about half an hour, and then she’d spent the remaining ninety minutes alone. Zap-Panda saw that her eyes were a little red, and she offered her advice, but the Animalzon princess seemed to prefer Stacked Canary’s company, and Zap-Panda gradually let her be.
Green Lambkin’s curiosity finally overcame him. “What happened?”
All Wonder Wabbit said in reply was, “Sometimes things just go wrong.”
Rubberduck whooped, swooped, and looped his arms three times around Fastback upon discovering that reports of Timmy Joe Terrapin’s death were greatly exaggerated.
Rova Barkitt was more reserved. “Thanks for not dying,” she said. “I’ve done enough depressing interviews for a while.”
About this time, Fantastidrake vanished in a magical sparkle, reappearing briefly in the air as Alley-Kat-Abra levitated him off to Sting Sting Prison.
Meanwhile, the good Captain was using his political connections to get the Earth-C Siren Belle and the Iron Pig relocated out of Sting Sting. They seemed pretty determined to clean up their act, and both of them — especially the Iron Pig — would have an easier time doing that if they were kept away from the hardcore super-villains.
Batmouse, Doctor Hoot, and Samantha Drake stood in the crime-puter lab and watched with great satisfaction as the screens moved from large crimes to small crimes, and a number of them even went dark.
Every news station in the United Species had been e-mailed a copy of Swanky Poodle’s Greatest Hits, a fifteen-minute confession, made at lasso-point, of secret hideouts, passwords, battle strategies, Ultra-Rabbit’s dietary needs, Katastrophe’s insanity, Swanky Poodle’s own violent flower allergy — every weak point the Nasty Menagerie had. Even if they ever made their way back to Earth-Reverse-C, they’d find it so well prepared as to be uninhabitable.
“This is almost as good as wringing their li’l necks myself,” said Samantha.
“Quite,” said Batmouse. “Miss Drake, would you excuse us for a moment?”
“Well, certainly,” said Samantha, smiling. “But I expect to be monopolizing the doctor’s time shortly.” And she left them, returning to the surface.
“Doctor,” said Batmouse, even grimmer than usual. “I’ve never killed before. I was considering bending that rule, in the case of the Menagerie, but if I had done so I would promptly have turned myself in to the authorities of my world afterward. We have too much power as it is. If we start assuming the power of life and death, we start becoming like the Menagerie.”
“I’m afraid you’ve lost me. Where is this going?”
Batmouse’s frown wavered. He seemed to enjoy a private joke for a second, and then went on. “All the heroes of Earth-C seem to be matched by villains on this world. The Samantha Drake of Earth-C was a villain, but with a moral streak. She had the potential to become a hero. The Samantha Drake of your world is a hero… but…”
Doctor Hoot’s eyes met Batmouse’s eyeslits, and his beak was about as grim as Batmouse’s mouth.
“Samantha has always been exceptional.”
Batmouse held the stare long enough to make sure Hoot had gotten the message, and no longer. Making an enemy of Hoot wouldn’t do. Best to just plant the idea, and let Hoot’s mind draw its own conclusions.
“You’re this world’s greatest hero,” he said, beginning to take his leave, “and responsible for its welfare. Make your judgments wisely.”
Rodney Rabbit and Felina Furr were completing the flight back to the Z-Building, when Felina hesitated.
“Want to get some coffee?”
Rodney shrugged. “Coffee sounds good.”
“One milk, one carrot juice?”
“Two milks, actually.”
Felina looked at him quizzically.
“I think it’s time I tried something new,” said Rodney, smiling lopsidedly.