by Comickook and Marc Drayer
Terry Dactyl was one nervous customer. He had faced some of the most dangerous criminals in the world without losing his cool, so why was he so nervous now?
The reason for his distress was that he was about to go on his first date in four years. You see, there was this rather nice-looking mink who was the executive assistant of the manager and executive producer of the television station where Terry worked. Terry had his eye on Mandra Mynxbynd for almost a year, but with his busy schedule and the fact that she was just getting over a rather nasty breakup with her boyfriend of three years, Terry didn’t manage to work up the nerve to ask her out until very recently.
Maybe it was the fact that spring was in the air. Or maybe it was because Terry had grown in confidence after working with the Zoo Crew as its newest member, Stormwing. But somehow Terry had blurted out the question, and by some miracle, Mandra had said yes. He had only sweetened the deal when he told her that he personally knew Byrd Rentals, her favorite actor, and Terry found himself making a promise that he’d introduce her to him. Of course, at this point he hadn’t asked Byrd himself about it.
Thankfully, Terry had become friends with the famous actor Byrd Rentals, since Byrd was secretly his fellow member of the Zoo Crew called Rubberduck. When Terry told him what he’d promised Mandra, Byrd hemmed and hawed at first, making a big deal about how he didn’t usually go in for this sort of thing, but ultimately he agreed on one condition: that they make it a double date.
Byrd had himself been working hard to get another chance to date the beautiful Samantha Drake, alias the reformed super-criminal called the Siren Belle, who was now a private investigator. Their first date had ended rather abruptly and disastrously, though not through any real fault of either Byrd or Samantha. Rubberduck had been magically summoned by the Great Gnudini along with the rest of the Zoo Crew to battle himself and the Power Platypus. Unfortunately, this had occurred just after Byrd and Samantha arrived at the lavish Easter charity ball at Jackson Retriever’s mansion, which was attacked shortly thereafter by agents working for the notorious Affurican master criminal called the Dandy Lion. Luckily, there were three other heroes on hand to help the Siren Belle defeat this criminal — Skirt Chaser, Duck L’Orange, and the Golden Retriever — but from Samantha’s point of view it seemed that Byrd had abandoned her at the worst moment possible. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew: Easter Gifts, Easter Troubles.]
In the month since then, Byrd had tried to call Samantha several times and had sent her numerous letters, boxes of chocolates, and bouquets of flowers, and he had even hired a plane for skywriting notes directed to Samantha. With the help of Rova Barkitt and a team of public relations people at his beck and call, Byrd’s efforts to get another chance with Samantha became a campaign. Then the Follywood media picked up on the story and jumped on the bandwagon, and Samantha found Byrd’s pleas difficult to ignore when even her clients were asking her why she wasn’t falling for the most romantic duck in Follywood. Finally, she agreed to go out with him one more time, but that he shouldn’t expect anything to come of it. And this time, Byrd was absolutely determined to make it work.
“Thanks for agreeing to help me on my date with Mandra, Byrd,” Terry said sincerely as he put the finishing touches on his suit.
“Hey, not a problem, my friend. I want to make a good impression on Samantha as much as you want to make a good impression on Ms. Mynxbynd,” Byrd added as he wrapped his left arm around the ten-pound box of tasty but fat-free treats he intended for Samantha.
Sure enough, the two heard the pounding of familiar footsteps as Pig-Iron drew near. The porcine powerhouse had an uncanny sixth sense when it came to sniffing out food and sweets, and Byrd and Terry both knew that once Pig-Iron reached them, there was no saving this box of candy.
“Allow me, Mr. Rentals,” Terry said, and he used his Stormwing powers to produce a thick fog that kept the approaching Pig-Iron disoriented long enough for Terry and Byrd to sneak out of the Z-Building with the candy intact.
Elsewhere in Follywood, a massively muscular male bovine figure in a black suit rammed his right fist through a thick concrete wall and ripped out a securely screwed-in piece of tempered steel piping, twisting it into a grotesque pretzel as if it were rubber. After putting down the bent piping, the bull then looked at a heart-shaped picture of a blue-furred, raven-haired female mink with almost hypnotic brown eyes.
“Well, my darling Mandra, I don’t blame you for leaving me last year,” said the bull. “After all, I was a pathetic loser, and even I didn’t think I would amount to much. Little did I suspect that those techno-pi-rats who tried robbing the science lab where I worked as a janitor would provide me with the best break of my life when they spilled my bucket of soapy water, and I ended up slipping into the path of a mysterious ray device. That device vastly increased my strength and gave me great heat, cold, and electrical powers. I think it may be time to introduce you to the new Brunota Burmis, AKA the Alpha-Bull.”
At that, the Alpha-Bull triumphantly fired a freeze-bolt from his left hand, a heat-bolt from his right hand, and twin lightning bolts from his horns.
Byrd Rentals had arranged for the party of four a chauffeured limousine. Terry Dactyl was grateful for this, since he didn’t relish flying Mandra Mynxbynd to their rendezvous. He had some nice flowers for her, which he was sure she would like. Their first stop was to pick up Samantha Drake at her office.
She was dressed in a demure white blouse with a long dress, and although she’d already put in a long day at the office, she looked refreshed and put together. She greeted Byrd at the door with a small smile, and the two only said a few words to each other before heading down to the limo.
“Samantha, I would like you to meet Terry Dactyl, the TV weatherbeast,” said Byrd.
“Charmed, I’m sure,” said Samantha, with her usual Southern belle accent. “So what do you have planned for us, Byrd?”
“Oh, I have a nice dinner planned, followed by a nice show — the Phanduck of the Opera,” said Byrd.
“I love that musical,” said Samantha.
“It should prove to be a very exciting evening,” said Terry, but he would live to regret that remark.
As they made their next stop at Mandra’s apartment to pick her up, they heard a scream. They rolled down the windows just in time to see Mandra being carried away by a strangely dressed character in a black suit. “Let me go, Brunota!” she screeched.
“Now is that any way to talk to your boyfriend?” said Brunota Burmis, the Alpha-Bull. “I’m going to show you the time of your life, baby!”
Byrd sunk back in his seat and muttered, “Not again. Just when I’d talked her into going out with me.”
Since Samantha knew Byrd’s secret identity, she just sighed and said, “Let’s get moving. The sooner we tackle this creep, the sooner we can get to the show.”
Byrd jumped out of the limo and found Terry, who was already changing into his Stormwing costume in the alleyway next to the building, and quickly doffed his tuxedo, revealing his Rubberduck costume. As Stormwing soared off into the sky, Rubberduck took an extra moment to carefully fold up his expensive suit on a wire coat hanger he found on the ground, then stretched his arm out to to hang it several feet up on the eavestrough. Hopefully it would keep safe and dry until he could retrieve it.
Stormwing shot forward at the retreating Alpha-Bull; Terry wasn’t about to lose Mandra now. He whipped up a sheet of ice, causing Alpha-Bull to lose his footing and slip for several feet along it. “Unhand that mink, you villain!” Stormwing shouted just as Rubberduck came bouncing up behind him.
“Nothing doing, leather-head! Take that!” said the bovine, shooting lightning at the pterodactyl and then turning and firing a freeze-bolt at Rubberduck, slowing down his stretching powers. They were all in for it now.