by Marc Drayer and Comickook
In the month following the Zoo Crew’s battle with the Alpha-Bull, things were relatively quiet. The Zoo Crew’s cases became so infrequent that Captain Carrot and Alley-Kat-Abra were able to take some time for a short vacation together. The reunited Byrd Rentals and Samantha Drake continued seeing each other regularly, while Terry Dactyl was able to secure a few more dates with Mandra Mynxbynd. The heroes knew that the Alpha-Bull was still out there somewhere, but they hoped that they had seen the last of him for a while; they couldn’t be more wrong.
The bovine remained in hiding over that month as he carefully laid out his plans for revenge. Finally, Brunota Burmis, alias the Alpha-Bull, was ready to strike.
One evening during the six o’clock news hour, when Terry Dactyl was in the middle of his weather report as usual, Alpha-Bull suddenly crashed through the roof and clutched the pterodactyl weatherbeast by the throat. “Now I have you! Care to make a show of yourself for all the viewing audience?”
Offstage, Mandra Mynxbynd winced as she watched her jealous ex-boyfriend pummel her new boyfriend; she could see no way out for Terry except exposing his secret identity as the super-hero Stormwing on television. That would make the ratings skyrocket, of course, but her role as the executive assistant of the station manager was less important to her than her boyfriend’s safety.
Before Terry could respond, a blue blur snatched him out of Alpha-Bull’s grip and spun the bovine brute around several times. Terry had seen to it that Timmy Joe Terrapin got a job at the station of a security guard after he’d lost his last job; now, as Fastback, he was able to whisk Terry out of sight so he could change into his Stormwing identity without blowing his cover on the air.
“Thanks, pal!” Terry whispered as he changed.
“No problem,” said a grinning Fastback before heading back into the fight.
A moment later, Stormwing returned as well, making sure to drop in through the hole in the roof that Alpha-Bull had made so that nobody would be suspicious of him appearing out of nowhere.
As Mandra watched the speedster whizzing around the villain, she happened to notice that the security guard was nowhere to be found. Another coincidence? Not too likely. She had thought it suspicious that Terry was one of the references on Timmy Joe’s application.
As Stormwing blew up a mini-tornado around the Alpha-Bull, Fastback intensified it with his speed. The now-dizzy Alpha-Bull put a stop to that by firing out a cold wave that sent the world’s fastest turtle skidding on ice. Fortunately, Fastback could vibrate his body fast enough to pass through the wall harmlessly, which gave him more time to hit the proverbial brakes.
Stormwing and the Alpha-Bull began trading lightning zaps, while the flying forecaster added some ice under his bovine foe’s feet. Meanwhile, Fastback zipped back in, stuck his body into his super-tough shell, and started spinning at the Alpha-Bull like a living blue drill, nailing him dead on and causing the bull to slip all over the ice.
Realizing that this fight was televised, the Alpha-Bull decided to get out of there before the other Zoo Crew members showed up. First, however, he had to make sure Stormwing and Fastback were too distracted with other matters to come after him, so he fired a few well-aimed heat-blasts that immediately set fire to the studio as he fled.
Between Stormwing’s subzero winds and Fastback’s super-speed vacuums, the fire spots were extinguished long before any innocents could be harmed, but it still provided Alpha-Bull with the diversion he needed to escape.
That was too close, thought Brunota Burmis. I’m going to need to get some help if I’m going to keep facing the Zoo Crew. Granted, I knew those two would be too distracted from putting out those fires to pursue me, which I’m glad for, not only because it gave me a chance to escape, but I don’t want Mandra getting hurt. Still, I’ll have to enlist some high-caliber backup in case I end up tangling with the entire Zoo Crew.
Meanwhile, after Terry and Timmy Joe managed to reprise their civilian identities and returned to the studio with excuses for their absences, Mandra just smiled as she looked at them and turned her back on them so they couldn’t see her suspicions confirmed.
Pretty slick helping get Fastback on the inside, Terry, she thought. I’m actually glad Brunota didn’t have the satisfaction of forcing you to expose your secret identity. I just want you to know that, even if you don’t know that I know, your secrets are safe with me.
The super-maximum security super-villain wing at Sting-Sting Prison was known as the Zoo Crew wing for a reason, since virtually every super-criminal in this wing of the prison had been captured by various members of the Zoo Crew in the past. But despite being the most secure prison in the world, its recent history was plagued with many counts of prison breaks, which gave the warden headaches beyond measure. Unfortunately for the warden, this night would prove to give him the biggest headache of all.
Late that night, the Alpha-Bull crept up to the walls of Sting-Sting, able to use his powers to temporarily blend his body into the background of the prison walls. But the force-field surrounding the wing from all directions was too strong for him to break through, even with his super-strength, heat powers, cold powers, and electrical powers. He also couldn’t use his super-speed to vibrate through the force-field because, while he could move at super-speed, his super-tough-skin made his cellular structure too dense to vibrate through solid matter. However, he still had his super-intelligence and blend-in powers, so he was able to figure out the weak spot.
Despite all the technology at the prison’s disposal, it still had to be patrolled by individual guards, and guards worked in designated shifts. If the guards could move in an out of the most secure prison wing in the world, then Alpha-Bull would be able to do so as well. All he needed to do, he realized, was simply wait until the guards opened the force-field long enough to change shifts and zip in with the invisibility of super-speed before the force-field was erected once more.
Sure enough, Brunota Burmis didn’t have to wait more than a half-hour before the next shift change of the prison guards. With that split-second time period, the Alpha-Bull had enough time to get through and freeze the guards in charge of the controls with one of his cold blasts. Before long, using his super-speed, Burmis had released all of the inmates in the Zoo Crew wing that he needed — Doctor Hoot, Solar Bear, Cold Turkey, the Squawker, the Cheshire Cheetah, the Armordillo, Jailhouse Roc, the Kongaroo, Digger O’Doom, Debbil-Dawg, Power Platypus, and the Salamandroid (he actually got the last one, an android, from the police impound).
“Not that I’m ungrateful for the early release, my bovine benefactor, but why did you bust us all out?” Doctor Hoot asked in his usual haughty tone of voice.
“Simplicity itself, my deliciously devious doctor,” the Alpha-Bull answered. “I wish for all of you to keep the Zoo Crew occupied and, if possible, capture them.”
“But what about me?” Debbil-Dawg commented. “I am, as you would say, powerless so long as zat mystic energy blockage aura eez surrounding me.”
“I’ve come up with a super-paint formula that can scientifically duplicate the power of your previous magical brush, my dear Mr. Doggi,” Brunota Brumis answered with a smile as he tossed Debbil-Dawg his brush, coated in the bull’s specially formulated super-paint. He also handed Cold Turkey his cold gun.
“Still, not to sound ungrateful, but what’s in it for you?” Doctor Hoot asked as he hopped onto Jailhouse Roc’s back alongside the Armordillo and Digger O’Doom, who was carrying the powered-down Salamandroid.
“It’s simple,” said Brunota. “Cause all the mayhem you want to and wail on the Zoo Crew to your black heart’s content. I just want something to divert the Zoo Crew’s attention while I make a grab for one young lady named Mandra Mynxbynd. As long as no harm comes to Ms. Mynxbynd, nothing else matters.”
The expression on Doctor Hoot’s face, upon hearing of his benefactor’s motivation, was inscrutable.
At two AM the next morning, Terry Dactyl was sound asleep in his apartment when his Zoo Crew buzzer sounded. “No rest for us heroes,” he groaned. He donned his Stormwing costume and took off from the balcony. The Follywood skyline was spectacular at that time of night.
Soon he was at the Z-Building, entering through his hatch at the roof. “What’s up, Cap?” he said.
“Plenty,” said Captain Carrot, who looked annoyed that his vacation had been cut short. “Somebody broke all the super-villains out of Sting-Sting just a few hours ago.”
“We’re just now trying to track them down,” said Rubberduck.
Fastback, the last to arrive, broke the bad news. “Ah just heard that the baddies have taken over Fox Studios!”
“Rats!” said Rubberduck. “That’s where I’m filming Cannon-Bull Run III. Figures Power Platypus would be behind that.”
“Then let’s roll,” said Alley-Kat-Abra.
The entire Zoo Crew took off in their various capacities and soon arrived at the frozen-over Fox Studios.
“Of course, Cold Turkey would be here,” said Stormwing. He quickly caused a heatwave that melted the ice. Unfortunately for them, that was the signal for the villains to do their devious work.
As the heroes entered the studio complex, they were caught in a vortex caused by Doctor Hoot and Debbil-Dawg that picked them up and deposited them at the other end of the vortex in reinforced prison cells.
It had all happened so fast that it took the Zoo Crewers a few moments to realize that they’d been trapped in the very place the villains had been broken out of — the Zoo Crew wing of Sting-Sting Prison.
“Well, this is a fine kettle o’ fish,” Pig-Iron grumbled as he tried to force his way out of the cell through brute strength, but to no avail.
“No problem, guys,” said Stormwing. “We’re not criminals, we’re the heroes! The guards will let us out so we can get back to work.”
“In yer dreams, Solar Bear,” yelled one of the guards, a horse named Hairy. “I can see the Zoo Crew put you all back on ice here where you belong.”
“But you don’t understand,” cried Captain Carrot. “We’re the Zoo Crew!”
Hairy chuckled and replied, “Sure you are, Digger O’Doom. You can try to trick us all ya want, but ya can’t hide who you are.”
The various members of the Zoo Crew kept trying to plead with the guards to hear them out, or to at least bring the warden there to talk with them, but the guards would have none of it. They were just glad that the big breakout had been cut short, and they wouldn’t be losing their jobs today.
The super-heroes realized that a magical illusion had been placed on them, causing them to look like the villains, and nothing they did would convince the guards that they were the good guys. All they could do was wait until the guards were forced to admit that the villains attacking Fox Studios couldn’t possibly also be imprisoned at the same time. Unfortunately, they had underestimated the stubbornness of the prison system.
Meanwhile, back at Fox Studios, the gang led by Doctor Hoot were celebrating their victory. “That was a great trick you pulled on them, mate!” said Kongaroo. “Now we have Los Antelopes to ourselves.”
“And more, Kongaroo. Why stop there?” said Doctor Hoot.
Elsewhere, the Alpha-Bull had kidnapped Mandra Mynxbynd and was carrying her away, now that her protector was locked away. “Now you’re mine again at last,” he said. “How about a little kiss for old times’ sake?”
Mandra just slapped him. “Let me go, you loser,” she said. “It was over between us long ago.”
The bovine just laughed. “I’ll get you to change your mind… one way or another,” vowed Brunota Burmis.
Pig-Iron slammed his right fist hard into the door of his cell, but even twice as strong as he was before the Easter case, it was still too strongly built for him to bust through with brute force. (*) Fastback and Alley-Kat-Abra tried making themselves intangible through hypersonic vibrations and sorcery, respectively, but the force-fields around their cells disrupted the energy signatures of their efforts. Yankee Poodle tried to use her animal magnetism to weaken the walls by pushing and pulling at them in quick succession, but it had no effect. Little Cheese tried shrinking himself down to make himself small enough to simply stroll out of his cell, but the force-field around his cell kept him from slipping out, no matter how small he made himself. Rubberduck attempted to use his stretching powers to let himself slink through the keyhole, but the force-field around his cell killed that plan. Stormwing tried various weather tricks to spring the locks on his cell, but with no better luck than his teammates.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew: Easter Gifts, Easter Troubles.]
Captain Carrot, meanwhile, was sitting motionlessly in his cell, just thinking about the problem instead of expending his energies to try to escape. He knew that the force-fields around the cells were just too strong for any of the Zoo Crew to escape with a direct approach, even with all eight Zoo Crewers twice as powerful as they were prior to Easter. “Blast it!” Captain Carrot finally said aloud. “We have to find a way to get out of here, but between the force-fields and the guards under the influence of a clever illusion, I’m open to suggestions.”
“That’s it!” said Alley-Kat-Abra. “Why didn’t Wanda and I think of it sooner? We’ve been trying to get out of these cells on our own, when we should have focused on trying to remove the illusions the guards are under.”
Inspired by the idea, she focused every ounce bit of willpower she could muster to get her Magic Wanda to work up enough power to penetrate the force-field and remove the illusions that made the guards think they were criminal prisoners. It was slow-going, but she hoped it would pay off.