by Comickook and Marc Drayer
Meanwhile, the Alpha-Bull had carried Mandra Mynxbynd back to his hideout and had strapped her down to a strange-looking machine straight out of Frankenswine. “Fear not, Mandra, my darling,” Brunota Brumis said reassuringly. “I have no desire to harm you. In fact, I have every intention to help you. Soon, you will be far better than you were before.”
Judging by the type of sci-fi machinery she was seeing, Mandra already had a very good idea about what her now-super-powered ex-boyfriend meant, but she decided to try to give Terry and his teammates as much time as possible. “What do you mean, Brunota?” she asked.
“Oh, you mean how do I intend to perform the impossibility of improving upon perfection?” the Alpha-Bull answered sweetly. “I’m glad you asked, Mandra. I’m simply going to give you the same super-powers that I have. Just imagine — you, too, can be super-strong, super-fast, super-tough, super-smart, and possess the abilities to fire potent heat blasts from your right hand, potent cold blasts from your left hand, and potent electrical blasts from your… well, I guess it would be eyes in your case. Plus, you’ll have the power to temporarily camouflage yourself against any background, though why the most beautiful creature in the world would wish to blend into the background is beyond me.” He chuckled cheerfully as he finished. “Just think, baby — we can rule as king and queen anywhere we want, with our kind of power!”
Mandra rolled her eyes, but she had to admit to herself that the opportunity to have that sort of power was tempting. Still, she had to stall for time. “What makes you think I wouldn’t use that kind of power against you?” the mink asked simply. “Do you have any sort of mind-control device built into this gadget, which you say will give me powers like yours?”
“No need for such a device, Mandra,” Burmis Brunota said with a smile. “Besides, it’s not worth having you if I have to resort to mind-control to get you. Simply stated, the power itself should be enough of an incentive to get you to stay under your own free will. In fact, I’m willing to bet on it.”
That is a very incorrect assumption, but there’s no need to tell him that, Mandra thought to herself. Once I essentially have the same super-powers as Brunota, I’ll be in a better position to escape from him and help Terry and his friends, but I’m not stupid enough to let him know that just yet.
It took a few hours of effort, but eventually Alley-Kat-Abra was able to undo the illusion that made the Zoo Crew look like eight of the missing super-villains in the guards’ eyes. They hoped that, once the guards saw for themselves that the Zoo Crewers were indeed the prisoners they were holding, they would immediately release the heroes.
Unfortunately, things were never that simple.
“I told ya already,” yelled Hairy the horse, the guard who had spoken with them before. “You can try all the tricks you want, but yer not gonna make me believe you’re anyone but a bunch of super-villains in stir!”
“Uh… Hairy?” said another of the guards, a long-necked ostrich. “Hairy, I think you oughtta see this.”
“Huh? What?” grumbled Hairy. The other guard indicated the TV screen above them, where the baseball game they’d been watching was interrupted by the news. “Turn that up, willya, Beakly?”
The guard named Beakly did so, and the news report became very clear. All the prisoners who had escaped during the big breakout were right there on the TV screen, still causing havoc at Fox Studios and the surrounding area.
“Aw, geez…” Hairy muttered. Without another word, he called the warden, who arranged for the prisoners to be released.
“We are very sorry about the misunderstanding, Zoo Crew,” said the embattled warden remorsefully, a profusely sweating hippopotamus in a badly fitting business suit. “How can we ever make up for our error?”
Most of the Zoo Crewers had become so frustrated at being locked up and treated like criminals, that they were ready to give the warden and the guards a piece of their mind, but Captain Carrot stepped forward and silenced them with a look. Turning to the worried-looking guards and the warden, who were all sure they’d lose their jobs for sure, the good Captain said, “Awww, we don’t hold it against you that some clever illusion made you think we were eight of the villains.” He shrugged and said, “That stuff happens all the time in this line of work.”
Minutes later, as the Zoo Crew sped off from Sting-Sting Prison in pursuit of the escaped super-villains, Pig-Iron said in a mocking voice, “‘Happens all the time in this line of work’? Bunk! I know I get called pigheaded a lotta the time, but that guard back there was the most–“
“Let’s not forget who our real enemies are, Pig-Iron,” Captain Carrot interrupted. “We could’ve given that warden and those guards a lot of grief, but in the end, they were just doing their jobs.”
Pig-Iron sighed loudly and said, “I don’t gotta like it, but fine. So, getting back to the matter at hand, who do you think busted all those villains out?”
“I’ll lay you two-to-one odds it was the Alpha-Bull,” Stormwing said grimly before Captain Carrot could reply. “He probably wanted to make sure we were too distracted to stop his next attempt to grab Mandra.”
“Sheesh. Talk about your obsessive super-stalkers,” commented Rubberduck. “I mean, even the Time-Keeper took the hint after a while.” That comment resulted in Alley-Kat-Abra briefly hiding a slight blush and Captain Carrot briefly grinning somewhat proudly, in spite of the current situation.
“OK, first order of business is to recapture all of the villains that were sprung,” Captain Carrot said authoritatively once he dropped his briefly semi-smug smile.
“No disrespect intended, Captain, but you’re going to have to handle that part without me,” Stormwing replied. “Somebody has to track down the Alpha-Bull, and that somebody has to be me.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Stormy…” began Rubberduck, noting the fierce look of determination in his friend’s eyes. “I mean, I don’t blame you for being ticked at that super-stalker steer, but let’s look at the big picture, here.”
“You’re a fine one to talk, Byrd. How would you feel if some super-sicko made a play for Samantha Drake?” Stormwing shot back, causing Rubberduck to gulp nervously.
“Well, depending on what super-sicko it was, I see your point, Terry,” Rubberduck replied. “I mean, Sammy can, for the most part, take care of herself even against a super-powered opponent, but there are a few where… but that’s not the point. OK, the two of us will go after the Alpha-Bull together. After all, somebody has to keep you from going off the deep end when you catch up to that villain.”
“Make dat two somebodies, Byrd,” Fastback stated as he zipped forward. “I reckon I owe Terry fer gettin’ me my job at the telly-vision station, ‘n’ I can cover a great deal o’ ground in a very short amount’a time.”
“Sheesh,” said Captain Carrot in a tone of half-surrender. “I must be crazy, but all right — Stormwing, Rubberduck, and Fastback can go after the Alpha-Bull, while the rest of us see what we can do against the other villains.”
“But five of us against Jailhouse Roc, the Salamandroid, Power Platypus, Digger O’Doom, the Armordillo, Kongaroo, Doctor Hoot, Debbil Dawg, the Squawker, Solar Bear, Cold Turkey, and the Cheshire Cheetah?” Little Cheese asked in an understandably concerned tone. “Do you think we can pull it off?”
“Hey, twelve-against-five are just the sort of odds I like,” Pig-Iron said as he slammed his right fist into his left hand.
“Good grief!” said Yankee Poodle. “I hate to say this, dahling, but you worry me sometimes.”
Stormwing took off, creating a solid cloud propelled by a strong wind that could carry Rubberduck, while Fastback insisted on following them from the ground at super-speed. They soon were gone, leaving the other five Zoo Crewers to find the bad guys alone, for better or for worse.
At Fox Studios, the celebration by the freed super-villains was winding down as Doctor Hoot said, “Now that we have the Zoo Crew out of the way, there is nobody that can stop us from world conquest, and after that, we shall see.”
Digger O’Doom suddenly slapped at something. “Why’d you do that for, Armordillo?”
“Do what?” said Armordillo. “Ow! Now you’re in for it, pardner.”
Jailhouse Roc tried to stop the two from fighting, but he was knocked on the head himself. Soon the three were scuffling with each other.
Unknown to them, Little Cheese had snuck in and was causing havoc while invisible and at a small size, since Alley-Kat-Abra had cast an invisibility spell over all five Zoo Crewers. It hadn’t been difficult for her to track them down with the help of her Magic Wanda, especially since the villains had made Fox Studios their base of operations, arrogantly believing that there was no one left in the world that could challenge their combined might. For the most part, that was true, since the other super-heroes around the world were few and far between, and none of them had joined up as a team. And the Looney Society of Toomerica members from Earth-L were off on a mission in space at the moment.
Captain Carrot conked Kongaroo on the head with his powerful feet, knocking him into Salamandroid. Pig-Iron was giving haymakers to Doctor Hoot and Power Platypus, knocking them into the way of Cheshire Cheetah, who tripped and slammed into the wall.
Yankee Poodle was doing a three-way magno-blast, which set the Squawker, Solar Bear, and Cold Turkey at each other. The meeting place was pure chaos now, with many of the villains knocking each other out, ultimately making the job easier for the Zoo Crew. And since the heroes were thought to be in Sting-Sting at the moment, none of the villains even suspected that the Zoo Crewers were in their midst.
Well, almost none of them.
“Ees sorcery, eet ees, and only one could do that other than me,” said Debbil-Dawg, having watched the chaos unfold before his eyes.
Raising his new magical brush before him, he used it to create a pink rhinoceros with green polka dots and yellow wings to charge where he suspected that Alley-Kat-Abra was located at the moment.
Though his guess was wrong, the fact that the feline prestidigitator leveled the canine with a melted anvil confirmed in his mind that the Zoo Crew was here.
Meanwhile, Brunota Burmis had activated his machine, granting Mandra Mynxbynd her new super-powers. She had gritted her teeth at the searing pain of the lasers as they transformed her body, but Alpha-Bull had assured her, “Don’t worry, my pet. It’ll soon be over — then you can terrorize the world at my side!”
Soon, she was endowed with the same powers as Alpha-Bull. “Like it?” said Brunota. “I now dub you the Minx of Mayhem!”
Mandra, now the powerful Minx of Mayhem, slowly opened her eyes and held her hands before her, now crackling with power at will. “I like it,” she said, her voice almost a whisper. “I like this a lot.”
The Alpha-Bull laughed, pleased at her reception. “Excellent, my pet!”
“Can I use my powers?” she said, still staring at her hands as they cycled through her various new abilities.
“Of course, of course!” Brunota said cheerfully. “In fact, my love, the first task you can do is take out that Stormwing — and then you can take your rightful place at my side.”
The Minx of Mayhem nodded at his words and grinning at the power she now possessed. “Hmm… You know, I have a better idea,” said Mandra.
Rearing back at super-speed, the Minx of Mayhem suddenly dealt him an unexpected blow that sent him crashing through the ceiling before he could even register shock at her actions.
Wasting no time, Mandra shot thousands of bolts of lightning through the hole in the ceiling and into the sky above to act as a beacon, and hopefully stun the Alpha-Bull as well, if he got in her way.
“Look!” cried Stormwing as he spotted the lightning sent up into the heavens from a distance. “That must be the Alpha-Bull! That maniac is over there, and he’s got Mandra!” Using his pterodactyl wings, he shot forward through the sky toward the beacon.
“Whoa, there, Stormy!” called Rubberduck as he rushed to keep up from behind. “We’re in on this, too!”
Fastback sped on ahead, and he arrived shortly before the two others. But all three heroes were dumbstruck by what they saw when they got there.
Mandra Mynxbynd was dribbling the stunned Brunota Burmis like a basketball, then used her cold powers to create a carpet of ice that sent the Alpha-Bull skidding off into the distance. “He’s all yours, Stormwing!” she said with a wink.
The Zoo Crewers snapped themselves back into reality and went after the Alpha-Bull. Rubberduck wrapped himself around Alpha-Bull and sent him spinning, while Fastback then super-sped around him, making the bovine even more dizzy.
Seeing that his enemy was in good hands, Stormwing landed beside Mandra and said with concern, “Mand… er… Ms. Mynxbynd, what has happened to you?”
Mandra took him aside and whispered to him, “Oh, drop the pretense, Terry Dactyl.”
Stormwing gasped, completely at a loss for words as he tried in vain to think of a way to save his secret identity. Finally, he just gave up trying. “How?” he asked. “How did you find out?”
“Oh, I’ve known for some time,” Mandra said with a clever smile. “That bozo, Brunota, gave me these powers thinking I’d dump you for him, as if that would ever happen in a million years.” Using her powers to shoot off cold blasts and heat blasts into the distance, she said, “So, how do you like the Minx of Mayhem?”
Terry Dactyl grinned. “Ms. Mynxbynd, remind me to treat you like royalty from now on.”
“Oh, I’ll make sure of that, Mr. Dactyl,” said Mandra, giving him a wink. “Now let’s mop up, shall we?”
As Fastback and Rubberduck dragged the unconscious super-bovine off, Mandra added with a whisper, “Don’t tell your two pals over there this, but I also know that Rubberduck and Fastback are Byrd Rentals and Timmy Joe Terrapin, respectively. And don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody the secret identities of any of you three. As for your other five Zoo Crew teammates, I don’t know their identities, but I’m not going to press you for that information, either.”
Stormwing nodded and said, “Speaking of which, I’d better check in on Cap and the others.” Pulling out his Zoo Crew communicator, he made contact with Captain Carrot. “So, how are things going with rounding up the other bad guys, Captain? The three of us can be there in a jiffy to help out, if you need us.”
“Actually, we’re just mopping up now, Stormwing,” said Captain Carrot over the device. “All it took was careful teamwork and the element of surprise, combined with a healthy dose of sheer overconfidence on the villains’ part. How did it go with the Alpha-Bull?”
“Really well, Captain,” replied Stormwing. “Rubberduck and Fastback are just getting him ready to be taken into custody, now. Mandra is safe, too.”
“Well, I guess all’s well that ends well. We’ll meet you, Rubberduck, and Fastback back at headquarters once we drop off these villains back at Sting-Sting.”
“Roger that, Captain. Stormwing signing off.”
“Say, Stormy, why didn’t you tell Cap about Mandra now having super-powers of her own?” asked Rubberduck.
“Well, R.D., I’d rather keep that between the four of us for now — the five of us if you count the bum steer who gave Mandra her new powers,” Stormwing answered.
Mandra grinned and replied in a good-natured but very frank tone, “Don’t worry, Terry, I vow to never use my powers to hurt any innocent animals or to commit any sort of crime. After all, it wouldn’t do at all for my boyfriend to be forced to arrest me in the line of duty, would it? Neither of us needs that type of guilt.”
“Still, there’s also the matter of training her to use her new powers responsibly,” Rubberduck pointed out. “Errr… no offense, Ms. Mynxbynd.”
“None taken, Rubberduck,” she replied, “but I believe Terry can handle the training portion.”
“Wait a minute! You called him Terry… twice. What makes you so sure…?”
“I’ve known for a while, Rubberduck, but his secret identity is quite safe with me,” Mandra answered before Rubberduck could finish his question. She silently added to herself, As are both yours and Fastback’s.
“Say, Mistah Dactyl, would y’all mind a li’l help in training her?” volunteered Fastback. “I mean, ah reckon I could handle that, and we could still keep it between the four o’ us.”
“Thanks, Fastback,” Mandra said. “I would appreciate that.”
“If you’re going to continue using your powers, we’re also going to have to come up with a new name, too,” added Stormwing. “The ‘Minx of Mayhem’ doesn’t exactly sound like a hero’s name.”
“Agreed,” Mandra laughed. “In the meantime, however, let’s get this burly bum out to the streets to be hauled away with the rest of the garbage.”
At that, she effortlessly hefted the unconscious Brunota Burmis over her right shoulder and carried him out herself.