Back in Acme Forest, the small group noticed the changing color as well. "What do you think it means?" Roberta asked Ruby.
"It means we'd better get out of here, like Alex said!"
"Like, for once we're in total agreement," Shirley added.
Alex would have heeded his own advice, except that at the moment, he found himself being pulled toward the portal. "What the -- ?" he asked, surprised. As much as he enjoyed exploring new worlds, he preferred doing it on his terms - and being dragged tail first into said 'new world' wasn't what Alex considered 'his terms.' Buster saw his predicament and raced to help him. Alex didn't exactly approve. "Buster, get out of here!" he yelled as the bunny grabbed one of his arms.
"No way, Alex!" Buster strained, but the pull was too strong. He turned to the others. "Hey, I could use some HELP here!" Without thinking of their own safety, the rest of the Toonsters rushed to help.
"Like, I don't think it's going to work, Buster!" Shirley yelled.
Roberta tried, too, but Rubella shooed her away. "Get out of here, Sis!" she screamed.
"Okay," she sighed heavily. And before anybody could say anything further, the whole bunch of them disappeared through the portal--which then disappeared itself, leaving only Roberta to stare in wide-eyed amazement. She walked over to where the portal and the Toons were, blinked twice, and scratched her head. "Well," she finally declared, making her way to the Bunnies' burrow, "I hope they don't mind if I use their bafroom..."
"OOOOOF!!" was the shared sentiment as everybody tumbled through the portal into...they didn't know where. Alex spoke first upon landing. "Is everyone all right?" The Toons chorused that, yeah, they were, pretty much. Alex continued. "Then would you mind getting OFF OF ME???"
They scrambled to do so. Quickly. "Sorry, Alex," Buster apologized.
Alex dropped his stern demeanor. "That's all right, Buster. I would've done the same for you..."
"That's all well and good," Plucky complained, "but does anybody know where we are?"
"Good question," Alex said, before coming face-to-face with the female scientist. "Maybe she can...excuse me, haven't we met before?"
"I don't think so," she replied nervously. "Are you from...the other side?"
"If you mean the other side of that thing," Alex said, pointing to the portal, "yes. By the way, did you know kidnapping is a major offense...are you sure we haven't met before?"
She became even more nervous. "Yes, yes, quite sure..." She turned to her assistant. "Can you get this thing working again? We've GOT to send them back!"
"Why? Are we too small?" Babs chirped--and then gasped. The scientist also gasped, in total shock.
"Oh, my...it can't be...but I thought you..." She then looked for the first time at her unwilling arrivals. Then she fainted.
Rubella was the first to her side. "Give her air, gu..." She didn't finish her statement, as she recognized the face. "This CAN'T be!"
Buster leaned in for a closer look. "Afraid it can, Rat Babe...or should I say, 'Babes'?" There was no denying it; the resemblance between Ruby and whoever this was was remarkable. "I think she's coming out of it..." Ruby reached out to help her double sit up, before Plucky yelled out to stop her.
"NO! DON'T TOUCH HER!!"
"You don't know where she's been."
Shirley decided she wouldn't wait to fry Plucky. "You've been watching too many 'Doctor Who' reruns, duck!" The smaller scientist joined his comrade and, likewise, was shocked at the appearance of the newcomers. He approached the blue bunny in disbelief, as if he were seeing a ghost.
Buster was equally stunned. "Calamity?"
"You're not kidding," Babs added as an aside.
Ruby's double addressed them nervously. "But...but we thought you were all...all..."
"All what? Cancelled?"
"Cancelled? Is that what they call 'dead' where you come from?"
"HUH?...Er, no, we call that 'suspended animation,'" Buster smiled. "So, who are you and where are we?"
"Okay," she sighed. "I guess I owe you that much. I'm Rebecca Rat, and this is Catastrophe Coyote...and if there's such a thing as 'Toon Hell,' then you're in it!"
"Up to your eyeballs," Catastrophe added grimly.
"Yeah? Well, up your eyeballs too, fella!" Plucky countered, then reconsidered. "Hmmm...that doesn't make much sense, does it?" Everyone else just ignored him. Buster turned to Babs.
"I didn't know I was dead..."
"Are you talking about last night?" she smiled wickedly.
"Rope it in!" Rebecca said, to almost everyone's surprise. "Sorry; force of habit..."
"HEY!" Buster said excitedly. "I'll bet this is one of those 'parallel tooniverses'!"
"You mean like where we met the Bookkeeper?" Plucky asked.
"And you know what that means, don't ya, pal?"
"Indeed I do, Pluckster..."
They exchanged high-fours. "A PLOT!"
Alex buried his head in his hands. "Ay-yi- -yi--yi-YI!" Meanwhile, Rebecca and Catastrophe busied themselves with moving a secret panel in the floor.
"Come on," she whispered. "As long as you're here, you might as well blend in with the scenery. I'll explain on the way..."
Buster turned to Babs again. "Well, whaddaya think?"
"I think I should've invested in junk bonds..."
"Get going, Ivan..." The group cautiously made their way through the panel, with Catastrophe being last, replacing it just as the door to the lab was kicked in. They all held their collective breath as they heard the sound of general destruction above their heads.
From above, one of the intruders spoke. "No sign of anybody here..." Then, after a few more anxious minutes, they heard the welcome sound of their leaving.
Catastrophe cautioned them to remain quiet, and he slowly raised the floor panel an inch or two to survey the surroundings. He lowered it again, mournfully. Rebecca read his face like...well, like a face. "It's bad, isn't it?" He nodded. She turned to the Toons. "I suppose you're wondering just what's going on here..."
"That thought had crossed our minds, yeah," Ruby answered, none too amused at their situation.
"Okay," Rebecca said, taking a deep breath before beginning. "I don't know where you guys are from..."
"Acme Acres," they chorused. The name didn't register.
"Well, where you are now is 'Perfecto Plaza'...only, it's not so perfect anymore..."
"What happened?" Babs asked.
Rebecca sighed sadly. "The Lord High Mayor, that's what happened. He's totally out of control!" She then went on to list a litany of offenses that, had there been a branch office there, would have made Amnestoon International cringe. Her voice choked as she continued. "...And worst of all, he disposed of everyone who ever opposed him." She paused to wipe a tear. "Some of them were my best friends..."
The Toons looked at each other in silence. No wonder she'd reacted the way she had when she first saw them! "I'm so sorry," Babs said, offering her a handkerchief, which she accepted.
"Thank you," Rebecca replied, wiping her eyes. "But you haven't heard the worst part..."
"Gee, kid," Plucky muttered softly. "What could be worse?"
Rebecca swallowed hard. "He...he even had my family killed..."
Rubella gasped sympathetically. "Your...family?"
Rebecca nodded. "Do you still have one on your world?"
"Yeah, my mom and a kid sister..." Ruby stopped, as she suddenly understood the horror of what her counterpart must have gone through. "Oh, no..." she whispered, shocked, saddened and outraged by the thought of it.
"But, like, why?" Shirley asked, equally outraged.
"Same reason as the others, I guess," Rebecca said. "You see, the Mayor's job here is a hereditary one, and his successor would have certainly tried to undo all the evil things he'd done; so he figured that instead of just destroying his heir physically, he'd first try the psychological approach..."
Alex picked up the thread. "By destroying those closest to..." He almost said 'him', but then suddenly realized the full impact of what Rebecca was trying to say. "...To...YOU?" She nodded. "But, for you to be his legal successor, that would make him..."
Rebecca finished the thought for him through clenched teeth. "My father..." Nobody said anything after that for a good long while. There was nothing they could say. Finally, Rebecca broke the silence. "Well, the Goon Squad won't be back today. We might as well check the damage..." So saying, she led the little group back up to the lab.
To be continued...
For part 3, click here.
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