"Boy," Plucky said as they looked around the lab, which by now had been well and truly trashed. "This makes the 75% Off Sale at the Acme Mall look like the work of amateurs!" Everybody shot him a warning glare. "Well, it does..."
Catastrophe stood near the portal control (what there was of it), shaking his head. "Whaddaya think, Catastrophe?" Buster asked. "Can it be fixed?"
"It'll take time, Buster..."
"And even if we did get it working, we couldn't risk running it again so soon," Rebecca added. "It's not exactly the quietest mode of transport there is."
"Yeah, we know," Babs said. "It does tend to attract attention, doesn't it?"
Rebecca smiled wanly. "It certainly does that all right, Babs!"
Buster suddenly had a brainstorm. "Hey, Alex!"
"What is it, Buster?"
"You know that transporting thing you did back in the French Alps?"
"Yes?" Alex smiled, knowing what Buster had in mind already.
"Do you think it could work between parallel dimensions?"
Alex gave it a little bit of thought before answering. "I don't know. I've never tried it before. But then again," he added, "I've never had any good reason to, either! Still, I suppose anything's worth a try..." With that, he looped his huge tail into a circle, concentrated slightly, and suddenly a wormhole appeared in the middle, to the amazement of Catastrophe and Rebecca.
Catastrophe let out a long whistle of admiration. "Gee, just think, we've been doing this the hard way!"
Rebecca punched him on the shoulder. "Oh, be quiet!" She approached it carefully. "Is...is it safe?"
"SAFE?" Plucky yapped. "Are you kidding, sister? Buster and I have travelled this way DOZENS of times!"
Buster and Alex each arched an eyebrow in his direction. "Dozens?"
"Well, okay; once. But it was quite a rush..."
"Oh, it was NOT!" Buster snapped, then turned to Alex. "Er, no offense..."
"'Sallright," he growled, grinning. Meanwhile, the wormhole had opened up enough to where a picture could be seen...a picture of a familiar-looking forest.
"Hmmm...looks like Acme Acres..." Buster mused.
"Are you sure?" Rubella asked skeptically.
"Only one way to find out," Buster replied; and with that, he leaned halfway through the wormhole, leaving just his backside exposed.
"Gee, and me without my camera!" Babs said cheerfully. The others would have laughed at that; however, at that moment, Buster quickly backed out. It was obvious from the look on his face that he had a very good reason for doing it.
"ALEX! CLOSE IT!! QUICK!!!" he shouted. Before he could comply, four hooded figures entered the lab through the wormhole, brandishing rifles!
"Set four extra places at the table, mama," Plucky muttered under his breath. "Guess who's coming to dinner?"
"Buster, can I tell you something?"
She leaned in close to his right side. "I'M SCARED!!!" she yelled.
"And I'm now deaf in one ear...eeeeEEEEeeee!" He shook his head rapidly, trying to stop the ringing. Buster knew how Babs felt, though. Having four hooded characters holding loaded rifles in your general direction was not exactly a calming sensation.
"Say, who's your outfitter?" Plucky asked brightly. "L.L. Doom?" The obvious leader raised his rifle butt to strike him down. "mother?"
"STOP IT!" Rebecca yelled angrily. The leader didn't lower his rifle so much as drop it in bewilderment.
"BECKUMS?" he asked, in a familiar voice. "You're still ALIVE??" She couldn't believe her ears, either, and rushed to hug him. Only one person had ever called her 'Beckums'.
"Hmmm...either she has some strange friends, or..." Plucky began.
"Like, shut up, duck!" Shirley finished. "Wait a minute...Rebecca, do you know these guys?"
"I'd better, or we're all in trouble!" She smiled, then turned her attention back to the leader. "It must get hot in those outfits!"
"Heh heh...yeah," he laughed, removing his hood.
Buster looked at Babs. "Don't tell me..."
"You're just a singer in a rock and roll band?"
"Knock it off..."
"'KNOCK IT OFF?' What happened to 'Rope it in'? That's been good for years!" That said, they turned their attention back to the leader. They shouldn't have been surprised when he revealed himself to be an exact double of...Buster! (But they were, anyway.) "Hey," Babs said, "Rebecca told us you were..."
"Dead? Naahh, just went underground for a while, that's all!" The two Busters studied each other closely. Same blue fur. Same red sweater. Same no pants. Only the other Buster's eyepatch distinguished him from the original. "Say, who's your outfitter?"
"Guy named Spielberg."
"Never heard of him."
The others, meanwhile, had removed their hoods to reveal exact doubles of Babs, Shirley and Fifi beneath. "Well, if it isn't The Amazing Three," Babs said.
"Or a cheap imitation," Plucky added. The girls gave him a dirty look and pointed their rifles at him. "O-kaayyyy ..." He raised his hands in mock surrender. "Say, just out of curiousity, how come there isn't a double of ME in this grouping?"
The loon known as 'Sheryl' grabbed him by his T-shirt. "Because ONE of you is annoying enough, all right?" She dropped him on the floor. Hard.
He turned painfully to Shirley. "You know, you could take diction lessons from her!" Shirley zapped him again.
"Euuggh! How vomitose, or some junk!" Sheryl replied.
"...Or not!" Plucky reconsidered. The skunkette, Fala, had been cautiously checking the door, and rushed back to join the others. "Hey, snap it up!" she said, in a decidedly un-French accent. "We're about to have unwanted guests!"
"AGAIN?" Ruby asked. "Boy, some parallel tooniverses just aren't safe!" Alex quickly formed the wormhole again and zeroed in on the same forest.
"Go on, I'll catch up!" Buster started to protest, but Alex raised a paw to stop him. "Don't worry about me, just GO!" They knew the skunk meant it, and dashed through the wormhole. When he was sure they were gone, he uncircled his tail and crouched behind the portal console, his emerald eyes now a fiery crimson. In his best Jack Nicholson voice, he chortled, "Wait'll they get a load of me..."
"Hey, that is fast!" Catastrophe said, impressed.
"When you absolutely, positively have to get there at faster-than-light," Buster grinned. "So, where to now?" he addressed his double.
"This way..." He led them through a thick clump of bushes and down a rope ladder to an underground clearing.
"Gee, all the comforts of home...if you happen to like abject poverty," Plucky griped. Everyone ignored him.
"So, where'd you come from?" Fala asked.
"A place called 'Acme Acres," Babs answered. She didn't wait for the name to click. She knew it wouldn't. "It's in another dimension. We sort of got here by accident."
"You could say they put a damper on my escape," Rebecca smiled weakly, throwing a power switch on, illuminating the clearing.
Buster and Babs gave huge, carrot-eating grins to the accusing stares from Rebecca's friends. "Did we mention we were sorry about that?" Babs chirped. Her double growled menacingly in her face. "Heh heh...I guess not..."
"Let it drop, Barbara!" 'Buster' said.
"Okay," Barb said, suddenly all sweetness.
"Say," Buster said, "don't you have another name you go by? I mean, having two 'Busters' is kind of confusing!"
"You know, you're right!" the other laughed. "Okay...call me 'Ishmael'!"
"It's been done!"
"It has?" He sighed dejectedly. "Okay...call me 'Ukariah'...man, I hate that name!"
"Well, what name would you have preferred?"
"Something with a little more...machismo..."
"Fabio?" Ukariah asked hopefully. The two bunnies thought about it only briefly, then shook their heads.
Meanwhile, Rubella was involved in a discussion with Fala. "So, how did you escape?"
Fala smiled. "Never underestimate the digging power of a pair of rabbits..."
"I'll have to remember that...so, the Mayor wasn't as good a 'hatchet man' as everybody thought?"
Fala shook her head sadly. "Yes and no, Rubella. Some of us managed to escape, and we've been here ever since; but some others..." She sniffed. "I'm sad to say, they weren't so fortunate..."
Ruby hated to ask the next question. "Rebecca's family?"
"She told you, then?"
"Yeah..." Ruby paused. "Do you think he'll try to kill her, too?"
"I have no doubt," Fala grimaced.
Ruby was outraged. "Why? It doesn't make any sense!"
"Nothing around here makes sense any more," Fala sighed wearily.
"Okay, suppose she did manage to escape; would it really solve anything?"
"Well, what if she stood up to him?"
"She wouldn't live long enough. Hatred is a very powerful emotion..."
Ruby sighed. "I know what you mean, Fala; unfortunately, I've been there."
"Then you know it has a different effect on everyone. Look at Rebecca. It's totally eaten away any courage she once had, and turned her into a pitiful coward." She didn't say it angrily; she was merely stating the facts. "I feel sorry for her, but she has to learn to carry on." She took a deep breath. "No, I'm afraid there's only one way she can face up to that monster."
"What's that?" Ruby asked nervously.
Fala fixed her gaze on Ruby. "Kill him..."
To be continued...
For Part 4, click here.
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