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Return to Power
Part Two

"By Jaga, not another one," Lion-O said, slamming his fist into the console. In the last month and a half there had been over a dozen reports of people going missing; six Warrior Maidens, three Bulkins, one Berbil, two Wollos, one Tuska, and now one of the unicorns. And there was no way of knowing whether there were others or not. Had woodland creatures disappeared? Birds? Fish? Insects? The Thundercats explored every report, while keeping in frequent contact with those who were isolated, like the Snow Man of Hook Mountain and Hachiman. He had even resorted to calling in Mandora to help investigate.

Furthermore, he'd forbidden any Thundercat to venture out alone just in case one of them was next. About the only benefit if one of them was captured was that he would be able to use the Sword of Omens to learn more about their enemy. Aristarchus had been too dismissive of their concerns, and the Lunataks were known to employ slave labour, which made them the most likely threat. But without proof, he couldn't justify searching their land for the missing persons.

Each disappearance, when the location was known, had one thing in common; the earth had been disturbed. Tygra and Panthro were speaking with Mole Master at present to see if he knew anything.

"Don't worry, Lion-O, we'll get whoever's behind this, snarf, snarf," his former nanny piped up, perched on his tail. Snarf was right, of course. The Thundercats would figure this out because Thundercats never gave up. It was their way, a means of survival. His re-assuring smile seemed to placate the other's fears enough that he returned to his work.

Mystan was finding it very difficult to think with Zanaya's hands wrapped around his throat. She'd called him in to her room to announce that she wanted the child removed from her belly surgically rather than waiting for nature to take its course. "If Lunis is going to throw every complication in the book at me, I'd just as soon eliminate some of them," she had argued vehemently. He didn't see why she was so determined. She had also been promised by the goddess that she would live through the birth so that the infant could harass her more. Of course, he'd accidentally mentioned that he thought she was overreacting, hence the hands around his throat and her sarcastic shouts of "Does this look like overreacting to you?"

"Alright. I'll get the doctors immediately," he said, finally getting her to release her grip. There were a dozen other things to get ready for, not the least of which was ensuring the father of the child was nowhere around. The only reason Zanaya still lived was because she was carrying Knave's child, and he had sworn to kill her once it was born. Of course, by the same token, Mystan planned on killing Knave once the psychic link between himself and Zanaya was ended.

"Mmm... Succulent," the spirit whispered, circling its latest capture. Over the last while it had learned to moderate the draining of its victims, finding that it could gain more power if it did so than by taking the lives in one gulp. The unicorn whickered and pawed futilely at the incorporeal mist. "Such life, such energy. You will be a special treat." The spirit darted in again, touching the unicorn's flank but not taking any energy this time.

"You shouldn't play your food," Shade said. The spirit glanced in her direction and seemed to scowl. The Lunatak woman was getting more vocal, she needed to be taught a lesson. The spirit slipped back out of the cell block and coated her body, turning her back into her younger form.

"What's the matter, Shade? You used to be fun," now that the spirit was part of her she could feel the hint of malice and cruelty. "You haven't been the same since... I know what it is, you miss the carnal pleasures of Psychro, don't you." Her face burned at the memory and the disgust of knowing the spirit had been present. "Yes, I think that's it. You yearn for the touch of a man, don't you. Well, then, the pickings are slim here but... You. Bulkin. If you have sex with this woman I will let you go free." The spirit forced Shade to walk closer to the cell, slowly undoing the zipper at her neck.

"Never! You are evil, and will never let me leave here alive in order to keep your secrets," the Bulkin stammered, managing to sound brave and noble. Angrily the spirit detached itself from Shade, causing the older woman to crumple to the ground, leaving her to redress herself.

The spirit whipped through the cell and wrapped around the Bulkin instead. "You dare disobey me? I may not be able to control you like I can her, but I can make your death excrutiating!" the Bulkin howled loud and long as the spirit went to work.

The news from Mole Master wasn't going to improve things. After a lengthy discussion with the leader of the Mole people, following a short skirmish, Tygra and Panthro had learned that they were in the dark, just as the Thundercats were. To make matters worse, two of their people had also been taken. None of it added up to Tygra. What was the connection between all these people disappearing? What possible use could someone have for taking so many people?

He'd found that he was losing sleep at night now too, every creak made him jump, thinking that he was about to be abducted, and based on the worn expressions of the rest of his comrades, they were experiencing similar. The rolling plains breezed by and he wondered how he was going to explain this news to Lion-O.

Everything was in the hospital in the city of New Lunis. It was barely a building at all, to be honest, but they had made its construction a priority, and it was almost fully operational. The doctors were ready, Zanaya was ready and, most importantly, Mystan was ready. Psion pregnancies carried more complications than most, as children often were born with some basic powers. In the womb, the mother could prevent the use of these powers, but once the babe was free this was not the case. Whenever possible, a Psion priest would be present to place mental blocks around the baby's psionic centre of the brain, loosening it as the child grew up.

Mystan sat in a chair next to the operating table where Zanaya lay, mentally preparing himself for the taxing procedure. He'd only done this once, and he remembered being exhausted for two days after. A telepath sat next to Zanaya, Lura being away on another assignment, to try and block the pain centres of the woman's brain and keep her unconscious during the surgery. A Psion doctor, a telekinetic that Mystan had only seen once before, gestured to the high priest that he was ready to begin. Mystan nodded and watched as the first incision was made.

Psychro ducked around the corner and slipped into the rough wooden building that the Graviton delegation had established. Located with a terrific view out one window of the cliffs, it was becoming a favourite place for people to hang out when they were off duty. It was also a place where he was reasonably certain he wouldn't be found by certain people. The 'Six Sticks Bar & Grill' was named after a Graviton captain who had been killed in the battle with Mumm-Ra. Once they'd returned to the city, his people had insisted to Prince Tycho, then in charge of the colony, to build a shrine in his honour. It was every Graviton's dream to have a bar named after them.

Inside were the usual assortment of characters for mid-day; the early morning shift, the slackers, and the late shift workers getting an early jump on their work day. Ninety-nine percent were either male or Graviton women. In fact, the one non-Graviton woman was a royal Lunar woman who looked like she was lost. Psychro took a seat at a table near the back where he could keep an eye on the door. Ignoring his apparent desire to be alone and inconspicuous, Tug Mug bounded over to him with a pair of beers in his hand. "Dreenk?" Tug Mug asked, offering one of the sloshing mugs. The foam had a decidedly purple colour, which told Psychro that they'd been experimenting with their flavours again.

"Please," he replied, gratefully downing the liquid in one long gulp. It tasted faintly of berries, not wholly unpleasant, but not something he looked forward to trying again.

"I take eet you're hiding from someone? Whose woman have you been sleeping weeth?" Tug Mug asked, procuring another three beers, two for himself and one for Psychro.

"No one, that I know of. But a friend of mine who works at the hospital tells me that Brae was in asking about a strange infection she'd gotten, co-incidentally less than a week after she and I... anyway, the point is I was given the heads up that she's looking for me," Psychro said, jumping as the door opened, and relieved to see it was only a pair of Darklings.

"First time that's happened?" Tug Mug asked.

"Yeah. I've always thought I was blessed by the gods. I mean, look at this body, every woman wants it, I've got the sexual prowess of ten men, I've only managed to spawn one bastard kid, and until now there've been no surprises down there," Psychro consumed a second beer and slammed the mug back down. What would 'Karis say if she found out about this one? Probably tell him that it was about time.

"Een that case, you're going to want to use the back door. That looks like a woman on a mission," he said, pointing out the window to a woman crossing the street, making a beeline for the bar.

"Thanks, Tug Mug, I owe you one," Psychro said, staggering out the door. As he watched the hybrid flee, Tug Mug relished the thought of calling in that favour.

He was sprinting down the hall when he suddenly decided that he didn't want to anymore. Knave didn't want to move, period, which was very bizarre. His mental link with Zanaya, created automatically when they'd first conceived, told him that the link was about to be severed, and that meant the baby was being born and he wanted to be present... except that he didn't. What he suddenly wanted to do was enter a room along this hall that he knew was Mystan's bedroom. But Zanaya wouldn't be in there, so why did he want to go there now?

The door opened and he saw Lura sitting on a couch, left hand pressed to the side of her head and eyes closed in concentration. He walked closer to her, but found himself unwilling to actually say anything that might disturb her. Finally she opened her eyes and rose to meet him. "Welcome, Knave of House Iespyk," she greeted him formally. "I can tell that you're wondering why you're here and not at Zanaya's bedside." She tapped her forehead and he remembered something about her being a telepath. "Very good. I'm here to prevent a confrontation. You see, Mystan is in there with Zanaya and he would be unable to defend himself if you went in there right now, and I care too much about him to let you take advantage of his weakened state."

Lura caught the innuendo that immediately went through Knave's head, including an exaggerated mental image of herself naked. That was the problem with telepathy. Reading thoughts was easy, filtering out the useful from the chaff was tough, she actually found manipulating the mind easier, convincing it to do things that it wouldn't have done otherwise. "Not like that, though he has thought about it once or twice. I love him like a father."

A wave of hatred flooded through the mental link, and she staggered back against it, butting her knees against the couch. Forcibly regaining control of herself Lura moved closer again. "Right. You don't like your father. That's one of the reasons I want to help you, you've never really been loved. Your father despised you, your mother tried to love you but was repulsed by you, your siblings hated you, and your grandmother... I see now, you dared to hope that things would be different with her. That despite her old ways she would find it in her heart to love you; it didn't happen did it? Then there's your friend Cameo, you thought you could trust him and he repays you by abandoning you on Third Earth. Which brings me to Zanaya. Truthfully, I don't blame you for wanting to hurt her, she deserves it for what she did to you. For what it's worth, she feels no remorse for her actions. But Mystan likes her; she's family, so I can't let you."

She paused to let her words sink in and to scan his mind to see if they were having any effect. Lura had learned long ago how to find the weak spots in people, and Knave's were obvious. He'd been unloved all through life, so of course he'd fallen for the first woman to say she loved him. But Lura had also read Zanaya's mind. That one was wicked, and Lura had nearly hit her herself. "You don't want to hear it, but I pity you. That wound hurt so much. Mystan told me to stop you from getting to the infirmary in any way, so I'm going to give you a chance. Leave New Lunis. Run far away and never come back. If you go far enough, Mystan will forget about you and leave you alone." She knew he wouldn't, but hoped regardless.

"No? Fine then, I'll stop you another way. It's funny, people underestimate telepaths, because we aren't as flashy as the telekinetics or the pyrokinetics, but we're dangerous. I could have you decide to kill yourself." She focussed on him again and his hands went to the icepick at his belt, sliding the blade out and pointing at his heart. An accusation ran through his head, telling her that he didn't think she had the killer's instinct, an accusation that rang too true in her heart. Had he been able to move he would have flashed a triumphant smile. He'd seen the doubt in her eyes, so there was no point in denying it. "You're right, I don't like killing unnecessarily. But Mystan does, and he will kill you if the two of you ever fight, and I feel for you enough to do this for your own good."

She stepped close to him, close enough to smell his breakfast on his breath, and placed a hand on his head. Her power seemed to come more easily when there was physical contact, and what she was about to attempt would take a lot, especially given his Cheetah heritage that resisted psychic assaults. But slowly she reached into the brain and convinced him to run, and not stop running until nightfall. Lura also placed a thought that there was nothing left for him in New Lunis, and that he never wanted to return. As she took several steps back, she relinquished her initial hold on him, hoping that it all worked and that she wouldn't wind up impaled on his icepick. But he sheathed his weapon and ran, only when she sensed he was out of the building did she collapse on the couch.

Psychro's day was going from bad to worse. Having escaped Brae's attention momentarily, though with her telepathy he suspected that wouldn't last forever, he then proceeded to collide with an Icewalker nobleman who had called him 'father.' It was a horrifying thought. As he'd told Tug Mug, as far as he knew there was only one little Psychro running around, and she was safely on the Graviton moon. He didn't ordinarily sleep with Gravitons, but he'd foolishly made a promise to sleep with her sight unseen. But now another one? Certainly he'd slept with many an Icewalker, though he didn't think any children of those unions would be this old.

Worse became more so when he recognized the man standing before him. Nitro of House Iespyk, Chilla and Ren's only son. The same Ren whom Psychro had tried to look like in order to win Chilla's heart. Nitro too seemed to be coming to the same conclusion, unfortunately. "Psychro of some house not worth mentioning. Chilla has told me of you." His eyes narrowed. Nitro was a powerful man within Icewalker society, his house, technically led by Chilla, was the most influential on the entire moon, and Psychro didn't really want to cross him. "So you're the one who wanted so badly to bond with my mother, eh? You're lucky I have another errand to run, or I'd show you what happens when someone steps beyond their class. I suggest you keep running." Nitro picked Psychro up off the ground and shoved him in the opposite direction.

"She should have been with me first, then she'd never have had you," Psychro spat, thoroughly ticked off at the physical assault. Nitro paused mid-stride and turned.

"What did you say?" Nitro asked slowly, dangerously.

"I said that you'd have never have been born if I had my way, and we'd all be better off for it." Psychro didn't know when to stop when his temper boiled over. Usually Psikaris was there to rein him in, but not this time.

"I see. Perhaps my errands can wait then." Nitro charged at the hybrid.

There was something disconcerting going on, there was something just slightly amiss, but Mystan couldn't quite put his finger on it. Sliding his mind through Zanaya's belly and latching on to the as yet unborn child's mind had been easy, but it felt wrong. He began questing through the child's brain searching for the psychic nerve centres that he would need to block off and realized what the problem was.

Typically a Psion brain had a unique section that housed psychic energy, but in Zanaya's child it was different. It was there but... he recoiled as he touched it with his mind. It was freezing cold. That shouldn't have been true regardless of the birth origins. A dim remembrance tickled the back of his skull, a colleague had mentioned that a particularly powerful pyrokinetic had possessed a slightly warm psychic region. Could this be something similar? Was the diluted Icewalker blood enough to cause such a thing?

He felt the child's link to its mother being severed and knew he had to work quickly. Some children accidentally manifested abilities right out of the womb and, if he knew the goddess that was tormenting his niece like he did, the child doubtless would if the blocks were not in place.

He erected barriers all around the psychic region, locking them in place through sheer willpower, and then inspected his work. A flash of cold touched one of his barriers and dissipated, reassuring him that they were working, and that meant he could return his consciousness to his body again.

Mystan's eyes snapped open and he looked around to make sure everything was in order. The Psion doctor and his Graviton assistant were tending to the incision they'd made, while Zanaya lay still unconscious. She would probably remain so for another hour until the telepath next to her felt she could cope with the flood of sensations. Writhing in the arms of another Psion was a little baby girl who looked distinctly unlike her mother. Mystan rose unsteadily to his feet and examined the child and was surprised to see that it leaned very close, appearance wise, to the father's side of her family tree. Pale blue skin, showing just a hint of purple, covered her body with a thin smattering of black spots down her back. Only the light gray hair and a pale cyan strip of colouring across the eyes reminded him of Zanaya at all. "See that they're both taken care of," he said sternly to all present. He needed to rest, recharge his psychic stores, and see how Lura had coped with Knave.

"You've resisted me, Shade," the spirit said, having transformed her back into her younger self. The spirit only did this when it wanted a more personal and mind to mind conversation. This was something it didn't want the prisoners to know about, for whatever reason. She was starting to get used to the creature's habits, and had learned to dread 'that' tone in its voice. "I offered you life and you spurn my gifts, seeking to find a way to destroy me." Her skin felt like it was writhing, though a cursory glance assured her it wasn't. The spirit was agitated and very angry. "I will punish you."

"You still need me," she stammered, the spirit forcing her mouth closed even as the words came out. The people in the cells didn't know what was happening and looked on with fear. The ones who had been there longer had seen similar performances but were still hopelessly confused. This was also the form Shade took when fetching more victims for her master, and they pitied whomever might be joining them.

"Do I, now?" the question cast doubt in Shade's mind. "I could easily switch into one of these here. Their minds are weak and would succumb to my charms. I might destroy a few more minds before I find the right one, but I could. Besides, my power grows stronger, I am nearly able to create a shell of my own. And then, who do you think my next target will be? I will hunt your father down so that you can watch me take his life. Don't think yourself invincible yet, Shade. Now come, I've found a perfect test of your loyalties."

Reluctantly Shade wafted through the densely packed soil, following the spirit's orders, seeking out new prey.

Psychro stood triumphant, if a little bloodied. Nitro was indeed a formidable opponent, and on most other days he probably would have won, but Nitro had spent the last week on a space shuttle and had lost some of his edge. Conversely, Psychro was feeling antsy and needed a good fight to redeem himself. Nitro was sprawled face down in the dirt of a small side street, surrounded by a crowd who had decided to watch the fight. Though it had only last ten minutes or so, his body felt like it had been an hour. There were bruises forming, and a cut across his chin that was dripping profusely. But he hadn't felt this good in a long time. Onlookers cheered him on and showered him in adulation.

There was no fear of the authorities, these fights were relatively commonplace, and were generally considered to have been between two willing participants. Each bore the marks that were punishment enough. Potentially, Nitro might demand a re-match at a later date, and he knew he should be prepared for that eventuality.

Unseen by him, until it was too late, Brae broke through the crowd and approached him. She took him by the arm and dragged him into an unfinished building nearby. The onlookers, many aware of his reputation, hooted and hollered at him assuming that she was rewarding his victory.

"You've been avoiding me," she snapped when they were finally away from prying eyes. She pushed him down on to a toolbox that had been left behind and crouched in front of him.

"No I haven't," he replied. A hard slap across the face sent blood flying. She jerked his jaw so that his eyes met her own. "This is why I swore to never date a telepath," he grumbled.

"So you've heard the story then. Are you going to explain yourself, or do I need to poke around some more in your thick head?" she relinquished her grip and wiped her bloody hand on his vest. Then she sighed and began attending to his cut.

"Okay, you're right. I heard from a friend that you might have caught something, and were looking for me. I've never had something like this happen. I'm sorry, I panicked. I never meant to hurt you," he explained. "Scan my brain if you want to check my sincerity."

"I'd rather not," she said at length. "I've heard too many stories about your prowess and your escapades to do that. I'm told that there at least thirty women in New Lunis who claim to have slept with you. I'm thinking of starting a fan club."

"Don't bother, there's already one," he said, regretting it even as he spoke the words. She slapped him again. He didn't understand why, he thought women liked the truth.

"For the record, there's something your source didn't tell you. I didn't catch it from you, but I had been worried that I'd passed it on to you. I've had this for years and thought it was under control. Gods, I was such an idiot to think that you were anything other than a sleazy bastard who just wanted to get laid. I actually managed to convince myself that you cared about me and that we might have a future. I even cared when I realized that I had a fresh outbreak and that you might be at risk. Now, I suddenly hope you do have it. I hope that your penis rots and falls off, because at the rate you're going someone's going to cut it off if it doesn't." She stood and he dumbly stared at her. He was trying to use his psionic persuasion powers to calm her, but it didn't seem to be working. "Goodbye Psychro."

He watched her go. Another woman walking out of his life. He felt a little saddened by her departure, another woman whose heart he'd broken and there was no way to repair it. On the other hand, she still had a really nice rear, and he was glad he'd gotten his hands on it. She cast him one last dirty look and left the building.

The land rolled by him as Knave went, he'd tired after a while of running and allowed himself to walk at a more leisurely pace. He wasn't sure why he'd been running like that, only that he desperately wanted to get away from New Lunis. That place and the people in it were dead to him. He didn't need Zanaya or Chilla or any of them. Lunataks had proven to be nothing but corrupting people in his experiences there. So what if his child was there, they would only grow up to loathe him and betray him. It was in her blood.

If his memory served him correctly, this region was known as the void. He'd studied the map of Third Earth carefully, and dimly recalled something about strong winds in this area. There plenty of shipwrecks here, and in the distance a large opening in the rock that resembled a giant mouth. A fiendish howl filled the air and he dropped to a fighting stance instinctively. Suddenly the 'mouth' began sucking in anything in its line of sight, which thankfully did not include Knave at that moment. Large pieces of lumber, sand and rock flew by, though, and vanished within that gaping maw. It was during this distraction that he realized there was an old woman standing behind him. She appeared to be glaring at a bizarre patch of mist hanging beside her.

Whatever the issue she was having with the mist was forgotten and she finally turned to face him. "Hello there, I seem to be lost, can you help me?" the woman asked, sweetly.

As she stepped closer he realized she was a Darkling Lunatak, over a hundred if his experience with her race was anything to go by. "If you're going to New Lunis, forget it," he said. He hated Darklings on general principle, having watched them put his brother, the one member of his family he'd liked, put to death. Never mind the fact that his brother had been caught poisoning the water supply.

"Oh no, I live in the Desert of Sinking Sands. It's a small home, but I've lived there for years," she said.

"There are Lunataks in the desert? I didn't know that. The Thundercats never said anything about..." he began, taking her arm and starting to cross the beach.

"Oh they don't know about me, my home is hidden very well," she chuckled, though he noticed that she shot a glance behind her at where the mist had been. He assumed that she was crazy and ignored it. "Oh yes, I've seen the Thundercats many times, but they've never seen me. They come by in their vehicles and fought Mumm-Ra. Whatever happened to him anyway?" she asked, catching him off-guard.

"They defeated and killed him thanks to us Lunataks. They keep his corpse in their Lair, but it's not going anywhere. Surely you saw the battle, though, if you live near where the pyramid used to be," he said.

The woman hesitated before speaking, "Oh, I did hear some ruckus a while back. Is that what it was?" she said.

"Look, I can take you part way and point you in the right direction, but I don't do well in the desert," Knave started to explain. Between his Icewalker half and the coarse fur that his Cheetah half provided he was ill-suited to warmer climes. A look of disappointment and frustration cross the woman's features and she stumbled suddenly, dropping to her knees.

"Are you alright?" Knave asked. As much as he disliked Darklings, he tended to admire the elderly, it showed a certain tenaciousness to have lived this long, a determination to survive as it were. As he bent to help her up she hurled sand in his eyes, blinding him, and struck him hard across the side of the head with a rock. She was stronger than she looked, he had to admit.

"I'm sorry, forgive me," she said quietly, almost too soft to be heard. She struck him again, this time in the shoulder, and was about to swing a third time when he finally cleared his eyes. He blocked the blow and shoved her backwards on to her rear, staring angrily at her.

"What the hell was that for?" he snapped, watching her as best he could while rubbing the rest of the sand away.

"I have little love for what your family did, but I have no choice. You are my prisoner. Surrender!" she snarled, though she didn't rise.

"You are insane. I could snap you like a twig if I wanted to. Go away, old woman, before I finish what time has started." Knave took three paces before he heard that awful howl again and he realized with horror that he was standing in the path of that mouth. The suction was incredible as he was dragged across the sand, claws built for shredding flesh and his vaunted speed were all useless against that powerful force. The woman, he noticed with a sense of irritation, was braced against a large boulder, preventing her from being taken too. It had been a setup. She'd picked her timing and the place, somehow knowing. His back slammed against a rocky growth at the lip of the cave and he tried in vain to grab on to it to prevent being drawn in further. He was battered from side to side against the walls of the cave and by other debris, sinking deeper for longer than he'd expected.

Just as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped. Body aching, he dropped to the ground, angrily shoving a plank of wood out of his way. The cave went deeper, though how much he didn't know. Didn't want to know. Then the wind started up again, blowing out towards the entrance to the cave, through some process he could only imagine was magic.

Letting out a colourful stream of curses, Knave started to run, trying to keep ahead of that gale force wind. It didn't work, of course, the wind scooped him off his feet and propelled him out of the cave, skidding him across the sand painfully. He was about to get up again when Shade smashed his head with her rock.

"You're joking," Mystan said, staring with an unamused look on his face at his niece. They were still in the hospital, though moved to her own private room, only the best for someone of Mystan's standing. Although he'd never been one for humour, Zanaya had a certain fondness for it that she seemed to especially enjoy using to irritate him.

She shifted her burden in her arms, and pushed back the blanket that was starting to cover the child's face. "I'm not. This is all too much of a co-incidence. I'm cursed with a child because I killed an Icewalker woman, and now my child bears a striking resemblance to her? I'd kill it if I didn't think there would be dire consequences."

Mystan had heard the story, and wasn't sure how much of it to believe. He was devout, one didn't become a high priest without being so, but he just didn't believe that the prayers of every dying warrior would be listened to. It just wasn't likely. He made a mental note to see if the original Krystalin's file said anything about religious persuasions.

"Besides, you said yourself that she seems to be our first cryokinetic. That's very similar to that wretched woman. She could freeze people with a touch if she wanted," Zanaya continued, interrupting his thoughts. "All things considered, I'd say this is Krystalin reborn."

"Very well. Welcome to the family Krystalin Benekasbeel," he said marking her forehead with the all seeing eye. "You'll be happy to know that there's no sign of your boyfriend. Lura convinced him to run away and never come back. I'd sooner see him dead, but this will suffice."

"I wouldn't mind seeing him dead too. Maybe once I get back in shape I'll track him down and permanently end our relationship." The baby squealed in her arms, and she turned her attention back to it. "Would you like to see daddy dead too? You do? Maybe I'll make a nice blanket out of his hide for you, something to remember him by."

A broad smile was on Chilla's lips when Tug Mug told her the good news about Psychro beating up her son, Nitro. She was helping one of techs with upgrades to her Ice Runner when he'd approached and had excused herself to hear what her old ally had to say. She wasn't fond of Nitro, not as much as she had been before her involuntary entombment by Mumm-Ra had aged him eighty years. It still unnerved her to realize that he was old enough to be her father. He had strayed far from the way she would have raised him. He was a formidable fighter, but blinded by duty and honour. These weren't bad in general, but often it seemed to be an extreme. Too much kowtowing to whomever was in charge without a thought for personal gain. Then again, she'd grown up under a different era. She was generally loyal to Luna, but knew enough to look after her own interests too. Luna certainly wouldn't.

And then there was his taste in partners. It wasn't uncommon for influential Icewalkers to have a harem of sorts, Chilla had considered it herself, but had decided that Ren met all her physical needs. Nitro had an abundance of women, including women of other species. Once she had regained control of the house, she had drawn the line at non-Lunar women. Nitro hadn't been happy about it, but had obeyed. Perhaps blind loyalty had its perks. Which reminded her, she should look in on Zanaya at some point to see how her great-granddaughter was doing.

"Where's Nitro now?" she asked, snapping herself out of her reverie to deal with Tug Mug. She felt the need to rub salt in his proverbial wounds.

"He's was being taken to the hospital. They say he'll be fine, but want to run some tests to make sure," Tug Mug replied, bouncing slightly.

"It's too bad I've got Red, I might have given Psychro another chance for this," she chuckled. As Psychro had predicted, she and Red Eye had finally decided that there was mutual interest in a relationship and decided to see where it went. She suspected it wouldn't last, but felt she owed it to him.

"You could have them both," Tug Mug said, knowing too well about Icewalker harems. "Heck, you could have me too." His jesting was carried too far and she sent a blast of ice under his wheels.

"Unless you want to join my son in the hospital," she threatened.

"Sorry! How are the two of you doing anyway? Does he actually have eyes under those glasses?" he asked, wary for another attack.

She shook her head in disgust instead. They had, in fact, consummated their relationship early on, but it had been a horrible experience. Since it had been over two years, not counting their time in suspension, since they'd last had sex with their respective spouses, it had been frantic and very brief, and they'd yet to try again. Tug Mug didn't need to know any of it, instead she haughtily walked away, heading for the hospital.

Tycho stared at his sheep, periodically doing a head count to make sure they were all there. He hated to admit it, but he was getting bored. He'd been here herding sheep for months and had assumed that it would bring peace to his life. It was what he wanted, wasn't it? To spend his days quietly living with Darius, away from all the politics and intrigue? And yet his waking hours were full of wondering how things were going back on Third Earth. The city that he had helped start must surely have many buildings by now. He wondered how the population growth was doing. There had been that one pregnant woman, were there others yet?

More importantly was the question of what schemes had Aristarchus, his long standing rival, set in motion. He had sent an agent, unbeknownst to Luna, to keep an eye on the governor of New Lunis, and hoped to hear from him soon. He could always ask Luna for an update, he supposed, but that might make her think she was getting to him.

He suspected that she had set up Aristarchus as governor on purpose, knowing that Tycho would hate the decision and eventually accept the posting himself. He was tempted sometimes. Darius approached him from behind. A glance at the changeling's face told Tycho that Darius was picking up on his ward's discontent and wanted to help. It was one of the benefits of the Guardian program, genetically engineering slavish loyalty to their masters. Tycho had tried to undo it, and liked to pretend that Darius was only with him now because there was genuine love. There almost had to be. Obedience could be coded into the Lunar genes, but not love, surely. Darius slept with him and fawned over him because he wanted to, not because he had to. Deep down it sickened Tycho, the whole program, and he'd been tempted to disband it. But it was necessary. The Guardians often were resistant to the abilities of the other moons, especially those of the Psion moon; some could even detect when a Psion was using powers on their wards.

He counted the sheep again, out of habit more than anything, and took Darius' thin green hand in his own. His thoughts regarding his station in life were chaotic, but where Darius was concerned his thoughts were calm. "Any news?" he asked softly. The gentle warmth from his hand almost made Tycho wish the sheep were in their pens so he could take advantage of his protector.

"Nothing in particular. Luna's doing another building dedication today. It's about as exciting as it sounds. The Gravitons have decided to make a new holiday, which should bring them up to a nice round sixty. Oh, and the captain of the Lunatak fleet has announced a surprise bonding ceremony, I think you met him a couple of times," Darius said. He'd been to the capital to pick up some groceries and other needed supplies.

"That Icewalker? Cameo from House..." Tycho's voice trailed off, it had been too long since he'd been involved in politics, he was forgetting names.

"Mymekon. That's the one. Seems he got his girlfriend, Psikaris, pregnant. They just have to decide which of the houses they want to bond into."

Tycho's lip curled. Icewalker marriages, otherwise known as bonding ceremonies, were far too complicated. On their moon there was an unwritten ranking of the houses. Each house was ruled by the oldest living blood member, unless they were willing to pass that chance. It was the reason why Chilla had been returned to power when she'd returned from Third Earth. She had been born into the family and married Ren into it. If the positions had been reversed then Nitro would have been the sire of the house over Ren since Ren technically had been born into a different house.

In the case of Cameo and Psikaris they had the choice of going into his house, which was generally ranked lower, her house which she wasn't the oldest blood member of yet, or starting a new house. Ultimately, Tycho figured, they would go with the third option. Cameo's status on the Royal Moon would doubtless give his new house a status boost that staying in House Mymekon wouldn't.

Darius saw the look on Tycho's face and smiled. It was a warm, friendly smile. "I know. Thinking about it makes my head hurt too. You look like you have a lot on your mind. Why don't we put the sheep away a little early, and I'll find some way of distracting you." Darius' hand slipped from Tycho's and traced a line up his exposed arm.

"I'm sure you'll think of something, and hey, no chance of getting you pregnant." Darius joined in Tycho's laughter as they set about to round up the sheep.

She looked at where Knave was curled up, a Bulkin looking over the head wound. In some ways, she thought, the hybrid would be better off without the medical attention. Certainly his Lunatak side would appreciate that manner of death rather than that which awaited him. Shade turned away from the cell block and shuffled into the main area of her underground home. It was a simple thing, with the cell block occupying one side, a large area dominated by a circular pool of water, and a pair of smaller chambers to the side. The smaller of these was hers, when the spirit didn't need her and she wanted to get away from the prisoners, the other she was forbidden to ever enter. When not drawing life from the people in the cells, or tormenting her, the spirit stayed in this room doing who knew what. She wished that it was in there now.

"Very clever," the spirit said, seeming to look up at her from where it hovered over the pool. She'd long learned, although there wasn't really a face in the non corporeal mist, how to read the spirit's expressions and moods. "I didn't think you had it in you to beat him."

That had been her test of loyalty. Beat Knave without the spirit's help, but the encounter had been dumb luck. She'd originally planned to get him over where the cavern, and had gotten desperate. Even in her prime she would have had difficulty besting Knave in one on one combat, but in her hundreds? Fate had placed her behind that boulder when the Void had struck, and she'd seized the opportunity when he was propelled back out at her feet.

"I'm going to enjoy him," the spirit cooed, moving now to an angle that would allow it to see the resting hybrid. "I wonder if it's his Lunatak half or his Thunderian that makes him such a treat. I think an experiment is in order. But not yet, you're still tired. I see that. Go rest, I'll call for you when you're needed."

Shade snarled but obeyed. Capturing Lunataks wasn't something she wanted to do, but it was something she had to do. For her father's sake.

Tug Mug bounded through the halls of Sky Tomb, one destination in mind. If there was one thing he liked almost as much as he loved beer, women, and food, it was juicy gossip. He bounced past a stuffy Psion and a Darkling on his way to one person who he thought might enjoy this one. After all, there were very few who wouldn't appreciate knowing that Nitro had been taken down a peg. "Alluro! Are you een there?" he called, banging his metallic gauntlet against the steel door. There was no answer. The shift supervisor for the residential section of the city said that Alluro hadn't shown up to the job site yet, so he had to be in there.

Luckily the master hypnotist had never gotten around to changing the code to his bedroom door, a fact that he knew thanks to his hidden spy camera across the hall. He waved at it once and then proceeded to enter Alluro's room.

There was very little in the way of light; heavy curtains were drawn across the windows so that the only light source was a sphere that cast pale blue light in a limited area. It was a carpet with the image of an eye embroidered on it. Alluro had always been protective of it, if Tug Mug recalled. Sitting in one corner of the eye was the man himself, legs crossed and focussing intently on a stone sitting in the pupil of the eye. Alluro gestured with one hand for Tug Mug to stay quiet and that he'd be with him in a minute.

The Graviton watched as the light from the sphere pulsed, casting strange shadows around the room, and across Alluro's face. Now that Tug Mug had a chance to look at it, he realized that the sphere was one of the crystals that augmented his psyche club powers. Although he'd seen the hypnotist caught under its glow before, never had it been under this kind of circumstance. Alluro picked up a note pad and jotted something down in the messy handwriting of his, legible only to Alluro himself. Finally he called the crystal to his hand and rose to open the curtains.

"What were you doing?" Tug Mug asked, moving closer to examine the rock.

"Something is happening," Alluro said, scooping up the object and holding it out to the Graviton, so as not to get his dirty wheels on the carpet. "Do you recognize this?" Tug Mug shook his head. "You should. You saw this very often. Picture it as part of something bigger." There was still a blank look on Tug Mug's face, so Alluro gestured for the rotund one to follow him to his workbench.

"It's an eye, from a statue in Mumm-Ra's pyramid," he said, pleased at the surprise etched on Tug Mug's countenance. "I found it a month and a half ago, and it's been trying to speak to me ever since. And I don't think it's a co-incidence that I was the one to find it. My service to the Ancient Spirits in the past, my psychic abilities that make me receptive to its voice, and the fact that it's an eye. The eye is one of the most sacred symbols of Cyris, god of knowledge and god of Psions. And yet it's weak. It can't quite express what it wants, or maybe it doesn't want to be clear. I don't know."

"It was plaguing me so much that I pored over every history book I could find from both this planet and our moons and came up with very little. There's an old version of our creation myth that speaks of an explosion of psychic energy when the moons were created, and many people at that time believed that they could talk to inanimate objects. Curiously, around the same time there's a Warrior Maiden story that has a magical staff that talked to a shaman for many years. There are dozens of similar stories, but how much of that is fact, and how many of those people were simply mad?"

"And what ees thees stone saying?" Tug Mug asked, curious now and filing the information away to spread as gossip if he needed to. At worst it could be used to tell people that Alluro was going insane. Talking to rocks? Unheard of.

"At first it spoke of evil and death. Cold and fire. Life and hope. Warnings that someone would rise again, both the Thundercats and myself believe this refers to Mumm-Ra, which makes sense given the source of the prophesy. The words repeated themselves over and over. A woman who might save us," he shook his head, glancing over the notes scattered across the worktable. "This morning I passed the stone on my way to get a drink of water and it screamed at me. 'The time is near... rivers of blood... friend turned against friend... death born of fear...' and so I've been here all morning, trying to force more out of it. I got very little, except for one little thing. It mentions cold against fire. I think the cold refers to an Icewalker, one of them might be the keys to preventing whatever it is that's coming."

"Or might be the key to starting eet. Eef eet's talking about Mumm-Ra, then maybe an Icewalker will free him," Tug Mug said. A chill ran up his spine at the mention of that demon priest, and he had the uneasy feeling that his longtime friend wasn't going insane.

"I know. That's the trouble with prophesy. Every sentence has a double meaning. Who is to say that rivers of blood aren't somehow good, or even that they mean Lunar blood. By Cyris, given the nature of this planet, there may well be an actual river of blood. We have the acid lake after all." Alluro sighed and settled on his stool at the workbench.

"And what has Aristarchus said about all this?"

"He doesn't know. There's a nagging feeling that I shouldn't tell him, but again whether that's to prevent the prophesy, or help it I don't know. My gut says not to, and I ask you not to."

Tug Mug's eyes raised at Alluro. He'd never seen the hypnotist this confused and determined at the same time. And if he hadn't told Aristarchus, but had apparently spoken to the Thundercats, then there must be a good reason. "Fine," he said at length, "but it's a gut for a gut. Your gut feeling will cost you keeping mine full of food and beer."

"Agreed. And thank you."

Psychro stared in shock at the message he'd received. He'd been happily tinkering with the engine of one of the giant space cruisers, dismantling it so that its parts could be used for the city, when a Royal Lunar had approached him saying that he'd received a message from home to view when he was on break. It was close to dinner time anyway, so he figured he'd skip out a little early, with permission from his supervisor, and check it out. Communications between the moons of Plundarr and New Lunis took days, so whatever had happened was probably that old.

A large room had been set up, with individual booths for privacy, for people to keep in contact with home. He logged into his account and pulled up the video message from his twin sister Psikaris. They tried to speak at least once a week, and he knew she was happy to hear he'd survived the fight with Mumm-Ra. Psychro and Psikaris were as close as two Lunataks could be, so close in fact that there were many who made the mistake of assuming they were married. He chuckled at the thought. They practically were, they way the went on at times. They never kept secrets from one another and were constantly talking about everything in their lives. Psikaris sometimes disliked hearing too much about his sexual exploits, and chided him gently for being quite so promiscuous. He in turn told her that she needed to get out more, make more friends. He was actually glad, in a way, that she had found Cameo.

He was a good man, a faithful man, one who was more interested in the future they had together than with the physical pleasures. They'd had it out before Psychro had left for Third Earth, and he felt confident that Cameo would take care of her in his absence if he didn't want Psychro to take care of him when he got back.

Psikaris started her message out with pleasantries, hoping that he was doing well, and thanking him for keeping her updated on how things were going. She spoke briefly about the political situation, the new ambassador from Plundarr that she'd been forced to endure as part of her duties. Then she hesitated. Psychro recognized that look instantly and knew that it was something she didn't really want to talk about. Like when their mother had tried to return to the Psion moon to see family there and had been arrested for treason. Psikaris had been the one to tell him about it that day, and he could sense that she was about to drop another bombshell.

"Psychro, I love you and I want you to promise you won't overreact. I can't see you right now, but I have faith in you, big brother, that you will do that for me." This was something big. She only called him big brother when it was something that she knew he wouldn't approve of. He was technically her older brother, having been born about a minute before she was. He swallowed hard and promised.

She went on, "You're bound to find out about this sooner or later, and I'd rather you hear it from me. You're going to be an uncle." Psychro nearly fell out of his seat and his face burned a dark purple as he fought to compose himself. "We hadn't planned on it, we were going to wait until we were bonded, but... you of all people know how it is. We got caught up in the moment and the next thing we knew he was inside me. I'll tell you, big brother, you weren't lying. It's an incredible experience. Anyway, before you come back here and beat up Cameo, I want you to know that he's doing the right thing. We're going to be bonded. Once I know the exact date, I'll pass word on so that you can attend. It just wouldn't be the same without you. I'm really sorry, and I know I've got a tongue lashing coming but Cameo's special to me. He understands me, and I hope you can be happy for me. Anyway, I guess I've said enough for one message, I'll let you digest this one and nervously await your response."

Psychro saved the file and logged off. It would do him no good to answer right now. He'd be better off waiting until he figured out just how badly he was going to hurt Cameo.

The halls of the hospital were busier than Chilla would have expected, especially in comparison to the Ice Moon where people tended to tolerate pain better. It wasn't that the Icewalkers would leave open wounds to fester, it was just that they dealt with the more common aches and pains better than those from the other moons. A Graviton who had overindulged on food and now suffered from a tummy ache exemplified her opinion. She was somewhat grateful, then, to hear Nitro complaining to a pleasant Darkling nurse that he didn't need all the fuss and just wanted to get back to his duties.

Chilla pushed open the door to his personal room, a luxury afforded him due to his great rank, and saw her son with his head bandaged and gauze wrapped around his arms. There were Darklings on either side, one was the nurse in question who was trying to adjust one of the bandages, the other was one of his favourite bedmates a young and far too skinny thing named Nuiane. All three glanced over when the door opened, and Nitro jerked his arm free of the nurse to salute. "Sire," he said, using the preferred from of her superior status.

"Son," she said bluntly. "I hear you lost a fight."

He met her gaze for as long as his duty required and then looked sharply away. "I did. I ran into Psychro of House Myntaello. He insulted me and I felt honour bound to defend myself. He's just lucky I was tired from the long space voyage or else..."

"Someone from a lower house defeated you and you're making excuses? How bad are the injuries?" there was a faint hint of mirth in her voice. Nitro was a failure and a disappointment, seeing him taken down a peg would be good for him. But a defeat by him was a defeat for the house. If he had cost her any standing in the Icewalker empire...

Nitro shoved the nurse away a little more roughly than he probably should have and she stomped away in annoyance. "There's more gauze than injury here. If it wasn't for well intentioned people, I wouldn't even be in this hospital. As soon as I have a good rest I'm going to track down Psychro for a re-match."

"I hope you do better next time," Chilla said. "For your sake."

Pumyra grunted and launched a smoke filled pellet at the marauding Berserkers, causing Ram Bam to scratch at his face, trying to clear the smoke from his field of vision. She followed up this attack by planting a boot in his knee, bringing him crashing to the ground, yelping in pain. How had it gotten like this, anyway?

It had started simply enough. Cheetara had asked if she would like to go for an afternoon run, since she hadn't had the chance to do so on her own lately. Panthro needed to help Lynx-O with repairs at the Tower of Omens as it was, so the timing would be convenient. That was the plan. What wasn't part of the plan were these Berserkers. As soon as the two women had burst into the small clearing the fiendish pirates had attacked. They'd been shouting about Top Spinner going missing, which Pumyra mentally filed away to mention to Lion-O later, and were certain that the Thundercats had had something to do with it.

A tree cracked as Hammerhand swung at Cheetara and missed, knocking the small oak over. Pumyra threw another of her pellets at Hammerhand and was pleased when he blocked it with his large metallic hand, coating it liberally in a super adhesive. When he tried to wipe off the gooey substance with his other hand, it stuck fast to the glue.

"Look out, Cheetara!" Pumyra cried. Her friend, much like herself if she was honest, had been paying too much attention to the leader of the Berserkers and had neglected the third person. Cruncher, strongest of the pirates, had managed to loop behind Cheetara, picked up the fallen tree and was swinging it like a club.

Her warning came just in the nick of time. Cheetara vaulted over the flying tree and hit Cruncher solidly in the face with her staff. Seeing his men wounded, and himself largely useless in combat now, Hammerhand called a retreat, warning that he would return. "Let's get back to the Tower," Cheetara said. "Lion-O should hear about this."

Zanaya was all alone with Krystalin when Chilla appeared in the doorway. Mystan had finally conceded the need to sleep and had reluctantly headed back to his room. The child suckled greedily at her mother's breast, much like her father, Zanaya thought angrily. "There's my great-grandson," Chilla said. She had enough courtesy not to enter without being properly invited, but that wouldn't last long if Zanaya denied her entry. It was a fact that the Psion woman knew, so she gestured for Chilla to take a seat by her bedside.

Chilla stared down at the little bundle, remembering dimly her own experiences of motherhood. Nitro's birth had been long and agonizing, compounded by her stubborn refusal to take any drugs to lessen the pain. This one didn't look that much different, though she could faintly see a family resemblance. "I never thought I'd be seeing a great-grandchild, especially not at my age." She said it more to herself, so Zanaya ignored it. "What's her name?"

"Krystalin Benekasbeel," she replied.

"It figures you'd consider it part of your family. I'm sure we could make a claim on it, but the last thing I want running around is a half breed brat." Chilla gently picked up the child and examined it, startled by the coolness of its skin, even to her own body. She had never heard of a case where such diluted blood became so dominant in a child, but then she really hadn't done any research. The baby seemed to smile at her and reached out to grab a lock of hair.

"Of course I do," Zanaya snapped. "She came out of me, and she's staying with me. Besides, once I get out of here I plan on hunting down her father, and that should remove any claim your House has on her." A sudden blast of ice pinned Zanaya to the bed, and she squirmed, trying to free herself from its grip.

"I thought Psions were smart," Chilla hissed. "No one threatens my family without dealing with me." The baby started to cry, picking up on the hostility perhaps, and Chilla shifted her grip to ready a fireball. She thought better of it in the end, and used the heat to melt the ice covering Zanaya. "Keep that in mind when you do go hunting." Chilla returned the baby to her mother and left Zanaya alone to think.

It was her twelfth birthday again, and Shade tore open the box that Red Eye had lovingly placed in front of her. It was, as she hoped, the beginnings of her career. The Darklings protected their moon closely, and patrols of Darklings searched the deep jungles for any sign of intruders. Her father was one, and soon she would be too. She held up the trainee's uniform made from a secret formula that masked one's body signature. With it they were invisible to anyone who might bring their own infrared goggles. "Thank you, daddy!" she cried, jumping into his arms with pleasure. He smiled that goofy smile of his and ruffled her hair. He loved her, and she loved him...

"Wake up, Shade. The time is ripe," the spirit's voice interrupted her reminiscing. Grumbling, she rose to her feet and emerged into the main chamber, allowing the spirit to convert her body again. "Cheer up, Shade. We're going to see Lunataks today," it snickered, taking perverse delight in her discomfort. Soon the transformation was complete and they were on their way.

"Pao pao peppers?" Paeder asked, more than a little confused. A squad of three Icewalkers had been sent to the Berbil village to exchange machine parts for much needed food supplies. Once they got the crops growing in Dark Side, there was hope that the Lunataks could be self sufficient, but until then they had little choice but to trade with the robotic bears and the other denizens of Third Earth.

"That's what they called them," her compatriot, a woman named Spitfire replied. Much as her name suggested, she was a fire breather. Icewalkers generally came in three varieties. Those with ice based abilities, those with fire, and those with both. Strictly speaking, there had been occurrences of those with neither, but they were rare and didn't tend to live very long. Paeder herself was ice based. The third, an older man named Frostor was only technically in the third category; he could warm his skin several degrees if he so chose, and that was the extent of it. On the other hand, he claimed that his wife thought it enhanced their bedroom play.

"They look spicy. I recommend against Icewalkers eating them," Frostor chimed in.

"Not a bad suggestion. Let's get this stuff loaded into the ship and get out of here, those bears are too friendly for my tastes," Paeder said. They pulled their borrowed cart to the small vessel they'd taken and began loading the crates of food into the hold of the ship, as the others chuckled. The Berbils seemed decent enough, but were too anxious to be of service.

Suddenly the ground shook, and Shade burst through in their midst. She hovered in the air, rotating slowly to keep an eye on the movements of all three Icewalkers. It was Paeder who spoke first. "Who are you?" she demanded.

"I am your new master. Bow before me or perish," Shade intoned, the spirit deepening her voice and adding a slight echo to it. The effect made her seem far more sinister than she really was.

The three Icewalkers laughed, confident in their numbers advantage. "We submit to no one's rule without a fight," Frostor said, throwing blades of ice at Shade. The blades sliced through Shade's cloak, and she winced as they exploded on contact with her body. She recovered quickly, however and turned to glare at the man.

"You are expendable," Shade said, reaching her hand out as the spirit commanded her. The spirit said an arcane word, whose true meaning was lost to the sands of time, and Frostor was engulfed in fire. He screamed as his skin began to burn, despite the best efforts of Paeder to extinguish the flames with her ice. Magical fire didn't need to conform to the same laws of physics that regular fire did. The screams died out, and Frostor collapsed in an ungainly heap.

"You want to play with fire?" Spitfire snapped, infuriated. She'd actually liked working with Frostor, and now he was gone, in the worst way possible for one of her kind. She lashed out violently with her own gout of flame, utilizing her most deadly blast on Shade. The attack had an unexpected effect, as the Darkling bathed in the heat, drawing more and more of the fire from Spitfire's body, and she desperately tried to stem the flow. Spitfire grew weaker, the spirit drawing every ounce of fire until every last drop was gone. She staggered and stared in amazement at Shade.

Paeder moved next, tackling Shade about the mid-section and sending both crashing to the earth. Paeder managed to get a few good blows to the head in before Shade recovered. Her hands lashed out, grabbing the Icewalker's windpipe and squeezing tightly with impossible strength. "Please... Stop..." Paeder gasped out.

Shade rose with Paeder still clutched in one hand. She hovered slightly in the air until she was close to Spitfire and grabbed her by the neck too. "Do you surrender to me?" she asked, turning from one to the other. Only when both Icewalker women had conceded did she loosen her vise like grip. "Good, now to take you to meet the others."

How dare she, Mystan fumed as he walked out the hospital door and into the fresh air outside. An aide had come to him first thing in the morning with reports on the previous evening's activities; Chilla had bullied Zanaya, and for what purpose? Some sense of macho pride? A show that she was superior? He had had enough of these Icewalkers and the way they liked throwing their weight around, and House Iespyk seemed to have the worst offenders of all. He intended to show her that she was dead wrong, that Psions were the far superior race.

"Is everything alright, master?" Lura's voice spoke in his head, and he saw her working on a building nearby, helping to install a window. She didn't bother to look over, knowing that she had his attention. He smiled, knowing that it didn't hurt to keep the other races uninformed of what was going on.

Mystan knelt, feigning that his bootlaces were coming undone, and opened his mind to her so that she could review the conversation he'd had with his niece as well as his thoughts on the matter. He heard a derisive snort telepathically, "Figures. Stupidity must run in the family," she sent, "do you need a hand? I'm almost done here."

"No. I think I can handle this on my own." His faux bootlace problem dealt with, he stood and headed for Sky Tomb; if she wasn't in her quarters, then someone was bound to have an idea where she'd gone.

Psychro had been shifted over to a small shield generator, the hope being that it could be removed and reconfigured to create a force field around the city. If the time came... he paused and corrected himself... when the time came for a battle against the Thundercats, they would need every advantage they could get. He'd seen the recordings on the Sky Tomb computers, and heard more than a few tales from Tug Mug. That Sword of Omens could do just about anything, and the shields might be able to delay things long enough to do something about the man holding the sword.

As he fiddled with an energy flow line he considered that he actually admired Lion-O, even though he'd only seen him once, and that from a reasonable distance. Lion-O exuded confidence, and was covered in muscle. Now that was a man that he wouldn't want to test his strength against.

"It should be safe now," he called over to another of the engineers he was working with. Of course, he knew he was stalling. The longer he took in responding to Psikaris' message, the more she was going to worry about his reaction. They'd grown up together, and he knew that she had calculated the bare minimum time frame for a response to reach her. And what would his response be? That he was disappointed in her and proud for her at the same time? That Cameo should be prepared for at least one punch in the face? The truth was that he understood her situation too well and had allowed his idealized vision of her to cloud reality.

Psikaris was a grown woman, with the same collection of hormones that he possessed. Just because she had them didn't mean she would ignore them. He remembered his first time in love, before learning the woman in question had been using him to irritate her father. He'd been unable to keep his hands off her when they were alone, and only a little more polite when in public. She'd enjoyed those public displays, if he remembered correctly, especially when her father was around.

If his sister was anything like him, he was impressed that she and Cameo had managed to remain chaste for so long. But no, the fault would lie on Cameo. Psikaris was unlikely to do much initiating on her own, so the boy must have been at fault. He'd been tempted by her good looks and pressured her into it. Except that she didn't sound like she'd been wholly unwilling. Perhaps he'd gotten her drunk first, pilots were known for their drinking, weren't they? And Psikaris had never been able to handle her booze.

"Hey! Careful back there!" one of the engineers shouted, startling him, and he realized that he had been fiddling with the cable and had almost re-attached it.

"Sorry about that," Psychro called back, forcing himself to stand and walk away from the offending cable, and scowled when he saw Nitro approaching. Psychro was a fine brawler, and knew he'd caught Nitro at the right time, now Nitro looked ticked.

"You, follow me," the full blooded Icewalker said, staring daggers at Psychro.

"No can do. I'm busy on this," he replied, scooping up a wrench from his belt pouch. He started to crouch down to loosen a bolt when Nitro grabbed him by his vest, yanking him to his feet and drawing him to eye level.

"Your work is done, and I owe you a hospital visit," Nitro said, catching Psychro's wrist as he tried to wallop him with the wrench.

Psychro was in trouble, and knew it well. Nitro had been head of his fighting class, and constantly exceeded those in the higher classes. He'd won three of the annual tournaments before his stately affairs took precedence. Despite that, it was common knowledge that he kept up his rigorous training regimen, and often sparred with his guards to keep in tiptop shape.

The first punch staggered him, and the second sent him sprawling backwards into the shield generator. "Hey! Watch it, that's delicate machinery!" another engineer shouted. Nitro nodded curtly, acceding to the request and tossed Psychro away from the machine. The Icewalker/Psion hybrid scrabbled backwards, trying to come up with some way to salvage the situation. Certainly talking was out of the question, Nitro's pride had been damaged and he needed to restore it in the only way acceptable in Icewalker culture.

There was one chance. It was a longshot, but it might work. He stood and placed his arms behind his back. "Fine, you want to do this then get it over with so I can get back to work." It might be seen as shameful to attack an unarmed and defenceless man, at least he hoped so. Nitro had picked up the fallen wrench and jabbed it forcefully into Psychro's stomach. He doubled over as the wind was blown out of him and fell to his knees.

"You're pathetic." Nitro was standing directly over him. He was still clearly angry, but wasn't likely to do any more harm. "It's no wonder my mother wouldn't have anything to do with you."

Moments later, Nitro was gone and Psychro's fellow engineers were helping him to his feet and making sure he was alright. All in all, he had to consider it a victory that he'd managed to get Nitro to go away with only three shots to show for it. Plus he still owned the win in the previous fight. That made him two for two against one of the most feared fighters.

The prisoners trembled as Shade descended through the ceiling bearing two fresh captives. Already a pile of brittle bones and Berbil parts lay in a pile. They served to remind the prisoners that they were nothing more than a food source to be used and discarded at the whim of the evil spirit.

One of the prisoners had referred to the spirit once as Nightshade, in reference to the way that it corrupted Shade's body. It had taken a liking to this, having long forgotten its true name, and adopted it for its own. Shade walked boldly through the field, protected by the spirit, and deposited Spitfire and Paeder roughly on the ground. Shade found herself pushed out of the cell as Nightshade eagerly wanted to sample his newest delicacies. The spirit whipped around first one terrified woman and then the other, drawing their life force out as it did. "Very nice," it cooed, still moving. Secretly it was also pleased that the other prisoners were keeping their distance, trying to avoid being taken again. "But there's something missing. Something that was pleasant in that one." The smoky form appeared to look in Knave's direction before slowly seeping through the barrier. "Perhaps it's time we look at bringing the one called Cheetara here." It drifted over to the pool of water and seemed to stare into it.

With the being thus distracted, the other prisoners felt it somewhat safe to approach and fill the newcomers in on the situation. Paeder and Spitfire's horror intensified as they listened, beginning to wonder if maybe Frostor hadn't gotten off lucky. At length Paeder pulled herself away from the pack and regarded Knave. "So, my being here is your fault. Why am I not surprised?" she said, dripping with venom. She'd had several unpleasant run-ins with the half-breed, and was even captain because he had killed the previous one.

"At least I'll die with the satisfaction that you won't be far behind me," he snarled in response.

When Mystan arrived at Chilla's room, he was disappointed to see that she wasn't alone. Red Eye was lounging on the bed, from what the telekinetic could see, and he was almost surprised to see a hint of relief on Chilla's face as she opened the door. That hint vanished and turned into one of pure loathing as she realized who it was that had interrupted her. For a moment Mystan wondered if the relationship was on the rocks, as it were. Certainly both seemed to be fully dressed. He made a mental note to get Lura to look into it, find out more. At present he had other things to contend with. "What do you want?" she snapped.

"I want you to remember that in a fight, I can beat you. Certainly not hand to hand, I'd prefer not to lower myself to those levels, but there are other ways," he appeared smug, and knew that she would rise to the bait. She also would not notice what else he was doing. Performing multiple tasks was difficult for most, but he was a master, a high priest, he was capable of doing a great deal. Even as he spoke, his mind latched on to Red Eye, forcing him to stand up and walk stiffly towards Chilla.

"Coward," she spat, inhaling sharply, her intent very obvious. Red Eye's hands wrapped around her neck, taking her completely by surprise. The blast of cold air she'd been readying sprayed across the ceiling as Red Eye's brute strength forced her to her knees in front of him.

"Cowardice is for the weak and unintelligent," Mystan said, maintaining the mental hold he had on Red Eye while crouching to be eye to eye with Chilla. She swatted at him and earned a clubbing blow from her boyfriend's skull to the back of her head. Mystan followed up with a slap across her face, causing her anger to flare. If not for the hands around her neck she would have breathed ice at him. "You see? You are weak. I guess we'll find out if you're unintelligent too. Leave Zanaya and her girl alone or else." He rose, robes swishing as he walked down the hall to his own room, only releasing the telekinetic grip when he was comfortably away.

He settled at his desk and prepared the report he would be sending to the other elders at his next opportunity, including finding out if killing Chilla would be of benefit.

Red Eye caught Chilla before she hit the floor as the grip was released. "I'm sorry, Chilla, he used his..."

"Shut up! I know what that bastard did to you," she snapped, rubbing at her sore throat and aching head. Just because she knew what had happened, didn't mean she had to like it. Of all the races she'd encountered, the Psions could be the most infuriating in a fight. At least a Thunderian would fight fair. She saw a hurt look on Red Eye's face and groaned. She didn't have time to deal with wounded feelings.

Mystan had been right about that, though she had no way knowing that he suspected it, her relationship with Red Eye was dying out. They still had their common bonds, lost loves and lost pasts. But there was no physical chemistry, she just didn't feel that sexual spark that she'd experienced with Ren. It had seemed that there was nothing that Ren could do to her physically that wouldn't have excited her, they avoided playing it too rough because it would hinder them as warriors, but there had been far too many bruises and cuts on both to explain away. And she hadn't cared.

Red Eye was disgustingly warm to the touch, something that could almost be considered pleasurable if the climate was cold enough, but it was unnerving. And his one frantic coupling with her had nearly nauseated her. She'd tried to assure him that it wasn't his ability that was causing her to give him the cold shoulder, and so he kept trying. He had just been trying by planting kisses along her arm when Mystan had entered.

Right. Mystan. The reason she was feeling so angry. She stood swiftly and started walking down the hall. "Where are you going?" Red Eye called out, jogging to catch up.

"To pay Mystan back."

"Another incident?" Aristarchus groaned as Chilla was brought into his office along with Red Eye and Mystan. He had almost literally finished talking to Nitro when this fresh bit of violence was brought to his attention. It was all his senior staff and advisors too, which was even more disconcerting. If the general populace saw that the upper echelon couldn't maintain order then the rabble might start causing problems. What he needed was something to focus their anger and aggression on. Certainly a war with the Thundercats was coming, any fool could see that, but the Lunataks weren't ready yet. There were too many defences to finish installing. What then? The Mutants? No. Attacking them might provoke a war on the Moons of Plundarr, and he didn't want to take that risk. Besides, his son had friends within the Mutant hierarchy. "What happened?" he turned to the three offenders.

"He attacked me."

"After she threatened Zanaya."

"Who threatened Knave."

"I see. Family squabbles. My secretary tells me that you, Chilla, set Mystan on fire and he retaliated by telekinetically smashing your head into a wall until my teams got there to break it up. Is that correct?"

"Yes, but he came to my room and had Red Eye choke me," Chilla protested as the blame sounded like it was going to be pinned solely on her.

Aristarchus turned to Mystan for confirmation. "This is true, governor. My apologies to you for causing this inconvenience. I felt threatened by her attack on my niece and acted only out of love for her. Chilla's claim that her grandson was insulted isn't true either, I'm assured."

"I'm inclined to believe you, Mystan. You've never lied to me before, and I see no reason for you to start. Chilla, on the other hand, you have been involved in a number of hostile incidents since you came here. I am re-assigning you to clearing the Dark Side jungles of dangerous animals. Report to Auralin for further orders." His eyes never left Chilla, daring her to question his authority and risk further punishment. They both knew that jungle duty would be unpleasant for her, given its warmth, and that there was a high casualty rate. Instead she set her jaw and left without protest.

Psychro rubbed his fuzzy scalp as he once again sat in front of the computer terminal. He'd originally shorn his locks to try and impress Chilla, a feat that Psikaris had teased him mercilessly for, but seeing it hadn't worked he gave it up. Finally deciding that there was no point in putting it off any longer, Psychro hit a few buttons and began recording his message back home.

"Psikaris, hey, it's me. Before you ask about the bruise there's a good explanation. Remember about that fight I had where I beat Nitro? Yeah, well, he decided to have round two. I didn't do so well, but he let me off light. I had to sacrifice some pride and told him that I was going to let him beat me, but he didn't like that very much. I gotta admit, Nitro's got great tastes in women. He's got this one smokin' babe with him, some chick from the Dark Moon, I think I heard her name is Nuiane or something like that. She's got legs that I'd love to have wrapped around me, and a chest like you wouldn't believe. I mean, I thought Paeder was big, but these? I might hit on her, just to piss Nitro off some more, you know." He looked away from the mounted camera and then down at his hands.

"Okay, so I'm stalling and you probably know it. Reading people was never your thing, but you always knew me. I can't say I'm happy for you, I'm just not that kind of guy, and Cameo's probably lucky that I was here when I found out, because he'd probably be a blue smear on the wall by now. I mean, hey, don't get me wrong, I'm glad he's doing the right thing for you and bonding with you, it's just... aw, you know how protective I am of you. Remember that first boyfriend you had? I broke his nose because he bragged that he'd kissed you. I just know how guys can be. We're driven by our crotch all too often, and a pretty girl like you might get hurt, that's all. It would kill me if I saw you hurt like that."

"I guess, in the end, you're wanting my approval or something. Some kind of permission to keep Cameo around, make him part of the family. Well, I guess you could do worse. We've known him forever, and I guess he's got the power and responsibility to keep you up to your ears in the latest gadgets. Just don't become some kind of trophy wife for him," he managed a smile. His anger had long burned off, or maybe Nitro had knocked some sense into him. "And if you even think about getting bonded without me there, you'll be in big trouble. I'm still technically the head of House Myntaello, and you haven't left it yet, so you have to do as I say." His smile widened, she knew he'd never been able to order her around. "Anyway, I don't have to like the situation, but I'll support you. I always have. Love you, 'Karis." He switched off the camera and sent the video on its way across the galaxy. His heart swelled, feeling good about what he'd said. And then he wondered where he could find Nuiane.

The sun had been up for a little over an hour and Cheetara and the Thunderkittens were visiting the Tower of Omens. They had arrived the previous evening so that Cheetara could be taken by Lynx-O into Dark Side to speak with the Lunataks, discover whether they had had any disappearances and to exchange a few minor supplies. She didn't relish making the journey, for one thing the trip through the Forest of Mists was dangerous, and for another she got the distinct impression from Governor Aristarchus that the peace was only a temporary one.

Of course, she had two other reasons for going. The first was on Lion-O's orders, to inspect the city layout as well as any defences or armaments she might see, just in case a fight broke out. The other was more of a personal reason; she hadn't heard from Knave in a while and had been looking forward to hearing more about his life among the Lunataks. He was really opening up to her, and she felt certain that he could be turned to their side. The Icewalkers had poisoned his brain severely with stories of the evils of Thunderians, to the point where he really hated his other half, but she could show him the truth. If she could convince her kinsmen that his Lunar half wasn't all bad, she reminded herself watching the Thunderkittens. Wily Kat especially seemed to be intimidated by Knave, claiming that the hybrid had threatened to eat him once.

The door swished open to the command centre and her eyes widened when Lynx-O entered the room wearing a lime green outfit decorated with bright pink polka dots. She was about to say something when she noticed Wily Kit imploring her silently to be quiet. So, another of their tricks then. It seemed harmless enough, so she opted to play along. "Good morning, Lynx-O. Did you sleep well?" she asked instead, much to Kit's relief.

"Oh yes, I did indeed. You know, ever since I became blind, my other senses have become much more acute, and I must say that means that Snarfer's pancakes this morning were superb, perhaps a little heavy on the Berbilberries, but that's Snarfer for you," Lynx-O said, taking a quick scan of the area on his braille board while he conversed.

"You can never have too many Berbilberries, that's what I always say," Wily Kat piped up, trying to stifle a snicker.

"What's also amazing is that my sense of touch has improved. Did you know that I can feel colours? My outfit, for instance, it feels like it's green and covered with red... no, more like pink polka dots. But that can't be possible, since I don't own any outfits like that." Cheetara couldn't hold back her laughter as she saw the colour draining from the faces of the junior duo. "Ah, I see my suspicions were correct then. I expect that the next time I go into my closet I will find my proper uniform then?"

"Yes, Lynx-O," Wily Kit said, tugging her brother along.

After watching the door close, Cheetara turned back to the eldest Thundercat. "I didn't know you could tell colours by touch," she said.

"Actually, I can't. Luckily I met Bengali in the hall and he told me that he'd seen the Thunderkittens going in there to pull their prank. I expect they will think twice before trying it again any time soon."

"They certainly will. You ready to go?" Cheetara laughed again, wondering how long it would take either Wily Kit or Wily Kat to realize they'd been duped.

"I shall be in a moment. We will be at the Forest of Mists within the hour."

One confirmed dead, two missing and presumed dead. Aristarchus went over Stalker's report again. Once Captain Paeder had failed to return, he'd sent out his best to investigate. Frostor of House Whitestar had been found in a smouldering heap. Fire was an Icewalker's worst nightmare, especially if they had no fire capabilities of their own. What was left of his body would be sent back to the moons on the next transport.

Spitfire and Paeder were separate matters. A fight had clearly taken place. Stalker wasn't sure who else had been involved, only that there was likely only one opponent. Someone that could take out three trained Icewalker soldiers wasn't someone to be taken lightly, in Aristarchus' book. Since neither one had been found at the scene it was assumed that they'd either been taken prisoner or had pursued the enemy some distance and had been killed elsewhere. While Paeder's family were from a minor house, the Snowskins, the Blyzzards to which Spitfire belonged were influential, second only to the Iespyks. They would be demanding action for the loss of one of their own, and would cause a stink if they didn't get their way. This was a logistical nightmare if ever he'd seen it.

But who would have done it? The Berbil village wasn't far from Cat's Lair, he thought, had they decided to end the truce? He couldn't confirm it yet, but his suspicions went that way. The Sword of Omens possessed many powers, maybe fire was one of them. He would keep an eye on them. There was a subtle movement in the corner of his office and he started to reach for the gun he kept under the desk until he realized it was only Nuiane. The slender woman from the Dark Moon was one of Nitro's girls, but she also served as a spy. She genuinely liked her master, though, so he was careful not to press for too much information about Nitro himself. Something was bothering her, she had the look of someone who felt so dirty that they needed a long shower, and even that he doubted would wash away whatever it was. It didn't matter. She could attend to her personal problems however she liked, it was probably just some sex act she'd done with Nitro that she didn't like doing. "Well?" he asked, fixing her with a patient look. It was hard keeping his spies happy, but they tended to work better when they were.

"You're being watched," she said, contemplating how much to reveal and finally deciding that Aristarchus was smart enough to interpret her hesitation as an admission that the spy was Nitro. "He's been asked to keep an eye on you by Prince Tycho. He sent his first report yesterday."

"I see," Aristarchus mulled over the tidbit. It didn't surprise him that someone from the Moons would be monitoring him, but the 'who' did. Tycho, he'd believed was fully retired and content to stay that way. Perhaps his snooping was an indication that he was becoming less content. "And what payment do you require this time?" They had long agreed that money wouldn't work, not between them. Anything she needed could be gotten through Nitro, and sums of money would arouse suspicion. As a result, she often called in favours, either for herself or for friends.

He saw it in her eyes, she knew exactly what she wanted, it had been motivation to turn on the man she loved and respected. "I want something bad to happen to Psychro of House Myntaello."

"Hurry Shade!" Nightshade hissed impatiently, feeling sorely tempted to break their agreement and enter her sleeping area. It had been a concession, a means of ensuring that she would respect his privacy. If only Shade knew what lay behind the other set of curtains, she might discover a means to undo everything. Nightshade had been watching the activity at the Tower of Omens through the magical pool and was pleased with the results. A wicked idea formed, capturing Cheetara inside Lunatak territory would incite violence between the two peoples. The peace was tenuous at best to begin with, and the Thundercats were starting to look a little too closely at what he was doing.

The curtain pulled back and Shade ambled through. "What do you want?" she started, even as Nightshade swept around her, transforming her frail bones into strong ones, covered in rippling muscles, much as she had been at the peak of her life, only stronger. This was easy magic, shape changing within certain parameters could be done and then left alone. Fancier changes, such as drastic height and weight differences, were harder, and occasionally needed to be reinforced.

"It's time to catch a Cheetah," Nightshade explained, whispering into her head. He guided her to fly beneath the earth, heading for the Forest of Mists.

Psychro's groin still ached after the previous night's events, and he consoled it in the privacy of his own room. Finding Nuiane had been easy; Nitro had been in a foul mood and she'd taken the hint, to find somewhere else to spend the night. And so she had gone to the bar for a quick dinner before bed. He'd found her there, nursing a glass of fruit juice and a bowl of steamed vegetables, certainly not the most appetizing of meals in Psychro's opinion, but then he supposed she was watching her diet to keep in Nitro's favour.

He had approached her table and asked if he could join her. Although it was clear she wasn't enamoured with the idea, the place was busy and seating was at a premium. He used a hint of his hypnotic powers to engage her in a pleasant conversation, satisfied when she actually seemed to warm to him. What he hadn't intended to do was keep the hypnotic charm on her. He'd never really received formal training in it, he'd just learned from trial and error what seemed to work on people. It was barely hypnosis too, he could persuade people to change their minds when he was within close proximity, more so when there was physical contact, and oh there had been physical contact between them. He disliked using it too much in his pursuit of women, as it took some of the enjoyment out of the act.

As his thoughts turned naughtier, he found himself surprised that she was responding quite so eagerly. Soon she was paying for their food and dragging him around the back of the establishment. His hand was travelling steadily up her thigh as the other struggled with the buttons on her blouse, when suddenly a second voice interrupted their play. A relatively slender woman from the Graviton moon called out Nuiane's name, admonishing her for cheating on their master. Psychro had been unaware that Nitro had brought a second harem girl with him. Although Gravitons weren't his personal preference, they were favourites for Icewalkers wanting a partner from another race; their extra bulk kept them warm in the cold months, and their cooking was usually unmatched.

Psychro was so startled by the newcomers appearance that he didn't notice the transformation of Nuiane until she backhanded him. "How dare you!" she snarled, spitting in his face. He felt horrified and ashamed. His sub-conscious mind had been using his mental powers to seduce her, drawing on his lascivious thoughts to make her drawn to him. It was times like this that he wished he'd taken training to control the powers. All trace of thought, conscious and otherwise, were driven from him by a bone jarring knee to his crotch.

He was unsure as to how he had managed to get back to his temporary home, if you could call a single room in a hastily built house shared by a dozen others home. Luckily no one seemed to have noticed his discomfort, he thought as he finally stood to get ready for the work day, or if they did they chose not to comment. When he arrived at the job site, he was told that he had been re-assigned to Jungle Clearing duties under Auralin. Great. Just what he needed. How could this get any worse?

The journey to the Forest of Mists took no time at all, the terrain zipping past as they went. It was one of the advantages to the Tower of Omens' location, they could monitor Dark Side easily, and venture in when needed. Lynx-O paid little heed to the surroundings, his lack of sight rendering the breathtaking beauty of Third Earth to nothing more than objects to avoid.

There were days when his lack of vision made him sad. To never again see a flower in full bloom, to never see the smile on a friendly face. But he tried not to think of it as a loss, because he had gained so much. His other senses had become more acute, for reasons that baffled Pumyra. Now simple things like the smell of Cheetara's perfume became so much more, and he could pick out the subtleties in it that he suspected were unknown to her.

His hands moved rapidly across the braille board, translating the sights around him into usable data, almost like sonar. He found the opening to the Forest and tapped the controls. It was dangerous, certainly, and more than once he had ventured too close to a stalactite, but he'd never yet done significant damage. Yet. A shiver of dread went through him, and he hoped that he hadn't just jinxed himself.

"What on Thundera?" he said aloud, as his hands told him what he could not believe. There was a person at the exit and they were shooting beams of energy. "Brace yourself, Cheetara!" he said, cursing the inability to manoeuver.

"What's going on?" she asked clutching her control stick and trying to pierce the darkness to see the main section of the Thunderstrike. Lynx-O didn't have time to respond before the Thundercat ship was rocked by the beams, it jerked sideways and the unoccupied pod slammed into a stalagmite. Cheetara cried out as the whole ship spun sideways and crashed into the ground. Her body slid forward and she had to force herself to avoid hitting the glass of the cockpit.

There was an eerie silence that settled around the Thunderstrike pod. Cheetara could hear Lynx-O's breathing and was comforted somewhat that he was at least alive. But there had been an attack. In the pitch darkness of the Forest of Mists, she had no way of knowing who or even how many intruders there were. She wouldn't do any good sitting in here, she knew, and there was always the question of Lynx-O's safety. Cautiously, bo staff extended, she opened the canopy of her pod and felt her way over to the main section.

"Cheetara," a woman's voice said from somewhere. Her staff whipped around, clanging off the Thunderstrike. "What's the matter, Cheetara? Can't see in the dark?" The voice was mocking her and that angered her. Her staff jabbed in the direction of the voice.

"Who are you?" she demanded, straining with all her senses to find her enemy.

"Your destroyer!" Unseen hands grabbed her ankles and jerked her down, dragging her through the earth, as her staff clattered uselessly from her grip.

"The Sword of Omens!" Lion-O gasped, dropping the book he'd been reading. He was sitting in his bedroom at Cat's Lair when the mystic blade had cried out a danger sign. "Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight!" he demanded, drawing the sword and holding it to his face. He watched, horrified, as a Lunatak woman attacked the Thunderstrike. Although the sword couldn't pierce the darkness of the Forest of Mists, he could hear the Lunar woman approaching Cheetara's position, threaten her and then drag her away. He could also see Lynx-O, slumped against the console of the Thunderstrike.

"What is it Lion-O?" Snarf asked, jumping from the window to Lion-O's side.

"It's the Lunataks, Snarf. They've broken the treaty."

On to Return to Power - part three
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