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Balance of Power: Part 2
By Razorclaw X



Turning Point


Act I
-----

Part II of the Thunderian-Plun-darrian War. When we last left the Thundercats, the evil Ratar-O rallied the Mutant clans of Plun-darr into one unified fighting force, a menace unprescedented since the defeat of Ratilla at the hands of Jaga many years ago. Mumm-ra gave Ratar-O the evil Sword of Plun-darr in return for service. With the power of the Sword of Plun-darr at his side Ratar-O lead the Mutant Armada to Third Earth, conquering the good inhabitants to make way for Mumm-ra's inevitable return.

The Thundercats Tygra and Pumyra were captured by the Mutants, and their friends enslaved. Tygra was banished to the Time-Warp Prison in order to free Tashi from her prison. Pumyra was handed over to Vultureman, who used her in an experiment to create the first ever female Mutant using the Mutant DNA code common to all Mutants.

Ratar-O launches an attack on New Thundera, bringing with him two surprises, one of which is the awesome Plun-darrian Warbot, and the other being the battle machine, the Techno-Pede. With both these weapons of destruction, the Mutant Army slowly advances across the civilized areas of New Thundera.

Mumm-ra returns to Third Earth, but before leaving he summons the powerful evils of Third Earth to deal with the Thunderians and the Thundercats, including Tashi, the Mirror Wraith, Amortus, Malcar the Alchemist, and Grune the Destroyer.

As the new Thunderian-Plun-darrian War draws closer toward its vile conclusion, the fate of the Thundercats looks grim. But, as we enter the conflict, the Thundercats are about to turn the tide of the war.

Ratar-O slapped himself in the head disapprovingly as Vultureman continued laughing maniacally. Both stood in Vultureman's quarters on board the Reptilian cruiser Victory. Chained to the far wall was Pumyra, in her intermediate stages of mutation. The Mutant DNA worked slowly but surely, one of the most perfect viral invaders in the history of Mutantkind. Then again, it was this very strand that gave birth to the Mutant race to begin with.

Ratar-O unsheathed one of his sais, holding it under Vultureman's chin. "I've had enough of this nonsense, Vultureman! Thunderian metabolism is much too powerful for the Mutant DNA. Besides which, you are wasting valuable resources on your little experiment!"

Vultureman pushed Ratar-O's arm away. "Nonsense! If I am successful, I... I mean, we, can father the Mutant race forever, without fear of losing the DNA. I wished to possess a strong specimen to attempt the mutation, and I believe only the Thunderians have the desirable traits neccessary for this experiment."

Vultureman shrugged. "Besides, I'm tired of having fun with concubine slaves. And I'm sure the other Mutants are as well!"

Ratar-O smashed his other, unarmed fist into Vultureman's face. "You dare to suggest that my warriors are taking concubines?! To think the Mutant race was far above such pleasures! The Rat clan had long since abandoned that abominable practice, for it defies all we believe in." The rat-man kicked Vultureman in between his legs-- hard. "I advise you and any other Mutants with concubines to cease immediately, or I will have your hide turned into a bath mat!"

The avian Mutant nodded. "Khaawww! Well, you've been rather... testy, lately, ever since the Lord of the Thundercats routed the blitzkrieg strike." Since that event the Thundercats have successfully repelled all Mutant attacks from the populated areas. The evil beings Mumm-ra unleashed were slowly beginning to... disappear, perhaps back to Third Earth or whatever prison they came from. The war had looked well into the Mutants' favor until that day. However, only the blitzkreig was stopped; the war continued, still in the Mutants' favor.

Ratar-O walked toward the chamber door. "I will be returning to Castle Plun-darr shortly. When I return I expect all concubines ejected from this ship. Understand?"

Vultureman replied, "Khaaawww.... of course, Ratar-O!" He watched as the rat-man leader left the chamber, down the hall. When he was sure he was alone, Vultureman walked over to Pumyra, drooling slowly. "Your pain will be over shortly, my dear. When the DNA replication is complete, you won't have any memory of this transformation, as if you were always a Mutant."

The Mutant reached under a nearby table and pulled out a hidden transmitter. "Unknown to you, my dear Ratar-O, this ship and all its resources are under my control. One flip of this switch, and there'll be more fireworks than the Armistice Day! No one orders Vultureman around for long... when the time is right, my servants aboard this ship will deal with you...."

***

Reywal, the Mutant representative to the Galactic Interplanetary Council, sat silently in his seat as the chairman of the council ran through his usual, boring introduction. The Council was formed to keep peace in the galaxy, and met during the first week of each standard month. Except this time the Council has been called to deal with an emergency situation.

Representative Reywal listened to every word spoken, using his reptilian cunning to put the pieces together. From what he gathered, the reptilian discovered the Thunderian representative appealed to the Governmental Affairs' war clause, where a representative may ask the Council for aid against an opponent in a war. This clause required a two-thirds majority of the Council, however. Reywal was here to take care of that.

Reywal, unlike his fellow clansmen, wore extravegant robes and jewelry, and even wore perfume to mask the swamp-smell. To others Reywal appeared regal, considering the appearance of other Mutants. Reywal was in fact one of the major nobles in the reptilian clan, renowned for his glib tongue and deviousness in politics. The new dictator Ratar-O appointed Reywal to represent the Mutants in the Council for this reason.

Chairman Glitterstorm, a member of the elf-like Fayedian race, finished his introductory speech. The Fayedians were a long-lived race, where the Chairman belonging to one of their elders. His hair was already streaming silver, his brow creased, but his eyes shone like fire, possessing the same vitality he had in his youth, backed by the wisdom of age. He stepped down from the podium to momently introduce the Thunderian representative, Lynx-O.

Lynx-O, the blind Thundercat, stepped up to the podium. "Greetings, fellows. As you know, a new war has begun between Thundera and Plun- darr. In previous conflicts, with no disrespect to Representative Reywal," nodding to the reptilian, "the Thunderians were able to beat back the Plun-darrians time and again. But, since the destruction of the old Thundera, New Thundera's forces are no longer a match for the collective might of all the forces on Plun-darr and its vassals."

"So the proud Thundercats are asking for help?" one representative sneered.

Lynx-O could not see the representative, but the sound of his voice brought recognition. "Yes, Representative. We are indeed a proud people, but we need your help. Thundera had consistently contributed great aid to your own governments."

Reywal snuffed a chuckle. Thundera never offered aide to Plun-darr after their Thundercat leader, Jaga, took the Sword of Plun-darr and removed Ratilla from power. That event plunged Plun-darr into chaos, as the clans started fighting amongst each other. Without the central focus of a strong leader, the Mutants became the galaxy's chew toy.

The Thundercat continued, "Since the Mutant force is so large, we will understand if the Council would reject our plea. Plun-darr must not be allowed to crush its counterweight in the Balance, for they may only exist if there is someone to oppose them."

Reywal stood from his seat. "I beg to differ, Representative. For centuries the Mutant race has flourished, wiping out the weaker races in favor of a stronger, more powerful race. If Thundera cannot defend itself from Plun-darr's forces, then so be it. The galaxy is much better off without weak races to hold it back."

Lynx-O countered, "That is a rather barberic view of the universe, Representative. Destroying the weak removes a lost potential in that group. If Thundera is not allowed to survive, the universe would have lost a great pool of talent and ability."

"Evolution takes care of that! How many races have grown and died since the beginning of the universe, and how many have replaced them? If the Council decided to preserve every single species, the galaxy would be overrun with weaklings with no power to counter forces from other galaxies. Which should be what we'd be discussing now if you hadn't called this meeting."

Chairman Glitterstorm banged his fist on his desk. "Curse it all, Representative! We will deal with that at another time. We are here to discuss Thundera, not potential threats." Lynx-O stepped down from the podium, with the Chairman taking his place. "I call a vote. As usual, voting shall be done by secret ballot."

The Chairman's aides began passing out datapads. Reywal chuckled to himself. He hoped he bullied enough representatives to nullify the two- thirds majority vote, especially since only about a quarter of the representatives agreed with him.

Soon the votes were collected and tallied. "The vote has failed to reach a two-thirds majority. However, I exercise my right to send aid anyway, by the Charter of the Galactic Interplanetary Council, Powers of the Chairman, section 10, article 17, item 32b."

A murmer ran through the room as Reywal stood up fiercely and punched a hole through the top of his desk. In that moment the representative lost all his composure. "Absurd! How dare you overrule the Council's vote?!" He pointed a finger accusingly toward Chairman Glitterstorm. "Senile old fool! I declare the Chairman unfit to head the Council, by power of the Charter...."

"Enough! Guards, expel Representitive Reywal from his post! This Council no longer recognizes the government of Plun-darr as legitiment. Requisistion of starcraft will begin later this week. This meeting is ajurned!"

***

Ratar-O stood in the control center of Castle Plun-darr. Built around the ruins of Mumm-ra's black pyramid, Ratar-O left only the central chamber intact. He liked the likenesses of the Ancient Spirits of Evil. Standing next to the dictator were Buzz Saw and Driller, two robot war machines.

Ratar-O openned a channel to the Mutant Research and Development facility. "Report, Dagon!"

Dagon, a crabman, appeared on the screen. Similar in appearance to the crabmen of Third Earth, who were the degenerate descendants of shipwrecked Mutants, Dagon clicked his claws nervously. "Sir! The new weapon is finally completed. However, it is as yet untested."

Ratar-O replied, "I know. I want you to 'test it' on New Thundera."

Dagon dropped a pencil in surprise. "Sir?!"

"Bring the weapon in orbit around New Thundera. By the time we use it, all of our forces will be gone. The Thunderians will have thought they won, until we shatter them with the might of the Devastator!"

"Yes, sir. I understand. The Devastator will arrive in a few days."

"Over and out!" Ratar-O switched off the comm channel and openned a new one. This time, Reywal appeared on the screen. "Report!"

Reywal yelled back, "Thundera is getting aid after all! The Council refuses to acknowledge us as a legitiment government!"

Ratar-O replied calmly, "That is to be expected. I expected more composure from you, Representative! I want you at Castle Plun-darr as soon as possible. We are drawing the Thundercats into a trap!"

"I thirst for revenge! They dare insult one of my position...."

"Silence! After the Thundercats the Council will be next. Little by little we shall crush the Council until only the Mutants remain!"

"At least lend me the Technopede...."

"The Technopede, as well as the Plun-darrian Warbot, are being transported back to Plun-darr. No good to lose such hardware when the Devastator arrives!"

"The Devastator?! But it isn't finished yet! What if it doesn't work?"

"Then Dagon will become my next victory meal. Over and out!" Ratar-O switched off the communicator.

Both Driller and Buzz Saw were listening. Driller said, "Reywal is a loose cannon. Best to cut him while he's ahead."

Ratar-O replied, "I am quite aware of what Reywal will do. And it fits perfectly into my plans."

***

Cheetara and Jaguara finally banished Tashi back to her time-warp prison. The result was the appearance of Tygra, one of the two missing Thundercats.

Cheetara said, "Tygra! You're all right!"

Tygra said, "And I'm glad to be out of that place! Makes Mumm-ra look pleasant. How'd you free me?"

Jaguara replied, "Using my magics I was able to discern your location. When we discovered Tashi on the loose it was a simple matter to repeat the ritual used to free her to set you free. In doing so we eliminated yet another threat to New Thundera."

Tygra said, "You'd better fill me in on what's going on. Where's Pumyra?"

Jaguara and Cheetara exchanged worried glances. "She's being held on the Mutant flagship, Victory. Vultureman has her, and he's performing a hideous experiment on her."

Tygra became more determined. "Why hasn't she been rescued? We can't leave a fellow Thundercat in the clutches of that vile Mutant!"

Cheetara tried to calm her friend down. "We've got something in the works. In the meantime, we still have to deal with Mumm-ra's other minions, especially the Mutants, Malcar the Alchemist, and Grune the Destroyer. Lion-O and Panthro are dealing with the Rock Giant, while Lynx-O is appealing to the Interplanetary Council for aid. The others are fighting off Amortus' stone army from destroying the villages."

Jaguara prepared a teleportation spell. "We'd better help the others banish Amortus back to the Land of No Return. Hurry!"

***

Mumm-ra stood before the cauldron, holding Ma-mutt in his arms, stroking him lovingly. The undead sorcerer had been allowed to return to Third Earth after pleasing the Ancient Spirits of Evil.

"So, the Thundercats are slowly beating back my mystical minions. I can no longer put my faith in them, but this new Mutant weapon should deal with the Thunderians in short order."

The scene in the cauldron shifted to that of the Devastator, a massive dreadnaught the size of six Victories put together. It was shaped like a long tube, with a hole running through half the structure. The rear sections held the command stations, while the entire front section was the weapon itself.

"This weapon, Ma-mutt, concentrates numerous energies into one focal point, creating a larger, concentrated beam. In turn the recieving end of the beam burns through the earth and causes tremendous seismic disruptions. In the case of planets as unstable as New Thunders, the planet would literally tear itself apart in quake after quake. Fortunate for Third Earth, such a weapon would be useless, as this world is geologically stable. But, what about the Great Oceanic Plug? That would surely devastate the planet, but not destroy it. I could easily defend this world from the Mutants. Therefore I have nothing to fear from them."

The scene changed once again, to the Churning Rocks. "This point, the most unstable area of New Thundera. If the Devastator were used anywhere else but here, it would result in only a simple quake in the local area of effect. But the Churning Rocks would set off a chain of reactions which would rip New Thundera apart. Ratar-O is wise to remove his forces in light of this danger... even though he plans only to level centers of civilizations." Once again the scene shifted to New Cat's Lair. "But the Thundercats may put a wrench in the Mutant's plan. Lion-O and his wretched Sword of Omens possess unimaginable powers. There must be another way to harness the Sword's energies without possessing it, Ma-mutt."

Finally, the scene in the cauldron shifted to the tower of Malcar the Alchemist, on New Thundera. The tower was located near the Canyon of Youth, for in each encounter witht the Sword of Omens Malcar rapidly returns to his aged state. Eventually, if he wasn't careful, Malcar would age to death. "And here is another loose end Ratar-O neglected to consider. Malcar's power increases beyond his living power, searching evermore to retain his life in immortality. I would never allow the Ancient Spirits of Evil to grant him that boon, for if he were to gain such freedom my own life would be forfeit. There must be a way to... 'remove' his threat. Perhaps the Mutant Reywal would help engineer his destruction...."

Mumm-ra turned away from the cauldron, letting Ma-mutt down to the ground. He faced his infernal champion, Pyron. "Put my plans into motion!"

Pyron nodded silently, then disappeared in a flash.

***

"Sir, Representative Reywal is on board."

Genryu, the draconian Mutant, sat in his command chair on the bridge of the Devastator, the most powerful weapon devised by Mutant scientists. Piloting the craft were Jackalman and Monkian, recently rescued from Way-Out-Back.

Genryu waved the officer away. He hated politicians, and he especially hated this one. "Keep him under close guard at all times. Watch him closely."

As the officer left, Slithe entered the bridge, chewing on an unidentified leg of an unfortunate animal. The reptilian was one of the best cooks on Plun-darr, but he hated cooking. Strange paradox, Genryu thought.

"What do you want?"

Slithe spat out a chunk of bone. "You'd think the slaves were better cooks, yess! I'd rather be back on Third Earth than baby-sitting this monstrosity!"

Genryu swiveled his chair around to face the lesser reptilian. "This weapon will work. The projections say that soon we won't have any more Thundercats to oppose us."

Slithe forced down more of the leg's meat. "If it works, yess..."

Monkian howled in surprise. "Whooo, hooo, hooo!! There's a fleet of pirates heading this way!"

Jackalman said, "The lead ship looks like Captain Shiner's...."

Genryu barked orders to his crew. The ship was very defensible, and if these mercenaries wanted this ship, so much the better for his ego.

"Sir! Our weapons aren't responding! Shields won't come up! Propulsion down to zero! We've been sabotaged!"

Genryu pounded a fist on the seat. "Saboteur! If I find him, I'll have his hide....!"

Jackalman and Monkian panicked. "Abandon ship! Abandon ship!!!"

Genryu, unsheathing a large, crescent-moon blade, tried to rally his troops. "Get back here! We can't let them have this ship!!" But it was too late. The panic spread throughout the rest of the crew, who were ejecting escape pods. Genryu cursed. So much for going down fighting.

He grabbed Slithe by the arm. "We'll take the command pod! Ratar-O must be informed of this!" Genryu was willing to bet communications were down as well. Pushing a button on his seat, Genryu and Slithe sank into the floor. Monkian and Jackalman cowardly jumped in with them.

***

Reywal smiled as his hired crew boarded the Devastator. His gamble paid off; Mutants were still cowards at heart. Captain Shiner appeared on the communication screen on the bridge.

"I trust this ends my services to you?"

Reywal suppressed a smile. "I have no further need of you. Take your money and run, while you still can." The Mutant shut off communications. Soon the mercenary crew would be done installing the new equipment. Equipment neccessary for Reywal to pilot the ship himself.

"With this weapon, I can get my revenge on them all, starting with Ratar-O and the Thundercats! By attacking the Churning Rocks, all my enemies will be wiped out in a single stroke!!"

ACT II
------

Malcar the Alchemist poured over an ancient Thunderian tome, trying to decipher its secrets. This particular tome belonged to an ancient evil Thunderian sorcerer known only as the Shadowcat. In Thunderan legend the Shadowcat found a way to become immortal, but was destroyed by the power of the Eye of Thundera. Malcar didn't want this opportunity to pass by him.

The Alchemist erected a tower near the Canyon of Youth, for he frequently made trips there to restore his youth. He had aged back and forth so many times, the process was accelerating with each instance. Time was running out for Malcar.

The Thundercats hadn't bothered Malcar since his last attempt at immortality. At that time he tried to move his psyche into a younger host body. Of course, it was only temporary immortality, and the need for fresh bodies was great, but that would have bought Malcar time to find another way. But the Thundercats interferred with the ritual, saving the Thunderian whelp he had captured, and destroying the magical texts with the ritual scribed within them.

As of late, Malcar has been receiving strange visions from a shadowy figure. Malcar knew this presence was far beyond his own power, but he knew the figure was steering him in a certain direction. Toward immortality, which Malcar deperately wanted.

"You're taking too long."

Malcar looked up from the Shadowcat's tome, startled from the sudden appearance of his new 'master.' "What do you want, master?"

The master wizard's form was of a black shadow of a man, a two- dimensional figure in a three-dimensional environment. No features were discernable but two flaming red eyes. "The process will take too long this way. I will perform the ritual myself; I devised this ritual long time ago, but never bothered to use it. Just stand in the circle of power."

Malcar set the tome down on a nearby table, surprised to hear the implication that his 'master' was the master of the wicked Shadowcat. He then walked to the center of the room, where a circle of black salt was. Malcar stood in the center, as directed. "I am ready."

The shadow said, "Then prepare for the greatest pain of your life, Malcar. After I perform this deed, you will serve me. You will free me from my prison."

"Anything, just be done with it!!"

The shadow raised both arms into the air, channeling mystical energies. "Powers of shadow and darkness, grant me the power of the Nether....."

Malcar screamed as bolts of energy surged through him. He could no longer hear his master's words of power, as the pain was consuming him.

***

Lion-O and Panthro rammed their way through Amortus' rock soldiers with the Thundertank as they entered New Cat's Lair. The Rock Giant was easily defeated, for heat and cold once again defeated the monster.

Both jumped out of the Thundertank and ran to the Council Chamber. Waiting in the chamber were Jaguara, Tygra, Bengali, and Lynx-O, the other Thundercats fending off the rock soldiers.

Lion-O exclaimed, "Tygra! You're back!"

Tygra said, "It's good to see you well, Lion-O."

Panthro said, "The Rock Giant will trouble us no more. Now all we have to do is deal with the others, Amortus, Malcar, and Grune."

Bengali said, "Don't forget about rescuing Pumyra from Vultureman. We can't leave her there any longer, we must do something!"

Lion-O replied, "Take it easy, Bengali. We can't get to the Mutant ship without a distraction. And I hope Lynx-O secured that for us?"

Lynx-O nodded. "The Council is sending us enough ships to counter the Mutant spacecraft. But the trick is getting on board the Mutant vessel alive, in which case there is more good news."

Jaguara continued, "The guerilla teams managed to hijack a small shuttle. We just need it to get on the Mutant ship. However, the Mutants will recognize the deception as soon as you come on board, then the fleet will take action. With the Council forces to keep the Mutant fleet busy, New Thundera will be safe from orbital bombardment."

Bengali commented, "You've got to wonder why the Mutants didn't do that in the first place."

The answer dawned on Lion-O. "If they did that, there would be nothing left on New Thundera to plunder. They want the planet's resources, which includes slaves." Punching a few buttons at his seat, a schematic appeared on the view screen wall. "Bengali, Panthro, and I will go to the Mutant flagship. The rest of you have to take care of the enemy down here."

Panthro said, "Why couldn't we just take the Feliner instead of the Mutant shuttle? The Feliner has far more firepower, and I'd rather punch a few holes in their ships."

Lion-O replied, "We aren't going there to destroy them Panthro, just rescue Pumyra. You all know what to do. Thundercats, HO!"

***

Malcar awoke in the center of the circle, dazed. The pain had vanished. The shadow stepped closer. "I have granted you immortality. Now return the favor."

Malcar stepped toward a mirror. He gasped, for his face was gone. All that remained was a bleached-white skull, with two points of glowing red malevolence serving as eyes. "What have you done?! I'm... I'm dead!"

"Undeath, fool. The same as Mumm-ra, but not a mummy like Mumm-ra is. Aging will no longer matter to you. Now, free me from my prison!"

"What is this prison? Who are you??"

"They call me the Shadowmaster. Summon me from the Shadow Realm, so that I may be free!!"

***

Reywal chuckled madly, wired into his neuro-controller. With this device he could control every aspect of the ship by sheer thought. The mercenary crew was gone, leaving the reptilian alone.

The Devastator flew at top speed toward New Thundera. Reywal set up a jamming field between himself and the Mutant escape pods, so no one can warn Ratar-O of the early arrival of doom.

***

"Gullible Mutant, you are playing right into my hands." Mumm-ra stroked Ma-mutt more as he watched the Devastator in his cauldron. "The foolish Mutant thinks he can get away with his scheme, but by following his scheme he gets closer to my ultimate goal-- Malcar's destruction. And, if I'm lucky, the Shadowmaster as well, if Malcar can break him free from his prison."

The scene shifted once again, this time to Castle Plun-darr. Ratar-O stood in the communication room, and turned, looking surprised. "Mumm- ra!"

Mumm-ra said, "Transport Malcar the Alchemist to the Devastator when it arrives. Ahead of schedule, of course, and piloted by none other than your former minion, Reywal."

Ratar-O nodded, already aware of Reywal's treachery. "Your plan had better work, Mumm-ra, or you'll be less a few Mutants!"

Mumm-ra waved at the cauldron, shifting the scene to New Cat's Lair, where the Thundercats were preparing the Mutant shuttle. "Yes, Thundercats, rescue your friend Pumyra. I dare you!!"

***

The docking controller of the Victory allowed the stolen shuttle to land, but it was too late he realized it was a trap. Vultureman was in his lab when the alarm went out, and suddenly the ship rocked.

Vultureman openned a communication to the bridge. "What's going on up there?!"

The Mutant captain hastily said, "We're under attack! And we have spies on board! Bridge out!"

Vultureman cursed loudly, waking the sleepy Pumyra. "Looks like your days are numbered, Mutant!"

Vultureman turned, reaching for a blaster rifle under the table. "Khaaaawwww! Silence! I won't let your friends between me and you, my dear!"

The door to the lab burst open, and Lion-O, Panthro, and Bengali charged inside.

Vultureman pointed the rifle at the Thundercats menacingly. "Stand back, Thundercats! This is set to kill!!"

Bengali yelled, "What have you done to Pumyra?! You'll pay for this, Mutant!"

He threw the Hammer of Thundera at Vultureman, knocking the rifle out of his hands. Vulureman scrambled for the rifle, but Panthro knocked him down with his nunchuks.

Lion-O stood before Pumyra and raised the Sword of Omens. "HO!!" he shouted, and a ray from the Eye of Thundera struck the female Thundercat.

Bengali shouted, "It's working! She's turning back to normal!"

The mutated features of Pumyra reverted back to her normal Thundercat form. With adrenaline surging through her body, she shattered the bonds which held her. "Bengali!" The two Thundercats embraced.

Panthro broke their moment. "I hate to be the spoiler, but we'd better leave before the Mutants find us here."

The Thundercats left the chamber as Vultureman regained consciousness. "Khaaawww! They stole my future bride! Those Thundercats will pay for this, and for the last time!!"

Vultureman reached under the table once more, producing a small transmitter. "When this ship blows, the Thundercats will go with it!! Hahahahahahahahaha......"

He pushed a single button on the transmitter, and ran.

***

The Mutants pinned down the Thundercats in the hanger bay, determined to keep them from escaping. Suddenly, a new alarm klaxon blared on the intercom, announcing, "This ship will self-destruct in 3 minutes. Have a nice day."

Lion-O thanked Jaga for their good fortune, for the Mutants began to panic, thinking about their own hides before their duties. The Thundercats made their way back to the shuttle, and launched.

***

Mumm-ra watched the space battle from his black pyramid. The Victory exploded in a large burst of flame, consuming those ships in the near vicinity and those unfortunate to have been on board. But best of all, the plan was proceeding nicely.

"The Thundercats cannot be beaten by outside forces alone. But, when eaten on the inside, they will be no match for the Mutants."

***

Vultureman's escape pod hatch popped open as soon as it was safe to leave. He sighed in relief to be alive, and hoped the explosion got the Thundercats. But as soon as Vultureman began kissing the dirt, several shadows blocked the sun.

Ratar-O towered above the cowering Vultureman, with both of his sais unsheathed. "You'd better have a good reason, Vultureman. I lost a good ship because of you."

Vultureman cowered as low to the ground as he could go. "Khaaaa-- aaahhh-aahhh.... but it was the Thundercats....."

"Silence, worm! I knew you rigged the self-destruct mechanism. You're the only one who could have done it. And now you're going to pay... dearly." Ratar-O brought the Rat's Eyes together, forming a beam of force around Vultureman. Vultureman squealed in pain as the power of the Rat's Eyes crushed him.

"I beg of you! Spare me!!"

Ratar-O sneered, "You will make a fine example, Vultureman... a fine example indeed...."

ACT III
-------

Malcar was surprised to receive word that he was invited to join the Mutants on board the Devastator before it blows up New Thundera in a massive seismic explosion. At least there his chances of surviving the shattering of the planet would be greater out there. He consulted the Shadowmaster on the matter, and he agreed to it as well.

***

Reywal pulled the Devastator into New Thundera orbit. In a few minutes the weapon will have charged enough power to crush the planet. All he needed to do was align the weapon with the target-- the Churning Rocks.\

The reptilian politician, in his anticipation, failed to notice two new presences on board the ship.

***

Pyron appeared at the other end of the cauldron, opposite Mumm-ra and Ma-mutt. The evil champion bowed.

Mumm-ra said, "Excellent, all my enemies are in place. Excellent work, my champion. Now, to deal with the Thundercats...."

***

Ratar-O watched the space battle from the safety of Castle Plun-darr. Driller dragged Vultureman's body to the corner of the chamber, all his bones snapped from the crushing power of the Rat's Eyes. Vultureman moaned in pain.

The Mutant fleet, without the flagship, was losing this battle. The Council forces were far greater in number and skill, not to mention morale. The loss of the flagship was a major blow to morale, thanks to Vultureman. Conquest of New Thundera would be much closer than he expected, considering the fact the Devastator was no longer available to him.

Ratar-O motioned to Buzz Saw. "Send the schematics of the Devastator to the Thundercats. Make sure to use the Council frequency."

***

Reywal chuckled as the Feliner took off from the New Cat's Lair. Foolish gesture, the Devastator was invincible. If they wanted to make a suicide run, so be it.

"Overconfident reptilian, this ship is now mine."

Reywal turned. Surprised, he said, "Who are you?"

Malcar and the freed Shadowmaster approached him. The Shadowmaster pointed a palm at him. "This weapon will be the instrument of Mumm-ra's destruction, not New Thundera. Turn this ship around and head toward Third Earth, or you will die."

Reywal's face flushed in anger. "Nobody orders me around!"

In the midst of their arguing, the trio never noticed the ship was moving away from New Thundera, or the fact that the Feliner was heading for the ship's weak spot.

The explosion of the craft was spectacular.

***

Mumm-ra chuckled to himself. A weapon of destruction that potentially-threatened Third Earth was gone, as well as Malcar and the Shadowmaster. Pyron's subtle modifications to the ship's control went unnoticed by Reywal, confident in his technological wonder to the point of arrogance. Not to mention several subtle powers of suggestion, Mumm- ra thought to himself.

The Thundercats will be dealt with later... they served his purpose for now, they surely deserve to live a little longer. Until Ratar-O succeeds in eliminating them.

***

Genryu's command pod landed near Castle Plun-darr. Fortunately, Ratar-O was pleased with the draconian's arrival, and not the least bit angry at the loss of the Devastator.

"But, sir, how can we defeat the Thundercats now, they have the backing of the Interplanetary Council!"

Ratar-O replied, "Because I'm issuing the Trial of Champions. The Thundercats' Code of Thundera, Truth, Honor, Loyalty, and Justice, gives me the guarantee they will accept the challenge. Our Trial, although it is of Plun-darrian origin, appeals to their Code. By their Honor they cannot refuse!"

Slithe stepped forward. "And who will have the honor of becoming the Champions, oh mighty Ratar-O?"

Ratar-O merely laughed.

***

Lion-O and the rest of the Thundercats were ready to celebrate. Amortus was banished back to the Land of No Return, thanks to Jaguara's magic. The Mutant fleet was in retreat, thanks to the Council's forces. And the Mutant Army was already pulling back. But surprise struck them when the Trial of Champions came forth.

Snarf said, "Snarf, Snarf, this has got to be another one of the Mutants' tricks, Lion-O! Don't listen to them."

Lion-O replied, "We can't, Snarf. This Trial appeals to the Code of Thundera. We stand for Truth, Justice, Honor, and Loyalty, therefore we must prepare for combat once more."

Panthro said, "This Trial of their's calls for all of us to engage in single combat against the Mutants' finest warriors. I welcome the challenge!"

Pumyra said, "Not all of us, Panthro. The challenge calls for only seven champions. I suggest Lion-O, Panthro, Tygra, Bengali, Cheetara, Jaguara, and Lynx-O. You're all stronger than the rest of us."

"She's right." Jaguara agreed. "We are indeed the ones to answer the challenge."

Lion-O said, "Then it's settled. We're to meet the Mutant champions at the north ridge."

***

At one side of the ridge, the Thundercat's seven champions stepped up. Ratar-O chuckled to himself. He had selected his champions to counter the Thundercats' own champions, matching their strengths and weaknesses.

Ratar-O emerged as the first champion, holding the Sword of Plun-darr unsheathed. The blade gleamed in the setting sun. The greatest Mutant warrior readied for combat against the Lord of the Thundercats.

Next stood the match for Panthro. Grune the Destroyer waved his mace menacingly. More than a match for Panthro's great strength.

After him, stood the match for Tygra. The Tiger Family was skilled in illusion and mental power, so it would be fitting for Vultureman to handle him. Vultureman stepped in wearing a special power armor suit, enhancing his muscle strength tenfold, as well as allowing the bone- crushed Mutant to operate. His wicked mind and technology should be able to handle Tygra.

Cheetara's strength lay in her great speed, but her weakness was her lack of endurance. Given one warrior who could match that combination and Cheetara was doomed. In that case the crocodilian General Scarr was elected as champion. The General didn't achieve his position by being stupid; he had the patience and vitality to wear Cheetara down.

Then, for Bengali, an all-round balanced warrior with more determination that any of the others to win. Slithe stepped forward, packets of warp gas grenades strapped to his belt. The reptilian played with one grenade, throwing it up and down with one hand, ready to throw.

Jaguara, the eldest of the Thundercats and an accomplished sorcerer, was more than a match for any simple Mutant. The Mirror Wraith appeared next, his magical power filling the gap in the Mutants' ranks, for Mutants did not possess the aptitude required to wield magic.

Anyone could have been a match for Lynx-O, but only Genryu could match the blind Thundercat's weakness and strength-- while the Thundercat possessed enhanced senses, he couldn't see. Genryu could take advantage of all of those. The cunning warrior's great leathery wings flapped in anticipation, brandishing his crescent-moon sword, the Mooncutter, one handed. The Mooncutter is a weapon whose blade was made of pure adamantium, the hardest known substance in the galaxy, forged by the legendary Plun-darrian Munemasa, an ancestor of Genryu.

The champions met each other at the top of the ridge, face-to-face. Ratar-O spoke first. "So, the war has finally come down to this, Thundercat against Mutant, to determine the destinies of our races!"

Lion-O challenged, "If your champions lose, your Mutants will leave New Thundera forever, and never return under the pretense of war."

Ratar-O snarled, "And if your champions lose, all Thundera and its people will belong to Plun-darr! So be it!"

The two lines clashed.

***

Mumm-ra watched the Trial from his cauldron in the black pyramid on Third Earth with great interest.

Stroking Ma-mutt, Mumm-ra said, "Perhaps this trial should be more interesting, eh, Ma-mutt? Perhaps more suitable battle grounds are in order."

Putting down Ma-mutt, the mummy intoned, "Ancient Spirits of Evil, grant these challengers a more suitable battle ground!"

The power of the Ancient Spirits of Evil transported the combatants to different locations across New Thundera. The scene in the cauldron shifted constantly from each pair to the next.

The first scene landed Panthro and Grune in a barren wasteland, where the earth was cracked with a lack of moisture, a land formerly under the power of Alluro's Moon of Plun-darr. Lynx-O and Genryu appeared in the former Forest of Mists, formerly under the influence of Redeye's Moon of Plun-darr. The forest was still dark despite the missing mist. Next Cheetara and Scarr appeared in the middle of a grassy plain, formerly under the power of Luna and Amuk's Moon of Plun-darr. Jaguara and the Mirror Wraith appeared in the Caverns of Cold, a region of cold, despite being free of Chilla's Moon of Plun-darr. Vultureman and Tygra appeared at the spire formerly controlled by Tug-Mug's Moon of Plun-darr, now free from the heavy gravitational forces. Slithe and Bengali appeared in the mosslands, where the Mossland Monster once roamed. Finally, Ratar-O and Lion-O appeared on a cliff of the Churning Rocks.

***

Ratar-O and Lion-O were momentarily disoriented as they materialized at the Churning Rocks. Ratar-O realized this was Mumm-ra's doing.

Ratar-O held the Sword of Plun-darr in the air. "It looks like for one of us its going to be our last battle ground!"

Lion-O replied, "We'll see about that, Mutant!" With a yell, Lion-O rushed the Mutant leader.

Ratar-O caught the Sword of Omens on his own blade, then threw a blow himself. Back and forth the two leaders fought, exchanging blows that were met with parries, neither gaining an advantage, but ever-so closer toward the edge of the rock.

Ratar-O leaped back, tired of the bouts, and twirled the Sword of Plun-darr, sending ripples of energy toward Lion-O. The Lord of the Thundercats responded with his own sword blast, meeting the opposing blast midway between the combatants.

Strugling to keep concentration, Ratar-O snarled, "This is how it was meant to be, boy! Leader against leader, sword to sword, in a fight to the finish! Your mentor, Jaga, denied that to my dishonored ancestor, Ratilla, and you're going to pay!"

Lion-O kept his aim, but the comment disturbed him. "Jaga?" But Mutants don't have honor! "Killing a helpless opponent is against the Code of Thundera!"

Ratar-O replied, "Whelp! My illustrious ancestor is far from helpless! Jaga denied the great Ratilla the honor of a warrior's death! The shame it brought to the Rat clan was the direct cause of the collapse of Plun-darrian society! Fool, you and your Thundercat ideals, have ruined Plun-darr!! And I intend to fix them... by destroying you!"

"Killing me couldn't possibly help!" Lion-O countered. But, then again, Jaga was dead, after all, so Ratar-O couldn't avenge Ratilla directly. But he could go after his protege. "You can't win, Mutant. If I defeat you, I cannot give you the warrior's death as you seek, nor can you fully avenge Ratilla from his disgrace. End this conflict, now! No more need to die!"

Ratar-O yelled in anger, ending the ripple beam. "Never, whelp! No one can defeat Ratar-O the Magnificent!" Leaping into the air, the ratman thrust downward, aiming for Lion-O's head.

Lion-O rolled out of the way, then resigned himself. "Very well then, it looks like I have no choice." Raising the Sword of Omens, the Lord of the Thundercats shouted, "Thunder, thunder, thunder, Thundercats, HO!!!!"

The cat signal streaked from the Churning rocks, and passed by all the battlegrounds the champions fought. Grune was ready to put Panthro out of his misery. Mirror Wraith used the ice walls to his advantage, confounding Jaguara. Slithe's warp gas took great effect on Bengali. Scarr was ready to deal the final blow to the exhausted Cheetara. Lynx-O lay on the ground bleeding to death, having run into a knife stuck to one of the trees, something he couldn't detect without seeing. Genryu stood over the blind Thundercat triumphantly, ready to deal the death blow with his crescent-moon sword. And Vultureman's power armor held the battered Tygra in the air in triumph. One glance at the cat signal was all it took for the Thundercats to turn the tables.

All this time Ratar-O tried to slash Lion-O, but the power of the sword produced a magical barrier protecting the Lord of the Thundercats.

"It can't be possible!" Ratar-O exclaimed in frustration. "Your so- called honor is nothing but an ideal, Thundercat whelp!" Sheathing the Sword of Plun-darr, Ratar-O reached for a remote control. Playing with the joystick, the Rat-star appeared above him. "For a time I considered letting your precious Thunderians live as slaves, now their lives, as well as your own, are forfeit! We shall meet again!" Ratar-O dematerialized, then the Rat-star took off for Castle Plun-darr.

Lion-O sheathed the Sword of Omens, alarmed with Ratar-O's threat. Would he really do it? Massive genocide of an entire species? More than ever there was a reason to oppose the Mutants of Plun-darr, Lion-O thought, as the Thunderstrike hovered overhead.

***

Ratar-O exited the Rat-star with the knowledge of the defeats of the rest of his champions. Buzz Saw also sent word of a distinguished guest who wanted to see him in the Grand Chamber.

The warrior's curiousity was piped. Who would dare to see him at this time? As he entered the Grand Chamber, he almost expected it to be Mumm- ra himself. But the figure who stood there was not Mumm-ra, he was a large, proud member of the Mutant race. The Mutant turned around, sharing features similar to that of Ratar-O, but older. There were signes of a hunch forming as the figure leaned on a jeweled walking stick, topped with a golden-hued thundrainium cobra head, mouth open, fangs bearing along with jewel-encrusted ruby eyes. Over his left eye was a metal eye, to replace the one he lost when he was dishonored so long ago. In the place where the eye should have been was a red mechanical light that served as an eye.

Ratar-O gapsed. "Ratilla the Conqueror!!" Bowing low, Ratar-O presented the Sword of Plun-darr. "I have avenged your honor by retrieving this weapon, but I yet to seek vengeance for your other disgrace."

Ratilla chuckled, and waved his hand away, indicating Ratar-O to keep the Sword. "Yes, my descendant... I have waited a long time to rid the universe of the Thundercats. The news of the Trial spread quickly. If you will allow, Warlord, I would assist you in eliminating the Thundercats once and for all."

"How?" Ratar-O asked. "The Devastator was destroyed, not to mention we lost the majority of our fleet to the Council armada! Morale is at an all-time low, and some clans are contemplating disertion from the war effort."

"Those are but small things. To rid ourselves of our enemies, we must make the ultimate sacrifices. We're going to destroy the Gyroscope."

"The Gyroscope? Mumm-ra tried that once before, and the Sword of Omens created a new one! How can we prevent that?"

"By the only means neccessary. We're going to shatter the Sword of Omens, and I know of one being with the power to do so."

Ratar-O thought for a moment. "The Lunatack Tug-Mug. We'll put a search for the Lunatacks immediately!"

"Excellent, my descendent...." Ratilla said. "Without the Sword of Omens to save them, New Thundera and all the Thunderians will be destroyed!"

***

Back on Third Earth, in the black pyramid, Mumm-ra held Ma-mutt in his arms, looking into the cauldron, watching the conversation between Ratilla and Ratar-O.

"So, it appears to be the beginning of the end... one way, or another."

Mumm-ra set Ma-mutt down gently, then raised his arms into the air. "Ancient Spirits of Evil," he began, the four statues moving from their location, spinning around Mumm-ra, "transform this decayed form," the statues raised their arms, bathing the mummy in hellish energies, "to Mumm-ra, the Ever-living," finally, energies spilled forth from the cauldron, bathing the sorcerer in its dark energies, "and All- powerful!!"

Roaring in anticipation, Mumm-ra walked from the cauldron to the Mumm-raft, behind two of the statues. Ma-mutt followed, taking his position at the controls. Pyron entered as well, standing sentinel at the entrance of the craft. "Now, Ma-mutt, to New Thundera, so we may rid ourselves of the wretched Thundercats once and for all!!"

***

Next time, on Thundercats, Ratar-O and the Mutants become increasingly desperate in their efforts to conquer New Thundera and its inhabitants. But now New Thundera is sentenced to destruction; its existance is deemed unworthy in the eyes of the evil ratman Warlord. With the aid of Ratilla the Conquerer, the Mutants try to destroy the Gyroscope, in hopes of ripping New Thundera and its natives into oblivion. To secure the success of this scheme, Ratar-O enlists the help of the Lunatacks, ordered to destroy the Sword of Omens, thereby preventing the power of the Eye of Thundera from saving the day once again. It's now a race against time as the Gyroscope destroys New Thundera... will the Sword of Omens save the day and the planet once again? Tune in next time, as the Thunderian-Plun-darrian War draws to its shattering conclusion.

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