If I could Fly...
Alluro stood before the bubbling cauldron. He was restless and
impatient; Mumm-ra seemed to be ignoring him. The demon-priest paced
slowly behind the other side of the cauldron, coddling that mangy mutt
of his. He was now in his mummy-form--that cloaked, frail creature that
contrasted so sharply to the visage of the terrifying warrior he usually
wore in the presence of his fellow evil-doers. Alluro shifted his
weight from one foot to the other. His claws rapped impatiently against
the handle of his psyche-club. "Well?"
"If what you say is true..." Mumm-ra began sharply, "if you truly have
developed the mind-power to influence thoughts and shape behavior
without actually being near the person you are controlling...if you can
send your subliminal suggestions from miles away, as you claim...what do
you need me for?" He paused, narrowing his eyes, and spoke in a
bitingly-sarcastic tone; "Forgive me if I seem irritable, but being
awakened from my much-needed sleep two hours before sunrise and dragged
out of my sarcophagus by the Ancient Spirits to answer your summons has
not put me in the best of moods. To top it off, the remaining
Thundercats have managed to regain their Sword, and that wretched
hairball, Snarf, nearly killed my poor Ma-mutt in the process. It took
a great deal of my power to heal him. I was sleeping deeply, trying to
recover some of that lost power, when you came rap-rapping at my front
door like a neighbor pestering to borrow a cup of sugar. So spit it
out, Alluro--what do you want?"
"Power, Mumm-ra," grinned the tall, lavender-skinned Luna-tak. "I
have the knowledge to influence minds from afar, but I lack the raw
power. Give me power. That is what I ask."
"I see," muttered Mumm-ra, cradling the small,
scarred-but-still-intact grey body of Ma-mutt in his arms. The dog
whimpered a little and licked one flank. "And tell me now,
Luna-tak...what would I gain from granting you this power?"
Alluro spread his arms wide and grinned disarmingly. "Why, you would
regain your power over Third Earth! With the remaining five Thundercats
gone, there will be no one to stop you."
"And what of you? Don't you want your share of the power?" he
Alluro crossed his arms over his chest and smirked. "Let's be honest
with each other for once, Mumm-ra. We're both too intelligent for these
silly games. The truth is, you and I will never be able to rule Third
Earth together; we're both too power-hungry for that. We'd turn on each
other faster than a snarf can scream at the sight of its own shadow."
"It is good to hear a few straightforward words for once," Mumm-ra
"Right. So what I propose is this; you give me the power I need to
destroy the Thundercats--no more, no less--and after they're gone, the
other Luna-taks and I can go back to engaging in petty power-squabbles
with you. If you defeat us, you get Third Earth to yourself, and
visa-versa. It will be the same as before, except there will be no
Thundercats to get in our way. See how nicely it all works out?"
"It does sound promising," Mumm-ra admitted. "More promising than any
bizarre scheme you Luna-taks have cooked up in the past, anyway."
Alluro bristled. "That was Luna's doing, not mine! That miserable
troll has led us to failure time and again. We'd be a lot better off if
someone were to just kick that revolting little leprechaun into next
week and take charge...someone younger, smarter...better-looking..." he
slicked back his long, greasy hair with one hand and smiled at his
reflection in the cauldron-water.
Mumm-ra grimaced with distaste. "Alright. I shall grant you your
power. But first tell me...how, exactly, do you plan to go about
eliminating the Thundercats?"
"Simple!" Alluro replied brightly. "I'll enter their minds one at a
time and plant subliminal suggestions. I will be careful. They will
think these suggestions to be the workings of their own subconcious,
rather than outside interference."
"And what manner of suggestions would you plant?" Mumm-ra asked, even
though it was clear from his eager, devilish grin that he already knew.
"I will 'convince' the Thundercats to commit suicide!" Alluro informed
him cheerfully. "I will start with Pumyra. She is still grief-stricken
over the deaths of her two companions, no doubt. She will be an easy
target. Then I'll move on to Snarf...his mind will probably be just as
easy to manipulate, feeble creature that he is. Panthro, Tygra and
Cheetara will be more difficult, I imagine, but I'll get them all in the
long run. You can bet on that."
"Very well!" cackled Mumm-ra. "What can I say? I like your method of
thinking, Alluro." He set Ma-mutt carefully on the ground. The dog
promptly limped over to a corner of the chamber and curled up, resting
his tired head on his front paws. Raising his arms, Mumm-ra began to
chant. The words pulsed with power as they rose into the air,
resounding mystically. The eyes of the four statues flared a bright
red, and bolts of lightning shot from Mumm-ra's hands. The
lightning-bolts struck Alluro, knocking him to the ground. At first he
screamed with pain; his long claws raked the stone floor, creating an
awful squealing noise. Then his body began to glow with red light, and
he slowly rose to his feet, a surprised expression fixed on his face.
He extended one red, glowing arm and stared down at it in awe, flexing
and clenching his hand experimentally.
He looked up at Mumm-ra, the stunned expression still hovering about
his face. "The power...it's incredible! Is this what you feel?"
"A pale shade of what I feel," Mumm-ra boasted.
"You lucky bastard!" grinned Alluro.
"I pay a price for my power, Luna-tak." Mumm-ra's ruby gaze flickered
briefly to the four statues looming over him; their stone eyes glared
balefully down at him, reminding him that his power was not his own,
that he would forever be bound to them in servitude. He spoke again,
quietly, more to himself than to the tall, lanky creature standing
before him; "Sometimes...I wonder if the power is worth it."
Pumyra gazed out the window at the clear night sky. The stars shone
their pale fires against the velvety blackness; those stars which had
shone there for millions upon millions of years. But even they were not
eternal. Someday those stars would burn out, and new ones would reform
to take their place.
"Is anything eternal?" she whispered, and a chill ran through her. Oh
Bengali, Lynx-o...where are you now?
Loneliness threatened to crush her. She couldn't imagine going
through life without her two friends at her side; even now, she kept
expecting to turn around and see one of them standing there, or hear
them calling from downstairs. Now, standing alone in her room in Cat's
Lair (the room which had once belonged to the kittens) and gazing out at
the stars which would someday fade and die, Pumyra's pain and loneliness
had never been more acute. It was unbearable.
End it, then, whispered a tiny voice in the back of her mind. Why
Pumyra stood up a little straighter, eyes widening. The thought had
crossed her mind more than once during these few days since the death of
those six Thundercats...but never had the concept seemed so compelling,
so attractive, so...practical. Why not? "Because the other Thundercats
need me," she murmured to herself.
Don't be a fool, whispered the voice in the back of her head. They
need you like they need a broken leg. The only reason they kept you
around was because Bengali and Lynx-o insisted...and now that they're
gone, how long do you think that will last?
A lump rose into Pumyra's throat. And it was true, oh, it was true.
How had she gone so long without seeing the truth? How had she managed
to fool herself into thinking she was more than dead weight?
Maybe it had taken something like this--like the deaths of Bengali and
Lynx-o--to force her to face the situation as it was. But there it was,
plain as day; the other Thundercats didn't need her, and they'd only
been putting up with her for the sake of Bengali and Lynx-o. Casting
her mind back over the time she'd been on Third Earth, she could think
of not a single useful thing she'd done for them.
That's right. Why, you'd be doing them a favor to jump out of this
Yes...but the window was too small for her to fit through. As a
matter of fact, none of the windows in Cat's Lair were large enough.
She needed to find another place to jump from.
And then it came to her.
Pumyra perched on top of Cat's Lair. She had climbed from the mouth
of the great Cat's Head onto the tip of its nose, and now she stood,
wind whipping back her hair, arms at her sides, eyes calm and resigned.
The drop to the ground was dizzying. There was nothing between her and
that drop but a single step...she would fling herself into the night and
for one moment, the moment before her body slammed into the hard,
unforgiving earth, she would be free...
She would fly.
"Do you think Pumyra will be alright, Tygra?" Cheetara asked. A
silver spoon clinked softly against a cup as she stirred sugar into her
hot tea. "She seems so withdrawn, so distant..."
"That's natural," Tygra replied. "She's grieving for Bengali and
Lynx-o. We're all grieving, in our own ways...if Pumyra needs solitude
in order to heal, we must give it to her."
Cheetara nodded and sipped her tea. "You are right. But I can't help
worrying about her. I can't help feeling that...I don't know, that..."
she trailed off, shaking her head.
Tygra leaned against the kitchen doorway, watching her closely. "Is
it your sixth sense?"
"It could be. I just wish there were a way to..." A low humming,
growling noise interrupted her, and she glanced down in surprise.
Within the gold clawshield strapped to her hip, the Sword of Omens
growled restlessly; the Eye of Thundera glared a warning.
Instinctively, she reached down, pulled the Sword from its scabbard, and
held it up to her face. The crossbars curled around her eyes as she
recited; "Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight!" A vision flashed
before her; a vision of Pumyra standing atop Cat's Lair, arms outspread,
wind tearing at her hair and clothes. As Cheetara watched, the puma
Cheetara gasped. "Dear gods! She's going to jump!"
The vision faded as Tygra gripped her shoulder. "Cheetara, what do
you mean? Who's going to jump?"
"Pumyra! She's going to leap off the top of Cat's Lair! We've got to
Alarm flashed in Tygra's eyes. "Quickly, get to the Cat's Head!"
Together, they dashed out of the kitchen and up the stairs, to the
door that led into the mouth of the great Cat's Head. Tygra tried to
turn the knob; it wouldn't budge. "Blast! Locked!" he growled, banging
one fist against the door in frustration.
"Get Panthro," Cheetara said in a low, urgent tone. "He may be able
to break the door down."
Tygra nodded and vanished, leaving only the rapid, echoing thuds of
his receding footsteps.
Closing her eyes, Cheetara reached out with her thoughts and called to
her friend: Pumyra! Open the door, please! You don't have to do this!
There was no response, but she could sense Pumyra there...and what she
sensed emanating from the puma was not fear, grief or anger, only a sort
of calm acceptance, and a distant sadness.
Pumyra! Cheetara called again, desperately...but it was useless.
Pumyra did not want to hear.
Panthro came thundering up the stairs, Tygra close behind. The
panther charged the door, ramming one shoulder into hard metal. There
was a dull, hollow, reverberating boom, but the door did not budge.
"Try again," urged Cheetara, but Panthro had already backed up and was
rushing the door a second time. A roar emerged from his throat as his
shoulder cannoned into the solid, six-inch-thick steel.
He backed up, panting, chest rising and falling heavily. "Pumyra," he
murmured. His muscles bunched and corded, his breath hissed in and out,
and he charged the door a third time...
The impact jarred him down to his bones, and he felt the shock run
through him, sending pain-waves through his flesh and jolting his
organs, just as the door's hinges burst apart and the door began to
Pumyra raised her eyes to the heavens, to the oceans of glittering
stars. Tears were running down her cheeks now, glistening in the
moonlight, but she was unaware of them; unaware of everything except
those stars. She saw--although it could have been her imagination--one
of them flicker and wink out. She thought of Bengali and Lynx-o, and
another tear streamed down her face. She lowered her eyelids and
stepped forward, lips parted slightly to drink in the cool night air,
wind howling in her ears...
she spread her arms, as if to embrace her own death, and lept from the
top of Cat's Lair.
At that moment, the door crashed down and Panthro burst through. He
charged forward, breath rasping in and out, and looked down just in time
to see Pumyra falling through the night, arms outstretched, hair
"Pumyra!" he roared, lunging forward...but of course, it was too late
to catch her.
Pumyra plunged toward the earth in swift, silent descent; she did not
Looking out the narrow window, Cheetara saw Pumyra plummet from the
top of Cat's Lair; heard Panthro roar out her name. Without thinking,
she lunged for the window and thrust the Sword out into the night, a cry
of "Ho!" bursting from her mouth.
The Sword glowed with white brilliance and shot a beam of brightness
forth into the darkness. The beam caught Pumyra in its path and
suddenly she was surrounded by a sphere of pure energy. Cheetara
watched, faint with relief, as the glowing orb drifted to earth and
landed safely in front of Cat's Lair.
The forcefield evaporated as soon as it touched the ground, and Pumyra
dropped onto the soft grass with a muffled thud. She lay there, grass
tickling her face, eyes wide and dazed, wondering how she had managed to
hit the ground so softly. Her first hopeful thought--Is this the
afterlife?--was dashed to pieces as she looked up and saw Cat's Lair
looming through the night...the same Cat's Lair she'd been standing atop
a few seconds ago. Pumyra slowly lowered her head to the earth, letting
her eyes slip shut and ignoring the rapid thud-thud of footsteps
pattering toward her across Cat's Lair's front yard. She wanted only to
lie there in the cool comfort of the night, the soft grass against her
cheek, and forget everything.
"Don't you understand?" Pumyra looked up at him. Her eyes were dark
and sorrowful. Her tears glistened in the soft lamplight that filled
the bedroom. "I did it for you. For all of you."
"For us?" Panthro asked doubtfully.
She nodded. "I know I'm just a burden to you," she said softly,
calmly. "You were all too kind to tell me, of course, but now I see
that you only put up with me for the sake of Bengali and Lynx-o."
"What?!" Panthro burst out in disbelief. "Pumyra, that isn't true!"
She gave him a sad little smile. "It's alright, Panthro. I can face
the truth. It's just that I never saw it before now...it's as if I've
been wearing a blindfold all these months, and tonight it was suddenly
torn off. If I cannot be with Bengali and Lynx-o, and I cannot be of
use to the Thundercats, there is no reason for me to live. Just let me
go...I shall kill myself, right now, and then there will be no more need
for you or the others to worry about me. You don't even have to bury
me, if you don't want."
Panthro just sat, staring at her in disbelief; he'd always thought
Pumyra's self-esteem could use a boost, but this? This whole thing had
been so completely and utterly sudden. Pumyra--who he'd always judged
to be a relatively rational and stable person--had flung herself off of
Cat's Lair, and now here she was, calmly discussing her own attempted
suicide as if that had been the normal, expected thing for her to
do...and where had she come up with this idea that she was a burden to
them? "Pumyra," he began, and paused, trying to think of how to
continue. "I know you're going through a rough time, but you can't just
give up. You've got your whole life left ahead of you." There. Good
so far. That was what you were supposed to say in situations like
this...wasn't it? Yes, but it wasn't enough. He continued; "Besides,
we do need you. You were always a valuable member of the team, and now
that there's only five of us left, we need you more than ever."
Alright. But it still wasn't enough; there was something missing.
Something that kept eluding him, because he knew it would be hard to
say. "And..." he paused. Damn...the words had slipped away again. He
grasped at them, and finished in a rush, "and because if you died,
Pumyra, I don't think I would be able to stand it. I think I love
you." Well, there it was, and there he was, sitting there waiting for
Pumyra's reaction and feeling that uncharacteristic uncertainty that
always crept into his bones when he was around her, because the way he
felt about her was different from the way he'd felt about all other
women, even his first. In truth, he wasn't sure if he'd ever really
been in love before. Sex? That was well-explored territory. But
love? That was pretty much uncharted terrain. Because of Panthro's
very nature--that rock hard practicality that had formed at a very early
age, a stormy childhood which had blasted the surface of his heart into
solid armor to protect him from the roughness of his everyday life--love
had never come easy to him. He'd never known his mother. She'd died in
childbirth. He guessed he'd loved his father, in a sort of weak,
confused way, but his father had not believed in love; his father had
believed in only two things, and those things were fear and whiskey.
Panthro's father had passed his great storehouse of knowledge on to his
son through his droning, beer-slurred sermons, and that knowledge could
be summed up in a few sentences: "Boy, you can't let yourself get too
attached to anythin' that won't stay around--women, money, those things
don't stay. Love don't stay. Fear does. People fear you once, they
gonna fear you a long time. Trust in that, son, and this..." His
father had tapped the rim of the whisky-bottle with one claw and smiled
with yellowed, broken teeth. "This is gonna see you through the hard
times, son. This is the best friend yer ever gonna have." Well,
Panthro had never been well-acquainted with the whisky bottle--at least
not enough to call it a friend--but he knew his father's other little
nugget of wisdom held true. Fear stayed. Fear stayed a long time...but
maybe love did too.
Pumyra gazed at him for a long moment, unaware of the thoughts running
through his head or the memories of his father's droning voice and
crooked, lemon-colored teeth. She was aware only of the way his eyes
gazed into her, his face--strong and cold as a warrior's face could be,
and yet beneath that, warm and earnest and gentle, a face one could grow
to love...if one did not love it so deeply and inexplicably already.
"Panthro..." she began...and suddenly she believed him. She believed
that the Thundercats needed her, that she must live, she must be strong
and the thought that she'd tried to commit suicide broke over her,
like an egg being broken against the top of her head, and the warm,
rotten yolk of shame trickled down her neck. How could she have thought
that leaping off of Cat's Lair was such a damned bright idea?
Where had those thoughts come from?
"Panthro, I'm sorry," she said. "I've been acting stupidly, but my
head feels clearer now. Thank you for bringing me back to my senses."
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him softly. "I love you,
Panthro." He leaned into her, deepening the kiss, and she responded
eagerly. One strap of her uniform dug annoyingly into her shoulder, and
Pumyra shrugged it off; the rest slipped away fairly easily.
Abruptly, she stopped; a chill lanced through her heart. Pumyra
pulled away, her blood--which had been running fast and hot a moment
ago--now ran so cold it felt as though there must be tiny chips of ice
tumbling through her veins. "What's wrong?" Panthro asked. He stroked
her hair with the back of his hand.
"I feel that someone is watching us," Pumyra whispered.
Alluro peered eagerly into the cauldron. He was enjoying peeking in
on the Thundercats; it was almost worth his failure to kill Pumyra. But
then, that hadn't really been his failure; he'd done his part, planted
the seeds in her already weak and confused mind. She had lept, as she
was supposed to...but that blasted Sword! The Sword of Omens had saved
her; it was to blame, not him. Ah well...he'd try again. He had all
the time in the world. But meanwhile, this cauldron would provide him
with some very worthy entertainment. Alluro looked up, grinning. "Oh,
the fun you must have with this thing, Mumm-ra! Tell me, do you ever
spy on the warrior maidens? Come on, Mummsies...the truth now!"
Mumm-ra was sitting his his large, rough-hewn throne of rock, Ma-mutt
curled up in his lap, one linen-clad hand slowly stroking the dog's
back. He glared sourly at Alluro. "That's none of your business...and
if you ever call me 'Mummsies' again, I'll slit open your belly and let
Ma-mutt feast on your steaming entrails."
"Very vivid imagery, Mumm-ra," Alluro said, still grinning...but there
was definately a shade of unease behind that grin...and this time, he
was careful to use Mumm-ra's real name. "Uh...come and watch, why don't
you!" Alluro indicated the cauldron with an elegant, sweeping guesture.
"I'm not interested," muttered Mumm-ra.
"Not interested? What's wrong with you, chap? Are you feeling
"There's nothing wrong with me," snapped Mumm-ra. "I just have more
important things on my mind. Like how to get rid of the remaining four
Alluro cleared his throat sheepishly. "Well, uh...five, actually."
"What?!" Mumm-ra lurched from his throne, spilling Ma-mutt onto the
floor. The dog landed in a heap and yapped indignantly. "You mean you
The Luna-tak stepped back, both hands held up defensively. "Only
temporarily, Mumm-ra! I will try again! What's the rush, anyway?"
Mumm-ra emitted a low, shuddering growl of disgust. Ma-mutt barked,
commanding attention. His master glanced down. "Sorry about that,
pooch." Scooping the bulldog into his arms, Mumm-ra lowered himself
back into the throne. "Alright, Alluro. One more chance. Try again.
"Right now?" Alluro sounded pained. "But I'm, uh, rather wrapped up
in my current viewing experience..." He glanced down and let out a howl
of frustration, bringing one fist down on the stone rim of the
cauldron. "Gone! It's gone! The cauldron's waters are blank!"
"One of them must have sensed your spying eyes, Luna-tak," Mumm-ra
declared, and there was an odd sort of satisfaction in his voice. "Now
that your 'viewing experience' has been ended, let's focus on our task
of destroying Pumyra, hmm?"
Alluro bristled. "Why, you sneaking...you're the one who caused the
cauldron to go blank!"
"I did not," Mumm-ra replied briskly, "and even if I did, I would have
been justified. Until your job is done, I don't want your mind hanging
about elsewhere. I don't care what's going on in the cauldron. I don't
care if you're watching warrior maidens prancing naked through the
forest with winged bears and anthropomorphic singing dinosaurs, you keep
your mind on your job!"
Alluro pouted. "You aren't any fun, Mummsies." Mumm-ra rose slowly
to his feet, Ma-mutt still cradled in the crook of one arm, glaring
balefully at Alluro. The Luna-tak's pale skin suddenly grew paler. He
tried to swallow, but his mouth was spitless; it had gone dry as the the
Sanarama Desert. "Mumm-ra, I...I didn't mean to..."
The Sword of Plun-darr appeared in Mumm-ra's upraised fist, blazing.
He hurled it, and the sword spun through the air, whirling in a direct
course for Alluro. Before Alluro could even turn to run, the sword had
sliced his belly neatly open and made a U-turn, whirling back into
Mumm-ra's open palm like a boomerang. Mumm-ra closed his fist over the
hilt of the twin blades and watched coolly as Alluro's intestines began
to slink out of his body, forming a neat little pile of slimy loops on
the ground; the loops looked like a display of sausages in a
shop-window. The Luna-tak stared in shock. Stupidly, he seized a
fistful of his rapidly-escaping guts and tried to stuff them back into
the cavity that suddenly seemed too small for them. The look on his
face was so utterly confused that for a moment, Mumm-ra almost felt
sorry for him...then Alluro's voice--C'mon, Mummsies, the truth
now!--echoed mockingly in his skull, and any traces of pity were seared
away. "At 'em, Ma-mutt!" Mumm-ra commanded, pointing to the dying
Luna-tak, and Ma-mutt was off like a bullet from a gun.
He streaked across the room and lunged for Alluro's midsection,
tearing a mouthful of bloody intenstines from the slit belly. He
chomped it down in two quick snaps of his jaws, then tore out another
mouthful; the long coils poking from his jaws seemed to squirm, like
worms in the beak of a robin. As Ma-mutt feasted contentedly and
Alluro's blood slowly emptied onto the floor of the pyramid, the
Luna-tak groaned, toppled to one side, and hit the floor with a wet,
Mumm-ra sighed heavily and lowered himself once more into his throne.
The flames faded from the Sword of Plun-darr, and the blades retracted
into the hilt, which had been molded to look like two golden snakes
intertwined. He watched Ma-mutt devour the unfortunate Luna-tak, whose
eyes had already glazed over with the oily sheen of death, and muttered
to himself; "Perhaps I was wrong to kill him. Perhaps he could have
been useful to me, had I let him live. But the deed is done...there can
be no taking it back." A small smile curved the corners of Mumm-ra's
One less Luna-tak to worry about.
"Who, Pumyra? Is it Mumm-ra?"
"I...I don't know..." She sat on the bed, knees drawn up to her bare
chest, clutching a handful of bedcovers. "It could have been. But the
feeling's gone now...perhaps I imagined it."
"Could be. The imagination plays strange tricks." A playful little
smile crept onto his face. "Now...where were we?"
Pumyra moved toward him, and he took her into his arms.
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