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Adventure in Cats Lair
By RD Rivero

The nervous mutant stood before the steep cliff wall.  He looked up --
way up -- to the very thin line that marked the boundary between the
stone face below and the cloudy sky above.  About halfway to the summit,
carved into the rock, was large, open window -- oval in shape -- it
could have easily been mistaken for anything else other than what he
knew it was.
Jackalman had his reservations, his hands trembled, his stomach knotted
and for the oddest reason of all he felt though he would vomit, but then
Vultureman was his friend.
Sort of.
Well, at the least the two were not enemies.
“Vultureman!” he shouted, his hands around his lips, “I’m here!”
A high-pitched bird-call echoed from the distance along with words too
muffled to be understood.  No matter, he saw suddenly that a rolled-up
stepladder was flung out of the window.  It unfurled and it unraveled
wildly in the air until the last two or three rungs fell and hit the
ground in a loud clang right in front of his feet.  He was both lucky
and relieved that he had not been closer or else he would have surely
been hit.
Carefully and cautiously he began to ascend the rope, wooden framed
structure that swayed and that vibrated in the wind in ways that were
not entirely comfortable to him.  He stopped often when he felt that the
next step would give way to disaster and each time he did so he made the
unfortunate mistake of looking down.
“What’s taking you so long?” the avian voice called.
“Are you sure this ladder of yours is safe?”
“Safer than falling.”
“That wasn’t funny.”
Jackalman darted his head into the oval window -- into the dark room
within.  His hands reached out to grab something - anything - nailed to
the ground that he could use to pry himself up.  But there was nothing
so instead he climbed a few more rungs then flopped his body to the side
until he was entirely within the safety of the interior.
The chamber was only lit enough for him to see well in the obscurity.
The walls and ceiling were unadorned.  The floor was covered with loose
straws and decayed vegetable masses.  Droppings, everywhere and the
stench of it nearly turned that mutant’s stomach.
“Vultureman?” He asked in a funny voice for he had plugged his nose with
his fingers.
“I’m in the lab.”
Jackalman wandered around the chamber in a stunned haze.  He felt around
in the darkness and eventually he came upon the one and the only opening
in the place.  The orifice led directly to a hall whose walls were
formed by a composite mixture of stones and hard-pressed dirt, dotted
with odd shoots of knurled roots that broke through the stucco to hang
lifelessly in the air.  At the end of the hallway there was an orange
torch light, its flames, though dull and weak, were still strong enough
for him to make out even the faintest details of the wooden doors that
lined the passage.
One of those doors was opened and he boldly entered.
Vultureman had his back to him.  He sat at a table where he tinkered
with a box-shaped device of some kind of which Jackalman only see
fragments.  Once fully in the immediacy of the chamber he saw that on
the floor next to the table was the lower-half of a carcass thoroughly
chewed to the bone.  Small vestiges of internal organs, still wet, still
moist with blood, remained protected, wrapped around the shards of the
victim’s clothes.
Vultureman noticed him looking.  “Those are leftovers.  You’re welcome
to try.”
Jackalman waved his hands to scare away the flies that had congregated
communally over what was left of the scavenged body.  “You’ll make a
vegetarian of me yet.”
The avian laughed.
Jackalman did not remember how the conversation had begun but eventually
he found himself face-to-face with Vultureman.  “I didn’t want anyone
else to find out about this, that’s why I called you here.  Jackalman,”
he said, he turned his friend around and began to walk him out of the
laboratory, the strange device he had been working on was in his hands.
“I know exactly how to destroy the Thundercats once and for all.”
“I knew you would understand.  Now, let me try to explain it in simple
terms.”  He stopped to contemplate.  He ran his fingers under his beak
though it was a chin.  “Here.  I’ll show you.”
He led Jackalman down the hall to the source of the orange light.  There
was a small nook in the side of the wall that was almost imperceptible
unless someone was actually looking for it.  The crevice was thin and
awfully hard to crawl through but it ended quickly and it opened at the
start of another hall that was better lit and wider, too.
“It was genius, it was absolute genius.  I figured out how the Sword of
Omens works and there’s nothing mystical about it at all.”
Jackalman stopped and looked stunned at his fellow mutant.  “How can you
be sure?”
“For the last few months I’ve been making my own Swords of Omens.  All
function about the same like the original but only recently was I able
to produce one that is entirely and exactly like Liono’s.”
“How did you do it?”  He spoke slowly, too slowly.  “I mean --”
Vultureman opened a metal door and revealed an enormous laboratory.
Along the walls were books and papers that though stocked in shelves was
still an assorted and a haphazard mess.  There was no continuity at all
but at the least there were no smells, no piles of straw anywhere, yet.
He showed Jackalman to a table where there were about ten objects.  Ten
Swords of Omens, each one at a different level of advancement.  He
picked up the first one, a wooden sword with an obnoxiously fake Eye of
Thundera.  “The first model.  Of course, this one can’t grow, but it has
“How?  Vultureman?  How?”
The avian cleared his throat to prepare for the lecture -- a small bone
flew out into the air to land painfully near the canine.
“The sword grows because it’s a perfect crystal.  The spacing between
the atoms changes on command.  That much was obvious from the start.
The other properties were a little more difficult at first but after
some thought the answers just came to me.  There’s a fourth dimension
and in it there’s a kind of collective mind, a consciousness, you might
call an ‘intelligence.’”
“Around us?”  Jackalman cowered over the ground in the middle of the
room, surrounded by nothing to hide under or to protect himself with.
He kept flailing his arms in the air like a baboon, like that would be
enough to ward away his perceived danger.  “Can we feel it?”
“I don’t know, maybe if a part of us was four dimensional but I don’t
know.  I do know that the fourth dimension is everywhere, only inches if
not closer to us but we are not aware of it.  The Sword,” Vultureman
paused to munch on a small rock that he swallowed whole, “of Omens is a
window into that other dimension.  Sight-beyond-sight is easy.  That
fourth dimensional ‘intelligence’ can see everything in our universe at
once and in all conceivable directions, view points, our insides, our
outsides.  Everything.  We can hide nothing from it.”
“Right through our clothes it can see?”  He put his hands over his
“Pay attention!  Liono ‘commands’ the sword and that ‘intelligence’
shows him what he wants to see.”
“How about how it flies through the air?”
“The ‘intelligence’ moves it in the fourth dimension.  The effects, no
doubt, are overwhelming.  The sword can appear, disappear and reappear
elsewhere instantly.”
Jackalman got up from the floor and waddled over to Vultureman.  The
avian put the strange box on the table for a moment then continued to
walk to the central part of the room.
“What about the blasts of energy the Sword of Omens produces?”
“I said it was a perfect crystal.  It can conduct vast amounts of energy
with no electromagnetic friction.”
Jackalman looked dumb, dumber than usual.
Vultureman rolled his eyes:  “That means that it doesn’t get hot
easily.  Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh.”  He was bored and he yawned.  Needing something to divert his
already fleeting attention he asked:  “What’s this box for anyway?”
“Be careful with that!  That’s how our fake Sword of Omens will
communicate with that fourth dimensional 'intelligence.'”
“So what do you want to do?”
“Tonight, when the Thundercats are all asleep in bed, we’re going to
break into Cat’s Lair and switch the swords.”
“Well, gee, that’s easier said than done.  Why shouldn’t the others be
“Those fools!  Forget about Monkian.  Slythe maybe, but he’s no
Ratar-O.  You’re the only one left I can trust.  When I get the Sword of
Omens --”
“Yes, Vultureman?”
The mutant bird was silent for a moment then he remembered the box.
“Hand me the box, I need to install here.”
He pulled back a heavy linen blanket and uncovered a machine so complex,
so mind-boggling that it hurt Jackalman’s eyes just to look at it.  It
seemed to him that various parts of the machinery would appear and then
disappear for no good reason.  He rubbed his eyes but the effect would
not go away.
“The box, Jackalman.”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
He picked up the item that was astonishingly heavier than what it should
have been.  He was still disoriented on top of that by the eerie effect
of Vultureman’s latest construction.  In the slight stupor of his mind
at the time he accidentally slipped on that flesh-stained bone the bird
had regurgitated.  He gave out a loud yell and he dropped the box.  The
pointy end landed conveniently on his big toe.
“Jackalman?  What have you done?”
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing, my foot’s, OK,” he said while he skillfully
held back the tears.
“I don’t care about your foot!  Is the box all right?”
“I think so.  It’s not making any noises.”
Jackalman stumbled the few paces that remained between him and
Vultureman.  He dragged the box on the floor all the way along.
“I told you to be careful.  If this box fails --”
He picked up the heavy object from the ground and shook it in his
hands.  He turned around and set it in place within a red mold that
appeared to be wet but no, it only shimmered in the light.  Jackalman
looked up to the ceiling of that lab for the first time.  There was what
at first appeared to be skylights but while he studied them closely he
realized that past the crystal clear glass was a long tunnel, a dark
tunnel from whose faraway opening sparse afternoon  light broke down,
managed to brake down through to the chamber he and his friend were in.
The ceiling was also adorned with dried-out rib cages, skulls, arms,
legs that hung suspended from bronze hooks.  “Trophies?” he asked aloud
but Vultureman gave no answer outside of a harsh and of a forced laugh.
“What will you do with the real Sword of Omens once we make the switch?”

“I’ll let you play with it if you’re a good boy.”
“I’m serious.”
He produced a remote control and a very authentic-looking reproduction
of the sword, then he spoke:  “When I press this red button the fake
sword will gain all the powers of the real sword.  With the remote I can
control both swords.  But it's only from here that the real damage can
be done.  Here I will slowly begin to lessen the powers of both swords
until, at the end, until at last we kill all the power all together and
separate the Eye of Thundera from that fourth dimensional ‘intelligence’
“Without the sword the Thundercats will be weak and defenseless."
Vultureman put his hands around Jackalman’s shoulders.  “Exactly.  We’ll
be able to pick them off, one by one, by one.”
“Wait, what about --” he began but suddenly he stopped, suddenly he
forgot what he intended to ask.  Odd, for it had bothered him from the
moment Vultureman had begun to explain how he duplicated the Sword’s
powers, odd, because at the time and even then the point his mind had
raised was quite important.
“What?  What?”
It was ironic that he had forgotten his fleeting, his fragmenting
thought because he did remember that his question was about something
Vultureman had himself forgotten.
“Oh, snap out of it.”  He handed the canine the fake sword then he
turned away.  He began to cough and once again he regurgitated -- a
beaten and a grinded stone, covered in blood and with little snippets of
flesh that clung to its roughly textured surface.

The climb down the unsturdy rope ladder was less eventful, perhaps, than
the climb up had been.  Jackalman wanted to make sure that Vultureman
was the first to descent.  For some reason he just did not want to be
under him.
“I don’t see why you complain all the time,” the avian cawed.  He was on
the terra-firma, he looked up at the other mutant who was still about
five feet off the ground.  “You can jump that, you don’t have to climb
down to the end.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?”
“No, the earth will open up and swallow you whole.”
“Too many rocks, Vultureman, I’m doomed to be pummeled.”
His friend was impatient but kept back from lecturing on cowardice for
time was wasting.
“It’ll be sun down soon, Jackalman, we must get to Cat’s Lair before
that happens.”
Before the canine could say something stupid the avian mutant grabbed
him by the arm and once again led him along the way.  Several feet from
the dangling rope ladder -- that bounced against the rocky cliff walls
noisily in the current of the strong breezes -- in and around the dense
underbrush, Vultureman revealed to Jackalman yet another one of his
latest inventions.
“A land cruiser,” Jackalman said.  “Genius.”
“What did you expect?  I created it.”
The mutants nodded.
Vultureman, because he was obviously more familiar with the vehicle,
rode up front while Jackalman slipped in the back.  The speeder only had
one seat -- so he had to half stand, half crouch with his arms around
his friend’s waist.
“I’m surprised you didn’t ask if this thing was safe.”
“Don’t worry, I trust you.”
“I’ve haven’t tested it yet.”
“You didn’t have to tell me that.”
“Let’s see what happens.”  Vultureman pushed a large button and unseen
engines came to life in torrents of low, of dull sputters.  The air was
filled the sounds of its internal mechanisms.  The vehicle vibrated.
“Well, it didn’t blow up, did it?”  He put his hands on the extreme ends
of the small steering wheel and with his firm grip he twisted the object
backwards.  Immediately the land cruiser sped backwards.
Too quickly for Jackalman but he knew better than to scream or to yell.
Not only would that accomplish nothing but be came to realize that it
would only encourage Vultureman to further frighten him.  Instead he
tightened his hold around his friend’s waist.
After a few yards of reversed motion Vultureman twisted his grip forward
and the vehicle moved to the intended target.  The speed was paced,
mostly due to Jackalman’s unverbal cues.  Yet even he could not control
the rises and the dips that had to be treaded along the way.
The most frightening part of all came toward the ending of the trip.
The sun, large and orange, was apparently only a few inches above the
jagged edge of the horizon.  Vast and elongated shadows snaked across
the land.  The sky was clear and devoid of any noticeable feature.  The
air was cold and blew hard against the faces of the mutants.
Jackalman saw it.  A hundred feet away the land was broken in a thin
crack that arched from one end of the horizon to the other.  The crack
was the opening to a deep canyon.  The canyon that passed in front and
under Cat’s Lair -- the back of which he could also see clearly.  He
yelled out once to stop but Vultureman continued undaunted.  If anything
he accelerated.  The cruiser approached at brake-neck speed, he wrapped
his arms so tightly that he was sure the avian could get no air in our
out of his lungs.  He felt his fingers start to tingle when the fear of
falling became unavoidable.  He almost lost his grip entirely.  He
closed his eyes just when the image of the edge of the canyon came
across under the vehicle.  Somehow he kept his mouth shut though every
impulse in his body impelled him to scream, to yell, to flail his arms
in the air in terror but the strong instincts of self-preservation that
all but guided what  others saw as his cowardice kept him check.
“You can look now,” spoke Vultureman.
Jackalman was surprised he could hear him above the roaring of the
engines.  He complied only slowly, slowly but then he realized that it
was true, the two had made it down the thousand foot drop not only in
seconds but unscaved as well.
His adrenaline rush subsided with pangs of hysterical giggles.
“How can you stand it?” he asked.
“Heights don’t bother me,” Vultureman said.
“Heights don’t bother me, either, it’s the falling part that unnerves
Vultureman laughed once then continued steering the land cruiser over
the sparse trickle of water that flowed over the rocks down in the
darkened canyon.  One sharp turned followed another but after what he
had just gone through, somehow the sudden and jerky movements of his
friend’s driving no longer bothered him.  A low mound loomed in the
distance far above them.  It was basked in the dying light of that day’s
sun.  Everything else was in shadow.
“We’re here,” Vultureman said.  He stopped the vehicle and stood up.
Jackalman was a little resistant or hesitant to let go of his grip
around his friend’s waist but when he realized where he was he darted
back and stepped onto the motionless ground, the dry ground along the
wide and imposing river that the meager and meaningless trickle of water
from before had grown into.
“So how do we get in?”
The two mutants looked up the side of the imposing cliff walls.  Up
above, the once blue sky had transformed into the blackest of night,
complete with stars and perhaps the suggestion of the moon somewhere.
The draw bridge that connected Cat’s Lair to the surrounding countryside
loomed fully extended overhead, a thousand feet overhead.
Along the cliff walls were the faintest outlines of windows and of
“Ducts,” Vultureman said.  “We'll get in through the ventilation ducts.
Do you want me to climb up first?”
He was about to say 'yes' but then stopped himself.  “No.  Just point me
to where you want to go and I’ll climb.”
“Good,” he pointed upwards, to where Jackalman could not entirely make
out but he nodded in agreement none the less.
“Here we go.”
At least the rocks were sturdy enough to grab at and to keep a sturdy
grip on.  Jackalman began quickly, almost too quickly.  He did not take
too much time to notice or to care about what path he took.  Vultureman
tried to warn him to keep a steady pace and to watch his direction but
once again that was better said than done.  It seemed to him that the
canine had purposefully disregarded his advice.
It was easier for him to climb the cliff walls.  His feet were more
accustomed and evolved for such a task than mammalian and unlike his
canine friend he was lighter in weight and not afraid of heights.  While
he ascended he did take the time to look down.  Vultureman saw nothing
more than foggy, vaporous abyss, devoid of even the most general
detail.  Had Jackalman seen it he would have gone nuts in the fear and
in the panic but when he looked down all he could think about was
whether or not he had turned the land cruiser's engine off.
After about ten minutes of scaling the two had managed to climb about
half of the elevation.  “What’s the matter, Jackalman?  Why did you
“I can’t find anywhere to go.”
“There are no rocks to grab?”
“Not exactly.”
“I’ll be right there.”
In about five seconds or so the avian was right next to him.  The moon,
the full, the harvest moon -- that they could see clearly hovered above
the horizon, over the tops of the trees of the nearby forests -- lit the
world below in its eerie, electrical glow.
“I see,” Vultureman said.  “The wall caves in a little.  That just means
you have to be careful.”  Jackalman panted in place, his muscles were
tense and were hard in a rigid hold almost a rigor mortis.  “Still
“I’m still here.”
“Do you want to rest for a while?”
He shook his head.
“Watch me, watch me closely.”  Vultureman held onto the rocks that lined
the lower boundary of the v-shaped inlet.  He lifted his right leg and
he jammed it into that oddly carved section of the cliff and with that
leverage he grabbed he maneuvered himself entirely into the inlet.  He
looked down onto his friend.  He extend an arm to him.  “Grab me.”
Jackalman raised his right arm in something like a slight jump.  He held
on to Vultureman's hand and attempted to copy his friend’s motions.
Instead he continued to climb like he had done earlier only more
pathetically, only more clumsily.  It was a wonder that neither he nor
he and the bird-man tumbled down into oblivion but at the end he did
make it to the ledge of that inlet.
The two mutants stood safely beside each other.
“That could have been worse, I suppose.”
“Look,” Vultureman pointed up to the left.
Just up above them, jetting out of the flat, vertical cliff wall was a
large, square-shaped opening.
“Yes!  And you said to be careful!”
“Not too loudly, we don’t know to where that duct leads to.”
“But there’s a cover over it.”
“Slide to it, slide under it.”
The two were once again reluctantly cautious.  Jackalman was the first
to arrive, Vultureman was immediately to his right.  Together the
mutants climbed up yet a little bit more.  The canine reached up and
grabbed at the inner grating of the ventilation opening.  He jostled it
around in an echoing cacophony of loud, of alarming sounds that surely
would have given away their presence.  The avian tried to stop that but
it was no use and perhaps he had reacted too quickly for the canine drew
his arm back in a swift jerk and behind a metal grid fell into the air,
onto the depths below.
“I’ll go in first,” Jackalman said and without hesitation he jumped up
and reach up with both hands the lower protrusion of the jetting pipe.
For a few moments he dangled in the air like that with nothing under his
feet to protect him from the fall.  His legs flailed violently until he
hit the side of cliff wall where his feet gave him enough leverage to
lift himself further and to crawl into the air duct.  There was silence
for a while and then he poked his head down.  Vultureman looked odd
upside down.  “The path is clear,” he said.
“I’m going up.”
Vultureman followed exactly his friend's actions only to perfection.  In
one swift movement he had his fingers on the edge of the opening.
Jackalman got hold of his arms above the elbows and tried to lift him up
just a tad.  Vultureman had enough leverage merely by his lesser body
weight to make it on his own but with his friend's help he was in the
dark tunnel without batting an eyelid.
Sitting in the cramp tunnel the two paused momentarily for a bout of low
and of dull laughter.
“So we’re up, how will we get down?”
Vultureman got up suddenly and began to crawl his way into the recess of
the tunnel.  He stopped momentarily and looked behind.  The canine had
not budged.  “We’ll jump down.”
“Tell me you’re joking.”
“Hurry, we have to get to Liono.  Do you still have the fake sword on
“It’s still right around my shoulder.  Do you still have the remote
“Yes.  Now quickly and silently.  We’re in an air tunnel and if we’re
too loud the Thundercats might hear us.”

The tunnel got smaller and smaller still, it was thin and it was hard,
very hard for them to squeeze through.  No other openings, there were no
other openings and when the passage terminated in a dead end the mutants
were afraid that all their efforts had been in vain.  But then
Vultureman, quite by accident, looked up and noticed that the tunnel
turned from the easygoing horizontal to the all-impossible vertical.
He stood, up from the cramped, from the crouched position he was at and
with the sticky friction caused by his fingers and by his feet he began
to ascend through the interior of the new tunnel.
Jackalman was somewhat reserved, his palms were wet, not dry, not dry.
He waited until the avian was well enough away before he attempted to
climb.  His first efforts were pathetic, he kept falling back down, each
time ending up in a different and more awkward entangled position.  He
reached out with his arms diagonally from one corner to the other he
buried his hands into corners of the passage.  He put his feet on the
opposite diagonal.  He climbed by alternating which of the diagonals his
limbs were clung to.  He knew better than to look down and he felt that
if he did anything but keep his eyes up that he would never be able to
climb free of that horrible, claustrophobic place.
“There’s a opening up here, but I have to clear it out before we can go
through it.”
“Take your time, take your time.”
Jackalman continued his ascent until he was directly below Vultureman's
feet.  The bird mutant punched free a thin wire mesh and quickly darted
into the even smaller, even thinner, cramped passage.
When he was completely through Jackalman followed, only that it was
harder for him to ease his body into the opening.
“It’s like giving birth,” he said, “in reverse.”
“That’s right, you were hatched, weren’t you?  Then it’s like laying
eggs in reverse.”
“I see.”
“This is crazy, Vultureman, are you sure we couldn’t just come in
through the front doors?”
“Stop complaining and look for another opening.”
“To what?  If this pattern keeps up you’d have us crawl through a
“Don’t make me laugh.  The next opening should lead us into a room.”
“Oh, Vultureman?”
“There’s something I wanted to ask you, about the fake --”
“Keep your voice down.”
“I think I’ve found something here.  A grating to an adjacent tunnel.”
“Can you see anything through it?”
“It looks like a large room but it’s all dark.”
“Try it.”
Jackalman gently pried the covering loose from its secure position but
unfortunately his shaky hands caused the lid to fall to the floor of
that mysterious chamber.  The sound it made was quite alarming and
seemed to have caused a sudden stir in the room that was now open to
“Now you’ve done it,” said Vultureman.
“No, that sound didn't come from the room exactly, it came from
somewhere else, Vultureman, it was too distant.  I’m going in.”
For the first time he did something that was not difficult at all.  He
slid out, head first and fell down, head first, three feet to the metal
floor of that new room.  He got up, his legs were scratched though he
did not know or remember when that had happened.  He realized then he
was not in a room at al but in yet another tunnel -- taller and wider.
Vultureman appeared and his friend covered his beak to shut him up.  He
pointed up.  The ceiling of the tunnel was grated in a thick metal mesh
from which strong light poured down from above.  He started to whisper
but was caught off guard by the sounds that followed.
“What was that, Panthro?” a male voice asked.
“Must be the rats.”
“I thought you had fixed that problem.”
“I can’t control everything.  I’ll put more traps in latter, Tygra.”
“We have rats?” A thin, a sharp feminine voice added.
The remainder of the conversation was cast in murmurs until:  “I’ll take
a look.  WileyKat, hand me that flash light.”
“Over there,” Jackalman whispered.  The two mutants walked hurriedly on
tiptoe to the far end of the partially exposed passage where there was a
sharp turn into a covered and decent tunnel.  Just in time, too, for by
then Panthro stood over the metal grate of the ceiling moving the
flashlight around though it was a spot light.
“One of the smaller gratings came loose and fell.  I’ll have that fixed
“That was close,” Vultureman cawed.
The two friends continued to wander through that tunnel until they came
to heavy metal door.  Jackalman looked at Vultureman, both men were
stunned.  The canine pressed his ear up against the frame, he heard
nothing from behind the door.  Thinking that it would not hurt to try he
turned the door knob -- it turned all the way with a slightly audible
click and the door opened.  Slowly, slowly, he swung the door open just
to make sure that there was no one or nothing else behind it.
When it was completely ajar the two found themselves in the vast
basement of Cat’s Lair.  Vultureman let the door close just as slowly as
Jackalman had opened it.  Before them were thin columns of concrete.
Boxes, stacked and layered in large blocks, served not only as scenery
but as cover too.  They ducted below one of them and looked around some
more in relative safety.  Several yards in the distance was a bare,
metal staircase that led up to an open door from which light flooded
into the large chamber.
“Let’s get going.”
“Wait,” Vultureman held him back.
“WileyKit, come on, it’s almost time for bed!”  The oddly feminine voice
of the boy came from beyond the space of the open door.  His shadow
“Give me a moment, I’ve almost got the box, Kat.”
“Don’t take too long.”
“No, here it is.”  His sister stepped out from the darkness of the
basement.  She held a large container, hugged across in her arms.  “Come
down, I need help.”  Her brother flew down the stairs to her side where
he whispered something to her inaudibly to them.  He took one end of the
heavy, wooden crate and she held on to the other.  The twins then walked
up the steps and out the open door.
“We should have never put those games down here,” she said.
“That was your idea, that was your idea to clean up our room,” he
A few moments later the two were well out of view and the door at the
head of the metal stairs was closed shut.
“That was even closer.  I was ready to run out of here.”
“We can’t take any more chances, Jackalman, we must use our brains.”  He
looked at his friend.  “Or maybe just my brain.”
“Funny, you're a funny guy.”
“We want to get in and out without being detected.  We don’t want them
to suspect that there’s anything wrong with the Sword of Omens.”

The lights, on the other side of the door, were switched off and for a
few moments there was nothing but absolute darkness.  They had to wait
until their eyes adjusted before they made the next move.  They
approached the foot of the staircase and began to ascend but when they
had gotten only two or three steps up the door swung open with a loud
The outline of a form could be made out even under those conditions.
“I hear voices,” the dense male voice said, “I keep hearing voices.”
Then he closed the door shut and walked away.
The mutants breathed heavily in relief and continued their descent.
Jackalman sped to the far side of the door frame while Vultureman stood
at the nearer end.  He reached out for the knob and turned it until the
click sounded.  He tried to prolong the motion so that the obtuse noise
would somehow remain imperceptibly audible but there was no way to mask
the sound.  None the less the door was open to reveal a curved, interior
The mutants stepped forward with impunity.  To the left bright lights
and loud mechanical chatter came from what was obviously the garage.
Various voices echoed muffled within.  To the right the rest of the hall
evolved.  His heart beat tremendously fast and loudly but Jackalman took
the initiative.  While Vultureman was busy shutting the door behind them
he was already a good five yards into the bowels of Cat’s Lair.
The two walked with Jackalman in the lead.  The left side of the hall
was adorned with windows whose only views were those of the night sky.
Bright stars and traces of the galactic arm was spread out, was arched,
snaked across the clear and the infinite sky.  To the right the walls
were unadorned and featureless but for the regular pattern of the stone
At the far end a set of steps led up.  There did not seem to be an end
to it, no where to hide in it in case someone had decided to use it
too.  So they had to be swift, careful, so they dodged up on tiptoe.
The stairs came to an end in a vast chamber -- the lobby.
Overhead was an unfrilled chandelier that was not on, there was no light
on except for the faint glow that evolved from small fixtures that lined
the edge between the walls and the ceiling.  The farthest end from them
had two large doors with a crown of glass over the frame.  To their
sides were yet more stairs, yet more staircases.
“There’s no end to this labyrinth.”
“Up, we must go up.”
The two mutants walked into the body of the room and looked behind them
where there was a grand and a wide stairwell.  The grand stairwell was
open with a tall ceiling and everything everywhere was covered with the
smoothest, shiniest marble.  No one had to say it, they knew, they
knew.  The two sprinted across the expanse of that near-cavernous
lobby.  The place was cold and damp and a strange odor clung to air.
Vultureman seemed to be unaware of it but Jackalman was quick to
recognize it.  It was the smell of cleanness.
The thought from before came to him but because of the nature of the fix
that they were in he did not dare open his mouth to speak.  At the end
of those grand stairs they found themselves through a set of open,
double doors into a well-lit, cozy room.  The floor was rugged in a
thick Persian.  On the walls hung pictures and various drawings,
antiques from third-earth’s far and long remote past.  There were plush
leather chairs and there were carved wooden tables.  There were numerous
doors and passages and windings.  The ceiling was also tall and there
was something about it that was uncommonly unusual.
A rectangular section of the ceiling seemed to be, seemed not to be
connected to the rest.  A bronze metal chain dangled down from it.
Jackalman moved a table over under it and stood on it.  Even with the
added height he was still unable to reach the end of the chain.
Vultureman got up on the sturdy table next to him and lifted him up onto
his shoulders.  It was still not completely enough but with one last
heave the canine had managed to grab with a couple of fingers the very
tip of the chain.  He grabbed and he pulled down with all his weight.
That section of ceiling lowered, and lowered.  They were afraid they had
done something foolish and they scrambled from the area.  The
rectangular section of ceiling hung at a forty-five degree angle and
just then a set of internal, folded stairs flew out into the air.
  Jackalman dashed over to grab it before the heavy wooden structure
could fall and hit something noisily in the room to alarm the
Thundercats of their covert presence.  But the stairs were so heavy and
so forcefully did it fall that he could barely hold on and keep himself
from being dragged with it, under it.  With Vultureman’s help the foot
of that skeletal stair-construction landed on the floor without even the
slightest dud.  Indeed, one would have had to have been listening in
attentively on purpose to have heard what had happened.
“That must me Liono’s room up there,” Vultureman said.  “Go up and do
it.  Go up and switch the swords.  I'll stay down here to look out.”
The steps were sturdy and firm and unlike all those other times before
Jackalman had no problem ascending the nearly fifty foot height.  The
stairs ended in a small room whose floor sloped down but only
gradually.  He was able to scale that too with the greatest of ease.
A head of him was the open entrance to a bed chamber basked in blue
light.  There were no miscellaneous objects around on the floor to trip
on but he decided that he had to be very careful anyway.  He was in
dangerous territory after all.
Liono was on the bed, wrapped in shiny, silvery sheets that clung
closely to the very last contour of his body.  He snored loudly in the
throws of a dream -- he slept peacefully although every now and then his
body shook and quivered in the motions of his sleep.
On a stand next to the bed was the claw shield and before it was the
unextended Sword of Omens.  He held it up in his hands.  The Eye of
Thundera growled and opened a little.  He switched it with the fake one
in a swift movement and --
Liono sat up in bed and shouted “No!”
Jackalman hit the ground.  He remained silent and motionless.  He
stopped breathing.  He kept his eyes wide open.  He saw Liono up in bed
with his hands over his heart, his palpitating breathing was loud and
heavy.  It must have been an eternity but the Thundercat did eventually
fall back, down flat in bed but even then the canine did not budge an
inch for he knew that Liono was still awake, still muttering to himself
about, about, about what ever nightmare he had had that had terrified
him so.
Before he was sure that Liono was out cold Jackalman began to crawl on
his stomach not toward the open entrance where he had come from, but to
a door further down, away from the bed.  In the panic and in the
dysfunction of fear he left the real Sword of Omens behind on the floor
right under the stand with the claw shield and the fake sword.
Jackalman remained on the ground sure that the form of his body would be
adequately blocked from view by Liono’s own bed.
Every so often he stopped on the rug and looked to the right.  He could
see Liono’s bed, over it an oval window where more patches of starry
night broke through.  Of the actual bed he could see little past the
covered outline and form of the Thundercat’s feet.  Confident that we
was in the clear he hurried his movements until he hit the wall.
Though he made no noise that he was aware of, when he came to a stop he
heard a slight grunt come from Liono.  The youth tossed and turned
violently in the bed, until he was face down on the mattress.  He seemed
to punch the pillow softy or turn it over in some way such that his head
could fit comfortably in place.  Jackalman waited a while longer.  After
a few moments he lifted his arm and grabbed the door knob, turned it but
there was no click.  He turned it all the way without a click.  He swung
the door effortlessly though he had to maneuver quickly out of its way
or else it would have stopped when it hit his back.
Flat on his stomach he crawled into the hall and he let the door come
just close enough to look closed to the untrained observer.  Safe in the
hall he stood up and ran down the passage where he saw that there was a
set of stairs that led down.  He was in the large lobby from before,
Somewhat panicked he darted back up the grand staircase into that
strangely dormant, strangely posh room with the tall ceiling.  He ran in
but stopped short when he saw that Vultureman was not there.  He was
about to scream when he heard the extended, skeletal staircase groan for
someone climbed down its length.
It was Vultureman, the Sword of Omens was in his beak, that was when he
remembered that he had left the sword back in Liono’s room.
“I’m sorry, I forgot about that.”
“Silence.  Come on, we don’t have a moment to loose!”
The mutants ducked down the grand stairs.
“What about those stairs that lead into Liono’s room.  Should we just
leave it there like that?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
A light clicked on somewhere above in Cat’s Lair and that was followed
by voices.  And if that was not enough then from below, from the long
stairs below from whence they had ascended, from the basement the loud
and the imposing Panthro groaned and growled to himself.  There was no
place in the lobby to hide, no staircase to climb for cover.  All that
was left were the front doors.  Vultureman rammed it with the full force
of his body.  The sound of the crashing was more than alarming.
“What are you doing?”
“Come on!”
“Hey,” that stern voice spoke.  “Who's there?”  The words were followed
by rushed and by hasty running.
“Come with me before it’s too late.”
The two mutants dodged out of the brashly opened door.  At the same time
more and more lights turn on inside Cat’s Lair.  Outside in the open air
and to their collective horror they found that the bridge was no longer
extended across to the other side of the canyon.
“Grab on to me and don’t look down no matter what you do, do you
understand?”  Jackalman nodded.  “No you don’t, but just don’t let go.”
Above them the head of Cat’s Lair lit with red eyes and began to turn to
scan the area.  Vultureman took the remote control he had carried all
along and pressed the red button.  The sword that was draped over his
back reacted.  Jackalman was about to say something about it when
Vultureman took it and pointed it down into the darkened abyss.
“I saw Liono do this once.  There’s no reason it shouldn’t work for us
too now that we control the real Sword of Omens!”
Without prompt Jackalman grab him from behind with his arms around his
waist in a strong bear-hug.  “I saw him do it too.  What are you waiting
for?  Let’s go.”
Vultureman and hence Jackalman too jumped off the side of the cliff and
began to tumult headlong into the darkness.  The avian kept the sword
pointed down, kept pressing some buttons on the remote.  Nothing seemed
to be happening at first, in the first few moments.  But then hilt
altered in shape and in form and just like that the Eye of Thundera
opened too.  The swift fall began to slow and to slow until at last it
had come to a complete stop only inches above the waters.
With the press yet another button and the mutants fell into the swift
river.  The two swam to the parallel shore where the speeder remained
unmolested.  Vultureman reached it first, Jackalman was on his tail. He
gave the canine the sword to hold while he examined the vehicle.
“Yes, I did turn the engine off.”
“So let’s go.”

No one, nothing had followed them on their trek from Cat’s Lair back to
Vultureman’s nest.  When the two arrived at the bushes around the cliff
side the mutants found the hanging, swinging stepladder still there.
Still there, unaltered.
The avian re-covered the vehicle in the dense underbrush while Jackalman
began to ascend up the side of the cliff without the need for the
ladder.  Vultureman climbed up quickly past him, also without the aid of
the ladder.  He waited patiently for his friend to arrive in the dark
oval chamber.
“I don’t think that it was safe for you to do that, Jackalman.”
“I’ll decide what’s safe.” He stood up in the shadowed and darkened
alcove carved into the wall of the cliff.  “So now that we have the
sword --”
“No thanks to you.”
“What do you mean?  ‘No thanks to you’?  I went up there into Liono’s
room, I switched the swords.”
“No you didn’t, you left the fake sword on the floor.”
“No, I switched them, I left the real sword on the floor in panic when
Liono awoke suddenly.”
Vultureman darted back in a stunned silence, his eyes wide open.
“Vultureman?  What have you done?”
“No!”  He ran to the interior, into the large laboratory with the
strange, multidimensional contraption.  “No!”  He kept yelling.
Jackalman had followed him all the way to the end where he saw him over
the box.
“It’s true!  After all we did tonight, after all that, to think that it
was I who messed up all along!”  He looked at Jackalman who he only then
realized was in the room.  “When you took too long I climbed up the
stairs into Liono’s room.  He was tossing and turning but in his dream.
He was not awake, not really awake.  I found the sword on the floor and
the door to his room open a little.  I figured that you had failed so I
picked the sword up from the floor and switched it with the one in the
claw shield.  This is the fake Sword of Omens!”  He threw the impostor
into the air where it landed with a loud clang against a tall rack of
miscellaneous parts.
The machine Vultureman leaned up against began to fume.
“Our fall down the canyon must have overloaded it.  Will it explode?”
The machine began to vibrate uncontrollably.  Parts started to fly out
everywhere like bullets, like projectiles.  Vultureman scrambled to his
feet and ran to a door in the back of the lab.  The door was craftily
hidden to look like nothing more than an innocent bookshelf.
“Come on, we don’t have much time!”
Jackalman ran out first ahead of his friend.  The two were in a wide
cavern that slanted up in the distance where the opening let in the cold
night air along with some magnificent night time views.
“It was the box, I think, the box that I dropped on my toe.”
“Oh, what does it matter?”  Vultureman ran next to his friend.  “You’re
not exhausted yet?”
“When I get home I’m going to sleep for two years.”
“When this is done and over with I’m going to have to bunk with you
until I find a new place.”
The sound of the explosion from behind was deafening and if that was not
enough a great blast of fire shot up from behind them to lick, and to
singe their flesh and engulf the cavern in its terrorizing, in its
bedazzling light.
“Only if you plan to wear diapers.”
“Now what was that supposed to mean, Jackal?”
“I mean I don’t appreciate --”
“I’ll strangle the life out of you, mutant!”
They reached the end of the cavern with their lives.
“That was close, Vultureman, too close.”
“It’s been like that all day, hasn’t it?”
“Like someone wants us to come out of this alive or something.”
“I hear you.”
“I didn’t mean what I said --”
“No, I understand, but I can’t help that, you know better.”
Sprawled before them was the open countryside, a vast wilderness of
unkept and of dense forestry.  Life in all forms called in the
distance.  A slight waterfall sprayed cold, refreshing mist into the
Together the two friends walked through the wilderness.
“That was quite an adventure we had, wasn’t it?”  Vultureman nodded.
“Oh, and I just remembered that question that’s bothered me --”
“What question?”
“The fake swords you made, could they signal the Thundercats?  Like the
way the real one can, with that red image in the sky and all?”
Vultureman stopped.  He slapped his forehead with the flat palms of both
his hands.
“I guess not.”
“I totally forgot that!  I completely forgot that!"
"You know for the smart one you weren't too bright we're you."
The vulture shook his fists in the air and was almost about to strike
but held back, held back and continued on the trek in somber and
respectful silence.

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