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The Two Faces of Evil - Runaway Circus on a Dead End Track
By Demonprist



The first thing Aluro thought when he laid eyes on a giant-sized Luna
was that she too had generously helped herself to something from General
Kembri's bag of genetic tricks.

The second thing he thought was, I'm going to kill her!

Luna, in the process of ordering Red Eye and Tug-Mug to relieve the
frozen Burton and Gerdu of any other weapons they might have hidden on
their persons, paused mid-screech to berate him for not doing the same
with Tradyk. "Think you can do something besides stand there and look
pretty, Aluro? Help Amok check him--" she waved a hand at the
unconscious Thunderian, whose pockets were being rummaged not so neatly
through by her stupidly loyal beast of burden--"If he has so much as a
nail clipper on him I want it removed."

"Just what in the moons of Plun-Darr do you think you're doing?
Tradyk--"

"--Is dead weight," she cut him off. Her eyes pinned his with a deadly
green glare. "Watch your step, Aluro. I'm in charge of this outfit now.
You do what I tell you or you'll wind up with worse than what I gave
him. And you," she barked at the whimpering Jackalman, who was sitting
cross-legged on the floor blubbering over his wounded leg, "shut up or
I'll really give you something to cry about!"

"But it HURTS!" wailed the Mutant.

"Whoo whoo, it's just a scratch, Jackalman," Monkian said after he'd had
a look at the injury. "The shot didn't even penetrate all the way
through."

"It still hurts!" griped Jackalman. "Look at this!" He pointed to the
two-inch-long furrow on his shin where Burton's shot had grazed flesh.
"I'm probably going to have to have Vultureman do surgery on it! Then
it'll get infected and I'll have to get an amputation because he can't
sew stitches to save his life!"

Vultureman, who up until that moment was sulking in a corner away from
the others, jumped into the war of words when his name was mentioned in
an unfavorable light. "Caaaawwww, why don't we just save you some
trouble and amputate right now?"

He snatched up the knife Gerdu had used when trying to eviscerate Tradyk
and was about to fling it at Jackalman when a hand clamped onto his
wrist. He squawked in self-righteous anger as Luna slowly squeezed the
bones until they were on the verge of popping. Vultureman was soon
forced to relinquish the knife once it became apparent that she would
much rather break his wrist than release it, and he did so with a scream
of pain before scampering back to his corner of the train cabin.

"I'd prefer to amputate your head, buzzard," Luna said with a wintry
smile. "Moon gods know it hasn't done you any good in your worthless
life."

"You . . . bitch!" Vultureman snarled, massaging his throbbing wrist.
"Caaaaww, I can't even feel my fingers anymore!" he complained as he
wiggled them.

Luna picked up the knife he'd dropped and stalked over to him. He opened
his beak to get in another insult but she belted him in the stomach and
slammed him up against the wall by his throat. "You're not the one who's
running the show. I am," she hissed, taking the knife and scraping his
lower jaw with the sharp edge, pressing hard enough to leave small
indentations in his beak. He panted and clawed at her sinewy arms to no
avail. Luna's grip was as strong as steel and she had no intention of
letting him go until she'd made her point--physically if not
figuratively.

She drew closer so that her nose was but an inch away from his beak.
"This is your last warning, Vultureman. Shut up and put up. I'm sick of
your squawking."

Having neither the will nor the ability to press his cause further at
the moment, Vultureman was only able to glare back at her with a hatred
at least as intense as that of Aluro's when the Lunatak had found
himself on the receiving end of a Pepper Spike. Satisfied that he could
do no more harm Luna let go of his scrawny neck and he dropped like a
millstone to the floor.

She sheathed the knife in her belt and turned to address the others.
"That goes for the rest of you. I will command and you will obey.
Anybody who has a problem with that will join these two clowns."

Then, in a demonstration that needed no further explanation, Luna hit
the door lock on the train cabin's exit, releasing it and allowing her
to open the door, through which Amok at her direction promptly dumped
icicle twins Gerdu and Burton out into the great wide open below.

"Bad guys go bye-bye," Amok grunted happily.

"That's right, Amok. So will anybody else who gives us trouble." Luna
smiled with saccharine affection at the great white beast and directed
her next words at a stunned Red Eye. "Log into the train's flight plan
and execute a file operative called 'Cats' Lair.'"

Red Eye blinked several times in surprise, but did as he was told,
figuring he could ask questions later when his boss's wrath had subsided
and it was safer to broach the subject of her instantaneous
transformation.

Aluro was just as surprised by her choice of destinations but not as
willing to exercise diplomatic tact. "According to Tradyk, we were going
there anyway. What gives with the hijacking?"

"None of your business," a humorless Luna snapped.

"Seeing as how we're on the lam and in a load of Plun-Darrian garbage,
that makes it my business," Aluro said coldly. "We can't be deviating
from our original plan. It's too risky."

"Call it a last-minute change."

"What?" Aluro looked to the rest of his countrymen to see whether they
were in on the scheme, but they appeared just as baffled by her irksome
ambiguity as he was. "Luna, if this is some kind of joke, it isn't
funny. Tradyk said we were to go straight to the Thundercats. No messing
around."

"Keep your pants on, Aluro. We'll get to those smarmy felines soon
enough and then you can spend all the time you like playing tattletale."

"But they're the enemy!" Jackalman protested. "They're the ones who
sicced IPCF on us in the first place!"

"I know that, dog!"

"Then why are you dragging us from one frying pan to another, yes-s-s?"
Slithe piped up from his place.

Princess Harpy straightened from her crouch over the train's control
panels and faced the Mutants with an imperial glare that would have done
her grandmother proud. "The Thundercats have access to Calis properties
that we can take advantage of if we play our cards right. The Cats' Lair
mainframe has a direct hookup with the police headquarters there."

"So? Messing with IPCF's systems will only alert them to our presence.
That's the last thing we need," grumbled Red Eye.

"They won't know that we're in the system until it's too late," Luna
said. She sent a haughty look Aluro's way. "You want to know what was in
my bag?"

"I have a feeling I'm looking at it," he muttered.

As usual she ignored him in favor of promoting her personal agenda. "I
wormed Kembri's IPCF access codes out of him today. All it took was a
little manipulation," she laughed slyly. "Feminine wiles . . . I guess
even secluded Thunderian scientists are ruled by their heads. If you
know what I mean," she cackled.

"Impossible. Kembri's not stupid. He'd never leave important codes lying
around unguarded," Aluro countered.

"He didn't leave them unguarded. He gave them to us."

Bewildered murmurs passed through the group. Luna reveled in her moment
of glory. "No doubt you all are wondering how I managed my instant
transformation."

"The thought did cross our minds," Chilla rasped sarcastically.

"Kembri whipped up a genetic potion that drastically altered your
physical form," Aluro guessed. "What did you give him in return for
becoming Princess Luna again? Somehow I can't see you two doing the
horizontal twister." He winced inwardly at the idea of Luna actually
having sex. Not that he wouldn't have put it past her to whore for
something if she wanted it badly enough. It was just the principle--or
lack thereof--of the whole thing.

"You can't get something for nothing," Luna agreed. "We have to do
Kembri a little favor, that's all. Then we're in the clear."

"Hold it, hold it," Tug-Mug ordered. "There's no such thing as a
'little' favor."

"What did you promise that fascist?" Aluro demanded.

"Boys, boys," Luna said with a casual wave of her hands. "Settle down.
It's no big deal. All we have to do is break into Cats' Lair and plug
into the Calis computers so that Kembri can download what he needs from
IPCF. There won't be a problem with this because with certain of our
capabilities--" here she smiled meaningfully at Chilla--"the Thundercats
that are on duty inside the lair can be neutralized, and the
installation of the link completed without any bass-ackward Mutant
fiddling." Several indignant huffs from Vultureman and Slithe rounded
out her last comment.

"How do you expect to log into IPCF's Calis connection? We have their
firewalls to bypass. If we can't do that then we might as well save
ourselves a load of grief and call them up and ask to be arrested."
Aluro folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the wall,
waiting for her to refute that one.

Luna smirked self-satisfactorily. "You got us our ticket to freedom
courtesy of Tradyk," she said, casting a disinterested eye at the downed
man, who was beginning to come about. "All the IPCF codes are on that
disc he gave you."

All eyes settled on Aluro, who uneasily sensed that he was being set up
as a pawn somehow and did not like it one bit. It made him feel as
though a phantom menace was prowling the hallways of his mind, always
one step ahead of his thoughts. He prided himself on his whip-smart
intelligence and found the idea of such an omniscient enemy not only
intolerable but sorely unsettling as well. "That disc is what will save
us from being blasted at first sight by the Thundercats. Tradyk needs to
be able to prove that Genvironment exists so they can't wipe us out of
the way. Didn't you listen to what I was trying to tell you?"

"From whom do you think Tradyk got his information?" Luna laughed
harshly. "He may have thought he was bringing along insurance against a
hit, but I'm sure it was a simple matter for Byron to switch the caches
so that we could get those codes."

"Oh, so now it's 'Byron'?" Chilla sneered. "You slut. Not even a lowlife
Thunderian would be dumb enough to trade secrets for sex."

"Jealous because I can get a man and you can't, honey?"

"I can get one any time I want, you cheap overbuilt pump!"

While the women traded epithets Aluro knelt to help the moaning Tradyk
sit up. If his stomach could have sunk any lower it would have been
lying beneath the bottoms of his feet now. He was stunned by the sheer
deviousness with which Luna had used to lay out her separate plans. "I
can't believe you would bargain away our lives like that," he said at
length.

"I didn't," Luna grinned. "That's the beauty of this plan. We lose
absolutely nothing."

"Don't you see? Kembri now has a sword hanging over our heads!" Aluro
cried. "What's to stop him from turning in an anonymous report of
fugitives in the northern sector of Third Earth? If we're caught with
IPCF access codes it'll mean life terms for all of us! You've just given
Genvironment the means to execute us! That's what Tradyk was trying to
warn us about!"

"You're overreacting, Aluro. Kembri has no reason to harm us. I tricked
him into this deal. We do him a favor, he's happy, he lets us go our way
with no one the wiser."

"You're the one who was tricked, Luna!" he retorted, jumping to his
feet. "Kembri has every reason to kill us. We know about his underground
project. We were there right in the middle of Genvironment. We saw the
evidence, for gods' sakes!"

"What's goin' on?" Tradyk slurred, blinking his eyes to ward off the
dizziness from his unconscious spell. He quickly became aware of the
brewing strife and struggled to rise. "What in the name of all the
ancients are you people arguing about? What happened?"

"Not much, Luna's just shafted us royally, that's all," Aluro snapped,
not taking his boiling gaze from Luna's remorseless smirk. How he itched
to smash his fist right between her plush red lips!

"What?" Tradyk realized all was not as it should be. Luna had not been
the size of a skyscraper the last time he'd laid eyes upon her. "She got
into one of Kembri's formulas, didn't she?" he asked of no one in
particular, and the ensuing silence plus Luna's arrogant grin confirmed
his fears. "How could you be so foolish? Selling your very soul? Do you
have any idea what you've done?" Tradyk yelled. Weakly he sagged against
the wall in disbelief as he saw in his mind's eye their escape plans
crumbling around their heads like centuries-old asbestos.

"Watch who you're calling a fool, little man," Luna said, cracking her
knuckles as an implication of violence if she was provoked. "I sell
nothing to no one. Princess Luna takes what is rightfully hers."

"And in doing so you've condemned the rest of us! Thanks for nothing,
Luna!" Chilla snarled.

Aluro picked up where he'd left off on his rant. "Tradyk was supposed to
have helped us track down the Thundercats so that we could get their
protection from an assassination attempt. He would have given them the
disc with all the Genvironment information--"

"A phony disc, you mean," Tug-Mug put in.

"--He would have given them that disc so that they had enough evidence
to get IPCF involved to arrest Kembri and his crew and shut down
Genvironment permanently. You've ruined everything! You stupid,
selfish--" Aluro broke off for a second and then cursed her in the most
vulgar lunarian slang he could think of.

Luna's gloating smile withered and vanished in the scorching heat of her
acidic glare. "How dare you!"

"Once we're in prison, Kembri can send in his moles to eliminate us.
Then he'll turn on the Thundercats. No leaks, no evidence, no one the
wiser. They'll chalk it up to another case of interplanetary feuding and
forget all about it until the next time that Emanon demon kills
somebody. And any witnesses to that monstrosity will likely die as well!
It's weed control on a universal scale. If you don't hit these people at
their roots they'll only grow back worse the second time around!"

Aluro stopped to catch his breath. Words could not begin to describe the
depth of his contempt for Luna at this very moment. He tried to launch
into another verbal tirade against her, but he was so furious that his
voice failed him. Perhaps it was just as well, for he realized that
nothing he said would convince her that they were in real danger. She
was too wrapped up in her outlandish self-delusions to listen to reason.

Even so, she was a formidable opponent not to be antagonized lightly,
now more so than ever because of the physical metamorphosis she had
undergone behind everyone's backs. Aluro was in fairly good shape for a
lunarian his age, but Luna's growth spurt and supercharged musculature
put him at a distinct disadvantage. If she chose to challenge him, she
could probably pound him into the ground without breaking a sweat.
Still, he was fueled with righteous fury at the callous way she had
threatened everyone's safety with nary a thought for the consequences,
so surely that had to count for something. He steeled himself for the
inevitable confrontation.

Luna didn't hesitate. She rushed at him and swung a hard right at his
head. Aluro saw the blow coming in time and was able to duck, but he
failed to take into consideration that her knee was rising at almost the
same time her fist was flying through empty air. He missed chewing on a
mouthful of bone but his stomach took the blow, and he gagged on sour
bile as she dug her knee as hard as she could into his gut. He went
down, rolled onto his side to try and get up, but a hailstorm of
purple-and-white hair slammed into him and pinned him flat on his back.

In desperation Aluro raked his nails across her face and was rewarded
with a cry of pain. The crushing pressure on his chest abated for only a
second as Luna reared back to protect herself from further damage, but
it was all the window of opportunity Aluro needed to twist his body
sideways and throw her off balance. She tumbled off him and landed on
her backside; leaping to her feet with a snarl she charged headlong into
him. They both went cartwheeling across the floor and came to smack
against the portside wall where they immediately went at it again,
kicking and punching and cursing each other out with as much strength as
each could manage.

The rest of the group looked on, unsure of whether or not to interfere.
It was more than a battle of physical supremacy; this was a contest of
wills, and whoever was left standing would indisputably hold the mantle
of leadership once and for all. The Mutants did what they always did
when their superiors squabbled: they made themselves scarce, hiding
behind or close by Bragg's sleeping quarters in the back of the circus
train's cabin as they awaited the outcome in hopes of exploiting it to
their purposes. The Lunataks were used to Luna's calling the shots
regardless of her size, and therefore refrained from entering the fight
out of a sense of spectator habit. Chilla, however, did not feel she
owed any particular loyalty to the elder Lunatak, especially now that
she, like Aluro, had been made aware of the dire straits of their
situation and felt equally betrayed by Luna's behind-the-scenes
manipulation. She unleashed a blast of arctic air that headed for the
fighters and would have frozen both of them solid had Aluro not suddenly
dealt Luna a karate chop to the throat that made her reel backwards as
she clutched her neck, wheezing for breath. The gust of ice blew past
the other Lunatak and froze a cabinet instead.

In the meantime Amok had chosen to enter the fray. Not because he agreed
with Chilla about the danger inherent--Amok's brain was not nearly
developed enough to even begin comprehending such complex thoughts--but
because disharmony was king right now. Amok did not like disharmony,
which in the simplest terms could be gauged by Luna's happiness. If Luna
wasn't happy, Amok wasn't happy, and everyone else's attitude was quick
to nosedive. Amok was happiest when there was peace amongst his fellow
Lunataks and Luna wasn't yelling at anybody. That was why, in the time
it took for Aluro to rant at Luna and for Luna to initiate a fistfight
with him, Amok decided that he ought to separate the combatants before
either one was seriously hurt. He lumbered behind Aluro and grabbed him
in one immense paw but tightened his grip only minimally, a
not-so-subtle suggestion to lay off.

Coughing, rasping, Luna picked herself up from the floor. She spat in
her fist and rubbed both hands together, clenching one in preparation
for a knockout blow. "Good boy, Amok! Now hold that balding bastard
still while I give him a mind-bending he won't soon forget," she laughed
nastily.

Amok gently warded her off with his free hand. "No, no, Luna," he
protested. "Not beat up Aluro."

"He's got it coming! Get out of the way, Amok!" she growled as she tried
in vain to strike at her target.

"Don't let her do it, Amok!" argued Aluro. "Remember what happened the
last time Luna got bigger and looked like she does now? She dumped you!
She'll do it again after she's taken care of me!"

That made Amok pause. Although his memory was nowhere near to being as
detailed and historically accurate as an average encyclopedia, well did
he recall his treatment after Luna's first brush with 'growing up.'
"Luna not nice to Amok when she big," he rumbled thoughtfully.

Aluro pressed his case. "Maybe she'll throw you out the door just like
she told you to do with those guards."

"Don't listen to him, Amok! I need you! We're a team, remember? I
apologized to you before. That's all in the past. I wouldn't do that to
you!" Luna raged.

"Set him free, Amok!" hissed Chilla.

"Let Aluro go," agreed Red Eye.

"Yeah, let him go, ya big lug!" seconded Tug-Mug.

"Ignore them, Amok!"

Amok hovered indecisively over Aluro as he silently weighed his two
options. Amok is happy when Luna is happy. Amok wants to make Luna
happy. Luna wants to hurt Aluro because Luna is happy when she hurts
Aluro . . . but Luna is also happy when she hurts Amok by getting rid of
him . . .

Trembling uncontrollably in the prison of a granite fist, Aluro prayed
that the behemoth would learn from past mistakes and make the right
choice. Being squished to a pulp in front of everyone was no less a
painful death than whatever General Kembri had had planned.

"Amok let Aluro go. No fight anybody," the giant said at last, releasing
his captive.

It was good news for the Lunataks but not necessarily so for Aluro, who
in his haste to scramble for freedom had unintentionally wandered within
Luna's vengeful reach. She flew at him the moment her steed disobeyed
her order.

"Look out!" yelled Tradyk.

Aluro spun to confront the danger and saw a blur of silver glinting like
white lightning a moment before he felt its pain slicing a fiery streak
along the length of his forearm. He roared with anger and lashed back,
delivering a brutal blow to her arm that forced her to drop the knife
she'd been carrying. An injured, screaming Luna cradled her stricken
limb and lunged yet again at the hypnotist, determined to inflict some
punishment of her own.

Seeing that there wasn't going to be an end to this fight until one of
them was permanently downed Aluro swallowed his initial disgust at
having to engage in more lowbrow battle tactics. He put all his strength
into a roundhouse kick that slammed into the side of Luna's face and
snapped her head back so hard he feared that he'd broken her neck. When
she crumpled in a heaving mess to the floor and lay rolling, squalling
like a stuck Mutant, he knew that was not the case. She clawed her way
into an upright position and for a few heart-pounding seconds he thought
that she was going to try for another attack, but instead she began to
troll the room like a listing galleon, groaning with the effort.

Now that they had a chance to figure out how to extricate themselves
from this whopping mess Aluro seized the reigns of leadership. "Stay
put!" he angrily ordered Luna, who looked up at him with a glare that
would have vaporized Kembri himself on the spot.

Bleeding from his cut arm and trying not to get any more stains on his
clothing than was absolutely possible he stormed over to Red Eye, who
was manning the control board. "Land this thing right now."

"But--"

"Do it!"

Perplexed, Red Eye nonetheless began flipping switches and pressing
buttons. But for every keystroke he made on the control panel he was
rewarded with a series of shrill tones instead of the cessation of train
engines. "It's not responding," he finally said to Aluro.

"What?"

"The train isn't responding. I'm locked out of all manual controls."

Luna again, no doubt about it. Aluro's eyes narrowed dangerously as he
spun around to face her. "Why aren't we landing?" he demanded.

"Wouldn't you like to know," she coughed, wiping away a river of blood
from her nose where he'd struck her.

Aluro's mouth tightened. Fine, if that was how she wanted to play it,
he'd oblige her. He went over to her and hauled her up by a handful of
purple hair to face him. "I want to know what you did to shut off the
train's controls. I want to know right now!" he yelled, shaking her as
hard as he could for emphasis.

By the tone of his voice Luna must have realized he was deadly serious,
because she didn't try to snow him with any more of her garbage. "I
didn't do anything. Kembri did--or rather, he had one of his people do
it."

"Kembri ordered his people to rig the controls?"

"He thought you pansies would try to pull a stunt like this," she hissed
with some of her familiar surliness. "He had his crew do a complete
makeover on the piloting system."

"Then the circus train won't respond to any commands via manual
transmission," Tradyk said, gingerly rubbing the bump on the back of his
head. "It probably requires a password-secured operative, a
preprogrammed flight plan."

Aluro glanced at Red Eye, but the Lunatak, who had already done a
once-over scan of the controls with his unique vision, shook his head
before the question could be formed. "Forget it. It would take me a
month just to rewire the communications connections alone. Whoever
worked on this control panel did a thorough job on it."

A white-out. How very clever, Aluro thought with increased vexation.
Block all outgoing communications from the train so that nobody could
call for help. "Why does Luna's . . . Kembri's . . . file have the same
navigational coordinates as our intended destination?" Something clicked
in his mind even as he spoke. A weighty sense of impending trouble
clenched his heart in a crushing grip and he struggled to call forth
enlightenment. "Kembri didn't want us straying from the beaten path . .
. yet he only sent two guards with us . . ."

Chilla put her thoughts into words as she tried to help him come to that
illumination. "With a group as large as ours he figured that lax
security wouldn't matter--"

"--Since they wouldn't be coming back," finished an ashen Loen Tradyk in
muted tones.

Everyone stared at him.

Good gods, is he saying what I think he's saying? Aluro wondered as the
premonition of doom pressed its barbed spikes deeper into the marrow of
his bones. He clutched at his wounded arm and grimaced at the warm
stream of blood oozing from it. "Tradyk, are you saying that Kembri
purposely put a bug in the navigation system? Something that would cause
the train to crash?"

"No, I don't think so," Tradyk answered, biting his lower lip nervously.
"He'd have had to install a timer to set off such an operative. He'd
have had to fix it so that the train went down in such a manner so as to
make it appear a simple computer malfunction."

"An accident," mused Red Eye from the driver's seat. "Seems a little too
tidy to me if he's planning to get rid of us."

>From the back of the cabin Slithe joined the conversation with his own
blunt theory. "What about a bomb hidden somewhere on the train,
yes-s-s?"

"Why bother when he was sending us to the lair with the IPCF access
codes in the first place?" Aluro wondered aloud as he slowly paced the
length of the room. "He wouldn't destroy us until after we'd
accomplished his goals . . ." He trailed off as an instant flash of
horrible awareness broadsided him.

He dug into his pockets and rifled through them until he came up with
the diamond case that contained the false information disc. Doing his
best not to contaminate it with blood he popped the lid on the case and
flipped the tiny disc into Red Eye's outstretched palm. "There's got to
be someplace else on this train where we can run a separate program.
Find it," he urged as Red Eye accepted the disc with a nod.

Tradyk glared at Luna with a mixture of disgust and pity. "I hope you're
happy with yourself, madam. You've sentenced us to death as a result of
your meddling."

She razed him with an unyielding sneer. "What's it to you, hairball? My
family doesn't sit and wait for fortune to come to us. My grandmother
didn't take no for an answer and neither do I. I wasn't about to be
plopped into another underground base and babysat like an infant!"

"I highly doubt that Kembri had ever intended to transfer his visitors
to a new Genvironment post," Tradyk said. "If you people were considered
a distraction at the main base, you'd have been just as much of a
nuisance at another spot. He wants you dead because you've seen what no
outsider was meant to see. Take it from someone who knows, too much
information is hazardous to your health," he said with a
self-deprecating bitterness.

"There's no secondary drive to run the disc on," Red Eye interrupted,
turning the group's attention back to the control boards.

Aluro motioned for him to put the disc back in its diamond case. "Great.
Now what?" he asked, looking to Tradyk for suggestions as he stuffed the
small container back into his pocket.

The scientist pondered that question with a good deal of anxiety. They
were, for all intents and purposes, stranded in midair with no way to
call for help and bound for a certain rendezvous with danger. That left
them with evacuation, the only possible option at this point. But how
could they get off the circus train without getting killed? They were
too far from the ground to make a jump for it . . .

"You there," he said to Chilla at length. "How good is that icy breath
of yours?"

Chilla scowled. "What do you mean?"

"Would it be possible for you to make a large sheet of ice that we could
slide down if it was attached to the back of the train?"

The ice Lunatak's pretty face strained at the idea. "I don't know . . .
at full strength my ice is plenty thick, but in high winds, at this
altitude, it could shatter and we'd fall to death. And I don't even know
if I have enough breath to form a slide as long as the one you're
envisioning."

"If we don't get off this train death is a certainty. Now is as good a
time as any to find out," Aluro told her somberly.

"Too bad I don't have my gravity carbine," Tug Mug pouted. "We could've
floated to earth."

"No time for regrets," Tradyk said. "We're probably already halfway to
Cats' Lair. Tie Luna up and let's get to work."

"WHAT?" was Luna's outraged howl.

Red Eye approached her with a double set of iron cuffs that he'd
pilfered from one of the Genvironment guards and an unpleasant smile.
"We could just leave you on this train to take the heat when it touches
down."

"Much as I'd love to, we can't," Tradyk said. "She's a security risk.
Kembri's people might interrogate her to learn what happened to the rest
of us before they kill her. We have to put as much distance as possible
between Genvironment and us. The less we leave for them to work with the
better."

"I don't have a problem with that. Her being killed, that is," Chilla
said snidely as she helped Aluro bind up his slashed arm with some
material she'd torn from a chair cushion. "She'd have done it to us in a
heartbeat."

Luna turned a shade of purple darker than her normal coloring. "You
frigid no-good bitch! If I go down I'm taking you with me!" she
sputtered as she pushed past Red Eye and charged with nails poised for
battle.

"Dammit, Luna, we don't have time for petty--argh!" Aluro had stepped in
front of Chilla to keep the two from starting another catfight and took
the brunt of Luna's weight when she crashed into him. They both fell
across the switchboard panel and for once Aluro was grateful for
Kembri's thugs' tampering with it; otherwise a disaster could have
resulted from all the smacking and tripping of controls.

Chilla was not to be put off in her quest for revenge. She went after
Luna with the full intent of pummeling her in retaliation for causing
them such grief, and suddenly Aluro had two kicking, clawing, shrieking
banshees on his hands. Blindly he stuck his uninjured arm into the fury
and wound his fingers around a tangle of (white?) hair. He pulled one
woman away from the other while beating a fast retreat towards the back
of the cabin--no easy feat because the two were still trying to get at
each other, to slash and maim the other's opponent any way they could.

Tradyk, Amok, and Red Eye surrounded them before the fight could
reconvene; the Thunderian helped Aluro to subdue Chilla while Amok and
Red Eye tried to block Luna from attacking again. Red Eye struggled to
pin her by the arms against his massive chest. He succeeded in anchoring
only one arm, which left her with a free hand that she instantly used to
claw his face as she whirled around. Terrified that her wickedly curved
talons might destroy his sight, Red Eye all but flung her away from him
hoping that Amok would be able to capture her. Though it was true that
Amok could move fast when he was needed to, it was also true that he,
with all his bulk, was not as fast as when responding to a situation
that demanded instant reaction and speedy reflexes. He stood on his hind
feet and spread his broad arms wide but Luna, being the smaller and
quicker of them, scooted underneath his right armpit and headed straight
for Chilla.

"I'm gonna teach you to mess with Princess Luna, you traitorous freak!"

Lady, you don't stand a chance, thought Aluro exasperatedly as he felt
in his arms Chilla tensing for another round. Before she could make her
own escape attempt he threw her to Tradyk and raced to meet Luna
head-on. "You idiot! Stop this madness!" he hollered, catching her by
the shoulders and spinning her halfway around to face him. She countered
with a swipe at his neck that left bloody red scratches across the skin.
Afraid that in her rage she might truly be powerful enough to kill him,
Aluro released her--but not before getting in his own digs by shoving
her off track so that in her next runaway charge she hit the wall
instead of plowing into Chilla.

With blood from her face spraying every which way and a dazed look on
her hate-warped features Luna staggered in circles around the cabin.
Aluro's relief at seeing her put her out of commission at long last
turned to horror a moment later when she tripped on a stray patch of ice
and half-skidded-half-slid . . . right out the still-open cabin door.
                    


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