The Two Faces of Evil
PART TWO CONTINUED . . .
He stirred slightly, unable to place the voice at first.
"Unnnhhh." Groaning, Mumm-Ra lifted his head. "Who . . ."
"You know me," the voice chided teasingly.
Mumm-Ra blinked but still couldn't see much. Then his vision cleared,
and his breath caught in his throat.
The dark-haired woman who was standing over him smiled gently. "Wake
up," she said softly. A slight breeze in the passageway made her gold and red
robes swirl about her shapely legs.
Disbelieving, Mumm-Ra awkwardly rose to his knees and stared at her.
"Gods' teeth, this must be a dream!" he whispered reverently. "Lyana . . .
you're here? With me?"
She cast him a tender look. "Yes, I'm here, my love." A strange pale
light surrounded her figure and illuminated the area. She backed up several
steps, as if she meant to retreat into the inky blackness behind her.
Mumm-Ra managed to stand up. Oddly enough, after being attacked by his
double, he wasn't feeling any pain. "If this is a dream, then I never want to
awaken from it."
Lyana shook her head. "You must. Emanon is coming."
She came closer to him now and reached out with an alabaster arm,
stroking his face with a feather-light touch. Mumm-Ra was so riveted by her
presence he almost didn't hear what she said next. "The one who fought you."
Her beautiful brown eyes met his startled ruby gaze.
"That thing . . . it has a name?" Mumm-Ra asked.
Lyana nodded. "You must be prepared. He has sworn to destroy you and
all who have seen you. Emanon is hate."
Mumm-Ra puzzled over that remark for a moment, and then asked her, "How
do you know of my troubles?"
Thick brunette lashes fluttered against Lyana's creamy skin as she closed
her eyes briefly. When she reopened them her face was grave as she spoke. "I
have watched over you since my departure from this world."
A pang of deep grief washed over Mumm-Ra. Even after all these years, it
still hurt him deeply to be reminded of that tragic event.
Lyana noticed the stricken expression that crossed his face. "Be not
sorrowful anymore, love." The dulcet tone of her voice was a soothing balm to
his ravaged soul. "Death is merely a conveyance to the next life."
"Then why should I care whether or not this twin . . . this
Emanon--destroys me?" Mumm-Ra demanded. "If you have been . . . watching me,
then surely you know that my life in this current wretched existence is
Lyana shook her head vehemently. "No! Life is never meaningless!" The
force in her normally serene voice surprised him. "You musn't give up hope,
Mumm-Ra. Otherwise all is lost."
"What will be lost, Lyana?" Mumm-Ra held her stare. "I've made too many
enemies. All my friends . . . all my--"--he swallowed a lump in his throat at
the next word--"--family . . . are dead. So who's going to care if Mumm-Ra
the Ever-Living doesn't survive another battle?"
"The Thundercats care."
"Because my destruction means one less enemy for them to deal with."
"That's not true, Mumm-Ra." Lyana's quiet denial irked him, but before
he could respond, she said, "You must survive this battle, Mumm-Ra. The
future depends on your victory."
"How cliched," Mumm-Ra sneered, and instantly regretted his harsh tone.
Lyana looked pained. "Lyana, I'm sorry! I never meant . . . I just . . . "
Mumm-Ra's voice trailed off. Not knowing what to say next, he quickly strode
up to her and embraced her tightly. He was pleasantly surprised to discover
that she felt no less flesh and blood than any other mortal. She seemed so
ethereal to him!
"To hell with this Emanon. I want nothing more right now than to hold
you again. I've missed you so much," Mumm-Ra murmured as he buried his face
in her silken hair. The flowing tresses were just as lovely as when he'd last
"I've missed you too." She wrapped her slender arms around his waist and
rested her head in the crook of his shoulder. "It's been a long time."
"Too long." Mumm-Ra inhaled the sweet scents of cinnamon and vanilla.
Lyana's favorites. "Stay with me. Please."
"Yes you can." He kissed her forehead. "Don't leave me, Lyana. Please.
I couldn't bear it a second time."
She returned his kiss, brushing her petal-soft lips across his own.
"You're a lot stronger than you think, Mumm-Ra. Remember what I said. Emanon
is coming. You must be prepared to face that hatred." She gently disengaged
herself from his embrace and turned to leave.
Mumm-Ra tried to seize her by the sleeve of her robe but his fingers
clutched air instead. "No! Lyana!"
"I love you," she called out, and her voice echoed down the tunnel.
"Love you . . . love you . . . love you . . . " Abruptly her form vanished,
leaving nothing except the darkness.
He had no idea how long he'd lain unconscious, but he surmised that it
must not have been for a lengthy period. The blood trickling down his face
was still fresh. Aching and woozy, Mumm-Ra sat up and gingerly
felt the wound. He winced as his fingers passed over the tender part of his
jaw where the twin had hit him. Bad, but he'd suffered worse before. And
wasn't he a survivor? Hadn't Lyana said so?
Mumm-Ra bolted to his feet and a vicious streak of pain flashed through
his entire body. He slumped against the wall and peered into the blackness
But she had been so vivid!
So . . . real!
She did not reappear.
Just a dream, Mumm-Ra realized dismally. A figment of his overstressed
Exhausted, he slowly sank to the floor again. I'm so tired, he thought.
I just want to rest here for a bit. Just a little bit.
A new voice intruded on the tranquil haziness he was floating into.
Go away, whoever you are. Leave me alone, thought Mumm-Ra. His head
lolled to the side.
Get up, Mumm-Ra!
"No," Mumm-Ra slurred. "Jus' leave me alone."
Mumm-Ra Durakkon Merneptah, get up this instant!
Mumm-Ra jerked in shock. "Father?"
The haze faded and his senses returned. Though no sound penetrated the
oppressive silence in the passageway, somehow he knew.
His father's essence was nearby.
Hurry, Mumm-Ra! Emanon is coming!
Mumm-Ra's blood chilled. That was what Lyana had called the twin.
Did it even now scour the pyramid in search of him?
Yes, Mumm-Ra, he's coming, and you have little time. You must get out of
Spurred by his father's warning, Mumm-Ra struggled to his feet. Spikes
of white-hot pain assaulted him as he propelled himself forward. He looked up
and saw the hole and the stairway leading into the pyramid's main hall.
Now he recognized his surroundings. This was the path Ma-Mutt took
whenever he ventured from and to the pyramid. The channel made up half of an
underground dam that guided New Thundera's Dreary Canal along its river route.
"Ma-Mutt, here boy," Mumm-Ra tried to call his pet, but the only noises
issuing forth from his throat were hoarse croaks. The twin's chokehold had
rendered him incapable of coherent speech for the time being.
Had Ma-Mutt been . . . ? No, he wouldn't allow himself to dwell on the
possible outcome. Surely Ma-Mutt had run for a safe hiding place and was
patiently waiting for his master to return.
Let him be alive, the priest prayed. He's a good dog. He doesn't
deserve such a violent end.
Mumm-Ra stumbled along the path, aided by a small mage light flickering
from his fingertip. Several times he tried to stop to catch his bearing, but
each time a tentacle of pain would lash at his insides. It was the same
subconscious alarm that had first forewarned him of the double's presence.
Why, then, hadn't he listened to it when he'd had the chance?
"Of all the enemies I have, I never would have expected to be attacked by
my own self," he panted.
You never expected Vultureman to release Zaxx either, the little voice in
his mind taunted.
The trail wound around a corner and led down a steadily descending slope.
About forty feet past this point the ground leveled off into a basin of sorts,
then rose to accommodate the exit. Here was the most treacherous part of the
corridor. Heavy rains had been known to flood this area, and while the
pyramid's main levels were safe from this potential disaster, anyone unlucky
enough to get caught here would not be so fortunate. Poor Ma-Mutt had almost
learned that lesson the hard way.
Mumm-Ra tripped on a stone and fell face first into the dirt. Coughing
and wheezing, he rolled over onto his back and gasped for breath. He had to
rest. Just for a second.
His father's voice returned. No, no, don't stop, whatever you do, keep
"I . . . can't . . . "
Mumm-Ra laboriously dragged himself back onto his feet.
A resounding series of explosions rocked the pyramid. Mumm-Ra lost his
balance and tumbled to the ground again amidst falling debris from the
ceiling. He quickly staggered upright and swung his head around frantically
trying to locate his twin. But it was nowhere in sight.
Mumm-Ra's heart hammered in his chest.
Where was his demonic double?
"Where are you . . . Emanon?"
Then he heard a faint rumbling in the distance, growing increasingly
louder as it heralded the approach of a behemoth force. Mumm-Ra shone a mage
light behind him into the tunnel. He wasn't sure, but he thought he could
hear what sounded like rushing . . .
"No, it cannot be," Mumm-Ra whispered as the horrible realization dawned
Emanon had caused a cave-in of the wall supporting the underground dam,
and now Dreary Canal's unrestrained fury was barreling straight towards the
Cheetara drove the Thundertank, pushing the vehicle to its top speed,
while Lion-O rode shotgun and scanned the radar screens for potential threats.
Their destination was Mumm-Ra's pyramid--which Cheetara was only too eager to
reach. She hadn't said anything to Lion-O yet, but from the moment Mumm-Ra
had pulled his disappearing act in the halls of Cats' Lair, she'd been
receiving frightening sensations from her sixth sense. Danger was close at
hand, she knew, but whether that danger would come from Mumm-Ra himself or
from another source remained to be seen.
Her urgency did not escape her friend's notice, however. The worried
expression on her face was enough for Lion-O to understand that something ugly
lurked in the near future. How ugly was anyone's guess. At a time like this
he wished that the Eye of Thundera possessed psychic powers. Sure would make
the job a lot easier, Lion-O thought wistfully. But then, nothing in life was
ever easy, was it?
"We're less than twenty miles from the pyramid." Cheetara's terse voice
restored his attention. He sneaked a fast peek at her face. She was tight-
lipped and pale as her eyes blinked rapidly. Lion-O figured that her sixth
sense was sending her visions for her to interpret. "Want me to take over
"I'll be okay." Cheetara gripped the wheel with bone white fists. "All
that matters is that we get there in time."
In time for what? Lion-O wondered silently, but he knew better than to
press her. Cheetara's sixth sense, invaluable as it was, would bring her the
revelation when and if it was ready. Not a moment sooner.
He expelled a deep breath to alleviate the tension building in his gut.
Since there was really nothing he could do at the present, he decided to kill
time by checking the radar maps. Lion-O pulled up their route program on the
tank's computer and studied it. "Dreary Canal's on the temperamental side
tonight," he commented.
Cheetara didn't take her eyes off the road. "What's it doing?" she asked
as she switched the headlights to maximum wattage.
"Acting like a river on the rampage. Look, it's overflowing its banks."
Now Cheetara glanced over at the map. "That can't be right. We haven't
had any significant rainfall to flood it."
Lion-O frowned. "Well, it's doing something weird." He typed in a
command and was presented with a new screen of data. "Readouts have the canal
moving off on a totally different tangent. So it's either flooding, or--" He
broke off as a thought occurred to him. Drawing the Sword of Omens from the
claw shield, he raised it to his face and spoke. "Sword of Omens, give me
sight beyond sight!"
Immediately the crossbars curled as the mystic Eye of Thundera awoke to
assist its wielder. Lion-O peered through the apertures to view the vision.
He saw Dreary Canal's main tributary, the River Jasu, churning violently.
Dark waters raged as the mighty river swept along its unseen path, belying the
name bestowed upon it. "Jasu" was Old Thunderian for "path of peace."
"Jasu's going berserk, but it's not flooding," he informed Cheetara.
"There must be another reason. Sword of Omens, show me more!" he commanded.
A new vision appeared.
This time Lion-O saw Mumm-Ra running through an underground cavern.
"It's Mumm-Ra!" he exclaimed in astonishment.
Cheetara's lips formed an O. "What's he doing?"
"He's in some kind of an underground channel."
Lion-O took a closer look. The Sword showed him that the passageway led
out from beneath the pyramid into the deep valley where the tomb was situated.
Mumm-Ra dashed blindly along this route, stumbling repeatedly but never once
slowing his pace. Blood from a small cut above his right eye streaked his
face, which wore a look of pure terror.
Adrenaline surged within his body as Lion-O suddenly understood the
motivation behind Mumm-Ra's panicked flight. "Full throttle, Cheetara!" he
yelled. "Mumm-Ra's about to be drowned!"
"The Dreary Canal isn't flooding! It's broken through one of the
Drowning is a terrible way to die.
The lungs cannot contain air indefinitely. Oxygen deprivation eventually
results in the body's nervous system--specifically, the brain--relaying
warnings of irreparable internal damage.
These warnings are manifested in hallucinations and chest pains, each of
which can vary from mild to severe. If such alarms are ignored, the oxygen-
starved brain can no longer function properly and shuts down. The victim
passes out, allowing respiration to involuntarily take control and permit air
to flow freely once more.
However, submersion in a foreign environment prevents a successful
transfer. Instead of precious air, water floods the lungs, and within mere
minutes of this overload death claims the unfortunate individual.
Mumm-Ra knew all about the tenets of drowning, having twice nearly
experienced it himself.
The more recent episode had occurred during one of his failed attacks on
the Thundercats, when they had tried to melt some ice to replenish the
shriveled Dreary Canal in the middle of a severe drought. Mumm-Ra had created
a flash flood that swept away anything it touched. In defense, Panthro and
Snarf had loaded the Thundertank's cannons with water from the cursed swamp of
the Laughing Lilypads, then blasted the priest with it. Unable to sustain his
composure, Mumm-Ra almost laughed himself into a watery grave. It was just
dumb luck that a passing space frigate happened to spot him bobbing down the
Jasu River and rescued him.
In comparison to that debacle, though, his first near-death encounter was
the more vivid memory, and all the more frightening because he'd been a mortal
child at the time. Thousands of years later he still remembered clearly the
burning sensation in his chest, the kaleidoscope of colors flashing before his
eyes, and the horrible awareness that his demise would be a torturous one.
As he grew older Mumm-Ra forced himself to conquer his fear of water and
eventually became a fairly good swimmer. But he was never again able to put
his head underwater without experiencing a panic attack.
Now, as he raced ahead of the swiftly gaining flood, those crippling
sensations plagued him all over again. He heard sporadic, fearful whimpers
mingled in with the roar of the oncoming monster and then realized he was the
one making them.
Mumm-Ra's terror was no less just because he happened to be one of the
undead. His utterances were a primal response in the face of destruction.
He had seen the bodies of drowning victims. Once, when the rains came
and caused the River Nile to rise up and devour the villages on its banks, he
had traveled the grounds and looked upon the dead. Some were so badly bloated
that they were unrecognizable; others, savagely mangled by the crocodiles in
the river. For weeks afterward he'd had awful nightmares about ending up as
one of those corpses, either dumped to rot in an unmarked pit or tossed onto a
massive funeral pyre.
Something wet splattered against the back of his cape. The thundering
waters were closing in on him.
I'll never make it to the end of the tunnel in time!
He was going to have to ride out the tidal wave and hope that it swept
him out the tunnel's exit. "Osiris Isis and Horus!" Mumm-Ra hastily chanted
out loud to ancient unseen deities.
He'd only just taken a huge gulp of air to launch into the next half of
his impassioned prayer when a punishing blast of water slammed into his back.
Next thing Mumm-Ra knew the current had him in its possessive grip and
was battering him about like driftwood. It carried him past the basin into
the turn of the cavern, where its slope rose. Searing pain sliced through his
foot and leg as his ankle struck rock, and Mumm-Ra fought the urge to scream
in agony. Instead he continued his plea for salvation silently, trying to
ward off the paralyzing fear that threatened to overwhelm him.
Osiris, Isis, and Horus, I ask thee, merciful shepherds, to protect your
humble and faithful servant from harm.
What a lie. He hadn't served those gods faithfully at all. He'd been
too busy kowtowing to the Ancient Spirits of Evil, and it was highly unlikely
that those powers would answer his request. At least not with the desired
response. Nevertheless, Mumm-Ra kept repeating incantations in his mind as if
they still held some specks of magical promise.
The current started to rise and lifted him with it as it picked up speed.
Having lost all sense of direction during the dizzying spin, he tried to swim
up to what he thought might be the water's crest. Perhaps a niche in the
stone ceiling had created an air pocket. Right, and that midget harpy Luna
will grow three more feet overnight, the pessimistic part of him sneered.
It's not like you have a choice, another part argued, and Mumm-Ra knew
that this was the truth. Already he was feeling a burning pain in his chest,
as his lungs demanded something--if not air, then water. Stars danced before
his eyes and he reasoned it would be better to find out if there was any air
available than pass out or be dashed into pieces against the rocky walls.
Muscles straining, fighting the fierce waters, he kicked and struggled
along his chosen way. It didn't help that his billowing cape was dragging him
back, so he drew his dagger and slashed the tethers connecting it to his
bonds. Freed of the cumbersome garment, he shot forward and abruptly scraped
stone with his fingers. Was this the top or the bottom of the cavern?
Just when he'd decided it was the bottom his hand slipped out of water
and passed through air.
Mumm-Ra pushed himself upwards and managed to clear the surface of the
water, though not by much. Gasping for breath, he saw that the ceiling was a
foot away from his face. He reached toward it with both hands, clawing at the
passing stone for a handhold and finally catching onto a clump of rocks
jutting from the corner where the ceiling and wall met.
To this precarious perch he clung, enduring the raging flood with all his
might--a losing battle, for the stone was swiftly being eroded by Dreary
Canal's devastating waters. The priest sucked down another great gulp of air
before his rocky grasp crumbled and the undertow snatched him.
Back into the merciless spin cycle he went, and this time he collided
seconds later with a wall. So strong was his impact that Mumm-Ra reflexively
opened his mouth to cry out. A fatal error. Immediately his insides were
filled with water.
It was too late. Choking, flailing about in the midst of the turbulence,
Mumm-Ra was overcome by a full-fledged panic attack.
Seven years old and trapped beneath the dark waters of the Nile.
Watching his uncle's garishly distorted face grinning maniacally down at
him while he sank helplessly.
Thaetith's words would ring mockingly in his memory for many years to
"Say good night, Rani!"
That was the last thing Mumm-Ra heard before an all-consuming blackness
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
PART TWO CONTINUED . . .
Vultureman was steaming.
Who did this Kembri character think he was? Commandeering the circus
train and ordering them about like lackeys. What nerve! He sneaked another
look at the Thunderian turncoat. Kembri's face remained impassive, and had
been so since they'd first met him, except for the brief glimpse of
nervousness he'd let slip when speaking of the emanon's escape.
Vultureman pondered this. Slithe had said that the emanon was most
likely a super-clone. What powers must it possess that even the mighty
Kembri, its creator, would have cause to fear it? "Why the urgency, Kembri?
Aside from the fact that the Thundercats are hot on our trail?"
Kembri's eyes flashed. "General Kembri, if you please." Vultureman
started to snarl a retort but was cut off by the Thunderian. "And the answer
awaits us at our base. Once you see the damage this thing is capable of I
think you'll understand why this operation has to be conducted with utmost
care." He clammed up again, leaving everyone to puzzle over his remarks.
In an hour the train passed over a barren desert. "Not far now," one of
the Thunderian sentries spoke up.
Vultureman checked the radar screen. "Cawwww," he rasped, expelling a
glob of the sputum that always collected in his throat, "this is the
Phosphorous Desert. Where are you taking us--General?" he asked caustically.
Kembri peered over the Mutant's shoulder. "Before we arrive, I want it
understood that I am in command," he said sternly. Vultureman glanced at
Slithe and was heartened to see by the reptilian's expression that he also
seemed put out by Kembri's uppity airs. "Of cours-s-se, Kembri," Slithe
hissed (leaving out the respectful "general" much to Vultureman's delight).
"We will heed your advice, yes-s-s?"
"You'd better, Slithe. Only because of your cousin Sephi did I give my
consent to allowing outsiders into our project. I questioned the wisdom of
doing so, and I still do. I don't want the emanon's first test run ending up
as its last." He clamped a hand on Vultureman's shoulder, startling him.
"Stop the train."
Vultureman hit the BASH button and the train screeched to a halt in
"Now what?" Luna grumbled.
Ignoring her, Kembri traced a line on the radar screen. "See this clump
of mountains right here?"
Vultureman shrugged. "What about 'em?"
"Take us down to the base of the nearest one. And mind your tongue,
buzzard," Kembri snapped.
Asshole, Vultureman thought angrily. Complying, he tripped the hover
switch off and steered the train carefully towards Kembri's desired location,
all the while wondering whether or not this adventure would turn out to be
another of Slithe's harebrained schemes. Slithe usually did not want to have
anything to do with technology. The reptilian had little patience for
learning about the mechanics behind things. He only cared that they served
their purposes. Wasting the Thundercats and sticking it to Mumm-Ra were both
fine and dandy plans, but the thought of kowtowing to this stuck-up Thunderian
commander in order to achieve those goals made Vultureman want to puke.
Initially, upon hearing that Kembri favored science and technology as
means with which to control the ignorant masses, Vultureman had been prepared
to welcome him with open arms, even if the man had had the misfortune to be
born into the wrong species. Progress was the name of the game. Too many
people regarded change as their enemy nowadays. They chose instead to put
their trust in such outdated notions as religions, worshipping a Divine
Creator higher than themselves (as if there was any such nonsense), or
friendships, or (and this was the biggest joke, in Vultureman's opinion)
rubbish laws like the Thundercats' Code of Thundera. Any fool knew that nice
guys always finished last. The true leaders of the world were those who had
the guts to break such restricting laws and forge their own paths of destiny.
Science and technology alone could dispel archaic beliefs and reveal things as
they truly were. And if it turned out that there actually was a Divine Being
of some sort, then he? she? it? would no doubt be pleased at all the modern
inventions made to advance mortals closer to a godlike state. Wasn't that the
whole point of life?
In that respect, Vultureman and Kembri were kindred spirits. Otherwise
they were hopelessly mismatched. Vultureman did not take kindly to orders
unless he was the one giving them, and Kembri's enormous ego made no
allowances for the opinions of underlings.
With a whoosh and a thump the train landed at the bottom of the most
massive of the mountains, a granite skyscraper reaching into the slowly fading
sunlight. Even though the sunset was minutes away, it was still considered
daytime here on Third Earth, while New Thundera's inhabitants enjoyed the
darkness of night.
Vultureman deployed the retractable staircase and the travelers
disembarked. "This is it? You dragged us all the way across Third Earth to
look at a dumb mountain?" Luna squealed in outrage.
"Patience, madam. All is not how it appears." Kembri approached the
stone behemoth and knelt at a jagged rock near his feet. He twisted the tip
of it to the left a couple of inches, stopped, then rotated it in the opposite
direction two circles away from its original position. The Mutants and
Lunataks watched in amazement as a black rectangular glass panel, just large
enough to admit a full-grown man, was revealed on the face of the stone in
front of Kembri. He rose and walked over to it, positioning himself directly
in front of the center. "General Byron Kembri returning from pickup, twenty-
ten," he said authoritatively.
A few minutes passed, and suddenly the ground before the group shifted,
creating a hiss of sand as the grains disappeared into a large funnel at the
bottom of the glass panel. When the dust cleared Vultureman realized what the
sand had revealed. "It's a secret entrance!"
"Correct. This is the main entrance and the first guard against
intruders. Its codes change daily, and no one but Sephi and myself knows what
they are." Kembri swept out his arm in a mocking gesture of invitation.
Pearl before swine, Vultureman thought nastily as he and the others
descended the staircase leading to the thick metal vault below. He was just
about to ask how in the name of Plun-Darr they expected to pass through this
door when it slowly cranked open.
A light flashed on inside and a new sentry attired in the same protective
clothing and weaponry as the force Kembri had brought with them appeared. He
had a vicious-looking pistol pointed at them. "Welcome, General Kembri. Dr.
Sephi and Dr. Tradyk are waiting for you on the second level," he reported.
"Very good," Kembri replied approvingly. "We are expecting possible
followers. Notify me immediately if you spot any sign of them." He pointed
at the circus train. "Take care of that vehicle."
"Yes, sir. I'll have someone move it to the warehouse." The pistol
remained trained on them as they passed the guard and entered the bay.
Once the last person had crossed through the vault snapped shut with a
metallic clang. Vultureman noted with interest that at least thirty more
sentries had appeared, each armed to the teeth and carrying pistols similar to
that of the first guard's, which they aimed directly at their visitors.
"What's with all the paranoia? You think we're gonna start a revolt or
Kembri smiled thinly as he led them down the starkly white hallway. The
first batch of sentries followed them. "You try anything and you'll wish you
hadn't. Those guns the guards carry are miniaturized versions of the
lightning-bolt blasters IPCF uses, only ten times the normal charge. Theirs
is meant to stun. Ours kills--in a fraction of a second. It's for our
protection as much as yours. We cannot risk outside intervention derailing
this project." This last sentence was spoken harshly. If Kembri's dedication
to his mysterious mission had been in any doubt amidst the Mutants and the
Lunataks, it now went unquestioned.
"Interes-s-sting. Are there any other deadly little toys we should know
about?" Slithe asked.
"There's the Pepper Spike," one of the sentries following the group said.
"What the heck is that?" Jackalman asked.
"Ever seen what a railroad spike looks like?" The sentry blinked his
"It's kind of like that, only with an explosive orb at the top. When you
press a switch on the side it fires the orb into the air. Dr. Tradyk invented
Kembri spoke up. "The purpose was to create an explosive that could be
used in much the same manner as conventional explosives but with more
versatile uses. They have timers on the switches, so you can set detonation
as you would with planted bombs. Or you can toss them at oncoming forces.
Their stability isn't fickle like regular grenades."
"Dr. Tradyk called them 'Pepper Spikes' because when he was testing them
he used pau-pau pepper juices in the orbs," the sentry explained. "Pau-pau
juice is among the most powerful irritants known to Third Earthlings. A
teaspoonful contains enough poison to cripple a thousand men."
"Don't some people eat those peppers?" Chilla asked.
"Yes, in their diluted form," Kembri said. "There's a type of pau-pau
specially grown for agricultural purposes. The Ro-Bear Berbils have them.
They're still plenty hot, but they're edible. Tradyk used the wild variety in
his experiments, and that stuff packs a bigger punch than your average home-
"You can put just about anything in those orbs," the sentry added.
"Dynamite, nitrous gas, acid, you name it. I don't think we've used a real
Pepper Spike in ages."
"Geez." Aluro whistled. "How long has this place been around?"
"Seventeen years next July," Kembri said. "We picked Third Earth because
of its relative isolation in the galaxy. Not another populated planet within
miles of its orbit, and this desert fulfills our privacy requirements rather
nicely. We'd been moving most of our materials here well before the
destruction of Thundera."
"Seventeen years . . ." Luna trailed off as her scowl deepened. She tapped
Slithe with her crop. "How long were you Mutants on Third Earth?"
"S-S-Six years," Slithe answered. "We came just after the Thundercats-s-s."
Luna's eyes narrowed. "We Lunataks have been here for thirty-three years.
Spent the first thirty-one frozen in lava and the last two chasing the
Thundercats with nothing to show for it." She gave Kembri a curious glare.
"I find it hard to believe that you've managed to stay out of sight all this
time. How do you do it?"
"I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you, madam," Kembri replied
without a trace of irony. That shut Luna up fast.
Slithe noticed that the farther along they got the floor sloped on a
horizontal angle, so that they were descending into this mysterious hideout.
He also saw that there were dozens of cameras placed on the ceiling and walls
to monitor their progress. These emitted faint synchronized chimes at sixty-
second intervals. Nothing else was visible in the spartan hallway--except a
huge glass door down at the end. Apparently whatever lay beyond it was their
He took in the severity of their surroundings with cool detachment. As
forbidding as the decor was, they had not come here to ogle it. They were
here for one reason alone: to learn how to use the latest technologies
against their enemies. "Where is my cous-s-sin, and who is this Dr. Tradyk?"
"What is 'the warehouse?'" Monkian puzzled aloud.
"And what did 'pickup twenty-ten' mean?" Tug-Mug asked.
They stopped at the door. Its glass was clear, so everyone could see
that this new passage led into an elevator. "Sephi is in the second level,
about two hundred feet below terra," Kembri said. "That's where we have our
conference room. Dr. Tradyk is another of our colleagues who will assist us
in explaining the emanon's powers to you." He turned to Monkian and Tug-Mug.
"We have another base aboveground. That one is used for storing vehicles and
other equipment that need to be catalogued before we decide what will be done
with them. As for 'pickup twenty-ten,' it means that I had taken a force of
twenty men with me when I arrived at Castle Plun-Darr to collect you, and
'ten' is the number of people in your party. This is to inform the guards on
duty of how many, ah, visitors to expect, should any attempt at espionage or
attack be made."
Vultureman suspected that last bit was meant as a subtle warning for
them, but he refrained from commenting on it as Kembri pressed his left palm
on top of a scanning device to the right of the door. A thin blue line
quickly traced the general's prints in detail, then a low-pitched beep sounded
and the door opened.
"Welcome to Genvironment," Kembri said grandly.
Dr. Loen Tradyk was a soft-spoken man of forty-seven years of age, given
to quiet, sporadic moments of meditation and a passion for scientific
discovery, the latter having landed him at the topmost ranks of Genvironment.
Considering his chosen line of work, these qualities should have put him at
odds with his conscience, and in fact they had as of late, plaguing him with
On this evening, while he waited in his office for the holojector to be
set up in the conference room, he was mulling over two main concerns.
The first was the escape of The Emanon.
The second, and perhaps more serious of the two, was General Byron
Though they were countrymen the two scientists did not get along. Kembri
despised what he termed Tradyk's 'airheaded aspirations of nobility,' and
Tradyk intensely disliked Kembri's arrogance and utter lack of principles.
The man simply had no qualms about exploiting technologic and scientific
discoveries for the highest amount of personal gain possible. How such a
selfish egomaniac could have risen to power as head commander of Thundera's
forces was beyond him.
Tradyk believed that persons like himself had an obligation to use
science for the betterment of society. "We're no better than whores if we
sell our talents to the highest bidder," he'd argued in the past. Kembri had
laughed at him. "Tradyk, what good is our knowledge if we can't use it to get
ahead?" he'd sneered. "We've certainly nothing to gain from letting it sit
idly. It's meant to be put to work, and it's ours. We can rise to glorious
Tradyk, of course, hadn't been able to come up with a suitable answer for
that, at least not one that wouldn't arouse Kembri's suspicion. Above all
else Kembri demanded unwavering loyalty from the people under his command.
They were, after all, entrusted with the most delicate missions ever in the
history of science. Regardless of the size or matter of their offense, anyone
caught jeopardizing Genvironment was swiftly and severely dealt with.
Choscal B'aari had found that out the hard way.
Tradyk allowed his mind to drift back nine years earlier. Choscal was
once the head of Genvironment's GERM division, or Genetic Engineering Research
Material. His duties included categorizing and storing various subjects' DNA
for future uses. One day Choscal had left Genvironment's underground facility
to begin transferring samples to another base on Plun-Darr. Instead, he'd
bailed and leaked information to the Interstellar Council, obviously hoping to
play both sides against the fence.
His actions cost him dearly. A week after Choscal's defection his body
had turned up in the River of Despair. Autopsy reports from the IPCF claimed
that Choscal had ingested an incredibly high amount of alcohol, enough to kill
him by shutting down his nervous system. Their speculation was that the
scientist had gone off on a weekend bender after the apparent collapse of his
career. Backed by in-court testimony from fellow colleagues Kembri and the
loathsome reptilian Sephi-vo-Notar, IPCF had ultimately ruled Choscal B'aari's
death an accident. Local scientist becomes depressed over failed career, gets
plastered, falls in river and drowns. End of story.
Instinctively, however, Tradyk had known that Kembri and Sephi were
behind Choscal's untimely demise. From that day on he'd been extremely
careful never to let any hint of his dissension become public knowledge.
Kembri and Tradyk disliked each other, true, but Tradyk made certain that his
clashes with Genvironment's head man and his partner appeared based on
professional rather than personal feelings, and he was diligent about keeping
those disagreements far and few between. Kembri did respect Tradyk's
commitment to his work, which was why Tradyk had been able to conduct most of
his research without the intruding spot-checks subjected to the rest of
Genvironment's staff. Yet Tradyk was acutely aware that he was not
completely off the hook. Genvironment was crawling with Kembri's spies.
For one thing, being a project leader, he was forbidden to leave the
underground confinement of Genvironment's Third Earth base. Attempting to do
so meant signing his death warrant. Kembri had made that warning most
explicit. Any contacts between Tradyk and another scientist elsewhere were
done through the general.
Secondly, Tradyk was required to meet with Sephi-vo-Notar on a monthly
basis and report his findings and/or problems, as well as solutions, if any.
Sephi would then relay the information back to Kembri, who Tradyk knew would
be watching for him to turn in false research. Therefore Tradyk made damn
sure that the reports he presented Sephi with were accurate and detailed,
right down to the last molecule. The slightest error could bring the
general's wrath down upon his vulnerable head. Tradyk preferred to avoid that
penalty at all costs.
Besides, the time for rebellion was not yet ripe.
As Tradyk went about recording his research for the day in his journals,
he thought back to The Emanon Project, as it was unofficially called, which
had spurred him to rethink his priorities in the past year.
Since Emanon's creation the entire facility had been in turmoil. Half
the project leaders were opposed to the clone's existence on the grounds that
such a being was too dangerous to risk turning loose. What if it attacked its
masters someday? Naturally the other half, prodded by Kembri and Sephi, had
overruled those objections, claiming that Emanon was the future of genetically
enhanced warriors. "There's no evidence that the emanon has or will ever
develop a personality. It's an automaton. Were it to disobey an order--and
this is an extremely remote possibility--it would be terminated at once and
the project recycled." Those were Kembri's confident words at the last
intergalactic council meeting among Genvironment's project leaders.
Tradyk hadn't bothered trying to convince Kembri otherwise. The general
staunchly refused to believe that Emanon was anything other than a piece of
property to be used at his discretion. Whatever problems turned up during
Emanon's training Kembri had blamed on brain chemical discrepancies. Perhaps
that will be the death of you, thought Tradyk, for he himself had seen the
mounting evidence against Kembri's statements and believed.
Emanon was no longer a mere machine.
He had become self-aware.
There are some things you just can't tinker with, thought Tradyk. The
mortal spirit is a resilient, unique wonder.
It had been difficult to pinpoint when this change had taken place. The
nuances were so subtle Tradyk had barely noticed them at first, but once they
started occurring on a regular basis he was able to recognize and analyze
them. What bothered him most was the forcefulness with which Emanon expressed
them. He was obsessed with getting his makers to realize that he wasn't a
plaything anymore--a volatile situation with the potential to explode in
everyone's faces. Late last night their worst fears had come true. Somehow
Emanon had overcome the intense security safeguards and escaped.
Tradyk believed that the clone was more dangerous than anyone (especially
Kembri) thought. He'd worn this belief openly in Emanon's presence as well.
It granted him a kind of immunity from Emanon's vicious rages. Once the clone
had understood that one of his handlers accepted him as his own person he'd
allowed Tradyk to direct him, albeit with kid gloves. Emanon was genetically
geared to fight. His adrenaline and testosterone levels were way off the
scale, creating a hormonal imbalance that kept him in a perpetual state of
aggression. His newfound sense of self-preservation made a bad combination
worse. Even at his most peaceful Emanon was easily irritated at best, and
with his deadly range of abilities he was literally a walking time bomb.
Emanon was never, ever left alone. Only the finest assassins had been
assigned the demanding task of guarding him, and always in fully armed groups
of ten or more. Every time Emanon and his guards were near the project
leaders' collective blood pressure rose several degrees. Constantly having to
be on the lookout for potential trouble made for a lot of unhappy people.
Emanon's temper tantrums were frighteningly unpredictable. He could be
quietly reading through a mission objective one moment and then screaming
furiously the next. Consequently Emanon was never given any opportunity to
cause significant problems. No matter where he was or what he was doing, his
guards without fail accompanied him.
During 'working hours,' when Kembri and Sephi were walking him through
the programming objectives Sephi had designed, his obedience--or lack
thereof--was instantly met with the appropriate response. Obedience resulted
in an injection of daarjillen, a powerful Thunderian depressant. It relaxed
Emanon and made him more mellow and receptive to further orders. A response
opposite of the desired reaction produced painful retaliation courtesy of
Kembri. A tiny transmitter embedded within Emanon's brain tissues could be
made to set off a series of ultrasonic vibrations that would trigger a
cataclysmic stroke and completely immobilize him, yet still leave him capable
of experiencing physical sensation. Kembri and Sephi could then torture him
at their whim until he recovered and displayed compliance.
When Emanon retired for his rejuvenation sessions, he was locked in a
temperature controlled sleep chamber that pumped in heavy sedatives mixed with
oxygen at regular intervals. Sensors connected to parts of his body monitored
his vital signs and projected the information to computers throughout
strategic areas of the Genvironment facility. Kembri, Sephi, Tradyk, and the
current ration of guards on duty were always kept up-to-date on Emanon's
activities, so that in an unforeseen emergency they could quickly communicate
with one another on the proper course of action.
Finally, in the event that Emanon became uncontrollable to the point of
inflicting lethal harm on a person or group of persons, Kembri had installed
One was an electronically triggered capsule containing a poison among the
most toxic known in the universe. The other was an explosive with enough
power to take out a small building. Both killer instruments were planted
inside each ventricle chamber of Emanon's heart. Special remotes with the
activating buttons were carried at all times by Kembri, Sephi, and Tradyk.
Sequencing for the one-being-scale destruction went: poison first, explosive
Kembri had stressed to his colleagues the importance of restraint when
presenting them with these remotes, for, despite the general's boast to the
council that The Emanon Project could easily be scrapped and begun again if
the clone malfunctioned, he harbored no such intentions. Out of Jaga only
knew how many attempts, Emanon was the first successful materialization of a
marriage between science and sorcery, and Kembri was loath to destroy all that
he had worked hard to create and start anew.
Shortly thereafter Tradyk had briefly considered using his remote to end
Emanon's life but quickly squelched that idea. If Emanon were to be found
dead so soon after the doomsday remotes had been issued, Kembri would
immediately know Tradyk was responsible, and put an end to his life. The
alternative was that Tradyk was going to have to muster his patience,
carefully and meticulously gather his trump cards, then wait for the precise
moment to play his hand.
Doing this was hard in itself, but what made it near impossible was the
fact that in order for Tradyk to succeed he would have to sit back and allow
Kembri to have his way in all matters concerning the killer clone. Loen
Tradyk knew in his heart that he was the key to permanently ending The Emanon
Project, but he could not simply charge in and spread random havoc.
Genvironment was a tightly knit, well-run organization, and in order to bring
it and its conspirators toppling down his ambush needed to be carefully
And this was the toughest part: somewhere along the line, innocent
people were going to die. For a man who had dedicated his job towards the
enrichment of life this was intolerable. He knew he must accept some
responsibility for the inevitable murders that would take place. Tradyk
regretted them with his whole soul, but there was nothing he could do. He
could not possibly hope to blow the whistle now and remain undercover at the
same time. Not while he was still firmly entrenched in the iron fist of
Genvironment . . . and General Kembri.
Lion-O stood atop the Thundertank, surveying the flooding. They'd arrived
too late. As far as he could see by the light of the tank's fog lamps the
valley in which Mumm-Ra's Thunderian pyramid was constructed was almost
completely submerged. The sloping hills and the ruins nearby prevented the
river from advancing much further, but the pyramid itself was partially buried
beneath thousands of gallons of water. If Mumm-Ra had managed to survive this
rampage it was hard to see how.
"Maybe he was able to teleport just before it hit," Cheetara said hesitantly.
She scanned the surrounding countryside. "I don't feel that he was
"Only one way to find out," Lion-O said, and hefted the Sword of Omens into
the air. Before he could call out his command, though, a dog's frantic
barking echoed above the churning waters. "Ma-Mutt! He's alive!" Cheetara
Lion-O strained his eyes in search of the dog. What he wouldn't give for
a pair of Panthro's Catz Eyez right now. "I'm going to have to get wet," he
told Cheetara. "We'll get as close as we can, then I'll tether myself to the
tank." She nodded. "Let's do it."
Cheetara and Lion-O reentered the Thundertank and inched cautiously
closer to the edge of the valley.
Help was on the way!
Ma-Mutt watched as the Thundercats approached the treacherous water, wagging
his tail eagerly.
Despite being at odds with them in the past, Ma-Mutt, in true selfless canine
nature, was willing to forgive and forget. He liked the Thundercats a whole
lot more when Mumm-Ra and he weren't fighting them, and he had sensed that the
feelings were mutual. He would trust Lion-O and crew to help him find his
master and get rid of the bad thing that disguised itself as Mumm-Ra.
Ma-Mutt was smart enough to know his own capabilities, which did not
include taking on that evil being. He hadn't wanted to leave Mumm-Ra alone
with it (bad dog, bad dog for doing that), but it would have killed him in an
instant with a bolt of lightning from its fingertips. He could be of more use
to his master if he went and fetched reinforcements. While he'd gone looking
for the Mumm-Raft the flood had struck, washing away all that it touched. The
bulldog was able to climb aboard a piece of driftwood and ride out to safety,
later leaping onto a pile of debris that was collecting near the pyramid.
Unfortunately the flood hadn't gotten the bad Mumm-Ra, which was still
alive somewhere in the pyramid. Ma-Mutt sniffed the air and whimpered. He
could smell its scent; the pungent stench of pure evil contaminated everything
it came into contact with.
The evil twin lived.
It wanted blood.
Mumm-Ra's blood, preferably.
Ma-Mutt raised his head and uttered another sharp bark. Lion-O dove into
the water and started swimming rapidly towards him. "Stay there, Ma-Mutt!
I'm coming!" the Thundercat Lord yelled. Ma-Mutt barked repeatedly in
Then something floating in the water caught the dog's attention. Another
Thundercat? Ma-Mutt peered closer and studied the limp form. As the battered
body drifted near his makeshift sanctuary he sniffed at it and picked up his
master's scent. But Ma-Mutt also smelled the scent of the bad creature
mingled with that of his owner, and he knew that Mumm-Ra had been grievously
hurt. He needed his faithful pet to rescue him now!
The loyal bulldog did not hesitate. Just before Lion-O reached the mound
of debris Ma-Mutt leaped into the water after Mumm-Ra.
"Ma-Mutt, no!" Lion-O hollered as the dog plunged into the water. He
changed direction and began paddling madly after Ma-Mutt. "Come back!" The
dog ignored him, intent on reaching something ahead of him in the water.
Lion-O raised his head as high as he could, treading water, and strained to
see what had gained the bulldog's interest. In the darkness it was impossible
to tell one shape from another. Everything looked like water.
Cheetara must have heard his cries, for suddenly the Thundertank's lights
illuminated him and traced the path Ma-Mutt had taken. Lion-O saw a streak of
red and blue for a moment, then nothing as the object bobbed under. He waited
for it to resurface and when it had he realized that it was a body. It could
only be Mumm-Ra's.
Lion-O took off swimming again, mindful of the claw shield's tether to
the tank. He hoped he could reach Mumm-Ra before the line ran taut.
His fingers brushed cold flesh and became entangled in something.
Bandages. He'd found Mumm-Ra. Lion-O grabbed hold of an arm and hauled the
unconscious priest back towards the tank. Ma-Mutt followed, whining
They didn't have far to go; Cheetara had witnessed the rescue and was
coming to assist. Bright floodlights blinded Lion-O as the tank pulled up in
front of him. "Hang on!" She rapidly punched buttons on the console and the
huge maw of the tank opened to scoop up the waterlogged trio. "G-G-Get us-s-s
out of h-h-here," Lion-O sputtered through chattering teeth as he rubbed his
arms to restore circulation. He'd been in the water just minutes and yet it
felt like hours.
Cheetara engaged the reactor once more and the mighty vehicle roared to
life. Lion-O waited until she'd drained the excess water and opened the hatch
to the crawlspace before dragging himself and Mumm-Ra through it. Back in the
rear of the tank, Ma-Mutt shook himself vigorously while spraying droplets of
water everywhere. He huddled on the seat next to them as he whined softly.
Lion-O rummaged through storage trunks until he found six packages of
blankets. Thank Jaga for small favors. He took out three and unfolded them.
The first he wrapped himself in. The second he offered to Ma-Mutt, who gave a
whimper of gratitude as he burrowed under it. That done, Lion-O turned to
Mumm-Ra to see just how badly he'd been injured. The priest's body lay
unmoving as lights from side compartment panels clicked on. Lion-O noticed
that Mumm-Ra was missing his trademark red cape, and it looked as though he'd
taken quite a beating by the flood. His face, chest, and right foot were
beginning to darken with ugly bruises. The foot was swollen and oozing blood.
It flopped at an odd angle and Lion-O wondered if the ankle hadn't been
broken. He pressed his index finger to a spot just underneath Mumm-Ra's jaw.
A pulse was there, faint but steady. He rolled Mumm-Ra over and with the flat
of his palm smacked him on the back soundly several times. A few moments
passed, then suddenly Mumm-Ra jerked--once, twice--and started gasping for
air, his sides heaving. Lion-O raised him by the upper torso slightly and
held him firmly while the priest choked and spit out the water he'd swallowed.
When he'd expelled as much of it as he was able to, Mumm-Ra collapsed on the
floor, shivering violently. Lion-O spread the blanket over him and tucked it
securely in place.
"How's he doing?" Cheetara called to Lion-O from the front of the tank.
"Not great. He's roughed up a lot. I think his ankle's broken too."
"We're headed back to Cats' Lair on the double. Want me to try
contacting Thor at the settlement? I can have him send a doctor."
Lion-O thought. "Yeah, do that. I'm afraid I wouldn't have the foggiest
idea how to set a busted bone." The only other people he knew of who had
medical experience were Tygra and Pumyra, both of whom were back on Third
Earth. He wished Tygra hadn't left earlier tonight, but dinner had gone well
enough that the architect had begged off the rest of the evening. "I need to
go to the Treetop Kingdom and deliver a new test alarm. I promised Willa I'd
have it to her by the end of the week," he'd told Lion-O.
Sighing, Lion-O turned his attention to Mumm-Ra again. The devil priest
lay motionless now. Ma-Mutt left his seat and snuggled closer to his owner.
He looked up at Lion-O and whimpered mournfully. The Thundercat Lord reached
over and gently scratched Ma-Mutt's head. "Mumm-Ra will be all right, Ma-
Mutt. We'll take care of him for you." Lion-O wound his own blanket about
his shoulders and joined Cheetara up front. As he slid into the passenger
seat the Sword of Omens growled softly in agitation, vibrating in the claw
The two Thundercats exchanged worried looks. That flood had not been a
natural occurrence, they knew. Something--or someone--had to have caused it.
Cheetara broke the silence. "I smell a big ugly coming," she muttered.
"Whatever smashed through one of Jasu's underground dams had to have been
pretty powerful. Those dams are made of solid rock."
"How do you explain Mumm-Ra then?"
Cheetara considered this for a second. "The dam that was destroyed was
the one that guided Jasu by the valley where the pyramid was. I'd say
somebody tried to take out Mumm-Ra."
Lion-O furrowed his brow as a disquieting notion entered his mind.
"Anyone itching to mess with Mumm-Ra must either be a few Thundrillium bricks
shy of a full load, or they've got a serious grudge match. An attacker would
have to be toting some heavy-duty power."
"Exactly." Cheetara tapped her foot on the gas. "They'd know he'd come
after them, so they couldn't allow him a chance to defend himself. Knock him
down, he can't strike back."
Lion-O glanced over his shoulder at Mumm-Ra. What kind of an enemy had
the priest made this time? "That Zaxx character?" He paused. "No, wait.
Those Ancient Spirits of Evil. They have it in for Mumm-Ra the most. Maybe
they're onto his betrayal."
"No, I don't think so. At least I can't feel that this is the case,"
Cheetara said. "It's something weirder . . . and much more evil."
Ma-Mutt began barking, but neither Lion-O nor Cheetara paid him much
attention. They were too busy wondering and worrying.
Ma-Mutt knew what was responsible! The bad twin hiding in the pyramid.
If he could only make the Thundercats understand . . .
END OF PART TWO
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
Back to top
Home || FanStuff || Episode Guide || Character Bios || Chat || Multimedia || Forum || Links || Email
The THUNDERCATS and THUNDERCAT characters are trademarks of Telepictures Corporation and are ©1985.
Webpage ©2005-2006 by Mumm-Ra. Please ask before using material from this site.