These stories are fan-fiction, and are not intended to infringe on the rights of others in any way. The Thundercats characters are copyrighted by Lorimar Telepictures, Rankin-Bass Productions, Turner Broadcasting, or whoever owns the current rights. I post this freely, and make no profit other than the satisfaction that my fellow fans and I get from these stories. Enjoy!Chapter Five: Into the Fire
WildKat, ThunderManx, DeathClaw, Stripe, Trameea, and Tygra looked down at the mutant ship from the control tower. The main door was closed and the engines started to hum, but the ship was going nowhere. The severed hydraulic lines started shooting fluid in all directions as the mutants attempted to open the fusion reaction chambers.
WildKat was starting to panic. “Let’s get down there right now while we can!” Everyone agreed. WildKat felt their chances would be much better if they could strike while everyone was still inside, because the hundreds of soldiers they saw earlier would be too much to handle out in the open.
“I’ll seal the main door, you guys look for any hatches they can pop out of,” WildKat said excitedly as they ran down the stairs to ground level.
WildKat was pleasantly surprised to see the main door had an old-fashioned wheel latch: it looked easy enough to jam. He had planned to use some of Panthro’s thermite putty to simply weld the door shut, but that might not be necessary after all. Just to be safe, he quickly applied the compound to several points along the seam and pushed in some remote igniters. He handed the transmitter to Stripe. “Here, I’m going to find a bar or something. If that wheel starts to turn, hit the button.” Stripe nodded as WildKat quickly ran back into the lair.
Trameea and DeathClaw were scaling the framework that supported the engines on the port side looking for a way into the ship. There was a ladder, but it was covered with hydraulic fluid. After they could ascend no further, Trameea shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, so much for this being a clean job,” as she made her way to the ladder with DeathClaw close behind.
WildKat came running out of the Lair with a jagged section of steel he found on the foundry floor. He quickly jammed it into the wheel and wedged it tightly. “Okay, let’s check out the bow. Maybe there’s an escape hatch up there—I see a ladder.” WildKat and Stripe started to climb.
On the starboard side, ThunderManx and Tygra were climbing the framework looking for hatches. There was no fluid leaking because the damage was on the other side, but the lines were all dry now: nothing worked. They knew it was a matter of time before someone would come out to see what was wrong. The hum of the fusion reactors started to fade, so everyone quickened their pace.
Tygra was the first to spot a hatch. He wrapped himself with his bolo-whip and prepared to enter as ThunderManx opened it and activated his armband. The two invisible cats looked down the hatch and saw a ladder that they could use to get inside. They could hear voices at the bottom, but they were a few corridors away.
Trameea and DeathClaw were having some difficulty climbing up the slippery ladder as the dark hydraulic fluid was soaking into their fur and clothing. DeathClaw said, “Yuck! When this is over, and I’ve had a good shower or three, I’m going to laaaaaugh!” He paused for a moment and said, “Then I’m going to sleep for a week.”
Trameea echoed his sentiments. “I think we’re almost there—at least we’re past the leaks now.”
DeathClaw shook one of his oil-soaked hands and said, “Thank Jaga.”
Trameea froze and unhitched her whip—someone was walking around above them. The vertical ladder they were climbing started to roll forward: they were near the top of the engine cage. Trameea saw a pair of Vulture Mutants in overalls with tool belts coming towards them. She wrapped the end of her whip around a leg of the nearer one and pulled the surprised repairman into the framework. The mutant fell—bouncing back and forth between the beams—squawking all the way to the ground. DeathClaw shuddered as he watched the painful-looking descent.
The other vulture pulled out a small laser pistol and started firing. Panicked, Trameea lost her footing and started to fall. Her whole system was instantly flooded with adrenaline as she barely managed to grab one of DeathClaw’s legs. He yelped in pain as the extra weight on his leg made his already sore sides and ribcage burn. There was a loud hiss of steel vaporizing a few inches away from his hand as the Vulture Mutant leaned over the edge so he could fire straight down at them. It would only be a half-second before the laser pistol could charge up for another shot, so DeathClaw swung himself and Trameea around to the inside edge of the ladder to make harder targets of themselves.
Trameea managed to grab a hold of the ladder—much to DeathClaw’s relief. She reached into her pocket for some of WildKat’s pellets and selected a white one and a blue one. The hissing of laser hits started again as the vulture managed to spot their hands. Trameea timed his last shot and quickly wrapped one arm around the ladder. She swung halfway around, throwing both pellets towards the mutant. Both of the pellets landed behind the vulture, and he stopped firing to laugh at them.
“Ahhh ha ha ha caww caww! Is that your best, thunderian? I’ll get you—AWWWK!” The magnesium pellet may have missed, but a breeze carried a cloud of WildKat’s obnoxious powder over the surprised Vulture Mutant. DeathClaw wanted to laugh, but his sides hurt too much. The two of them swung back around to the outside edge of the ladder and started climbing again. They could hear the vulture sneezing repeatedly and uttering curses between sneezes. As they reached the top, they found the mutant writhing in agony and attempting to scratch himself all over. Most of the powder was stuck to his back and he was firing blindly in their general direction. Trameea used her whip to disarm the mutant, but he was too distracted to care. Trameea remembered her father telling her that an itch is a single pain receptor firing, so she figured the vulture was feeling some serious pain. She would have felt sorry for him, but he had tried to kill them a few moments ago. DeathClaw saw the open maintenance hatch and headed straight for it with Trameea following.
WildKat and Stripe found an emergency escape hatch on the bow that led to the bridge, but it was locked. Stripe started pounding on the hatch when WildKat stopped him. “Hey, what’re you doing?”
Stripe said with devilish grin, “Trust me…” his voice suddenly changed to that of a Vulture Mutant, “Cawww… I know what I’m doing, Slythe!”
WildKat’s eyes went wide with shock. “I didn’t know you could do that!” WildKat activated his pellet launchers, causing four keys to descend from his wrist fittings into his palms: two for each hand.
Stripe’s voice changed to a perfect imitation of Slythe as he said, “These days, it’s not considered proper to make fun of mutants, yesssss?” He started pounding on the hatch again. “Cawww! Cawww! Let me in you dolts! This is Vultureman! Cawww! I know what happened to the engines! Cawww! Let me in now!”
Stripe’s efforts were rewarded as the hatch slid open. WildKat’s boots landed on the Reptilian Mutant that opened the hatch, knocking him aside. WildKat immediately sent a quick spread of magnesium burst pellets in a wide arc from his left-hand launcher, rapidly firing with sharp popping sounds. The pellets detonated on all the control panels, instantly blinding the mutants at their control stations. Stripe vaulted through the hatch and assumed the “tiger fighting stance,” looked around at all the fumbling mutants, cleared his throat, then straightened up. “Hey, that was quick.”
WildKat opened the hatch leading to the interior of the ship and flicked a red sleeping gas pellet towards the bridge as he closed the hatch again. “That’ll keep them for four hours.”
Stripe saw how the corridor seemed to go on forever with no bends or turns; he didn’t like the looks of this situation at all—he felt very exposed. As they started to enter a darkened chamber lit only by a few dim red bulbs, two heavily armed Simian Mutants emerged from the darkness. “Hoo hoo… don’t move! Call Slythe, we’re gonna get a big reward for this!”
WildKat’s heart started to sink as he realized that there was no way out. His heart sunk even lower as he heard Slythe further down the darkened corridor saying, “Well done, Monkians! We’ll take them from here, yesssss?”
The simians turned around and lowered their laser rifles. Suddenly, Stripe tossed two of his blue flash pellets—one in each hand—towards the simians. The pellets detonated against the walls in front of them, causing the simians to scream and cover their eyes. WildKat stood there in shock as Stripe hurled himself at the mutants and tackled them both to the ground. Pulling out a machete, he chopped through both of the cables that led from their battery packs to their rifles. He looked at WildKat and said, “Well, are you coming or not?” as he fished out one of his own sleeping gas pellets and held it up, waiting for WildKat to get out of the way.
WildKat blinked, looked around, and trotted over to Stripe’s side. “Damn, I really thought we were finished. How did you do that?”
Stripe shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know, it’s just something I was born with. I drove my family crazy when I was a kid.” Stripe casually tossed the pellet over his shoulder as they continued walking further into the ship.
DeathClaw and Trameea were making their way down the aft port corridor of the giant ship. They didn’t know where they were going, only their direction. They had passed two large cargo holds with high ceilings, but they were empty. They were close to the third hold when they started to hear voices coming from behind. They instinctively pressed themselves against the door so the others wouldn’t see them, but they knew they were going to have to open the bay doors immediately, and pray that the mutants didn’t hear them.
DeathClaw hit the switch that opened the hold. Trameea gasped when she realized what was in this cargo hold as the giant doors continued to slide open, despite DeathClaw’s frantic attempts to close them again with the switch. DeathClaw had been backing up and spun around to come face to face with a room filled with at least a hundred Reptilian Mutant soldiers. They weren’t armed with guns, but several of them started jumping up from their improvised beds and ran to grab their laser rifles and backpacks. The rest of the soldiers advanced with the clubs, axes, and knives they always carried.
Trameea panicked and threw a handful of pellets into the crowd. DeathClaw gave up trying to close the bay doors and jumped back into the corridor with his hardwood sword drawn. A small crowd of Simian Mutants still armed with laser rifles greeted him. After a moment of shock at seeing an armed thunderian inside their ship had passed, the two simians in front raised their rifles and started sweeping the corridor. Slythe was in the middle of the group and barked, “Stop that now, you idiots! You’re going to breach the hull! Do you want to spend the whole trip back to Plundarr locked inside your barracks?”
The pellets that Trameea threw into the reptilian barracks had done their work, but now they couldn’t retreat without risking contact with the mix of sleep gas and sneezing/itching powder that was slowly spreading in their direction. Trameea looked desperately at DeathClaw as she clutched her last two pellets… red sleepers. DeathClaw was still fully armed as he pulled out two blue mag pellets and nodded. The white cloud of noxious powder was just about to reach them when they rolled sideways and threw their pellets at the mutants’ feet. Slythe and the simians—caught by surprise—inhaled enough to knock them out, but not before one of the simians managed to get a shot off.
Trameea screamed as the laser flashed quickly across her stomach and ribcage as the simian lost consciousness. She collapsed to the floor holding her arms around herself as DeathClaw screamed “TRAMEEA!” with wide eyes.
A small band of simians were coming around the corner, attracted by the noise of the fighting. Two of them in front started to raise their rifles slowly as they grinned evilly. DeathClaw froze, kneeling next to the fallen Trameea, waiting for the darkness to overcome him. They couldn’t run into the barracks without entering the cloud of sleeping gas and that awful powder, and they couldn’t retreat because of the other sleeping gas cloud that was slowly making its way towards them. Realizing that they were outmatched, he dropped his hardwood sword and slowly raised his hands.
The simians stopped and looked them over; the lead simian spoke in an even tone. “Hoo hoo. They’re not Thundercats, they have no value… extermin…”
The leader’s last word was interrupted by several electrical discharges behind them. The simians in the rear of the group started howling, shaking, and dropping from electrical bolts going through them. The simians in the middle of the group wheeled around and brought their rifles to bear, but they were looking at nothing. One of them started firing, but his rifle was knocked upwards by an invisible force. Something plowed into the remaining five mutants, knocking them to the floor.
DeathClaw was relieved as he saw Tygra fade into view, casually walking across the bodies of the simians that ThunderManx had flattened. Tygra gasped as he approached Trameea, holding her chest and stomach in pain. He removed her Miner’s Glasses and looked into her frightened eyes. ThunderManx stayed invisible because the mutant devices took too long to activate and he wanted to stand guard. He also didn't want the others to see the tears forming in his eyes. Trameea had been like a sister to him for as long as he could remember, and he couldn’t stand to see her in pain. He had to move the mutant-made goggles off of his eyes and onto his forehead so he could see clearly—the heat of his tears had fogged them up. ThunderManx distracted himself by opening the battery packs on the unconscious simians and removing the power regulators, making their weapons useless.
Tygra softly said, “Come on Trameea, let’s see…”
Trameea sobbed, “No! It hurts!”
Tygra said, “Come on… we’ll fix you up. Slowly… slowly…”
Trameea slowly relinquished her hold on herself. There was some blood on her arms, but not much.
Tygra patiently explained, “Okay… that’s a flash burn. It doesn’t look deep, and it’s already cauterized. That Monkian swept you too quickly to cause any permanent damage, but you’ll have a scar there for some time. Can you walk?”
Trameea felt her confidence returning. “I… I… yes,” as she slowly stood up while wincing. DeathClaw put her left arm around him and supported her weight as they slowly walked forward. The sleep gas cloud was drifting towards them and they had to move immediately.
Trameea called out, “ThorrManx? Are you there?”
ThunderManx swallowed, breathed in and out quickly and said, “Yeah.” He had to concentrate to mask his emotions.
Tygra said, “We knocked out all the Monkians on the starboard side. Most of them were sleeping, and a couple of them were in the corridor, but they gave us no trouble. I wonder how Stripe and Kat are doing.”
DeathClaw said, “Let’s just work our way forward.”
Trameea’s stride improved and she removed her arm from DeathClaw as they continued walking.
WildKat and Stripe came to the end of the corridor. There was a spiral staircase that led to the lower level of the ship. They descended slowly, listening carefully for signs of mutant activity. When they reached the bottom, they found a large cargo hold amidships. Stripe found a switch and hit it. They had their weapons ready as they watched the doors slowly slide open.
A small voice cried, “WilyKat!” A small teenage jackal girl ran out and hugged WildKat. They had found the refugees: nearly one hundred of them. Stripe asked an old jackal woman standing by the door, “Is this everyone?”
The lady answered, “For us, yes. They locked up the Bovians in the next hold. Those Imperial idiots just did a quick roundup and got less than half of us. I’m glad to see you two here, will we leave now?”
Stripe said, “Yes, of course! We’ll go to Cat’s Lair to wait for the others to return from space so we can lock all of these Imperials up. We’re going to meet four of our friends who are probably on their way here right now.”
WildKat said, “When they come, I’ll go back to the bridge and try to raise the local police.”
The jackal woman said, “It won’t do any good. They’re all locked in their jail, and the Imperials welded the doors shut with their guns.”
Stripe grimaced as he said, “Figures. This day is far from over.”
Jackalman was walking down the corridor, still quite invisible. He didn’t opt for one of those bulky miner’s lasers, but he did carry a standard laser pistol along with his trusty club. He had entered through the bridge, and had made his way to the main deck. He stopped when he saw WildKat in the corridor hugging some refugee.
Jackalman crept closer, raised his gun, and thought about how easily he would execute one of his most hated enemies. He mentally gloated to himself as he watched the young Thundercat and his mutant friend through his sights. He quietly released the safety and listened to the faint hiss of the pistol charged up.
Racina was sobbing with her face buried in WildKat’s shoulder as he slowly escorted her into the hallway for some privacy. Stripe was engaged in conversation with the refugees inside. WildKat was now facing the invisible Jackalman. Tears welled up in WildKat’s eyes as he comforted the young orange-furred girl. He could feel the warm dampness of her tears soaking through his shirt and fur.
Racina was sobbing between words. “I thought… I’d never… see you again. I thought… I’d die a slave on Plundarr… I… wanted to die.” Racina started crying very hard against WildKat’s chest.
WildKat sniffed and inhaled through his mouth as he fought back his own tears. He spoke softly, “It’s okay, Racee. You’re going to be safe. I won’t let anything… happen to you…” he was losing control of his own emotions, so he started breathing quickly, trying to regain his composure. His voice cracked as he said, “I love you, little sister.”
Jackalman was stunned. A Thundercat was calling one of his species a “little sister”? He felt very angry as he aimed at WildKat’s forehead, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. Watching the young jackal girl crying hit too close to home: he remembered the day his own sister was sold to a family in another city as a slave. He was only a cub and he never saw her again—he had cried himself to sleep every night for the rest of his childhood. His only reason for living since then was the Imperial Mutant Army and revenge against everyone that stood in his way. He fought against the odds to get where he was and what did it all add up to? Being subservient to that snake Slythe, stuck on Third Earth with no glory, and getting his rear end kicked on a regular basis by the Thundercats. “Maybe Monkian had some brains after all,” he thought to himself.
Jackalman was surprised at the feelings that coursed through him. He started to wonder why he had fought the Thundercats all those years. Sure, he had lots of scores to settle with WilyKat as well as the others for past deeds, but Jackalman was quickly losing his nerve as he continued to watch the jackal girl crying on the Thundercat that was silently crying on her too. WildKat was stroking the fur on her head and back, trying to reassure her that she was safe. WildKat sniffed again and gently kissed the top of her head. He got down in a half-kneeling position, making himself slightly shorter than Racina. He gently wiped the tears away from her eyes and said, “It’s okay, Racee. We’ll all be together again real soon; we’re your family now. Stripe, Manx, Claw, Trameea, and I. We all love you very much, and we’ll always be there for you.” WildKat closed his eyes and smiled as she reached out to wipe a tear from his eye. WildKat sighed and hugged her very tightly, smiling warmly to himself.
This was too much for Jackalman to bear. He shook his head, quietly switched the safety on his pistol, and holstered it as he walked back to the bridge to leave the ship, the Cat’s Lair, and everything else behind for good. He realized that his eyes were starting to tear up too, and he was thankful that he was invisible so no one would see him this way. He was embarrassed by these feelings he hadn’t felt for so many years, but he knew they were right.
He removed his goggles and started to think about the idea of getting a job in one of the mutant-owned shops. Surely that would be less stressful than the life he had led up to this point, and he knew in his heart that the Thundercats wouldn’t harbor ill will towards him, or at least they wouldn’t act on it. He was all too aware of their strict code of honor. Still, he would love to smack one or two of them around at some point in the future. He smiled as he jumped off the ladder at the base of the ship and started to walk towards the city. He did have this handy invisibility device after all.