The fight was getting ugly. Deep in the heart of DarkSide, weapons clashed among the warring parties on the ground while the vehicles in the air above fired upon each other with increasing intensity. Such fighting had become almost a daily event in the life of the Thundercats and their foes, the Lunatacs and the Mutants. The battle took place on a plateau high in the bleak mountains of the area. Cheetara, Tygra, Pumyra, and the Thunderkittens fought on the ground against Monkian, Jackalman, TugMug, Chilla, and Alluro. Just a short distance away, Panthro and Lion-O manned the Thundertank, holding off Slythe in the Nose Diver and Vultureman in his flying machine. On the opposite side of the battlefield the Thunderstrike, piloted by Lynx-O and Bengali, faced off with the Lunattacker. An equally determined RedEye, Luna, and Amok were inside that vehicle and fired back with ferocity. The enemy teams were fighting one another so viciously to obtain the same valuable resource—a newly discovered Thundrillium deposit that could power either side for weeks with energy to spare.
It was Pumyra who had made the discovery that morning, while investigating some ruins in the area originating from a civilization they believed to be dated sometime in Second Earth. Long-range readings in the unexplored territory hinted that it might be rich in the treasured ore of Thundrillium, and upon closer investigation, it was confirmed that she had indeed found some Thundrillium pebbles while sifting among debris on the ground. She had later brought Panthro back to check out the area to see if it was worth mining. Sure enough, their analysis indicated a fair amount present in the soil and there was evidence of an even larger deposit beneath. A full team of Thundercats returned to excavate it, and they had just finished loading it when the Mutants and Lunatacs ambushed them. Not surprisingly, it turned out that the Lunatacs had been monitoring them closely ever since their initial entry into DarkSide, and once they had figured out what they were doing, they laid low until the Thundercats finished mining, ambushed the felines, and attempted to take the Thundrillium they had already excavated for themselves. However, the Thundercats were no fools, and they had come into the area expecting trouble. The planned ambush did not go quite as well as the Lunatacs and Mutants had hoped, and the battle they were engaged in was the result.
The ground fight was a stalemate. It was five against five, with neither side having any appreciable advantage. Things took a startling turn for the worse when a stray shot from above struck the ground in the midst of the scuffle and caused everyone to scatter. Cheetara, Alluro, and Monkian scrambled backwards into one ruin, while the others fell back in the opposite direction. Before they could get their bearings and fight again, another stray shot, that one originating from the Thunderstrike, blew open a still-intact wall to a sealed chamber dangerously close to the three who were in the ruins. When the ancient concrete crumbled after being hit with the fiery beam, a putrid green haze seeped out from the ruins and engulfed them. The three of them struggled to breathe in the noxious cloud of vapor, but its poisonous stench overpowered them and brought each of them to their knees, gasping for air. It took only seconds for the toxins in the gas to pass into their bloodstream, and in short order the affected Thundercat, Lunatac, and Mutant fell to the ground unconscious. The murky haze dissipated a few moments later, vanishing almost as quickly as it had appeared, but despite that Cheetara, Alluro, and Monkian still lay there unmoving.
The others saw what had happened to their respective allies and ran to the site, their skirmish temporarily forgotten in light of the unsettling turn of events. Even the selfish Mutants and Lunatacs could not ignore one of their own falling, even if a chunk of the motivation was simply to make sure they were not in danger themselves. Besides, there would be time to nab the Thundrillium while the Thundercats were preoccupied with Cheetara, they individually reasoned.
Tygra was the first to reach them. He did not smell anything off in the air as he knelt at Cheetara's side, although he was distracted by her ominously limp form. "Cheetara, no!" the anguished tiger said as he scooped her into his arms. "Cheetara, please, you have to wake up!" He sensed others gathering around behind him, friend and enemy alike, but his main concern was for his fallen friend.
"Great Jaga..." Pumyra whispered, her heart heavy as she looked down at Cheetara.
"She can't be!" cried the two Thunderkittens.
Ignoring the Thundercats for a moment, Jackalman whimpered as he approached Monkian and gave his still body an apprehensive tap with his foot. "Monkian, nyah, are you ok?" He waited for a response, but there was none.
Chilla meanwhile knelt beside Alluro and felt for a pulse. She glanced up at TugMug, who had wheeled over behind her, with an uncharacteristic look of distress on her face.
"They're dead?" TugMug asked, although there was little discernable emotion in his tone.
Those who had gathered around the fallen Thundercat, Lunatac, and Mutant were so wrapped up in the situation that they barely noticed that the others manning the vehicles had parked and landed to find out what was happening. Although the temptation was there for the Lunatacs and Mutants to take advantage and grab the Thundrillium, their curiosity got the better of them. They figured that whatever happened, it must have been quite significant to get the others to stop fighting, and they did not want to be left in the dark about it. The Thundercats had no such selfish motives; their only concern was for their friends and they only remained on their guard due to the presence of their enemies. As soon as they climbed out of their vehicles, Lion-O and the other Thundercats gathered around Tygra and Cheetara. Tygra moved out of the way so Pumyra could give the cheetah first aid, but she was unable to do anything to revive her. "She's not dead," Pumyra told them after examining her. "She's got a faint pulse, but whatever that green fog was must've poisoned her. We need to get her back to the Lair now."
"It probably wouldn't be a bad idea for us to get out of here too," Tygra said, frowning at the ruins from which the deadly haze had originated. "Whatever that toxin was, it could still be in the air or there could be more of it. We shouldn't risk further exposure to it."
Lion-O nodded, and before he could even ask, Tygra and the Thunderkittens gently moved the unconscious Cheetara to one of the Thunderstrike's pods. The Thundercat Lord then turned toward his foes still standing nearby. "Are they alive?" He gestured to Alluro and Monkian.
When she heard his voice, Luna whirled around, her green eyes ablaze with rage. "What's it to you?" she screeched. "Haven't you Thundercats done enough? This is all your fault! That shot came from the Thunderstrike!"
"My fault?" a stunned Lion-O repeated, taken aback by the venom in Luna's tone. "You ambushed us! We were only defending ourselves." He frowned at them. "I was just trying to help! Whatever poisoned Cheetara also affected your friends."
Chilla stood up, ignoring the lion for the moment. Any other time she would have loved to ice him, but at the moment she was more concerned about Alluro, a thought that if she actually spent the time to analyze, likely would have disgusted her. "Alluro's still alive, Thundercat," she informed him icily. "His heart's still beating, but not very strongly."
Among the Mutants, Vultureman was attempting to diagnose Monkian's condition. Although he was no doctor or medic, of the Mutants on Third Earth he was the most educated in biological sciences and defaulted to the role. Addressing Luna rather than Lion-O, as he found her the less odious of the two—although not by much—he added, "It's the same with Monkian. It's clear that vapor did something to them, that it was some kind of fast-acting, caw, poison that went through their lungs."
Lion-O frowned, less at the attitude of the Mutants and Lunatacs than at the gravity of the situation. He took a deep breath and decided he would do what he knew in his heart was the "right thing" even though it would undoubtedly cause himself and his fellow Thundercats an added heap of trouble. "We're taking Cheetara to our medical facility in Cat's Lair. Since those two have been affected the same way, we can take them as well—"
The offer only angered Slythe further, and he hissed in outrage at the notion of the Thundercats pitying them or thinking them too inferior to care for their own. "We don't need your help, Thundercat. We're capable of taking care of ourssselves, yesss! Vultureman, get Monkian into your flying machine and back to Castle Plundarr immediately!" The vulture cawed, and with a bit of assistance from Jackalman, loaded the bulky unconscious simian into the back seat of the vehicle.
Meanwhile Lion-O turned to Luna, who glared back at him with equal contempt. "We don't want or need your charity, Lion-O. Lunatacs are light years ahead of Thunderians in scientific advances. We can take care of ourselves. We're taking Alluro back to Skytomb," she snapped as TugMug and RedEye carried Alluro to the Lunattacker.
"Suit yourself then," Lion-O said, and sighed. A part of him was relieved, but still, he hoped that Alluro and Monkian would not die because their leaders were too proud to accept help from an enemy. "I only thought it might help if just this once we worked together." He then turned and went back to the Thunderstrike, dismissing the Lunatacs and Mutants from his mind as he saw Cheetara once again, prone on the seat and still unconscious. He climbed into the seat beside her and took her hand, his eyes filled with concern. A few moments later the Thundercats were airborne, bound for the Lair, taking the ill Cheetara home. The mined Thundrillium, still in the Thundertank, went with them. Surprisingly, neither the Mutants nor the Lunatacs made a move to intercept it. It seemed that their enemies might value the lives of their teammates more than they had thought.
A short while later, Panthro, WilyKat, and WilyKit entered the medical bay of Cat's Lair, where Pumyra tended to the comatose Cheetara. "Is there any change?" Panthro asked gently, casting a worried look at the cheetah.
Pumyra looked up from the intravenous fluid bag that she had just finished hooking up and sighed, and the other Thundercats noticed that the puma's eyes were bleary and tinged with red. Although Pumyra had treated patients she had close relationships with before, it was never easy, especially when an eventual recovery was not a given. "I wish I could say there was. She appears to be in a coma. Tygra's running a blood scan on her to see if he can figure out what it was she inhaled, but I don't think..." Her voice trailed off and she fought back a sob of frustration. Her training had taught her that she could not expect to work miracles and that sometimes her efforts would be in vain, but that was hard to put into practice when it was a dear friend whose life hung in the balance.
"No!" cried WilyKat. "Cheetara can't die!"
Before anything else could be said, Lion-O and Tygra joined them. The tiger cleared his throat, and they all turned to him anticipating an announcement, preferably a favorable one. Unfortunately that was not the news Tygra had come to give. "I've finished the blood scan," he said somberly. "Now keep in mind I'm not a doctor, and the life sciences aren't my specialty, but... anyway, I determined that when she inhaled that gas, it triggered the formation of an irregular protein in Cheetara's bloodstream, one that acts as some kind of muscle relaxant and sedative. Its presence triggered and is keeping her in this unconscious state."
Pumyra frowned as she considered what Tygra told her. "Does it show any sign of breaking down? If it does, maybe it'll wear off on its own once it runs its course."
"Unfortunately, the protein is fairly stable and seems to have a long half-life. Incubating the samples at body temperature, and even higher, doesn't speed up the deterioration process." Tygra sighed. "The good news is that I don't think it will kill her. I haven't seen any indication of more toxic metabolites in her bloodstream, and what's in her body now isn't enough to kill her. We can keep her alive on an IV, but I can't tell you how long that'll be. And this toxin is unlike any I've seen, and between Pumyra and I it'll take a lot of research to come up with something to cure it."
"A couple of days you mean?" WilyKit asked nervously.
Tygra's frown deepened. "More like a couple of weeks, or months even, depending on how many leads we get." He put a hand on the kitten's shoulder, his tone heavy with sadness. "Much of Third Earth is still alien to us, and we don't have the benefit of libraries full of information about what plants have what curative properties, or how to identify them, especially when we're not even sure what exactly the toxin is."
WilyKit trembled a little when she took in the implication of what Tygra was saying, and looked at the cheetah's sleeping form with tears in her eyes. "It's not hopeless, is it? I mean, even if you don't find a cure, she'll wake up on her own when it wears off, right?"
"We can hope so," Pumyra said gently to the Thunderkitten. "But different substances work differently in the body, and some can stay in the system for hours while others last months."
"And all indications are that this one is long-lasting," Tygra confirmed. "So in light of that, Lion-O and I have determined two courses of action that we need to take. The first involves a complete investigation of the ruin that the poisonous gas came from. Perhaps something there can tell us precisely what we're dealing with and from there we can narrow down potential remedies. The second is a little more difficult. In order to learn everything we can about the condition, seeing how it works in different physiological states would be helpful. If we were able to get blood samples from Monkian and Alluro and we could see how it reacts in Mutant and Lunatac bodies, it would help tremendously. It'd be ideal if we could convince the Mutants and Lunatacs to let us observe them here, but if that's out of the question, perhaps they'd be willing to negotiate some blood samples with us in exchange for whatever we can tell them about how to cure it."
Lion-O picked up where Tygra left off. "I'm going to ask Bengali to come to the ruins and investigate them with me. Pumyra, I'm going to send Panthro to cover for you and Bengali at the Tower of Omens, so you can go with the Thunderkittens to Castle Plundarr and Skytomb to negotiate with them."
"What if Cheetara's condition worsens?" asked Pumyra. "Shouldn't I stay and monitor her?"
"Snarf has cared for the sick in times of crisis back on Thundera and he knows some first aid, and Tygra will be here in the Lair monitoring his sample workups. If an emergency arises, they should be able to cover it until you can get back."
"It's unlikely that her condition will worsen from what analyses I've run," Tygra assured her.
"And you're the formally trained healer, so you're the logical choice to send to get the best samples for the tests," Lion-O finished. "Plus, the Mutants and Lunatacs will be more likely to trust us if they see we're sending you to do the job. They saw back at the ruins that we were asking you the questions about Cheetara's condition."
Pumyra nodded. "That makes sense. All right then. Let's get this taken care of." She gestured to the Thunderkittens. "Come on, Cheetara's counting on us!" The twins quickly followed her, while Lion-O and Panthro left to find Bengali, leaving Tygra alone with Cheetara.
An oppressive silence fell over the medical bay as Tygra took a seat beside the sleeping cheetah. Her breathing was labored and her stillness unsettling to him. We will save you, he vowed. No matter what it takes.
In a harsher and more industrial facility than the one in Cat's Lair, Luna sat next to Alluro's still form in Skytomb's sickbay. She was alone in the room with him while the others were brainstorming for a solution to their predicament. Even Amok was elsewhere. "I hope you know how much trouble you've caused," Luna grumbled to the unconscious psi, her tone more depressed than angry. She frowned at him with unwanted emotion building up inside her. Though she was loath to admit it, Luna felt an odd sort of responsibility for her ragtag crew, and while she did not like most of them much of the time, she did not want to lose them either. Not only were their skills valuable, but they had been a part of her life for years. However, Luna also was a firm believer that sentimentality was a weakness, and she certainly did not consider herself weak. So why was it that she could not stand the thought that the psi was likely going to die?
A buzzer sounded on the intercom, shaking her out of her melancholy thoughts. She automatically hit the button to respond, glad for the distraction. "What?"
"Caw, Luna, is that you?"
"Vultureman?" she replied, surprised that it was a Mutant on the other end and not one of the other Lunatacs.
"Yes, Luna, I need a favor."
Luna frowned. "Don't you Mutants always need something? What now?"
"We don't have adequate medical facilities at Castle Plundarr to treat Monkian. Since both he and Alluro were affected by the same substance and we were acting as allies to get that Thundrillium, and we both need the cure, I assumed—"
"Didn't anyone ever tell you what assuming does?" Luna retorted curtly. Working with the Mutants was trying on a good day, and that day was far from being classified as good. Unfortunately Vultureman also had a point, and if he had come up with some information about the condition that they had not, she wanted to hear it, so she shelved her distaste for the time being. "Fine," she said after a pause, her tone flat and unwelcoming. "You may bring him in."
"Thanks, Luna," he squawked in response. "You won't regret it." The intercom clicked off.
"I'll believe that when I see it," she muttered back to the dead air before glancing back at the ill Alluro. "When you wake up, I'll pay you back for this."
Miles away in DarkSide, Lion-O and Bengali searched the ruins. So far they had not had much luck. All they had found was what looked like part of an inscription in an ancient tongue on what remained of the chamber wall. Neither had any idea how to translate it beyond some guesswork that it was some sort of warning given that there was also a pictorial glyph of a fallen body with its hands around its throat.
Wearing a mask on his face to help filter out any noxious particles, Bengali ventured further inside while Lion-O painstakingly sifted through the rubble pieces for more clues. The lion was starting to give up hope when he heard Bengali shout from inside the ruin. "Lion-O, I found something!"
"What?" Lion-O was on his feet in a flash, but before he could make it inside, Bengali greeted him in the spot where he had entered.
"Scrolls. Ancient scrolls," the tiger said as Lion-O approached. He held up a flashlight in one hand so that they could both see what he held in his other better; several rolled-up pieces of cloth-like paper that appeared to be originally fashioned from an animal skin and preserved with a waxy coating. "Maybe these have the answers we're looking for." He smiled with renewed hope.
"Yes, if we can translate them," Lion-O agreed with a nod. "Let's get them back to the Lair. It's the best lead we've got so far."
WilyKit shuddered involuntarily as she, WilyKat, and Pumyra approached the imposing mobile fortress Skytomb. The three of them had just watched Vultureman and Jackalman carry Monkian inside, and WilyKit herself was not particularly looking forward to being the next to go and knock on the Lunatacs' door. "At least we won't have to go to Castle Plundarr now," she murmured, although it was not much of a consolation to herself, her brother, or Pumyra.
"Yeah, and we just have to convince our enemies who are armed to the teeth and outnumber us two to one that we want to take their sick friends to our home base," WilyKat echoed in sarcastic joviality that betrayed his own nervousness. "Piece of cake, right?"
Pumyra smiled and shook her head lightly, inwardly echoing the kittens' sentiments. "Like Lion-O and Tygra said, we don't have a choice, so we'd better just get it over with. Cheetara's counting on us. Come on." She bravely leapt out from where they crouched in hiding behind a rocky outcropping and approached Skytomb's main doors. The kittens followed her closely behind, pellets already in hand in case of an attack. "Lunatacs! Mutants!" she called out loudly, holding up her hands to show that she intended no threat. "We've come in peace. We only want to talk to you."
A loudspeaker crackled to life. "We have nothing to say to you, Thundercats, other than you have five seconds to get out before we open fire," TugMug's accented voice answered.
"But we want to help you!" Pumyra replied. "Cheetara's suffering from the same condition as Alluro and Monkian. If we work together, we could heal them all. All we're asking is a temporary truce. We all want the same thing: our friends to recover. We're on the same side this time."
"We're only on one side—ours," TugMug countered, and then a second voice, an abrasive and shrill one, cut in.
"Wait, TugMug. Let them in. We'll hear you out, Thundercats, but on our terms. Put your weapons away, and that includes you two brats as well," she said pointedly to the kittens, "and walk slowly into the elevator."
As the elevator began to descend they overheard what sounded like TugMug voicing an objection in the background, but the intercom then went silent before they could make anything else out. "A shame Lynx-O's not with us to tell us what he said."
"It's probably not fit to repeat," Pumyra said as they approached the elevator, which touched down and opened a moment later.
WilyKat glanced nervously into the empty cylindrical chamber beyond the crescent moon insignia doors. "Ladies first," he said, and gestured for Pumyra and his sister to go first. WilyKit shot him a look, and the three Thundercats entered together. The doors closed with a loud clang behind them, and they felt themselves rising a short distance before they opened again, revealing Luna upon Amok, TugMug, and Vultureman waiting for them with dubious and threatening looks.
"What exactly do you want?" demanded Luna.
"Tygra figured out what's causing the condition," Pumyra told them, figuring that being forthcoming with the facts would put them at ease. "When they inhale the gas, it metabolizes into an abnormal protein in the bloodstream that triggers the comatose state. It won't kill them without further exposure, but we don't know how long it lasts, either, or how to counteract it."
"So you don't have a cure or any leads to one," Luna said, glowering at the felines with unhidden contempt. "Why are you here then?"
Pumyra frowned under her enemies' critical gazes. "We were hoping that you'd let us observe and treat Alluro and Monkian along with Cheetara." As she finished speaking the Lunatacs' and Mutant's expressions hardened further, but she pressed on, determined to see it through for Cheetara's sake. "We'd treat your friends as well as we will Cheetara, and you have it on our honor as Thundercats that we'll release them with no strings attached afterward. We won't take undue advantage of any of you," she said earnestly. "For the sake of our friends, we're willing to overlook our differences for the time being."
"How generous," an unimpressed TugMug sneered.
"Absolutely out of the question!" Luna snapped back at the puma. "Alluro stays here." Vultureman nodded along with Luna, making it clear that he was making the same choice in regards to Monkian.
Pumyra frowned, although she was not surprised by the response. In fact, she was more surprised that they were being as friendly as they were and had not tried to pull anything shifty on her and the twins yet. She supposed she ought to not press her luck too much in light of that. "All right then," she said in a diplomatic tone. "Would you allow us to take some blood samples to analyze? Or draw them yourselves if you don't trust me?" Their expressions remained hard and cold, but they did not immediately answer. She then added, "I promise that we'll share anything we learn from it. I swear on the Code of Thundera we won't do them any harm."
"Please, Luna?" WilyKat echoed with a pleading note in his voice. "I know you hate us, but you don't want to let them die just because you don't like us, do you?"
Luna glared back at the boy, but relented. "Oh, very well." She tightened her grip on her riding crop. "A few samples, and nothing more. And we'll be watching you like hawks. In fact, RedEye will be there to supervise along with Vultureman and TugMug." The vulture and graviton exchanged looks, but did not otherwise object while Luna continued to speak. "And if we find out you found a cure and double-crossed us..."
"You won't. We swear on our honor as Thundercats," WilyKit told the Lunatac leader. "Thank you Luna. We really do appreciate your help."
"I didn't do it for you, and I'd rather have results than gratitude," she snapped at the girl in response. "And your welcome here is short. Don't wear it out." She gestured for them to follow her to the medical bay. The sample collection was brief and uncomfortable, with all eyes in Skytomb save Chilla's on them. The icewalker remained on watch while Pumyra and the kittens carried out their task, and as soon as it was done they were ushered out quickly and with a warning to not double-cross them or take too long in getting back to them. Satisfied with what they had gotten and relieved to be finished with it, Pumyra and the Thunderkittens made haste back to Cat's Lair and turned the blood samples over to Tygra.
An hour later he announced the results of his analysis, which was that he had found the same protein anomaly in the blood of the psi and simian that was present in Cheetara's. While that was happening, Lion-O and Bengali returned to the Lair with the scrolls they had found and used their computers as well as hints from Sight Beyond Sight to translate them. They were not able to decipher them in their entirety, but they managed to piece together enough of it to understand the gist of it. Once they did, Lion-O called the Thundercats together to discuss a plan of action.
Facing his fellow Thundercats, Lion-O said, "We have some good news. This scroll mentions a "wrath of underworld god" and "burning fog that chokes out life". And this one seems to tell a story about warriors that ventured too close to this god's treasures who were cursed to eternal sleep in his wrath. We can surmise that they both warn against the same thing; going underground in this region. Perhaps those who built those ruins believed it sacred to this god. Knowing what we do about the gas, we think there's some chemical reaction in the soil, maybe unique to that part of DarkSide, that generates this poisonous vapor and it collects in sealed places underground."
"Like the ruin that got blasted open," Panthro said with a nod.
"Yes," confirmed Lion-O. "But there was more to this story, a mention of a potion or elixir—the word seems similar to the Wollos' term for it, and it makes sense along with the story if it is—that can wake 'the sleeping dead who angered him.'"
"We presume that means the angry underworld god," Bengali added.
Tygra's eyes lit up with hope. "So if that is what it means, then there is a cure for it?"
Bengali nodded. "It seems that whoever wrote these believed it to be magical, and able to be gotten only from a tribe referred to by what we think is a derivative of 'chosen' or 'favored'… the word isn't in any language used on Third Earth now, but has roots in words matching those in the Wollo and Tuska languages."
"Does it say where these people are?" WilyKat asked.
"I hope they're still around and not gone like whoever built those ruins," WilyKit said.
"The scroll mentions a dark forest to the east bordering on a vast sea. From where we were in DarkSide, the unicorn forest best fits that description. Hopefully that means that these people are descendants of whoever wrote these scrolls, and that perhaps the unicorn keepers know who they are. We don't think it's them since the scroll also hints that they're difficult to find and wary of outsiders," Bengali explained.
Lion-O looked over the faces of the other Thundercats. "We can only hope that they still exist on Third Earth, but it's worth a shot to search and find out for sure."
"Absolutely," a resolute Panthro agreed.
"And if we find them, we can cure Cheetara once we get the elixir!" WilyKit said with renewed optimism.
"And Alluro and Monkian too. We did promise, after all," said Pumyra with a wan smile. She was not thrilled at the prospect of returning to Skytomb, but she supposed she would much rather do that than have it turn out to be unnecessary because no cure was found.
"Yes, but maybe we shouldn't tell them just yet," Panthro said, looking from Pumyra to Lion-O. "Once we get this cure we'll give it to them, but you can bet that if we tell them we're following a lead too soon and they get it first…"
"Cheetara will never see it." Lion-O frowned. "No, we can't let that happen… and time is of the essence if we can't find these people at all, so that has to be our main priority. We'll need to send out scouts as soon as possible. Can I count on all of you to help?"
Pumyra smiled at the Thundercat Lord. "Of course you can."
"All right then. Pumyra, I'd like you to stay here this time and keep an eye on Cheetara. WilyKit and WilyKat, stay here with her and Snarf and stay on top of the communications. Lynx-O and Snarfer are still at the Tower of Omens alone since I called Panthro back here, so keep in touch with them. There shouldn't be any attacks from the Mutants or Lunatacs, but Mumm-Ra may use this as an opportunity to strike while we're down. Keep an eye out for anything suspicious. The rest of us will split up and search the unicorn forest."
"Sounds like a plan to me," agreed Panthro.
Tygra nodded along with the panther. "Let's head out then. Cheetara needs us."
"Thundercats—Ho!" the assembled Thundercats called out in unison, and left together to begin their search.
What the Thundercats did not know was that Chilla, who had followed Pumyra and the Thunderkittens in stealth after they left Skytomb, was still monitoring Cat's Lair from the Ice Runner. Luna had not trusted Pumyra and the Thunderkittens one bit, and had sent her to keep tabs on the Thundercats and keep them updated. The Ice Runner was hidden in a cluster of trees nearby, too far away for her to have any idea what was going on inside the Lair but close enough to see when the Thundertank came tearing out of it. Immediately she began monitoring transmissions, and it did not take long for her to pick up on a call from the Thundertank to the Tower of Omens that spelled out the reason for their sudden departure. Chilla's face twisted into an angry scowl, and she immediately contacted Skytomb with what she had learned.
"Those double-crossing hypocrites!" Luna screeched. "They're off to get a cure, and they didn't say one word to us about it!"
TugMug growled and punched the nearby console. "I told you we should've just blasted those worthless felines, Luna."
Vultureman stroked his beak thoughtfully. "But it's not over yet. They still don't have the cure, so we'll just have to, caw, beat them at their own game. And when we get that elixir, we can cure Monkian and Alluro and leave the Thundercats hanging at our mercy to save Cheetara." A wicked gleam lit up his beady eyes. "Given their foolish sentimentality, they'll do anything we say to save her life, including surrender to us."
RedEye nodded along with the avian. "We need to get out to the unicorn forest right away and see to it that we get it first."
"Yes," Luna agreed. She turned back to the radio. "Chilla, you're already out there, so hurry and beat those Thundercats there." She looked over at RedEye. "You have the sharpest eyes of us, so you head there too. Cover as much territory as you can."
"I'm going too," Jackalman volunteered, and when the other Lunatacs and Vultureman gave him a questioning look, he grinned at them. "Call me untrusting, but I don't exactly trust you two Lunatacs to not just keep that elixir for yourselves and hold it over our heads."
Luna let out a disgusted squawk while Amok grunted in the jackal's direction. "You Mutants wouldn't be worth extorting, but very well, have it your way."
"Just don't get in my way," RedEye warned him.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Jackalman quipped back as the two of them headed to the elevator and into their vehicles, bound for the unicorn forest.