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Sink or Swim

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It was infuriating the way Lion-o fit into this world.

Tygra walked a fine line. On one hand, their new Lord was his brother and for all his cutting remarks, Tygra harboured true affection for him. On the other hand, it was hard to find himself under this snot-nosed cub's authority. That Lion-o would be the one to take his father's place was something that Tygra had always expected, but now that it had come to pass, the situation galled him.

Diplomacy, strength, skill, an air of authority…Tygra had it all. He knew he was the better leader. He knew he was the better king. Even Claudus had admitted as much on occasion, although not without mentioning that Lion-o, too, had his good points. Even so, it was Lion-o he named as heir. This was only to be expected; Lion-o was the cub of his blood, after all.

And yet, Tygra knew that he had always held a special place in his adoptive father's heart and that, if the situation had been different, he might have even borne the title of Lord. That such things could not come to pass seemed a grave injustice in the court of Thundera.

A court that no longer existed.

Mourning and sadness aside, this was the truly infuriating thing: for all his inexpert decisions, Lion-o thrived after the city's fall in ways that Tygra could never match. For once, he felt left behind – not in any physical or emotional way, but somehow displaced in time. The foolish cub he could easily beat in studies or swordplay kept his bearings in a thoroughly alien environment with which Tygra could not reconcile.

It was terribly unfair.

Tygra sighed and looked over the pistol he had acquired in battle. The use of technological weapons was another thing in which he had underestimated his younger brother. If he had thought he would be using one to scare off lizards…

Well, there was no sense in wondering what he would or would not have done. He had not known and had not done and now he was left to use what scraps he was able to pull from his smoking home. The armour itched sometimes, but it worked, and it was easy to see how it did what it did. The gun was something else.

"What'cha doin'?"

Tygra jumped and looked to his right where one of the kittens, the boy, was slinking around. It was unnerving the way he and his sister seemed to appear out of nowhere. But then, when one's life depended on not being caught, stealth was an advantage.

"Nothing that's any of your concern," Tygra told him. It was the honest truth.

"Oh? Why not? What'cha playin' with this for?"

Tygra tried to hold the gun out of reach, but the kitten was quicker and so dexterous that the gun was out of his hand and into the boy's before he even realized it was gone.

Fortunately, the grab put the kitten off balance and he tumbled into Tygra's lap, making him easy to catch. Even more fortunately, he seemed to have no intention of escape, sprawling comfortably across Tygra's legs while he examined the firearm.

"That's a dangerous piece of equipment, Wily…"

"Wilykat," the boy replied and tried to look down the gun's barrel.

Tygra snatched it away immediately, but the boy, Wilykat, did not resist overmuch.

"Not sure I'd want to use one of those," he said. "You're pretty good with it, but it's loud and if we used it wrong, we'd get in big trouble. I'd rather be sneaky."

"Rather be sneaky than what?"

Tygra looked up to see the other kitten, the girl, squirreling her way out of the tree against which he sat.

"Than use a gun," Wilykat said.

"Oh. I would too."

The girl dropped down beside them and, seeing how comfortably her brother was resting, wormed her way across Tygra's lap as well.

Tygra sighed. It was not that he disliked the kittens -— he would not have left them behind on their own even if he had — but he was in a poor mood and had little patience for silly antics.

"I was trying to figure out how this thing works," Tygra said, appealing to reason. "Someone might get hurt if it fires accidentally. That's why I came out here. Alone."

"Does it matter as long as it works?" Wilykat said, pillowing his head on Tygra's knees.

"It will, if it stops working one day."

Tygra held the pistol up to eye's length and looked for seams that could be cracked without breaking the body of the weapon. The kittens looked up at him with frank curiosity.

"I know how to load it and how to shoot it, but if something jams or breaks inside we won't be able to fix it," Tygra explained to them. He was not sure why he bothered, but speaking out loud made him feel better. "I can't believe I needled Lion-o for so long about his love of technology and it turns out not only to exist, but might possibly be the only way to defend ourselves against the lizards and Mumm-ra."

"Lion-o likes technology?"

The girl, Wilykit, Tygra now remembered, looked perplexed.

"Yes, he was always collecting bits of it and getting himself into more trouble than he could handle," Tygra said. "I always thought it was junk until the lizards attacked."

"Well he doesn't use it much now," Wilykit said, nonplussed by the thought of trouble on the streets. Tygra supposed she had seen pleanty of her own. "If he likes it so much, why do you have the armour and gun?"

"I thought it would be useful," Tygra said, growing irritated once again. "Besides, why would Lion-o need it? He has the Sword of Omens."

"That's true," Wilykit said and tucked her arms behind her head. Tygra winced as her elbow jabbed him in the hip.

"Hey!" her brother said suddenly. "How does the Sword of Omens work?"

"The Eye of Thundera gives it its power."

"How does the Eye of Thundera work?"

"I…don't know. It's the Eye of Thundera," Tygra said irritably. "It's an ancient artifact. Maybe magical."

"What if the Eye of Thundera stops working?" Wilykat persisted.

"The Eye of Thundera can't just not work," Tygra snapped, but then he paused.

What guarantee did he have that the Eye of Thundera would always work? He had once thought it magic, but what if it turned out to be just another sort of technology? What if it was simply a crystal infused with energy of the sort the lizards's vehicles produced? It was very powerful energy for certain, but could it wear out? Even if it really was magic, could magic eventually drain away?

They could not afford to rely on things that might fail them. On the other hand, these were the only things they had to rely on. Lion-o was too busy playing Lord of the Thundercats… No. Lion-o was learning to be the Lord of the Thundercats. He could not afford the time to deal with the risks of technology or the loss of the Sword of Omens. He, himself, on the other hand…

A slow smile crept across Tygra's face. The problems were intriguing. He quite possibly knew far more about the Sword of Omens that his little brother, having followed his father around while Lion-o was out digging for trash. He had the opportunity and intelligence to pick the brains of the others and puzzle out the how and why of technology's workings. With a little more study, he could easily be the one among them to master the tools of this new world.

Perhaps he would even build more of them.

They could all of them be equipped with armour and guns, a match for any enemy that came their way, a proper royal guard. It was a lofty and worthy goal and he had, of all things, a pair of scruffy kittens to thank for it.

Tygra placed the gun carefully aside and, growling, pulled the kittens off him, one secured in each arm. Thinking he intended to wrestle, the twins shrieked with glee and squirmed and kicked in his grip. Tygra accommodated them and let them throw him down on the forest floor before catching their ankles and dragging them back down when they tried to flee in a fit of giggles.

Why not humour them for a while? Tygra thought. They deserved it. He might not have all the time in the world, but their journey would be long and there would be time enough to decode the puzzles put before them and maybe find some more along the way.

Let Lion-o be Lord in this world. His fit was not so perfect. He would need some brain behind his brawn and Tygra was happy to oblige.