They circled each other as two predators in a cautious game of combat. One at the top of her game, the other who'se heart hadn't been in it for years. Cheetarah held her quarter staff, not allowing its hundreds of options of how it could take Jackleman down dismay her concentration from her goal, defeat Jackleman and move on to join the other Thundercats in battling Mummra. Having fought so many dozens of times before they were nearly as intimate as lovers, but diffired litterally as aliens.
"You're slipping, Jackleman," said Cheetarah, her eyes focused in a deadly gaze.
Normally Jackleman would have given a witty retort, but she was right, he was slipping. Jackleman was never among the strongest of mutants, but he was the quickest. Although his speed would never match Cheetarah's, Jackleman did pride himself on his endurance and his cunning. Over the years both were letting him down, as each day seemed to chip away more and more at him, loosing a step here and a block there.
He leaped at Cheetarah with his club, hoping to make hard contact with her quarter staff and cause her grip to shake so he could get an inside shot. His overhead swing completely missed her as she used her super speed to dash out of the way and his club smashed against a solid rockface, the impact sending an electric shock up his arm and crippling his shoulder. His right side was left completely open as Cheetarah passed on an opportunity to knock out his ribs just to chastize him.
"What's with you, Jackleman? Slythe could have dodged that blow."
For a moment Jackleman didn't get up. He raised his club as his hand trembled violently and he had the most puzzling look on his face, like something was going on Cheetarah wasn't aware of. Jackleman leaned against the rockface to stand himself up and turned to face Cheetarah, looking more strange and frightened than she had ever seen him before. He tried to steady his club and took and defensive fighting stance, but his hand started trembling again and Jackleman dropped his club, then fell to his knees as he held his right arm at the wrist while his hand shook weakly.
It was obvious he was not involved in the fight anymore, but as Cheetarah's duty to join her clan called to her, pity had taken over her as she looked at this disheveled shell of a mutant before her.
"What is it?"
Beaten and broken, Jackleman looked up to the proud powerful amazon from his knees and in a remarkable gesture of honesty he said;
"It's started... I.... have palsy."
Jackleman lowered his head in greif as Cheetarah had not believed what she had just seen. No words from Jackleman could ever be taken seriously yet somehow she knew he was being absolutely earnest. Such intimacy with a mutant was disturbing.
"What are you talking about, Jackleman?" asked Cheetarah, he words questioning his honesty, but her instincts telling her otherwise.
"I can't fight anymore," said Jackleman, sounding so diffirent from anything Cheetarah ever heard before.
"Is this just some trick to back out without getting hurt?" asked Cheetarah.
Jackleman took his club and threw it aside, then looked at Cheetarah with something she had never seen before, mutant tears.
"You don't get it, I give, allright?" said Jackleman, "I can never fight again. Ever."
Cheetarah lowered her quarter staff, then folded it and stowed it away under her gauntlet.
"You really mean that, don't you?" asked Cheetarah.
"Do you want to take me prisoner?"
"Then I have to go to the mutant camp, and tell Slythe to take me off of active duty. I'm no good against you anymore," said Jackleman as he turned to hobble away while holding his shoulder, "I'm no good against any of the Thundercats."
Puzzling as long as she dared, Cheetarah watched Jackleman limp away with a strange curiousity growing within her. She darted off to find the other Thundercats within the catacombs of a ruin. Mummra was making another failed attempt to get his hands on a piece of the treasures of Thundera. After Mummra's inevitable defeat Lion-o wanted to organize a search of the ruins for other possible pieces but Cheetarah asked if she could perform a little covert surveilance on the mutants. Her excuse was to find out if the mutants knew of any other possible locations of the treasure, but she wasn't really concerned about that.
Lion-o authorized Cheetarah's request but thought it was a little unusal her insistance on working alone. She said she was going to use her super speed to infiltrate the mutant camp unnoticed and it made sense to him. He figured Cheetarah must have had some kind of ulterior motive as Thunderian technology and the Eye of Thundera could easily spy on the mutants with little effort, but if Cheetarah had a plan Lion-o was going to let her explore it.
Cheetarah ran back to the place where she had briefly fought Jackleman, then followed the direction she watched him walk off in. Although she had excellent tracking skills, the trail Jackleman used made a straight line to the mutant camp. Her super speed had caught up to Jackleman pretty much at the same time he was arriving at the camp himself. He had taken his time limping back, still looking just as distraut as when she had last seen him. It was very late in the evening, and the other mutants had gathered around a campfire with their weapons and gear. Cheetarah climbed a large tree and spied on the camp from above.
Slythe was talking with Monkean as he had spotted the growingly useless Jackleman hobble his way into the camp. Seeing an opportunity to exert his authority, Slythe was going to chew Jackleman out in front of the other mutants. He let off a slew of threats and mutant obscenities towards Jackleman, which in a very puzzling way he didn't react to at all. That took all the fun out of it for Slythe.
Jackleman looked at Slythe right in the eye (which he didn't do very often) and said, "We have to talk."
Cheetarah perked up her attention as she leaned out to pick up Jackleman's near whispering.
"You have reason for coming back in failure again, yesssss?" asked Slythe.
"You have to take me off active duty," said Jackleman.
"You looking to slack off again? Yessss?"
Jackleman reached down and picked up a tool from one of the bags of gear and held it outright in his right hand, as it slightly trembled.
"This is the heaviest thing I can carry without my hand shaking so much I drop it," said Jackleman.
Typically Slythe was slow to comprehend what Jackleman was getting to, forcing him to spell it out.
"I have palsy," said Jackleman.
Slythe finally understood.
"You want to cruise easily until your time comes? Or do you want to face your fate with honor, yesss?" asked Slythe.
"Slythe, I'm 34 years old, you know what that means."
Slythe paused for a moment, as though pondering Jackleman's statement, but he knew what it meant right away.
"How long you have?" asked Slythe.
"One year," said Jackleman, "18 months, tops."
Cheetarah was shocked, far more than Slythe was as he seemed to simply accept Jackleman's prediction of what must be his own demise. She knew very little of mutant physiology, but she knew that palsy was usually an effect from old age, and certainly Jacklemen must live longer than 35 years. There was something still unexplained.
Slythe turned his back to Jackleman as though to reject him, "You can not hold a weapon. You are useless in battle. You only get in the way, yesss?"
Jackleman looked up in an indiffirent gaze, expecting to hear what Slythe must say, yet not really caring.
"You are off active duty, yesss? You will spend you're final days sitting by a campfire and cooking beans."
That confirmed it for Cheetarah. Jackleman was dying, and somehow that bothered her. Such a vital warrior cut down at such a young age. She pondered maybe it reminded her of her own mortality as Jackleman was a little younger than herself, but there was something else. She asked herself why should she care if Jackleman was dying, in the long run it would simply mean one less mutant to worry about. However, Jackleman had already voluntarily taken himself away from combating the Thundercats and she didn't want to be so heartless as to have him die on top of that.
For a few moments Cheetarah watched Jackleman retire to his tent. He took a photo out of a carry-on bag and looked it for a moment, then he curled up to sleep on his cot. His sleeping face looked so diffirent from his typical character. Cheetarah had only seen it once before, then as now she pondered how it utterly transformed his appearance. He didn't look at all like a hideous disgusting coniving plunderer, he looked helpless, and maybe even a little cute.
The battle ground was an old mutant stronghold built on Thundera from way back when there was a brief mutant occupation in ancient times. The mutants had stolen a key piece of the treasure of Thundera called the Mystic Eye of Thundera. The Thundercats broke into the stronghold and cornered the mutants in the galley, where Jackleman was wearing an apron and oven mitts.
"Woah! Woah! Woah! We're not together!" Jackleman pleaded to Lion-O as he was about to blast the mutants collectively with the Sword of Omens.
"If you don't want to fight Jackleman, you better leave," said Lion-O.
"Yeah, great, listen, can you guys go battle out in the hall or something?" said Jackleman, "This is my kitchen and I don't want my pots getting dented."
"Jackleman, what are you going on about?" asked Lion-O, "We're fighting over that fate of the Mystic Eye of Thundera."
Jackleman looked indiffirently at the mutants and pointed to them with his thumb.
"So you're saying they'll be late for dinner?"
Lion-O yelled ho, and Jackleman grabbed his pots and ran for cover. The mutants were late for dinner. His strange behaviour was pretty much the same every time they ran into him. He just wouldn't fight. "I'm taking a personal day," he would say when Panthro accused him of being a coward. The next climatic battle that involved a temporary union with some pirates they found Jackleman sitting in the mutant camp reading a newspaper.
"If you're looking for Mummra he went that-a-way," he said as he didn't even look up from reading an article.
Another time he was playing cards with a bunch of lowly locals. He actually invited Panthro to anty-up if he felt lucky. Panthro was a good gambler and was genuinely tempted to shake Jackleman down, but duty called him away to fight the other mutants.
During an investigation to see if the mutants were trying to infiltrate the new Thundarian city Cheetarah pleaded with the Thundercats to ignore Jackleman, who occasionally showed up to go shopping while dressed in odd civilian clothes. He wore a loud colored short sleeve shirt, cut off pants, and a fishing hat with hooks in it. Most of the time he carried a basket he took groceries home with, payed for with odd trinkets of gold the mutants usually found while hunting for the treasure of Thundera.
"Jackleman may be involved in some sort of covert action," Lion-O speculated as he sat at the head of the seat of the Thundercat council inside Thundera's Cat's Lair.
"Lion-O, I don't think we have to pay attention to Jackleman anymore, he's sort of retired," said Cheetarah.
"What makes you say that?" asked Lion-O.
"I saw Slythe take him off active duty," said Cheetarah, "I think he's... dying."
"Dying?" asked Lion-O, "He looks fine to me."
"I saw his hands up close, he has palsy," said Cheetarah.
"Palsy is a condition, not a disease," said Lion-O, "What's he dying of?"
"I have no idea," said Cheetarah.
"Do you think it could be a contagious disease?" asked Lion-O.
"I doubt it, the other mutants would throw him out of their camp if it was something like that," said Cheetarah, "And they would be far more likely to catch something from him than we would. They don't seem concerned at all by keeping him around. He said what he has is related to his age, like he's getting old."
"Still, I'd feel better if we knew what was really up with him," said Lion-O, "I want you to find out discretely and confirm what Jackleman's condition really is and how bad he's truely deteriorating. I refuse to believe Jackleman is simply getting too old."
Panthro was listening to Lion-O and wanted to offer a theory of his own, "I don't mean to interupt, Lion-O, but have you ever seen an old mutant?"
The Thunderteens were listening and Willy-Kit said, "Rataro was alive back in the days when Jagga was still around. He has to be pretty old."
"Yes, but he's from the rat mutant race," said Panthro, "I mean the Jackal mutant race. Has anybody here ever seen an elderly Jackalman?"
Everyone shook their heads no.
"What I'm getting to is this might be their natural aging process," said Panthro, "I've seen all sorts of mutants who've lived just as long as Thundarians, but it just occured to me I've never seen an old Jackalman."
"But do you consider 34 years to be old?" asked Cheetarah, "That just doesn't seem right to me."
"How do you know how old Jackalman is?" asked Panthro.
"I overheard Jackalman say it to Slythe," said Cheetarah.
"Was it his birthday?" asked Willy-Kat.
"I don't think they celebrate-"
"Why don't we just ask?" interupted Willy-Kit.
Everyone looked to Willy-Kit.
"What's the big deal?" asked Willy-Kit as she pointed out the window, "There he is right now in fruit market buying oranges. Why not just ask?"
Cheetarah just shrugged and said she'd give it a try. There was a market right next to the spaceport in front of Cat's Lair. Jackalman wore his floppy fisherman's hat over his ears trying to keep a low profile as he examined some tomatoes.
"You look silly in that hat," said Cheetarah.
Jackalman smiled and said, "I like my hat, it keeps the sun out of my eyes."
As Jackalman took some plastic wrappers off a roll to put his tomatoes in Cheetarah tried to ask him a question.
"Jackalman, umm, the Thundercats and I have kind have noticed certain... changes about you."
"You don't say," said Jackalman as he sealed up his tomatoes in the bag and moved onto some romane lettuce.
"Well, yeah," said Cheetarah, "What you said about having palsy and not being able to fight anymore. It seems like you really meant that. You're acting so odd these days, for a mutant, anyway. How serious is your condition?"
"You want to know am I dying?" asked Jackalman.
"Er,.. yes," said Cheetarah.
Jackalman smirked a little frown and said, "I hope not, but if my condition doesn't change I will probably... die, a little over a year from now."
"Is it some kind of disease?" said Cheetarah.
"No, no disease," said Jackalman, "It's a hereditary condition indigenous of my people."
"Do many die at your age?" asked Cheetarah.
"Oh, no. They often live for more than a hundred years," said Jackalman.
"Then what's wrong with you?" Cheetarah asked boldly.
Jackalman became withdrawn and said, "I can't say. It would do you no good to know. It's... personal."
"Can we help?" asked Cheetarah, knowing that was never part of the plan but couldn't help but to ask.
Jackalman looked to her for a moment, as though shocked to hear the offer. Cheetarah could tell he wanted to say something but he just couldn't bring himself to say it.
"No. I'm pretty sure there's nothing you can do," said Jackalman.
"Why are you so sure? We have some pretty advanced medicines-"
"My condition isn't treated with medicine," said Jackalman.
"Like I said," continued Jackalman, "It's personal. It just wouldn't help if you knew."
The weight of Jackalman's basket caused his hand to start trembling and threatened to drop. Cheetarah took Jackalman's basket and lifted the handle up to be held around his bent elbow so he could carry it more easily.
"Will you at least think about it?" asked Cheetarah.
Jackalman lowered his head and shuffled his feet a bit, "Okay. But I better go. Slythe would have kittens if he knew I was talking like this to you."
"Doesn't it bother him that you shop here?"
"Not as long as I make a mean kamitz stew," said Jackalman, and he smiled and walked away.
That evening Jackleman had packed his things in the mutant stronghold and left a letter taped to the door of the galley. The other mutants would find it when they got up and expected to find breakfast. It was almost identical to a note he wrote once before the day he turned 30 years old, except for one thing, he said he was sorry.
Cheetarah was woken up by a security alarm coming from the hangar. Most of the Thundercats were away but Cat's Lair was supposed to be monitored by Snarff, if he had fallen asleep in the control room nothing short of a red alert would wake him up. Undressed, Cheetarah threw on a robe and picked up a rifle, she was counting on some kind of false alarm but if there was an invasion she wanted a little firepower on her side to quickly scare off whoever the heck may be making trouble.
Cheetarah grabbed a flashlight and slid open the entrance door to the hangar. Aside from three vehicles it appeared to be empty, the Hovercat and Thunderclaw looked fine. She couldn't see the shuttle behind them so Cheetarah turned on some of the overhead lights. Walking around the shuttle, She noticed some access panels were taken off and lying on the floor. Panthro was working on it earlier as it was a newer vehicle but he always picked up after himself when he was done.
As she walked around to the far side of the shuttle she saw Jackleman sprawled out on the floor convulsing. She dropped the rifle and quickly kneeled down so see if he was alright. There were loose wires all around him leading from an exposed access panel and he had a carry on bag full of tools and personal items.
Cheetarah held Jackalman as he shook and asked, "Were you trying to hotwire the shuttle?"
Jackalman struggled for a moment, then he said, "Yeah, and I'd have gotten away with too if I didn't have this damn seizure."
"Where are you trying to go?"
"My home world in the Plundar system," said Jackalman, as his shaking gradually subsided.
"Plundar system?" asked Cheetarah, "That's light years away. The shuttle only has interplanetary engines. You need a star craft with interstellar drive to make it there. Even with hyper sleep chambers you'd probably die before you got there."
"I know that, you think I don't know that?" said Jackalman as he looked away, "I was hoping to hook up with a convoy or something, trade the ship for passage to my homeworld."
"You don't get it, I'm not supposed to be here," said Jackalman, "If I can get home they could cure me."
"I'd like to help but even if we had the Feliner it would take weeks to get there," said Cheetarah, "But it's on Third Earth, it's being used in vital missions. I have no idea when we could use it."
"Maybe we could send a message for someone to come pick me up," Jackalman speculated.
"Why is it so important for you to get to your homeworld?" asked Cheetarah, "You said your condition isn't treated with medicine, right? What can they do for you that we can't?"
Jackalman thought for a moment, as his shaking stopped. For the first time he noticed Cheetarah wasn't dressed and had to conciously avoid staring at her breasts showing through her robe. Then he had to think seriously about what he wanted to do.
"I'll tell you, but on a condition," said Jackalman, "You have a council room with some sort of magical beam that makes people tell the truth."
"Yes, but it's dangerous," said Cheetarah, "Several times it has swept Thundercats up into another dimension to go on a vision quest. Even you mutants got caught in it once, remember? When it was triggered by the Sword of Omens."
"I want you to put me in it," said Jackleman.
"Are you nuts?" asked Cheetarah, "You guys barely got out alive the last time you were in that thing."
"What I have to say is too bizarre for you to believe any other way," said Jackalman, "I don't want there to be any chance, not even a slight one, that you think what I'm saying is just some scam or a cheap trick. I've lost too much of my credibility for this to work another way."
"If you're so worried about trust how do you know I think this isn't some trick to get into Cat's Lair?" asked Cheetarah.
"Even if it was the beam of truth would tell you that, wouldn't it?" asked Jackalman, "Look, I don't want to waste your time, and my time is running out."
Jackalman tried to stand up under his own power, he reached out to take his carry bag and a photo fell out of it. With an embarrassed look on his face he desperately scrambled for it before Cheetarah could see what was on it. After he grabbed it out of the air he quickly clutched it to his chest, then tucked it away non-chalantly into his pocket. Cheetarah figured it must be a picture of a sweetheart.
She helped Jackalman walk to the council chamber and sat him in the center chair under the beam projector. Then Cheetarah walked over to the secure crystal cabinet where the Sword of Omens was kept and placed it in a well lit shaft right behind the lead council chair where Lion-O would sit when he ran the council.
"I've got the warn you," said Cheetarah, "If you try not to answer a question put forward to you the beam can do some pretty strange things to force it out of you."
"That wont matter, I want to tell you," Jackalman weakly looked around and asked, "How do turn this thing on?"
As soon as Cheetarah let go of the sword it hung in mid air in the shaft and Jackalman's chair was lit in a beam of light. She sat in the head council chair and faced Jackalman sitting in the interogation chair.
"Y'know, you don't have to go through with this," said Cheetarah, "If you've gone this far, I'm pretty convinced you're telling the truth."
"It's okay, I want to do this, I need to do this," said Jackalman.
The light didn't change, which meant he was right even if he attempted to fool himself. Cheetarah began the interogation.
"Jackalman, is it true that you're dying?"
"How long do you have?"
"Usually after the onset of palsy, an untreated mutant will last one year. If I remain on restricted duty and avoid physical stress I might last as long as a year and one half."
"What is your condition called?"
"Advanced mutagenic narcosis."
"Mutagenic? That sounds as though the condition was caused by an artificial source, you said it was hereditary."
"All Jacklemen are exposed to this condition, so it's some of both."
"How will it kill you?"
Jackleman swallowed and said, "Uhm, I don't know all the medical termonology but as I understand it as time progresses my shakes will get worse. My seizures will become more frequent and intense as my body begins to shut down, sooner or later as muscle control is lost I will be unable to move my body. Inevitably the degeneration will attack my respitory system and I will die of heart failure."
"That sounds pretty extreme, are you sure this isn't treated with medicine?"
"Yes, I don't know all the details of the sickness, but I am fully aware of all details of the cure intimmately."
"Then why can't you tell it to us so we could help you?"
Jackleman seemed to be on the verge of tears as his emotions became intense, "You don't understand. I would rather die trying to make my way home, than be cured and spend another 50 to 80 years stuck with the mutants."
"You don't want to be cured?"
"Not if it means remaining trapped on Thundera," said Jackalman, "You have no idea how miserable I am here, how miserable I've been for years. I've wanted to quit and make my way home ever since I was trapped on Third Earth seven years ago. I'm not supposed to be here, I'm not supposed to be a mutant anymore."
"What do you mean, not a mutant, what else could you be?"
As the tears welled up in Jackalman's eyes the beam of truth was beggining to react to his strong emotions.
"I wish you could know, I wish I could show you what it means to be me, what it means to be any Jackalman."
The beam of truth's light became more intense and started to react with the Sword of Omens sending bolts of lightning exploding all over the room. Cheetarah knew what was happening, The Sword of Omens was opening the door to another dimension to go on another vision quest. A bright red vortex swept up the entire room and wisked Jackalman and Cheetarah inside.
Together they stood on a plain that stretched off to infinity in all directions with a red swirling sky over their heads. The floor beneath them seemed to be made of flat sand rocks two meters square in perfect symmetrical layout like an infinitely huge chessboard.
"I knew something like this was gonna happen" said Cheetarah.
"Where's that creepy entrance to the Oracle of knowledge I saw last time?" asked Jackalman, "There were dragons and fire and all sorts of eerie stuff."
"It might not relate to this quest."
"Good," said Jackalman, "I don't feel up to that sort of thing right now."
Some of the squares in the floor beneath them lit up and started flying all over the place, many of them displaying gateways to other places.
"What's this?" asked Jackalman as the squares swirled around them.
"Windows of fate," said Cheetarah, "They show us events of the past, or many possible events of the future, try to avoid them, if you fall in one you could be taken to another place and time."
"Could you be trapped in them?" asked Jackleman as he noticed they were getting nearer.
"I don't know, we don't have the Sword of Omens or Lion-O to control the gateway," said Cheetarah, "Anything could happen."
"Great" said Jackalman.
They stood back to back watching the squares get nearer and nearer. Jackalman seemed to notice something significant in one of the images in one of them and as he ran forward to it a photo feel from his pocket and onto the floor.
"No Jackalman! Don't get close!" yelled Cheetarah.
It was too late, he was consumed by one of the Windows of Fate. Cheetarah picked up the photo he had dropped and was going to unfold it to look at it out of curiousity, but another window had dived upon her and she was taken inside.
All she could see was light all around her and it faded. Then she saw she was standing in a strange alien city, full of beings she had never seen before. They had beautiful symmetrical looks like Thundarians, except instead of cats they appeared to be smart looking dog-like creatures, or more specificly fox-like creatures. No one seemed to notice her at all as she appeared to move like a ghost among these wonderfly attractive beings. Cheetarah figured she must be witnessing events of the past. The Window of Fate had brought her to see something, a specific event, but of what she had no idea.
Cheetarah noticed the females on the fox-world were very tall, voluptous, and extremely beautiful. An older one of great elegance was escorting what Cheetarah guessed was her teenage son along the street as he carried a violin case.
"Raunn," she said, "Why are you so gung ho to join the army?"
"I don't want to, mom" said the boy, "But my application to the music acadamy was turned down this year, and I don't want to spend another year sitting on my ass waiting to get in."
"But you're doing so well with your studies," the mother pleaded, "Couldn't you just practice for another year?"
"I want to, mother, you know I do," said Raunn, "But mutant law requires one year of selective service to be completed before I turn 21. If I could just do my time now I could complete my four years at the acadamy uninterupted, that would mean a lot to me."
"But you could be hurt or stuck on some horrible world for goodness knows how long," said the mother, "I'm so worried I'll never see you again."
The boy, Raunn, hugged his mother and said, "I'll do my one year service and come back as soon as possible. I don't care about plunder or battling Thundarians, when my term is up I'm re-applying to the music academy, then we can see each other again all the time. Unless the mutant armada declares war on Thundera we'll have nothing to worry about."
The boy kissed his mother on the cheek and handed his mother the violin case.
"Take good care of it while I'm gone," he said.
The boy waved good bye as he walked into the enlistment office. The mother, emotional with tears carressed the violin case and let her boy go, wondering when she would ever see him again.
Cheetarah was so moved by the sight, she almost cried herself. The inside of the enlistment office was rather confusing to her. There was a poster of a Jackleman up front saying "Join the Mutant Armada" but Cheetarah had never seen mutants like these fox people before, who were they? The boy Raunn signed in at the front desk, he had a short breifing, then he was taken to his physical where he had a standard check up.
Next to the doctor's quarters Cheetarah noticed there were these giant gestation chambers very similar to the ones used to heal people while floating inside. Normally any health facility would only have a dozen of these things but Cheetarah saw hundreds of them lined up row after row. The boy Raunn was led down a gangplank above the chambers and was taken to an unoccupied one. They put on an air tube taped to his mouth so he could breath while suspended in the chamber's fluid, then gave him a couple of injections. After that they lowered him in the chamber.
Cheetarah watched the boy sit in the chamber as he drifted off into what must have been a drug induced sleep. Then as the vision elapsed time for her she noticed his body began to change. His sleek fur became shaggy and ugly and went from a rich red to a sandy orange color. His nose broadened and his muscles filled out to a powerful ogre-like figure. His sleek beautiful symmetry was gone and was replaced by what Cheetarah soon figured out to be a Jackalman.
However, it wasn't just any Jackalman, it was the Jackalman Cheetarah had now come to know. She unfolded the photo she picked up after he was taken away on his own vision quest, and it was a picture of his mother holding his violin case. She couldn't help but cry a little, then a bright light surrounded her and she was back on the astral plane with Jackalman. He was facing away from her, playing a violin. It wasn't very skilled playing, but it had a lot of emotion. Then Jackalman noticed Cheetarah and he stopped.
"You just got back too, eh?" he asked, "I found this here when I came back from my vision quest. I haven't played one in ages.
Cheetarah frightened Jackalman a little as she aggresively pushed him down and stradled him, grabbed his shirt, looked right in his eyes and said;
"I know who you are. I know what you really are," said Cheetarah as she handed Jackalman his photo, "I know who and what you really are, Raunn."
Jackalman, now known to be called Raunn, gingerly took the photo of his mother.
"You name is Raunn, isn't it?" asked Cheetarah.
"Well, you didn't think I went through life calling myself Jackalman all the time, did you?" asked Raunn, "Jackalman is what I am, it's not my name."
"Why did your people do this to yourselves?" said Cheetarah as she pressed her finger against Raunn's chest.
"Didn't you ever wonder why we call ourselves mutants?" asked Raunn, "None of us exist in our natural forms. Not Monkean, not Slythe, not even Vultureman. Our natural bodies are too slow and weak to compete with the Thundercats, so centuries ago our scientists developed a mutagenic technique to 'enhance' our bodies so we can meet you on a more equal physical level."
"This mutagenic transformation is what's causing your body to shut down?" asked Cheetarah.
"Yes," said Raunn, "All other mutant races suffer no ill effects from the transformation. Only Jackalmen suffer this side effect. We can only remain in this form for ten to twelve years, then we must change back. So to make sure that none pass away from it there is a mandatory retirement age. All Jackalmen are relieved of duty and service at age 30 to be reverted back to their normal selves."
"Why didn't you retire?"
"I was stranded on third earth before I turned 30," said Jackalman, "But I would have gratefully retired at a much earlier age. The armada declared war on Thundera soon after I joined and most Jackalmen were conscripted to serve their maximum allowable term."
"You never tried to go home?"
"How could I? Third Earth is even farther away from my homeworld than Thundera is," said Raunn, "We had no star crafts, I was stuck. But once I tried something. Do you remember that one time I rebelled against the mutants and called myself General Jackalman?"
"That was my 30th birthday," said Raunn, "I didn't care about conquering Third Earth or the Thundercats. I just wanted to steal enough resources to buy a ticket home with a convoy or something."
"Can you only be retired on you home world?" asked Cheetarah.
Raunn looked right into Cheetarah's eyes and said, "I could be retired right here and now, it would take five minutes."
"Then tell me what it takes," Cheetarah demanded as she tightened her grip on Raunn's shirt, "I saw that poor little boy get taken from his mother, and I'm not gonna let him die."
Raunn shook his head, unable to spit it out and said, "If only you knew, if you saw my vision quest you would know why I have such a hard time telling you."
"What did you see?"
"It would blow your mind, it would have totally blown your mind," said Raunn.
"My wedding," said Raunn, "I was retired, in my true body, getting married. I never felt so happy ever in my whole life. I didn't even know it was possible to even be that happy."
"Why would that blow my mind?" asked Cheetarah.
Raunn took a deep breath, found the most courage he ever had to muster, and said, "Because... it was you I was getting married to."
Cheetarah was shocked as Raunn took another photo out of his pocket.
"That picture I dropped back in the hangar I didn't want you to see?" asked Raunn, "It wasn't the photo of my mother, it was this."
Baffled beyond words, Cheetarah examined a photo of herself she didn't even knew existed, and must have been taken years ago just as she landed on Third Earth. It was a blow up of a survelleince shot.
"I've had a crush on you for about seven years," said Raunn, "And it's why I have such a hard time telling you about how to perform the reversion. It involves an act of intimmacy, although you may think it's strange or barbaric, among my people it's considered an act of love."
"Tell me about it," said Cheetarah.
"Okay," said Raunn, "But you better be discrete with what you're about to know, because after what I'm about to tell you no Jackalman could ever defend themselves against you in battle again, ever."
"In all Jacklemen there's a weakspot in our upper middle backs," Raunn confessed, "Jackalwomen, or I should say the women native to our world have very large and powerful chests."
"I saw them," said Cheetarah.
"If they appraoch us from behind and place their left arm over our left shoulder, and the right arm around our right torso, they would be in the perfect position to crush their chests against that particular weak spot in our backs, " Raunn described, "This renders us helpless and helps to trigger the reversion process."
"How does it finish?" asked Cheetarah.
"Our women have fangs, like my own," said Raunn, "There's a supersensitive nerve cluster in our right trapezus muscle at the base of the neck. It has a redundant inner wall that can safely be pierced by the fangs and triggers the nerve impulse that finishes the reversion process."
Cheetarah thought about it for a moment, then she said, "Barbaric, yet.. beautifully savage in it's own way."
"It's consistent with the way of our people."
"It only takes five minutes, you say?" asked Cheetarah.
Raunn sat up under Cheetarah and wanted to stand up. Slowly he stood and faced away from Cheetarah, sulking.
"I'm not just looking for a cure," said Raunn, "I'm supposed to be retired by someone who could love me, maybe even marry me. If you just cure me and send me on my way it's like a very pivotal part of my life would be wasted."
Cheetarah put her hand on Raunn's shoulder and said, "I can relate to that."
She held Raunn from behind and consoled him, as she pondered a very serious decision. Maybe the most important she ever made. Whatever "Jackalman" represented to her before as a mutant no longer existed, the tears falling from his face onto her hands sealed his fate.
"Raise your arms," said Cheetarah as she held Raunn from behind.
Raunn was confused, what did she have in mind? Cheetarah popped the buttons off his shirt and pratically ripped it off of him.
"Don't turn around," she said.
So Raunn stood there, with such a strange anxiety about him. He saw Cheetarah's robe get tossed to the side in front of him, he wanted to turn to look at what he hoped was her naked body but he dutifully kept his eyes forward.
With her fingers barely gracing his fur and she put her hands around him in the position he described, Cheetarah whispered in Raunn's right ear.
"I miss that beautiful wonderful boy I saw who said good bye to his mother, I want to see him again, NOW," she said.
With super human strength she instantly crushed her chest against Raunn's back and picked him right clear off the ground.
"And I want to make love to him," said Cheetarah.
Raunn was freaking out, he had fantasized about this moment for years, but never believed it could actually happen. Like a desperate unattainable goal it often depressed him, until now. As he felt his back muscles cricking against his ribs and spine he struggled to say a few words.
"Cheetarah... do you have fangs?"
And she answered, to the point where Raunn felt like it was a dumb question. She did indeed have fangs, and bit deep into the muscle in the neck until all strength in his body faded away. The vision quest turned into a vortex again that dumped Raunn and Cheetarah onto the floor of the council chamber. Raunn heard foot steps and said;
"Cheetarah, someone's coming."
Cheetarah didn't stop biting hard into Raunn's neck. Instinct told her not to stop and it was correct. Raunn struggled as hard as he could to drag himself along the floor with the weight of Cheetarah's body on his back. The act sent extremely intense pulses that could not be described as neither pain or pleasure across his back. By the time they were hidden behind a council table he collapsed.
Lion-O entered the darkened council chambers and found the Sword of Omens laying upon the floor. He puzzled for a moment about how it got there, and what were the strange noises he heard coming from the room a moment earlier. Simply shrugging his puzzlement off he placed the sword back in the crystal cabinet and went back to bed. Raunn peered around the edge of the table and watched Lion-O. He let out an exhasberated sigh of relief and finally, utterly collapsed.
Cheetarah's relentlessness was taking him beyond being merely helpless and crushed his ogre shell away to the heart of what he truly was. Her teeth were deep inside his neck, as far as they could go. Although she could not bite as deep as a Jacklewoman her strength was sufficient, the reversion process was triggered. The mutagenic DNA was evaporating from his body as a strange decaying mist secreted from his fur. He shrank a little, loosing body mass as he changed color and his face changed drasticly. The furrowing heavy brow and broad nose shrank to a sleek beautiful face, only his eyes didn't change. He looked just as the boy looked that Cheetarah saw in her vision quest, only older, and in some tragic way lost of his innocence.
His body was sleek with very slim hips and had a tapered back leading up to the broad shoulders of a grown man not overwrought with muscle. It was almost feminine with fair colors in his dual tone fur. For a moment she held him, wondering what to do with him, but it became obvious her mind was made up.
Raunn woke up, facing the first day of the rest of his life, a mutant no more. He was in a bed in a room he had never seen before, but by it's style he could tell was probably inside the Thundarian Cat's Lair. By it's lack of personal flair Raunn could tell it must have been a guest room.
Cheetarah lay naked beside him with her arm around him. Raunn did not want to wake her as he wondered how long this would last. This was the thing he dreamed of for so many many years, and he just didn't want it to end. Would this be a relationship that would only last for a short fleeting while, leaving him alone again? He decided that he would take whatever happiness he could get and even though it only lasted a day his life was better now for it.