ThunderCats: Thunder Quest Chapter One The stars and full moon washed the stone and metal exterior of Cats’ Lair in a silvery gloss, but its inhabitants were too sound asleep to be aware of the night’s beauty. However, one of them stayed awake. He sat at his desk in his room, going over reports. The day had been peaceful, and the information he scanned were routine updates on maintenance and supply levels. But he was not fooled by the quiet. He and his comrades could not afford to be complacent, not with the dark forces that shared this world with them. The Mutants and the Berserkers are trouble enough, but we didn’t know Mumm-Ra had survived Fire Rock Mountain’s destruction, he thought as he read his computer screen. If we had, we would have kept him from having the Mutants free the Lunataks from that hardened lava. Now there’ll be more trouble than ever. He sighed. It’s a good thing we built the Tower of Omens at the edge of the Forest of Mists, or Luna and her gang would be -- He suddenly stopped as he perceived faint footsteps outside his door. He rose and went over, pressing a button in the panel in the wall. The door slid open. He looked out, then down, and raised his eyebrows. “Snarf?” he asked in surprise. The little cat-like creature gave a meow and a jump. “Lion-O, you startled me. What are you doing up at this hour?” “What am I doing up? What are you doing up? You should be in bed.” “Oh, well, you know me,” Snarf said in a cheerful tone. “When old Snarf takes a midnight stroll --” “That’s right, I know you,” the Lord of the ThunderCats interrupted, “and you don’t take midnight strolls.” He bent down. “And you look beat. What’s going on?” Snarf chuckled and shrugged. “I couldn’t sleep. I guess I worked too hard yesterday and got overtired.” “If you think you have too much to do, ask WilyKat and WilyKit to help,” Lion-O suggested. “You know they’d be happy to.” “Good idea,” Snarf answered brightly. “I’ll do that tomorrow. Good night, Lion-O.” “Good night,” replied the young lord. He watched as Snarf disappeared around the corner, then turned and stepped back inside his room. Like his fellow ThunderCats, Lion-O arose the next day at first light. He saw breakfast was nothing out of the ordinary; Snarf served the nobles their meal with his usual promptness, if with a slight trace of grumpiness. Lion-O watched with discrete sympathy. Good grief, he’d be a little grouchy too if he always had to get up before dawn to make breakfast for six hungry Cats, and he secretly admired how his old nanny managed the day-to-day cooking and housekeeping. But since the Cats were always neat in their habits, it lessened the cleaning load for him. The young lord ate his breakfast, confident that Snarf would recruit WilyKat and WilyKit to help with any excess work. Later that morning, Lion-O took first shift in the Lair’s control room. As he sat in front of the main telescreen, performing a scan of the surrounding countryside, the control room door slid open. The ThunderKittens entered and approached him. “Lion-O, what’s wrong with Snarf?” WilyKit asked. He turned and looked at her. “I didn’t know anything was wrong with him, Kit. Why do you ask?” “Well,” she began, “WilyKat and I saw Snarf doing a lot of cleaning.” “Yeah, way too much. And he wasn’t doing a good job,” added Kit’s twin brother WilyKat. “He looked really tired,” Kit continued. “We offered to help --” The young lord raised his eyebrows. “You offered? Snarf didn’t ask for your help?” “No,” said Kit, shaking her head. “And when we did offer, he snapped at us to leave him alone.” “He almost bit our heads off,” Kat interjected. “What’s the matter with him, Lion-O? Snarf’s never acted like this toward us before.” He’s never acted like that toward anyone before, thought Lion-O, and he said he’d have the Kittens help. Something’s wrong, and I’m going to find out what it is. Lion-O entered one of the Cats’ Lair hangars and approached Tygra and Panthro, who were performing routine maintenance on the Feliner spacecraft. “Hey, Lion-O,” Panthro greeted him heartily over his shoulder. “What’s up?” “I need to see the tapes from the Lair’s security cameras.” The pair stopped their work and gazed at their leader. “Oh?” Tygra said. “Have we been having uninvited guests?” Lion-O shook his red-maned head. “No, but Snarf’s been acting oddly as of late.” “Acting oddly?” said Panthro, arching an eyebrow. “How?” “I caught him doing something uncharacteristic -- walking past my bedroom late last night. Kat and Kit just told me he’s been tired, sloppy with his chores, and he snapped at them when they offered to help out.” Tygra and Panthro exchanged puzzled looks. “That doesn’t sound like Snarf,” said Tygra. “It doesn’t,” Panthro agreed, putting down his tools. “Get the portable video player, Tygra, and take it to your workshop. Lion-O and I will join you there after we get the tapes.” It didn’t take long for Panthro and Lion-O to collect the security videos and join Tygra in his workshop. One after another, the tapes were played; they showed normal scenes of the Lair’s interior. “That’s funny,” Lion-O murmured. “Snarf should have appeared on these.” “Unless he knew where to avoid the cameras,” suggested Tygra suddenly. Lion-O slapped his forehead in realization. “By Thundera, he does know where they’re positioned! He was there when we installed them. Keep playing the tapes.” They did -- and their patience paid off. Onto the screen came Snarf, his head and ears hanging, his tail dragging behind him. “You were right, Lion-O,” Tygra confirmed. “Snarf didn’t roam the Lair for just one night; he’s been doing it for several weeks. See the dates on the videos?” He then stared at the screen. “And Snarf stopped caring if the cameras caught him or not. Look.” A close-up of Snarf shocked all three Cats. His eyes were blood-shot, and the visible tracks of tears ran down his anguished face. “I’ve never seen him like that!” Lion-O exclaimed. Tygra and Panthro were in absolute agreement. “This isn’t the Snarf we know,” commented Panthro. “Something’s eating him up inside,” Tygra said. “You have to talk to him, Lion-O.” “I will,” said Lion-O resolutely. Snarf stood on a stool at the kitchen stove, preparing a noontime lunch for the ThunderCats. Several times his eyes went blurry and he shook his head to clear them. At first, he had successfully hidden his weariness from anyone who came into the kitchen. But he had become more exhausted as the morning wore on, making it harder for him to mask it. “Snarf --” Lion-O began as he entered. “Oh, Lion-O, you’re early,” Snarf said over his shoulder with enforced cheerfulness, stirring a pot of soup. “Pull yourself up a chair in the dining room. Lunch will be ready in about--” Lion-O stood in the middle of the kitchen. “That’s not why I’m here. We need to talk.” Snarf turned in surprise. “Now? But the soup --“ “--can wait,” Lion-O said. He crossed his arms. “We need to talk -- now.” Snarf heaved a sigh and wearily stopped stirring. “Oh, all right, if you insist. Snarf, snarf,” he said, his ears and shoulders drooping a little. “What do you want to talk to me about?” “About whatever it is that’s upsetting you to where you can’t sleep.” Snarf fudged. “Upset? Me?” “Come on, Snarf, don’t lie to me,” Lion-O said firmly. “I’ve seen the security tapes. You’ve been wandering through the Lair in the middle of the night for several weeks now. And the ThunderKittens said you’ve been exhausted, sloppy in your chores, and that you nearly bit off their heads when they offered to help you. After you promised me that you’d let them! This isn’t you.” His expression and his voice softened. “And your face on the tapes, you looked as if your heart was breaking. What’s going on, Snarf? Tell me.” “I -- I can’t, Lion-O,” the little elderly cat said, shrinking back against the stove. “Yes, you can,” the young lord urged as he took several steps toward his old nanny. “You know you can tell me anything. Let me help, Snarf. Tell me what’s wrong.” Snarf shook his furry head. “No, Lion-O, no. I --“ Suddenly, he began to sway on the kitchen stool, shaking his head, and looking at the alarmed ThunderCat through blurring eyes. “Lion-O,” Snarf moaned, swaying even more. “I…I don’t feel…so…good.” “Snarf!” cried Lion-O as his dear friend toppled from the stool, knocking over the stool and the soup pot off the stove. With a lightning-fast leap, he caught Snarf as the soup pot and the stool clattered to the floor. Lion-O’s comrades, who were already filing into the adjacent dining room, whirled around at the racket. “Great Jaga!” exclaimed Panthro. “What’s going on in there?” He led the rush toward the kitchen, but Cheetara, the fastest of the nobles, beat them all to it. They found Lion-O kneeling on the floor, worriedly cradling a limp, unconscious Snarf. Panthro and Tygra gasped as Cheetara dropped to her knees beside her leader and the frightened ThunderKittens looked on. “What happened?” she said. “What’s wrong with Snarf?” “He fainted and fell off the stool,” answered Lion-O, his voice tense with anxiety. Panthro knelt down. “Snarf?” he called. “Can you hear me?” He carefully opened Snarf’s eyes and looked at them. He turned to Lion-O. “He’s blacked out all right.” “Take him to his room,” Tygra said, his hand on the young lord’s shoulder. Lion-O nodded. “Call the Tower of Omens,” he said. “We need Pumyra, immediately.” Tygra returned the nod and sprinted away to the Lair’s main control room.