The arrangements were made for Wilykatís permanent return, and all of Latcris was in an uproar at the loss of what had been such a lucrative saga. But Forn was a wise Executive, and knew how to please his people. He arranged for armored transport to pick up the boy and take him to the rendezvous point, but neglected to mention the detail to his family. The very next day after his departure, all of Latcris was given a memorable souvenir of the boyís sojourn, which appeared on the front of every newspaper: a timely photograph snapped by a clever (and now rich) journalist, who had followed the terrified family into a closet as they hid from the unexpected intruders. The shot was snapped at the moment that one member of the armed escort party broke into the closet; Merra had clutched Wilykat against her body while her children clung to each other, each fearing for his or her life.
Finally the fiasco was at an end, though the ThunderCat suspected that the Executive and his wife would not be on speaking terms for a good long while.
Must be tough to be a leader.
Now he stood alone with him amidst the vast meadow to which he had been conveyed, waiting. Thankfully, Forn had forbidden the media to follow. Wilykatís anticipation was so great that he thought his heart might burst. Contrarily, his elder was the image of calm. The boy was sure that he felt out of place in the wilderness despite his seeming tranquility, and took this to mean a great sacrifice on his part.
At last, the scream of engines could be faintly discerned. The boy clenched his fists eagerly as he scanned the skies, the gentle breeze whipping pollen and the folds of Fornís robe in his view. Eventually the unmistakable outline of the Feliner swooped into view, and the mighty aircraft touched down before the two spectators moments later.
Tygra stood as the canopy window rose, then jumped down deftly into the bed of wildflowers below. Wilykat left Fornís side and ran to him, gladly leaping into his waiting embrace. "Oh... thank Jaga!" he squeaked with a trembling voice, feeling as though he would break the tigerís neck if he gripped it with any more force.
"Itís so good to see you again, son," the elder ThunderCat replied, struggling against his own emotion. He returned Wilykat to the ground with an affectionate pat on the back after a few moments, then advanced toward Forn. "As leader of our Council, I was chosen by Lord Lion-O to meet with you. I am glad we were finally able to reconcile our differences," he spoke, holding out a hand.
The Executive shook it tersely, but without hostility. "As am I. Watch out for that lad. He is strong and will make for himself an excellent future... no matter where he is."
"Yes, Iím well aware of that."
Wilykat beamed proudly at the unexpected praise. "Speaking of the future, I hope from now on we will no longer be strangers," continued Tygra.
Forn shook his head slowly, with a small smile. "I am afraid it is not up to me to break with thousands of years of tradition. But we shall see."
"If youíre ever in need of assistance, please let us know."
"Weíve managed to take good care of ourselves, but your offer will not be ignored. Farewell."
"Goodbye, Executive." He headed back toward his craft.
"Thank you, Forn," called Wilykat as he hopped into the Felinerís cockpit.
He acknowledged both of them with a silent wave as they cleared the meadow and took off, disappearing forever into the distance.
Sighing contentedly, Wilykat slipped out a slim paperback book from under the back of his belt and began to peruse it. "Whatís that?" questioned Tygra, amused.
"Oh, just something from the Hall of Ancient Galactic Records," he replied in the nonchalant tone that signaled mischief. "A lot of funny stories with weird-sounding words. I read some of to Kit."
"And it survived your trip to Latcris?"
"Well, not exactly." A slow, sly grin appeared on his face. "As luck would have it, Forn had a copy in his own library. Weird, huh?"
"Indeed." The tiger raised an eyebrow. "Youíre sure he wonít miss it?"
Kat laughed heartily. "It was tucked into a dusty corner, really!" He placed it aside, basking in the sunlight that streamed through the canopy. "Tygra, I canít wait to get home! For a while I really thought you didnít want me!"
"Thatís ridiculous. Weíve been so worried about you tható well, letís not dig up unpleasant memories."
"Can I do some more drafting later on?"
"Of course. But first I think Snarf wants your help to make a welcoming feast."
"All right!" At the prospect of his very own welcome-home celebration, he would have agreed to the most menial tasks.
"Everyone is so eager to see you again."
Wilykat cringed, remembering something. "Iím in for a punishment, arenít I?"
He clapped a hand onto the back of his neck nervously.
"Running away again instead of confronting us with your problems was a serious mistake," Tygra replied grimly. "And it led to a great deal of tragedy for us all."
The self-preserving instinct to indict his sister as the instigator never occurred to him. "But at least itís all over now," he sighed as he relaxed into his chair, deciding that he had better enjoy these precious few moments of calm before the storm. He ignored the wary eye of his elder, who immediately turned back to the Felinerís controls. Let them punish me and Kit all they want, he thought sleepily. At least weíll be in close contact, after all this time apart. And sitting around Cats Lair sounds great right about now. Itís home, after all.