Illegally Born

Chapter 3: Come Dance With Me

Lieutenant Sentry opened the door to the cargo bay which served as a temporary home for the Jellicles and entered, Ensigns Jessel and Mickelvy following her. Jessel was glad that Mickelvy was to be the other security guard to watch her dance. His presence had been comforting whenever she faced a challenge and Jessel knew she would need all of her confidence to pull this off. She had always been nervous dancing before any kind of an audience and the butterflies in her stomach fluttered faster as she approached her impending stage.

Bunks had been erected three high on one side of the bay. Lockers lined the other. Several self contained personal cubicles (containing shower and toileting facilities) shared the wall with the door on the opposite side from the bunks. The Jellicles sat together in a tight group against the far wall, the outer boundary of their gathering composed of male cats. All eyes turned suspiciously towards the three security officers. Lieutenant Sentry and Ensign Mickelvy took up posts by the door, their dark green security uniforms a sharp contrast to the light blue leotard Jessel had changed into.

Jessel took a deep breath and handed her recording player to Mickelvy. She slowly walked to the side of the cargo bay, trying to calm her nerves, and put down the water bottle she carried. Her tumultuous thoughts rang in her ears. "I canít believe Iím going to dance in front of a troupe of trained dancers. Theyíre going to think I look ridiculous. No, that doesnít matter. Iím trying to help these people. My job isnít to look good, itís to establish a dialog. If I look stupid in the process thatís just too damm bad".

She stepped to the middle of the floor, struck a pose and nodded to Mickelvy to start the music. She had chosen music from another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical hoping that it would feel familiar to her audience while still being something new and interesting.

As the music began her feet seemed to move of their own accord. "Just donít fall down," she told herself silently. The choreography had come from one of her early dance recitals. The steps werenít difficult. The turns were downright simple. She knew she looked like what she was: an amateur. But she had needed something that could be easily followed and she certainly wouldnít have wanted to try dancing to music the Jellicles knew. She wouldnít have been able to keep up.

As the music ended she slid on the floor, aiming for a particular spot at the edge of the Jelliclesí gathering, her heart pounding more in anticipation than from exercise. It made sense to chose Mistoffelees she told herself, he would be the best dancer. Trying to calm the beating of her heart she wondered if she had gotten his attention. She rotated her head to look and found dark blue eyes staring back at her out of a very white face. She extended her hand slowly. "Come and dance with me, " she said rising to her feet. His eyes darted to the cats sitting nearest him before he rose without taking her hand. "Iíve seen you dance, " she said quietly. "I would like it very much if you would dance with me". She backed away, keeping her eyes on his as he reluctantly followed. When she reached the middle of the cargo bay she struck the pose she had before. He copied her and once again the music played. He danced beside her as her own shadow might have, each move perfectly copied, as though he had rehearsed the choreography for weeks. If they came closer than she intended on occasion she knew the fault was her own. As the dance ended she slid in a different direction, hoping he would follow her. They came to a stop, his knee inches from hers.

She stretched out her hand for her water bottle and slowly took a small sip. Just enough for him to see her swallow. Then she held it out to him. "Itís water," she said kindly, "have some". She noticed that several more Jellicles had risen and were watching them intently. Mistoffelees glanced around quickly and then took the offered bottle. He drank only a small sip, keeping his eyes on her face. "Drink as much as you like," she said knowing how thirsty he must be. He hesitated a moment longer. Then, his movements suddenly lightning fast, he closed the bottle, turned and launched it towards the others. The silver cat with black stripes deftly caught the bottle, passed it into the center of the group and assumed a defensive position in front. Mistoffelees fell in front of Jessel with his face buried in his arms. Jessel watched for a moment as her water bottle began to be passed from person to person. Then she turned to Mistoffelees.

She put one hand on his shoulder and felt him quiver with fear. With the other hand she began to scratch behind his ear. She was fairly certain he expected a blow and she wanted him to know exactly where both her hands were. "That was very brave," she said in a low voice. "I know you are all thirsty and hungry. Look at me,". He hesitated a moment and then raised his head only as much as necessary to comply. "Food was brought for you earlier. Please tell me why you didnít eat".

He blinked at her once thoughtfully, and then in almost a whisper replied, "You didnít give it to us".

"Oh," she sighed, "We were trying not to frighten you. Every time we got near you you all got so upset". Jessel signaled to Lieutenant Sentry then turned back to Mistoffelees. "I will have more food brought for you and this time you can pass it out to the others. All right"? She smiled at him and scratched behind his ear again, enjoying the silky soft feel of his fur. She couldnít tell if she was comforting him or not. He stayed so still it seemed he feared that any reaction might bring a reprisal.

The cargo bay door opened and Mickelvy pushed a cart laden with food to the middle of the floor, then retreated to his place by the door. Jessel rose and held out her hands to Mistoffelees. He didnít take her hands but he did get up and walk with her towards the cart.

Suddenly the cat who played Munkustrap bounded forward, grabbed Mistoffelees by the arm and yanked him back away from Jessel. Jessel watched as a pantomime argument started between Munkustrap and Mistoffelees. Mistoffelees clearly wanted to eat but Munkustrap acted suspicious of the food. As soon as she realized what the argument was about Jessel stepped to the cart and poured a mug of milk. Then she stepped back to the two cats. "Is there a problem, gentlemen"? she asked quietly and took a small sip from the mug. Munkustrapís eyes went wide and he glanced at the two security officers by the door. Then he pushed the mug back at Jessel and gestured for her to drink. Obeying, Jessel drained the mug and then turned it for him to see. Munkustrap glanced at Sentry and Mickelvy again. Then he grabbed Jessel roughly by the arm and pulled her towards the cart.

He took the mug from her and handed that and the pitcher she had poured from to Mistoffelees, who ran with them back to the Jellicles sitting on the floor. Munkustrap looked again towards the door, his face lighting up with the realization that the two security officers were letting him get away with his outrageous treatment of this small human. He pushed another cup at her and indicated the pitchers on the cart. She poured a little from each one and then drank the whole cup. He grabbed a plate from the cart and threw a sample from each of the pots of food on it, pushing it at Jessel each time. As Jessel ate the samples Munkustrap passed pitchers and pots to Mistoffelees, who took them to the other cats and returned for the next ones. As she ate the last sample Munkustrap grabbed the last pot and shoving Mistoffelees behind him backed toward the others, hissing at her.

Jessel watched as the two cats joined the others in divvying up the food. It pleased her to see that every cat was being fed with very little argument between them. "Well, at least theyíre eating," she thought. Then she sat down to wait.

***********

Munkustrap watched the small red-haired female as he ate. Not that she did anything, which annoyed him that much more because he was trying to figure out who she was, where they were, and what the rules were here and any action on her part might have helped that. The male and female by the door didnít move either, and that didnít make any sense to him at all. The weapons he had seen earlier hung at their sides but they had made no move to use them and the small human was clearly unarmed. Munkustrap took a deep breath and tried to order his thoughts. None of the humans carried the controller that had always been used to keep them in line. Mistoffelees hadnít been punished for stealing the water bottle. Munkustrap hadnít been punished for manhandling the small female. Wherever they were this place was very different. So far a good difference but Munkustrap wasnít counting on that to continue.

But where was here? Munkustrap had never felt so frustrated in all his life. Everything that was familiar was gone. Well, not everything. At least all of the Jellicles were together.

As Munkustrap finished eating he decided that they had better return the pots to the cart. He gave a low growl to get the other catsí attention and started across the floor. He circled wide of the girl sitting on the floor and returned the empty pot to the cart. Several of the other males followed his example, all giving the human female a wide berth, except Mistoffelees. He walked right past her keeping his eyes on her the whole time. As he returned towards to the group she held her hand up to him, which caused him to back away that much faster.

Munkustrap growled at her as he followed the other retreating cats but she did nothing more than lower her hand and continue to sit. The man, who had brought them on board the ship, took the cart away and returned to his place by the door. And they all waited.

After a few moments Mistoffelees plucked something from the floor and walked towards the human girl. Munkustrap growled to call him back but Mistoffelees ignored him. He bowed to the girl and handed her the water bottle.

She rose and took it from him. "Itís all right for you to talk to me, you know," she told him. "Iím sure you have many questions that I could answer".

Mistoffelees took a step backwards. The girl followed. Suddenly Munkustrap was between them. He hissed at her. None of the humans moved. He swung at her with his claws, intending to miss but not by much. Instead he found himself flying through the air. That tiny little female thing had thrown him! He hit the deck and saw her sidestep so that she was again between him and the door as he rose into a crouch. That was when he noticed that the humans by the door had moved. Both now pointed their weapons at him.

"We donít want to hurt you," said the girl as she straitened up, "But neither do I have to accept being hurt by you".

Munkustrap noticed that Mistoffelees had also dropped into a defensive position and he could hear many of the others hissing and growling closer than they had been a moment before.

"Let us help you," said the girl in a soothing voice, "I know you can talk. I know you have questions. Ask me. I will answer as best I can".

Munkustrap wasnít sure how destructive the humansí weapons were but he was sure he didnít want any of the Jellicles hurt. That made his decision and he straitened to a standing position. "You will answer my questions?" he asked sharply.

The girl took a breath and smiled, "Yes, I will". The humans by the door put away their weapons. Mistoffelees straitened up and the other cats relaxed and moved closer together. Munkustrap moved between Mistoffelees and the humans again and hissed at him to leave. Mistoffelees ignored him and stayed where he was. Munkustrap faced the girl again and snapped, "Who are you? Are you our new owner"?

"I am Ensign Arriyana Jessel, and it is not allowed for one person to own another. Therefore, you are not owned by anyone".

Munkustrap searched her face but her serious countenance told him nothing. "Are you saying that we are free?" he asked in disbelief.

"As free as we can make you while you are on board this ship. The authorities of the planet you were on asked us to remove you to another planet. You will be with us for several weeks".

"And when we get where we are going we will be free"?

"That hasnít been determined yet," she replied cautiously. It is our intention but the captain of this ship does not have that authority. You will have to wait for that decision to be made on Earth. But no one owns you and the captain has said you may have any reasonable request".

"And who decides what is reasonable"?

Jessel shrugged, "Ultimately, the captain does".

Munkustrapís mind whirled. What she was saying, even as tentative as it was, was so far beyond what he could have hoped for that he couldnít believe it. Just trying to keep the Jellicles from being hurt had been his full time occupation for years and now he was being told they might all get their freedom. "I do not believe you," he shouted, "why would you give us our freedom"?

"Because it is the right thing to do," she said as she leaned towards him. "Because within our society we all want to be free so we all protect each otherís freedoms. It is the only way that we can maintain the lifestyles that we all want to lead".

Munkustrap shook his head, and said more quietly, "I do not believe you".

"They could prove it," said a quiet voice behind him.

"What proof would you ask for? Iíve told you, you can have any reasonable request".

Mistoffelees tried to step around Munkustrap but Munkustrap barred his way and looked at the smaller cat questioningly. Mistoffelees faced him defiantly and said, "They could remove our collars".

Munkustrap nodded, approval showing in his expression.

Jessel said, "Iím assuming there is no obvious way to remove them". She sighed. "Iíll be right back". She turned and walked to a panel next to the door, tapped a code and removed what looked like a half of a bubble the size of her palm. She returned to the two cats. "This is a sensor. It will let me see inside your collars so that I can remove them". Munkustrapís eyes opened wide and both cats leaned away as she approached. Jessel stopped. "Do you want the collars removed or not," she asked with a smile.

Mistoffelees took one step toward her while Munkustrap watched. He felt guilty for letting the little cat step forward but Munkustrap took his position as protector seriously and he could guard all of the Jellicles better if he wasnít the one being poked at. Jessel lit the sensor and ran the flat side of it over the smooth painted surface of Mistoffeleesí collar. Her expression changed to anger as she watched the readings. She walked quickly to the other officers and handed the sensor to Lt. Sentry. "The collars are some kind of punishment devices. They want them off. The lock looks simple enough to me but I thought I should have you look at it before I try to remove it.

Lt. Sentryís eyes burned brightly as she read the sensor. "Yes, the lock is simple enough, but I saw these collars on all of the kittens too". She tapped her wrist communicator. "Lt. Sentry to Engineer Fallon".

"Fallon here," came a deep male voice.

"Weíve just discovered that the collars our guests are wearing are actually punishment devices".

"On kids?" screeched the voice suddenly outraged.

"Yes. My department is stretched pretty thin at the moment. Can you have an engineering team get the collars off of the kittens. Weíll take care of the dance troupe".

"Weíll take care of it," replied Fallon with an edge in his voice. "I suggest you put some more guards on Dr. Ferran and his staff".

"Why? They arenít going anywhere," responded Lt. Sentry.

"No, but you might just have defend them from someone who would just as soon save Earth the price of the trial; like maybe me. Fallon out".

Jessel removed a tool from the panel by the door and headed back to Mistoffelees. "I need you to sit down," she said. "Youíre taller than me and I need to be able to reach your collar easily". He sat down on the floor and she knelt behind him. She ran her fingers over the metal collar and turned it a couple of inches so that the spot she needed was as the back of his neck. She pushed his head forward gently and then aimed a light from the tool at the collar. There was a quiet "snick" and she pulled the collar forward off of his neck, her fingers brushing against his fur as she did so.

Mistoffelees put his hands to his neck, a look of disbelief on his face which was quickly replaced with elation. He brushed his cheek quickly against hers, which caused her to startle and laugh. Then he ran back towards the other Jellicles, throwing in a couple of spins about halfway to them.

Jessel smiled at Munkustrap, "O.K. whoís next"?

Munkustrapís expression remained cynical but he sat down in front of her. "By the way, what should I call you?" she asked.

"I am Munkustrap".

"You go by the names of the characters you play"?

"We use the names we have earned," he replied proudly.

She removed his collar quickly and then rose. "May I," she asked indicating that she wanted to go to the other Jellicles. He nodded but stayed only a couple of steps behind her as she removed the collars of the rest of the group. Some of the group were hesitant about letting her touch them but all were obviously pleased to get their collars off. Demeter broke into silent tears as her collar was removed.

"Did I hurt you?" asked Jessel solicitously as Munkustrap knelt and put his arms around his mate. Demeter gently shook her head and buried her face in his furry chest.

"Whatís wrong," asked Jessel, "maybe I can help".

"Iíll be all right," replied Demeter, sitting up and brushing the tears from her cheeks. "Iím being silly. If we are going to have our freedom I should be glad," but her voice broke on the last word.

Jessel knelt down beside her, "You wonít know if I can help unless you ask me".

Demeter bit her lip briefly before replying, "To help you would have to know where my kittens are".

"Probably on this ship".

Demeter cried out and jumped to her feet. "I want them back," she shouted. Munkustrap tried to put his arms around her but she pushed him away and continued to stare at Jessel.

"There were a lot of kittens with you in that building. Youíll have to tell me something about yours so we can find them. For starters, how many kittens and how old"?

"Two, a boy and a girl," Demeter replied barely containing her emotions. "How old?" she pantomimed holding a baby and looked to her fellow Jellicles for help.

"You havenít been back to work very long," said Rumpelteazer.

"Yes, only three weeks," said Jellylorum.

"No, four," replied Tantomile.

"And the babies eyes had just opened when they were taken," declared Jemima.

"That always takes five weeks, Iíve counted," said Grizzabella.

"O.K., I think Iíve got it," said Jessel as she tapped her wrist communicator, "Ensign Jessel to Dr. Branch".

"Yes, Ensign," came the voice from Jesselís communicator.

"Iím looking for two kittens aproximently two months old. Is there someone who could take one of the Jellicles through the crèches to find them"?

"There are only two kittens who are two months old. The two groups nearest them are nine months and newborn. I was wondering why there were only two," replied Dr. Branch with a question in her voice.

"They were born to one of the dancers, Doctor, and their mother wants them back".

"Acknowledged," replied Dr. Branch signing off.

"What does that mean," demanded Demeter.

"It means sheíll bring them," replied Jessel.

Tantomile put a hand on Jesselís shoulder and said hesitantly, "I have kittens too, but I donít know how old they are. It was a long time ago".

"Weíll find them somehow. Thereís plenty of time, all of the kittens are coming with us." At Tantomileís confused expression she clarified, "There were three hundred forty seven kittens with you in that building".

"How many is that?" she asked.

"Oh, boy," she said looking around the room. "There are thirty-eight of you in this room. If every one of you had ten kittens that would be close".

Munkustrap opened his eyes wide. "That is a lot of kittens," he said. "How can we take care of so many"?

"That is something else that needs to be determined," replied Jessel solemnly. "Donít worry about it. Right now the crew is taking care of the kittens and weíll figure out a way for them to continue to be cared for".

Jessel finished removing the collars. Just as she completed that task the door opened and a tall dark-eyed woman with straight black hair walked in carrying two squirming bundles. All of the cats stared as she walked forward. Jessel pulled Demeter forward and introduced her. Munkustrap followed behind them. "Demeter, this is Dr. Branch, the shipís doctor". Demeter hissed softly as she stepped forward and pulled the blankets away from the babiesí faces.. "She is a very good doctor," said Jessel, "and she has two children of her own". Demeter picked up her babies without a word to the doctor and took them back to the Jellicles.

"Is there anything else I can help with while I am here?" asked Dr. Branch.

"I think not," said Munkustrap sharply, wanting to be rid of anyone who called themselves doctor.

Dr. Branch looked at him oddly for a moment, started to say something and then thought better of it and left.

"That wasnít very nice," scolded Jessel. "She only wanted to help".

"I know how doctors help," Munkustrap replied nastily.

"If you mean Dr. Ferran and his staff you donít need to worry about them anymore".

"I heard the others," he indicated Sentry and Mickelvy, "say something about guarding them".

"Of course weíre guarding them. They are prisoners aboard our ship".

That startled Munkustrap. "Why would they be prisoners"?

"They broke our laws. They hurt you and they hurt others. When people hurt others we put them in cages to keep them from doing it again," Jessel explained patiently.

An unpleasant smile slowly spread over Munkustrapís face. "I would like to see Dr. Ferran in a cage".

"Lieutenant," called Jessel, startling Munkustrap. In response the woman who had been standing by the door joined them. "Lieutenant, this is Munkustrap, he speaks for the Jellicles. Munkustrap this is Lt. Sentry, who is in charge of security on this ship. Lieutenant, Munkustrap would like to visit Dr. Ferran in the brig if that can be arranged".

The lieutenant paused a moment before replying, "Yes, I think that can be arranged. Would you like to go now, Munkustrap"?

Munkustrap looked at Deuteronomy, who nodded. Then he looked at Alonzo and Tugger who also nodded and took up positions that told him they would guard the others while he was gone.

"Thank you Lieutenant. Yes, I will go with you now".

As they walked through the door the lieutenant said, "Mickelvy, stay with Jessel".

Then they were out in the hall. The door closed behind them leaving Munkustrap feeling more alone than he had ever felt in his life.

Chapter 4: The Brig

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