Illegally Born

Chapter 20: Alone

“Hisst."

The soft sound woke both Munkustrap and Demeter. Mistoffelees stood by the foot of their bunk and motioned for Munkustrap to come with him. Munkustrap patted Demeter’s shoulder and followed the black and white tom into the corridor. When the door had closed behind them, Mistoffelees said, “I thought you should know that we’re there.”

Munkustrap nodded, accepting the need for wakefulness at too early an hour. “Where is Jessel?”

Mistoffelees looked away. “She couldn’t stay. All of the crew are being confined in their quarters until after the hearing. She had to report."

Munkustrap put his hand on the younger tom’s shoulder to comfort him. Before he could speak the elevator door opened, revealing five green-suited security guards. The guards drew their weapons at the sight of the two cats.

“Back inside,” barked the lead guard motioning to them with the business end of his blaster. Slightly taller and heavier than Munkustrap, with short-cropped blond hair and a rugged complexion, this man had the look of a hardened soldier in his eye.

Silently, Munkustrap opened the door and gently pushed Mistoffelees through. Munkustrap followed and the two backed towards the bunks. Behind him, Munkustrap could hear movement as the Jellicles slipped from their beds. Looking to either side, he saw Jellicles lining up behind him. The line stretched from one side of the room to the other and more than one set of claws glistened. The only sounds to be heard were padding feet and swishing tails.

The blonde security guard had followed them into the room while the other four stood just beyond the doorway. “Great, how am I supposed to know if you’re all here without an accurate count?” he growled, frowning.

“You might try asking us,” replied Munkustrap levelly.

The guard raised his weapon higher, “Don’t get smart with me, cat."

Munkustrap narrowed his eyes but fought hard to keep his tone neutral, “We are all here who are supposed to be here."

“That would be all the adults of your kind, is that what you’re telling me?”

“All except Macavity, who is in the brig,” replied the Jellicle leader evenly.

One of the babies began to cry and the guard tried to peer past the line of Jellicles. “My orders don’t say anything about there being kids in here."

“Then there is no problem with our kittens remaining with their mothers, is there, Commander?” asked Munkustrap, having correctly identified the guard’s collar markings.

“Oh, you’re a smooth one aren’t you? Well, understand this: you are to stay here, in this room. The door will be locked and there will be guards on the other side. Understand?”

“We usually eat in the next room over…” Munkustrap offered hesitantly.

“Your meals will be brought to you,” growled the Commander. “Capt. Pratchett’s orders."

Wanting confirmation of what Mistoffelees had told him, Munkustrap asked, “Where is Capt. Darren?”

The commander snorted in derision, “She’s under arrest along with the other former senior officers of this vessel. I expect they’ll hold her court martial right after they’re done with you." Narrowing his eyes, he holstered his weapon, turned and walked out of the room.

As soon as the door closed, Electra burst into huge sobs. Alonzo hugged his mate tightly and looked at the other Jellicles for assistance. There were tears in many eyes. Deuteronomy put his hand on Electra’s shoulder and said, “Somehow things will come out right."

“I can’t help it,” she sobbed. “Now, every time that door opens I’m going to wonder if they’re coming to kill us. It would have been so easy for them to just start firing. I’ve been having nightmares about it for days."

The Jellicles exchanged helpless glances. Mistoffelees sighed and said, “The door won’t open."

“W-w-what?” questioned Electra through her tears.

“What do you know?” demanded Munkustrap.

Mistoffelees leaned against one of the bunks with his head down. “I talked Jessel into telling me how they would kill us if they did. I wish I hadn’t and I’m not telling you. All I’ll say is that as long as the door is open or there are humans with us we are safe."

Munkustrap digested this information for a moment before asking, “Rumpelteazer, can you unlock the door without opening it or letting the guards know?”

“Easily, but I might make some noise."

“Then we had better make more noise to cover the sound. We dance."

“It’s a little crowded in here for that,” said Deuteronomy.

“There is enough floor space,” responded Munkustrap. “Anyone who isn’t dancing can act as spotters to make sure we don’t run into anything. We’ll practice ‘Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’. It starts soft but it gets loud enough to cover any noise Rumpelteazer might make. Pearl, dance in Rumpelteazer’s place."

As the cats scurried quickly to their places, Mistoffelees stepped close to Munkustrap and said quietly, “It won’t help to unlock the door."

Equally quietly, Munkustrap responded, “It will comfort everyone."

***************

The door opened. In walked the security commander they had seen that morning and two guards dragging a resisting Macavity. Chains bound the red-striped cat’s wrists to his waist and hobbled his feet.

Munkustrap had instinctively stepped in front of the other Jellicles as soon as the door had opened. Hearing the responses behind him, he turned quickly to make sure that they would not attempt to interfere. The growl had come from Mistoffelees, as Munkustrap expected. Deuteronomy and Gus had each taken the young tom by an arm, but Mistoffelees made no move to strain against them. His attention remained steadily on Macavity and Munkustrap hoped he had sense enough to be still. A few feet away from Mistoffelees, Victoria struggled in Coricopat’s arms, trying to reach her mate.

Munkustrap strode up to the commander. “Why is he here?” demanded the silver tabby.

“The judge ordered that you are all to be quartered together,” replied the commander, watching Macavity more than Munkustrap. “I’m not going to take the cuffs off of him if he insists on being combative."

“Perhaps you could leave us the key,” replied Munkustrap. “He will undoubtedly calm down after you leave."

The commander thought about this for a moment. “Better than me or one of my men getting scratched up,” he decided, handing Munkustrap a small red key. He motioned to his men, who threw Macavity to the floor, and hurried out, the door sliding closed behind them.

Victoria ran to her mate and threw her arms around him. “Are you all right?” she asked, her voice quavering slightly as she checked him over for signs of abuse.

“I’ll be fine,” he growled, his eyes on Munkustrap. “Are you going to let me loose?”

“Are you going to attack anyone else?” demanded Munkustrap.

Macavity looked away.

“I need an answer, Macavity! The rest of the Jellicles support me as their leader. I will not let you loose unless you agree to obey me."

Macavity’s eyes blazed momentarily before taking on a look of utter defeat. “I’ll do as you say and await my death."

“I don’t want to hear any more of that kind of talk, either, or I will find some way to silence you,” replied Munkustrap, unlocking the chains.

“I have duct tape,” offered Rumpelteazer.

Victoria shot her a glance of absolute malice.

“There will be no fighting,” declared Munkustrap. “That is exactly what these new guards would like to see. I would not give them that satisfaction." Silence reigned as Munkustrap threw the chains and key into his locker.

Mistoffelees retreated to the bunk he had shared with Jessel. Each of the Jellicles that he passed on his way reached out to touch his shoulder or back in sympathy. Macavity stayed where he was on the floor for several minutes while the other Jellicles milled around talking in whispers and growls. Finally Macavity rose and slowly walked over to the bunk where the black and white tom lay. Mistoffelees growled at the larger tom and inched up on his hands and knees as though preparing to move quickly.

Ignoring the toms who were surrounding him from behind in preparation to stop a fight, Macavity said, “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“You tried to kill my mate!”

“I was trying to prove a point. I don’t have anything against Jessel personally and I wouldn’t try to hurt her again. Where is she anyway?”

“Confined to her quarters,” replied Mistoffelees abruptly.

Macavity sighed. “You have every reason to be angry with me. I just wanted you to know that I don’t want to fight you. I only did what I thought would be best for all of us."

Mistoffelees growled loudly and his tail twitched angrily.

Munkustrap’s hand landed heavily on Macavity’s shoulder. “Go find a bunk and let the rest of us forget that you are here,” commanded Munkustrap, his lips pulled back to reveal gleaming sharp teeth. Macavity shrugged off his hand and obeyed. Victoria slipped her arm around her mate as he rounded the end of the bunk and led him back to the bunk they had shared in the middle of the row. Macavity put his hands on Victoria's waist to boost her into the upper bunk and then climbed in after her. Wrapping their arms around each other they cuddled, enjoying a closeness that both had missed for weeks.

Deuteronomy stepped up next to them, leaning one arm on their bunk. His voice low and compassionate, he said, "Munkustrap didn't mean that, Macavity."

Macavity snorted, "I don't care what he meant."

A slight smile teased at Deuteronomy's lips, "I think you care a lot more than you like to admit."

"He does," said Victoria, looking across her mate's chest at the older cat. "Don't let him fool you into thinking that he doesn't." Macavity snorted and stroked the white queen's back, not deigning to respond.

"It was nice of you to try to apologize to Mistoffelees," said Deuteronomy, trying again. "He just isn't ready to hear it right now."

"He's madder about it than Jessel was," grumped Macavity.

"I think that's understandable," soothed Deuteronomy. "How would you feel if someone tried to hurt Victoria?" Macavity growled and held his mate more tightly.

Deuteronomy patted his arm, "Mistoffelees feels the same way about Jessel."

"He always was a weird kitten."

Victoria looked up at her mate sharply, though she kept her voice gentle, "You be nice. Do you have to try to push him further away?"

"I don't care what he thinks."

"Well, I do," said Victoria, pushing herself off the bunk. Macavity snatched at her and she turned back to pin him with a glare that said 'stay!' Macavity crossed his arms over his chest and tucked his chin, but he stayed put.

Victoria walked back down the row of bunks to where Mistoffelees lay, concentrating on one of the picture books that Jessel and a few volunteers from the crew had been trying to teach the Jellicles to read from. The white queen called softly, "Hey, little brother."

"I'm not, you know," replied Mistoffelees without looking up, a hint of suppressed irritation in his voice.

Victoria sat down close beside the tux, settling one hand on the bunk on the opposite side of him, which coincidentally placed her arm right in front of his book. The expression he turned on her was not welcoming, but she gave him a hesitant smile anyway. "Why should I lose my brother just because you have parents and I don't? Or is it because you're angry with me too?"

Mistoffelees stared at her a moment before lowering his eyes and shaking his head. "I'm not angry with you."

Victoria's fingertips supported his chin, "You're acting like you are."

The young tux pulled back from her touch sharply. "I just don't want anything to do with Him," said Mistoffelees, making the last word sound dirty.

Victoria hesitated a moment. "You don't forgive very easily, do you?"

"Nope," replied the tux, biting off the word. "Nothing to forgive right now anyway, especially if his actions end up costing us our lives."

"And if they don't?"

Mistoffelees chewed on the inside of his cheek in frustration as he considered that possibility. "I don't know. But I think it will be a long time before I can forgive him."

"Eventually?" queried the white queen, pushing her face close to catch his eyes.

Mistoffelees refused to meet her gaze. "Maybe after I've talked to Jessel about it. A long time after."

**************

Pouncival approached Munkustrap carefully, his sketchbook held tightly against his chest. The silver tabby rose from his bunk and motioned Pouncival to his side. "I had an idea," began Pouncival quietly, "I don't know if it will help at all…. I copied the letters off that new Commander's jacket." Turning his sketch pad so Munkustrap could see, Pouncival concluded, "That should be his name."

Munkustrap silently contemplated the page for a minute, trying to decide how to use this new information. "He hasn't offered his name."

"I know," said Pouncival, "so maybe we shouldn't use it. I don't think we should offend him."

The silver tabby shook his head. "It shouldn't offend him, as long as we use his title, and pronounce it correctly." Munkustrap looked at the younger tom inquiringly, "Can you read it?"

Pouncival laboriously sounded out the five block letters. "I think that's right. I don't see any of the weird spelling rules they've been trying to teach us. And it's short; it seems like an easy one."

"I want to check with some of the others, to see if you're pronouncing it right. It sounds good to me, but I'm not sure. Reading is so important to humans…it might help if this one thinks we can read, even if it's only a little."

Pouncival nodded, "We wouldn't want to get it wrong though, that might make him mad. You should have some of the kittens read it, they're learning to read more easily than most of us."

"They also make more mistakes than most of us," frowned Munkustrap.

Pouncival ducked his head, "That's because they guess sometimes instead of working it through. Liesel doesn't guess much. The humans seem very pleased with her reading."

"All right, I'll ask her and I'll ask Mistoffelees." Pinning Pouncival with a piercing stare, he asked, "Are you sure you copied the letters correctly?"

"I wouldn't have shown it to you if I wasn't sure."

Munkustrap clapped one hand on Pouncival's shoulder, in an appreciative grip. With the other hand he gently took Pouncival's sketchbook from the mottled tom’s hands. "Thank you. This may help."

The smaller tom flashed a quick smile and walked away.

Closing his eyes, Munkustrap mumbled to himself. "Anything may help."

*************************

Voices in the hall brought every Jellicle to the alert; instinct bunched them together, ready to move quickly. Munkustrap stepped out in front of the bunks, waiting for whoever walked in.

A dark skinned woman stepped through the door, carrying a long flat bag with a hook at the top. Munkustrap instantly recognized her sour countenance and stout build as that of Mrs. Baines, their ‘advocate’. The silver tabby was surprised by her height, however; having only seen her on the communications screen. Munkustrap had expected such a formidable woman to be tall, but the dark woman was no taller than Jessel. Her diminutive stature was emphasized by the presence of the sandy haired security Commander and two of his guards following her, though the guards remained standing just inside the door with their Commander only a few paces further into the room. Mrs. Baines walked right up to Munkustrap with an appraising glance. Holding out her hand, she said, "It's good to finally meet you."

It took a heartbeat before Munkustrap took her hand, but the silver tabby thought he didn't hesitate too long. "It is good to meet you as well," he said, making eye contact as Captain Darren had taught him.

Releasing his hand and bringing the bag around in front of herself, Mrs. Baines said, "I brought you something to wear when you go to court." Munkustrap frowned disbelievingly as she stepped around him to hang the bag on the end of one of the upper bunks. Mrs. Baines unzipped the front of the bag and took several boxes from the bottom of it and dropped them on the floor. "I didn't know what size shoes you would need so I brought several."

"We hadn't discussed clothes," remarked Munkustrap, screwing up his face as if he'd just eaten something sour as the dark woman exposed the dark blue business-type suit from it's wrapping. "It feels rough," said Munkustrap, reaching out to touch first the heavy material of the jacket and pants and then the lighter material of the white shirt. "What's this for?" he asked, lifting the end of the dark blue silk tie.

"It's a tie; it goes around your neck," responded Mrs. Baines. "I hope the suit fits, there's not much time to get a different size if it doesn't."

Munkustrap shook his head slowly but before he could continue, Quaxo slid up to him and quietly said, "Jellicles can't wear human shoes."

Frowning, Mrs. Baines looked down at Munkustrap's feet then at the others, noting for the first time that all of the Jellicles went barefoot. "You can't wear human shoes, or you don't like to?"

Quaxo's tail swished in agitation. "I'm not sure. Only Mistoffelees ever wears shoes and they are made especially for him. I remember Teacher complaining about that, that we couldn't wear normal shoes."

"Alright then, can Munkustrap wear Mistoffelees' shoes?" asked Mrs. Baines reasonably.

Quaxo looked at her in surprise and then measured his foot next to Munkustrap's while Mistoffelees hurried over to do the same. Then Mistoffelees ran back over to Gus and measured his foot against his father's. Looking up at Quaxo, the young tux shook his head. Quaxo looked back at Mrs. Baines and reported, "Munkustrap's feet are too big to fit in any of our shoes."

Mrs. Baines blinked twice. "Now you have me confused. I thought you said only one of you had shoes."

"Gus and I used to be Mistoffelees. We still have our shoes," replied Quaxo patiently.

"I see," said Mrs. Baines bemusedly, before turning back to Munkustrap. "You can't go into the courtroom with bare feet. There are rules against that, so you'll just have to try on the ones I brought and hope we can find a pair that will fit decently."

"I wouldn't even know how to put them on," Munkustrap said helplessly.

"I do," Quaxo assured him, sitting down on the floor and starting to open boxes. Pointing at the nearest bunk, the black cat indicated Munkustrap should sit down. Most of the Jellicles gathered around to watch, perching on the bunks around or craning their necks from the floor. Mistoffelees slipped into a sitting position beside Quaxo. The black cat measured several shoes against the silver tabby's feet, while Mistoffelees looked on, making silent comments through facial expressions and nods. Watching them, Mrs. Baines was surprised by just how much the Jellicles could communicate without ever saying a word. Quaxo slipped a pair onto Munkustrap's feet, but it was obvious that they weren't tight enough around the ankles, though the ball of his foot barely squeezed inside.

"I can see what you mean about needing custom shoes," remarked Mrs. Baines, "but I don't think there's time to have any made."

Munkustrap stood up and slowly, in response to Quaxo's warning gestures, began to clomp around in obvious discomfort. "I can't wear these," he groaned.

"You can't go barefoot," insisted Mrs. Baines.

"Well, I can't wear these," repeated Munkustrap more forcefully.

"Alright, take the shoes off and try on the suit."

Munkustrap removed first the shoes and then the spandex shorts he was wearing.

Mrs. Baines took in a breath and then said in a tight voice, "Humans usually don't strip off their pants in front of a crowd."

Munkustrap took the pants from the suit out of the bag and held them up, inspecting them. "I'll remember that in court. What am I supposed to do with my tail?"

"What do you normally do with your tail?" asked Mrs. Baines shortly.

"I put it through the hole in the back," replied Munkustrap holding out the shorts he'd been wearing for her inspection. "These," he said, shaking the blue pants, "have no place for my tail."

Mrs. Baines closed her eyes and rested her forehead on her hand. Opening her eyes again she said, "I can't let you put a hole in the pants, they're rented. So put the shorts back on and try on the rest of it."

Quaxo took the pants from Munkustrap and carefully hung them back in the bag, while the silver tabby pulled on his shorts, slipping his tail neatly through the hole. The black cat picked up the shirt, but found that it didn’t stretch to slip off the hanger like the clothes he was used to.

“May I?” asked Mrs. Baines taking it from him and preceded to unfasten the buttons down the shirt front. She held it up towards Munkustrap, but the silver tabby only looked confused.

Quaxo laid a hand on his arm to turn the bigger Jellicle, “It’s like my jacket.”

Mukustrap allowed himself to be turned and Mrs. Baines helped him slip the white dress shirt up his arms. The silver tabby took hold of both sides of the shirt opening, examining the fastenings in bewilderment as Mrs. Baines stepped around him to button it up. Briskly, she began at the bottom and worked her way to the top with business-like efficiency, almost before he realized what was happening. His head jerked up in shock, ears flattening, as she tugged the edges of the collar together and fastened the top button snuggly against his adam's apple. Turning his head side to side he once again felt the pressure of a collar against his neck and tried to remind himself that this one was only cloth. He swallowed hard against the rising bile in his throat and tried to exhale the stress of the moment. He’d worn a collar all his life, why was this one so disturbing?

“You’ll have to sit down so that I can tie the tie,” said Mrs. Baines, ignoring his discomfort. The other Jellicles, though, exchanged concerned glances. Munkustrap sat down on the bunk behind him, stretching his neck against the pressure surrounding it while Mrs. Baines flipped up his shirt collar and slipped the tie behind his head. The sudden increase in pressure of the knot slipping up against his throat startled him and his hands popped up from his lap as he leaned sharply away. Mrs. Baines straightened up quickly, her own eyes widening in response to the sudden distress in his and the low hisses and scattered growls from the rest of her clients.

"I can not wear this," growled Munkustrap, lowering his hands and straightening his spine.

"You have to wear proper attire in court," insisted the lawyer. "You need to look like a person."

"I am a person," roared the frustrated cat-man. "I don't want to look like an animal you tried to dress up as a human!"

Mrs. Baines roared right back at him, "Well, I am open to suggestions!" The two stared at each other defiantly for a long moment.

Demeter stepped up behind her silver mate and touched his shoulder. Munkustrap spun to face her angrily, but quickly swallowed the emotion and regarded her with a contrite glance when he saw who it was. Demeter gave her mate a quiet smile and suggested, "Why don't you ask Ensign Mickelvy if he has something you could borrow? You're the same height."

Munkustrap pulled at the collar binding his neck. A surprised and hopeful note tinged his voice as he asked Mrs. Baines, "Can we?" "No, you can't," said the security Commander's firm voice. Taking several steps towards the group, he continued, "Captain Pratchett's orders are no visitors and no com privileges for the crew."

Regarding the man with careful consideration, Munkustrap asked, "Perhaps you have a suggestion then, Commander Trent?"

"Sorry, can't help you," replied Trent gruffly, as he turned away. Suddenly, he spun back to face the Jellicle leader. "How did you know my name?" he demanded.

"It is on your jacket," Munkustrap replied reasonably. "Did I pronounce it right?"

"Yes," answered Trent suspiciously. "You can read then?"

"We are learning to read," said the Jellicle leader, equably. "Several members of the Starbright's crew have been kind enough to try to teach us. Your name is a fairly easy one to read."

Trent stared at Munkustrap for a moment longer, then seemed to come to some decision. Turning away he ordered his guards to remain with Mrs. Baines and exited the room.

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Munkustrap asked his lawyer.

"I don't know," she replied, "but we still need to find you something to wear to court."

After only a little more discussion, the Jellicles piled up every piece of clothing they had that might fit Munkustrap, except for what they were wearing. It didn't take long for Mrs. Baines to discard almost all of it, and the intense frown on her face made her look like she was trying to will the rest of it to turn into something else. "This is not going to work," she insisted.

"There must be something here I can wear," countered Munkustrap. "Is it really that important that I walk into court looking like a human?"

"Impressions can be everything in a courtroom, especially in a case like this. Impressions are all you've got and first impressions are the most lasting. You need to walk into that courtroom and have everyone there immediately want to be your friend."

"That will influence the judge?" asked Munkustrap doubtfully.

"Judges are human, too. The way you present yourself is vitally important."

Munkustrap sighed and looked over the clothing again, including the ugly blue suit. None of the Jellicles' clothing looked like anything he'd seen worn on the ship. True, the crew mostly wore their uniforms, but some had worn other clothing to the performances and that had all consisted of long pants or skirts and nice blouses. Carson had bought some new clothing for the Jellicles on Zion, but it was all shorts and simple shirts. Even the few long pants they had were what the humans would term casual clothes. Nothing measured up to the sharp creases and fitted lines of human formal attire.

Munkustrap sighed again as the doors slid open. He looked up in surprise as Commander Trent walked in, a suit of gray clothes slung over his shoulder. The Commander walked straight up to the silver tabby and thrust the suit and a pair of black sandals into his hands. Startled, Munkustrap looked at Trent questioningly. Gruffly, Trent answered the unspoken question, "I don't count as a visitor. Mickelvy says you can put a hole in the pants for your tail."

"Thank you," stammered Munkustrap, even as Trent whirled away from him and headed for the door.

"Don't mention it," snapped the Commander, "to anyone." Of the guards, Trent demanded, "Anybody see me in this room?"

"SIR, NO SIR!" bellowed the guards by the door as Trent brushed past them to quit the room.

Munkustrap looked over the suit in his hands. The pants and lapel less jacket were a soft gray, just a little lighter than Munkustrap's fur, and were cut from a softer fabric than the blue suit. A maroon shirt with a boatneck accompanied the suit.

"Looks like first date clothes to me," remarked Mrs. Baines sourly, "But they'll do, if they fit."

"I can't try on the pants without the hole in them," said Munkustrap throwing the pile down on a bunk and slipping the shirt over his head.

"Sewing isn't my favorite occupation, but I think I can manage to rip the seam and secure it. Slip them on so I can see where your tail should go, but keep the shorts on. Most humans wear underwear, but those will do."

"Underwear?" questioned Munkustrap.

Mistoffelees piped up, "Humans wear lots of layers, even layers you can't see."

Mrs. Baines gave the young tux a sharp look but decided she didn't want to know. Munkustrap slipped the pants over his hips but didn't zip them. Mrs. Baines held them up to his buttocks as closely has she could with his tail lashing over the top. "I'm going to have to take these planetside, I don't have a sewing kit with me," she grumbled.

Mistoffelees raced across the room, took something from one of the lockers and brought it back to the advocate.

Taking it from him, Mrs. Baines inspected the object. "A regulation space fleet sewing kit. Where did you get this?"

"It's my mate's," replied Mistoffelees. Mrs. Baines gave him a second sharp look, but decided she still didn't want to know. Instead, she removed two safety pins from the kit and used them to mark where she thought the top and bottom of the hole for Munkustrap's tail should be. She nearly stuck him when the silver tabby jerked around sharply at the sound of a low growl reverberating around the room, "Waste of time."

"Macavity!" snapped the Jellicle leader, "keep your opinions to yourself. The rest of us don't want to hear them."

Mrs. Baines peered at the red cat reclining on one of the middle bunks. "If that's Macavity, what's he doing here?"

Munkustrap looked at her sharply. "The judge said we were all to stay together."

The diminutive lawyer let out a disgusted sigh, "It seemed like a good idea at the time. Has he been giving you much trouble?"

Macavity sat up sharply, "You don't need to talk about me like I'm not in the room, human."

Munkustrap pointedly ignored the red cat. "Not so much that we can't handle him."

"You either, you walking fur rug," snapped Macavity. From the gasps and looks of pure shock, Mrs. Baines had to wonder if that was just a really bad insult or a dire threat.

"Munkustrap," called a brightly striped queen, "I wasn't kidding about that offer of duct tape."

"Thank you, Rumpelteazer," replied the silver tabby, slipping off the gray pants, "it's good to know we have it if we need it."

"I don't believe this!" shouted Macavity. Victoria attempted to stroke her mate's back, but he shrugged her off and hopped down from the bunk. All the adults in the room, and most of the children, were suddenly on their feet or ready to move in a hurry. "Half of you act like you hate me, Mistoffelees won't even let me apologize, Jessel wasn't half as angry as you, my family, are, and she's the one I attacked!"

Rumpelteazer fired back, "That's because you insist on telling us what fools we all are and that we're going to be dead soon."

"Wait a minute," interposed Mrs. Baines, coming to her feet. "You've talked to your victim?"

"Yes," replied Macavity angrily, but his next words were softer and directed over her shoulder. "She said she'd ask the judge to go easy on me."

Mrs. Baines glanced around to see who the red cat was really talking to, and had no problem following his gaze to Mistoffelees. The young tux was staring, not at Macavity but through him, as if the red tom were a hole in the space time continuum.

"Oh, great, so now I don't exist?" demanded Macavity.

"If it had been my mate you'd attacked," Tugger purred dangerously from behind the red cat, "you'd have been complaining about too much attention."

"In which case, you would be the one in duct tape," Munkustrap informed the leopard spotted tom. Dropping his voice he added, "I won't have fighting in here. You don't know what it might give those guards an excuse to do."

"Hold it!" yelled Mrs. Baines. She held up her hand and paused a moment before directing a question at Munkustrap. "Are we by any chance talking about that little red-headed guard I saw before being both his victim," pointing at Macavity with one hand, "and his mate?" pointing at Mistoffelees with the other.

"That is correct," replied Munkustrap formally.

"Just wanted to get that straight. Don't bring up that any of your people have human mates, or are even considering it, at the hearing unless you are specifically asked. And if you are specifically asked, try to duck the question."

"May I know why?" asked Munkustrap.

"Basically, because the judge is as human as anyone, and I'm not sure how she would respond to that." The diminutive lawyer speared the Jellicle leader with a hard stare. "I don't really think we need any surprises in this hearing, do you?"

Macavity snorted and leaned back on his bunk, his arms folded across his chest. "The only surprise will be if they let us live.”

Mrs. Baines rounded the end of the bunks and approached Macavity. "Speaking of surprises, there is just a slight chance that my opponent might call you to testify. So if you don't mind, I'd really like to hear why you attacked the girl in the first place."

"She was convenient," snarled Macavity, looking away.

"For what?" demanded the lawyer.

"To prove to the others that humans can be hurt and killed, to prove to them that we could have fought our way free."

Slipping into cross-examination mode, the diminutive lawyer asked, "So after you killed her, you were going to rally the rest of the Jellicles to go on a killing rampage through the ship?"

"Something like that," rumbled Macavity, still refusing to meet the lawyer's gaze.

"I see, so you believed that the other Jellicles hated humans enough to have wanted to murder the ship's crew?"

Looking up at her sharply, the red cat grated, "I thought they'd want their freedom enough to do what it took to get it."

"Including wholesale slaughter."

Macavity glanced around at the faces of his fellows, hoping for support, but meeting only the granite of accusation, or at best confusion. His eyes hardened defiantly and his tail began to twitch, "We've done whatever we've had to, to survive. I didn't see that this was any different."

"Didn't you?" demanded Mrs. Baines, leaning closer to the red cat. "You've killed before then?"

"No," Macavity snapped, "but I've had to watch humans kill - one of US!"

"And this time you had the knife, you had the power," Mrs. Baines continued relentlessly. "And I'll bet you enjoyed that, didn't you?"

Macavity's eyes became wild like a trapped animal. "What do you want from me? You want me to say that I enjoyed trying to kill Jessel? Well I won't!"

"In court you would have to answer, you wouldn't be given a choice."

"Or what?" sneered the red cat, "They'll lock me in a cage. They've already done that!"

"You aren't the only one involved," Mrs. Baines intoned coldly.

Macavity's breath came in ragged gulps as he struggled for control. "I didn't enjoy it. I didn't want to kill her. I was sick to my stomach the entire time."

"Then why did you do it?"

"Because I had to!" screamed Macavity, lunging forward to stare crazily into her eyes from only inches away.

"Why?" demanded the lawyer again without showing any surprise at his behavior.

"Because they're going to kill us anyway and that idiot, Munkustrap, is just going to let them!" A single sob escaped, before he sank to his knees, bowing his head and covering it with his hands.

Mrs. Baines pursed her lips, watching the red cat for a moment before turning to Munkustrap. "He might not do too much damage, if he is called. It's nothing I can't work with at least."

"That was a test then?" inquired the silver tabby, motioning at Victoria to go to her mate without looking away from the lawyer.

"Of course."

Macavity slowly raised his eyes to look at Mrs. Baines. "You bitch."

Mrs. Baines sat down on the bunk nearest the red cat. "Mr. Macavity, that is what a courtroom is like. It's my job to anticipate what my opponent might do, and do what I can to prepare my clients for it -- ALL of my clients."

Macavity eyed the diminutive lawyer suspiciously. "Since when am I your client?"

"Since you are a member of the group bringing this petition for your freedom before the court."

"You don’t exactly sound like you want to help me," Macavity snarled.

"One of my associates is already working on your criminal case. I'm too busy with the petition to do it myself."

"What do you mean working on my criminal case?"

"At the moment, he's trying to get you a quick court date. If I had known that you were with the rest of the Jellicles, I would have brought him with me today as part of my team. We tried to get him up here to see you, but Captain Pratchett is insisting that you don't have a right to legal counsel on the criminal charges because your legal rights haven't been determined yet."

Macavity lowered his gaze to the floor in frustration and defeat. "And I know what that answer is going to be."

"No, you don't. I don't either. This case is unlike any other. It's a precedent setting case and no one knows what is going to happen in it. But I can tell you this much -- my opponent is going to try to prove that you're all mindless animals, and the attack you perpetrated is going to help him prove his point. I need to make it clear that you can reason, that you understand the consequences of your actions, and it will be easy for him to show that in your case, you didn't."

Seconds ticked slowly by as Macavity absorbed her charges, denial and self accusation warring across his face. "So you're saying that it's my fault if we get killed."

"No, it will be my fault. This case is about ethics and morality, and if I can't convey that to a judge and convince her that right is on your side, when I am completely convinced that it is, then I'm in the wrong business." Mrs. Baines leaned toward the red cat with a conspiratorial glint in her eye. "I've been in this business longer than you've been alive, and I win most of my cases, partly because I know a loosing battle when I see one. This case will be a battle, but I intend to win."

Macavity stayed on the floor, trying to decide how much to believe of what he'd just heard, while Mrs. Baines went to take up her sewing. Silence reigned while she ripped the seam and secured it. "There, that should work," she said, handing the garment to Munkustrap.

The silver tabby slipped on the pants, the jacket and the sandals and buckled up the belt. Mrs. Baines had had enough suits tailored for herself to see that the clothes didn't fit Munkustrap the way they would have fit their owner. The belt was notched one notch tighter than the buckle's impression indicated was usual. The shoulder seams hung just slightly low on Munkustrap's shoulders, though not so low as to look sloppy. The pants' legs came to just the silver tabby's ankle, though that worked all right with the sandals, with heeled shoes they would have appeared a bit short. Overall, Mrs. Baines guessed that Ensign Mickelvy must be just slightly shorter and heavier set than the slender Jellicle leader, but the suit must have been fairly tightly fitted on the human for it fit Munkustrap with a nice swing to the fabric. "You'll do," she pronounced, straightening the jacket that didn't need straightening.

Demeter turned her mate so she could look at him. "It looks nice on you," she assured him with a smile. Murmurs of assent whispered from the bunks.

Munkustrap sighed in frustration. "I hope court isn't that hard."

"It will be," Mrs. Baines affirmed, "but you can handle it. Anything else before I go?"

"When?" asked Munkustrap, trying to wet his dry mouth.

"Tomorrow morning. This is just a hearing, Munkustrap, to decide if there is a reason to make a full court case out of it. The prosecution and I each get three hours to make the strongest case we can. I'll come for you in time for you to get ready." Rising to her feet she continued, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have pretrial motions this afternoon." The diminutive lawyer stepped up to the silver tabby and clasped his hand firmly in both of hers, her eyes boring deeply into his. "You are going to do just fine. Just remember that you're right."

Munkustrap blew out a breath and nodded. He knew he was right, but would the judge agree?

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