The Murder of Mr. Mistoffelees

By MistyBom

Munkustrap walked down the steel corridors, they had become so familiar to him now. It was not home, for it he couldn't know what that was, but he hoped he and the other Jellicles would live to see one. All they had ever seen was gray metal walls surrounding them. He had just finished speaking to the Captain about the labs, and what happened to them there, for their case that they'd present to the judge on Mars. One question, however, disturbed Munkustrap, recalling memories that he tended to suppress. "Had the collars been used to kill?" And he had replied, "Yes." Simple metal bands, plain to the human eye, harmless even. But appearances were not as they seemed, for those benign bands could strangle the life from ones body, slowly. It had only happened once, but once was enough to remember their potency. He leaned against the entry to the dance room, where several Jellicles sat and talked, while others danced about merrily. Aware of the threat, but glad to have at least some freedom now, even if it was for a little while. *Things are so different now,* Munkustrap thought as the mist of time swept him back into his childhood, eight years ago...

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

The nameless gray and black striped kitten sat and watched the troupe of dancers in front of him, glide in the air, and slide on the floor. They danced to the music they always danced to, whether on stage, or in the practice room. Music he had danced to, music others would dance to. He watched it all with idle boredom, he'd seen and practiced the routine a million times before, and there no longer lay any interest in it; like a favorite toy that arrives for Christmas, it eventually fades and breaks, and is no longer of interest to the child. He longed to do as he was meant to, dance in front of an audience, in front of people. The final notes ended to the finale, and the dance instructor called them all to the center. It wasn't vocal, just something that was expected of them after a rehearsal, it was a rule that everyone followed, and nobody challenged. Obligated, the kitten slowly padded over to the back of the group and sat. He glanced up, bored, at the instructor as she gave out the needed corrections to be made. He was officially part of the troupe, but not allowed on stage, so the words were meaningless to him.

Just then a door opened, and two cat-forms entered followed by one of the instructor's assistants. One was a female calico, her fur smeared with streaks of red, orange, brown, white, and black. The male, who looked about her same age was not quite as colorful, being only brown, black and white. They looked to be about his age, a little younger, as he got a better look. He then recognized them from the dance class he had been in, before coming here. They called themselves Ace, the male after he found a deck of cards in the trash, and Circuit, the female, who was rumored to have a way with the doors of their prison. They had given him, and the others names too. He was Brave, for his strong body, silent disposition, and tom like poise. The assistant prodded them up to the dance instructor. Whispered words were exchanged between the assistant and the dance instructor, the only ones allowed to talk at this hour. The assistant left, and the two stood silently, their tails twitched whether with anticipation or fear, he couldn't tell. They held each other by the hand, their eyes moving from the group to the one other, and back to the group. The dance instructor glared at them for a minute, with a bored look, before turning back to the Jellicles.

"These two are going to be apprentices to Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer." She said coldly, before turning on her heels, and sauntering out of the room. The two dance instructor assistants came in and herded them to their sleeping quarters.

*O*O*

Mistoffelees stared at the two young kittens for a minute, then at the original Mungo and Rumpel beside him. Their eyes were fearful, as they clutched each other much like the two up front, obviously they were going to be replaced. The dance instructor exited, and scientists ushered them away like animals. Mistoffelees blood burned with an old raw anger. He knew he deserved better than they got. They were controlled like a second class people, but they were on an equal level to them, he knew it. Another thought came to mind, *If Mungo, Rumpel, and Munk are being replaced, then what happens to them? And who is next?* The thought made him stiffen, but he kept moving. *It could be anybody, Etcetera, Electra, Jemima, Demeter, Alonzo, Myself...* His mind began a run in fearful circles. What would happen to him? What if the dance class doors sheltered his double, someone who would come along and take away his role? He had been the current Bustopher's replacement, and Bustopher was still in his prime. There wouldn't be a need to replace him yet, so where did he fit into next? He loved his role as Mistoffelees. It was the only thing that brought him joy in his life, well besides Tantomile. Tantomile and he had shared a long friendship together as kittens, and as they grew, so did their love for each other.

Tantomile sidled up to her mate quietly, and unnoticed by the assistants, who controlled their every breath. He seemed not to notice her presence as he usually did, but then it looked as if he didn't notice anything around him. But there wasn't much to see either. Gray metal walls, cats, white lab coats, and gray metal walls. As they entered the doorway of their sleeping quarters during the week, she grabbed his hand, and dragged him to their special spot, in the darkest corner, where they could be alone. There stood a metal bunk, two beds high. She guided Mistoffelees to the lower one, and then sat beside him, waiting for him to come out of his reverie.

Finally as the artificial light began to die away, Mistoffelees came to his senses. Glancing quickly side to side he noticed that he was in 'their' corner, the corner that belonged to him and Tant. He looked to his right to see a concerned and slightly miffed Tantomile. He must of lost track of where they were going. He rubbed her cheek affectionately, to apologize, and to say he was all right, preferring actions to words. He gazed lovingly into her ice blue eyes. Purring, he nuzzled her neck, and soon they lay purring in a heap. Mistoffelees pushed away the former thoughts in his mind for later analysis, when Tant was asleep.

The hour went by and the lights were turned off, leaving the Jellicles to their sleeping. However there were several eyes that burned brightly in the night.

One set belonged to Circuit. She gazed at the back of her best mate since their eyes had opened, and wondered what he was dreaming. They had decided to sleep on the same bed, still unsure of their surroundings. They saw Brave there and his strong presence comforted. But still, she couldn't sleep, no matter how much she tried, the place was so different from the dance class, with all her friends, Gilly and Lilly, Sam, all were still there in the dance class, waiting to be here. Her chest swelled with pride that she was allowed to go before her younger companions. But it was squelched as she remembered the faces of two of the cats, the real Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer. What would happen to them? They were going to be their replacements obviously, what happen to them? These thoughts troubled her as she cuddled closer to Ace or as she should now call him Mungojerrie, he had always been her anchor in crisis, and hopefully he would be so now.

Mistoffelees too, was awake at that late hour. His mind was uneasy with the new prospects of replacement in his mind. A part of his mind begged him to find out if he had a replacement, and this part was like an itch he couldn't scratch, it was always there, persistently bothering him. He wondered if the two new kittens would know, they had been in the dance class until today. Suddenly the itch began to irritate him more, and he had to find out. He had to ask them. Sitting up, he looked across the room for the two new bodies. They slept close to the door, one hugging the other. Delicately he got up, trying not to disturb Tantomile, and edged his way around tails and paws strewn about the floor in a haphazard pattern of Jellicles. Finally after a very close call with Tugger's tail, Mistoffelees made it to the couple. He stared down at them for a few moments, debating on who to ask. The female was already awake. He could tell from her twisting and turning. She would help, at least he hoped she would. Carefully as to not disturb her mate, he nudged her shoulder. A pair of lime green eyes glowed at him eerily as her cream and yellow face turned to him.

"Pssst." He whispered. She sat up as he seated himself down to her level.

"Yeah?" She whispered back, wary of being heard, they weren't allowed to talk after lights out in the dance class, and she wasn't sure if the same was true here.

"Who else was in the dance class?" Mistoffelees said deciding to be direct.

"Well there was lots of us, Gilly, and Lilly, and Gamese, and..." Circuit whispered as she wistfully thought of the friends she'd left behind.

"I know, but were there any like me?" Mistoffelees whispered tersely, cutting off her babble.

"Oh, yeah, Hardy, he looks exactly like you." Circuit whispered as curiosity began to glint in her eye, but as soon as Mistoffelees was there, and she knew it had to be him, he was gone.

Mistoffelees leaped over the bodies to his corner. There was a replacement out there, waiting to fill his shoes. He had to get away, to keep his role, not to disappear into nothingness. He would get out, but how to convince Munkustrap of his plan, to make him think that it wasn't for purely selfish intentions? And it wouldn't be, he'd go get help, eventually, to save the Jellicles. Yes, Munkustrap would believe that. He'd have to approach him tomorrow. He would have to disappear soon, so they wouldn't replace him before he left. *In a few days,* he comforted himself. *In a few days, my problems will be at rest.*

Circuit stared at Mistoffelees' tensely held silhouette. He seemed troubled. Of course considering the news he had just received it wasn't a surprise, she had been worrying about the same thing. But Hardy wouldn't be joining the troupe for a long time, he was still small, of course she had not told him that. Feeling restless and slightly guilty, she poked Ace's shoulder.

"Are you awake?" she whispered in his ear softly. There was a snort, then Ace turned over.

"I am now, Circuit." He whispered back, with complaint.

"Good, now, c'mon, let's see how Brave is doing." Circuit said as her feet touched the cold metal floor. Slowly she turned, so she wouldn't wake the elder members, and climbed up the ladder to Brave's bunk, Ace only a few steps behind her. Circuit carefully put her hands and feet on the cushion, which was thin, but better than tile.

"Brave, get up, Brave!" She whispered as she shook him gently by the shoulder. Brave groaned slightly and turned over to glare at Circuit and Ace.

"That's not my name anymore." He said with a yawn, sitting up. He supposed that now was as good as any to tell them about the rules.

"It's not? You mean your Munkustrap already?" Ace said with disbelief.

"No, silly. When you join the troupe you don't have the name until you play an official role, otherwise your 'nameless kitten'."

"That means your 'nameless kitten'?" Circuit said with disbelief. Why would anyone want to be called nameless kitten, it would only confuse if there was more than one nameless.

"Yup. And you and the kitten formerly known as Ace are too."

"Well that stinks." Ace pouted, he rather liked his name.

"Hey, I don't make the rules, I just follow them. But I guess we can use them between us, if we want

too." Brave replied, he too rather missed the name 'Brave', it was better than 'nameless'. Ace and Circuit quickly agreed.

"So, is the cat formerly known as Gigglebim here?" Circuit asked looking about, trying to see a gray queen in the mass of bodies.

"No, I didn't see Gigglebim when I got here, she just disappeared after that one bad dance class." Brave said with a sigh. There were a lot that disappeared that hadn't come here, they were simply gone. Brave, Ace, and Circuit talked for hours over the new rules, until they fell asleep in a pile, using one another as cushions.

*O*O*

There was one more feline that lay awake that night, he was not sleeping with Jellicles, and in fact the Jellicles were the farthest thing from his mind. Down a dark and twisting stairway, and entering a small room filled with kittens you would find him. A black and white body lays stretched out near a mirror and bar. He is small, with green eyes glowing in the dark. He wonders what the future holds. And he feels as if tonight, there is was an important decision made about him, one that will effect the future. He yawns and pushes the thoughts out of his head as his eyelids fall shut, succumbing to the spell of sleep.

*O*O*

Slowly the next morning, the artificial lights began to rise, and the Jellicles stood, shaking their tussled fur into some semblance of order. Ace, Circuit, and Brave slowly climbed down the ladder and joined the rest of the Jellicles at the line in front of the door. Circuit and Ace cuddled closer to the older and wiser Brave.

"Where are we going, Brave?" Circuit asked softly, her green eyes looking fearfully at the door.

"We are going to go eat breakfast, we have a special room where we eat. Now be quiet or you won't eat!" Brave whispered harshly. Both Ace and Circuit nodded, and slowly peeled themselves off Brave, so as not to look scared in front of the rest of the troupe.

The door opened, and the Jellicles marched into the second room. They took twists and turns down the stark hallways, passing labs and rooms full of sleeping kittens. Finally they made it to a large plain room, with several metal tables, with attached seats were laid out. Bowls of something warm and foreign, and glasses of milk were set out. Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer during a conference the night before, decided to treat their apprentices like their kid brother and sister, and so they followed Circuit and Ace. Now Circuit and Ace followed Brave because he would be able to explain the rules to them, so they wouldn't get in trouble, and feel the blood fire that came from the collars. And Brave followed Munkustrap, as Munkustrap was his big brother in the tribe, and he was supposed to follow. They all sat facing one another in their seats. Ace and Circuit, curiously sniffed the brown and cream lumpy mixture before them, then sniffed in disdain at the thought of eating it like everybody around them did. They discovered to their delight, two strips of bacon, on which they happily munched.

"That won't be enough." Rumpel warned looking up from her bowl of plain oatmeal.

"You've got to eat at least some of the oatmeal, otherwise you won't last until the end of the first rehearsal." She felt dormant motherly instincts come up and out as she stared at the two before them. Her thoughts didn't lay with her future, for she was sure that that was already planned out, it was theirs that could change soon.

Munkustrap looked over and noticed Rumpel and Mungo adjusting to their apprentices easily. He cracked a slight smile, then looked to his own young charge, who hungrily ate at his own food. Something had been concerning him the last few days during rehearsal, and he decided now would be a good time to bring it up.

"Kitten." Munkustrap addressed. The kitten on the order, automatically looked up. "Are you ill?" The kitten stared at him in bewilderment for a moment, then swallowed and wiped his paw across his chin.

"No, why do you think that?" Brave asked with curiosity.

"Well, you do not dance across the stage with any enthusiasm. It's lackluster, and it will get you transferred." Munkustrap said. The kitten's eyes widened, then he knelt his head down, avoiding eye contact.

"I'm awaiting the stage, that's all." he said so softly, that Munkustrap could barely hear it.

"Well, if you don't show the dance instructor how good you are now, she'll think you're a mistake." The kitten's head popped back up.

"Okay, I'll do better today."

"Everyday, it must at least be a little better than the last. And one other thing." Munkustrap said, ending with a hint of amusement.

"Yes?"

"Next time, when a napkin is available, use it." He said as he tossed one that lay by the kitten's hand into his lap. Brave looked down at it for a second then back up at Munkustrap who had finished his meal, and was taking the dishes back to the cart, as was procedure.

"Wow! That's what it's for!" Brave said aloud, and to no one in particular, as he examined the napkin in his hands. Ace and Circuit, who had hesitatingly eaten the oatmeal were guided by Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer to the cart, where the dirty dishes were placed when they were finished.

Ace however flew to the ground on his way back, something unusual for him. Mungojerrie bent down to aid as Ace flipped over on to his back, he hissed and glared at a small black and white male, who stared right back with uninterested gaze.

"You tripped me!" Ace hissed. Mistoffelees looked right back at the kitten with a cold look in his eyes.

"And if I did?" He replied as he replaced his bowl and utensils on the cart.

"Well, you should apologize!" Ace said amazed at this cat's arrogance. Mungojerrie started hauling him upright, and Rumpelteazer and Circuit were tense, fearing a fight. Tantomile stood behind Mistoffelees, but was just as concerned, he'd never acted like this before.

"Watch yourself, nameless kitten." Mistoffelees said. It was something between a whisper and a hiss, that sent chills down everyone's spine.

"You alright?" Mungo asked as Ace was returned to the upright and standing position.

"Yeah, I just can't believe the..." Ace replied as he began to dust off his coat.

"Who shoved a bug up his butt?" Circuit said as she glared at the back of the cat she'd met only yesterday. How rude of him to trip Ace and then threaten him, when all he wanted was an apology.

Rumpelteazer giggled at the outrageousness of the comment, but was cut off by Mungojerrie's piercing glare. She pulled Circuit off to a small corner. "Now, you can't be goin' around sayin' that. Mistoffelees has probably just had a hard night, like maybe he got in a fight with Tantomile, or he's scheduled for an appointment." They both shuddered at the mention of the appointment. "Any way, you shouldn't make those comments aloud, keep them to yourself, and trust me it's a lot easier in the end." Circuit nodded her head in acknowledgement, and Rumpelteazer smiled. They rejoined Ace and Mungojerrie in the line, which was getting ready to head out the door.

However, Circuit was not the only one getting a lecture.

"What is up with you Misto?" Tant whispered as they walked into the line to the door. He'd never acted that way before to a kitten. Maybe a tom he'd had an argument with, but not a kitten. "Why'd you trip him, he's just a kitten, and he hasn't done a thing to you yet!" She said, exasperated by his non-responsive demeanor. She was silenced as she headed into the hall, but she decided she'd watch Misto today, carefully.

"Where are we going now?" Ace asked Mungo, who held him to his side, pinned by an arm across Ace's chest.

"Well, now we go to the practice room. There's no talking in the halls now, or in the practice room, but I'm sure you already know that." Mungojerrie whispered as they headed out the metal door, Ace nodded.

They ventured through yet another door, entering into an even larger room than the cafeteria, with one large window at one end for observation. Mistoffelees glanced out the window, eyes open for any possible escape routes. He then noticed a lone back door. He remembered looking through the glass of the door when he was a kitten, and seeing all the men run out exactly like it, when an alarm went off. They didn't have to use a key, it would be perfect. It was jammed in a tiny hallway that was ill lit, providing the perfect cover.

Brave took his place on the dance floor. As Munkustrap's apprentice he danced in the early practice, and Munkustrap the later one. The music started up, and they all began to sing. He looked to the side and saw Circuit and Ace joyfully joining the crowd.

As quickly as it had begun, it ended, and the music died away. They once again gathered in the center. The dance instructor read off her notes, and Ace, Circuit, and Brave all beamed with pride as she gave them special mention, for their good dancing. She made a sour remark at Mistoffelees dancing, remarking that it was much more like watching a thundercloud dance, rather than a kitten. She checked the clock once more before sauntering out of the room, leaving the Jellicles to their lunch and recreation break. They broke off into groups, Munkustrap with his mate Demeter and Deuteronomy, Brave close behind.

Mungojerrie, Rumpelteazer, Circuit, and Ace sat nearby, huddling around the sandwiches they threw in a pile. Then Ace's hair flew up along his spine and tail. Circuit and Mungojerrie looked up from the rather dry meat sandwiches to see what had disturbed him. They saw Mistoffelees. He seemed not to notice them as he stood patiently waiting for Munkustrap to finish his conversation. Mungojerrie pulled Ace closer to him, and farther from Mistoffelees. Mistoffelees had changed, he was no longer cheerful, but was gloomy and moody.

This everyone noticed. Most dismissed it as personal troubles, but Tantomile was the most concerned of all. He had changed before her eyes, overnight even, from a warm, loving mate, to a staunch, angry, and sometimes sadistic cat. He'd tripped the newest young kitten to join the troupe, and he'd never done that before, to anyone. And he was beginning to push her away too, rejecting her overtures that used to leave him spellbound. It had to be a phase, and so she left it at that. She would later reflect that maybe if she hadn't he'd be at her side still.

Circuit sat closer to Munkustrap's group, eager to hear what was bugging Mistoffelees. He had seemed so nice, until she gave him the news, and she wondered if it had been her fault for his mood swing, which everyone else seemed to notice.

Mistoffelees cleared his throat as Munkustrap finished his last lines of his conversation. Four sets of eyes turned to him, and he ignored three of them.

"Munkustrap, may I talk to you alone?" He said, detached. Deuteronomy took note of it, and he decided he would ask him about it later. Munkustrap nodded and Mistoffelees led him to the farthest corner, away from the others. Unbeknownst to them, Circuit followed. Mistoffelees looked about for the instructor's aides, before speaking again. "Munkustrap, I'm getting out of here." He said firmly, focusing his green eyes firmly on Munkustrap's brown, leaving no room for argument. Munkustrap mind swirled with the prospect, no one had even dared to try to escape.

"Why?" He asked, his voice hoarse.

"Because, we're being treated like animals, and uhh... I'm going to go get help, and get us all out of here." Mistoffelees made up on the spot, if he stated his true intentions, Munkustrap would send him to Old Deuteronomy, and he didn't want comfort, he wanted security.

"But how are you going to get out?" Munkustrap whispered, desperately searching for something that would hold Mistoffelees back from trying such a risky escape. "The doors are locked electronically."

Circuit heard it all only a few feet away. Munkustrap hadn't seen her, and she was sure Mistoffelees had, but didn't care. She knew that Mistoffelees was lying about the reason he wanted to go, or at least wasn't being completely honest. It most probably had something to do with his replacement. Slowly and cautiously she stepped closer, determined to help.

"I can pick the lock. Did once on a dare." She said softly. She felt two eyes focus on her.

"See, she can pick the lock, and I'll escape, I've got the route worked out already, and I'll get help as soon as possible." Mistoffelees said with more confidence. The kitten had saved him twice.

Munkustrap sighed, knowing there was no way to win the battle, and agreeing that how they were treated wasn't right. "Does Tantomile know?" Mistoffelees nodded, and Circuit knew he was lying again. Munkustrap sighed again, "Okay, try." Then he returned to Deuteronomy, trying to relieve himself of the heavy burden he felt on his chest. Something wasn't right, and someone wouldn't make it through the night. On later reflection, he realized that if maybe he'd acted upon his instincts then and there, maybe Mistoffelees would still be there.

The dance instructor returned three hours later, slightly moist. The Jellicles danced their routine, Mistoffelees seemed more joyful than usual, and Munkustrap seemed loaded with a heavy burden. Tantomile seemed to be sad and questioning all at the same time, and constantly stared at Mistoffelees. The dance instructor shook her head, and reminded herself, as she did every time these kind of crazy thoughts came into her head, *They're just animals, trained to parrot words, they aren't human.*

The rehearsal ended and notes were made, and the Jellicles were ushered back to their room. The day ended like any other day, but little did they know that, that night, they would see history in the making. An event that would change all of their lives for generations to come.

Mistoffelees lay beside Tantomile's side, savoring her presence, knowing he would be gone soon. He hadn't told her, for she'd only try to talk him out of it. He watched as the lights slowly dimmed to darkness. He waited for what seemed like days before going to the young kitten that waited for him at the door, the barrier between him and freedom. He walked slowly through the mass of tails, gazing at them each individually, trying to engrave their owners in his memory. Finally he reached the door, and nodded to the kitten to begin. Munkustrap saluted him from his position beside the door.

Circuit was tense, something in her mind told her that something bad would happen if she finished her duty. Shakily she picked up the bent paper clip that she kept, and worked on the circuits. Slowly the door opened, and Mistoffelees disappeared into darkness. Slowly she coaxed the door to close, and said a silent prayer.

Mistoffelees silently ran down the halls. He counted the steps until he reached the exit, and reached freedom. He came closer, the door opened to reveal fresh air and a dark sky, a full moon overhead. He stared at it for a full second in awe. The only moon he had ever seen was that on the stage, and it paled before the real thing. He darted down the fire escape, and as he plummeted two feet after leaping to the ground, he felt real dirt between his toes. He ran, enjoying the feel of the fresh air whipping in his fur, and blowing in his face.

An alarm went off in main security center. One security guard awoke immediately from his slumber to check it out. He followed the red dot, a cat had escaped the perimeter. He awoke the other guard, and sent the orders for the guards to intercept the runaway. He alerted Dr. Ferran next, who wasn't happy about being woken at two in the morning. The guard explained the situation, and was informed to hold the escapee until he could arrive. He watched the cat and mouse game on the computer screen.

Mistoffelees froze as a set of the gun barrels were pointed at him, he turned, and saw another, panicking he looked side to side, to be greeted with more gun barrels. He howled in defeat and sank to his knees, barely noticing the soft grass beneath them. The guards thought he might try to fight, and clubbed him brutally with the butts of their guns. Mistoffelees made no attempt to fight them back. He simply stared at the moon, and felt ready to die. The guards were eventually stopped by Dr. Ferran in his classic white lab coat. He shouted at them to carry 'it' back to the pen, and then marched back to the labs, fingering a sleek black device with many buttons.

Tantomile woke to the sound of a howl, it sounded familiar, and yet no one seemed to notice it. She looked to her side, noticing a missing weight, to find Mistoffelees not there. Frantically she looked about her and the other cats, and saw not a trace of her mate. She crawled up to Munkustrap and shook him.

"Where's Mistoffelees?" She hissed, blue eyes blazing. Munkustrap stared at her, as if she was insane for a moment, before muttering a few select curses he'd learned from the dance instructor.

"I should have never trusted him." Munkustrap moaned softly.

"Where...is...he?" Tantomile snarled.

"He's gone Tant, he went to go get..." Munkustrap said, but was cut off by the opening of the door, and the turning on of the lights. There stood two security guards and Dr. Ferran. The Jellicles parted like water as Dr. Ferran marched to the middle of the room, the two guards following him, with a precious cargo. They threw it on the floor, and beneath the blood and dirt was Mistoffelees. Tantomile gasped, and made a motion to go to him, but Munkustrap had wrapped his hand around her waist, and another around her mouth, holding back any movements or sounds she could make. She watched in wide eyed fear, as her mate struggled to get up.

Brave sat up with Ace as the lights were turned on. They watched as Mistoffelees was thrown on the ground, and Brave saw Tantomile struggling in Munkustrap's lap. The quiet air was ripped to sheds with a scream, it was high pitched, and seemed to go on forever. Brave watched as Mistoffelees gripped at his collar for a few moments, before his mouth fell silent, and his body limply hit the floor. His eyes were unfocussed and glazed. Dr. Ferran's were cold and black. The guards seemed not to care. And Tantomile's were filled with tears as she shook in Munkustrap's lap. Dr. Ferran left with the guards, and the room was dark again.

Munkustrap released Tantomile, who shot like a rocket to Mistoffelees. She shook him, tears streaming down her face, and her lip trembling. The realization sunk in that he was dead, and she let out a horrible shriek, the pain inside unable to be expressed in simple sounds. She collapsed into tears by his side, and lay there until morning.

Circuit sighed and looked away sadly. She'd caused this, if she hadn't been so snoopy, Mistoffelees would be alive, and Tantomile wouldn't be so sad. The secret of her participation hung in her heart like a weight, and she found herself unable even to talk to Ace about the pain she felt.

Brave simply stared at the carcass and the weeping Tantomile in frozen horror. The collar had killed him. Slowly he grabbed for his collar, it was so heavy, and so deadly. He yanked on it, desperate to get it off, it wouldn't come off, he pulled harder, and it still wouldn't budge.

Deuteronomy saw the gray kitten's frantic tugging at his collar. Concerned he came over and removed his hands from the collar. He looked into the young face, covered with tears, and his eyes fearful. The kitten crumpled into his arms, and wept. Gently he stroked his back, and murmured soothing words in his ear. He looked over to the other kittens, who seemed to be in shock, he drew him into his arms, and rocked them gently. He mourned for Mistoffelees and Tantomile, as tears silently slipped down his face.

Ace stood in horror over what had just occurred. Sure, Mistoffelees hadn't been nice to him, but still he didn't deserve to die like that. He felt warm arms wrap around him, and he thought that they might be Deuteronomy's, but his body was numb, and he was unable to move.

***********

The black and white kitten awoke, it was late at night, and none of the others were awake. A mysterious force drew him to the window in the door, where noise came from the outside. On his tip toes he peered out. Dr. Ferran passed, red with an angry scowl on his face. A guard passed by, carrying something. Someone. It was caked in dirt and blood, which mixed to make a mud like mixture. The body was small, and soon he saw a face. It was white, and blood trickled slowly from his lip and black nose. It was a picture that he would not ever forget, and one that would haunt his dreams that night. He heard the scream from doors away, and it frightened him into a pile of other kittens. He hid between the largest of them, seeking protection from the fate that befell the other.

**********

The Jellicles found no sleep that night, the very thought of sleeping seemed ridiculous. As the lights almost reached their full power, Munkustrap pulled Tantomile away from her stiff mate's body. She struggled and bit him, but he had to get her away, lest she attack the scientists, it would do the tribe no good to lose two good friends in one day. He left her with Jennyanydots and Jellyorum, who huddled around her, tears in their eyes also. He looked about him, the eyes were either filled with tears, or red and unable to cry anymore. Guards came in and dragged the body away. The schedule was not altered for them to mourn. They were escorted to the meal hall, and fed the same food as yesterday. They all ate in a sullen silence.

Tantomile stared into the oatmeal as she ate it quickly. Mistoffelees had always joked that the stuff made great ointments for sore muscles, since it was sticky and warm. She felt the tears trickle down her face, and fall into the oatmeal. She couldn't stop them.

They were led out again, this time to the practice room. The music swelled and Tantomile began to feel lightheaded. She placed a tear soaked hand to her head trying to soothe the pain. She tried to keep up with the steps, and resisted the urge to shut her eyes. But the darkness closed her eyes, and she fell. The music stopped and Jellicles and humans alike stared. They wondered if she had died, but they saw faint breathing. Dr. Ferran was called quickly, and after a quick medical scan, he announced aloud to the dance instructor.

"She's pregnant." The dance instructor gave a nod.

"Munkustrap, take Tantomile, and follow Dr. Ferran." She commanded. Munkustrap lifted Tantomile's lithe body, shaking his head as he followed Dr. Ferran out of the room. The kittens would be taken away, like Grizabella's had. She had lost her mate and would soon lose her kittens. It was something that no one recovered from, Grizabella hadn't yet, and he doubted she ever would.

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