Illegally Born

Chapter 4: The Brig

As Munkustrap walked down the corridor with Lt. Sentry he compared her to Ensign Jessel. While Jessel was small and changed moods easily Lt. Sentry was nearly his own height and quite serious. Munkustrap would have never suspected that Jessel could have thrown him but looking at Lt. Sentry he suspected she could damage him severely if she were of a mind.

They stepped into an elevator in silence, Munkustrap unsure of what he could or should say to this woman, who was charged with the security of a ship. She led him off the elevator and down another corridor. A man dressed in a uniform similar to Lt. Sentryís straitened to attention as they stepped through the doorway he guarded. The room into which they stepped was ringed with small alcoves covered with doors made of metal bars. Munkustrap felt the hair on the back of his neck rise as he recognized the faces behind those bars. When Dr. Ferran sauntered up to the door of his cell with a furious expression on his face Munkustrap had to force himself not to take a step back.

"So now Iím to be put on display for the animals, am I," Dr. Ferran sneered. "Well you wonít get away with this you know. I have friends, powerful friends back on Earth. Iíll get out of this cage and then Iíll go after your job Lieutenant".

The Lieutenant replied in a voice that dripped derision, "Any friends you had will disavow all knowledge of you the minute they hear what youíre accused of. Genetic manipulation is a serious offense. I expect youíll get life in prison. As for getting out of that cell, I wouldnít try it while youíre in my custody, it would give me an excuse to hunt you down and I and my security officers would enjoy that just too much. What do you think, Munkustrap"?

"He canít answer," ordered the doctor, looking at Munkustrap fiercely, "heís just an animal".

"I think it is a big cage," spat Munkustrap.

The doctor looked at him with a stunned expression.

Sentry gave a short bark of laughter. "Is there anything else you wanted to see here"?

"I do not see the dance instructor. Is she here"?

"The women are in a separate brig, Munkustrap, do you want to see her"?

Munkustrap thought about the punishments he had endured and witnessed. "No, I think I will be very happy if I never see any of these people again".

"Iíll do my best to arrange that then," Sentry replied as she motioned him out.

Munkustrap stopped in the hall and turned to her. "We are really to be free and they are really to be punished"?

"Thatís the intention. We are going to need your help though. We need to know more about what Dr. Ferran and the others did to you".

"Why," he asked suspiciously.

She took his arm and led him down the corridor. "A judge has to decide what punishment is fitting . To do that he needs to know what crimes have been committed. Now, we already know about the collars but I still donít understand why you were forced to perform or why there are so few adults and so many kittens".

"The collars are illegal"?

"The collars would be illegal on animals, they certainly are illegal on people".

Munkustrap thought a moment, trying to answer her questions. "I do not know why we danced, only that we did. I do not know where the other cats are either".

"Other cats"?

"I lived in a crèche with many other kittens until I was chosen for the dance class. They would be grown now but only one other is in the troupe".

"How old would these other kittens be now"?

"As old as me".

"How old are you"?

"I do not know".

Lt. Sentry looked perplexed. "Munkustrap, I know you donít like doctors but I would really appreciate it if you would let Dr. Branch examine you and some of the others". His horrified expression told her what he thought of that idea. "She wouldnít do anything that you didnít allow her to. She isnít permitted to do anything that her patients donít consent to. It might answer some of our questions".

"I will think about it," he said as they arrived at the cargo bay door. The door opened and admitted him back into the company of those he loved and cherished. Hungry kitten cries assaulted his ears, attracting his attention. His gaze immediately landed on Demeter, whose tender maternal expression filled him with a determination to see that she would never be separated from her kittens again. Approvingly he noticed that the kittens had been moved to the center of the crowd of Jellicles. What surprised him was how closely Jessel sat next to them. He watched as Demeter passed one of the kittens to Jellyorum. Jessel handed each of them a bottle and they proceeded to feed the two hungry kittens.

Jesselís soft voice reached his ears. "You see? They like the formula, Demeter. It will be fine for them. If you really want to restart your milk you can talk to Dr. Branch. She may be able to help you but in the mean time this will work".

Munkustrapís mate looked momentarily skeptical but her expression changed back to loving as she watched her kittens eat. Munkustrap wondered where the food for the kittens had come from and realized that he still didnít know enough about the ship they were on to take proper care of any of the Jellicles. Swallowing his pride he turned to Lt. Sentry. "You are in charge of security on this ship. That must mean that you have duties elsewhere. Is that right"?

"Yes," she answered wondering if he was trying to get rid of her.

"We do not know the rules of this place. We do not know what is expected of us. You can not stay with us. Can Jessel"?

"You want Jessel to stay with you"?

"She seems to have been accepted by the troupe. It would help if someone stayed and answered our questions," he said tightly, not liking to ask for help.

"She will be safe with you?" asked Lt. Sentry.

Munkustrap decided not to take offense. He would certainly ask the same if he were in her place. "She will be safe with us. I will see to her protection as if she were one of us".

"Ensign Jessel," Sentry called and Jessel came running.

"Yes, Lieutenant".

"You are now assigned as liaison officer for the Jellicles. Any other duties you might have will be reassigned until I say otherwise".

"Yes, Lieutenant. Thank you Lieutenant," Jessel replied, her face lighting up.

"Dismissed, Ensign". Jessel returned to Demeterís side.

"Is there anything else I can help you with while Iím here, Munkustrap?" Sentry asked turning back to him.

Munkustrap thought a moment. "We should practice. This room is very full for us to practice in and we will need our music".

"I thought this room might be a little cramped for you. These small cargo bays are arranged in groups of four with guest quarters across the hall from each one. You can use each of the guest quarters in this corridor. The cargo bay to the left of this one as you go out the door is being converted to a mess hall for your use. The cargo bay to the right is empty. You can use that for practice if you want or I thought you might want to split up the sleeping quarters, one for men and one for women".

"We have always slept all in the same room. I do not think anyone will want to change now".

"Then you can have that for your practice room. You donít have to dance if you donít want to, Munkustrap. Itís your choice," Lt. Sentry emphasized.

Munkustrap nodded. "I think we will all feel better if we have something to do. Jessel said we will be here for several weeks"?

"Yes, thatís true," Lt. Sentry suddenly hesitated, "About that fourth cargo bayÖ I think you should come with me for a few moments, Munkustrap".

Munkustrap wondered what would make the Lieutenant hesitate but nodded and followed her out. As they passed through the door Sentry dismissed Mickelvy and turned right, away from the elevator. They passed one set of doors and stopped at the last set which Sentry opened with a touch on the panel next to them. Munkustrap stepped inside and saw that this room was set up much like the one he had just left, though with fewer beds. Munkustrap counted seven sets of eyes turned in his direction, very young eyes. "The dance class," he said to no one in particular.

Munkustrapís gaze landed on one very tall kitten, a gray kitten with black stripes. What annoyed him was the way the tall kitten was holding a tiny black and white kitten by the arm, high enough that the smaller kitten was stretching to make his toes stay on the floor. Munkustrap strode forward to the pair. "Well, obviously you are supposed to be my replacement," he said to the tall kitten, "Hasnít anyone told you that Munkustrap is the protector of all the kittens"?

The boy looked surprised and released the small kitten. Now that Munkustrap stood face to face with him he realized that the boy measured the same height as he. He would have joined the dance troupe very soon. Of course, it might still have been quite a while before Munkustrap would have lost his name but no one liked having their replacement watching them. Munkustrap put his arm around the boyís shoulders and pulled him towards the door where Lt. Sentry waited. "They should be with us," he said to her.

"I was hoping youíd offer to take care of them. The youngest ones could be returned to the crèches but some are too old for that," she replied looking relieved.

"We will take them all. Come," Munkustrap called and the kittens lined up obediently behind him, eyes huge. Munkustrap released the tall boy, knowing he would follow. He would do his best to take care of the boy, just as Deuteronomy had cared for him when he had appeared to take his place. He chuckled as he wondered how Mistoffelees would react to his tiny replacement.

"Iíll have their beds moved in here," said Lt. Sentry as they reentered the Jellicles sleeping room

The Jellicles were quick to notice the new arrivals and several stepped toward them. Mistoffelees hissed loudly. That wasnít the reaction Munkustrap had expected. Mistoffelees ran forward. Munkustrap wondered if he was going to have to protect the kittens from one of his own. It surprised him when Mistoffelees stopped in front of the tall boy and hissed again.

"Hello, kitten," sneered the gray and black to Mistoffelees infuriating him further.

A hand patted Mistoffeleesí shoulder as Deuteronomy passed him. "I think I should handle this, Munkustrap," said Deuteronomy, "you have enough to take care of right now". Deuteronomy stepped between the two young men. "Mistoffelees is not a kitten, he has danced with us for a long time now and has earned his name. Since you are still a nameless kitten you should apologize".

The boy just looked mad enough to spit nails. Munkustrap scolded, "You mind Deuteronomy or youíll be answering to every cat in this room".

The boy looked surprised at the sound of the name he knew so well. "I apologize," said the gray and black with no hint of remorse in his voice.

Deuteronomy put his arm around the boy and led him away commenting to Munkustrap over his shoulder, "Iíll take care of him. I did fine with another over anxious young tom, now didnít I"?

Munkustrap chuckled. Heíd been a brat at that age too.

Mistoffelees swept the small black and white kitten into his arms. "Heís been picking on you hasnít he?" Mistoffelees asked the little kitten. The kitten nodded and Mistoffelees said, "He wonít anymore". The little kitten wrapped his arms tightly around Mistoffeleesí neck. Mistoffelees swayed back and forth patting the kittenís back.

"Mistoffelees," said Munkustrap, "Why didnít you tell me I had a replacement in the dance class? Obviously you two know each other".

"Iíd rather not know him," said Mistoffelees hotly, "heís a bully".

Munkustrap chuckled, "Deuteronomy will straiten him out. He straitened me out". Then he turned to the task of finding appropriate guardians for the kittens. He would separate Mistoffelees and the littlest kitten latter.

Chapter 5: Morning

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