Hello! Can't believe we finally made it to this chapter. It's a long one but a lot of stuff gets done. I'm so happy with all the positive feedback and want to thank everyone for being so supportive. Hope you all have fun reading this chapter because I had a lot of fun writing it!
There will be one more chapter after this one so keep an eye out for that one coming soon!
One two, one two, one two, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep moving forward. Don't let the destination stop the journey.
Tumble wasn't sure where he heard such a sentiment but he couldn't help but wonder if it was said by someone who had never heard of Macavity. All roads that led to Macavity weren't ones he wanted to be on. But he had to remember that Pouncival was also at the end of the road, and Pouncival was worth facing Macavity for.
"One two, one two…." Tumble muttered, concentrating on limping convincingly. In a fit of desperation he considered asking Carbucketty to kick him in the shin so at least it would feel like he had been injured.
No, no, that was too crazy. Focus. Remain calm. Remain focused. Pouncival was counting on him.
"Hey Bill." Carbucketty's voice almost scared the living daylights out of him.
"Huh?" Tumble kept himself from jumping.
"No, you can't sound like that. Bill doesn't go 'huh?', he goes 'what?' or 'yes?'. You have to get it right." Carbucketty insisted.
"Oh. Er, sorry. I mean, yes?"
Carbucketty gave him a critical look. "That's better. But you need more confidence. Believe that you are who you want to be. If you don't believe it then how do you expect others to?"
"That's awfully wise." Tumble said. "Did you hear that from someone?"
"From Bill. Before we got to go outside. Before all of this." Carbucketty sighed. "I know it's hard for my head to remember and understand things but it helps when Bill helps me."
"It's hard for me too. Without Pounce I sometimes feel lost." Tumble admitted.
"I feel lost too." Carbucketty said quietly.
They walked in silence for a minute before Tumble spoke up again. "You know what helps me?"
"Thinking of what I'm gonna do with Pounce when I get back home. I've gotta make up for lost time. I haven't pranked him properly in days."
Carbucketty tilted his head to the side. "I wonder what I'll do when I get back home. But then I remember that I don't remember what my home is anymore. Bill says it's nice though."
"Maybe… maybe you could live in the junkyard after all of this." Tumble said, feeling bad he brought up the subject of home after all.
"Maybe! As long as I'm with my brother I don't care where I am." Carbucketty fixed Tumble with a serious stare. "Hey, Bill."
"Yes?" Tumble replied, remembering how to respond at the last second.
"Perfect." Carbucketty grinned.
Tumble let out a sigh of relief. Maybe they could do this after all. Just keep one foot in front of the other.
"Wait!" Carbucketty stopped, hunching in on himself. "This is the place where we're supposed to be. The place where Macavity is waiting."
They were in the front yard of an abandoned house that had certainly seen better days. All the windows had been smashed in and the front door was nailed shut. The humans had left the house ages ago, leaving an empty shell that was free for anyone to move in and make their own. On the outside it looked rather inconspicuous, somewhat sad, but it was the perfect place for Macavity to make his hideout.
No one would have suspected that the Napoleon of Crime would pick such a bland spot to set up a base of operations. If it were up to Tumble he would have thought that Macavity lived in a mansion. Knowing that Macavity had kept Carbucketty and Bill Bailey here was enough to make the simple house a sinister one.
"Let me take the lead." Tumble said, hoping that his voice didn't tremble as much as his body was. He'd have to pretend that trembling was from the imaginary pain in his leg.
Cautiously he limped through the weeds in the front yard, twitching his ears back and forth to listen for anything suspicious. In the back of his mind he was aware that somewhere Munkustrap and the others were nearby, hidden in case things truly went south, but as soon as Tumble and Carbucketty were inside they would have to fend for themselves.
Carbucketty clung to Tumble's arm. "I don't see anyone."
"Let's go see if-"
Suddenly four huge shapes oozed out of the shadows, materializing into scruffy, hissing cats. At least Tumble thought they were cats. They were the biggest cats he had even seen, bigger even than some dogs.
"Was wonderin' when you'd come crawlin' back. Got a lot of nerve showin' up after bein' gone for so long." The nearest cat hissed. The others laughed when Carbucketty squeaked and hid his face in Tumble's side.
Tumble drew himself up to his full height. "Take me to Macavity. He'll want to see us straight away."
"Ooo, look at you givin' orders. You always were the dumber of the two. Never know when to respect your elders." The lead henchcat drew back his arm as if preparing to strike.
Tumble remained firm, only bolstered by Carbucketty clinging to his side. If he flinched then it would be all over.
"Hey, he's tremblin' already." Another henchcat pointed out.
"My leg. It hurts." Tumble muttered.
"Boss said you did somethin' to it." The lead henchcat lowered his arm. "Not worth hittin' somethin' that's already damaged. 'Sides, if the boss wants to talk to you then he'll want you conscious."
Tumble let out the breath he had been holding as the lead henchcat waved him and Carbucketty in through a window, leaving the other three cats to melt back into the perimeter of the territory.
"I'm scared." Carbucketty whispered, worming his way under Tumble's arm.
"Don't be." Tumble whispered back. "We'll be fine."
One two, one two. Keep walking. Just keep walking.
"We'll be fine." Tumble had assured him.
Fine. Just fine. Just keep remembering that Tumble was supposed to be Bill. Not Tumble. Bill.
First it was just keep remembering that Bill was supposed to be Tumble. Not Bill. Tumble. Now it was the other way around.
He was Carbucketty. Not Pouncival. Carbucketty. No pretending anymore.
Bill was Tumble. No, Tumble was Bill. Tumble was Bill.
It was so hard to remember what was supposed to be the wrong things. And it was so important to remember what was supposed to be the right things.
Carbucketty took a deep breath, holding on to his brother. Not the real one but the fake one. Tumble. Tumble was being brave just for him so he could be brave too.
The henchcat led the way, not even bothering to look back to see if he was being followed. Of course Carbucketty and Tumble were following. Where else would they go?
He'd never been in the house before. Only the basement. Never above. Until now. It was spacious, hollow, with lots of blank spaces. It would have been nice to draw on the walls up here. Lots more natural light.
Right. Carbucketty clutched Tumble's arm a little tighter. He would have to remember to draw Alonzo. Not Plato. Draw Alonzo. That was important. Macavity would be mad if he got it wrong. Or was it Bill that would be mad if he got it wrong? No, Bill never got mad at him. Tired sometimes, sad maybe, but not mad.
They stopped in front of a door. The henchcat knocked. Carbucketty held on to Tumble as a sea of fear threatened to wash him away.
He used to not be afraid of Macavity. But now he was. And he couldn't escape it.
"It's going to be okay." Tumble whispered, sounding so much like his brother. Bill. Tumble was supposed to be Bill. Not Tumble. "I promise."
Bill never went back on a promise. Carbucketty wondered if Tumble was the same way.
The door opened. Suddenly he was wrenched away from Tumble's side.
"Get in there. Boss only wants to see you." The henchcat growled.
"Tumble!" Carbucketty yelled. He didn't get to hear Tumble's reply as the door slammed shut between him and the rest of the world.
"I miss you." Carbucketty whined, curling up against the door. The room was so big and yet felt so small. Wildly he looked around for anything that could act as an anchor for his flooded mind.
Then he saw him.
"Hello." Macavity's voice was so calm, so not panicked, that Carbucketty couldn't help but turn to it.
"I-I don't want to be alone." Carbucketty said, curling up on the floor and hiding his face in his paws.
"You won't be, little one." The voice purred. "So long as you found what I've been searching for."
Plato. No, Alonzo. It has to be Alonzo. Never Plato. Only Alonzo. Remember Alonzo.
"Yes. I remember." Carbucketty said to himself.
"Then show me." The voice commanded.
Carbucketty raised his head. Yes. He would show Macavity the truth. Not the truth. The pretend truth. Pretend with Alonzo. Then he could go home with Tumble and Pouncival and see Bill again and never come back to this place.
He found what he needed and began to draw. This time he would get the eyebrows right.
Plato ran faster than he had ever run before, long legs easily carrying him through the darkened streets. There was no doubt that he was headed in the right direction. Map or no map he would find his way.
Even though he knew that none of what had happened was his fault he still felt responsible. He had been the last cat to see Pouncival before he was kidnapped during the fire, had seen the fear in Pouncival's eyes as Macavity's henchcats advanced upon him. And he hadn't been able to do a thing about it. Now he was going to do something.
Bill's map had been detailed. While Carbucketty could draw portraits with ease Bill could map out the surrounding neighborhoods with the same level of accuracy. Plato made a mental note to thank him later. If he made it out.
No, when he made it out. There was no room for thinking the worst, especially when Macavity was involved.
The house where Macavity had made his lair came into view. Somehow Plato imagined that it would be much more grandiose and foreboding. Instead it was… broken down. It would be one of the last places he would expect. Maybe that was the point.
Pouncival was in the basement. That's where Munkustrap, Alonzo, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer would be headed. Carbucketty and Tumble would be facing Macavity.
He was in a crossroads. Every bit of common sense told him to go to Pouncival. If Macavity saw him then Carbucketty saying that Alonzo was the doppelganger would be revealed to be a lie. But something was moving his feet away from the basement, towards where he somehow knew Macavity would be.
Plato had to see it for himself. Macavity had gone to such great lengths to find him, to discover his doppelganger, and Plato felt the same need to see him face to face. Perhaps they were more alike beyond just sharing a face and sharing dreams.
Plato crouched down just outside of the yard behind a trash can. Even though they were hidden from view he knew there had to be henchcats around. Now it was a matter of waiting for the opportune moment to arrive. Something told him he could wait.
"Kind of underwhelming, isn't it?" Alonzo's voice whispered in Munkustrap's ear.
Munkustrap shivered, from Alonzo's whisper or his own anticipation he wasn't sure. He looked over the edge of the roof that he, Alonzo, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer were currently crouched on, peering down into the yard of the dilapidated house that Bill had marked as Macavity's latest hideout.
"It's probably the reason that no one suspected he would be here." Munk murmured in return. If he truly squinted he could just make out the shapes of three of Macavity's henchcats skulking around the perimeter of the yard.
Between himself, Jerrie and Alonzo he was fairly certain the henchcats wouldn't be a problem. The real challenge would be trying to get to Pouncival without alerting Macavity. Teazer was going to use the henchcat's distraction to her advantage, taking the opportunity to slip past them and find the entrance to the basement. The mysterious book that Plato had mentioned would have to be sought after later. Pouncival was the number one priority.
"Hope that Tumble and Carbucketty are alright." Jerrie murmured.
The four of them had watched in silence as Carbucketty and Tumble were led inside, both looking terrified.
In that moment Munkustrap truly wondered if he would see them again.
"Let's go." Munk said, shaking off the thought. No time to doubt now.
"Right. See you on the other side." Teazer gave Jerrie one last nuzzle before disappearing into the dark.
Tumble nervously stood in the hallway, doing his best not to fidget under the lead henchcat's gaze. The enormous cat leaned up against the wall, pulling out a matchbox and idly lighting them one by one while never taking his eyes off of his prisoner. In comparison to Tumble the matches were fairly large, but to the henchcat they were just the right size.
"Whatchu lookin' at? Want to see another fire?" The cat sneered. "The runt certainly ran off fast enough after the junkyard was lit, the coward."
"He's not a coward." Tumble muttered, not sure if he was speaking as Bill or himself.
The henchcat huffed a laugh. "If you say so. If you weren't already burned I'd teach you a lesson." The henchcat twirled a lit match before throwing it at Tumble's feet, laughing as Tumble danced out of the way.
"Stop. Stop!" Tumble shouted, stamping his foot. It was too late when he realized his mistake.
"Thought your leg was injured, yet you're stompin' around on it, no problem." The henchcat said, looking at him suspiciously.
"It- It got better." Tumble stammered, backing away.
"You're not limpin' anymore either. And you're much more talkative than before. Used to not even look at me unless I made a move towards the runt." The henchcat lunged forward, grabbing Tumble's leg. "Come to think of it, the runt called you 'Tumble' too."
Tumble fell over onto his back, scrabbling at the floor with his claws. "No! Let go!"
It was no use. With a sharp rip the bandage was off, taking a good chunk of fur with it.
"You little liar. You're not the right cat at all." The henchcat grabbed Tumble by the throat to hold him still. "Where's the other one? The one the boss wants to see?"
Tumble sank his claws into the henchcat's arm. "Let- let go!"
The henchcat barely reacted to his now bleeding arm. "The boss isn't gonna like this. He's expectin' the other one."
With unnerving ease the henchcat pulled Tumble to his feet by his neck, dragging him over so the cat could knock on the door.
With all of his strength Tumble jumped, aiming a kick at the henchcat's stomach with both of his feet. The move almost strangled him but it got the result he wanted. With a grunt the cat let him go. Tumble was immediately running down the hallway, using his momentum to ricochet off a wall and turn a quick corner.
The henchcat was fast to follow. It would be tricky dealing with his superior size and strength, but Tumble's full name wasn't Tumblebrutus for nothing.
Carbucketty raised his head, pausing in drawing Alonzo's nose.
There was a lot of noise coming from the other side of the door. Lots of shouts from Tumble and the big cat.
"Tumble?" Carbucketty whispered.
"Keep drawing." The voice told him.
Plato didn't have to wait long for a suitable distraction.
Really, looking back on it, the ambush shouldn't have worked, but somehow it did. Maybe Macavity's henchcats were having an off day, maybe they were new, Plato wasn't sure. But as soon as Mungojerrie strolled out into the open they should have known something was up.
"Evenin', gentlemen. And ladies, maybe. Kinda hard to see your, ah, particular assets in the shadows there." Jerrie said, planting himself in the middle of the yard and giving the area a lazy wave hello.
Immediately the three remaining henchcats surrounded him.
"Yer in the wrong place, short stuff." The nearest one growled.
"I beg your pardon? Short? I can't believe it!" Jerrie clutched his chest in exaggerated offense. "Guess I should be glad you didn't try to call me ugly, 'cause compared to you three I'm absolutely the best lookin'. Have you taken a look in the mirror lately?"
Plato crept forward, waiting for the path to be clear. From his spot he could see Munkustrap and Alonzo silently moving up behind the two biggest henchcats.
"And another thing-" Jerrie continued, waving his arms dramatically so the three henchcats kept their eyes on him. "- have you heard of the concept of havin' a nice bath? No offense, but the stench radiatin' offa you three is just- just spectacular. At least get out the hose and-"
"Shut yer gob!" The nearest cat swung at him. Jerrie ducked.
Simultaneously Munk and Alonzo jumped onto two of the henchcat's backs, sinking their claws and teeth into their unsuspecting victims. The third henchcat, the one who swung at Jerrie, continued his attack, momentarily unaware of his cohorts being ambushed.
Jerrie did a somersault and bounced to his feet, easily dodging another swing from his attacker. "Oh come on, you ain't even tryin'! How am I supposed to take you seriously when-"
"Look out!" Alonzo shouted as the cat he was fighting purposefully fell over, squashing both Alonzo and Jerrie beneath him. Both Alonzo and Jerrie lay on the ground, momentarily stunned.
Munk was having a better time with his henchcat, having put his teeth and claws to good use, effectively blinding the cat by wrapping his paws around the cat's head and sinking his claws in on either side of the henchcat's face to secure his hold. He made use of his back legs by raking them down the henchcat's back in long, painful scratches. The henchcat howled as he tried in vain to get Munkustrap off of him.
Alonzo grabbed Jerrie and rolled them both out of the way as both their attackers went in to strike. This resulted in the two henchcats hitting one another, both inflicting wounds upon the other.
"Ha! Serves you right!" Jerrie crowed.
"Now's not the time!" Alonzo shouted as both henchcats turned towards them.
All six cats were facing away from the house. Plato saw his chance and took it.
"Now's not the time!" Alonzo shouted.
From Munkustrap's perch on the henchcat's back he could see the other two large henchcats advancing on a grinning Jerrie and a determined Alonzo. There was nothing he could do to help at the present moment. He was busy enough trying to bring down this behemoth of a cat. Munk couldn't even begin to imagine where Macavity recruited these cats from.
More importantly, even if they took care of these three henchcats there was still the one inside the house with Tumble and Carbucketty. That henchcat was the biggest of them all.
"Lonz, jump!" Jerrie shouted.
The two henchcats had both set their sights on Alonzo and tried to tackle him from either side. Alonzo didn't think twice at Jerrie's shout and simply leapt into the air, executing a perfect split over the top of the henchcats, who crashed into each other again and fell over.
"Well done!" Jerrie applauded, jumping out of the way as the nearest cat got up and lunged at him. "Man, these guys are kinda slow, ain't they?"
Alonzo danced out of the way of the other cat. "Sure looks like it. But be caref-"
"Lonz, look out!" Munkustrap yelled. The henchcat Munk clung to had violently started to shake, trying with all his might to shake Munk off, even with Munk's claws still on either side of his head. With a sickening tearing sensation Munk was thrown off the henchcat and straight into Alonzo's back, bringing them both sprawling across the ground.
The cat that Munk had been clinging to roared in pain and stumbled away, paws pressed against his face. He was out of the fight. Unfortunately Alonzo took the brunt of Munk's landing across his back and was struggling to get up.
"Go, I'll be fine. Get the other one for me." Alonzo cringed, waving Munk away as he tried to help.
Jerrie was trying to dodge the other two henchcats and was doing a pretty good job of it, except he was slowly being backed into a corner. Munk got to his feet, feeling slightly woozy from hitting his head on Alonzo, but shook himself off and ran to help.
Carbucketty stared at the picture. If he just finished the eyebrows then he would be done. But did he want to be done? If he was done then Macavity would see that it was Alonzo and then he would have to pretend that it was Alonzo and not Plato and he wasn't sure if he could pretend well enough.
"Something wrong?" Macavity asked, voice calm.
He shivered. Something was wrong with the calm. The calm was not good. Couldn't tell what Macavity was thinking if he was calm. Plato couldn't dream about Macavity if he was calm and couldn't tell what he was thinking.
Bill was tired of dreaming of Tumble. Carbucketty could tell when Bill had the dreams. They made him sad, made him forget that he was Bill sometimes. The dreams didn't happen often but when they did they made Bill sad, which made Carbucketty sad. If he could take them away from Bill he would.
Carbucketty didn't have the dreams. Bill said it was because his brain was too busy to remember. Carbucketty knew that he didn't have the dreams because he never remembered his dreams in the first place. Anything he wanted to think about he thought about while he was awake, leaving his brain to sleep along with the rest of his body. He wasn't sure if he wanted to have the dreams anyways.
"The eyebrows aren't right." Carbucketty said.
Macavity remained silent, staring at the unfinished portrait. That was worse than his too calm words.
"I recognize this cat." Macavity eventually said, tearing the paper away from from Carbucketty.
"The eyebrows aren't right." Carbucketty repeated.
"This is… Alonzo, isn't it?" His voice was still too calm.
Carbucketty fidgeted with his tail. Had to pretend. Pretend with Alonzo. Alonzo said it was okay. It was okay so long as it wasn't Plato. Don't say Plato. Don't say it-
"Well? Isn't it Alonzo? Is that who you think is the doppelganger?" Macavity was too close.
Back away. Hide. Macavity was going to be mad if he lied. If he didn't say anything then he wouldn't have to pretend or lie.
He backed into a table. A book fell on his head. Startled, Carbucketty bolted, only to run straight into Macavity.
"Now, now, no need to be frightened. It's just a book. A very valuable one, but it can't hurt you." Macavity easily picked Carbucketty up and sat him on the table, placing the portrait in his paws. The book was placed beside him.
Carbucketty stared at the drawing.
"Tell me the truth, and you and your brother will go free. I promise." Macavity purred, gently petting Carbucketty's head. "That's what you want, isn't it? You just want your brother to be happy. Think how happy he'll be if you tell me the truth. You'll be so helpful. He'll be so happy."
Carbucketty bit his lip. Pretend. Pretend with- with- who? Who wanted him to pretend? Macavity? No. The picture was of Alonzo, but it was Plato that Macavity wanted.
Plato. Don't say Plato. Don't say it. Don't. Say. It. Say. It. Say it. Plato.
Carbucketty whimpered. Someone was on the other side of the door.
There was a ruckus going on outside. Tumble wished he could stop and see what the cause of the noise was but he was busy trying not to get pummeled by the huge henchcat behind him. He flipped off another wall, abruptly changing direction, feeling quite pleased with himself when he heard the henchcat smash into the wall behind him. Numerous times chasing after and behind chased by Pouncival around the junkyard had made him a master of evasion.
Of course, Pouncival wasn't out to literally kill him when he was chasing after his brother. Most of the time.
Tumble felt something soar through the air, narrowly missing his head. Automatically he somersaulted out of the way as a brick smashed against the floor. This was getting bad. If he kept running aimlessly in and out of rooms then he would eventually have to cross paths with the cat.
Stairs. Stairs going up. Tumble took them two at a time. Who knows what was up there but it was better than being on the same floor as the henchcat.
Plato slid in through the open window, crouching underneath the sill to get a look at his surroundings. There was a commotion from down the hall. Something was thrown. Someone scampered up a flight of stairs. It was tempting to check it out but he had to keep focused.
There was a door that stood out from the others. It seemed familiar.
Outside someone screamed. Mungojerrie yelled.
Focus. Stay focused. Plato approached the door and put his ear up to it. He could hear someone whimpering. Someone that sounded a lot like Pouncival. Or Carbucketty. Hard to tell these days.
He opened the door.
Munkustrap let out a screeching scream as he aimed a rather uncoordinated swipe of his claws at the henchcat's back. He had meant to let out a deep, threatening yowl but he was caught up in the moment and wasn't quite in control of his voice. It had the intended effect of stopping both henchcats in their tracks, even if it did make Jerrie yell in surprise.
The henchcats flinched at the sound, leaving them still long enough for Munk to inflict quite a bit of damage to the one nearest him. The other was swiftly kicked in the head by Mungojerrie and went down heavily. The cat that Munk had attacked quickly fled, not wanting to stick around to receive more punishment, leaving the three Jellicles with an unconscious henchcat.
"Well, glad that's over with. Munk, I don't ever want to hear you scream like that again." Jerrie said with a shiver.
"Agreed." Alonzo said, leaning up against the wall. His movements were stiff and clearly favoring his back.
"How's your back?" Munk asked, ignoring the comments about his screaming.
"Could be better, could be worse. I don't think I'll be jumping up through that window any time soon." Alonzo said. "But I can still walk. Maybe run."
"I don't like the sound of that." Munk said.
"Well, I'm sorry I caught you when the henchcat threw you at me. We don't have time to argue." Alonzo said stiffly.
"Look, you two can have time for your lover's spat later. We've gotta find Teazer and Pounce." Jerrie interrupted.
"I'll stay out here and see if anyone comes out." Alonzo said. "And I promise to hide safely away if one of those henchcats comes back for me."
Munk didn't dignify that with a response. They had more important things to do. Quickly he and Jerrie disappeared through the window, heading for where they hoped the basement would be.
Tumble crouched behind an old, dusty sofa, holding his paws over his nose to keep from sneezing. The henchcat had followed him upstairs but couldn't find him. And it was driving him mad.
"Come out, you ungrateful wretch!" The henchcat screamed from room next door, throwing various pieces of broken furniture around the room. Some of it was human sized, some of it was cat sized, all of it was dangerous.
Tumble backed further behind the couch, bumping into something soft. He nearly screamed.
"Hush, it's me." Rumpleteazer hissed in his ear.
"Teazer?" Tumble whispered as they both huddled together.
"Hi. I found Pounce. I think. The door was locked. Couldn't bust it open or pick the lock. Can't find a key anywhere though." Teazer explained. "Tried to find Jerrie and the others to see if they could break it down but got trapped when you and your friend decided to come up here."
"Sorry." Tumble apologized. "Didn't mean to bring him up here."
"'S alright. I've been in worse pickles."
Something heavy scraped across the floor. Another smash.
"Maybe not a pickle quite as dire as this." Teazer added.
There he was. Macavity. Somehow it hadn't quite sunk in that Plato had willingly entered a room with the literal terror of the Jellicles and shut the door behind him.
"Plato." Carbucketty whispered, staring around Macavity's shoulder at him.
"Ah, now here's the real one." Macavity purred as he leapt down from the table, leaving Carbucketty behind to slowly circle Plato, looking him up and down appreciatively. "To think that those idiots thought that I would forget what I used to look like before I transformed myself into who I am today."
Carbucketty whimpered again.
"Oh, I know you're not smart enough to come up with this plan on your own, little one." Macavity cooed. "This could only be the work of my dear Munkustrap and his friends. I wonder who else he has brought into my home? Is Alonzo with him?"
Plato remained silent. Carbucketty crawled down off the table and huddled in the corner, trying to become as small as possible.
"Now, tell me the truth." Macavity drew closer to Plato. "You've been able to peer into into my thoughts while you slept, is that correct?"
Plato stared straight ahead. Despite the brave attempt to keep face he could feel himself trembling.
"You see, I've been able to look into your mind as well. You've been thinking some very interesting things. Particularly about a certain pretty queen. I must say, she's quite a-"
"Don't talk about her!" Plato shouted, whirling around to glare at the cat in a burst of courage.
Macavity laughed. "Oh, I know that fire. That anger. Tell me, what else do we share?"
"I… I know about the book." Plato admitted. "I've seen it. In my dreams."
Macavity actually looked surprised. It was quickly masked by cool indifference. "So you truly are my doppelganger. Not just in looks but in mind as well."
"What is it? The book, I mean."
"It's an old volume detailing the history and research of doppelgangers. I had to go to quite… extreme lengths to acquire it." Macavity smiled, teeth sharp. "It's been very useful in determining just how best to use the two I've had at my disposal."
"They're not tools, they're cats." Plato spat.
"Is that so?" Macavity looked thoughtful. "They certainly have been useful. And I must admit that the small one's artistic abilities are impressive. It's a shame that such talent is wasted on someone who won't see the benefits in joining me."
"Join you?" Plato asked, glancing over at Carbucketty. The kitten was curled up in a ball, holding something tightly in his arms.
"Now, your true place is at my side. You don't belong with the Jellicles. You never have, not when we're two parts of the same whole. You can feel it, can't you?" Macavity leaned in, close enough for Plato to see his own reflection in Macavity's eyes.
Plato couldn't lie. But he wasn't in a hurry to tell the truth either. If he could keep Macavity busy he could hopefully give the others enough time to get Pouncival freed and figure out a way to get Carbucketty out of the room.
Carbucketty fidgeted with whatever was in his arms, lifting his head and giving Plato an urgent look.
"What- what will we do if I do join you?" Plato asked, trying not to look at Carbucketty directly so Macavity didn't notice. The kitten was slowly inching his way towards his previously discarded marker, holding his arms close to his body.
"I would go into a long spiel about how the two of us could unite our powers and become the most powerful cats this world has ever known, but that's jumping ahead a bit." Macavity said, sounding bored.
"Oh, Plato, don't act dumb. You're wearing my face, act more dignified." Macavity patted his shoulder, still circling like a shark. "You must know that I am quite a powerful cat."
"I've heard the song." Plato said. Carbucketty had picked up the marker and was drawing something on the floor with one paw. The kitten kept his body turned away from Plato and Macavity to hide whatever it was he was holding in his other arm.
"Then you should know that no ordinary cat can do what I can. And if you are my true reflection then you have the potential to be extraordinary as well." Macavity gave Plato a critical look. "Of course, you will need to work on your appearance. You're much too soft."
Plato didn't react to the obvious insult, being much too interested in what Carbucketty was doing. Unfortunately Macavity noticed this and followed his gaze.
"And what do you think you're doing with that?" Macavity asked, aiming a kick at Carbucketty's side.
Carbucketty yelped, dropping the book he had been holding and clutching the marker to himself.
"That is not for you to be playing with. You're too stupid to understand this." Macavity picked up the book, kicking at Carbucketty again.
Carbucketty scampered over to hide behind Plato's legs. Immediately he started drawing on the floor again.
"The little runt has drawn all over the walls and floors of his cell." Macavity said, shooting a disgusted look at the kitten. "I tried to discourage it before I realized how useful his skills could be."
"So are you going to… to discourage me if I don't end up being useful to you?" Plato asked.
"We will have a discussion if the situation ever occurs. But you still haven't answered my previous question." Macavity said, looking impatient. "Will you join me? Or will you face the alternative?"
Munk and Jerrie ran down the hall towards the crashing coming from upstairs.
"You think that's Macavity on the attack?" Jerrie asked as they paused at the bottom step.
"I don't think so. Doesn't seem as… sophisticated." Munk said.
Another smash. An amazing amount of cursing made both of them pin their ears against their heads.
"Wow, and I thought I've heard it all." Jerrie said in amazement.
"I can say with almost upmost certainty that we are not hearing Macavity up there." Munk shook his head. It would be a minor miracle if Pouncival didn't come out of this ordeal with a new vocabulary. Who knows what he picked up while being kept under the guard of Macavity's henchcats.
"So… are we gonna be crazy enough to go up there?" Jerrie asked.
"I'd prefer to avoid it." Munk sighed, knowing full well that they would have to go upstairs anyways.
"After you." Jerrie graciously bowed, allowing Munk to slink up the stairs ahead of him, both taking their time.
"If you don't come out right now I swear I will burn this whole place to the ground!" The henchcat screamed, brandishing a lit match. He had come into the room that Tumble and Teazer were huddled in, drawing closer to their hiding place.
Teazer tapped Tumble on the shoulder, motioning towards the door. Tumble nodded. Of course they had to get out. But how?
Teazer solved that dilemma for him. With an unearthly screech she darted out from behind the couch, running straight at the henchcat and punching him right between the eyes. The henchcat fell like a stone. The match fell from his paws.
Tumble didn't even look back, running right over the top of the henchcat and out of the room. There would be no time for consequences if the henchcat couldn't catch him.
Teazer disappeared down the stairs, letting out another screech of surprise. Two other unknown cats returned the screech. Not that way then. There must have been more henchcats. Luckily there was a landing that overlooked the first floor.
Smoke started to seep into the hallway. The match must have caught something on fire. Tumble thought of Pouncival. Munkustrap and the others would find him.
He thought of Carbucketty, alone with Macavity trapped in a rapidly burning building. Right now he was supposed to be with Carbucketty. No one realized that they had been seperated.
It would be up to him to save Carbucketty. A quick hop over the railing, a well executed series of flips followed by a few somersaults, and Tumble was safely on the first floor. Too bad no one had been around to see it.
The fire upstairs was steadily growing. Tumble could smell it. There wasn't a lot of time. Before he could even think of the consequences he ran to the room where he knew Macavity and Carbucketty were hidden, throwing open the door with more confidence than he felt.
Munkustrap and Mungojerrie had barely made it up the stairs when Rumpleteazer crashed into them, sending all three of them screaming and tumbling back down the stairs. Well, Teazer and Jerrie did most of the screaming. Munk was too busy trying to get his feet back under him in case whatever had chased Teazer down the stairs was coming after her.
"Hey!" Teazer shouted once she realized who she ran into. "I found Pounce! He's locked in and I can't get him out."
"Where?" Munk asked. Something thumped heavily onto the floor behind them. Teazer didn't even give him or Jerrie time to look, pulling them both by the arms and leading them in the opposite direction.
It was easy enough to find the stairs leading down to the basement. The problem was, as Teazer stated, that the door between them and Pouncival was locked. To their simultaneous relief and anxiety they could hear something banging on the other side of the door.
Just to be sure Munk jiggled the doorknob. Nothing.
Smoke started seeping in down the hallway, slowly filling in the stairwell and threatening to suffocate them.
"We're going to have to bust it open." Jerrie said, bouncing on his feet and shaking out his arms.
Munk didn't even have time to answer as the unruly tom jogged up to the top of the stairs, then hurled himself down them at full speed at the door. With a resounding crash Jerrie bounced off of it, landing squarely in Munk's outstretched arms.
"Hold on." Munk said once he was sure Jerrie was unharmed. The smoke was growing thicker. "We're going to have to do this together."
"Hurry." Teazer said, waving away the smoke. "We don't have much time."
It was only a matter of time before Macavity lost his temper. Plato didn't even need to share a headspace with the cat to know that he was dealing with a ticking time bomb.
"I've been patient so far. But if you don't answer me now I will not hesitate to destroy you." Macavity's anger flared, along with his powers. Plato could see sparks literally dance over the cat's fur. "Answer me!"
Carbucketty cringed but didn't stop drawing. His drawing had led him to crawl across the floor in a peculiar pattern, ending up back where he started in a circle. Macavity didn't even seem to notice, too busy trying not to smite Plato before he could get a proper answer.
Plato looked at the circle. He had seen it somewhere before. In dreams. His eyes darted to the book in Macavity's clutches.
"Fine. You have had long enough to decide. Your silence is enough-" Macavity's threat was interrupted by the door flying open.
Everyone turned to see a wild looking Tumblebrutus fall into the room. With him came a cloud of smoke.
Macavity paused for only a second. That second was long enough.
"I can too read!" Carbucketty yelled, taking the distraction as an opportunity to leap onto Macavity's exposed back. The kitten was too small to do any terrible damage but he was a distraction enough for Plato to rip the book from Macavity's grasp.
Tumble ran forward. Macavity grabbed Carbucketty off of his back and threw the kitten at Tumble, knocking them both to the ground. With a snarl of rage he advanced on the two, raising his arms menacingly.
Plato flipped to the page he had seen in his dreams. He knew the words. He had seen them before. Carbucketty had taken care of the diagrams, he could do the incantations. There was no time for doubt.
All four of them were standing in the circle. The circle that was needed to make the spell work. All that was left was for him to read the spell aloud.
Macavity told Plato he had the same power within himself. Now was time to use it.
Carbucketty and Tumble screamed. Plato couldn't look. If he stopped reading it would all be for nothing. Out of the corner of his eye Plato could see his fur starting to glow. It was enough of a sight for Macavity to stop whatever he was doing to the kittens, bring all the attention to Plato.
Macavity's claws sank into Plato's arms. Pain cascaded up and down his body. He could feel Macavity's breath on his back. Don't stop reading. Ignore the pain. Focus on the power that he was calling from within himself.
The words Plato was saying didn't make sense to his ears, but something inside of him shifted. The power swelled.
Something inside him snapped. Macavity's presence fell away from him, both in the material and immaterial world. Someone cried out. The book fell from his paws.
Smoke filled the room. He couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't breathe. Yet he wasn't afraid. He had been in this situation before. Fires he could handle.
Plato sank low to the ground, reaching out for Carbucketty and Tumble. This time he would make sure they escaped the fire and made it home safe and sound. He wasn't going to fail this time.
Pouncival curled up miserably under the blanket, shivering as the cold floor of the basement easily seeped in past his fur. How had Bill Bailey and his brother lived down here for so long?
It was hard to tell if the cold was from the room or from his most recent visitor. The very thought made him curl up even more.
When the door had opened earlier Pouncival thought that Bill Bailey had returned, along with the rescue squad, hopefully comprised of all the largest, meanest cats in the junkyard he could find. Instead the cat that had entered the room was so much worse.
Macavity had taken delight in describing all the things he was going to do if Bill did not return. Things that Pouncival didn't even understand, but the implications were enough to leave him frozen in fear, Macavity's laughter echoing in his ears long after he left Pouncival alone.
"It's okay Pouncival." Pouncival muttered to himself. "Bill'll be back. He promised. And even though he looks like Tumble but isn't, he still had the same honest face that Tumble has. He wasn't lying. His eye didn't twitch like Tumble's does when he lies."
Great, now he was talking to himself. That was the first sign of going crazy. Or was it the second? What was the first sign? Had he already gone off the deep end?
Questioning himself wasn't going to get him anywhere. Pounce hadn't gotten this far in life by spending a lot of time questioning his own decisions and he wasn't inclined to start now.
"I'm leaving now." Pounce echoed Bill's words, approaching the door and throwing it open. Rather, he tried to throw it open. It was locked. He pounded on the door. "Lemme out! I- I mean it!"
Something shuffled on the other side of the door. The doorknob rattled. Then silence.
His attention turned to the window up near the ceiling. It was very small and very high up, probably too high and small to escape out of, but there wasn't much else he could try. Crouching down, he channeled all of his energy into his legs.
"My name is Pouncival." He muttered. "I can do this. Pounce is literally in my name."
There was a loud thump at the door. Then another. Then a third. On the fourth try door flew open, knocking Pouncival flat on his face. Smoke filled the room. Paws grabbed at him.
"Lemme go!" Pounce started to fight back but was easily slung over a shoulder. Everything was clouded in smoke. Whoever was carrying him was careless. He banged his head on something. The world faded away.