clouds along the southern horizon softened its light; it could be
looked at directly without discomfort. The northern sky was pale blue.
It was cold; the temperature was creeping up from a early-morning low
The clearing was still partly in shadow. Soon the sun would rise
enough that the snow-covered ground would be directly lit. The trees
around the clearing were pine, maple, birch: typical of the
second-growth forest that covered the Madawaska Highlands.
The centre of the clearing contained a tumbled stone wall, a remnant
perhaps of some forgotten European colonist's cabin. This rose from a
tangle of brush, twigs, and dead stems.
As the sunlight touched the wall, a grey rabbit emerged from a gap
between the stones and slowly hopped to the edge of the wall. A
second, smaller rabbit, white with brown spots, followed.
The first rabbit turned to the second and said, "It looks like that
storm from the south will hold off for the next day at least."
The second nodded and replied, "Yes. We should be able to get that
ventilation shaft for the North Meeting Area finished and covered over
today. We'll be ahead of schedule if that happens."
"That's good. I've had contact with the southerners again; their
tunneling crew is less than two weeks away and it'd be nice to have
the BunnyMover terminal area roughed in when they arrive. It's rather
amazing, isn't it, Trillium? Less than a year ago, we had to travel
overland for weeks, crossing roads and avoiding humans and dogs, to
get to the next nearest warren. And soon we shall travel in smooth
comfort faster than the humans usually do! And not have to drive
Trillium replied, "And their quick tunnelling techniques aren't so bad
either. We've extended the warren more in the past year than in the
They paused and looked over the clearing. Tracks betrayed the
prescence of a wolf during the night; it had not stayed. A hawk
circled above the trees, perhaps over some neighbouring clearing.
Suddenly there was a disturbance as a third rabbit appeared on the
rock. He was small, brown, plump, and rather in a hurry. "Trillium!
Bushy! I'm glad I found you! There is news fron the Net!"
Trillium and Bushy turned. "Acorn? What's going on?"
Acorn replied, "We found this message on the humans'
He began to read from a paper, "'Hello,' there is no name here; I
don't think he knew who to write to, 'My name is Steve Davidson. It is
with some hesitation that I address this letter to you. It concerns my
friend Johnson Morikawa-Smith. He may be in danger. For some weeks he
has been telling anyone who will listen about something called
"devil-bunnies", and going on and on about how the human race is in
Acorn went on to read a rather long message, finishing up with "'would
you be able to find Johnson on the Net and let him know what's really
going on here, maybe help him get back to the rest of the human race?
I don't know his GSM email address; he didn't get a chance to tell me
before he left. I just hope he'll contact me soon. Is this all a
fantasy, or are we in deeper trouble than most people ever suspected?
I'm going over to Canadian Tire to buy some camping and cooking
supplies. Holidays are coming up. I've already got steel-toed running
shoes; I needed them for work. Maybe the fire axes will be on sale...'
He then ends with 'Sincerely, Steve Davidson'."
Acorn paused. Bushy said, "This is interesting. We've got a potential
conversion _and_ a potential Fuddite here, assuming it's not a trick.
Let's go back inside and discuss it." All three rabbits turned and
went back through the opening between the stones.
Inside, the tunnels grew steadily warmer as they headed underground.
They were in the older part of the warren, in tunnels excavated by paw
and claw fron the sandy soil. They nosed past a barrier of hanging
roots. It was much warmer beyond; they were now in Old Main, the
original gathering area of the warren. It was not so much a room as a
closely-connected group of tunnels with easy air and sound passage
The area was crowded with rabbits. A doe crouched nearby facing a
circle of wide-eyed young kits, showing them the intricacies of life
outside their home burrows. A large black rabbit passed, wearing a
belt crowded with pouches and tools.
Bushy noticed Trillium's attention following the black rabbit; he
said, "That's one of the southern rabbits, here to help with the
BunnyMover installation. Not a bad group of buns, the southerners, but
it's going to be a while getting used to those toolbelts." Acorn paid
no attention to the other rabbit.
Bancroft Warren had been rather isolated as Bunny warrens went. It had
been off the main bunny-smuggling routes between the larger Toronto
warrens and Algonquin Main; and as such was used to a relative
isolation and ran itself quite informally. The influx of new ways from
the south was a little unsettling at times.
By the same token, though, the younger buns in the warren were hungry
for information, and the arrival of the BunnyMover rabbits, with their
construction abilities and ommunications techniques, was a revolution
in their lives. Even with only a cobbled-together BunNet link, quite a
few of the younger generation were becoming expert BunNet tunnellers,
and several had real commtech talent. Acorn, a yearling, was one of
Acorn, Trillium and Chief Rabbit Bushy entered a largish burrow just
off Old Main. Bushy left for a few minutes, then returned with two
other rabbits. One was larger, with a weathered air: this was
Pinecone, chief of Security, such as there was. The other was a large
doe with a shrewd expression. This was Twinkle, chief of Feelings. (In
Human terms, this was something closer to psychological warfare).
Bushy paused, looked around at the gathered rabbits, and said, "I've
brought you together to ask your advice. Earlier today, Acorn here
found this message on the HumanNet newsgroup alt.devilbunnies. Would
you read it, Acorn?"
Acorn looked at the printout he still had, and began to read. "Hello.
My name is Steve Davidson. It is with some hesitation that I address
this message to the group..." He read for some time.
After he finished, everyone paused. Then Bushy said, "What we have
here is clearly a potential conversion _and_ a potential Fuddite. I
think that we sould make all efforts to get this Johnson
Morikawa-Smith into our sympathizers' circle. The other... well, if he
shows signs of Fuddish activity, we know how to take care of _that_.
Pinecone spoke up. "Bushy, basically this is a good idea, but there
may be several problems. First off, this Morikawa character is going
to be down in San Francisco for quite some time. We will have to
contact the Bay Area warrens and ask for quite a bit of assistance- a
'soft' pickup, turning the human, is always more time-consuming and
labour-intensive than either a 'hard' pickup, assault with HLV for
forced conversion, or a simple kill.
"Secondly, the political situation among the Humans in Toronto is
continuing to deteriorate. This new government they've elected has
long has uncute tendencies, and in the past week or so these have
accelerated dramatically. It is clear from the messages we've gotten
from High Park and the other Toronto warrens that there is some
serious disarray among the Bunnies there. We should be wary of Fudd
incursions among the Humans- they're already in a nasty enough mood as
"It would be easier and safer to convert Morikawa when he returns to
Toronto. But we may not be able to wait that long."
Pinecone paused. Bushy turned to Acorn. "Acorn, can we send messages
to the San Francisco warrens?"
Acorn replied, " Yes, as far as I can tell. Since we're using TCP/IP
to get our feed through that Human ISP in Bancroft, we won't be able
to use native BunNet address protocol. But we have an older TCP/IP
address for their mail server; if it is still current, we should be
able to reach them. We can tunnel our BUNIX encryption through there.
"But there is one other thing I should mention. According to that
message, Morikawa has a good deal of comm tech knowledge that we can
use. And he's in San Francisco for training. The sooner we can turn
him in San Francisco, the sooner he can start feeding our techs and
librarians. And he may be able to do some good Bunny-oriented works
while he's down there."
Bushy considered. "Twinkle, will this Human be easy to turn?"
Twinkle stirred and said, "I suspect so. He is already counting
himself among those Humans who would mythically rebel and fight to
defend the Earth; it would not be too difficult to ease him into a
group of covert Bunny-sympathizers. Also, it would be relatively easy
to turn him against other Humans.
"True, he did take all that Fuddly hardware with him, but my
impression is that this is more a panic reaction that anything else.
It does not seem to mesh with his other actions. All we need to do is
provide a group of sympathetic Bunny operatives, and gradually ease
him into the concept of Bunny as Gaian Protector, and, eventually,
friend. The operation will be long and delicate if it is to be
successful, but the rewards- a technical Bunny sympathizer in the
midst of the most advanced Human wireless phone systems in this
continent- are equally great."
They paused, considering. Gradually they felt a shift towards
consnsus. At long last, Bushy spoke. "We should go with the request
for conversion of Morikawa in San Francisco. And ask High Park to keep
an eye on that Steve Davidson in Toronto. If he shows Fuddite
tendencies, he should be killed.
"Acorn, would you compose a suitable message for High Park and San
Francisco? Show it to me before you send it; we'll want to check it
over before it goes. We've never approached these foreign warrens
before, and we don't know how they'll react."
They felt a shared acceptance, and rose to leave the burrow. Acorn
headed towards the comm tech operations burrow, which was in the new
part of the warren that the BunnyMover crews had dug. Here the tunnels
and runs were larger, burrowed through solid granite by whatever
process the southerners had. Some were almost large enough for a Human
to stand bent at the waist. He passed the burrow that would eventually
hold the BunnyMover terminal itself; it was tall enough for a Human to
stand erect. He felt quite overawed at times.
The comm tech burrow was relatively deserted. Acorn had no trouble
getting on one of the BUNIX workstations, and in a short time he had
composed and printed out the message. The in-warren paging system was
not yet operational, so Acorn headed back towards Old Main. Partway
there he met Bushy.
"Here's the message, Bushy," said Acorn. "Shall we go over it?"
Bushy nodded and they went back to the comm tech burrow. After some
changes, Bushy pronounced the message fit to send, and Acorn activated
the SEND function. The modem lights flashed, and the message was on
Bushy updated the others as he encountered them on his travels through
the warren. "The request for help has been sent to High Park and San
Francisco, and copied to Algonquin Main. Hopefully there'll be some
sory of reply this week."
After that, there was nothing to do but wait.
[End of part one; next part "A Sudden Departure"]