Across the water Sid could see Tea Lake Campground, where Highway 60
crossed the Oxtongue River on the Tea Lake Dam. At the dam, the cliff
lowered to become a series of rapids in the Oxtongue River. The upper
part of the dam resembled a bridge. Most people who drove across it
were not even aware that it was a dam, and they called it the Tea Lake
No Humans were camping at Tea Lake Campground; it was late in the
season, and the park was largely closed to camping. The fall colours
were well over, but abnormally warm weather had delayed the snow;
winter activities had not yet begun. The park waited, ambivalently
grey-brown, for winter.
Observation Warren One was a military outpost, the first in a planned
series of small warrens distant from Algonquin Main and placed to
observe human activity in the park. It consisted of little more than
one central chamber in which a human could stand upright. A number of
auxiliary burrows and dens opened onto this chamber; several had
windows overlooking the chamber.
The warren was connected to Algonquin Main by a single meter-wide
BunnyMover tube which ended at a partially-concealed terminal just off
the Observation Warren's main chamber. Normally only rabbits used the
mover (the terminal accommodated just one car, which could carry a
dozen rabbits or so) but a so-called "coffin" car was available on
request that could transport one reclining human, with rabbit escort.
The central chamber of the warren had a door sized for a human; this
was normally closed. On the outside, the door had a rather good
camouflage, similar to a granite outcropping. The rabbits generally
entered and left through rabbit-sized burrow-entrances scattered
throughout the area.
Sid shuffled about and muttered to himself, "Frith! There's nothing
going on here; just monkeys driving by..." And indeed every few
minutes, a solitary car or truck would pass by. Only rarely was more
than one car visible. But Sid had to note down that each one passed.
Sid's eyes wandered around the lake. The trees were wan and grey,
their famed colours long gone. The leaden overcast and haze made sure
that the far end of the lake was not visible. Little moved other than
the ripples on the lake.
Movement at the campground attracted Sid's attention. A large, noisy
and ugly pickup truck pulled hastily into the campground's car park.
Three humans emerged. Sid grabbed his binoculars from his belt, and
looked more closely. Sid had difficulty telling the humans apart
because they were similar in size and dressed nearly identically. Only
the fact that two of them had beards and one didn't led him to the
conclusion that they were two males and a female.
Sid activated his comlink. "Spotter Three to Bunny Base Four, over."
A reply came: "Bunny Base Four. What's up? Over."
"Monkey activity at Tea Lake Campground. Pickup truck with three
monkeys. I can't tell what they are doing, but it looks like some kind
of struggle. Over."
"Keep us posted, Spotter Three. Bunny Base Four out."
"Will do. Spotter Three out."
Sid returned the comlink to his toolbelt, and continued to watch the
humans. Their activities were almost conceealed by the underbrush. The
truck was between them and the highway, as if they did not want to be
seen by passing traffic.
The struggle, if that's what it was, intensified. Suddenly a shot rang
out, echoing across the lake, and startling the few remaining birds.
Sid grabbed his comlink. "Spotter Three to Bunny Base Four! One
gunshot! Tea Lake!"
The answer was immediate. "Details, as they happn!"
Sid heard the doors of the truck slam shut abruptly. The truck's
engine started and raced, and mud spun from under its wheels as it
roared towards the highway. A few seconds later Sid heard the squeal
of tires on pavement as the truck straightened itself out on the
highway and accelerated westwards.
"Spotter Three to Bunny Base Four. Truck has departed to the west.
There is still motion in the campground; one or more of the monkeys
may still be there. Over."
The diminishing roar of the truck's engine was still audible, far to
the west. Sid looked carefully at the campground. "Spotter Three to
Bunny Base Four. One of the monkeys is definitely still there. It
appears agitated and is limping towards the highway. Over."
Somewhere far to the west beyond the clouds, the sun was setting. It
was becoming more difficult to see.
The comlink crackled with an incoming call. "Bunny Base Four to
Spotter Three. We're sending a squad down to the campground to
investigate. This is for information only; remain at your post. Over."
"Acknowledged. Spotter Three out." A moment later, half a dozen
rabbits appeared in the underbrush, issuing quietly from inconspicuous
burrow entrances. They grouped up and moved silently leftwards along
the cliff, away from Sid. Sid knew that they were headed for the Tea
Lake Bridge. From there they could cross the bridge and enter the
Time passed. The light grew worse, and shadows seemed to envelop the
campground. Sid could see the Tea Lake Bridge, although it was a
little distant, and suddenly he realized that the human was on the
bridge. "Spotter Three to Bunny Base Four," he said urgently into the
comlink, "The monkey is on the Tea Lake Bridge! The monkey is on the
"Bunny Base Four. Acknowledged. Will inform squad. Over."
Suddenly a different voice broke in. "Bunny Base Four, Spotter Three,
Squad A, this is Bunny Base M. A Mentat has taken interest in your
monkey, and would like to attempt recruitment. A Recruitment Symp is
on the way, and will arrive with escort in five minutes. Request you
give all appropriate assistance. Over."
"Bunny Base Four. Acknowledged. Out."
A car, the first vehicle Sid had heard since the truck had departed,
was audible approaching from the east. Sid activated his comlink.
"Spotter Three to Bunny Base Four. Car approaching from the east.
"Bunny Base Four. Acknowledged. Out."
The car appeared, and slowed as it crossed the bridge, but then
accelerated again. From his ledge, Sid could see the human shaking its
fist at the car; then it seemed to slump down. Sid reported, "Spotter
Three to Bunny Base Four. The monkey appears to have fallen to the
"Bunny Base Four to Squad A and all Spotters. The Recruitment Symp and
his escort have arrived. Squad A, assist them as needed. Over."
The camouflaged door of the warren opened, and a human stepped out.
The human was a young light-skinned man with curly red hair, freckles,
and an open, cheerful face. He was wearing jeans, a jacket, and hiking
boots. With him were two rabbits. The three turned left and headed
along the cliff, following the same route that the squad had taken
Some time passed. Eventually, despite the failing light, Sid saw the
Sympathizer appear on the bridge. He knelt down by the bridge
railing, and appeared to speak. There was no movement. After a moment,
the Sympathizer knelt down and lifted something to his shoulders. He
turned and headed back toward the warren, disappearing into the brush.
Sid's comlink crackled. "Squad A to Bunny Base Four and all Spotters.
The Sympathizer is carrying the other human back to the warren. We are
following. The other human appears to be conscious but exhausted and
apathetic. There is a superficial gunshot wound to her left foot. We
are following. Squad A Leader Out."
More time passed. It was almost dark. Because of the cloud cover,
there was little ambient light, and Sid had to turn on the
light-amplification function of his binoculars. There was no movement
at the campground or on the bridge. Soon Sid heard movement to his
left. He turned to look; it was the Sympathizer carrying the other
human, along with his escort of rabbits. With them was the returning
Squad A. "Spotter Three to Bunny Base Four. The Symapthizer has almost
reached the front door of the warren. Over."
"Bunny Base Four. Acknowledged. Out."
The Sympathizer arrived at the front door of the outpost warren. Half
of the rabbits disappeared into neighbouring burrow entrances. After a
moment, the concealed front door of the warren opened, allowing a dim
light to escape. The Sympathizer entered with his burden, and the rest
of the rabbits followed. The door closed.
Sid's comlink crackled. "Bunny Base Four to Spotter Three. We're
sending out your replacement a little early. When you get inside,
report to the Outpost Leader for further instructions. Over."
"Spotter Three to Bunny Base Four. Acknowledged. Out." Sid hopped with
pleasure. He got to go in early!
Another rabbit appeared out of the dimness; Sid gave the required
challenge. The other rabbit responded properly, and added, "I'm your
replacement." Sid acknowledged and went to the burrow entrance.
Once inside, Sid went directly to the Outpost Leader's den, and
"Come in, Sid," said the Outpost Leader, whose name was Cinquefoil. "I
asked you in here so that you could see what happens to that monkey
our Symp brought back. He's right down there." They turned to a window
on the far side of the den, which looked out over the outpost's
The captured human was laying on a low couch at the side of the
chamber, apparently only semiconscious. The symp was removing her
clothing--it was a female--and checking over the contents of her
pockets and backpack. When he removed her boots, she moaned; closer
inspection revealed a superficial wound to the side of her foot.
Cinquefoil licked his lips at the sight of the human's feet, and
turned to Sid with a wry grin. "There's a reason we get a trustworthy
Symp to do this. Those toes can be just too tempting..."
The Symp finished with the human's clothing and gear and piled it all
in a container near the couch. He buckled several straps across her
body. He then went around the corner into an alcove. The other rabbits
in the room all departed into various adjoining burrows, closing doors
Cinquefoil and Sid could see the Sympathizer, but he was not visible
from the couch. He took a facemask from the wall, strapped it on,
breathed heavily, and pressed a button. A light lit on Cinquefoil's
desk, and a speaker crackled to life. "I'm all ready here, Cinq," he
Cinquefoil turned to his desk. "All right, Red. I'm starting the gas,"
he said, and went over to a control panel by the window. He pressed a
button, lifted a cover and turned a valve. A red light next to the
window went on, and Sid could see other red lights at other windows
and doors around the chamber. There was a hissing noise, and the
central chamber become very slightly hazy. The captured human seemed
to relax slightly in her restraints.
Red, still wearing the mask (which trailed a transparent hose and a
bag), moved back to the couch, and tightened the straps slightly. He
peered at her eyes and felt her pulse. He bandaged her wound, then
placed a number of sensor pads on her, which he connected to jacks in
the front bulkhead of the cargo compartment. When he was done, he gave
a thumbs-up sign to the waiting rabbits.
In the outpost leader's den, Cinquefoil adjusted several other
controls. The hissing noise stopped, and Sid heard great fans start
up. In the chamber, Red's hair ruffled in the breeze. Cinquefoil
watched a display intently, and when it reached a certain point, he
pressed another button. The lights around the central chamber turned
green, and the fans slowed. Cinquefoil turned to Sid. "There's still a
little of the sleep-gas left in the chamber, so we'll give it a couple
of air-changes just to be sure. But Red there can breathe it no
problem, and in a moment we can too."
Down below, the Sympathizer returned to the alcove, removed the mask,
and pulled a lever. The arms and back of the couch, along with part of
the surrounding rock, rotated upwards, and the couch was revealed to
be the bed of a coffin-style BunnyMover car. The bed slowly lowered
into the body of the car. Red picked up the container with the woman's
clothing and pack, and placed it in a luggage compartment at the rear
of the car.
At the other side of the chamber, a door opened, and several rabbits
appeared. Two hopped over to the BunnyMover car and got into its front
passenger compartment. The car quivered slightly as it powered up,
then the curving lid of the car's cargo compartment closed over the
sleeping woman. After a moment, the front door of the car closed as
well, and the car accelerated into the tunnel.
Cinquefoil pressed a button on his desk. "Outpost Leader One to
Sympathizer Relations. Capture successful. The monkey is sedated, and
on its way. Outpost One out." There was an acknowledgement from an
unseen speaker. He opened the window from his den to the central
chamber, and called to Red, "What state was that Human in?"
Red looked up and replied, "Rather weak, I'm afraid. There were
bruises all over her body, and she was exhausted when I got to her,
not to mention the foot wound. She didn't struggle at all when I
picked her up. I'm a little puzzled by the whole thing actually." He
looked at Cinquefoil with wide eyes. "Could she have been in a fight?"
"It's possible," replied Cinquefoil. "The spotters saw her arrive in a
truck with two other humans, and they may have been fighting." Red
looked troubled. Cinquefoil spoke calmingly to him, "Don't worry about
it, Red. She'll be well taken care of now."
The Sympathizer relaxed, and suddenly he grinned. "Just think! She'll
get to live with rabbits!" Another coffin-style mover car arrived, and
he turned towards it as its doors opened. "Well, I've got to go. See
ya!" He gave the impression of bouncing, then laid down on the bed in
the car's cargo area. The last Sid saw of him was a cheerful thumbs-up
as the cargo door closed. The other two rabbits in the room entered
the car's passenger compartment; the passenger door closed, and the
Cinquefoil turned to his desk and pressed the button again. "Outpost
Leader One to Sympathizer Relations. Symapthizer Red performed
admirably. Be sure to reward him. Outpost One out." There was an
acknowledgement. Cinquefoil turned to Sid. "Well, that's how we do it.
That was an unusually easy capture, though, because the monkey was not
obstructive. Sometimes we have to use tranquilizer darts..."
The two rabbits continued to discuss things for a while.
Eventually Sid left, and went to his bunk in the outpost's barracks.
There he took off his toolbelt, locked it away, and headed for the
outpost's small canteen. He did not hear the message of
congratulations that Outpost Leader Cinquefoil received from Mentat
Greebly, who was well pleased with the impromptu capture effort. Nor
did he hear the first messages warning of the police car that stopped
at the Tea Lake campground a few minutes later.
Sid would know more than he wanted to of the police, though, when he
returned to duty the following day.