Willie Bunny paced in front of her troops looking very much like a general in front of a flag during wartime. Behind her, tacked to a cork board were her carefully drawn schematics and architectural designs.
“All right,” She said, hands behind her back. “With Mr. Mittens safely ensconced inside in his little kitty bed, the only one we have to worry about is Cheepy.”
Someone held up a paw. “What, exactly, is a Cheepy?”
Willie raised an eyebrow, stopping and turning toward the voice. Its owner was Wallace, a bunny recently come to them from Jeremy’s Pet Store on the corner of Eighth and First Avenue. A runaway.
“Cheepy isn’t a what,” She said. “It’s a who.”
He looked at her expectantly. The rest of her bunnies shuffled in the ranks, all looking nervous, no one looking at each other.
“He is a gold canary who doesn’t like to sleep at night. They’ve hung him in the attic of the store house, giving him a perfect lookout position.”
“Why not take him out, then?”
“Because Cheepy is two storeys up.”
“You don’t have a slingshot?”
“Can you make one appear?” She challenged.
A large wishbone branch with a larger rubber band tied around the two prongs appeared in his paw. Willie smiled.
“Congratulations, you’ve now been promoted to sniper.” She looked at the rest of her troops. “Gentlemen,” she said. “For too long Mr. Mittens has maintained control of the store house. We had an agreement with the farmer; when the first frost came he would provide us a tithe of his crop. In turn we provide protection from crows and run border patrol against invading rabbits.”
Nods and murmurs of assent followed her words. Only Wallace stared steadily at her, his large eyes shining in the muted light from a stolen kerosene lamp. “The farmer is dead. Mittens has assumed total control of the farm and everything within it. The first frost is upon us and we face starvation. It’s time to take back what’s ours!”
A cheer rose from her troops.
“We begin the mission at twenty two hundred hours. We keep it simple. We keep it quiet. No one has to be the wiser, and no one has to get hurt. Understood?”
“Ma’am!” They all shouted, saluting with a paw over their hearts.
Willie felt herself blush.
“Get some sleep!” She said, hiding her embarrassment. “Dismissed!”
Wallace was waiting for her when she found her hutch. She tried to ignore him, to open the door to her room and disappear inside. He stopped her with a paw on her wrist.
“It won’t work,” He said, pulling her to him.
“How do you know?”
“That cat has too many defenses in the right places. We need to worry.”
“I am worried.”
“Then call it off. We can find food.” His grip turned gentle, his eyes soft.
She shook her head. “We can’t. There isn’t enough time before the big freeze. The pixies all say—“
“To hell with the pixies!” A muscled arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him bodily. “We’re bunnies, we can find our own food.”
She pried herself away from him reluctantly, keeping one hand on his chest.
“We don’t have enough time. We can do this. We just have to be smart about it.”
They hadn’t been smart about it. Oh god, they hadn’t been smart. Initial reports had come back all positive. Everyone had been in position, ready and waiting.
Then the snake.
When had Mittens enlisted the help of a snake?
There hadn’t been much time to react; the snake had been too quick with his strikes.
All right, time to regroup. Re-strategise. New reports were saying that the weather patterns were shifting. The storm would be on them in a matter of days.
“Have you got it?” She asked for the hundredth time.
“Ask me that one more time an’ I’m going to tell you no.”
Her heart thudded in her chest. “Do it, then.”
He scampered off. The clock read eleven thirty. Everyone would be asleep. She watched Doc’s progress into the ramshackle house. Mitten’s bowl sat just inside the door. He emptied the package he carried into it. Willie couldn’t help her smile. That stupid cat would never bother them again. Doc bounded back, breathing hard. Into a walkie-talkie he whispered; “Cat is in the bag. Go! Go!”
Bright spots in the moonlight converged on the storehouse. She heard a sharp chirp, then silence.
“Cheepy is down. I say again; Cheepy is down.”
“Roger, proceed with plan,” Willie said.
Willie didn’t know when the explosion came, only that it was blinding. In front of her, the storehouse reduced to flaming rubble. Behind her, casting a long shadow, Mittens himself, Doc squirming in his paw.
“You have been a pain in my side as of late,” He purred, flexing his wrist.
Willie heard the snap and watched as Doc fell limp to the frosted grass. She swallowed hard, making for the pin sheathed to her hip. A hiss stopped her.
“Ah. Ah. Ah. Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Mittens said shaking a finger. “Very clever for you to put poison in my water.”
Another explosion. Willie’s heart sank into her stomach.
“What do you want?” She asked, taking her hand away from her pin.
“Simple. For you to die. We can’t all have the food now can we?”
“But the farmer promised-“
“The farmer is dead,” hissed the cat. “And his deal with him!”
He lunged. The snake struck. Willie could almost feel the tips of his claws in her breast, the fangs in her back. She shut her eyes tight, cringing, waiting for death.
Two cracks rang out, sharp and clear. Two heavy thuds followed. Blood stained the grass.
“Slingshots,” Wallace panted. “You need to invest.”
“Twenty. But we have food. We’ll manage.”
A small relief.
He kissed her. “I promised you food.”
She kissed him back. “You delivered.”