I peeked out from behind the holly bush, my ears laid back so I wouldn't be spotted. The humans I had been monitoring seemed to be living in a tiny den made of thin material, using a portable fire pit to burn their meat. I shuddered. What a way to go; cooked over a human's fire. Static crackled on the communication device in my ear, startling me. The commander's voice came in, barely audible through the static. But I couldn't complain, since I had stolen the device from humans.
"Status report, Officer Cottontail," Commander Bugs barked.
"I have observed some very strange behavior from the humans. It seems that they occasionally leave their rock and wood dens and live in colorful, wimpy ones. I don't know why."
"Well you'd better find out. They might have discovered us, and are surveying the terrain. If they find out where we're located it'll be—"
"OH NO! HUMAN! MISSION ABORT! MISSION ABORT! CODE RED!" I shouted, my already rapid heartbeat rising. I thumped out a distress signal in groundspeak, the agency's secret code. It was invented by a rabbit named Hennessy several generations before I was born. It involves a series of long and short stomps of the foot on specific areas of the ground where the sound will resonate through tubes and to the ears of a specially trained agent, who will translate the message.
I ducked under a rock, and the ground jolted under me. The hidden platform lowered me down to the main hallway, where I expertly navigated the mazelike corridors of The Underground Headquarters. The Underground was a secret spy agency formed by rabbits, with all rabbit members.
Exhausted after a long day of errands and assignments, I retired to my nest for the night. I fluffed my moss and buried myself in the hay, where my own body heat warmed the smaller space. Before I drifted off, my irritating roommate said, "You were screaming in your sleep again. Something about your mother?"
"No I wasn't. You probably dreamt it." Then I sighed. "I wish humans would just stay in their den. They have everything they need in there. Would make my job a lot easier."
"You wouldn't have a job."
"Whatever. I'm just glad they haven't discovered our plan to take over the world."
Clang! Clang! Clang! I woke up with a start. My brown fur bristled in alarm, until I realized that it was just the morning wake-up call. My roommate chuckled.
"Shut up, Kale. Like you haven't been scared by that before!" I snarled.
"I have, but it's funnier when you are!"
I snorted. Then I quickly groomed my fur and pushed open the door, stepping out into the musty air of the tunnel. Kale followed. We made our way down to the mess hall, where they were served broccoli and lettuce in paper buckets that we could carry with their mouths. I sat at my assigned seat (which was basically a bird's nest) and lapped water from a shallow bowl. Luckily, Kale sat at another tree stump table.
I glanced up when I was done drinking. One of my friends, Cow, was telling another lop joke. Cow, with his black splotches and a patch over one eye, looked like a clown and acted the part.
"So this mother tells a lop to watch her babies, and returns later to find the lop scratched up and foaming at the mouth. Turns out the lop thought she said to 'wash rabies!'"
The joke made everyone almost roll over with laughter. I knew the jokes were offensive, but lops were so funny looking and probably half deaf with their ears dragging around! I never met one personally; they were given the less important jobs that nobody else would take: janitors, digging graves, harvesting food.
"That's a new one," I commented when I caught my breath. Then the scent of a newcomer quieted the rowdy bunch. We turned around to see who it was. The newcomer was snow white, streaked with dirt from the tunnels. She had blue eyes. And the dirtiest part about her was her ears; she was a lop! And she was heading toward us! Didn't the idiot know that the lops ate at the other end of the mess hall?
"Excuse me, is this where I sit," she asked softly, avoiding eye contact.
"Over there," Cow responded, angling his ears toward the lop section without looking up from his breakfast. The newcomer hopped off, thanking him. Cow grimaced behind her back.
The white lop chose a spot on the floor and set her bucket down. She ate happily, as if she didn't notice she was eating off of the floor. Lops are so slow, I thought while I rolled my eyes.
After breakfast, it was time for morning training. Since I had recently risen in rank and was old enough, I was assigned a trainee to mentor. I stood in line with the other new mentors as Commander Bugs read from the list.
"Officer Piper. You will be mentoring Shaggy." Piper, a grey pygmy rabbit, walked up to a brown Angora. They touched noses, and went to the training field for the first lesson.
"Officer Cottontail. You will be mentoring Crystal. She's a special case; you will be teaching her how to be a janitor." Uh oh, I thought as I walked up to the rabbit with the name Crystal written on her ear. She was the same lop I saw in the mess hall. My face burned with rage. This was like a demotion! I had just achieved the rank of officer and now I was forced to mentor a lop?! But I took a deep breath and marched up to Commander Bugs. I knew that losing my temper would cost me my position for sure.
"There must be some mistake. Don't lops teach other lops," I asked with exaggerated calmness.
"Usually they do, but there weren't enough senior lops to teach the trainees, so you had to fill in. Try to remember what you learned when you were a trainee." A trainee worked alongside lops in menial jobs.
I sighed inwardly and led Crystal to the compost heap. It was in the outskirts of the little underground city, since keeping rotten food in an enclosed space was rather smelly, even though there were ventilation shafts that led to the surface. Crystal's first job was to mix the heap up again so it would turn into dirt faster. This was accomplished by shoveling the rotting fruits and vegetables with her front paws, making sure to not fling dirt at any rabbit. I dug a few inches into the pile, aware that my disgust showed on my face, to show Crystal how it was done. Then it was her turn to try. She dug another hole next to mine, but ended up flinging a rotten banana peel in my face. I flung it away and angrily pushed her onto her side. The fur on my face was sticky with banana juice.
"What was that for," Crystal asked, her eyes wide with alarm.
"I explicitly told you to not fling garbage at other rabbits!"
"I'm very sorry! I didn't see you!"
"Well try to pay more attention next time," I spat. It would take a great deal of patience to teach this lop how to dig properly. I let her get up, and she went back to mixing the compost pile, making sure there were no other rabbits behind her while she dug.
By the time the sun was at its highest point in the sky, we had successfully mixed the compost pile. Now it was time for break. The straight-eared rabbits chatted in the Commons, which were in a meadow unknown to humans. It was a relief to finally be above ground, especially after spending the day shoveling garbage. I almost felt sorry for Crystal, since this was going to be her job. But lops should be glad they got jobs to begin with.
I made my way over to where Cow and the others were sitting by a patch of clover. But when I got close they edged away.
"You smell like compost. Go bathe in the stream," Poplar sneered. Poplar was a brown rabbit like me, with one blue eye that he claimed made him see better in the dark. I doubted it; he always runs into things during night patrol.
The rest of the group nodded in agreement and I dejectedly hopped to the stream. Stupid lops, I thought as I jumped in. I splashed water in my face to get the dirt off. Stupid Bugs.