I was in the main room, writing a story down in my birch-bark journal, when I noticed Roger packing his things in a small backpack.
"Where are you going? It looks like you packed everything you own," I commented.
"I'm leaving. My friends on Mystic Island need me," he responded.
"Do you have time to tell your story before you leave," I asked, showing him the birch-bark journal that contained all the stories passed down from the generations. "You may not be from around here, but you saved our tails," I added.
"My story already connects with your history. You know the story of that traitor Bentley?"
"Duh, I told it."
"He was my father."
Roger dictated his story while I wrote it down. Then he called a meeting to tell the rest of L.E.L.A. that he was leaving. There were some shouts of protest, but most rabbits nodded understandingly. Roger flicked his ears in a gesture of farewell and left HQ. A kit ran outside and I raced after her. As I picked her up by the scruff, I noticed that the oddly-colored rabbit was already out of sight. He was either really fast or he had a strange method of transportation.
I woke up at dawn. Of course, I couldn't see the sun in my cell. I saw it rising whenever I was led out to begin another day at the factory. I was led everywhere. I had to ask permission to do anything. But maybe I deserved it. I couldn't even trust myself. My mind had been altered by my older brother Cottontail. He lost his patience with us and gave us up to the enemy. He also refused to help our dying mother, and might have killed our father. Now we were stuck in this hell, where we had to work in an assembly line making lasers for the soldiers. They were still licking their wounds from the recent battle, but they were getting stronger by the day. I didn't know how to feel about that.
I didn't know how to feel about anything. I was doing something wrong, but I didn't know what. I didn't like L.E.L.A., which was the cause of all the confusion since they had taken over our pitiful excuse for a government. But I didn't like my captors, the Supreme Army, either. The only thing I knew for sure was that I loved my siblings and that I would do anything to protect them. I wouldn't dare say that to the rabbits holding us prisoner. They might yell at me for believing that too.
I was glad Reuben was gone. He said he had "unfinished business" in his home world. That monster would sometimes kill rabbits out of boredom. I had resolved to never be anything like that bloodthirsty psychopath. But I was even beginning to doubt that thought. Was he really bloodthirsty, or was he just doing what was necessary? I shook my head, which was aching from confusion and lack of food.
The guards opened the door to the factory and shoved us in. We took our positions and began to work. The work was mindless, and my mind began to wander. But it didn't get far before a shout could be heard above the chatter and machinery. I angled my ears toward the sound. It was one of our messengers. He sounded frantic.
"Reuben is dead! Reuben is dead," he cried. I heard thudding feet as Lieutenant Commander Bugs raced up to the frightened rabbit.
"What did you say," Bugs demanded.
"Reuben is dead!" the messenger repeated.
"I'm his second in command," Bugs said at long last. "That means I'm in charge now. Things are going to change around here. No more pointless violence against kits and mothers. More training sessions. Better guns. Shall I go on?"
There were some mutters of complaint. The lieutenant commander—now the commander—was often the butt of jokes because of his morals. Somehow they were wrong, but he wouldn't change them. Why wouldn't he change them if they were wrong? I shook my head again to refocus myself.
Finally, the day of work was over. We were led back to the den for a wimpy meal. The sun was setting, and all four of my legs ached, as usual. Ferret tried to break the silence. He was sometimes more trouble than a rabid fox.
"I'm glad Bugs is in charge," he said cautiously. "Violence against kits is wrong."
This earned him a hard kick in the side from Kale, the head guard. Kale was also the commander's son, which is the only reason he got the job. He was dumber than a rock, but twice as strong as a normal rabbit, and definitely stronger than three runty kits, which is what we are.
"Are you sure your father would like that," asked Ferret. Kale spun around to face him.
"At least I have a father," the light brown rabbit spat. I gasped in shock and anger.
"Awww," he said in a mocking voice, "did I say something mean?" His voice returned to its normal growling tone. "Grow a backbone! We're the only family you've got now!" Then he shoved us into our cell and resumed his post outside.
Under the new commander, the troops were busier than ever. The guards were often tired or distracted from the long work days. I realized that if we wanted to, we could escape. But where would we go? Would anywhere be better than here?
As if to answer my question, a strange insect crawled in. Its wing was broken, but it was still beautiful. It had huge orange wings crisscrossed with black lines. A thick black border surrounded each wing, with white dots on the tips. Its antennae waved at us and its long tongue curled in and out, searching for food. The corners of my mouth twitched up. For what I'm sure was the first time in my life, I smiled. I was aware of my brothers by my side, staring in awe at the creature. It crawled weakly onto my paw. I made up my mind. How could such a delicate thing exist in the "cruel world" I was led to believe in?
"Here's the plan," I said. "We're busting out of here tonight."
My brothers listened attentively as I told them the plan:
"We sneak past the guards first (if necessary, we will knock them out). Then we'll make our way to the factory and steal some lasers. Once we're armed, we'll sneak into the woods. We'll focus on being quiet until we're out of earshot, then we'll run for it. After that, we find a town or village and maybe somebody will help us."
"What if a guard notices us and we can't fight him," asked Ferret. "What if the factory is guarded? What if we're caught? We don't know how to use the lasers anyway! What if one of us gets hurt or… killed?"
"It will work," I snapped. "It has to."