The Reds’ Plane
“Is that the Pillar who just jumped on our plane?” Ace, the leader of the Reds said.
“It’s him, Ace.” said number Three.
“So he’s about to do it?”
“It’s looks like it,” said number Three. “It was inevitable, if you ask me.”
“Bring my parachute,” Ace ordered. “I’d get your parachute too, if I were you.”
“So we’re abandoning the mission?”
“We’ve done all Carolus asked of us,” Ace said. “He wanted us to bring him Alice, and I believe she is on her way to London now. Our job is done.”
“And the Pillar?”
“We should be all gone when he enters the plane,” Ace said. “His war isn’t with us.”
“I heard he’s unstoppable when he’s angry.” Number Three said, strapping up. “You said his war isn’t with us, Sir. May I ask who the Pillar’s real enemy is in his war?”
“His past, number three,” Ace said, and jumped out, leaving the rain of bullets attacking the plane behind.
The Pillar had arrived.
Radcliffe asylum, Oxford
A rat, with a cell phone between its teeth, scurried its way through the sewers into the asylum.
“That’s the worst thing that has happened to me, possessing a rat’s body twice in one day,” the Cheshire thought.
First he had possessed Edith’s body in the Wonders’ house to make sure she and her sister weren’t the Tweedles, but then they proved to be ordinary useless humans like others.
Now, he was getting curiouser and curiouser.
He scurried farther among the Mushroomers who’d spotted him and tried to slap him dead with their shoes.
Some rats die in the worst ways, he thought again. Had any of those ugly humans ever thought how it’d feel being killed under a giant shoe? And what happened when the first hit didn’t kill the rat. Were they going to finish their kill with another hit?
Not that the Cheshire liked rats. As a cat, he sometimes ate them, although he thought they tasted awful. What did you expect from something that lived in sewers?
But he’d stand up for a rat against any human on any given day.
Still scurrying away, his phone rang in his teeth. He shuddered to the vibration and decided enough was enough.
He possessed a Mushroomer and stooped over to pick up the phone from the rat he’d once possessed.
“I’m still looking for Tweedledee and Tweedledum,” he said, seeing that none of the other Mushroomers paid attention to him. Now that was the beauty of living among insane folks. They wouldn’t give attention to such a sentence like the one he’d just uttered.
“I don’t think that’s necessary now. Plans have changed.”
“I’ve almost lost one of my nine lives in my quest, and you tell me plans have changed?”
“The Queen is about to make things worse with one of her stupid plans again.”
“What? She decided to cut off the headless horseman’s head?”
“Worse. We’re on our way to the UN headquarters in Geneva. We’re meeting with the presidents of the world.”
“Got an appetite for some sightseeing while the world is going down?”
“The presidents of the world are supposedly discussing how to deal with the plague.”
“I bet that’s a camouflage for something else.”
“They’re actually planning how to get the elite people of the world to escape if the world really ends tomorrow,” Margaret said. “They will even have part of the fake conference broadcasted on TV, but that’s not the issue.”
“I think I know what the issue is. The Queen is about to turn this conference upside down somehow.”
“Yes. She wouldn’t tell me how, but what worries me is that she and Carolus became friends all of a sudden.”
“That’s wonderfully weird in a very sinister way.”
“I think he told her a secret about the plague that we don’t know of, and they made a deal of some kind. I don’t know what it is.”
“Frankly, I don’t care. I’d be happy to see everyone in the world die, and I have nine lives. I wouldn’t mind living in this world, although it means I’d end up possessing rats and cockroaches.”
“I think you better come to Geneva, Cheshire. I have to go now.”
The Cheshire hung up, not really caring about what the Queen had in mind. He’d come here to find the Tweedles, which he thought was a fun pursuit. If it wasn’t Edith and Lorina, then he suspected it’d be Dr. Tom Truckles children. The Twins. Todd and Tania.
And he was about to find out. Only one thing stopped him now. He realized that as a Mushroomer, he was locked behind bars now. How he wished he hadn’t let that rat go.
St Peter’s, The Vatican
“Get in, children,” Fabiola urges them.
I make sure the March Hare and chauffeur get in safe as well. The world outside in the piazza has gone bonkers. The basilica is the last resort for the uninfected at the moment. The early morning twilight slants through its dome, reminding me I have less than twenty-four hours to kill Carolus.
“Where is the Pillar?” Fabiola asks.
“He jumped out of the plane,” I say. “I have no idea why.”
“Good.” She took the March Hare in her arms. “Missed you, buddy. Really missed you.”
“I love you, White Queen. It’s been so long. I want to go back to Wonderland.”
“Someday, March. Someday.”
Watching the old March playing child and mother with Fabiola is a bit strange. I like the March. I can feel the purity of his heart when I talk to him, but how is he supposed to be an asset to the Inklings?
The children gather around Fabiola as well.
Fabiola is like a universal language. Every color, ethnicity, and gender throw themselves in her arms. She is like a light at the end of a dark tunnel. It’s either the fear of the dark or the freedom of light in arms.
I sit next to a few uninfected in the church, watching Fabiola organize everything. She makes sure all entrances are perfectly locked, that there is food for everyone, and that no one has gotten infected somehow while inside.
“You did a great job, Alice,” she tells me. “I’m repeatedly impressed by your insistence to make the world better.”
“Thank you,” I say. “It was a bit of a darker ride in Columbia, however.”
“I know.” She holds my hands. “The Executioner?”
“How come there are such bad people in the world?”
“I don’t specialize in analyzing bad people. I prefer to look for the good in people and help them bring it out. It’s a better way to look at the world.”
“Not with the Pillar, I guess.”
She almost lowers her gaze. “The Pillar is a man who often has the chance to be good yet prefers to walk the other side.” Her voice is a bit shattered. “I feel no salvation for him.”
Well, putting it that way makes sense. I have to admit I am confused about him, but she just described my problem with him exactly. Every time I fall for his charm or sarcastic look at the world, he throttles me back with a bad move.
“He fooled me into showing him where I had hidden one of the keys last week,” I say.
“I heard he posed as the Mad Hatter,” she says.
I lower my head. Heroes shouldn’t be fooled that easily.
“It’s all right, but you should know he was going to give it to the Queen of Hearts.”
“How do you know?”
“I have my sources. He made a deal with her and Black Chess.”
“So he’s working with them now?”
“I don’t think so. All I know is he promised the Queen to get her the key in exchange of something. And like I told you before: the Pillar is not on anyone’s side but his own.”
“Are you telling me he shouldn’t be part of the Inklings at all costs?”
“I’m telling you that you should search the Inklings tile by tile when this is over to make sure he didn’t buy it for a reason of his own,” Fabiola says. “The least I can imagine is that he’d like to know what you’re planning.”