I hang up and tell the White Queen, but she shocks me with the latest news.
“I know what the Queen is up to.”
“I’m so curious about your sources inside the Queen’s castle,” I say. “What is it?”
“You know the Geneva meeting will have the world’s most prestigious presidents, right?”
“It will have the president of United States meet the Queen of England. The Israeli presidents meet the most prestigious Arab president. The Russian president meet the Ukrainian president and so forth, to name a few.”
“Those presidents’ nations are in continuous conflict with each other,” Fabiola says. “Usually, in every world meeting of this kind, they settle for courtesy and etiquette, choose not to clash against one another or say what’s really on their mind.”
“I’m not following.”
“Most of the world’s leaders hate each other, Alice. Their countries hate the others’ countries too.” Fabiola holds me by the arms. “Everyone in the world knows that. But we always find a way to make peace in the world. You know how?”
“I get it now,” I say. “By not saying the truth.”
“That’s why the Queen took Carolus with her. He has some of the plague’s scent left. She is going to pour it into their tea at the meeting. And you know what will happen then?”
“Every president will tell the truth,” I say absently.
“The bad truth none of us can handle.”
“And then the world will be in continuous wars, nations against nations. It’s what the Queen loves most.”
“How is this different from a plague?”
“Alice. What happened to you?” Fabiola says. “In a plague everyone dies. Poor, rich, powerful, weak, buyer, seller. In a war, a lot of people get rich. You sell weapons, give the illusion of safety to those you protect. It’s a different ball game.”
I am not quite sure I really understand the difference, but I know the Queen needs to be stopped first, even before killing Carolus. Maybe the two things have to be done at once.
“This is a bit too much for me.” I shrug.
“I know,” Fabiola says. “That’s why I’m coming with you to Geneva.”
On the way to Geneva
The Cheshire, disguised in another cell mate, sat next to Tom Truckle in the plane going to Geneva.
He’d persuaded him he knew how to get in, and that Tom needed to be there since the world’s presidents would discuss the consequences of the plague, something Tom was interested in.
The Cheshire had to do it, because as much as he was looking for the Tweedles, he was incredibly curious about Dr. Truckle’s identity.
“Are you sure we can get in?” Tom asked, looking at the world below.
“I’m sure. I’ve always had my secret ways to get into the Queen’s meetings.”
“Well, I sure hope so. I’ve always suspected that the world’s elite people had planned a way out of the apocalypse, like a ship in the sea, or even escaping to the moon. I read about it.”
“Of course. I’m as curious as you are. Let’s hope we expose their plans.”
“But you never told me why you admitted yourself to the asylum, Jack.” Dr. Truckle said. “I always thought you weren’t mad.”
“I have my reasons.”
“I think you’re in love with that bonkers girl, Alice.” He elbowed him. “What’s with that girl? Why is everyone so interested in her?”
“She is special.” The Cheshire grinned. Possessing Jack’s body didn’t fall under the rule that he couldn’t enter a Wonderlander’s body. Because let’s face it. Jack wasn’t a Wonderlander anymore. He was dead. A figment of his own imagination.
Which rather irritated the Cheshire. How could he possess a nobody’s body? It was mindboggling, even for a cat.
Margaret watched the Queen rub her hands with enthusiasm.
Soon the presidents would all enter the main hall and have their conference. The first part was planned to be aired for the public—well, the few channels that hadn’t been brought down by the angry public yet. The second part was going to be a closed meeting where they’d arrange the escape of the richest people in case the plague had no cure.
The Queen’s made sure there wasn’t going to be a second part of the meeting.
She’d injected the tea with the truth serum already, and even called it the Tea to Truth. “Oh, the Mad Hatter would’ve loved this if he were here. The real Mad Hatter, I mean.”
“I still don’t understand trying to make the world’s most powerful presidents clash against each other when the world is going to end anyway,” Margaret had to say.
“I know what I am doing. Didn’t I say don’t question me? Besides, villains always do it in James Bond movies.” She stood on a high chair, checking out her beauty in a mirror. “Do you think I look good for the end of the world?”
“If you’re planning to take a photo with you to the afterlife,” Margaret mumbled.
“I heard you,” the Queen said. “Don’t you think I’m not planning to conquer the afterlife after I conquer the world, ugly duchess.”
Margaret shrugged, having no idea what to do. She had already been angry enough, hearing what the Pillar did to her investments in Columbia, but this wasn’t the right time to teach this hookah man a lesson. She needed to deal with this crazy Queen first. What did she know that Margaret didn’t?
It must have all happened in her conversation with Carolus. If the Queen’s guards would only let her meet with this man.
“I’m ready,” the Queen chirped. “Now, did you call Fabiola?”
“Yes. She didn’t recognize my voice. I told her I was a rebelling guard from Buckingham Palace who wished the Queen’s reign would end,” Margaret said. “I told her that you are taking Carolus to Geneva, and that she and Alice have to come and save the world by killing Carolus.”
“Fantastic. I bet she took the bait.”
“Like a starving fish,” Margaret said. “She is coming here in a while.”
“Great. That’s the deal between me and Carolus. He gave me what was left of the plague so I could put in the tea in exchange for handing him this Alice girl.”
“I thought he wanted the Lullaby pill.”
“He needed the pill when he had migraines. I gave him one to ease his pain, but his real plan was to lure Alice. He first asked me for the Pillar, because he knew that the easiest way to find Alice was through the Pillar, but I told him I have faster and easier ways to get her.”
“So this whole plague was to help him find Alice?”
“Some loon, right?” The Queen grinned. “He said he wasn’t sure who the Real Alice was. That the only way he’d find her is to threaten the world’s safety.”
“I’m not following, My Queen.”
“Think about it. The Real Alice will always stand up to save the world like we were told in that prophecy. Apparently, Carolus believes in it.”
“Strange way to find the Real Alice, but he has a point. Still, why does he wants to meet her so bad?”
“Maybe he wants to kill her, but don’t ask me why. All that matters is that I get the world’s presidents into a war. And it’s always good to get rid of any girl named Alice, in case she is the real one.” She rolled her eyes.
Margaret watched the Queen enter the meeting hall. She thought it was a good idea she’d also told Fabiola the Queen’s plan. Now maybe this annoying Alice would find a heroic way to stop the Queen from her executing her plan, and then she would die in Carolus’s hands.
Now that’s what they called two birds with one stone.
Pillar’s Chopper on its way to Geneva
Fabiola changes into modern clothes inside the plane.
She comes to show her formal, businesswoman dress. And she looks rather shy, or confused.
“You look good,” I say. And she does. I don’t think she realizes she has an athletic feminine-looking body. Or maybe it’s me who just doesn’t know who she was before she became a nun.