“We are the one who have the cure!” the March steps in. The he turns to me and Fabiola. “I mean it. I found a note in my pocket. It says all we have to do is inject the infected with this syringe.”
“Then what are waiting for?” I pull out one of the syringes and dart into the building. Fabiola and the March follow me. All the reporters are commenting on how bonkers we are.
UN Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
“Sit here,” the Cheshire told Tom Truckle. “It’s a bit far from the presidential area, but we’ll be able to see and hear everything.”
“Thank you, Jack. I didn’t think you’d be so useful.”
“I didn’t think I’d be either.” The Cheshire took in a long breath. It was good being in Jack’s body. Young, healthy, and feeling so alive. Why hadn’t he done that long ago? Something told him he’d stay in the boy’s body for a long time. Maybe it was time to forget about the Cheshire and just be Jack.
He enjoyed how most of the girls giggled at him. Jack was attractive and athletic. All the Cheshire needed was to learn how to act like Jack.
“Oh, tea,” the Cheshire said, taking what the butler was offering. “My father used to love his five o’clock milk—I mean tea, of course.”
“Did he love flying saucers too?” Tom said, squinting at something in the distance.”
“No, we cats—I mean, my father never believed in extraterrestrials.”
“I’m not talking about that. I am talking about teacups and flying saucers.” Tom was pointing at saucers flying their way now.
“Duck, Dr. Truckle!” The Cheshire pulled him under the stairs with him.
Teacups and saucers and vases were flying and crashing against the walls everywhere, accompanied by presidents swearing and shouting at each other.
“What is going on?” Tom wailed.
“Nothing much,” the Cheshire said. “World War Wonderland—I mean World War III.”
UN Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
We’re too late. The hall is a teacups and saucers festival.
The most surprised of us is the March Hare, staring at the presidents of the world swearing and throwing teacups at each other.
And the worst part is that it’s all being caught on TV.
“Each one has his own war,” Fabiola says. “The Arabs and Jews throwing all kinds of china at each other.”
“My God,” I say. “The words they say to each other. Humiliating.”
“It’s a centuries old conflict,” Fabiola says. “And it seems all this peace talk was nothing but a front. The Tea of Truth proves that.”
“North Korea and South Korea, too.” The March points at them in the far corner.
“Is that the Russian and Ukrainian presidents?” I point.
“Not sure,” Fabiola says. “But I’m sure that’s the American president throwing china at the Queen of Hearts.”
“She is enjoying this,” the March says.
We watch her atop a high chair raiding the American ambassadors with her favorite teacups.
“The Queen shoots teacups better than Tiger Woods on a golf course,” a voice says behind us.
A voice we all know well. The Pillar.
“I thought I told you...” Fabiola begins.
The Pillar pulls her down instantly. A series of teacups swoosh above her head and knocked a reporter down to the floor. Fabiola looks more annoyed he saved her this time. She waves his hand off and looks the other way.
“Is she always that way?” the Pillar tells me. “I thought nuns had manners.”
“We don’t have time for this.” I tuck a syringe against his chest. “Dip this into the American president’s neck.”
“I’m going to kill him?”
“No. It will cure him of the plague. Sadly, we only have four. So our best shot is to save the American president, Iranian, Israeli and Egyptian.”
“I’d say the China and German presidents are good ones, too,” Fabiola says. “We’re not sure if offending the Germans won’t give birth to another Hitler.”
“Basically the most powerful president.” I duck as another saucer almost knocks me down. “The aim is to cool the world down and stop them from the telling the truth about how they feel about each other.”
“You want one in your chest too, Fabiola?” the Pillar says.
She dismisses him and turns toward the presidents. “I’ll take the Jews’ and Arabs’.”
“You should take the American president,” I tell the Pillar.
“Just do as I say,” I demand. “I’ll make sure you’re doing well and then go look for Carolus.”
“Ah, I forgot. First make sure World War III won’t happen, and then make sure to save the lazy human who’s done nothing to find a cure.”
“That’s it.” I’m not going to argue now.
“I think you will need to stay longer, Alice.” The March grits his teeth against all things crashing around us.
“You need to inject the Queen of Hearts.”
“She is a Wonderlander. She can’t get infected with the truth.”
“Not if it’s inhaled from the Hookah of Hearts, but she injected it into the tea, and that’s a different story. I just remembered.”
“Well, you should have remembered about two years ago,” the Pillar says. “No wonder she is all bonkers, shooting saucers like a short stocky alien in a movie I never saw.”
“All right.” I grit my teeth. “So I’ll inject the Queen.”
“Did you notice we’ve been discussing this a bit too long?” Fabiola urges us. “Let’s get going.”
“But they always have long chats in movies when bullets are showering all around them.” The Pillar has one of those childish episodes again.
“Stop it,” I shush him. “Let’s go. In the chest, remember?”
“Wait,” the March itches his ears. “I just remembered something now.”
The Pillar rolls his eyes.
“The syringes don’t work when you pinch them into the chest,” the March says. “It has to be the...”
“The what?” I am as impatient as the Pillar now.
“In the butt.”
Fabiola and I are so shocked we can’t utter a word. But the Pillar curves an eyebrow and has a smile on his face. “Fantabulous. Why didn’t you say so from the beginning?”
Parking Lot, UN Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Carolus was close to hitting his head against the walls. It hurt so much. He needed another Lullaby pill. Why hadn’t this terrible Queen given him more than one pill?
“Cool down,” he spoke to himself. “It’ll only be moments before Alice comes looking for you outside. Be patient.”
But he couldn’t. He fell on his knees, his head buried in his hands. “I hate you, Lewis Carroll!”
While on the asphalt floor outside the meeting hall, he heard a voice in his head. A voice so evil he could not dismiss it.
Stand up. You’re close to achieving what no one has in years. You’re so close.
“Yes, my master.” Carolus propped himself on one knee, the pain surging into his spine now.
The voice continued.
The plan with the plague has been brilliant. Two years we have waited for this to happen. We had to bring wrath onto the world to get the attention of one girl.
“Of course, master,” Carolus said. “I must not give up. It’ll only be minutes until she comes out and the plan is complete.” Slowly, he began to rise to his feet, a dark grin forming on his face. “I’m sure this plan will be taught in history books. It’s the plan of the century.”
UN Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Watching Fabiola swoosh her Vorpal sword at whoever tries to stop us is both maddening and fascinating.
The best part is how good she is. She fights like an expert samurai, and it makes me more curious about her past. I watch her curve behind a few presidents and stab the first with the syringe, not emptying all of it so she can still save a few others.
The German ambassador looks so relived after his injection, as if he’s just been to the bathroom.