Now, we here at RCCP have been trying our hardest to keep abreast of the latest trends in publishing (at least, that what we tell our boss when he asks us why we're trawling through the archives of Girl Genius instead of working), and one of the hottest trends right now in fantasy is steampunk! Yes, everything is gears and goggles, clockwork and mad scientists. It seemed like the perfect fit for a tale about strange creatures in a stranger land. And so: Steampunk Alice
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped at her sister's auto-stereopticon, but it had no airship battles or twisted scientific creations in it, “and what is the use of an adventure,” thought Alice, “without airship battles and twisted scientific creations in it?”
So she adjusted her goggles to block out the brightest rays of the sun and was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy), whether one particular cloud looked more like a dirigible sailing perilously close to the trees or a phlogistonic pistol in mid blast, when suddenly an Intriguing Automaton with red laser eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that, but when Alice realized that the clockwork figure was actually in the shape of a giant Rabbit in a waistcoat, she started to her feet, for it flashed through her mind that she had never before seen an automaton in the shape of a rabbit, and certainly not one of such a large size and with such a dashing brocade waistcoat.
Burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it dash behind a bush and disappear. Alice ran up to where she had last seen the creature and stared fruitlessly about. Where could it have disappeared to, she wondered. “Oh bother,” she cried, stamping her foot in frustration, and then gave a faint cry as the ground suddenly gave way beneath her. “Oh, it is a lift!” she realized, as bolted steel walls whizzed past her. “But I'm sure I've never seen a lift that went quite so far down,” she added, after several minutes had gone by. “Nor, to be sure, one without any sort of enclosure or guard rail.” And she was just a little bit frightened by this, as the shaft remained completely dark below her, and thus she had no idea how much further they would descend.
Down, down, down. Would the lift never come to an end! She began to get very sleepy and had just dozed off into a most interesting dream where she was a mad scientist giving cats the bodies of bats and bats the bodies of cats when, with a mighty clank, the lift ground to a stop at the bottom of the shaft.
Alice jumped to her feet and looked about her: ahead of her stretched a long passage lined with doors. The Intriguing Automaton was just turning the corner of the passage, muttering “Oh my gears and pistons, how late it's getting!” She sprang off after it, but when she turned the corner it was no longer to be seen, only another long room filled with doors. Alice tried them all, but they were all locked; and when she had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked slowly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.
Suddenly, she came upon a large glass box, its corners fitted in shiny brass with an ornate brass handle fitted into one side. She did not remember having seen it before, and Alice stepped hesitantly inside, waiting for it to lurch suddenly up, down, or even sideways, for, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened to her today, that she began to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.
She was quite disappointed, therefore, when nothing happened when she firmly closed the door behind her. To be sure, that is what normally happens when one closes a door, but Alice had got so much lately into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way. She was just about to exit the box again when she noticed a small brass button mounted on the wall to her right, just above her head. The label beside it read simply, “Push Me.” Well, Alice was certainly not going to do that in a hurry. She had heard several nice stories about children who had been crushed or mangled or sent to jail for years, all because they would push buttons without checking to see if the buttons were marked “Danger” or “Warning!” or “Self Destruct Button: DO NOT PUSH”.
However, this button was not marked “Danger”, so Alice ventured to press her finger to it cautiously.
“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English), “Now I am shooting up like the fastest rocket there ever was! Good -bye, land!” (for when she looked out, she saw wispy grey and white clouds streaming past the glass sides of the box). She wondered how on earth she was ever to get back down again. “Well,” she said to herself, “I am sure we will come to halt eventually somewhere I can get out.”
Up and up the great glass box shot through the air. “I wonder if it shall go all the way into space. How funny it'll seem to come out among the spacemen. But I shall have to ask them what the name of the planet is, you know. 'Please, Ma'am, is this Mars or Jupiter?' And what an ignorant little girl she'll think me for asking! No, it'll never do. Perhaps I shall see it written down somewhere.”
But Alice had barely set to pondering all she had read of spacemen when the clouds outside the box were abruptly replaced by the smooth grey silk sides of a dirigible. She plastered her nose against the glass, trying to get a judge of its size, but the acres of grey silk stretched out further than she could see. “Goodness, it must be monstrously huge!” she thought.
In seconds, the box had gently rocked to a stop outside the entry hatch. A leather capped man with rather wildly tufted eyebrows poked his head out of the hatch. “Come along! Hurry up, child!” Feeling rather trepidatious, Alice gingerly opened the door and leapt across the dizzying gap into fiercely gripping hands that hauled her aboard.
“Welcome aboard the HMS Caterpillar!”
We have discovered that one of the reasons children of today dislike the classics is because, quite frankly, they are rather long, and kids have the attention span of a fruit fly on speed. We have theorized this may have something to do with the proliferation of commercials, the rise of music videos and clip shows, and the development of text messaging and chat speak. Or maybe kids are just dumber today. In any case, to avoid any hint of boredom (and also because our lawyers tell us that if we had one person write the whole thing we'd actually have to pay them), we now present the next part of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Abridged): the Intertube years.
Well, I feel that is quite enough of that. Who would have thought that it wasn't such a good idea to ask this 4chan group to come up with Alice in Wonderland memes? But our bosses have quite rightly reminded us that there
books out there that kids these days read, and that perhaps if we want to
grab some of the loot
reach children today, we should follow in their footsteps.
Alice fought hard to keep from blushing. On one side of her sat the Mad Hatter, a notorious vampire, with flawless ivory skin, cheekbones that looked as if they had been carved from marble, and glittering golden topaz eyes. On her other side she could feel the heat emanating from March Hare, his dark eyes and sculpted muscles hinting at the deadly grace he had as an alpha werewolf. The two men locked eyes with each other over her head, their bodies stiffening and a faint growl hovering just out of hearing range. To think that she should have the two hottest supernatural creatures in Wonderland fighting over a plain klutz like herself made her heart skip a beat. How could she possibly hope to choose between the two of them? She sipped her tea to give herself a minute to enjoy the sensations thrilling through her at their primitive contest, then straightened up to shoot them both a glare. "There will be no fighting today," she said, her voice holding the promise of steel in it.
Hatter shot a final glare and turned back to his fine bone china teacup. "Of course not. I have better manners than that."
"Are you trying to imply something?" March growled, his hands gripping a spoon so hard it began to bend around his knuckles.
"Why, what could I possibly be implying?"
"Boys!" Alice reprimanded. "Can't we enjoy some polite conversation?"
"Let's tell riddles," Hatter remarked lightly, mischief dancing in his gorgeous eyes. "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
Alice hung her head. "I'm no good at riddles," she confessed mournfully. "I'm just not smart enough to get them."
"That's not true," March protested. "We don't want to play stupid guessing games, Hatter. Can't you come up with any normal topics of conversation? Or is this what people did for fun back when you were alive?"
"And what do you mean by that?" Hatter asked, rising to his feet in anger.
“I mean what I say.” March pushed back his chair as well to glower up at the slightly taller vampire.
“Well, I say what I mean.” Hatter smiled a tight smile that flashed his fangs.
This was the problem, Alice thought, with having both a preternaturally gorgeous werewolf and a supernaturally attractive vampire lusting over oneself: they spent the far greater portion of their time and energy focused on each other rather than on her. It was enough to make a girl give up on the whole paranormal dating scene.
"Ahem," a quiet voice coughed gently behind her, as the argument roared on over the top of head. Alice turned around and saw a small white rabbit behind her.
"Did you just talk?" she asked, curiously, bending down to study it more closely.
"Of course," it replied. "Oh, I understand your confusion. I'm actually an Animagus, a wizard who can turn into an animal at will. I just thought this form was easier for getting around. And for being, shall we say, unobtrusive. Anyway, I have a come here to deliver this letter to you."
"A letter? For me?"
"You are Alice Liddell of Oxford, England, are you not?"
"Why yes. But who on earth could be sending me a letter via rabbit?"
"It's your acceptance letter to the Queen of Hearts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You're a witch, Alice!”
Alice gasped. “Oh my goodness, gracious me! A witch? And when does term begin?”
The rabbit looked shifty, as much as a rabbit can (Have you ever seen a shifty rabbit? Do you suppose you could imagine what such a thing would look like?) “I am afraid that you would need to leave now,” he replied, twitching his nose anxiously. “We have been trying to contact you for quite some time. You've been quite difficult to reach, young lady. All of our flamingos keep coming back to us without their heads.”
Alice looked quite frightened at this, but then the sound of breaking crockery drew her attention back to the table, where currently a werewolf and a vampire were doing their best to kill each other, at least, insofar as they were able to, as both of them were very difficult to kill. Tea was dripping down the front of March's shirt, molding it to the rippled planes of his pectorals and abdominals. Hatter had apparently had the contents of the sugar bowl flung at him, for specks of crystalline white glittered in the light as if his skin were embedded with thousands of tiny diamonds. She sighed and got up from her chair, walking towards the rabbit.
“Let's go visit the Queen,” she said.
Now many of our readers may have been protesting at this last portion. “Certainly those works are popular ,” they cry, “but that hardly makes them well-written.” To which we respond, if you want well-written, why are you reading us? But we recognise that vampires and werewolves, wizards and love triangles are not everyone's cup of tea. Tea isn't even everyone's cup of tea. But we do try to make at least a token effort at pleasing all of our customers (so long as it doesn't cost us extra). And thus, for this, our final portion of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Abridged), we offer you this hardboiled mpreg space pirate international spy cooking soap opera.
Alice twitched back her trenchcoat as she stalked around the parlour, eying the suspects. “Can you give me just the facts, again, ma'am?” she asked.
The Queen of Hearts sprang to her feet. “It was the Knave of Hearts! He stole my delicious, delicious tarts and ate them all! Off with his head!” The King and the White Rabbit, sitting on either side of her, grabbed her arms before she could carry out the sentence. The Knave of Hearts merely sighed, rubbing his enormously swollen belly, and glancing around for a cushion or a convenient gardener to prop his feet up on.
Alice flipped open her notebook. “Can you describe the tarts to me?”
The White Rabbit spoke up. “They were dark chocolate and sea salt caramel tarts. The crust was a delicate bittersweet chocolate pastry dough, filled with homemade creamy sea salt caramel, and topped with a decadent amount of smooth, rich, melt-in-your mouth dark chocolate ganache. Just a dashof the sea salt decorated the tops, to hint at the gooey filling inside. It's the Queen's specialty.” Now everybody looked a lot hungrier, and Alice felt her stomach rumble in sympathy.
“And what evidence do we have?” Alice asked, beginning to wish she'd never got the call to take this case. This was going to be a nightmare.
“None whatsoever,” said the White Rabbit.
“That's very important!” cried the King of Hearts.
Alice rubbed her forehead. She could feel a tension headache coming on. “Unimportant,” she corrected. She could hear the King murmuring “Important? Unimportant?” in the background, but decided to ignore him.
The Queen had jumped to her feet again. “It's obviously the Knave of Hearts. Everyone knows pregnancy causes strange cravings! Off with his head!”
Alice was distracted from the screaming Queen by a strange flickering in the corner of her eye. She stared hard at the corner of the room where the signature shimmering of a teleporter beam was lighting up the dusty bookshelves. As the light grew brighter, a figure coalesced in the middle of it.
“Hello,” said the Cheshire Cat, eye patch at a jaunty angle, “what did I miss?”
When all the shouting was through, and half the room had been sentenced for execution, Alice attempted to continue her investigation. “When were the tarts last seen?”
“Ah, that we can pinpoint precisely,” the White Rabbit said, smoothing down his black three piece suit and adjusting his bow tie. Alice had to privately admit that he did look very dashing. “The kitchen is monitored by security cameras.” At his gesture a meek little lizard scurried forward to start the tape.
They watched in silence as the Queen proudly set a large silver tray of tarts down upon the kitchen countertop then swept off to begin threatening a parlourmaid. A few servants scuttled back and forth bearing trays or holding sheafs of papers. At exactly 2:13, the image fuzzed into grey static for two minutes, and when it resumed the counter was bare. “So we know when,” the White Rabbit continued, but not whom or--”
He was broken off by a shriek, as on screen, the tape continued to roll, showing a very eager King of Hearts frantically kissing the Cook. “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!” screeched the Queen, producing an axe from somewhere upon her person. (Alice felt it better not to speculate on where it had been hidden until now.)
She sprang in front of the Queen. “WAIT!” she cried. “STOP THE TAPE! Zoom in on the king's face,” she instructed the quaking lizard. “Enhance. The man in that video had his right ear larger than his left, wouldn't you all agree?” There was some mumbling throughout the room. Alice turned to the King, standing behind her. “And this man has his left ear larger than his right. Obviously, that is not the King of Hearts, but his long-lost twin brother who has been missing and presumed dead all these years!”
Everyone stared at the King. “Yes, it's true,” he admitted, “Diamonds contacted me last week to say that he was back after all these years. He told me that if I didn't pay him, he would tell everyone he was alive, and would re-take the throne as the elder, true heir. I would have been willing to step down, but I knew it would kill my wife to have to go back to being a mere Duchess.” Several people blinked back tears at this touching announcement, and the Queen dropped her ax to lovingly embrace her husband.
“But that's not necessary!” piped up the tiny lizard, pushing his way forward to the center of attention. “Years ago, when you two were babies, and I was just a junior underfootman, I switched your name tags as a lark, and was unable to switch them back before I was sent to work for the government. You've always been the true King!” Now everyone looked overjoyed, although it appeared that the Knave was still stuck on the tears portion of the previous emotional reaction. Hormones, god he hated them.
“And I know who the thief is!” cried Alice. “That disturbance in the videotape could only have been caused by a Venusian scrambler ray, and the only person who would have one of those would be the notorious space pirate Cheshire Cat!” She whirled and pointed a finger dramatically at him.
“And I know why he took them!” called the White Rabbit. “For my duties as an international spy have had me investigating the smuggling of delicious baked goods to Looking Glass Land, and the trail leads directly to him.”
“No!” shouted the Knave of Hearts staggering to his feet and clutching his stomach protectively. “You can't arrest him! He's the father of my baby!”
"Off with his head!" shouted the Queen. "Off with her head! OFF WITH EVERYONE'S HEADS!"
The King of Hearts reached behind him and scooped up an orange and white, purring kitten. "Here," he said, dropping it into his wife's lap as her face turned redder and redder. The Queen's voice cut off in mid-shout. "Kitty?" she whispered, stroking it gently.
"Kitty," he agreed, and flapped a hand behind his back to shoo everyone away.
“Well, that was interesting,” commented Alice wryly, shutting the parlour door quietly behind her.
“What now?” asked the Cheshire Cat, for once not grinning, as he waited to hear his fate. It seemed like the question on everyone's lips.
The White Rabbit had just opened his mouth to speak when....
but, thankfully, nobody died, because it was all a dream.
Wasn't that a lovely story? Didn't we learn a lot about life and creativity and retaining our sense of childlike wonder? No? Oh well, too bad. It's still the end.
Okay, unfortunately our bosses have pointed out that we have not really included the requisite blatant children's toy marketing gimmick OR a plug for the next book in the series, so please enjoy a short epilogue. But that's it. We really mean it this time.
“Wake up, Alice dear!” said her sister. “Why what a long sleep you've had!”
“Oh, I've had such a curious dream!” said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange adventures of hers that you have just finished reading about. When she had finished her sister said, “It was a curious dream, dear, certainly, but now you must get up, for I've just received word that the frightful Jabberwock has been spotted rampaging through the streets of Oxford, and we must suit up!”
“Oh yes!” cried Alice, activating the pendant that called her giant pink robot space suit into being around her. She carefully checked that her beam cannons and laser sword were fully armed and operational. “Ready when you are,” she said over the radio.
“Let's go, Energy Warriors! Time to save the day!”