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!”