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Flip It on Its Head

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Boys, David Hatter firmly believed, were a notoriously dense lot. She had come to that conclusion after watching her father become more and more enmeshed in politics before the rise of the Red Queen, losing his life in the process, and causing her and her mother to become part of the scorned “tainted” few for which there was no pity. She had cemented it after watching her best mate sell himself to the Red Queen for power and fame and glory, losing himself in the process. It had become her anthem for every desperate addict shuffling into her Teashoppe for the latest fix of emotions. It had become her shield for every handsy Suit that would need to “inspect” the premises—which they all seemed to believe included her. And it finally became her exasperated sigh when she began to help the resistance and ran into Dodo and his patronizing, smarmy scorn, judging her for every delivery, every word, every thought.

She told her father’s portrait as she got older that he had been a fool for siding with the White King. History had shown that he had not been willing to make the sacrifices necessary to keep the kingdom peaceful, to keep it safe. That he would not act when the Red Queen became a real threat. She railed about the expediency of picking the best side so that you could come out okay, could survive. She gritted through tears, relating the horrors that had befallen her and her mother because of his lack of foresight. Her mother, once a lady at court, now having to clean rushes and run laundry for a few pennies. She finally had become hooked onto Joy when it had hit the market, and the Hospital of Dreams hadn’t been willing to take her because of her status in the White King’s court. Hatter still remembered finding her strung out on bed, dead from an overdose, a bright grin stretching across her face.

Hatter had begun running with the local poor gangs at that point. She was fast, nimble, and smart. She quickly went from lookout to architect of their schemes. She became fast friends with Alfred March, another of the remnants of the White King’s reign. March, as he was called, had lost both his parents in the war, but was a ringer for his father, a rather famous dignitary of some sort—Hatter didn’t much care. He was the only one she had given the privilege of using her given name. March had one flaw: Pride. He was always angry at being brought low by the Queen’s war. His rage often got them in trouble with local prefects, much to Hatter’s consternation.

When the Suits began their raids on the slums, looking for troublemakers, rebels, and worst of all, Intellectuals, Hatter began to plan her escape to another part of Wonderland. Surely there was room for one street rat in another city away from the capital. She had even set aside enough to smuggle March out when their “nest” was raided. The Suits were quick and decisive of who was “worthy” of mercy and who wasn’t. Anyone who fought back too much was quickly sent off to Chesire-knows-where, and never seen again. The rest were told on no uncertain terms that they now were to be employed by Her Majesty, and their loyalty was to be unquestioned. The silent “or you can join your friends” had been a nice touch. Then they asked for volunteers for the military, promising emptily of fame and fortune. They hastened to add that this was separate from their “employment”—“An addition, if you will,” one of them had added with a saccharine smile. March, seeing a chance to reclaim "his due," quickly jumped on the chance, despite all protests from Hatter.

“I’ll be safe as houses, David,” he had said winningly, ruffling her hair. “C’mon, you’ll get some nice swag for this, too. Just come with me. Us two against the world, remember?” Against her better judgment, she provisionally volunteered.

Hatter, after extensive testing, was deemed far too intelligent to be given any kind of formal education beyond what she already had been given at home. It was far too dangerous. March was also considered too risky. They were, instead, handed over to R&D to be experimented on for more…covert methods. Hatter’s right arm was replaced with an augment that needed charging from her temper. They sent her off to the Doctors to make sure that she was always Angry. The doctors programmed her control to be a simple one: a Hat. She could have laughed at the irony. March was given enhanced senses and a clear education in poisons, hand-to-hand combat, weapons—anything to make sure that he was nothing but a weapon. After his sessions with the Doctors, his grip on reality began to blur, careening sharply to mania. She tried again and again to get him to leave with her. To run far. One day, in a more lucid moment, he agreed. It was the last time she ever saw Alfred March again. She waited for him at the back door of the complex, having managed to pick her way across by bribing, intimidating, or killing anyone in her way. He arrived right on time—with twenty suits behind him. His grin was bright and completely insane. She managed to negotiate a provisional release. 5 years of service for life probation, working for the Queen. Seeing no alternative, she agreed. Then sucker-punched March for better measure. He never called her “David” again.

When she heard about his beheading, she poured a glass of bandersnatch and toasted a portrait she kept locked in a trunk along of one of her parents.

She had stumbled across the Resistance completely by accident. She knew, of course, that Dorie (or Doormouse as he went by) was a member. She had eyes, and wasn’t keen on ever being caught unawares again. But she wasn’t about to confront him over it, so long as it didn’t draw any undue attention to her ‘Shoppe. She had managed to sell a high number of Teas that day, earning a “bonus” in pay: some frothy confections that turned Hatter’s stomach to even begin to process eating. She ducked out that night, heading to the slums for the local “rat-den,” hoping to trade some shadier-market goods from them for the confects. Instead, she ran straight into Duck—though she hadn’t know him then—scurrying his way anxiously toward a small, rundown building two streets over from the gang’s headquarters. Duck had grabbed his pistol, pointing it straight at Hatter’s head, eyes bright with the same fear she’d seen on a cornered, abused cat once. She had tried smooth-talking her way out, but Duck had merely bullied her into the Great Library (and hadn’t that been a trip). She gave him the confects as a sort of goodwill gesture/bribe. He had merely stared at them blankly, before gesturing to her to get out of his bus.

Dodo was waiting for them on the walkway, furious with Duck for bringing Hatter down. He had said, on no uncertain terms, that if Duck had been that worried, he should have shot Hatter right there, and then run for it. Dodo made to finish the effort, but Hatter, frightened and, frankly, furious just then, threw her hat into the air and let her right arm roll. Dodo ended up at the other end of the hall, unconscious. Duck pistol whipped her, and then checked on Dodo. The leader had grumbled about the injury, but surprisingly decided to spare Hatter. Most likely it was the fact that Hatter framed a business deal for him: food and information on the Queen’s movements in exchange for a small “discretionary sum.” When asked why, she shrugged and said that she had no loyalty to either side. Dodo had sneered at that, calling her a cockroach, before telling Duck to escort her out. Duck gave her the password, along with shyly asking for more confects.

She glowered at the innocent-looking box of goods for the Resistance, along with the reports she’d “appropriated” from some of the more…enthusiastic Suits to peruse her ‘Shoppe. Dodo had been more than hostile lately, his paranoia bordering on the same homicidal Madness she had watched develop in March. The Queen’s Suits had been getting a bit more suspicious of the “known criminal” that ran the Teashoppe, especially since the Resistance knew more than they should about their movements. So “inspections” were happening with greater frequency. And there had been rumours that the Queen’s new alchemist had been assigned the process of resurrecting Mad March. The icing on the rather horrid cake had been when Ratty had walked in and asked her on a date, hoping she’d provide Tea for the occasion.

Yes, she marked darkly, boys were a very dense lot.