The War for Wonderland

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"Ah, you're paranoid since the last time. We might be able to work that to an advantage," he mused. "Seeing as how cake is not part of a card's standard issue loadout," he thought.

"Only those of Hearts and Spades are one eyed, the others have two eyes," he confirmed. He was silent as he ate his beans and thought after her last comment. "Yes. If we ran this ninety nine times, we would die. But there is that one time we win, and isn't that worth the risk?" He pondered some more, before,"there are two ways we can split the Queens Army and take them from the castle. Two beings you may remember: The Chershire Cat and the Mad Hatter. We have to find them, but they would help us considerably and at least prolong the delay before death."
 
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Naturally Alice would be paranoid. The last time she was here, she couldn't stop growing and the dormouse had even found offence in that, as though Alice was intentionally growing and supposedly stealing all the air. A nostalgic smile twisted onto her lips. It had been a really long time ago but her adventure in Wonderland was something she had cherished, even if she had remained uncertain if it had merely been a dream at that time.

The Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter were two of the most interesting characters she had met in Wonderland and given how interesting everyone was, it was a true accomplishment. She had left the Hatter in a huff, for he had been most infuriating and the Cheshire Cat had been nearly the same but since Ace believed they would be very helpful, Alice was willing to give them both a second chance.

"Where can we find them?" She frowned. "I thought Cheshire could only be found if he wanted to be found."
 

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"See, now you're thinking about it," he pointed his spoon at her for a second. He finished the can then neatly crushed it and set it in a pile with other crushed cans.

"Since the war started, he's been hiding. Remember how only his grin can be seen? Once we track him down he'll work with us. He'll do anything to piss off the Queen. And the Hatter is... Well, you remember him, obviously. We send him to do hisnthing, and while the Queen is shouting 'off with their heads' like she always does any they're running around like dead chickens with the army chasing after them... We have marginally better odds."

Michael stood from his bench and knelt by an ammunition box, withdrawing a few more magazines. He wanted to be ready for thid long trip. Alice was either going to lead him to his doom, or a victory, then nothing. He really had nothing more to live for or do, so why not? He was a differant person than before the war, and he could never go back, the changes had become irreparible since then.
 
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"You can see a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat." Alice recited, recalling the very comment she had made when the Cheshire had disappeared from sight.

It sounded like a mighty fine idea. The Queen of Hearts had hated the Cheshire Cat from the beginning. She had ordered his beheading but like her executioner had said, how was he suppose to execute someone who only had a head? Cheshire had no reason to like the Queen and the Mad Hatter, far less. But that didn't mean she was willing to send two Wonderland residents to death just to buy herself and Ace time. "I suppose." She said. Alice didn't have a better plan so for now, she would go along with Ace's plan but she knew that she wanted to find an option where she could limit the casualties.

Alice watched as the Ace walked around, picking up some ammunition and then a couple more, filling his pockets and bag. It looked like she had the Ace on her side but Alice couldn't help but think that Ace was simply just the beginning of what was to come in terms of her fate.
 

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"Don't worry about them, Cheshire is nearly impossible to kill, because how do you kill a grin. The Hatter won't go down without a hell of a fight, because he is a Joker. Like you, but weaker," Michael said, packing some food before he looked at her. "So, Alice. We have our three tasks. This is the beginning, and we're going to push until we meet the end, then we stop there," he said.
 
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Alice smiled sheepishly. That was true. How did someone kill a grin? Cheshire had survived a beheading, she had full confidence he could survive a couple of raging cards. As for the Hatter, she could only trust in the Ace's word for she was still figuring out how the cards worked and where in the pecking order did most of the players stood.

She shook her head at his words though. "There is no stopping." She shifted her gun to a more comfortable position. "You keep pushing and keep running because that's how Wonderland works. It never ends."
 

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Michael stood and faced her, "then let's start pushing and running," he said, walking past her and out of the cave. On the outside, night was falling, the sky a cool purple. Once Alice joined him, he started walking, "patrols will be slowing at night. Cards do not see well in the dark," he remarked.

"The last time I saw the Cheshire Cat was in a small village on the other side of the mountains," he said. "A lot of these villages are overwhelmed with refugees from the war."
 
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"That's interesting to know." Alice said as she followed the Ace down a rocky path. "They didn't seem too bright the first time I was here but I thought that might have changed since then."

Alice didn't doubt the Ace's words. Wars, no matter where in the world or perhaps whichever reality, still worked the same way. There were casualties and even the innocents weren't spared. "Those who fled are smart." Alice remarked. "There's no point sticking around if you're not going to be of help and be more of a hindrance."

Turning to glance up at the purple-blue sky, she vaguely recalled a most tiresome caterpillar she met once. "Is Absalom still around?"
 

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"Their leadership is capable, and they follow orders. Don't need to be bright when there's so many of you," he remarked. Michael picked his way down, then dropped off a rock as a stream trickled ahead.

"The people do their best, but it isn't enough to help them," he said sadly. "Wars should be between armies and armies alone,keep innocents out of it."

"The smoking caterpillar, right?" He asked to clarify. "I haven't heard anything from him in a while. Any number of things might have happened to him."

As they followed the stream, he heard a crunch underfoot, and he paused. It was a patrol, taking their same path down the mountains. Michael crouched low and looked back at Alice, "take them out?" He asked.
 
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Alice supposed that the Ace was right. The Queen was a capable leader and she had no doubt that there were a handful of high ranked cards who were capable of obeying her orders and leading the rest, whipping them into an army that was nigh on unbeatable compared to the other suits who were much more passive, seeking peace and pleasure over the Queen of Hearts' hunger for a bigger share, if not taking the whole, of Wonderland.

"Yes. The smoking caterpillar." Alice agreed. She had never seen any other caterpillar smoking so she thought it was safe to assume Absalom would be the only one.

The gun felt unwieldy at the beginning but now Alice had grown comfortable with its weight but it was a useless melee weapon unless she learned to use it in a fight. It looked like that time had come. Glancing at the Ace, she turned to glance at the patrol party of six cards. "Better now than later." Alice agreed.
 

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He eyed her grip on her rifle, "you know how to use that thing, right?" He asked in a whisper. He checked his own rifle and watched the card patrol, only seeing backs. Neither of them could make out what they were, but it shouldn't matter, because of their combined power.


He was ready to give Alice a quick primer on how to use her rifle, but he hoped she would take it to hesrt and put it to good use.
 
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She stared at him a little incredulously. "Would I be carrying it like an over sized paperweight if I actually knew how to use it?" She hissed back. It was why she had protested against the guns when the King of Spades had offered them to her. Despite what the Rabbit and the king believed about Alice's own reality, it wasn't as though everyone actually knew how to use a gun or carried one.

Alice's fingers twitched. They might just be cards, and cards from the opposing army, but it just didn't sit right with her that they were planning to kill them, casually talking as though they were discussing dinner or the weather.
 

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"Take the closest one, work inwards," he ordered gently before raising his own weapon. He sligned the sight on the farthest and took half a breath, "on my mark." He whispered. "Three, two, one, mark," he counted down, before he squeezed the trigger. The card walking point took a bullet through its center, then a second to make sure it was dead. He then moved to enagage the second, trusting that Alice was doing her part.
 
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The only shooting that Alice had ever done was at the funfairs that she had gone to. Even then, she knew those were rigged so that the average paying customer would lose. Over here though, Alice couldn't afford to make a mistake, much less lose. She brought the gun up towards her shoulder, her breaths coming out in small puffs. Her finger rested lightly on the trigger before she squeezed it.

The card closest to them fell, or rather floated, to the ground as though its strings were cut, a hole near the center of the card. Another three more squeezes and all of her three targets were down for the counter. "That felt rather anti-climatic." She said. It felt unreal in all honesty as she continued to stare at the bright cards that littered the ground.
 

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He killed his three, then made sure Alice's were dead. "If you do it right, battle is," he replied, moving up to search the cards. He found the usual, then pictures. Pictures of Alice from her earlier time in Wonderland, as well as what she might look like now. "You're being hunted," he told her, holding out her picture.

"If we get to town we can rest there, sound good?" He asked. They needed to leave; the sound of gunfire would draw more cards to theor area.
 
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Alice had gingerly taken the pictures from him. The likeness of her adult self was uncanny, almost as though the artist had drawn her from sight and not estimation. "That's.. pretty spot on." She admitted rather surprised. She couldn't help but tuck away the pictures of her child self though.

She could only agree with the Ace. By now, or soon enough, there will be more patrols coming and they needed to get away and find somewhere for the night. "Lead on, Ace."
 

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"I'd agree, kind of frightening," he told her. Michael then kept moving, following the stream down. The path slowly got rockier and rockier as the shadows lengthed until shadow claimed the land. In the distance, the lights of the town could be seen, but it was pretty far off. Michael jumped off a small cliff and rolled to a stop, looking up at Alice. "Wish you were a mile high sometimes?" He asked.
 
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Alice couldn't help but wonder if someone had already spotted her when Rabbit was leading her to the Spades court. It was the preferable option than to think that the Red Hearts Army had been spying on her in her reality. She continued following Ace but she stopped when he easily leaped over to the other side. She stared at him with narrowed eyes.

"I prefer my feet on the ground at all times."

The last time she went on an adventure, she had floated, or maybe tumbled, down a rabbit hole for what seemed like halfway to forever. It had made her more appreciative of the ground afterwards.
 

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He shrugged, "I'll catch you. You won't bump your head and bruise your soul this time," he promised. He could understand her aversion to heights, and paranoia of food, but she would have to get over some of it to survive. He slung his weapon and braced for her to fall, and for him to catch her.
 
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Ace's words struck her. When did she become so afraid of everything? She was still Alice, the very person who had stumbled upon Wonderland and even through the Looking Glass, pushing forward to achieve her goals or plans.

She might not be as reckless or thoughtless as before but that didn't mean she couldn't be take risks or be courageous. "We're all mad here." She smiled to herself. She took a few steps before she took a running leap across.