Alice fumbled in the strange bus trying to find the correct knob or lever that would take her up. She glanced into the corridor. Dodo was coming. She didn't have much time. She started to grapple with the wheel. Still nothing.
"Alice!" she turned to see Hatter fighting with Dodo. "It's the blue button!" She found it in no time and her hand hovered over it as she watched the two men pummel each other. Hatter had a powerful right hook but his injury gave Dodo the upper hand. "Push it!" Hatter yelled. As he was knocked onto the floor Alice made her decision.
She ran over to the pair, pushed Dodo away from her friend and delivered a series of kicks that left the man breathless. Hatter grabbed his hat and Alice helped him up.
"How did you do that?" he gasped.
She ignored his question and pulled him towards the bus. Once they were both onboard Alice slammed down the blue button and Hatter collapsed onto the floor. She knelt down and unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a rather worn bullet proof vest.
"You're not even hurt!" she exclaimed, partly in wonder, but mostly in anger.
She ran her fingers over the vest and Hatter let out a yell.
"Yes – I – am!"
Alice's hand recoiled instantly. The bullet had broken through the thinner black material around Hatter's shoulder. There were several other dents in the vest around it.
"Make a habit of getting shot do you?" she asked.
"They always go for the shoulder. I've been meaning to get a new one of these." Her hand crept cautiously back towards the bullet. "Just don't touch it!"
"Okay! It's your own fault that you were shot in the first place, why didn't you tell me what you were going to do?" Alice shouted angrily.
"Because then you would have never come."
"Too right I wouldn't have! He nearly killed me!"
"Well he actually shot me!" Hatter exclaimed.
The bus juddered to a halt.
"We're here." Alice announced and stood up. She stormed over to the door. "You coming or not?"
Hatter slowly sat up, wincing.
"I'm sorry, I was impetuous." he apologised.
"Selfish, Hatter you were selfish!"
He gingerly got to his feet and stumbled towards Alice, one hand clutching his shoulder.
"Whatever you want to call it. Alice, this place is dangerous."
"No kidding." she said eyeing the bleeding gun shot.
"You're going to need all the help you can get."
She couldn't argue with that. Hatter seemed to take her silence as an agreement and led the way.
Alice noted in concern that staying on his feet seemed to be a bit of a challenge. He evidently noticed this too.
"Let's stop here for a minute." he suggested.
Hatter reached into his pocket and drew out a rather garish handkerchief to match his hat. He took off his jacket.
"What are you doing?"
"Patching meself up." Hatter replied, tying the fabric around his shoulder.
"When did you decided you needed body armour?" Alice asked.
"You can't be too careful. I had a friend in the resistance once, he got shot. He died."
"I'm sorry." Hatter said nothing as he secured the knot. Then he continued to lead the way. Alice found herself thinking once again about the resistance that hid underneath Wonderland. "Hatter?"
"What?" he said, impatiently turning round.
"What is the stone of Wonderland?" she replied, alarmed to note how pale his face was.
"You mean that rock you've got on your finger? It's a big deal. It controls the Looking Glass. By now the Queen of Hearts will have all of her suits out searching for it so you have to keep moving if you want to leave here alive."
He continued to stride down the dull grey path that lined most of the Wonderland buildings. Alice followed.
"I'm not leaving without Jack."
"Forget him Alice; going to the casino would be suicide."
"Look it's my fault he's here, he was trying to sweep me off my feet – I'm not going without him."
Hatter stared at the stubborn brunette partly in admiration but mostly in irritation.
"How did Jack get the ring?" he wondered.
Alice remembered what Jack had told her but now knew that it had to be a lie. The ring couldn't possibly have been in his family for as long as he claimed.
"I don't know."
Suddenly Hatter came to a standstill. Alice bumped into him and he hissed in pain, one hand instantly jumping to his shoulder.
"Sorry. What is it?"
"Stick around rats for long enough and you become one."
Alice peered round Hatter and quickly saw what he meant. The ragged man who'd first found her was now ratting her out to a group of suits. However there was also a strange man who had a rather disturbing rabbit head instead of a regular one. He wore a grey suit but it was different from the ones the people around him were dressed in. It was not a uniform and to Alice it virtually stunk of Al Capone.
"Who's that?" she asked.
"No – it can't be – " said Hatter. The white head twitched, almost as if its gigantic ears had heard them. Then the man/rabbit turned and started to head towards the pair. "Run!"
Alice didn't need telling twice.
They raced in the opposite direction and Alice noted in concern that Hatter was still clutching his shoulder.
"What is that thing?" she panted.
"Bad news for us. Come on!"
Despite his shoulder Hatter was still faster than Alice and was the first into his smuggling boat. He tugged at the engine cord with little effect and jumped to the wheel instead. Alice sat next to him and anxiously watched the suits get closer. Fortunately the boat's engine finally started up and they sped away from the shore. Hatter let out a sigh of relief.
"Who is Mad March?" Alice asked.
"Don't you ever stop with the questions?" he groaned. Alice gave him a look. "March is the Queen's favourite assassin. I think it's safe to say I know him a little better than I should."
Alice stared at Hatter curiously. There was far more to the brightly dressed man than met the eye.
"Did you anger the Queen?"
"No, I work both sides of the court remember? March was suspicious of me. Chances are he definitely is now."
Alice could think of nothing to say to that. For a while they travelled in silence but eventually she broke it.
"Hatter we're slowing down."
He nodded wearily.
"How much do you know about speed boats?" Alice stared at him blankly. "In that case we'll head for the forest."
"Because I don't particularly fancy passing out and crashing the boat!" Hatter snapped.