February 14th, 18–
It was, quite simply, not fair.
Lewis Charles Carroll brooded over his cup of tea. Why now? he thought. Why when I had just decided that I would let Alice know how I truly felt about her? Why when I was going to tell her that it’s been ages since I considered her a child, and that I was hoping that she would consent one day to be my bride? Perhaps it would have never worked out – God knows there’s an age difference, even if my various elixirs and experiments in time distortion have made it so it doesn’t show all that much. But that Miss Victoria has taken such a liking to Christopher, that I thought maybe. . .why oh why did Master Van Dort have to ask her out?!
He glared into the dark brown liquid. How could Victor do this to him?! Hadn’t he been a wonderful friend? Hadn’t he let him traipse all over his beautiful park, meet all his Fabricated creatures? Hadn’t he given him tea and squimberry tarts and all sorts of other good things? And this was how Victor chose to repay him – by stealing the woman he loved out from under his very nose? Perhaps he should do something to the boy, punish him – a little too much Pishalver in his milk, and he’d shrink away to nothing. Or “accidentally” send him into the path of a Jabberspawn or Bandersnatch. Or use him as a new experiment, see what he could make out of the parts –
And lose one of the dearest friends he had. Not to mention making Alice so angry at him that she’d probably never speak to him again. If she didn’t come after him with the Vorpal Blade for killing the man she loved. (Or worse, descend back into that horrible all-too-normal insanity and have to be locked up again. . . .)
Lewis sighed as the brief burst of hatred died. He knew this was all his own fault – bad timing. If he’d said something before. . .but no, Alice probably wouldn’t have wanted him anyway. He was an old friend of hers from her childhood – either her parents’ memory would have haunted them always, or she would have seen him as simply too old, despite the lack of age in his face. And besides, he’d seen the way she looked at Victor. Those green eyes hadn’t lit up quite like that since – since before Henry and Lorina had died, God rest their souls. Victor made Alice happy. And Alice made Victor happy, judging by the way he smiled more brightly whenever she was around. They were in love, there was no doubt about it. And if one listened to Cheshire, they’d been in love since long before they realized it themselves. Lewis couldn’t stand to break such a pair up. He wanted them to be happy. He loved Alice, and he liked Victor. The boy was such a wonderful person, always so kind and polite – and so enthusiastic about Inventions! Lewis had sometimes wondered if he could rent the young man from Dr. Brown for a day or two – the things they could do together –! No, they deserved to be happy.
But why does it have to come at my expense? he thought, letting just a little bitterness creep back into his mental voice. I wish them all the best, but – still, I wish she’d looked at me like that. Just once. He sipped at his tea. It’s just a shame there’s only one of her, but two of –
It was like a bolt from the blue. Lewis froze as the idea tumbled into his mind, raw and naked and unfinished but filled with potential. Another Alice. Make another Alice. He could do that – he made organic creatures all the time. Making a human would necessarily entail more work, but he was almost certain he could pull it off. All you really needed to clone a person was a bit of their essential essence, and she’d donated a few locks of her hair for previous experiments. . . .
He slammed the teacup down, heedless of the liquid sloshing all over his hand and the table. Yes, yes! He could certainly make another Alice! One exactly like the original! Well, maybe not exactly, that would probably unnerve the original Alice a little too much – but close enough! He’d accelerate her growth so he wouldn’t have to raise her and thus be stuck in the role of “father” – it was okay to romance one’s creator, but never one’s father. He’d be careful and considerate and polite as she adjusted to the world, presenting himself as the perfect suitor. And if all went well, she’d fall in love with him and everyone would be happy. Perhaps he and Alice 2 and Victor and Alice 1 could go on double dates, even! (And if she didn’t fall in love with him, at least he’d have his answer as to whether Alice could. Though he hoped it wouldn’t result in her asking him for a Victor 2. That would probably make things just a little too awkward.)
He grinned at nothing, then leapt up and ran to the laboratory, leaving his mess of a tea behind. There was no time for hot drinks now. He had to get his thoughts down on paper, get the formulae and equations just right. And then – he had work to do.
February 19th, 18–
It was amazing how much brighter the world was when one was in love.
Victor walked the streets of Secundus with a smile, humming softly to himself. He couldn’t recall a time when he’d felt happier. Doc and Marty were doing well in their shop – Doc had even recently had an idea for a lightning generator that could provide the necessary 1.21 gigawatts of electricity for the time machine. Emily and Richard were continuing to be adorably ridiculous in the hat shop. Victoria was preparing to introduce Sir Christopher to her parents, feeling it was time she stopped sneaking around. After all, they could hardly disapprove of a knight as a potential husband. (And there was the small matter of his parents knowing about her friendship with him – even if her parents avoided them like the plague, Victoria had said she’d prefer to out herself rather than be outed.) And Alice – dear, wonderful, Alice – was his girlfriend. He, Victor Van Dort, had an actual girlfriend. For once in his life, everything was going right.
“Oof!” Well, except for accidentally walking into people because you were daydreaming about your wonderful girlfriend. “Do forgive me,” he said, stepping backward. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
“That is obvious,” the man he’d bumped into said, dusting his pant leg. “However, perhaps you can make it up to me by providing me with some information.”
“If I can,” Victor agreed readily. He studied the newcomer for a moment – he was a tallish man, with a broad, bulging chest and the biggest chin Victor had ever seen (it dwarfed even Pastor Galswells’s). His hair, curled into two “horns” behind him, was white, but other than that he didn’t seem particularly old. He seemed to have a bit of a permanent sneer to his face, making Victor feel uneasy. “What is it you’d like to know?”
The man gazed at him from small, beady eyes. “I’ve heard the Everglots are staying in this city. I wouldn’t suppose you’d know the family, except by reputation, but perhaps you could tell me exactly where they’ve made their lodgings?”
Victor decided he didn’t like this man. He sounded like a snob. “Do you mind if I ask why you want to know?” he replied coolly, wondering if he dared inform the man that he happened to know the Everglots quite well. He got the feeling the fellow would make some amusing faces in his surprise. (At that thought, Victor decided he’d been spending far too much time around Richard, March, and Dormy.)
“I was hoping to make their acquaintance, for our mutual benefit,” the man replied smoothly. “I’m Lord Bittern.” He presented a simple card for Victor’s perusal. “Why they’re in this God-forsaken city is beyond me, but. . . .” He shrugged.
Victor took the card and stuck it in his pocket unread. “I see,” he said. “I believe they’re staying in the Cogwheel Hotel, on Bumby Road. You really can’t miss it, the entire top of the hotel is shaped like the name.”
“Ah. Thank you for your time.” Lord Bittern promptly strolled away, looking smug about something. Victor rolled his eyes. He didn’t know what the man’s business with the Everglots was, but doubtless the elder lord and lady would like him. He seemed just their type. I just hope Victoria doesn’t have to spend too much time in his company. I know I wouldn’t like to.
He put Lord Bittern out of his mind and continued on his way to Mad Hatter Haberdashery. As per usual, he found Emily and Richard by the front counter as he entered the shop, chatting. Richard had a navy blue hat, which he was holding above Emily’s head. “I’m not certain,” he said, looking between it and Emily. “I think it may be just a bit too close to your hair.”
“I think it looks lovely,” Emily said, glancing up admiringly before noticing Victor. “Oh, hello Victor! What do you think of the hat Richard’s made me?”
“Do you think it goes with the rest of her?” Richard added. “I wanted to keep to the theme of blue, but I worry I might have gone a little too far.”
Victor studied the hat for a moment. “I think it looks nice,” he said eventually. “Though you could go a shade lighter or darker if you’re worried about it being too close to her hair color.”
“Perhaps I will,” Richard said. Grinning at Emily, he added, “It’s not like I would worry about making you too many hats.”
Emily giggled. “You’re going to spoil me,” she said.
“You’re already rotting, I don’t see how I could do any more damage,” Richard pointed out with a smirk.
“Rotted – Dr. Finklestein has made very sure the rest of my flesh will remain on my bones.”
“Ah, good! Now we don’t have to worry about bits of you falling into your teacup.”
“I wouldn’t go that far, I do have this one eye that regularly pops out. . . .”
Victor suddenly felt a pair of arms slide around him from behind. “Hello there.”
“Hello,” Victor said, turning to see Alice smiling up at him. “How are you doing?”
“Just fine,” Alice said, stretching up on tiptoe to kiss him. Victor met her halfway. “How are you?”
“Oh, lovely. It’s been a fantastic day. Doc thinks we may be able to test out the time travel capabilities of the train soon!”
“Really?” Richard said, eyes lighting up. “Frabjuous! I look forward to the first test run!”
“So do I,” Alice agreed. “Do you think you’ll have the honor of World’s First Time Traveler?”
“I think I’ll have to be content with Third,” Victor replied with a smile. “Doc and Marty will be First and Second, of course. They’ve been working on it longer – they deserve it.”
“Third’s not bad,” Richard said. “You’re still far in front of the World’s Four Hundredth and Sixty-Second Time Traveler.”
“That’s a good way to look at it,” Victor laughed. “Really, though, I’m just happy to be part of the experiment at all.” He looked down at Alice again. “I’m just happy to be here at all.”
“I’m happy you’re here too,” Alice agreed, pressing her head against his chest.
“Now who’s being ridiculous?” Richard said, smirking.
“So being ridiculous is fun,” Alice said, not moving from her spot. Victor took advantage of the opportunity to comb his fingers through her hair. “Must you be so smug about it?”
“Yes. Yes I must.”
Whatever response Alice might have made was cut off by the door opening and the sound of sniffling. Victor looked up to see Sir Christopher leading a crying Victoria inside. “There there, now, perhaps we can try again later,” Sir Christopher said soothingly.
Victoria shook her head, hands pressed against her face. “Oh, Christopher, they won’t change their minds! I’m fortunate they didn’t decide to lock me in our suite at the hotel! I can’t be certain they won’t when I go back!”
“Victoria!” Victor and the others rushed to her side. “Goodness, what happened?”
Victoria looked up, her eyes red. “M-Mother and Father don’t approve of Sir Christopher,” she said, voice cracking. “It doesn’t matter to them that he’s a knight with a good income – only that he’s a Touched. They said I should b-be ashamed to be seen with him! And that he – he wasn’t good enough for us!”
“Her Majesty’s White Knight? Not good enough for you?” Alice repeated, looking stunned. “Bloody hell, Victoria, who is?”
“I don’t know! Christopher was ever so polite and kind, but. . . .” She wiped ineffectually at her eyes. Sir Christopher offered her his handkerchief. “Thank you. Mother and Father said I wasn’t to associate with him a-anymore. That he ought to stay away from me.”
“Well, her father’s precise words were, ‘And if I ever see you within ten feet of my daughter, sir, you’ll be facing my musket!’” Sir Christopher relayed with a sigh. “Lady Everglot sat and glowered.”
“Why aren’t you facing his musket now?” Richard asked. “If they were so adamant about you not being around her, how is it you two can come and visit us?”
“Oh, I was so upset I ran out of the room,” Victoria admitted. “I heard Mother calling me back, but I couldn’t go and face them, not after that.” She wiped her eyes with the hanky, finally getting herself under control. “I’m going to be in a lot of trouble when I go back.”
“Would they really lock you in the hotel suite?” Victor asked, fiddling with his tie.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Victoria said with a sigh. “I’ve been locked in my room at home for bad behavior before. Associating with a Touched – and asking them to like him – must qualify.” She looked around. “I don’t even know what they might do to me should they find out I come here, and have all of you as friends.”
“I’m so sorry for you,” Emily said, lightly touching her arm. “We were all so hopeful.”
“I know.” Victoria sighed again, more deeply. “I’m worried this will be the incident that convinces them to leave. Father’s been grumbling about having to stay in the city this long already. He might decide your father paying our hotel bill is no longer worth it, Victor. And I just know that if I go back to Burtonsville, there’s no chance of me ever seeing any of you again. And. . . .” She twisted the handkerchief in her hands for a moment. “It was so lonely growing up there. . . .”
“I know,” Victor said gently. “Goodness, Victoria, how I know.”
Victoria nodded, then laughed mirthlessly. “To think that I once wondered how anyone could want to stay in this city. Now my greatest fear is leaving it.”
“It’s not a given they’ll leave,” Alice tried to reassure her. “They’ve been content until now to stay here at the Van Dorts’ behest.”
“Yes, but that was before they knew their daughter had fallen for a mad scientist,” Victoria said, looking miserable. “They may think this place is ‘doing’ something to me.” Another humorless laugh. “Perhaps they’ll claim that whatever mind control Doc has put Victor under has been passed on to me.”
“Oh nonsense,” Sir Christopher said, squeezing her shoulders. “I’m sure they know I can come up with my own mind control methods.”
“I don’t know,” Alice said, studying him. “You look so much like Doc they may just think you’re him in disguise. Or he’s you in disguise.”
“That would only work if he’d finally gotten his time machine to function.”
“I wish he had,” Victoria sniffled. “Then I could ask him to let me go back and stop myself from doing this.”
“I don’t think he’d let you anyhow,” Victor said. “He’s rather fanatical that his time machine not ‘break history,’ as Marty puts it.”
“Would he have been willing to spirit us away to another time period for a bit so we could work out a better plan?” Sir Christopher asked.
“I don’t think that would have been a problem, no.” Victor put his hand on Victoria’s shoulder. “Whatever happens, I promise you that I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
“That goes for the rest of us as well,” Alice added as the others nodded. “We’ll figure out a way to set things right, don’t you worry.”
Victoria smiled her first real smile since she’d come. “Thank you. I’m so lucky to have all of you as friends.” Then her brief happiness faded. “But I’m not sure what you can do. I don’t know how anyone could convince my parents Christopher is a good match for marriage.”
“Does your mother like hats?” Richard asked. “A good bribe might just be the thing.”
Victoria shook her head. “She never wears hats. Her hair’s long enough that, when she piles it on her head, it practically rivals your hat.”
“It does, I’ve seen it,” Victor nodded. “I’ve never understood how she gets it to stay up like that.”
“I’ve lived in the same house with her all my life, and neither do I,” Victoria admitted. “Then again, I’ve never come across her in the act of fixing it up, so. . . .”
“Glue?” Richard suggested.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
March appeared at the edge of the crowd, holding a large tea tray with cups for everyone and a plate piled with squimberry tarts. “I heard all the commotion and saw Miss Victoria was in distress,” he said. “It seems a good time for tea, even if it’s too early for a proper tea party.”
“Oh, thank you, March, I could use a cup,” Victoria said gratefully. “And one of those delicious tarts as well.”
“You should take one of those back to your parents,” Emily suggested as March poured everyone tea. “If they’re not impressed by squimberries, they can’t be impressed by anything.”
“I’ve met the Everglots – they might just be immune to the charms of March’s cooking,” Victor said.
“I’m not sure – if I didn’t tell Father the identity of the cook, he might enjoy the tarts,” Victoria says. “He does take a great deal of pride in his food. Our cook was the last servant to go. Mother, though. . . .” She accepted her teacup and took a sip. “I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m going to do.”
“Do you think your parents will pack up and leave right away once you get back?” Alice inquired, nibbling on a tart.
“No, they couldn’t do that. They’d need at least a day or two to study the train tables and find the necessary fares. Probably longer, since we really are terribly broke.”
“Good, then we have some time to plan in. Hopefully we can come up with something.” Then, with a sneaky smile, Alice added, “And if not, Victor knows where you live, and I have some talent in sneaking around. . . .”
Victoria couldn’t help a giggle. “Much as I appreciate the thought, I do believe kidnapping me back will simply lead to more problems in the long run. Do we really want my parents doing what Victor’s are?”
Victor winced. “Oh, don’t remind me. Mother’s run out of people she can drag to the shop to ‘reverse the conditioning,’ so now she’s attempting rather massive amounts of guilt. How I’m dishonoring the family name, how I’ve ruined our chances to ever be seen in respectable society, how the Van Dort line will now live in infamy. . . .”
“You’re not letting it get to you, are you?” Alice asked suspiciously.
“I won’t deny it does a little – even after all this, I do want to make her happy,” Victor confessed. “But mostly it’s just getting on my nerves. I can’t think of any way to explain to her that no, my brains have not been altered, and yes, I am truly happy here. And I don’t want to repeat what she’s said about you.” He took a big bite out of a squimberry tart, letting the flavor soothe his frustrations. “I must admit, in a darker moment I wondered if finding someone to put her under mind control might do the trick.”
“I don’t think she’d sit still or be quiet long enough for any to be administered,” Richard said bluntly, sipping his tea. “You’d be better off with a good pair of earplugs. Or perhaps a device to give her laryngitis.”
“I think I can get my hands on the earplugs easier.” Victor shook his head. “You know, Richard, you and Emily should consider yourselves very lucky. Neither of you have anyone on your back for choosing to live here, or for falling in love with someone ‘inappropriate.’”
“Oh, I’m sure we could find people,” Richard said playfully. “There’s still plenty of folks around who don’t care for Reanimateds falling in love.”
“I know,” Emily said, sighing as if recalling old pains. “But I’d prefer not to seek them out, if you don’t mind.”
“But think of what fun it would be! They’re start railing on about how Reanimateds shouldn’t be with humans – and I’d roll up my sleeves and ask, ‘what do you mean, human?’”
Alice laughed. “I’d pay good money to see someone attempt to tell you your relationship is wrong. They’d get so confused by the fact Emily’s Reanimated and you’re part-Automaton that I don’t think they’d know where to begin.”
“Even so, I don’t want to tempt fate,” Emily said, putting a loving arm around Richard. “Not after all this time waiting.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s right,” Richard allowed.
There was a sudden knock at the door. “Miss Victoria?” a familiar voice called.
Victoria winced, and then immediately looked guilty. “Oh, Hildegarde,” she said as her maid came inside. “I know why you’re here, and I know I should go back, but forgive me if I’m – less than enthusiastic.”
“I know, dearie, I know,” Hildegarde said gently, patting her charge’s free hand. “I don’t blame you in the least. I’ve always thought Sir Lloyd was a perfect gentleman myself. I wish the lord and lady felt the same.”
“Thank you, dear lady,” Sir Christopher said with a bow. “So do I. But they don’t, and I’m not entirely sure there’s anything we can do about it.”
“There’s always something,” Alice said stubbornly. “None of us are the type to give up on a problem, especially not one as important as this. Victor, you should tell Doc and Marty about this too, they might have some ideas.”
“Of course I will,” Victor nodded. “And with all of us working together, we should be able to come up with something.”
Victoria smiled, her eyes watery again. “I don’t know what I did to deserve such a group of friends,” she whispered, looking like she wanted to hug all of them at once.
“Be a generally decent person who didn’t declare everyone who lived here to either be completely beyond redemption or a monster?” Richard suggested. “That’s how Victor did it, more or less.”
“Though how you and he got that way when both of your respective sets of parents are so judgmental is beyond me,” Sir Christopher added. “Then again, my forays into biology have never included child development, so. . . .”
“I think we can attribute my rather different personality to the fact that my parents didn’t have much of a hand in raising me,” Victor said. “Was it the same with you, Victoria?”
Victoria nodded. “Hildegarde here took care of most of the duties. When I was four, I was half-convinced she was my mother, and Mother a governess. Mother had a fit when she found out.”
“I never made that mistake, though I can imagine how badly my mother would have reacted if I had,” Victor nodded with a wince. “But she left me to governesses as well most of the time.”
“You know, normally I’d be inclined to ask why you used a plural there,” Alice said, in her most deadpan voice. “Having met your mother, however, I think I can guess why you had multiple governesses.”
“It’s a wonder you turned out as well as you did, isn’t it?” Richard said, peering at the top of Victor’s head. “One would think your brain would be all twisted up on itself.”
“My childhood really wasn’t that bad,” Victor protested.
“Neither was mine,” Victoria added. “Hildegarde took very good care of me. And while I admit I lacked for playmates, I always found ways to fill the hours. I can’t say I was miserable.” She looked around the shop with a sigh. “Of course, I also can’t say that I’m not happier here than I ever was back home. Hildegarde, what am I going to do?”
“We’ll talk to your parents,” Hildegarde said, patting her arm. “Perhaps we can’t make them like Sir Lloyd, but surely we can calm them down a bit. Prevent your father from coming after the poor man with his musket.”
“I would appreciate that, yes,” Sir Christopher nodded. “We’ll figure out something, Victoria. I may not be as rich as the Van Dorts, but I do have a healthy income from the Queen herself. That must count for something in their eyes.”
“One would hope, anyway,” Victoria said quietly. She finished her tea. “I should go back now. I’m dreading it, but the longer I stay away, the worse it’ll be.”
“You have our support,” Emily said, putting an arm around her. “No matter what happens.”
“We’ll fix this somehow,” Alice nodded. “You can be sure of that.”
Victoria smiled again. “Thank you. Thank you all. I really do hope this will all work out for the best.”
“Us too,” Victor nodded. “Hopefully we’ll see you again soon – and all the best of luck with your parents.”
“Thank you – I think I’ll need it.” Victoria said the rest of her goodbyes, then departed with Hildegarde, wringing her hands nervously.
“I wouldn’t want to be in that room when she gets back,” March commented, nibbling on a tart. “Her parents are going to be very loud and obnoxious about all of this, aren’t they?”
“Probably,” Sir Christopher sighed, sounding tired. “They certainly were while I was there. It’s most peculiar too – she doesn’t look a thing like either of them. Usually children look like at least one parent.”
“Perhaps she’s adopted,” Richard said. “That would explain all the personality differences too, wouldn’t it? Beyond being raised by the maid-of-all-work?”
“I wouldn’t rule it out as a working hypothesis,” Sir Christopher nodded.
“Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me either,” Victor said. “And I don’t envy her her situation either.”
“Why should you? You’re in one much like it,” March pointed out, gesturing with a tart. “It’s ridiculous to envy people for things one has. Not that it stops people.”
Victor half-smiled. “That’s true enough, on both counts.” He groaned softly and rubbed his forehead for a moment. Poor Victoria. Perhaps that fellow I sent to see the Everglots will be there when she arrives. They wouldn’t dare yell at her in front of company, I’m sure. “Emily, Richard, you really should be glad no one objects to your romance.”
“Oh, we are,” Richard said seriously. “I never knew having parents could be this much trouble. My parents were kind and gentle people.”
“So was my father,” Emily said, looking just a little sad. “I wish I could see him again, let him know how sorry I am things turned out this way. . . .”
“Well, maybe we can find him!” Richard said, grinning enthusiastically. “I’m sure he’d be thrilled to see his little girl again! Or, rather, his big girl, as you’re very much not little. Unless you’d like to take some Drink Me before we meet him. Though I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Emily looked a bit more dubious. “I – you really think he’d be happy to see me like this?” she said, motioning to the skeletal parts of her anatomy.
“It’s better than you cold and stiff in your coffin, not moving at all, isn’t it?”
Emily grimaced a bit and nodded. “I would think he would have to agree with you there. I just hope. . .no, I’ll stop there. That seems the nicest place to end.”
“I agree,” Alice says. “Hope is always a nice place to end. So why don’t we hope you find your father and have a happy reunion, and hope that Victoria doesn’t get into too much trouble with her parents, and hope we can find a way to convince the Everglots of the rightness of her choice before they decide to leave?”
“For my part, I’d be happy enough to hope that nothing else is going wrong with any of our other friends,” Victor commented, rubbing the back of his head. “We’ve got problems enough at the moment.”
All right, where on earth had he gone wrong?
Lewis stared at the body currently resting in the vitalization chamber, barely cognizant of the steam hissing or the clockwork ticking around him. It was – mostly Alice. The same face, to be sure. Almost the same hair – he’d made hers redder, to help differentiate them. But it flowed around her head the same way. The same neck. The same basic body shape – from the legs up. But from the legs down. . . . “A mutation?” he mused aloud. “Did I introduce something foreign? But I was so careful. . . .”
Tentacles. The lower half of his new Alice’s body was a mass of writhing pink tentacles. Like an octopus’s, only without the suckers. It was absolutely baffling. How had she ended up with them? He was certain his efforts at cloning had all been human-based (but he kept all his samples on the same shelf, and in his excitement, perhaps he had grabbed the wrong jar once – that’s all it would take). . . .
He looked back up at New Alice’s face. The soft pink lips, the red hair feathered about her shoulders, the dark eyelashes against her cheeks. Just like he’d imagined her. But those tentacles–!
Well, what about them? he thought, frowning. That’s just how she turned out. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve any more of a chance to live. She may not be as close to Alice as I wanted, but maybe it’s better that she’s more her own person. Creature. Whichever. This might be just what I need to get over my crush on what is very clearly Victor’s young lady. He leaned over the glass, pressing a hand to it over her face. “No matter what, I will always be there for you,” he promised her softly. “And if we fall madly in love and have little squid babies, so much the better.” He flicked the awakening switch.
There was a soft crackle of electricity, a brief smell of chlorine, and then the glass lid unlatched. Lewis opened it and waited as the girl opened her eyes. Funny – they were just as red as her hair. Lewis decided he liked them anyway. “Hello.”
“Hello,” the girl replied. Her voice was different too, somehow more mature than Alice’s. (Wasn’t that a contradiction?) She tilted her head, studying him. “Who are you?”
Lewis bowed, smiling. “Lewis Carroll at your service, my lady.”