There was a table set out in the middle of a field, and Busch and Rum were pushing large maps about. As the table was very high, Busch was standing on a stool, while Rum stumped around on the table itself.
"They should get a table that's better suited to their statures," thought Alice, but said nothing as she drew near.
Rum turned to Alice as she approached, and said "Where's my felt?"
"I don't know what we shall do with out Rum's felt," added Busch.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," said Alice.
"Ah," said Busch, jumping off the stool, "a terrorist. Well, we'll just have to interrogate *you*."
"I am not a terrorist, I'm a little girl," responded Alice.
"Oh, don't play innocent with *us*," replied Rum. "They send us innocent looking people so we wont suspect anything, but we're onto *them*."
"'They?' Who are 'they?'" asked Alice.
"Oh, we have many enemies," said Busch. "There's the land of Earache, for example. They're obviously dangerous."
"What makes them so dangerous?" asked Alice.
"Well, they've been accumulating pies," replied Busch. "Pies that they intend to throw at us. And what's worse, they are keeping them *secret*."
"Very secret indeed," added Rum.
"How do you know about them, if they're secret?" asked Alice.
"Well, if they weren't secret, they'd tell us about them, wouldn't they?" said Rum. "We've sent people to Earache to find the pies, but they can't find them. Obviously, if we can't find them, they must be hidden. And if they are hidden, it must be because it's a secret. And if they keep their secret pies hidden, then they are our enemy."
"Maybe they don't have any pies at all," said Alice. "If they had no pies, you certainly wouldn't be able to find them."
"Terrorist!" cried Busch. "You're with *them*, aren't you?"
"No, I'm *not* with them. I just want to know why you think they have any pies."
"That's just what a terrorist would say! Off with her head!" cried Rum.
"We have a plan, though," said Busch. "We know how to keep them from using their pies. We will throw tarts at them! Hah! They'll never see them coming!"
"You have tarts?" said Alice. "If having pies is bad, surely having tarts is bad too."
"Of course it's not bad for *us* to have tarts," said Busch. "We have to have tarts and pies, so that we can throw them at Earache, because they have tarts and pies to throw at us."
"And why should they have tarts and pies anyway?" asked Rum. "What are they going to *do* with them. If they aren't planning on throwing them, why would they have them?"
"Yes," said Busch. "We must have many tarts. We need many tarts so that we can tell other countries that tarts are bad."
"And we have them," said Rum. "The Queen of Hearts is working for *us*, now, and she's cranking out tarts as fast as we can supply her with flour."
"Say, that reminds me," said Busch. "Do you have any flour? We need to take some of your flour to supply the Queen. It's a sort of tax, you see, for being in our realm."
"I haven't any flour," said Alice. "In fact, all this talk of pies has made me think how hungry I am. I haven't eaten all day."
"Oh," said Busch, "if you have no flour, you're in luck. I've just reduced the tax on flour, so everyone will have more flour. Wasn't that nice of me?"
"But," said Alice, "how does that help me? It seems to me that you've let the people who already have flour keep what they have. What about the people who have no flour to begin with?"
"Terrorist!" cried Busch, jumping up and down.
"Well, I'm still confused," said Alice. "I still want to know why having tarts is all right if having pies is bad."
"Oh, we don't just have tarts," said Rum. "We have pies too. We have enough pies to completely cover Earache. And East Cornea as well."
"But we would only use them for good," said Busch. "Earache and East Cornea would use them for evil. They must be stopped."
"Stopped? Stopped from doing what?" asked Alice.
"They're collecting pies!" cried Busch. "Don't you see? They can't collect pies unless they mean to use them. And why would they use them? Because they want to do evil things! Because they are terrorists!"
"But you're collecting pies," said Alice. "Doesn't that make you evil to?"
"Terrorist!" cried Busch and Rum together.
"I am *not* a terrorist, so please stop calling me that," said Alice.
"Did you register?" asked Busch, pointing a finger at her.
"Register for what?" asked Alice.
"You're a foreigner," said Busch. "If you are not from this realm, you have to register."
"That's how we keep track of terrorists," added Rum.
"I am *not* a terrorist!" said Alice, angrily. "If I'm not a terrorist, why should I have to register?"
"If you're not a terrorist," said Rum, "why would you be afraid of registering?" He went back to his map, and muttered "terrorist" under his breath.
"You have to register, it's the law," said Busch. "It's how we keep our citizens free."
"Making people go to register makes them free?" asked Alice. "How can more rules make people free?"
"Oh, we have to make those rules to protect people from terrorists," said Busch. "We also have to watch everybody, all the time. That way, we will know if they are terrorists."
"How many terrorists have you found?" said Alice.
"Oh, we haven't found very many," said Busch. "One. Two, maybe. I can never tell. But we've arrested loads of people, so the program must be working."
"Arresting lots of people makes people free? You aren't making any sense," said Alice. "I don't think you have found any terrorists at all. I don't think there *are* any terrorists."
"Oh," said Rum, looking up, "there are terrorists, all right. They're everywhere. You can always tell them, because they look just like everyone else. That's because they're so sneaky. If they weren't trying to hide, why would they disguise themselves?"
Alice sighed. "So, your plan is to throw pies at Earache, because you're afraid they are going to throw pies at you?"
"Ah, see, now you're getting it," said Busch.
"And East Cornea as well?" Alice asked. "Are you going to throw pies at them?"
"Oh, no, we couldn't do that," said Busch. "They might throw pies at West Cornea. We can't allow that to happen."
"If you throw pies at East Cornea, they throw pies at West Cornea?", Alice asked. "That doesn't make any sense. Why would they do that? Did they say they would throw pies at West Cornea?"
"Well, not exactly, but why wouldn't they?" Busch responded. "Of course, that's exactly what they'd do. But West Cornea has lots of flour, and we need that for making pies."
"Why do you need more pies?" Alice asked. "Didn't you say you had enough to cover Earache *and* East Cornea?"
"You always need more pies," said Rum.
Copyright (c) 2003, Ross Thompson, email@example.com
Permission is hereby granted to copy this text freely, so long as the author is given credit.