A Christmas Tale

(posted Monday, December 26, 2005)

The Soviet Bear never sleeps, and Christmas Eve was no exception. He sat in his battered easy chair, eyes wide open, staring intently at the Thigh-Sizer excercise machine being advertised on the infomercial he was watching.

“Three easy payments? Wait? There's more?” The Bear's mind raced. “Where is my phone?” he thought frantically.

The Bear stood up to go find his wallet and phone. As he stood, a very curious noise came from the furnace ducts.

“Ho Ho Ho” the voice said softly, and the longer the Bear stood there, the louder it became. He dashed into the bedroom to wake Bejouled, who had commandeered the bedroom from the never-sleeping Bear.

“What is it, Old Man?” she said sleepily.

“Security breach,” replied the Bear. Bejouled sat up immediately.

“Let us dispose of the intruder,” she smirked, “and maybe I shall have a Merry Christmas after all.”

They crept stealthily into the bathroom, where the voice said very distinctly, “Ho Ho Ho, I think I'm lost. I can't deliver presents if I don't know where to go. Ho ho ho.”

Bear kicked the door in with tremendous force, and then threw down a field of razor sharp caltrops. The intruder, an obese, ruddy-faced, bearded man in a red velvet costume, grabbed at his lacerated feet and stumbled toward the door; Bejouled, aware of her opponent's impaired state, generated a potent electrical field and struck him quite mightily behind the ear. The intruder's beard turned red with blood and he lost consciousness.

Bejouled and the Bear dragged him out of the bathroom and bound his hands and feet with electrical tape. Just then, he had an idea. “Bejouled,” he said with awe in his voice, “do you know who we have just captured? An intruder who was delivering presents! That can only mean that this miscreant is none other than... the Gamester!”

“The Gamester? Here?” Bejouled was frantic. “Let us destroy this monster right now. Who knows how many vicious Snow Beasts he has already delivered to innocent children tonight?”

“No,” the Bear replied adamantly, “we must not destroy him. He must pay for his crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”

“What should we do now?”

The Bear had an idea. “Allow me to call Commissar Savior for guidance.”

He picked up the phone he had dropped earlier, forgetting completely about the Thigh-Sizer. He quickly dialed the Commissar's secret phone number.

“Commissar! This is Bear. Did I wake you?... No, in fact I do not know what time it is... Oh, 4:30 in the morning! Quincy M.E. is almost on!... Yes, I do have a reason.. Yes, it is important... Bejouled and I, we have captured the Gamester!... Indeed Commissar, it is a great victory... Elderly man, rather portly, big white beard... He may have been, but he's certainly not jolly now, hehe... Yes, like a vat of jelly... Oh...”

The Bear's voice deflated.

“I see, Commissar... No, I have not informed Communard... I assure you, our captive has no shunts, probes, or chemicals in him... Positive. Comrade Communard knows nothing about this... He's bloodied, but he'll live... We shall release him and apologize as soon as he regains consciousness... Da, Commissar... Horosho.”

The Bear put the phone on the table. “According to the Commissar, this is 'Santa Claus', a Norwegian demon who distributes presents to decent children in an annual communal time of giving.”

Bejouled grabbed a boxcutter and removed the demon's restraints. The intruder grumbled and stirred, opening his eyes slowly. “Where am I?”

“Mr. Claus,” the Bear began, “we apologize for your inconvenience.”

“What happened?” Santa blinked his eyes in the dim light, trying to focus.

“We...”

The Bear looked at Bejouled. Her arms were crossed and a scowl had replaced her smirk.

The Bear continued, “We found you in the hallway. It looks like someone gave you a terrible beating.” The Bear lowered his voice, “I think it may have been Manticore.”

“Manticore!” Santa shouted. “I should have known. He will not be getting a visit from me this year.”

Santa ran his hands through his blood-spattered hair. “I thank you kind folks for dragging me to a safe place. Paragon's not safe anymore, not when the Freedom Phalanx is assaulting strangers on Christmas Eve.”

Bejouled smiled. “Santa, would you like a GammaBar? It should give you the energy you need to finish your duties tonight.”

“Thank you, I think I shall,” Santa replied. “You wouldn't happen to have some milk to go with this, would you?”

“Nyet, but we have some vodka.”

“Excellent,” said Santa, grabbing the bottle from Bejouled. “I really must go. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Santa then vanished, leaving only a brief scent of cinnamon, sugar, and blood.

“Hmm. Phase-shifted,” said Bejouled, “maybe he is one of the Circle of Thorns?”

“Bah! Commissar said to let him go, so we let him go.”

“You had excellent placement with your caltrops, Old Man. You maimed his feet terribly.”

The old Bear laughed. “Indeed! And you, my girl, I think you gave him a concussion!”

Bejouled giggled. “Thank you.”

There was an awkward silence.

“Bear, I think I may like having you as a father.”

The Bear blushed. “Let's not be too hasty.”

They exchanged a slight nod. Bejouled went back to bed and Bear caught the last fifteen minutes of Quincy. And in the distance, sleigh bells rang as a decidedly drunk Santa stumbled through Paragon City, distributing presents to all the ideologically sound boys and girls.