Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and My Gift to You!

First of all, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas. Thanks for supporting and commenting on my blog, it encourages me to keep writing and inspires me to continue publishing my novels. Christmas time is a time to spend with family, not on the computer. Tomorrow, I hope to distance myself from technology completely. Christmas is my favorite time of the year for many reasons. Yes, presents are nice, but what makes Christmas so special is the time you get to spend with your family. I do have a surprise for my blog readers though! Check out this rough draft of a Christmas Elf-Spy book I am co-writing with DM Kenyon.

You can find his website here: http://www.blog.lotusblossombook.com/2011/10/hello-world/


Chapter One:  The First Elven Dragoons


Nicholas looked out the window at the great expanse of darkness that was streaked with waves of green light squirming across the artic sky. It was dark here all day in the winter, but the Aurora Borealis, the “Northern Lights” as they called them further south, always filled his heart with joy. As he looked out the window he noticed that the usual frost on the window had melted. For the past fifty years, Nicholas had noticed that it just wasn’t as cold as it used to be in the winter at the North Pole. The human scientists predicted that there would be open water there soon as the planet continued to heat up. Humans could be so short-sighted. They want everything now. Their factories churned out mountains of items that were sold in stores only to be thrown into a landfill in a year or two later.
Nicholas wondered why they even bothered. They should just back their oil burning trucks up to the backs of the store and haul all that junk to the dump straight away and save themselves the trouble.  No one seemed to care about the hand-made quality of the toys that he and his elves made. Children did not seem to like toys that were not electronic. For years, he had delivered musical instruments to children who learned to play real music. Now almost none of them could make music at all. Oh well, if there was one thing that he had learned in his two thousand years, it was that things change.
There was a knock at the door. Miles poked his head into the office to make sure he was not interrupting anything.
“May I come in?” he asked with his usual politeness.
“Certainly, Miles.”
“I have the new Christmas lists that arrived today. Most of them are printed off of email.” Miles stepped into the office with a stack of paper two feet high.
“You can put the rest of them on the chair, Miles, I will be working late tonight as always,” said Nicholas still watching the lights dance across the sky.
“No need, sir, this is all of them right here,” said Mile as he turned to head for the door.
“What?” roared Nicholas. Miles turned around casually and looked his boss in the eye.
“That’s all of them. There are no more.   Kaput, finito, stick-a-fork-in-them-they’re-done.   That’s all folks…”
“I got the message. What is going on with this? It is December 10th. You should not be able to move in this office because of the millions of Christmas lists. Did Ray mess up the computer again?”
“No,” said Miles patiently.  “We are falling out of fashion.  I told you that we should have put up a Facebook page, but did you listen?  Noooo.  I told you that we should be tweeting children, but oh no,
we have to do it old school.  At least we have email, if you can call it that.  And at least we got rid of the
teletype machine – last year.”
“Miles, I swear I don’t know what you are talking about.  For centuries, children have needed only to write a letter and leave it almost anywhere and we would teleport them here.  We have never needed any of this human technology.  Our magical processes are far superior, even now.   I will put our snow globe projectors up against their big screen televisions any day.  We have real 3D, for crying out loud.  Humans have to put on funny glasses to trick themselves in to seeing three dimensions on their televisions.  Our snow globes use real 3D without tricks.  Of course, that is because we use space warp technology.  The people we watch on snow globe are really in the globe and, of course, they don’t know that.  I suppose that is sort of like playing a trick on them, but at least it is done without those stupid looking glasses.  Let’s see humans do that, by thunder!”
Miles turned around and headed for the door a second time.  “I’m just sayin’” was all he said as he passed through the door and out into the main office.
Nicholas stroked his long white beard.  Something else was happening.  He just knew it.   Children may no longer believe in him, but they would never admit it.  Human children, especially most of the children these days, were not going to give up a good thing over a small matter of faith.  They would at least fake it and go through the motions.  Something had to be wrong.  There was only one thing to do.
“Miles!” he shouted out the door.  Miles poked his head through the doorway, “yes, Mr. Claus.” Miles was starting to get on his nerves.  He only pulled the “yes, Mr. Claus” routine when he was trying to be a smart aleck.
“Get Buckshot up here, would you?”
“Yes, Mr. Claus” replied Miles in mock compliance.
“And Miles …”
“Yes, Mr. Claus …”
“You call me ‘Mr. Claus’ one more time and I am going to have you shoveling reindeer poop out of the stables for a month.”
“As you wish, Nicky,” scoffed Miles as we ducked back out of the door before Nicholas could say another word.
Nicholas scowled.  “Note to self: never hire your wife’s family, ever, ever, ever…” he said under his breath as he took a pile of printed emails off the top of the stack and started to read.  “Air Guitar Deluxe … aw come on!”  This job was starting to be a pain in the patootie.
Nicholas had only read Christmas lists for a few minutes, quickly making notes in his book as to who was naughty, not so bad and his favorite -- the nice children.  He had made his way through about twelve hundred lists in those few minutes when there was a knock at the door.  It was Buckshot.  Buckshot was not your ordinary pudgy elf.  He was buff.  He lifted weights and ran one hundred and twenty miles a day with his squad.  He wore a purple uniform that actually could change colors to fit his surroundings if he told it to do so.  Purple was the color of the First Elven Dragoons of which Buckshot was the commander.  Because he was reporting to his commanding-in-chief, he had told his uniform to present formal colors and that meant purple.
Unlike the other elves, most of whom had plump faces, Buckshot’s face was gaunt.  He had a square jaw and rugged features unusual for his people.  Over his left eye was a semi-circular scar.  In fact, he got his nickname on the day he got that scar.   He was on a surveillance mission in the stables to capture some rogue pixies that were stealing toys and burning them in their campfires.  He had taken a position in a stall with a young, rather rambunctious buck reindeer, named Rudy.  As the pixies made their way through the stables with a load of stolen toys, Buckshot pulled own his night vision goggles (NVGs) to get a better look.  They were almost in range of his Double-Bubble Bubble gun, know to the Dragoons as a DBBG side arm, which as everyone knows, has a range of about twenty feet if you want maximum stickiness.  DBBGs were special issue to officers and operators on special assignment.  Buckshot always carried one on missions.  Anyway, just as he was about to squeeze off the shot that would trap the pesky pixies in a wad of already been chewed gum, Rudy snorted.  The pixies shot a starburst in to room to see who was there. Buckshot’s NVGs flared out blinding him. Rudy panicked and kicked Buckshot, who in those days was called “Larry”, smack in the face and shot him through the stable wall.
After he had made his report, Nicholas said, “so as I understand you, Larry, the buck shot you through the stable planking which, in turn, caused the pixies to flee without the loot. Is that correct?” The rest was history.  Larry would be forever known as Buckshot and would forever have a souvenir of that night embedded in his face.  He never did come to like that particular reindeer even though he had once used its shiny nose as signal beacon for a weapons drop during The Great Witch Rebellion outside of Dublin, Ireland in 1711.
That was three hundred years and eleven hundred and twenty seven missions ago.  It was December now, which meant the Buckshot and his squad were on full alert.  If he had been asked to come and see the big man during this month, something serious was going down.
“Buckshot, I need you and your team to head south and do a little reconnaissance on the human population.  We have only received about a one thousandth of the Christmas lists that we were expecting.  Something is wrong.  We need to find out what.”
“Yes, sir, right away sir. Has the Facebook page been ineffective, sir?”
“Enough about Facebook, already. Sheesh.”  A voice could be heard outside the door that sounded disturbingly like Miles, “I’m just sayin’”.
“ Just get your men down to the United States and find out what you can.  We need intel and we need it now.  You are going to be airdropped by a sleigh drone at zero-one-thirty over Chicago.  You have forty-eight hours to get what you can.  You will pop a blue star flare at precisely twenty-two-thirty on the second day and the drone will pick you up.  Dust off is in Grant Park near the lakeshore.  Wear your skivvies because it is plenty windy in Chicago.  Do you understand?”
“Yes sir, right away sure. How many men do you want me to take with me, sir?”
“Four at most.  I would take Boomer, Wedgy and Hawkeye.  Boomer is a strong second in command.  Wedgy is accomplished at covert breaching operations and Hawkeye will be your eyes and ears.  He is the best tech specialist we have.”
“Yes, sir. I will get right on it, sir?”  With that Buckshot saluted his commanding officer, gave a smart pivot and stepped briskly out of the room.

Chapter Two:  Operation Cheese Drop


Buckshot was happy with his mission.  The elf squad hadn’t been given much to do for at least a month.   Buckshot didn’t like being home by himself much.   He wasn’t married and didn’t have kids.   The isolation was enough to drive him insane.   Buckshot dealt with his life, though.   Some said that making toys was more glamorous, but Buckshot and the other members of his team didn’t agree.   What they were doing sometimes determined the fate of the entire Christmas holiday and other times, it was a matter of defending the happiness of a single child.
Reginald Tinker was only three hundred and two years old.  For all of those years, he could not pronounce the “r” sound in his name.   For two hundred and fifty years, everyone understood that when he introduced himself as “Wedgy”, he meant “Reggie”.    And then one year, a human pulled the waistband of another human’s underpants up to his shoulder blades lodging said underwear in the crack of the victim’s behind.  “Wedgy” took on a whole new meaning.   No longer did the other elves understand “Wedgy” to mean “Reggie”.  Wedgy was now simply “Wedgy”.   His name, however, was somewhat appropriate.  When he joined the First Elven Dragoons he was quickly assigned to special operations because of his unique ability to crawl into tight spaces.   As it turned out, “Wedgy” was also a description of one of his best skills as a special operator.   He never did like being called by this new nickname, just the same.
Hawkeye was a medium sized elf who knew his weapons well.  He was an absolute menace with a variety of weapons and rarely missed what he shot at.  He was also particularly talented with explosives, but did not always make the other operators feel completely safe.  He was known to carry live explosives in his pockets and was once seen using a mirth grenade as a hammer as he beat a hobnail back into his shoe.
Boomer was a strong elf whose skills rivaled Buckshot’s.   The distinct difference was that Boomer didn’t have nearly the amount and experience with field work that Buckshot had.   Boomer was a younger elf, only two hundred and twelve years old, but had far more experience in special operations than Wedgy or Hawkeye.  He was Buckshot’s apprentice and was learning a Dragoon’s special skills very quickly.  He was physically powerful and well-built like Buckshot, but his youthful temper sometimes required some training when it came to keeping cool in combat and close range weaponry.

 The team of elves gathered in a hallway and moved towards the weapons room.  The room was quite small because most elves weren’t spies or military operators.   Only Dragoons used the weapons room.  While most of the others made toys, this team was considered special.  The longest wall in this room was covered with special weapons.  There was a selection of Candy Cane Rifles, known as the Cane X-7 with the optional mirth grenade launcher attachment.   There were L-Whack Light Guns that shot a dazzling, yet blinding, burst of Christmas lights and, of course, the standard issue 55 mm Stocking Launcher.  The Stocking Launcher shot large, netted stocking over people and objects.  These stockings enclosed around target and a second trigger was available to pull the projectile back towards the operator, or even lift the operator into the air, if necessary.  It was not unlike a grapple gun used by various crime fighters such as Batman.  
The team grabbed the ordinary load out, which included the Cane X-7 as a primary weapon, the Stocking Launcher as a secondary, and the mirth grenade launcher that attached to the Cane X-7.  They were also issued a belt of ammo, and headsets to keep in touch with each other.  Buckshot and Boomer were both issued DBBG side arms.  Boomer was a perhaps the best Double-Bubble Bubble Gun shooter in the corps.  Once fully equipped, the special ops team exited the room in a hurry, and moved to their secret staging room to prepare for the mission.
In a single file, the armed elves walked through the copy room where civilian elves spent their lives copying and printing Christmas lists.  They opened a hatch in the floor stepped onto a ladder below the floor.  They descended down through the hatch into what seemed to be pitch-black darkness .  Hawkeye flipped a switch to light the chamber.   A pair of doors appeared in front of them as they stepped off of the ladder.  It had a faded First Elven Dragoon emblem on it.  They pushed open the doors and passed through as the doors swung shut behind them.   The room was intentionally dark so as to see snow globe projections better.  The snow globe filled a large portion of the room and the team gathered around it.  Buckshot stared into it and hit a button on the wall. The snow globe filled with light and snow.  The snow began to spin around the globe at lightning speeds.  After a few seconds, the snow slowly dropped away and revealed a three-dimensional scene.  Large buildings were outlined in red and notes were written their sides.  The globe zoomed in on one of the buildings.   It was a Chucky Cheese.  Buckshot raised his voice, and narrated the scene.
“You should all hopefully know why you are here.  Santa is getting a very small portion of Christmas lists this year.   We need to find out why.  We will drop in Chicago.   We need to infiltrate this Chucky Cheese and talk to the children.   In order to do this, we will obviously need to disguise ourselves.  We will use helium from party balloons found on site to raise our vocal tones to that of human children.  Try to sound like a kid, and make sure you are not caught as being an elf, that would be the worst thing that could happen.   Make sure you wear your ear putty to round out the points of your ears.  If you need to blend and escape, so be it.   We suspect that this has something to do with VoldeMart, the large mega-retail store chain.  More than one thing does not seem right about that company.  If I am right, these kids will likely lead us to our number one suspect, Newton Greengrinch, the CEO of VoldeMart Corporation.   This is all the intel we have and it isn’t much.   I just hope it is enough to get us started.”
                “It will have to do,” Hawkeye said while smiling.
The snow globe made a whooshing sound as Buckshot flipped it off.  The team gathered their equipment and proceeded to a landing pad where a sleigh drone waiting for them outside.   It was outfitted with the same blend-in technology as their uniforms.  The driver who had flown the drone to the launch site had a candy cane stuck in his mouth and it made his speech sound slightly garbled, “jump in the back and be ready to drop in forty-five minutes.  The computer will tell you when to initiate your jump over Chicago.”
The team members nodded and crawled into the drone carefully stowing their equipment in lockers in the floor.  On Buckshot’s command, the sleigh slowly rose into the air.  In an instant, it shot the Elven Dragoons through the clouds, at speeds that would make a normal elf sick.  The team was normally used to these rapid departures, but this time it made Wedgy and Hawkeye a bit nauseous.   They were not fully ready for the intense speeds because they had gone an entire month without a mission.   In less than an hour the computer warned that they were approaching the jump site.   There was a pulsating beep.  This was the signal to jump.   The elves were ready.   Buckshot took a deep breath and stepped out of the hovering drone.   He was quickly followed by Hawkeye, Boomer, and Wedgy.  
As the special ops team fell to earth, they all met in midair and grabbed a hold on each other’s hands.   The goggles protecting their faces were pressed deep into their faces.   On the count of three, they ejected their parachutes and made their way to the ground.   They landed on a breezy frozen beach along Lakeshore Drive near some very expensive looking apartment buildings.  Quietly, they folded up their parachutes and stuffed them into small backpacks that each of them had on their backs.  Each backpack contained a few small items such as Christmas light flashlights, used to illuminate dark spaces and, of course duct tape.  No Elven Dragoon ever went on a special mission without it.  As they regrouped on the beach, Boomer produced a portable snow globe that indicated the location of a Chucky Cheese only a mile or so from their position.  The elves ran across the beach, until they found an abandoned Lincoln Town Car, a human vehicle that had been moved into place by forward operators earlier in the evening.  In the glove box, they found the mission dossier that provided them with additional details.
The elves clambered into the car.  The advance team had thoughtfully provided them with booster seats.  On the driver’s side, the pedals extended so that Buckshot could drive.  Because the elves were so much shorter than humans, the booster seats were essential to safe driving.  They also made the elves look taller in the car to help them avoid suspicion.  Buckshot wasn’t happy that they were driving a human vehicle, but it was inconspicuous and helped the elves blend in as the made their way along the city streets of Chicago.  He would have preferred a small sleigh, but those had not been inconspicuous in the human world since before the time of Henry Ford.  The team arrived at Chucky Cheese in a matter of minutes.
“Buckshot, can we get some of their pizza while we’re here?” Wedgy asked.
“No, we’re here strictly on business.”
With that said, the elves ran towards the door of the restaurant.  A man was stationed inside, checking to see that no kids wandered in by themselves.   Boomer noticed a family was getting out of their car and signaled to Buckshot.  The team quickly formulated a plan to blend in with the family and follow them inside.   The family moved towards the door and Buckshot signaled to move forward.  Just as they entered the door, they all joined hands with Boomer holding the hand of a distracted child and they slipped into the restaurant.  The elves felt out of place pretending to be part of a human family, but it was essential in order to get inside.
They separated upon entry, in order to find out as much as possible about the Christmas list ordeal.  Buckshot moved into the ball pit.  It stank of dirty diapers and sweat.   Instead of finding kids playing with each other, he noticed that they were lying in the sea of balls playing videogames on their phones or portable gaming devices.  Buckshot stumbled through the pit until he reached a small kid playing a violent video game.
“Hi.  My name is Larry.  Have you done your Christmas list yet?”
“No.  I already have great games, and VoldeMart is the place to be.  It’s better than Santa.”
Buckshot frowned and walked away, but the kid didn’t notice.  Hawkeye walked to a table and noticed that the parents were ignoring the complaints from their kids. They were updating their statuses and emailing people.  Hawkeye walked away while Wedgy ran to the arcade portion of the building.  He played a game until he realized that he should be saving Christmas.  He asked a kid about her Christmas list, but the reply was, “Whose Santa?”
The team regrouped in the middle of the building.  They declared that they needed to get to the bottom of what was happening and figure out what was going on at VoldeMart corporate headquarters.  Buckshot led his team toward the front door, but they were stopped from behind by a Chucky Cheese employee.
“Where do you think you’re going?  You can’t leave without a parent, boys.”
Buckshot shot him in the kisser with a Cane X-7 round.  It was completely necessary.  The employee giggled and fell over, stunned from the shot.  The team of elves ran from the scene and climbed into their car.  VoldeMart headquarters was just a short drive away.  Buckshot drove as civilized as possible, but sped up now and again.  VoldeMart headquarters was sinister-looking place, a shiny glass building that was almost completely black.  Hawkeye gasped when he saw it, “We’re going in there?”
“Yes, we are,” said Buckshot.   “I think we’ll need to inspect the surroundings to make sure we’ll be able to get inside without being detected,”
The team stared in awe at the ominous black building.  Buckshot parked the car in a parking garage and set out on foot with his team.   He spotted a rusted ventilation grate about 50 feet up the side of the building as they arrived at the building’s edge.  Wedgy and Boomer seemed to notice it as well.
“Sir, can we get into the building through that grate?  We can use the Stocking Launcher to gain entry.”
“Yes, fire the launchers on three.  One…Two…Three!”
As the team fired their stocking launchers there was a muffled “shplooop” sound as the mesh of the stockings attached to the grate.   They each, in turn, climbed the mesh and swung up to the grate.  Hawkeye ripped it off the building and let it fall to the ground below.  He signaled for the team to slide into the ventilation shaft while he hung back to keep a look out.  Buckshot was first in, naturally.  Boomer followed along with Wedgy and Hawkeye.  They crawled only a few feet and then dropped down into a dark office.  Immediately they spotted a meeting room across the hall.  It was well lit, and a window made up one of the walls.  The elves could see into the meeting, but they couldn’t hear a word.  Elven Dragoons, when on operations in the field, wear black transfiguration berets that they call “change-ups”.  They are voice operated and can change into any shape at any time provided that the owner of the change-up can at least whisper a command.  They are also equipped with special sound sensors that amplify sounds, even faint ones, that can then be heard in their headsets.  Boomer whispered the command to activate his sound sensor: “ears on”.    The change-ups allowed the Dragoons to zoom in on and hear the conversation that would normally never be audible to them.  They focused their attention on the meeting room and listened intently to the conversation.
“The children aren’t working hard enough.  Toys don’t grow on trees!  Make the children work harder, inflict punishment if you need to,” one of the men demanded roughly.
“I’ll get more men on the island, don’t worry,” Newton Greengrinch responded with a calm coldness in his voice. “It’ll take a few days though; the South China Sea is a long way away.”
Boomer did not like the sound of this.  Children working on an island in the South China Sea? Boomer had always suspected that Newton and his VoldeMart Corporation were using illegal child slave labor to make toys.  He immediately felt bad for the children on the island that he was yet to identify. Those kids were helpless.   Boomer noticed something else, though.  Newton was making an awful lot of suspicious looking hand movements.  These were not ordinary gestures, they appeared to be signals.  Boomer couldn’t crack the code and turned to Buckshot.
“Do you notice those hand signals?” Boomer asked.
“Yes, I did.  It looks like old Morse code from here.  Listen and watch the taps and try to figure out what’s he is saying,” Buckshot responded.
Boomer made note of the taps that Newton was making with his hand on the table.  It was Morse code!  He translated the code into language: “the toxin is working out great.  The water supply is absorbing it and the effects are better than expected.   Santa won’t have many customers this year.”  Then Greengrinch tapped out a word that Boomer did not understand: “dontgiveadarnium”.
The elf team was shocked at what they were hearing.  An evil toxin could explain the selfishness of the kids at Chucky Cheese, and their parents’ indifference to them.  The toxin must have infected those people and made them only think of themselves.  Churches were empty, community activities were failing, video game and TV watching was on the rise and children didn’t play with one other anymore.
The elves left the building the way they came in and swung down onto the ground, sucking the mesh stocking back into their launchers as they prepared to depart site.  They found their way back to their car and drove to a park near the beach.  Boomer shot a blue star flare over Lake Michigan requesting a dust off.  It was going to be a sleepless night as they planned to destroy the toxin and take out Newton Greengrinch before he could execute his evil plans. 

2 comments:

  1. First, Merry Christmas.
    Second, awesome story. This was written by geniuses.
    Third, stay away from the computers. You will be happy to know based on your family rule, we are doing the same no-technology rule at our house tomorrow. We call it the Spencer Brokaw rule.

    And finally - MERRY CHRISTMAS, SPENCER !!!

    D. M. Kenyon

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, I know we are geniuses. I'm glad you are also applying my rule for Christmas, Merry Christmas to you too!

    ReplyDelete