Merry Christmas to all the smolreaders! It’s been a wild few months, and I’ve been blessed to have y’all with me as we explore the smolniverse. We’ve grown to almost 100 patrons, we’re at 174 members on the Discord– and then all of you that keep tuning in every week or so, well. You’re here too, and I’m very thankful for it.
I also wanted to apologize for the late post – I got (and still am) super-sick, so what should’ve taken a few hours to put together and post has taken a few days. :c
But as we all know, Christmas is a time when the nights grow long, the lights stand out against the frost (unless you’re in Australia in which case, “yeah, nah cunt”.) and when family comes close to exchange gifts, tell stories, and remember the year.
Unless you live and work on Zephyr Station 8. Then everything’s a clusterfuck.
Director Glenn “Silk” Abramson sighed as the wave of Deja vu hit him. The Podium’s desk was way too small, his drink was way too lukewarm, and the hyper-intense stares from the three monitors arrayed in the back wall cast a pallid glow on his mildly-annoyed face.
“So. This brings us to the Holiday-slash-Christmas Party. Again, like Thanksgiving-”
A red indicator light popped up on the podium, but Glenn ignored it.
“-I understand not everyone celebrates this, but we’re just calling it such because that’s the traditional thing to do.”
“Kazi nzuri, kikoloni” One of the interns said with a wry grin.
“-Since we’re in a space station/colony, doesn’t that lump you in as well?” Glenn said without skipping a beat. There was a bark of laughter before silence fell again. “So anyway. There will be a “general holiday area” in commons room A-7 for multiple types of decorations; if you’d like to set up a spot for your particular holiday please coordinate with Mike, because he needs to do something useful for once.”
Mike for his part sighed – it seems he was having a very uncomfortable dream.
“So unlike Thanksgiving we are still going to process some skippers; Seeing the stars is new to them, and therefore romantic-”
A second red indicator light popped up on the podium, and Glenn continued to ignore it.
“-so please be on your best behavior. We will also be holding a raffle for who will play Santa Claus-”
A third red indicator light popped up on the podium. Glenn did his absolute best to ignore it, but apparently someone had installed a failsafe mechanism; one all three indicator lights were on they began to flash continuously out of sequence. With a deadpan glare Glenn raised his head, the blinking red indicator lights illuminating the bags under his eyes with a bright red flash. He stared, unfocusing, on the three monitors that sat behind the human crew; One showcased orderly rows upon rows of Dorarizin muzzles and eyes, an unknown paw pressing the “please call on me” indicator button repeatedly. Next to that monitor were the Jornissians, who somehow took the general idea of ‘how many college students can we fit into a phone booth’ to a terrible next level; if Glenn hadn’t been so desensitized to life in general he’d think that he was witnessing a weird, MC Escher background looping and coiling in and on itself. Really, it’s just that the Jornissian delegation were twisting themselves into knots, trying to see more of the screen than anyone else. Every few moments a hand would trade off of pressing the “please call on me” button, and a new one would take it’s place – so everyone shared the blame for interrupting his speech. And as for the Karnakians, well-
…they just looked so goddamn happy that Glenn couldn’t help but frown. All fluff and eyes and smiles–
“-I will regret this until my dying day, but, yes?” He said, tapping the indicator for the Dorarizin. They began to shift and wiggle almost as one – though if that was due to some emotion or the approved delegate trying to claw his way back to the microphone Glenn would never know.
“[Yes! Director [Glenn], may we partake in the festivities as well?]” An Unnamed Dorarizin muzzle said, jutting into the viewscreen. “[Participating in [Thanksgiving] was a very educational experience, and greatly helped us understand your people!]”
With tired eyes Director Abramson looked at his senior staff – one of which was very obviously playing Candy Cruwush XD: VR Edition and the other…. Was still asleep. In that moment Glenn, using his lightning-fast mind, figured that if he could hijack some loading drones to slice the cable to the space elevator his station rested on at a 30 degree angle towards the north pole about 40km below the elevator intake he had a significant non-zero chance of slamming Zephyr Station 8 directly into UN Headquarters.
If the station could also be on fire when it happened, he figured it would be an excellent resignation letter.
“…down that path lies madness.” He murmured to himself, before summoning up the last bastion of his professionalism (and the desire to actually not have the payments for a new station docked from his pay) and addressing the Xenos host. “Although we are fine with you intermingling with the skippers, we do remind you that most of them are bright-eyes. In terms of staff-specific celebrations, those will take place in shifts-” he continued, tapping the second indicator light. “Questions?”
“[We noticed that there is significant cultural and aesthetic importance placed on stars. What’s the purpose of that?]” The mound of Jornissians asked, staying eerily still while doing so.
Glenn took a sip of his lukewarm water, wishing it was something homey like spiced cider… or spiced arsenic.
“It…culturally it was important to use lights to chase away the darkness, to provide promise to the warmth of spring, and…well, they do look pretty.”
“[So…your species is scared of the dark?]”
“Not in so many words. It… it just looks nice, yea? Yeah. Don’t you take Christmas from me.” Glenn said, making a point to point at the Jornissian monitor, as his free hand tapped the last indicator light. “Yes?”
“[We nominate you for Holiday Patriarch!]” Chirped one of the sets of teeth, as almost every Karnakian began to expand their feathers in agreement.
“That’s not how a raffle works-”
“[But you deserve such an honor!]” Another set of razor-sharp teeth protested, eyes fixed upon him, faces twitching to track his slightest movement. He moved his hand to the right slightly, then to the left – they followed as one unit.
“-Again, I’m just one name in-”
“[We agree!]” chimed the Dorarizin, a murmur of…something passing through their delegation. “[We hereby put our vote towards Director [Glenn] being the Holiday Alpha.]”
“-This isn’t a vo-”
“All in Favor?” Mike said, somehow waking up and understanding just enough to push everyone over the edge. He raised his hand, and was joined by every single one of their human crew.
“I fucking hate you all.”
“[Is that the Holiday Spirit? Isn’t he always like tha-]” One of the Jornissians asked, before Glenn shut everything off unceremoniously.
When the galaxy was opened up to everyone – well, opened up to non-special operations spies – immediately and all-at-once there was that initial scramble of people who said “literally anything is better than where I am” and jumped ship, so to speak. That was followed by a wave of the cautiously-curious, followed by the current mainstream wave of people now.
However, not everyone wanted to go boldly where no one had gone before. Some were too old, set in their ways; going into orbit or flying to the moon would be more than enough to fill their eyes with wonder. Others had children and couldn’t abandon everyone and everything in pursuit of adventure. There were also those slim few who enjoyed what they did for a living and saw space and spaceflight as nothing more than a curiosity – and there were also those to whom adventure held no claim, for any other number of reasons.
These people were called “skippers”: The original term was for the few civvies who went up an elevator and then dropped via shuttle to earth, “skipping” across the atmosphere like a proper astronaut. However, the term was now for people who skipped from Earth to a local Sol body and then back again – be it architects on the Moon working their 7-days-on-4-days-off schedule, terraformers to Mars pulling their monthly shifts, or just the curious enjoying the feeling of being above atmosphere.
Then there were “bright-eyes”. You know the ones. Brand new to space and orbit in general, bright-eyed and bushy tailed. They’re the ones that make asphyxiating jokes in the airlock, try to moonwalk on the station, devour 20th century astronaut food because it’s ‘authentic’, smudge their faces against the glass-
There was a time when Glenn would give them leeway; it brought warmth to his soul to see bright-eyed skippers become desensitized to wonderful things over the course of months, eventually turning into the grumbling caffeinated wage-slaves that lie in all Men’s hearts.
However, that time was not when he was dressed in a bright red Santa Claus outfit, his stubble painted white to match the fake beard glued on his face. It also was not when he was forced to plaster on his customer-service smile(tm) and hold yet another screaming toddler while their parents complained about the nonexistent staleness of the recycled air, waving UV-wands over their entire toddler to keep the germs off of their perfect little bodies, the fake scent of evergreen plastered on the plastic holiday tree(tm) overpowering all other scents and giving Glenn a killer headache. The only succor that Glenn had – nay, the only reason he didn’t use his vast authority on this station to steal someone else’s identity and take their place on a ship headed to the furthest point of the galaxy is because of his helper.
Oh yes. What is Santa without his little elvish helper? Santa needs his helper. And if that helper was supposed to be a lithe female elf, all the better. And if that lithe female elf was replaced at the last minute with Mike but his uniform sadly stayed the same, all the more better.
Mike, frowning, pulled yet another wedgie out from his butt as he walked forward, handing the wonderful couple a 3D daguerreotype of their darling little tyrant. The father looked him up and down, eyes squinted and lip curled in disgust as he took the memento… and then retching softly as Mike turned around, his flabby ass horrifically on displayas the elven short-shorts began to ride up on his walk back.
Glenn drew strength from the communal disgust. It would hold him over this cold winter.
And so Christmas continued; more toddlers, some good and darling, some horrible and pants-shitting. Some parents excellent and understanding – a few regulars actually surprised at who had volunteered to be Santa and taking the chance to talk light shop with him… and a few of them making a note to file an HR complaint when they received their memento.
All in all, it wasn’t Glenn’s fault that Mike actually could fill out an A-cup. The beer-gut midriff was a bit much, though.
And so it was in this haze of mutual loathing and desperately-propping-up-the-lie-of-magic-and-wonderment-for-the-children that Glenn failed to notice some very, very large “children” wait patiently in line. By the time he realized something was amiss, they had progressed so far up the line that… well. You couldn’t very much ask them to leave at that point, now could you?
Rgrezneh-of-Hrzgaren stood happily at the front of the line, greeting Glenn – and indeed, all humans – with her trademark smile, optimism and general positive energy. The fact that she had a good 20-point moose rack stuck to her head didn’t seem to phase her in the least.
“[Hello, Station-Alpha [Glen]!” Rgrenzeh said, teeth clicking happily. “[I am your beast of burden!]”
“…You’re gonna carry that weight, space cowboy.” Mike murmured as Rgrenzeh walked calmly over to Glenn, sitting down with an unceremonious thump next to his chair.
“I uh. Welcome, Rasberry. What…do you want for Christmas?”
“[Oh! Right, you grant wishes – I would like to crush my enemies and see them driven before me! That’s one of your oaths, right-]” She looked over to another Dorarizin who nodded furiously in agreement. Sadly, Rgrenzeh forgot she was now part-moose, back-antlering Glenn right out of his santa-throne. As he took a tumble Rgrenzeh stood up, crying out partly in alarm and in concern – again forgetting that she was part-moose, getting her prodigious antlers stuck in the synthetic Christmas tree.
She bent forward. The tree began to follow.
“AH! Don’- DON’T MOVE.” Mike called out, waving his hands about in concern. “Just… just stay there, don’t move until you can be freed-”
“[Oh! I’m so sorry – are you ok, [Glenn]? I di-I didn’t mean to-]”
“It’s fine.” Director Abramson said, picking himself up from the decking and adjusting his hat. “It’s fine. Just…pleasedon’t take the decorations down with you? Hold still.”
Glenn looked Rgrenzeh up and down for a minute, before slyly adding “…Until we’re done.”
“[Ok!]” Rgrenzeh replied, smile wide to mirror Glenn’s frown. With a pout he sat back down on his throne-under-the-wolfmoose, his head heavy in his hands.
“This won’t get better, will it?”
“[I’m sorry?]” Shpressnrek said, curling up respectfully before the Santa-Throne, her shimmering metallic bodysuit casting soft rainbows across her body.
“It’s nothing. I’m just tallying up the sins of a past life. Good afternoon, Starburst. What can I bring you for Christmas?”
“[Oh! Well, myself and the other [Jornissians] decided that, instead of asking you for something, we would give you a gift instead!]”
“Well. This is a nice surprise-” Glenn murmured, sitting up straight. “So, what did you make?”
“[Well, we knew this was a gift-giving holiday, and so we took the idea of the beauty of stars and created a bit of a light show for you! We’ve turned down each individual [LED] so it shouldn’t be too overwhelming, but-]” Shpressnrek began to fiddle with a control on her wrist, setting dials to the sound of confirmation beeps.
Genn leaned forward as he made the mistake of being intrigued. “Oh! Oh that’ll actually be really nice, maybe we should dim the lights and include it in our festi-”
The flashbang formerly known as Shpressnrek went off, the 100,000,000 nano-LEDs woven into her suit sparking off in a dazzling display of white, blue, red, ultraviolet, infrared and even a little bit of microwave, if the heat on Glenn’s skin was any indicator. Glenn, for his part didn’t flinch whatsoever once the darkness took him; his hind monkey brain had long since given up on such silly notions as “fight or flight instinct”, “dignity” or “self-preservation”. Glenn sat there, smiling, utterly blind.
“[I-I’m so sorry-]”
“Quite honestly this is one of the better holidays I’ve had in recent years. Can we make this blindness permanent – or do I have to hire you out for special occasions?”
“[I’m really very sorry-]” Shpressnrek cried, muffled by… possibly her own body as she knotted herself into a ball of shame, her suit continuing to give happy little beeps of encouragement.
“[I CAN HELP, BRETHEREN!]” Crowed his next tormentor, the sound of taloned steps coming closer and closer. Glenn mused that same dark thought that soldiers did on the front lines; was it better to hear it coming? Did you hear the one that got you?
With a flash of every spectrum Glenn’s eyes began to itch as the Karnakian medical device was removed from his eyes, the world of vision returning to him in splotches of light and darkness at first, before color began to seep in grainily.
Facial expression unchanged, still leaning forward, Glenn looked up at his savior/ghost of christmas future, Tr’Grakz.
“End me now.”
“[A Hallowed [Christ]’s Mass to you as well!]” chirped Tr’Grakz, fluffing himself out proudly at saving yet another Human. “[I have come to perform the ritual and ask a boon.]”
The monkey in his mind swallowed the barrel of a revolver and pulled the trigger, the deafening ‘click’ of a misfire making Glenn blink.
The ritual? Right…
Glenn leaned back and patted his lap. “Whelp. Let’s do-oofh~”
The Karnakian Tr’Grakz wasn’t so much heavy as he was cumbersome, and surprisingly soft. He pressed his chest and torso into Glenn, pushing him back against the chair. Tr’Grakz didn’t so much sit on Glenn as much as he leaned on his entire body, finally settling himself down gently.
“Shhho whah doh yuh wah fohh Chrihhmahhs?” Glenn asked, muffled by feathers.
“[I would like to ask your forgiveness, Station-leader [Glenn]. My bretheren, matrons and myself know our history with your people is a rocky one, and that there are some…plucking-pains with building a nest together. I would ask your forgiveness, and that of all [Humans], as we grow closer together in the future, and as we learn from one another.]”
Glenn tilted his head straight back, staring incredulously at Tr’Grakz’s chin. “I…well. Um. Thank you. I’ll… pass the word along.”
“[Thank you, Station-leader [Glenn]. Also I must ask for an Official Daisy Red Ryder Air Rifle, because it is tradition and I have been an acceptable disciple this year.]”
Mike laughed. Glenn laughed. Rgrenzeh grinned and turned excitedly to Mike to ask what was so funny, pulling the fake tree off it’s stand and sending it crashing to the ground. The flashbang formerly known as Shpressnrek started and ended her comeback tour with a screaming, muffled apology, and the click of a camera caught it all.