When Lockely, Kickaha, Zeelo, Odin and Calex all band together to save Christmas you know we’re bound for chaos as we deal with nefarious plots and a broken down workshop.
Three small figures waded through the snow, each bundled up in scarves, sweaters and knit hats. They had walked untold distances through the snow, but soon their destination was in sight. A large red and white striped pole stuck straight up out of the ground. There it was, the north pole. And near the pole’s base was a large building that consisted of a factory and living spaces. Santa’s workshop. They had arrived. Seeing their destination in sight filled the three with new vigor as they hurried forward. They piled up on the front door and knocked eagerly.
“Who could it be this time of year?” A kindly old woman’s voice called from the other side. The door of the workshop opened, and who stood there other than Mrs. Claus herself. She dressed in all red much like her husband, though physically she was the perfect mental image of everyone’s grandmother. A little short, and maybe a few wrinkles, with rosy cheeks and a pair of spectacles.
“Hello.” A voice called out from the smallest of the three bundles. She lowered her scarf revealing her face, it was a human girl with blonde hair. The larger bundles lowered their scarves as well, revealing two boys. one black-haired, one brown. “We’re the Littlest Orphans.” The small girl explained. “And I’m Little Susie” spoke, who was smallest of all. The girl was just short of four years and not very tall.
“I’m Little Billy.” The brown-haired boy spoke. He must have been five, bundled up in his cloak.
“And I’m Little Timmy.” The last gave his name. Almost six years of age the title of oldest was his claim.
“We’ve come to see Santa.” Little Suisie spoke up. Her eyes twinkled, innocent as a pup. “We know he works hard every year. So we thought we’d bring him holiday cheer. We have presents.”
“And sweets.” Little Billy squeaked.
“And bring good tidings and carols filled with beats.” Little Timmy added.
“That’s sweet of you dears, and I must say I’m touched.” Mrs. Claus held a handkerchief to her eye. “But I’m afraid Christmas is cancelled. My husband went missing not one week ago. Without him the workshop is in chaos, and no one can drive the sleigh.”
“That’s terrible!” Little Suzie let out a gasp. The facts she just heard were so hard to grasp. “But surely there must be some way we can help. Don’t think us helpless just cause we’re each still a whelp. Tell us what happened, where is Old Saint Nick? And the Three Littlest Orphans will save him with one trick!”
And it is here that our tale truly begins. A sight of tragedy, someone must make amends. Santa Missing? And Christmas cancelled? There was so little time, but someone had to save the day. And so let us continue our story. As our writers present this special
A Christmas Ma-
At this exact moment an old car appeared sliding on ice. It spun in three circles, before colliding with a snowbank. The car itself was mostly unharmed, but snow was sent flying through the air. And wouldn’t you know it? Who was in the way? But the Three Littlest Orphans! Who were now shaped like snowmen. Each of them wore a little hat and a scarf. And they wouldn’t have been complete without a carrot for a nose. Where did the vegetables come from you ask? Sometimes you simply have to accept Christmas is just magic.
“I told you I could get us here.” An exasperated voice came from a wolf behind the wheel.
“But… You just crashed and!” There was an orange fox riding shotgun, in winter attire, with glasses, a scarf and a band on his tail. “It’s not possible to drive to the North Pole! Especially not in twenty minutes!”
“I suppose he’s right.” Said a strange colorful creature. Orange, white, brown and yellow, he was half fox and half coyote. This foxyote sat in the back and wore only a green cloak. He leaned to the front to point out the windshield. “Looks like you missed the north pole by five feet. Probably for the best, that would have done a lot more damage than snow.”
“So are we there yet?” An orange kitten asked. He smiled displaying one protruding fang, and wore no clothing despite where they were.
“Looks like it!” A brown kitten added excitedly. Like the other he wore no clothes, but at least had a scarf.
Who are these people? And why are they in the story? Well we’ve checked with the head writer and none of us know either. But perhaps if we turn the clock back just a bit, we can see where they came from and why they are here. And so we rewind our story back just a bit. To three hours before this car slammed into the snow.
Lockely was having a difficult time adapting to his new life. The orange fox with black speckles enjoyed his new look. After all, the whole reason he hasn’t been able to remove the original curse on him was deep down he didn’t want to be human. But humanoid animals didn’t exist in his world, so he had unintentionally moved to this one to more easily fit in. However, he encountered a problem he hadn’t predicted. And the simple fact was as far as this world was concerned he didn’t exist.
He had his old driver license and his social security card, but those were for a human from another universe. In this world there was no birth certificate or record of his existence. When applying for jobs it made it a lot harder to pass a background check. And while Lockely had references who could vouch for his skills, he didn’t know which would be harder: finding a phone that could call a different universe, or convincing HR he really was from another world. Probably the latter now that he thought about it. After all, he first arrived after getting a phone call from here.
He had survived as best he could, doing what odd jobs he could find. This world was similar to his own, but there were a few differences to get used to. Magic was real, and the technology was more advanced. And so there was often someone who was willing to pay for help with testing magic or tech, and didn’t ask too many questions. These jobs offered him small pockets of cash, and experiences he’d never speak of, but if he wanted a home he needed something that paid a bit better. It wasn’t that he had any problems or anything but respect for his current host. But as a fully grown fox, it felt wrong to be living on the couch of a young kitten.
Lockely was up early this morning, a cup of coffee in one hand. In the other, a newspaper, as he searched for possible jobs. His first instinct had been to search online, but for some reason the jobs that didn’t ask questions were usually found here. So engrossed in his search he didn’t even notice, his host had appeared and was perched on the back of the couch at his shoulder.
“Whatcha looking at?” Zeelo asked, giving Lockely a start. The brown kitten’s blue eyes shined with curiosity.
“GAH!?” Lockely dropped the paper, but not his coffee. It’d take a lot more than surprise to make him drop that. “Zeelo when did you?” Lockely glanced at the kitten. It seemed there was one consistent rule between there two worlds. Cats always found a way to sneak up at you and be at ear level before they spoke.
“About ten minutes ago.” Zeelo replied. “You looked pretty engrossed so I was trying to wait.”
“I’m just trying to find a job.” Lockely gave a sigh. “As kind as you’ve been, I’d really like to get my own place.”
“You know, Calex has a job.” Zeelo suggested. “Maybe you could always see if they’re hiring at his place?”
“Wait, he does?” Lockely squinted at Zeelo. “He’s six and a half.”
“And probably older than all of us.” Zeelo shrugged. “Though he is still only a junior partner. He works at the Ashcroft Investigations Agency.”
“Oh…” Lockely recognized the name Ashcroft. He had met the wolf once. After all, it was Odin Ashcroft who had helped him take this form. Suddenly the wolf’s attire made a lot more sense once Lockely realized he was a detective. “Don’t you have to have some kind of license or something to be a private eye?”
“Probably.” Zeelo shrugged again and jumped down to the couch cushion. “But pretty sure Calex doesn’t have any kind of license like Odin. So you could apply to be a junior partner like him.”
“I think I’ll pass.” Lockely stated bluntly. While this world was still strange he had started to get some of the rules down. And he knew any job with the word ‘junior’ was bound to put him in grade school. Maybe that wasn’t entirely true everywhere, but it would certainly be if Calex was around. The werekitten had that effect on people.
“Huh, I thought you’d make a good detective.” Zeelo mused. “You have the whole logic thing going on.”
“And should logic take some hold in this reality, it might even prove useful.” Lockely couldn’t help but snark.
“Well, might still be worth checking it out.” Zeelo suggested. “The two work cases all over the world, and other worlds. They’ve got a lot of contacts. They might know someone looking for help, and could put in a good word for you.”
“That-“ Lockely paused as he considered it. “Is not actually a bad idea. A reference from someone they’ve worked with might be just what I need to get my foot… Erm paw, in the door someplace.” He paused. “And come to think of it, I wonder if Odin could fabricate an identity for me. If he’s as good with computers as he is with machines.” Lockely rose from the couch. “If nothing else it’s worth checking out.”
“Great!” Zeelo leaped onto Lockely’s shoulders. “Sounds like we have a plan today!”
“We?” Lockey asked.
“I was heading that way anyway.” Zeelo complained. “I’m boooooored. Need someone my own age to play with.”
“There’s no harm in you coming along at least.” Lockely mused. “Plus, I’m not 100% sure I can find the place on my own. I’m a bit unclear on what they actually live in… If it’s some house in the suburbs with a treehouse in the back, or an office and apartment combo within the city.” He looked to Zeelo and was just met with another shrug. “Well… Let’s get going.”
So with that they set off to Odin and Calex’s place. Despite the fact that Lockely was fairly confident it was a house last time, this time it was a small office located on a street corner. And yet, it somehow still had a treehouse behind it. However, before the two could enter the building they were stopped by a new obstacle.
“Hey.” Kickaha waved a paw. The foxyote was wearing his usual green cloak and was blocking the entrance to the office. Considering he was three foot and some change it’s not as if anyone would have considered him a huge obstacle to getting through the door. At least not until they tried and found themselves a much smaller animal for their efforts.
“Huh, who are you?” Zeelo was confused, not knowing the person currently standing at the door.
“Kickaha of the Art.” The foxyote gave a small bow. “By most days, karmic trickster. Today though, just an intern. I did it once and it was delightfully chaotic. So naturally when they needed extra help I was happy to volunteer.”
“I told you they were probably hiring.” Zeelo hissed to Lockely from the fox’s shoulder.
“I don’t know if I want to be involved in work described as ‘delightfully chaotic’.” Lockely hissed right back.
“So… Do you two have an appointment?” Kickaha asked.
“I’ve never had to have an appointment before.” Zeelo seemed confused. “Usually I just show up and we go play or something.”
“Oh, don’t worry, no one ever has an appointment.” Kickaha grinned.
“Then why did you even ask?” Lockely sighed.
“How else would I know no one had an appointment if I didn’t verify it?” Kickaha grinned.
“Shouldn’t you like have a schedule of any appointments?” Lockely asked.
“I do.” Kickaha pulled out a small notepad and displayed what appeared to be several crayon markings that were just random wiggly lines drawn onto the page. “If you can guess who wrote the schedule, congrats, that means you’re probably not in the forms you were born in.”
“I mean no I’m not but-“ Lockely paused and looked at Zeelo. “Wait, were you originally a kitten? Or a human like me? Or something else?”
“I don’t know.” Zeelo answered honestly. “After the amount of times I’ve been turned into an egg or reduced to an infant, grown up in alternate timelines before somehow winding back up here, things get a bit mixed up. I know I’m a werekitten, but that’s about all that I know.”
“Huh…” Lockely had found it weird that after being on Zeelo’s couch for a few weeks he had not yet encountered any parental figures.
“You’ll find many of Calex’s friends have that problem.” Kickaha gave Zeelo a meaningful nod. “It can be hard to remember what your childhood was like after your fifteenth one.”
“Fifteenth?! Wait, this is going to go off on a ridiculous tangent.” Lockely put a hand to his face. “Look, can we just go inside to talk to them?”
“I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait.” Kickaha shook his head. “They are currently occupied with a nemesis.”
“Wait did you say nemesis?” As Lockely asked, there was a very loud crashing noise heard from inside the office.
“Well, sort of.” Kickaha tried to think of how to explain it. “What’s the plural of nemesis? Nemesises? The point is that until the current appointment is finished I can’t let anyone else in and-“
There was another loud crashing noise as suddenly a hole was torn through the roof of the building and what appeared to be a tank piloted by a giant brain in a jar was sent flying high into the sky until it vanished in the horizon.
“I’m not going to ask questions about that because I’m sure I won’t like the answer.” Lockely put a paw to his face. “Can we go in now?”
“Not quite. I did mention there was more than one.” Kickaha held out his arms to block access to the door. Again, he wasn’t exactly very big. Lockely could have easily pushed him aside, but Lockely wasn’t that rude. “Just wait for it.”
“Okay…” Lockely stood there and just stared at the office building. In the meantime, he tried to remember if it had really been a house last time he was here or if it had been an office. A couple of minutes passed and nothing seemed to happen. “Are you sure we can’t go in yet?”
“Just a little longer.” Kickaha held up a paw knowingly. Exactly twenty-two seconds later the front door of the office kicked open as a six year old panda wearing an oversized jacket came running out from the office.
“You haven’t won yet!” The panda cub squeaked. “This is just a momentary setback! You’ll see! In the end, I’ll be the one who reigns victorious!” And with that he took off running down the street.
“Alright, they should be ready to see you now.” Kickaha moved aside.
“Um thanks…” Lockely opened the door and stepped inside, Zeelo still riding on his shoulders. The office was not in great condition, furniture tipped over, a hole in the roof, and clothing scattered across the floor. “Hello?”
“Hey!” A squeaky voice called from somewhere in the room. “Do me a quick favor, grab that toy gun looking thing on the desk, push the red button, then point it at the hat on the ground and press fire.”
“Okay… Why?” Lockely asked.
“I think they got themselves into a situation again.” Zeelo giggled. “But, we need their help so probably best to just do it.”
“If you say so…” Lockey grabbed the gun. It certainly looked like a plastic toy. He scanned around the room seeing the hat laying on the floor. As requested, he pressed the red button and fired at the hat.
Suddenly, the hat began to move and wobble, as something appeared underneath it. Two somethings in fact. At first, they were quite tiny, hard to make out — one gray, one orange. But as they grew in size, the familiar shapes of the gray furred wolf Odin and his pet werekitten Calex came into sight. After a few seconds they were back to their normal height, just shy of six feet for Odin, and around two feet for Calex.
“Normally I’d say it kind of ruins the fun reversing it that fast.” The werekitten complained. “But I suppose we do have a tight schedule to keep so we better be going soon.”
“Well aren’t you unusually focused for once.” Odin grinned and petted the kitten on the head. “Someone is trying extra hard this year.” Odin then began to move around the office, and gather up the various pieces of discarded clothing.
“Um should I turn around or something?” Lockely asked. As far as he knew Odin usually wore clothes, and Lockely wasn’t sure how appropriate it would be for Lockely to see him naked.
“It’s fine.” Odin muttered with a shrug. “Eventually, after it happens enough times you don’t really get embarrassed by it anymore.” He finally found his boxers while searching around and quickly pulled those on and then his pants. Then he quickly unbuttoned the shirt he had shrunk out of, slid back into it and began to button that back up. “You’re Lockely right? We met briefly. And… That’s Zeelo, would recognize him anywhere. Anything you need help with?”
“Well… Yes, actually.” Lockely muttered. “Zeelo suggested you might have connections that can help me.”
“I mean, by this point we have met quite a large and diverse cast of characters.” The wolf nodded, and once his shirt was on found his shoes and socks. He quickly got those on before getting his tie. “But you’ll need to give me a little more details with what you’re looking for help with. Depending what it is, some are going to be more useful than others.”
“He needs a job!” Zeelo blurted out. “Someone who will hire him without a lot of questions off a recommendation.”
“I’ve had trouble finding stable employment since moving to this universe.” Lockely explained. “The lack of a social security number and birth certificate make it hard to pass background checks.”
“I could see how that could be a problem.” Odin nodded. “I’ll look into what I can do to fabricate those for you later.” He pulled his long trench coat on, and then finally fully dressed, grabbed the hat he had been hiding under just minutes ago and placed it atop his head. The second he was wearing the hat, there was a cat on it. In one fluid motion Calex ran straight up Odin’s back and perched atop his head.
“I know someone who’s always hiring this time of year!” Calex beamed. “And we had business with him anyway. That’s why we’re in a hurry.”
“Does this person have a name?” Lockely knew he needed to ask specific questions if he wanted to keep Calex on task and get an adequate explanation of what the plan was.
“Multiple.” The orange kitten nodded. “Nicholas, Nick, but most people call him Santa Claus.”
“Alright, when you say Santa Claus, are you talking about mall Santas, or are you talking about an actual man who lives at the North Pole?” Lockely knew both were possibilities. Calex and Zeelo both believed in Santa, which was not unusual for their age. What was unusual was the fact they both seemed to have witnessed evidence of his actual existence. Lockely had questioned the possibility, but then when non-linear time got thrown into play it became a lot harder to refute that the man might exist.
“I don’t understand.” Calex just stared blankly at Lockely.
“Alright…” Lockely realized he had to break it down. “Are we talking about the real Santa Claus, or the people who are hired to play Santa at malls and stores and such?”
“I still don’t get it.” The kitten was genuinely confused. “Why would anyone have to hire someone to play Santa when they can have the real deal?”
“Well for starters I’d assume he’s generally busy this time of year getting ready for the big night.” Lockely was trying his best to apply logic to an illogical situation. It wasn’t easy. “Then there’s the fact that even if one mall Santa turned out to be the real one, there are thousands of them. They can’t all be the real Santa, it’s not like he can be in two places at once.”
“Why not?” Calex asked not seeing a problem with the physics involved. “It’s not like he perceives time the way we do. There’s no reason he can’t have multiple instances of himself existing in the same period of time.”
“And see, this is how we get back to Santa is a Time Lord.” Lockely remembered how the last conversation had ended. “Wait, you said you already had business with him? What are you going there for?”
“To save Christmas.” Calex said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Save Christmas from what?” Lockely asked, suddenly feeling like he was in a cheesy holiday special. If only there was a way he could have known.
“Don’t know yet.” Calex shrugged. “We’ll find out what the problem is when we get there. But Christmas is bound to need saving.”
“How can you know Christmas needs saving if you don’t even know what the problem is or if there even is one?” Lockely tried to follow kitten logic. He really did. But it was well like, getting the world explained to you by a kindergartener. Which was what was happening, except that the explanation was somehow accurate despite seemingly full of hyperboles and impossible situations.
“It is apparently a Christmas tradition.” Odin, seeing this conversation was about to go into circles, quickly butted in. “Apparently, something always goes wrong and someone always has to help. I know it seems strange, but when it comes to magical beings like this Calex tends to know what he’s talking about. Even if it sounds like it doesn’t make sense. We were getting ready to head to the North Pole to check for what the problem might be. And… He’s not wrong about them hiring help. I’m sure this close to Christmas they wouldn’t mind an extra hand.”
“You know what, sure, let’s go.” Lockely didn’t see any further point trying to get more information. Either they’d arrive at the North Pole, and prove that despite all evidence to the contrary, Father Christmas was real, or he’d figure out what being or person Calex thought Santa was.
“We’re going to go to Santa’s workshop?” Zeelo purred with excitement. “I’ve never been there before.”
“Hey, couldn’t help but overhear.” Kickaha slipped in the door. “But if you’re going, mind if I tag along? I’m supposed to be learning the ropes anyway as an intern… And the North Pole sounds way more exciting. All these supervillain attacks are starting to get a little predictable.”
“Well considering the size of three of you, we should be able to fit everyone.” Odin muttered as he looked over everyone. “Alright, we’ll all go.”
“So how do we get to the North Pole?” Lockely asked. “Do you have some kind of portal? Secret access to a supersonic jet? A TARDIS?”
“I thought we’d just drive there.” Odin grinned. “Kickaha and the kittens should fit comfortably in the back seat, you can ride shotgun.”
“Drive there.” Lockely gave Odin a stare. He would expect this kind of answer from Calex, but Odin was a wolf of science. Surely he had a better explanation than that. “Ignoring the fact I don’t know of any roads that even lead to the North Pole, wouldn’t that take several days and Christmas would be over by the time we arrive?”
“Not if you take the right roads.” Odin explained. “Car is around back. Everyone get in, so we can get going.”
And that was how this group of wolf detective, a fox and former human from another universe, a trickster foxyote, and two werekittens came to arrive at the North Pole, their car crashing into a snowbank.
“How did we even get here so fast, it hasn’t even been a half hour. We came from the states.” Lockely knew better than to argue about the logic of the current situation but couldn’t help himself.
“Nonlinear geography.” Calex spoke up from the back seat.
“Could I get an explanation from the person who actually understands how science works in this world?” Lockely asked.
“That’s pretty much it.” Odin shrugged. “The roads we took don’t run in a straight line from point A to point B, but more jumps around. Best I can explain it. We start at Point A, start driving, are suddenly at point Z, continue on for a bit and we get to point S, realize we made a wrong turn back up and drive through Point i3.”
“Point imaginary three.” Lockely stated bluntly.
“And then we arrive at point B.” Odin finished. “That road just kind of… Goes everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s used by most benevolent supernatural creatures like the Easter Bunny. Not everyone can afford a flying sleigh.”
“I’m just going to pretend that makes sense and move on.” Lockely shook his head.
“AHEM!” Mrs. Claus who was still standing in the doorway spoke up again to get their attention. “Again, who are you people?”
“Everyone, where are your manners, can’t you see we’re all guests?” Kickaha took the lead and quickly climbed out of the car. “I’m Kickaha of the Art, as a fellow supernatural creature of karma it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Kickaha…” Mrs. Claus spoke the name aloud as if it sounded familiar. “Wait, aren’t you the one my husband-“
“Odin Ashcroft, of the Ashcroft Investigations Agency.” Odin interrupted. “We came here to-“
“See Santa Claus!” Calex shouted as he leaped from the car followed shortly by Zeelo.
“Where’s Santa?” Zeelo asked. “Is he in his workshop?”
“Well that’s the thing, I was just explaining, my husband has gone missing.” Mrs. Claus looked exhausted. “I’m afraid this may be the end of Christmas. Without him around the workshop is in chaos, and no one else can make the deliveries.”
“So what you’re saying is… Someone needs to save Christmas.” Calex looked meaningfully at Lockely.
“And you knew this because…” Lockely paused and considered previous trends. “Christmas has to be saved every year doesn’t it?”
“Well…” Mrs. Claus looks thoughtful. “As far as I can remember, something has always gone wrong every Christmas now that I think about it. But we’ve always managed to fix things just in time. But with Nick missing… Even if we find him in time, how will we get the workshop in order to make the toys on time?”
“So basically, we have two problems.” Odin rubbed his chin. “We need to get the workshop up and running, as well as find Santa, and most likely defeat whoever kidnapped him. Or teach them the true meaning of Christmas. We’ll play it by ear.”
“We’re going to save Santa.” Lockely just stared blankly. “This is reality now.”
“I take it you’re still relatively new to this huh?” Kickaha observed Lockely. “You just gotta learn to go with the flow of chaos. And practice a lot of cardio. Being able to run away very fast will solve many of your problems.”
“You’re not inspiring me with confidence…” Lockely muttered.
“Look this is perfect!” Calex exclaimed. “I mean it’s bad! But also things work out. Lockely needs a job, you need someone in the workshop. He can help get things running there.”
“There are five of us.” Odin noted. “We need to split into teams. One which will go after the missing Santa Claus, and the other which will go and help out at the workshop. So we need to split into two teams of three.”
“Huh?” Zeelo looked around at everyone then slowly began to count on his fingers and count the number of people around.
“Alright, Team A will consist of myself, Kickaha and Calex.” Odin crossed his arms. “And team B will consist of Lockely, Zeelo and Calex.”
“Wait a second…” Calex’s ears tilted to the side in confusion.
“Team A will search all around the North Pole for clues and track down Santa. We’re the only ones with powers so if a villain is responsible we have the best shot at stopping them. Well, they have powers. I have experience. Meanwhile Team B will do anything they can to help out at the workshop, and get paid in the process.” Odin continued to nod.
“I suppose that’s fair. We always do need to hire extra help around this year.” Mrs. Claus looked hopeful. “Do you really think you can find him?”
“Um, I have a question.” Calex tried to get people’s attention.
“Something wrong?” Odin looked down at his feline buddy.
“Okay, I know I’m talented, and can somehow get to places I shouldn’t be able to, and somehow able to do so with impossible speed, but even I can’t be in two places at once.” Calex looked doubtful.
“Which is why we’ll use this.” Odin ruffled through his pockets and pulled out a leather strap with a strange device attached to it. He bent down and wrapped it around Calex’s arm. “Try to keep your arm relatively the same size so it doesn’t come off.”
“What is this?” Calex stared at the thing on his arm.
“Wait. Wait. Wait. Is that a vortex manipulator?” Lockely recognized what he was seeing.
“What? No! Absolutely not.” Odin insisted.
“Because it looks like a vortex manipulator.” Lockely insisted.
“It’s a personal teleportation device, and is legally distinct from a vortex manipulator.” Odin insisted. “Are you trying to get us in trouble?”
“In trouble with what?” Lockely was confused.
“Look, the point is with this Calex can pop back and forth to help both teams.” Odin explained. “We should get started as soon as possible. Calex, don’t suppose you can sense him out and lead us right to him?”
“I… Don’t know.” Calex rubbed the back of his head. “I’ve only ever been able to do that when you’re in trouble. And I don’t really know how I do it. I just get this feeling. But I’ll try.”
“While normally I’d like to see how this plays out on its own, even I recognize we’re on a time crunch.” Kickaha spoke up. He had figured out Calex’s nature a while back, though it seemed the werekitten himself was unaware of it. “So I’m going to let the cat out of the bag just this once. Calex can track Odin because the two are bound by a very close connection. You might even call it a contract. And… Santa delivers presents to all children every year, so long as they’re good. It is, in a manner of speaking, another contract. A deal to be good in exchange for toys.”
“You’re insistent on that term, contract.” Lockely noted. “Guessing that’s important.”
“Long story short, contracts work differently for magical creatures. Which Calex and Santa both are.” Kickaha grinned. “In this case, Calex agrees to be good. Right now, the best thing he can do to be good is to save Santa. So, try focusing on that, on fulfilling your side of the agreement.”
“I… Don’t really get what you’re going at but…” Calex looked thoughtful for a moment. “Wait…” He froze. There was a strange sensation. It was like a tiny tug. “I think… Kickaha might be onto something… I don’t know if he’s there or not… But I know what direction I need to go to help if that makes any sense.” Calex dropped to all fours and took off running away from the house. “This way!”
“Looks like we’re off, better move fast or we’ll lose him.” Odin chased after Calex.
“See what I mean about cardio?” Kickaha snickered at Lockely as he took off running. With that the three were off.
“So… I guess I should show you two to the warehouse.” Mrs. Claus spoke up. “There’s so much to be done, toys built, organized, sorted, loaded into the sleigh and the reindeer…”
“Uh sure…” Lockely followed Mrs. Claus as she went back inside. “Let’s see what I can do.”
“I’m helping too!” Zeelo shouted as he ran after them before the door shut.
After everyone was gone there was a sizzling noise. Three snowmen melted, and the water evaporated. Where the snowmen stood were the three Littlest Orphans.
“We are most displeased.” They spoke in unison.
It had been awhile since they left the workshop. The snow was deep, and Calex occasionally disappeared beneath it and had to be pulled out.
“So… What exactly is this contract thing?” Odin asked Kickaha as they followed after the kitten. “What do you know you’re not telling us about?” The wolf sounded suspicious of the foxyote.
“I’ve told you how it works.” Kickaha shrugged. “Magical beings and contracts are just kind of special.”
“For some creatures yes, others no.” Odin narrowed his eye. “Calex is just a werekitten. He’s no djinn or demon, why would he have magical contracts?”
“Look.” Kickaha became uncharacteristically serious. “You spend more time with him than anyone else. I’m sure you’ve noticed it by now. He’s not a normal werebeast, and I don’t just mean the youth thing. Silver doesn’t bother him, but he has other aversions. And things have a habit of working out how he wants them to.”
“So… You’re saying he’s not a werekitten?” Odin looked ahead to where Calex was climbing out of a snow pile on his own.
“Pretty sure the werekitten part is accurate, I just think that might not be the full description.” Kickaha looked up at Odin trying to look serious. He was also realizing it was really hard to have a serious talk with someone when you were half their size.
“And you’re saying you know exactly what he is?” Odin asked.
“I have a theory.” Kickaha replied. “And I’m pretty confident in it. But it’s not my secret to share.”
“Alright look.” Odin tried to keep his voice casual but there was an edge to it. “Calex is my partner, and I’ve taken responsibility for him. If there’s something more about him, something that could possibly be used to harm him, I need to know.”
“See, that’s the thing. It’s the part that doesn’t make any sense when you think about it. You don’t know, and neither does he.” Kickaha crossed his arms. “And it took me a long time to catch on. No matter how strange things got, even by my standards, it was like the truth eluded me. Almost as if it doesn’t want to be seen. But… Thanks to the whole eternal youth thing going on, it’s impossible to say for certain how long he’s been around. If someone is around long enough it’s natural they’d forget some things about their past. But… Would he really forget what he is? Unless there was a reason for it?” Kickaha looked slightly depressed as he said the next part. “I suspect there’s a very good reason he doesn’t know. Sometimes, ignorance can be a shield. There’s the very real chance that if he knew what he was it would place him in actual danger. I’m fond of the little guy too. I wouldn’t stay quiet on this if I didn’t think doing otherwise would hurt him.”
“I see.” Odin didn’t sound satisfied, but he realized where Kickaha was coming from. “I’ll drop it for now.”
“That’s good.” Kickaha grinned. “If I continue to act all serious people might get the false assumption that I am in fact a responsible person. And that would be very harmful to my reputation. You have no idea how much work goes into making people believe that I bring a wake of chaos wherever I go.”
“You do bring chaos wherever you go.” Odin snorted. “I haven’t known you as long as Calex, but he’s told me stories.”
“Exactly.” Kickaha grinned. “So, let’s get back to the task at hand.”
“We’ve been walking through the snow for awhile.” Odin muttered. “You really think that he can track down Santa.”
“Well… Can’t say for certain. But, that ominous tower of doom in the distance looks like a pretty strong lead.”
The tower Kickaha spoke of had just come into view. It was a massive metal structure, crooked, leaning back and forth as it went up to the top where the roof had a large metal gothic fence around the edge of it.
“Okay, yeah that’s probably what we’re looking for.” Odin nodded. “Alright Calex!”
“Yeah?” Calex bounded back to Odin and Kickaha.
“If Santa is in that tower I’m going to guess it’s not by choice. Which means whoever is holding him there is likely not going to want to just let him go. We’ll likely have to force our way in.” He gave the werekitten a look.
“So basically, you’re asking me to kick down the front door?” Calex’s tail twitched.
“Pretty much, you’re good at that.” Odin replied.
“Indeed, absolutely smashing you might say.” Kickaha added.
The three approached the tower. Two large steel doors stood before them, at least 15 feet in height. It was doubtful anyone could open these things by hand. But, the kitten simply looked at them, then backed up to get a running start. Leaped through the air and-
Vanished as the personal teleporter activated.
“Ok, in hindsight, probably could have programmed that thing better.” Odin muttered. “We’re going to need a new plan.”
“You don’t suppose knocking would work?” Kickaha asked.
“Doubtful, and if we are dealing with a hostile force, alerting them to our presence might not be the best idea now that our heavy hitter is missing.” Odin looked up at the jagged tower. High up he could see windows, that was an entry point. He pulled a gun out from his trench coat, pointed it upward and fired. A grappling hook was sent flying through the air before grabbing one of the tower’s jagged edges near the window. Odin tugged on it a few times to make sure it was secure then pressed a foot against the wall. “I believe I have a way in.”
“Great.” Kickaha grinned. “I mean, I could have just turned us both into birds and we could have flown up there, but you kind of seemed like you were in the moment.”
“Wouldn’t that basically result in me leaving all of my clothing, and thus also my gadgets behind?” Odin gave Kickaha a suspicious glance.
“No time for chit-chat, we’re on a mission, remember?” Kickaha snickered as he shrunk down into the form of a crow. “I’ll see you at the top.”
Inside the workshop elves were busy running back and forth. Lockely had to be careful where he walked not to accidentally trample one of the small green clad creatures. Each of them was about a head shorter than Zeelo, the kitten currently perched on his shoulders. Lockely looked around, seeing strange machines. They were conveyor belts, colorful slides, hoops and mechanical hands wearing white gloves. It looked like a cross between a factory and a carnival ride.
“Soooooo, who exactly do we need to talk to in order to help out?” Lockely asked.
“Hey!” One of the elves who was slightly taller, almost up to Zeelo’s nose approached the two. “The workshop is in crisis, no tours right now.”
“We’re not on a tour, we’re here to help.” Zeelo explained.
“Basically, we’re the new hires.” Lockely added.
“Well in that case, grab a hammer and get to work building any toy you can make. The entire factory is offline. The Toy Machine broke down and no one knows how to fix it but Santa.” The elf explained. “Back in the old days it was possible to make all the toys by hand, but there are just too many kids now. We need all the help we can get to make as many as possible.” The elf sounded exhausted.
“What exactly is wrong with the machine?” Lockely asked as he studied it. He had some technical experience in his past, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t going to translate to Christmas Magic powered devices.
“That’s the thing no one knows for sure.” The elf sighed. “Toys stopped coming out and then everything stopped moving. We’ve tried everything we can think of and nothing has worked.”
“Have you tried turning it off and then back on?” Lockely asked.
“No.” The elf shook his head. “What would that do? If it’s broken, then it’s broken. Doesn’t matter if the switch is turned to on or off.”
“I see…” Lockely narrowed his eyes. “Just to satisfy my curiosity, how do you even turn this thing on and off?”
“There’s a lever.” The elf pointed at what was by elf standards a large lever. By Lockely standards it was about average. It looked like the switch on a fuse box, but colored like a peppermint. The lever was currently lifted upward into the on position.
“Zeelo, if you would.” Lockely motioned at the lever.
“Sure!” Zeelo leaped down and ran past the elves before they could react to him. He grabbed the lever, slammed it into the off position then pulled it back up into the on.
Suddenly, the entire factory came to life. Conveyor belts began to move. Raw materials that looked like colorful pieces of candy came in from another room. They were stretched into different shapes by the hands before being dropped onto different conveyor belts. Each of these colorful pieces went into a machine and came out being made of a completely different material, whether it was metal, wood or plastic. Each of these were picked up by more hands, and again stretched and shaped despite the fact some materials should not bend. They’d be tossed through a hoop into another machine, then a fully built toy would come down the slide. Somehow the machine even made name-brand video game consoles.
“Some things truly are consistent in all universes.” Lockely sighed. Why did people never try the most basic troubleshooting steps?
“Wow, you fixed it.” The elf stared in disbelief. “You must know some Christmas Magic in you.”
“Hear that Lockely? We have magic!” Zeelo looked thrilled.
“More like basic common sense.” Lockely muttered. But seeing how excited the kitten was he kept his voice low enough not to be heard. “So that’s settled. What’s next?”
“Well if the machine is working I guess there’s no point in having you build toys.” The elf considered. “But we could still use help dragging the sled out. Normally the reindeer help but… They only listen to Santa. So we haven’t been able to get the-“
“ROOOAWR!” Calex appeared flying through the air then suddenly confused as he saw he was no longer about to slam into a door, but a giant toy producing machine.
“Nope.” Lockely grabbed Calex by the scruff when he appeared. “We just fixed that, not doing it a second time.”
“Sorry.” Calex rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. “I was kicking down a door for Odin and Kickaha and then suddenly I was here. Being on two teams is disorienting.”
“Just try not to break anything.” Lockely dropped Calex. “Although… That strength might be useful right now. Where’s that sleigh stuck?”
“It’s in the shed near the reindeer stalls behind the workhouse.” The elf pointed towards a door leading out. “Can’t miss it.”
“Right… Then… Let’s gah!” Lockely stumbled as suddenly he had a kitten perching on each of his shoulders. “Do I look like a taxi to you two?”
“Look, you’re tall, we can see further from atop you.” Calex explained. “We can watch for danger coming.”
“Yeah, plus we can see behind you while you go forward.” Zeelo nodded. “Nothing is going to sneak up on us.”
“I don’t think there’s anything dangerous.” Lockely gestured around. “We’re in Santa’s workshop, pretty sure there’s not anything nasty waiting around.”
“You say that, but Santa still got kidnapped.” Calex nodded.
“Are you sure it’s a kidnapping?” Lockely glanced at the orange kitten, being careful not to dislodge either of them.
“Well, I know he’s in a giant metal scary beyond all reason tower.” Calex threw his paws up trying to show how tall the tower was. “I feel like that’s not the type of place Jolly Old Saint Nick would be holding up in by choice.”
“Well, that is a thing.” Lockely looked to the door. He’d like to think he could keep his composure in most situations. But right now he was happy to be dealing with toys, elves and sleds instead of whatever Tower of Sauron the others were dealing with. He approached the door and headed back out into the snow.
Behind the workshop most of the snow had been cleared away from the grounds. There was what looked like a racetrack circling most of the back area. Past the track were the actual stables, though the doors to them were currently closed. Then there was the shack. Lockely was not sure in what universe it qualified as a shack. Well this one apparently.
A massive building lit up by Christmas lights. It was bigger than most houses Lockely had seen. The thing was made of wood, or at least Lockely thought it was. Wood wasn’t bright red and green. At first he thought it was painted, but studying the wood, he realized that even small areas that were exposed or broken off were colored. Either the wood had been painted before the thing was built, or this was the wood’s natural color The front door looked more like a barn door than anything else. One red door, one green, with a candy cane colored latch locking it.
“That must be where the sleigh is.” Lockely looked around the area. In the distance, he spotted what almost looks like an airport runway, but at the very end had a ramp leading upward. “And I think I know where we’re supposed to get it to.” Lockely walked up and undid the latch. Thankfully, it only looked like a candy cane and was actually some form of plastic so wasn’t sticky. Then he pulled on the doors, but they wouldn’t open.
Despite the best efforts of whoever cleaned this place, a small amount of snow had built up directly in front of the doors. Then there was the simple fact that they were just big and weighed a lot. Lockely pulled as hard as he could, but the doors wouldn’t budge.
“Don’t suppose either of you can help?” Lockely asked.
“Maybe…” Calex muttered. “But I might bamf.”
“Bamf?” The fox quirked an eyebrow.
“Yeah bamf! Just gone. That’s what happened when I tried to open a door for Odin and Kickaha.” Calex crossed his arms. “I feel like the same thing is going to happen if I try that again here, and who knows what I’ll crash into after bamfing.”
“You could try opening the door without slamming into it, you know.” Lockely tapped a paw,
“Huh… That’s not as much fun though.” Calex sulked. “Then again, I guess this is Santa’s property, not a giant ominous tower of doom, so I probably should be a bit more careful.” Calex jumped down and slowly approached the doors. He looked nervous, worried something might happen the second he touched them. Then there was the matter he couldn’t actually reach the handles on them. Instead he had to grab the crack between the doors and pull on one door. The red door opened with ease. He then quickly ran inside and pushed the green door. “Huh I was sure that I was going to bamf the second I tried to do anything useful.”
“Alright, now we get to see Santa’s sleigh!” Zeelo leaped down from Lockely and ran into the ‘shack.’ His eyes were practically sparkling as he looked at the sleigh. A large red sled, easily wide enough for two people to sit side by side in, then a large section in the back to sit the sack of toys.
“So you know that sled is a TARDIS right?” Lockely asked.
“You don’t know that.” Calex insisted.
“I saw how many toys were in that workshop.” Lockely crossed his arms. “And there’s only room for one sack up there. Only explanation is that parts of the sleigh and the sack are bigger on the inside.”
“That doesn’t really prove anything.” Zeelo looked at Lockely in confusion.
“And there’s no possible way for him to make deliveries all around the world in one night unless some kind of time shenanigans are afoot. This is a TARDIS.” Lockely crossed his arms, firmly set in his belief.
“I mean, maybe it just functions similar to one?” Zeelo suggested.
“If it does all the same things, and has all the same functions, it’s a TARDIS.” Lockely was not giving this up.
“But it can’t be a TARDIS, that’d never get through legal.” Calex shook his head. “Just got to accept it’s a magic sled.”
“Legal? What does that even mean?” Lockely gave Calex a confused look. “You know what, it doesn’t matter. We just need to get this thing moved out to the runway.” Lockely walked behind the sled and pushed on it. It didn’t move. Of course the thing weighed a ton. Once they had it out on the snow and ice it’d be easy to move, but in here on the wooden floor it felt impossible.
“Need a hand?” Calex asked.
“Well…” Lockely looked down at the tiny orange kitten that was only knee high to him by comparison. It was strange asking a small child to do the work he couldn’t. But, he was starting to just accept that strange was the new normal. “If you could.”
“Right.” Calex moved behind the sleigh. “You said out on the runway? Everyone clear the way, don’t want to run over anyone. Am I clear?”
“Clear!” Zeelo shouted as he jumped up onto a shelf inside the ‘shack’ so as to be out of the way.
“Alright then here we go!” Calex pushed on the sled, it moved six inches and-
“So that’s what he was worried about.” Lockely sighed.
“At least he got the doors open first.” Zeelo tried to look on the bright side.
“I don’t suppose you have super strength too?” Lockely asked hopefully.
“Nope.” Zeelo held out his paws dismissively. “Don’t know if it’s not enough exposure to moonlight, or if you have to be natural born, but I’m normal kitten level strength.”
“Alright, let’s try to think this out.” Lockely held a paw to his chin. “There’s got to be some way we can lubricate the floor or find a way to apply more force. We can think of a solution.”
“Perhaps we can be of help.” Three voices spoke in unison as three shadows appeared at the front of the barn.
“Gah!” Lockely nearly jumped out of his fur. He managed to stand his ground and avoid showing any further signs of having been spooked. Other than the hairs on his tail sticking up.
Zeelo on the other hand had jumped back completely on the shelf he was on his fur bristling. He felt a shiver go down his spine. Then the shadows solidified into three young children.
“Hello. I’m Little Suzie.” The smallest of them spoke. “And we’re the Littlest Orphans, here to bring you hope.”
“… Is it too late to switch to being on the scary tower team?” Lockely asked. For some reason, these three small children were the most unsettling thing he had seen. There were at least a hundred alarm bells going off in his head and he felt like he had suddenly shifted genres.
“We’re just here to help.” Said Little Billy who was the one with brown hair. “We came to save Christmas, is such a desire so rare?”
“We know how you can move the sleigh.” Little Timmy spoke up last. “With the right tools you’ll be done real fast.”
“Well…” Zeelo crept forward. “What tools are you talking about?”
“The sleigh will move easily when you take the reins.” The three orphans spoke as one. “Simply tie the reins to the sleigh and you’ll be done.”
“Okay… That, speaking at once thing, don’t do that.” Lockely shivered. But he considered. If they attached the reins, maybe the five of them working together could pull the sleigh out. Granted the children looked pretty small, but it wasn’t as if Lockely had any other ideas. Besides, Calex was also pretty small and could have done it on his own.
Lockely and Zeelo searched around the ‘shack’ until they found several sets of reins on the wall. Grabbing them down Lockely attached the reins to the sled and then grabbed the harnesses attached to the end of them.
“Alright, everyone let’s try this together.” As Lockely spoke he never took his eyes off the three orphans. He wasn’t sure he wanted them to get close enough to help him pull. “Zeelo come on and help.”
“Uh sure.” Zeelo jumped down from the ramp and grabbed one of the harnesses. “You three helping too?”
“Oh don’t worry you don’t need us.” They spoke in one voice. “You two can pull it alone, so take this moment to rejoice.”
“I told you not to don’t do th-“ Lockely raised a hand as he spoke and froze mid sentence. Where there was once a hand there was instead a hoof. “Oh you have got to be kidding me.”
“Um, I have antlers?” Zeelo spoke up as he felt around the top of his head.
Both of them were going through the same changes, though Lockely grew much larger antlers than the juvenile Zeelo. Paws were replaced with hooves and both of them were forced down onto all fours. Lockely’s tailband fell to the ground as his tail shrunk to a small tuft. And his clothes were a mess, tangled up on his body. He tried to struggle free of the mess of clothes and wound up falling flat on his face and smoother muzzle. With the exception of his glasses and scarf, his clothes had been torn or fallen off. However, he had a new piece of attire on, as did Zeelo. A reindeer harness attached to the sleigh reigns.
“By now you’d think I’d learn to see these things coming.” Lockely groaned as he managed to climb back up onto all fours. “What do you three even gain by-“ Lockely looked at the entrance of the shack, the shapes of the orphans were gone.
But despite being gone their voices rung out. “Two reindeer down, but still three are about.”
“Zeelo, do you have any idea what that was about?” Lockely asked.
“No idea… Buuuuuuut, this isn’t a bad thing. I mean, we’re reindeer!” Zeelo shouted excitedly.
“Yes, I had not failed to notice that.” Lockely barely managed to hold back the sarcasm.
“Yes and we’re attached to Santa’s sleigh! We get to pull Santa’s sleigh!” Zeelo wagged his short little tail.
“Always able to find that silver lining.” Lockely couldn’t help but laugh. Though… Maybe the two of them together might be able to move the sleigh. He could hope. Considering he had hooves instead of hands he wasn’t getting the harness off, which meant that the only way out of this shack was to move the sleigh. “Help me try to drag this thing.”
Lockely and Zeelo moved forwards as the reins tightened. The sleigh held for a moment, and then began to slide. It felt strangely lighter now. Lockely was sure they weren’t that much stronger, but for some reason they could move the sleigh and were able to drag it right out of the shack. That was at least one problem solved, even if they were faced with a new one.
“This place gives me the creeps.” Back at the tower Odin and Kickaha were exploring the halls trying to find the missing Santa Claus.
“Oh I don’t know.” Kickaha was more chipper. “Sure, it’s a bit rustic and plain. But you know, with just a few changes, it could be a really solid evil-overlord hideout. A few banners with mysterious sigils to add color over here! Some elaborate carvings on the wall over there so it looks less bare. Maybe do a mural, you know, something that darkly hints at the backstory of this place, so we have a proper sense of foreboding before the dramatic encounter with the owner. Oh and of course a rat infestation. It really helps sell that evil-lair feeling, and provides a buffet for guests at the same time.”
“You eat…” Odin made a disgusted face. “Yeah you know you can buy packaged meat right?”
“Ahhhh, I see now it makes sense.” Kickaha held up a finger. “I was always confused as to why a cat would rather befriend than eat nutritious rodents. I see now, he’s had a bad influence.”
“How is that a bad influence?” Odin demanded. “He has friends who are mice, you can’t expect him to eat them.”
“Of course, not that would be barbaric!” Kickaha made a horrified face. “You don’t eat intelligent rodents. I’m talking the run of the mill non-sapient kind. The kind that make perfect dungeon fodder. It’s one of the few meals in the world that’s both high in nutritional value and delicious.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Odin groaned as they rounded a corner and came to a long series of doors. “Ugh, another one of these. So far they’ve all been empty. I feel like we’re going in circles.”
“They weren’t all empty!” Kickaha chirped helpfully. “There was the one with the piano that tried to kill us. It was a dramatic confrontation and a musical interlude at the same time. Very efficient.”
“I was deliberately trying not to think about that.” Odin muttered. “But at this point I’m starting to feel like this entire place is abandoned.”
“I suppose it is possible.” Kickaha mused. “Calex disappeared before opening the door. It’s entirely possible he was sensing Santa somewhere beyond the tower.”
“Well, there can’t be too many more floors.” Odin huffed. “We can at least sweep the place and-“
“WHO DARES TO INTRUDE UPON MY DOMAIN!?” A voice roared throughout the tower.
“Oh thank Zod, finally found the bad guy.” Odin gave a sigh of relief. “Now we can go ahead and confront him and get this over with.”
“Gotta say, impressive acoustics in this place.” Kickaha glanced around. “Maybe that’s the reason for all the empty hallways. You could really hear his bellowing echo throughout the entire tower.”
“I KNOW NOT HOW YOU GOT IN BUT WHEN I FIND YOU I SHALL MAKE YOU FACE THE CONSEQUENCES!” The voice roared again. Then there was a pause. “By any chance do you know what floor you’re on?” It asked in a less billowing voice.
“Not really.” Odin called back to him.
“You should really consider marking what floor you’re on at each stairwell. Would make things a lot less confusing.” Kickaha suggested helpfully. “I also have many other décor ideas if you have time to hear them.”
“Aha! By talking you’ve given your location away! Now I have you! You’re on the eighth floor!” The voice shouted. Then it grew silent.
“Soooo, guessing by that silence you couldn’t actually find us.” Kickaha grinned. “Just for quick clarification. Are we not on the eighth floor, or do you not know which floor is the eighth? It’d really help us navigate this place.”
“Just keep talking! I’ll find you eventually!” The voice shouted. “Just the echoes in this place make it confusing. Look, can we just pick a place to meet.”
“I think that seems reasonable.” Odin shouted back.
“Fine! Come find me on the roof!” The voice shouted and was then silent.
“So sounds like we found the villain.” Kickaha looked at Odin. “So do we have a plan? Because our heavy hitter seems to be missing still.”
“You’re a magic user, can’t you just turn him into a mouse or something? Odin asked.
“I mean I could, but that’d be a really boring and predictable way to end things.” Kickaha crossed his arms. “We’re here to save Christmas. That demands a better climax.”
“Look, this has already taken long enough. If we can end this instantly, there’s no reason not to.” Odin crossed his arms.
“Well, if you want to ruin the whole spirit of this adventure, fine.” Kickaha replied grumpily as the two found a staircase and headed further up.
The source of the voice was waiting for them atop the roof. It was a large creature with cloven hooves, a long tail and curved horns. He wore a red suit like Santa but had an ominous aura.
“Aha!” Odin replied. “The villain was you the entire time! I mean… Wait, who are you? We haven’t met you before now.”
“You intrude on my lair without knowing? I am Krampus, and for too long the children of this world have been let off too lenient. I’ve locked Santa in the basement to ensure he can’t make deliveries, and now Christmas will be a time of terror for kids everywhere.”
“Well we know where Santa is now.” Odin turned to Kickaha. “So we don’t really need him anymore. Blast him.”
“Wait, you can’t just start blasting me! I had this entire speech prepared! I was going to pontificate on the nature of humanity and evil, and if it was possible to be good in a world full of corruption!” Krampus complained. “I spent half the year rewriting it until it was perfect! We can’t just start fighting before I even get the chance to talk!”
“I feel for you, I really do.” Kickaha held up a paw. “I’m a real fan of a solid, well-delivered who-is-the-real-monster-here monologue. And you really have the voice for it. But my partner here is a real spoilsport. So we’re skipping to the dramatic battle. I apologize. But I’d love to see your draft later. Anyway, here we go.” A beam of green energy fired from Kickaha’s outstretched paw, striking Krampus in the chest.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Krampus held up his arms then paused. “Wait… Nothing is happening.”
“Yeah uh… Did you cast the spell right?” Odin asked. “Shouldn’t he be a mouse?”
“Of course I cast the spell right!” Kickaha exclaimed, insulted. “I only get it wrong when it would be more interesting! But it didn’t work on him for some reason. Maybe some kind of natural magic resistance?”
“Great…” Odin took up a defensive pose. “So… Any experience fighting an eight-foot-tall goat in martial combat?”
“No, but I did deal with a gazelle once, so, I imagine, similar concept.” Kickaha pondered. If transformation magic wouldn’t work, what would? Obviously not fisticuffs. He hoped that Krampus would monologue a bit while he thought of something clever.
“You fools have no idea who you’re messing with!” Krampus puffed out his chest. “If you think you have the slightest chance then-“
“Ok clear the way the sled is coming through annnnnnnnd there’s no sled.” The orange werekitten appeared directly in the middle between Krampus and his two partners. “Okay… I’m back here again. Anyone want to get me up to speed?”
“That’s Krampus, he’s the villain, he kidnapped Santa.” Odin explained. “He wanted to ruin Christmas to punish children everywhere.”
“HE DID WHAT!?” Calex shouted and began to growl and prowled closer to Krampus on all fours.
“Oh this is just precious. You’re sending in a kitten? Maybe I’ll have him as a snack.” Krampus grinned. “Come here little boy, let me show you true terror and-“ That was as far as he got before Calex leaped up off the ground headbutting Krampus between the horns. “Ugh! You cheeky! I wasn’t ready yet and-“ Krampus was interrupted as Calex bit down on his tail.
“No one messes with Christmas.” Calex growled through gritted teeth.
“Technically someone messes with it once per year.” Kickaha pointed out. “But we get the sentiment.”
“You may have gotten a cheap shot in but don’t think that…” And that was as far as Krampus got before Calex lifted him up by the tail and slammed him into the ground. And then he continued to do so again, and again, and again, before finally tossing Krampus across the roof into the fence, bending the metal where he landed.
“Okay… That went very differently in my head.” Krampus slowly stood up.
“So, I held back cause I wasn’t sure if you could survive a fall from this height. Never fought an evil counterpart to Santa before, not really sure what you can take.” Calex stood up on two legs and crossed his arms. “Don’t suppose you could let me know so I don’t go too far.”
“You think you’ve won. Oh no, this battle has only begun!” Krampus called. “If my power alone is not alone to defeat you, then I call forth, the Four Reindeer of the Christmas Apocalypse!”
“I’m sorry I think I misheard.” Odin tugged at one of his own ears. “Christmas Apocalypse?”
“Yes!” Krampus shouted. “Each of them represents one of the four forces that are destroying Christmas!” As Krampus spoke, four very large reindeer with glowing red eyes, spines along their back and demonic horns landed on each corner of the room. “Meet the four heralds who bring the downfall of Christmas! Rampant Consumerism! Late Stage Capitalism! Your Drunk Conspiracy Spouting Uncle! And That Guy Who Every Single Time You Ask Him to Show the Smallest Amount of Consideration for Anyone Other Than Himself He Accuses You of Trying to Stop People From Saying Merry Christmas Despite This Never Being a Thing Nor Even Relevant to the Conversation! The last one’s name is a bit of a mouthful so we just call him Jerk for short.”
“Calex smash?” Calex asked.
“Indeed Calex smash.” Odin nodded.
“Not so fast!” Krampus shouted. “Reindeer of the Christmas Apocalypse! JOIN UP!” Krampus leaped into the air as each of the four reindeer flew into the air. Their bodies began to make mechanical sounds. Rampant Consumerism and Late Stage Capitalization formed into a pair of giant legs. While Your Drunk Uncle Who Spouts Conspiracies and Jerk formed together to create a torso and arms. Then Krampus landed on the very top becoming the head. “Behold! The most powerful Anti-Christmas Weapon in Existence! The Conservanitor 9000!”
“Wonder what happened to Conservanitors 1 through 8999.” Kickaha mused out loud.
“I’m more wondering why a bunch of reindeer and an evil counterpart to Santa can turn into a giant robot.” Odin muttered.
“Obviously it’s the rampant consumerism! Think of the toys we can sell!” Krampus laughed. “This is the end for all of you! Your journey and Christmas die now!” Krampus shouted.
“I can see why you think that.” Odin grinned. “But you see, you may have a giant robot. But we have a werekitten.”
And then Calex was gone.
“Had a werekitten.” Odin muttered. “That was ill timed. In hindsight maybe I should have just stuck him to one team.”
“Plan B?” Kickaha asked.
“Well, it’s a robot. You can zap it with lightning?” Odin asked.
“Yeah, but don’t be too shocked if that’s not enough to stop it. I’m normally the nonviolent sort. Except for nutritious rodents. And who uses magic for rodent hunting? It’s cheating. So the whole combat-magic thing… Oh well. Here goes.” Kickaha held out his hands as they sparked with electricity.
“Well…” Odin removed a wrench and screwdriver from his coat. “It may be made of reindeer, but it’s still a robot. Though, been awhile since I’ve had to take one of these apart the hard way.”
“Enough banter! Perish at the hands of my real antler launching action!” The robot pointed an arm at Odin and Kickaha and began to rapidly fire antlers.
“You know you might take down your entire building like this right?” Kickaha asked as he broke into a sprint to dodge the antlers. Cardio really did make all the difference in the world in these adventures. He began to blast the robot with lightning. “Like what’s the weight limit of this roof?”
“Do you ever cease talking?” Krampus demanded as he punched a fist down at Kickaha.
“Well…” Kickaha leaped from the fist and gave it a full blast of electricity. “Sometimes, if I’m feral, or somehow too young or inside an egg. But usually no. People have come to expect a certain amount of banter and wordplay from me. So sorry if it comes off as a little punishing.” He held out both paws unleashing as much lightning as he could on the hand that had slammed into the roof causing it to freeze up momentarily.
“Here’s my chance.” Odin leaped onto the hand and clung to it. He began to look for bolts, screws, anything he could remove that looked important.
“Get off!” Krampus shouted as the hand recovered. He shook his Hand around trying to dislodge Odin. Luckily for Odin, he had a lot of experience being several orders of magnitude smaller than someone when being in this type of situation. The only difference was that this time he was wearing clothes and had access to a wrench. He clung on, refusing to be dislodged until he had undone enough bolts and screws that the arm made up by Jerk fell off of the robot, clattering to the ground.
“One down.” Odin leaped from the arm right before it hit the ground and landed in a roll. “Three to go.”
“Enough of you! Stop crawling around like insects!” Krampus tried to stomp down onto Kickaha and Odin. They dove to the side, and once more Kickaha released a blast of lightning to stun one of the legs so Odin could jump on and start dismantling it. “Hey… Get off this minute!” The giant robot jumped around on one leg while trying to shake the leg Odin was clinging to. All it accomplished was making the leg dislodge sooner as Odin loosened it.
“Oh I get it now.” Kickaha grinned. “Late Stage Capitalism. The robot! It’s basically talking about how everything practically cost you an arm and a leg.”
“That was terrible!” Krampus swung his remaining arm at Kickaha. He didn’t even come close to hitting. Instead he lost balance on his one leg before falling on his back. “This isn’t over! I can get up and fight!”
“Uh yeah…” Odin acted quickly and dismantled the other leg. “I don’t think you can.”
“I still have one arm left! I can drag myself towards you and hit you with an antler.” Krampus shouted. It was at this point the arm fell off on its own, no longer having any of the other reindeer parts attached to it to hold it in place. Krampus suddenly collapsed to the ground and was buried partially beneath the robot debris. “Ok, maybe we can call it a draw.”
“Well that was less than impressive.” Odin crossed his arms.
“I mean it’s not like any of the four were that good on their own anyway.” Kickaha shrugged. The two advanced on the stuck Krampus.
“You’ve lost, it’s over Krampus.” Odin spoke. “There’s no reason to drag this out or make it any harder on yourself.”
“I haven’t lost! It has just only- only- only- only- only-“ Krampus voice changed from booming to a stuttering screech.
“Okay. I knew we might have broken him mentally, but I didn’t think it was that bad.” Kickaha exclaimed.
“Uh… I don’t think this is Krampus.” Odin approached the goat-like figure and reached forward. He grabbed at the fur and felt around until he found a loose seam. He pulled on it, pulling the fur off of Krampus revealing a face made of metal behind it.
“This is the end- end- end- -end -end -end” Krampus managed to stutter a little longer before going silent.
“Okay, if he and the reindeer were all robots that makes a lot more sense about why they could combine.” Kickaha mused. “And it explains why my spell failed. But… Why are they robots?”
“That’s… A good question.” Odin looked uncertain. “If they’re robots it means someone built them. Krampus isn’t the mastermind behind this… Just a tool.”
“I bet the real Krampus is going to be super miffed when he finds out about this.” Kickaha twitched his tail as he studied the remains.
“But it raises the question, who made the robot? Who was controlling it?” Odin’s eyes narrowed. “I think we need to bust Santa out of the basement and get back to the workshop as fast as possible.”
Lockely and Zeelo had successfully pulled the sleigh onto the runway. Though, now they weren’t sure what to do. They were both strapped into the harnesses they couldn’t remove themselves. That meant if they tried to walk anywhere they would drag the sleigh with them.
“I really hope I’m getting paid well for this.” Lockely muttered.
“At least it’ll make for a great story!” Zeelo beamed.
“You two!” One of the elves came running out from the building. “We’ve got a problem! We’ve tried everything but can’t reach the reindeer! We need to recruit new ones right now and…” The elf paused. “You two are reindeer now.”
“Yes. Your powers of observation are quite astute.” Lockely said bluntly.
“But… Weren’t you a fox and a cat when I last saw you?” The elf seemed unsure. It had been a busy day.
“Yes, yes we were.” Lockely just gave him a deadpan stare.
“Huh.” The elf paused. “Well good news! We have two new reindeer! Do you two know how to fly?”
“I mean I do as a dragon or a nimbat or something with wings.” Zeelo piped up. “Never been a flying reindeer.”
“Okay, look, I’ll walk you through the basics. Just start galloping full speed towards the ramp. Once you reach the ramp all you have to do to fly is think the proper thoughts.” The elf explained.
“Let me guess, think happy thoughts?” Lockely asked.
“What? No! Think about altitude and wind direction, and how you want to move through the air! Flying takes a lot of concentration!” The elf seemed terrified by the suggestion. “You can’t distract yourself with fantasies.”
“Oh… Is that all there is to it?” Lockely spoke flatly.
“Right… So, why not give it a test run.” The elf suggested.
“Run full speed and jump off the ramp and hope I can really fly. That’s pretty much the plan.” Lockely looked down at his hooves with uncertainty.
“Awww come on Lockely! It’ll be fun! And maybe if we do a good job we can deliver the presents with Santa!” Zeelo pleaded.
“Ok, sure, let’s do this. Makes as much sense as anything else we’ve done tonight.” Lockely dug at the ground. Then he broke into a sprint.
Zeelo ran alongside him. The two carried the sleight towards the ramp. Soon their hooves were running up the ramp, and then they were in the air. And… They stayed airborne.
“Lockely! We’re real flying reindeer!” Zeelo shouted out in glee as they pulled the sleigh through the sky.
“Huh, so it is all real.” Lockely looked down seeing the land pass by below him. “This violates more laws of physics than I can count… But I do have to admit flying is nice.” The two flew higher as they flew the sled in circles getting the hang of it.
And then Calex appeared in the sky between the two reindeer.
“Okay, robot smashing ti-“ He paused as he realized he was suddenly plummeting towards Earth. “Oh come on! Wings! Wings! I need wings!” As he shouted he sprouted a pair of bat-like wings from his back and flew back up to be level with Lockely and Zeelo. “So… Things are a little crazy on the other side… How are things going here.”
“We’re flying reindeer.” Lockely replied bluntly.
“Okay, so nothing out of the ordinary then.” Calex gave a sigh of relief. “Was worried things would be just as bad here.”
“Hey… How do you have wings right now?” Lockely stared at the kitten. He was fairly certain the wings were draconic in nature, but he had never seen Calex just sprout wings before. “Since when can you do that?”
“I’m not sure.” Calex muttered. “The first time that I got turned into a dragon was so long ago I don’t really remember. But… Since I’m a werekitten I can always change forms and go back to kitten at any time. I kind of trained my body to memorize shapes so I can learn new forms if an outside force transforms me. I mean, I’ve actually been part dragon on the inside since we arrived at the North Pole. Got a fire burning inside me. How else do you think I was keeping warm?”
“Wait.” Lockely had a realization. “You can change back from forms anytime!? Then… When we were stuck as mice that one time! Why didn’t you just change back then instead of taking a nap?”
“I mean, I felt like it would ruin the moment.” Calex shrugged. “Also I was tired.”
“Can’t fault that logic.” Zeelo squeaked happily, too distracted by the thrill of flight to contribute much to the conversation.
“Not without losing your sanity.” Lockely muttered with mild snark. The three flew a few laps around the workshop before coming back in to land on the runway.
“Wow, you two are naturals at that flying thing.” Calex grinned as the wings he had sprouted sunk back into his back.
“Yeah, yeah thanks, I appreciate that, but a more pressing matter… Can you get these harnesses off us so we’re no longer stuck to the sleigh?” Lockely asked.
“On it!” Calex shouted before he unstrapped each of the reindeer. “So anyway… I should be bamfing back soon. We were kind of in the middle of fighting a robot made out of the Four Reindeer of the Christmas Apocalypse fused with Krampus before I got bamfed here.”
“There is so much there I’m not even going to ask.” Lockely replied quickly.
“I was kind of hoping I would bamf back. I wanted to smash the robot.” Calex pouted. “I mean-
“YES! Robot smashing!” Calex paused as he looked at his surroundings. He was just in front of the workshop now. “What?”
“We made it back!” Odin surprised the kitten from behind and ruffled his head fur.
“You beat up the robot without me?” Calex sounded like he might cry.
“Trust me, it wasn’t very impressive. You didn’t miss anything.” Kickaha wiped a bit of dust off his cloak. “Pretty sure that was a bootleg model.”
“Does anyone want to bring me up to speed on what everyone is talking about?” It was a kindly voice that spoke. And when Calex looked up his eyes lit up. A jolly man, dressed in red, a beard of white and wearing a pair of spectacles.
“Santa!” Calex pounced Father Christmas and clung to his leg. “Big fan! I mean, I know I say that every year. But still! So happy to see you back safe.”
“Basically, someone attempted to stop Christmas by building a robot Krampus to kidnap you.” Odin explained. “But we’re not sure who.”
“We should go get Lockely and Zeelo.” Calex suggested. “Maybe if we put our heads together we can figure out who was really behind it.” The kitten ran off and returned a few minutes with both reindeer in tow.
“So you guys succeeded on your end.” Zeelo wagged his little tail.
“And… You’re reindeer. I guess that means you got a job?” Kickaha asked.
“I guess…” Lockely muttered. But, having had time to get used to the form, process that Santa Claus was real, and that he had just played a major role in saving Christmas, and also he could fly, he was feeling a little bit of excitement. And the idea of bringing joy to children all over the world did sound pretty nice.
“Well we may not know who is responsible, but at least we know Christmas is saved.” Odin muttered.
“NO!” The voices of the Littles Orphans cried out in unison. In a blink of an eye all three of them were now standing in front of the small crowd. “Don’t think for a second this will be allowed! This is our special! Our moment! We’re the ones who save Christmas!” The Littlest Orphans did scream. “We build Krampus and set up the scheme! How dare you interfere, but there’s a role you can still play.” They pointed at the remaining three non-reindeer of the group. “If you want to help so badly you can join your friends in the coop! For your interference-“ There was a blast of green light and suddenly the Littlest Orphans were no more. Instead, three mice now stood there looking quite meek. “Squeak.”
“What?” Kickaha asked as everyone looked at him. “I warned it’d be anticlimactic. But we already had a proper climax anyway, so it’s not like we need a second.” As he spoke the Littlest Orphans scrambled off disappearing into the night as mice.
“I guess… That’s the last thread wrapped up.” Odin looked around. “Christmas is officially saved.”
“Yes… It seems I owe you a great debt.” Santa Claus looked around. “Now what were your names again.”
“Kickaha of the Art.” Kickaha did a slight bow.
“Wait, the same Kickaha who stole my sled and took it for a joy right a few years ago?” Santa asked.
“It wasn’t stolen if I returned it. That only makes it borrowed.” Kickaha replied in a hurry. “Also, oh look at the time it really is late I must be going bye.” He threw up a hand and a swirling circle appeared in the air. On the other side his burrow was visible. Kickaha quickly leaped through this portal as it shut behind him.
“Well that seemed a bit drastic. I was going to let him off with just a stern talking to.” Santa seemed taken aback.
“That’s about the worst thing you could do to him.” Calex explained. “It’d just be boring and waste time. No way he’d stick around for that.”
“Anyway… Most of my reindeer are missing, if you two don’t mind staying in that form a little longer I could use the help. I’ll also need to find a few more recruits.”
“What about us?” Calex asked as he stood next to Odin.
“Yes… You two. I remember you two.” Santa looked at them. “You show up here every year saying you’re going to save Christmas. We barely recovered from last time.”
“Ok, but look, his heart was in the right place when he tried.” Odin explained. “And this year we really did save Christmas.”
“Hmmm, I suppose some reward is in order. A little Christmas magic.” Santa reached forward with both hands and booped both Odin and Calex on the nose. Suddenly, Odin vanished into his clothes, though one look at Calex showed what happened right away. The werekitten had been reduced to a mere infant, and a few seconds later a baby Odin crawled out from under his clothes shivering. “I’ll let you two ride in the sack where it’s nice and warm.” Santa promised. “And I’ll get you some scarves.”
“So… I’m… a bit confused about what just happened.” Lockely looked at the baby detectives. “Wouldn’t it have been better to turn them into reindeer to help.”
“Look I’ve dealt with them before and this is the thing.” Santa crossed his arms. “When you need a villain stopped, they’re quite reliable. But when they help in other areas, it can get a little chaotic. It’s much better they be out of the way than trying to ‘help.”
“Meow.” Calex managed to look quite smug about what was just said.
“Woof.” Odin crossed his arms, thinking it unfair.
“You can cause just as much chaos as your partner and you know it.” Santa replied. “Now then… We’ll need to hire some more temporary reindeer and get going. Christmas is almost here. As a reward for helping the little ones can ride with us on the sack. We’ll drop them off at their home when we deliver their gifts. I think I know exactly what to give them this year.”
“And us?” Lockely asked.
“Well, I’ll need you to pull the sleigh of course. Think of all the children depending on you now.” Santa pleaded.
“Yeah come on Lockely! The kids are counting on us to help Santa make his delivery.”
“I mean I’m going to do it, but am I at least going to get paid?” Lockely asked. “Look I’m not trying to be greedy but I literally came here looking for a job.”
“The flying reindeer actually have a really good union. You’ll be paid and have quite a few benefits.” Santa explained. “Now then… Let’s get the two little ones inside before they freeze, and maybe some hot drinks for everyone. Then we’ll see if we can find some more last minute volunteers to help with tonight’s run.” With that Santa picked up Odin and Calex, holding each in one arm as he headed for the workshop.
“Oh! Oh! I might know some people who can volunteer!” Zeelo ran after Santa.
Lockely stayed behind by himself. He looked at the workshop as well as the North Pole, taking in all that had happened today. This wasn’t his preferred position but there was one thought he couldn’t get out of his head. He had helped save Christmas!
Sure that everyone else was in the shop, Lockely allowed himself a moment to let out his emotions. He gleefully leaped around in the snow, occasionally taking flight as he thought of what was to come. This might have continued for a while were it not for one thing.
“Um…” One of Santa’s elves stood in the snow looking up at Lockely. “I was sent to ask if you’d want hot chocolate, tea or coffee.”
“Coffee.” Lockely landed and immediately tried to act stoic. But as he walked towards the workshop the wagging of his tail betrayed his aloof attitude.
All was done, the villains defeated. Now Christmas was coming without delay.