by M. R. Lang
It’s a yellow school bus with a prow made from house decks in the front. There’s a wooden hull wrapped around it and the windows are stained-glass. The stop sign on the side has a Jolly Roger biting its tongue painted in green. For the mission at hand, it has snow tires stolen from a used auto parts store.
The captain sits on the roof of the bus-ship, dangling her legs through an emergency exit. She wears a thick, black fur coat and a puffy, worn ski cap to keep her warm. Her long, brown hair tied in the back, below the hat, is starting to freeze at the ends. Welder’s goggles keep the snow and bright glare out of her eyes. Down inside, her skellingtons man the ship and get ready for the job. The knives are sharpened, the guns are loaded, bones are bleached, and Alice in Chains is playing over the bus-ship’s intercom system. As he passes the sign, Derek, the driver, motions to the others that it’s almost time.
North Pole: 3 miles
Captain Ducksworth jumps down into the bus-ship to inspect her crew. The navigator, Shelly, has a crude drawing of the northern hemisphere drawn on her skull, and there’s a small candy cane sticking out to mark the North Pole. There’s also a rifle strapped to her back. The one they call Tool has a denim Sex Pistols jacket open, revealing his ribs, which have a machete and a handgun inside for easy gettin’ to. Morris and Joplin clean their guns, sitting together in the back. Ron paints his vertebra, alternating red and green. The belts hanging off his shoulders and wrapped down around his ribs have been painted bright white, clashing against his off-white bones.
The captain opens her coat to show a rapier hanging from each side of her belt and a nine millimeter handgun sticking out of her waistband between them. She takes a moment to pose, a hand on her hip, and pictures bold text across her waist: “Captain September Ducksworth: Surrealist Pirate, Extraordinaire.”
“It’s almost time, crew. We’ll perform a frontal assault on the compound the moment Derek pulls up to the stables. Hit anyone and anything that gets in your way. I want us to move fast before they can mount a counter attack. If they get a chance, they’ll hit us hard. If anyone’s too injured to continue, fall back to the ship and have Derek signal me.”
The captain looks out the windshield and sees another sign.
“The fat man is mine…”
Reindeer Crossing Next 500 ft.
Derek slides the bus next to the reindeer stable and everyone else hustles out of the bus-ship. Tool pistol-whips Rudolph so he can’t alert the Claus. Once they’re sure the stable is locked up tight, the team makes for the compound. A hundred feet from Santa’s compound, they separate and dive behind snow banks for cover. September peers behind the snow to survey the battlefield. A handful of elves are already packing the sleigh with brightly wrapped boxes, but only two bags are full… there’s still time. September waits for the elves to go back inside for more boxes before she signals her skellingtons forward.
The team doesn’t get more than fifteen feet before the snowmen sentries burst from the snow and pull out rifles from inside themselves.
“FALL BACK!” September yells.
They each fire off a few shots as they retreat to the snow banks. Ron’s skull is grazed and two holes are punched through Tool’s jacket.
“Shelly! Morris! Joplin! Suppressing fire!”
The three run to the top of their snow banks and fire at the snowmen while the other three charge with swords drawn. September plugs a snowman’s rifle with one sword and takes several swipes at it with the other. Ron slices one snowman in half and then tosses his sword into another’s head. Tool jumps straight for a snowman and drives the machete down the top of its head. The other three now focus on the remaining snowman and decimate it with bullets. September waves the whole team to move forward. She’s sure Santa’s heard the gunfire.
As they approach the compound, doors in the snow burst open, throwing snow behind them. Clowns and jesters on springs fly into the air to reveal jack-in-the-box guards. Four of them take aim with shoulder-mounted cannons and fire wooden train grenades. The team runs through the explosions and fire back. The guards can only fire one shot every few seconds, and the grenades are easy enough to dodge. It’s not long before they’re dispatched.
September eyes Santa’s cottage a short way down a path away from the compound.
“Tool, Morris, and Shelly, inside. Make sure no one comes after us. Everyone else with me.”
September, Joplin, and Ron run down the path, keeping their eyes open for more sentries and guards, guns ready. Gunfire and screams are heard behind them. As they get closer to the cottage, Santa’s Mechanical Robotic Soldier Calibrated for Logical Assassination and Ultimate Sabotage jumps out from behind a metal Christmas tree and slings ninja stars shaped like the Star of Bethlehem. Ron and Joplin change course towards MRS CLAUS while September heads right for Santa’s front door. She twirls around and lets her back hit the wall, next to a window. She takes a glance at the others fighting MRS CLAUS before spying inside the cottage. Santa is sitting at his desk, checking his list. She sidles towards the door and takes deep breaths.
Captain Ducksworth kicks in the door and fires towards where Santa was sitting, but he’s already gone. Gun first, she inspects the cottage for fat men in red. As she starts to peak inside a bedroom, September hears boots hit the floor and she spins around.
“Ho, ho, ho! And what are you doing here, little girl?” Santa asks.
“I’m here to stop you, fat man!”
“Ho… but I only bring happiness to children around the world! Why would you want to stop me?”
September takes a few steps forward, making sure the gun is between the two of them.
“You only bring happiness to the children you want to! And then you break into their houses while they’re sleeping. Who are you to decide who’s naughty and nice!? Getting children to write you letters about all the toys they want, then toy makers and video game studios mark-up the prices and push the goods you tell them to! And there’s that whole elf-slave thing. I’m on to you. Oh, I’m on to you so good…”
“Ho, ho… ho… You’re a naughty, little girl, Ms. Ducksworth.” Santa puts his hands on his belt and laughs, making his belly shake like an evil bowl of pudding.
“Santa’s going to have to put an end to you…”
He whips off his belt and it snaps straight into a sword.
September tries to take a shot with her gun, but Santa is a fast old elf. She draws a sword with her other hand and blocks Santa’s belt-sword. She takes aim with the gun, but with his free hand, Santa grabs it and pushes it to the side. He pushes her against the wall and smiles. She kicks him in the knee and he falls to one side. With Santa wavering, September cuts his sword arm at the elbow and escapes his hold. She gets off five shots into his belly, but Santa just laughs. The bullets are pushed back out from his belly and hit the floor. September looks Santa in the eyes just as they start to turn as red as his suit. He takes a look at the cut on his arm as it heals itself, the suit mending itself with a loud hissing sound. Santa slowly turns his gaze back to September and continues to laugh. She runs into the hallway and shoots at Santa’s face, but his beard bursts up to cover his face and the bullets just bounce off. In the hall, September realizes she’s gotten herself cornered. She’s only one idea left.
Santa calmly walks over to his desk and opens a drawer. From inside, he pulls out an old ordinance pistol from the 19th century. It’s been customized with a Christmas tree shaped sight and red and white striping.
“Santa got this little baby from the Easter Bunny last year. Ho, ho, ho… I’ve been waiting for a chance to try it out.”
As Santa takes aim, September ducks low and start running. She takes a few blind shots at Santa’s head, causing his beard to cover his face. With Santa effectively blind, September pounces on his chest, stabbing him where his heart should be. She kneels on his protruding stomach, no longer shaking, and pushes the sword in deeper.
“No!” Santa screams. “My heart has been pierced! My cold, dark heart… Ho, ho… oh…”
Santa coughs and starts to falls backwards. September pushes off and lands on her feet a few feet in front of where Santa now lays.
“You’ve been a very naughty… Oh, God…”
Santa’s juices spill onto the floor and start to bubble. His eyes slowly turn back from red to blue and his beard begins to melt. September stands above Santa, victorious. Outside, MRS CLAUS explodes.
The team walks back to the stables followed by a horde of newly freed elves. They release the reindeer into the custody of the elves and turn Rudolph over to some elf chefs. Derek opens the door and lets the other skellingtons board. As September gets on the first step, a taller elf named Shermey walks up to her and tells her that he’ll take charge of the compound and plans to turn it into a dental school. She smiles and walks onto the bus-ship.
As she turns the heater to high, she looks at her crew and asks, “Who’s for coffee?”
M. R. LANG writes from his aboveground cavern, assisted by his manservant, Jackandular McGaston. With his supercomputer that in no way at all resembles a flying mammal of any kind or makes horrible, shrill cries when alerted to local crime, he writes short fiction and plays solitaire. No one knows where the giant penny comes from.