PHASE 1- SIX

It was the night before Christmas.

That’s usually how these stories begin right?

Fortunately for us, this is not a Christmas tale. This is not about “the most wonderful time of the year.” This is a tale about justice, fairness and people getting what they deserve, especially from  big bellied deities who claim to go around dropping presents for kids under trees.

Lindsey had been a member of C.L.A.U.S. since she was six. You probably need an explanation (I was getting there, relax…Jeez).

Lindsey is a C.L.A.U.S. agent which is short for Christmas List- Agents, Underdogs and Spies (I know, they all think it’s dumb and the founder was trying too hard. I agree with them).

They are a clandestine organization that has existed for centuries. As the population of the world increased, Santa or as they call him “Commander Nick” realized he couldn’t keep up with the Christmas schedule anymore. The elves had their plates full creating the right gifts, cataloguing presents, compiling the “nice” and “naughty” list, editing the lists, then of course there was the daunting task of packaging and finally delivery.

At some point, Commander Nick realized that he needed help. He decided to recruit children from the age of six to come work for him until they are twelve in an organization he called C.L.A.U.S.

The day Lindsey got recruited was the weirdest day of her life. She went to bed on the night of her sixth birthday and woke up in a place she didn’t recognize.  Before I go on, I need to drop a disclaimer here. If you’re a ‘Christmas-y’ person (this means that you love and believe all the things you have known or heard about Santa Claus), you should probably stop reading now because this is clearly not for you.

 

(last chance)

 

She woke up in a small room with wooden walls. She stood up obviously frightened, wondering where she was and how she got here. Around her, she could hear the sound of other children, some were crying, while others sounded like they were knocking on the walls of their rooms. She looked around and realized that the room had no doors or windows; it was practically empty except for the bed on the floor, the clock on the wall and a bedside lamp that was awkwardly shaped like a “C”.

She sat on the bed sobbing silently and making a mental list of all the night creatures that her older brother had told her about, trying to figure out which of them could be responsible for this. Moments later, the clock struck two and began to play “Jingle bells”. The song played about three times and she was too busy whimpering to pay any attention to it. On the forth listen, she heard something strange at the end of the song. The clock played,

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is, to turn the lamp right where you lay”

She listened again to be sure she wasn’t hallucinating.
“…Oh what fun it is, to turn the lamp right where you lay”

With tears running down her eyes, she grabbed the weirdly shaped lamp swiftly turning and twisting it in every direction possible. Nothing happened.

After about two minutes, the song had stopped playing and she was sitting in silence again. She picked up the lamp again, studying it carefully. Just as she was about to give up, she saw a very tiny opening on the lower curve of the ‘C’.

Looking closely, she saw circular knob in the opening so I reached in and tried to turn it.

/Click/

The room started to shake and it felt like a mini-earthquake was passing through in that instant. Lindsey jerked up panicking as she saw a new source of light entering the room, looking up the roof had begun to open and a ladder dropped down. She quickly weighed her options and decided that whatever was waiting for her on top of the ladder was better than being stuck in the room.

Wiping her tears with her Pokémon pajamas shirt sleeve, she summoned as much courage as a six-year-old could muster and climbed up the ladder. As she got closer to the top, it started to get colder which didn’t make much sense because it was the middle of April.

Nothing could have prepared her for the view as she reached the surface. She could hardly feel the cold anymore as she stared at the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. It was like a scene from her favorite Christmas bedtime story; as far as her vision could go, this new place was covered in snow.

Bright lights danced around in the most radiant of colors and looking closely she realized they were cute little fairies, little cottages were spread out around the area, all painted red, white and green surrounded by fuzzy blue lights; a little further down there was a bigger cottage which was the most beautiful of them all. Elves dressed the leafy green shorts and shirts ran about playing with snow, other were feeding some reindeers while others were climbing the pine trees that were scattered around.

Around her other children were climbing out of similar rooms in the ground, others in front of her walking towards the big cottage and some staring around in complete bewilderment just like she was.

“Welcome Lindsey, please walk towards Santa’s cottage.” an elf said to her pointing towards the big cottage.

She partly wondered how he knew her name, but mostly was wrapping her mind around everything she knew about Christmas as she walked towards the cottage.

So this is the North Pole… She began, thinking out loud.

“Yes it is, I didn’t believe it existed.” a voice said beside her.

She turned to find a boy walking with her. He had dark scruffy hair and dark skin. She thought he was probably American but his accent was a bit weird. She looked around again and noticed an Asian girl walking just behind them. Suddenly self-conscious she touched her golden blonde hair feeling the cold again.

“Hello, I’m Seun” he said, with a smile.

“I’m Lindsey. Hi…where are you from?” She asked.

“Nigeria. You?” he asked.

“England.” She replied.

He nodded.

“I can’t believe I’m going to meet Father Christmas.” He said grinning.

“Father who?” She asked.

“Errmmm…Santa Claus. My parents call him Father Christmas where I am from.” He said with a chuckle.

She couldn’t help chuckling back. He seemed a little weird but she liked Seun (even if she never quite figured out how to pronounce his name no matter how much he corrected her). The Asian girl who introduced herself as ‘Yukino from Japan’ joined them and they spent the rest of the walk exchanging Christmas stories and facts from their different homes.

On arriving at the cottage they found thousands of children gathered and realized the cottage was a lot bigger and more beautiful than it looked afar off. They joined the rest of the kids gathered and after a few minutes, the cottage doors opened up as a big belled man with white beards flanked by two elves stepped out wearing a red jumpsuit with white sleeves.

“SANTAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!” They all began to scream and jump in excitement. The kids in front rushed forward and he carried some of them, playing with their hairs and poking their noses. The excitement died down in a couple of minutes and they all eagerly waited for Santa to speak.

“Ho-Ho-Ho… Hello children, welcome to the North Pole. Isn’t it beautiful?” He asked.

“It is.” They all chorused.

“Is it all you thought it would be and more?” He asked.

“It is.” They chorused again.

“Ho-Ho-Ho… Do you love it?” He asked.

“Yes we do.” They all replied again.

“Good.” He said.

“Kill the magnetic pulses on the hologram generators and turn off your holo-cloaks” He said to the elf on his right.

“Yes Commander.” He replied, pushing a button on a device Lindsey didn’t notice was in his hands earlier (probably because they were all in awe of Santa Claus. Can you blame her?).

The entire scenery began to flicker and then distort right in front of their eyes. Santa’s Cottage became a huge fortress barricaded by high walls. The beautiful lights were gone and in their place were cameras and some other equipment that she didn’t know. Seun and Lindsey took a quick look around and realized that everything else had changed.

The small cottages were now smaller fortresses and garrisons, in the place of the pine trees were obstacles courses and the reindeers were gone revealing tanks and trucks.

Most of the children had already begun to cry again. Santa’s elves also looked very different losing every feature that made them even remotely cute or friendly. Their faces were painted with green and black paint and they wore black combat outfits.

“Are you all seeing this?” Yukino asked.

“At least their ears are the same.” Seun said pointing at the elves.

“How is that what is important now and how can you be calm about this?” Lindsey replied feeling a sob coming to her throat.

“I am not calm, but I thought it was too good to be true.” Seun replied.

Santa laughed and this time it wasn’t a ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’, it was a deep laugh with a hint of mockery.

He dipped his hands into his pockets revealing a device similar to the one his elf had and he pushed a button. The ‘Santa’ in front of us flickered twice and was gone.

In his place stood a bare chested man, his belly was gone and in its place was a huge well-toned body (yup, Santa is quite ripped) full of scars.  He still had his wild beards but his face was chiseled and strict with a scar running across his left eye.

“Their initial reaction is always so epic.” The elf on the left of Santa said.

Santa was still laughing (This was the first sign to Lindsey that Santa was bat-shit crazy).

“I want to go home.” A kid somewhere in the middle said and some other kids echoed the same thing.

Santa abruptly stopped laughing and looked menacingly at the kids.

“Okay listen up you little shrimps. Welcome to C.L.A.U.S Fortress on the North Pole. Those of you who are here passed the first test by getting out of your rooms. You will address me as Commander Nick…”

I think you get the idea. Santa gave a big welcome speech saying more things that proved to Lindsey and her friends beyond any reasonable doubt that Santa was indeed clinically insane. For the next one year, the kids were under strict para-military training where they learnt spy tactics, weaponry, languages, espionage, hand-to-hand combat and survival training.

They were given teleportation and holo-cloak devices to help cover their tracks when they were on the north pole training. They trained hard on the north pole three nights a week and by April the following year, they became certified agents of C.L.A.U.S.

As expected not every kid made it through the entire training. Those kids who couldn’t finish including the kids who failed the first test had their memories wiped to keep the existence of C.L.A.U.S. a secret. Lindsey, Seun and Yukino made it obviously; there wouldn’t be a story to tell if they didn’t.

 

PHASE 2- NINE

Wait, you’re still reading? Okay then. Let’s fast forward three years shall we?

Lindsey was nine years old. Her younger brother, Smith turned six three months ago and he had started to behave weirdly. Normal kids may not have noticed and adults definitely could never have seen it (because they are quite clueless), but she knew the signs enough to know that something was wrong.

During her time, she never got to meet older C.L.A.U.S. agents until after two months of training so she waited for two months before actively searching for him. She’d been looking for him for a month now, checking the ‘new recruits’ database on the north pole and asking around. It would have been a lot easier to ask him but she couldn’t risk being wrong and breaching the contract of secrecy.

She even checked his room for holo-cloaks but couldn’t find any, although his room usually had a weird sensation that made her a tad uneasy. This morning he was late to the breakfast table again as she sat with her parents waiting for him.

“What is he doing up there?” Their mum asked her.

She shrugged.

“Smith, you’re going to be late again.” Their dad called.

“Coming” He said as he bolted down the stairs.

His eyes were tired again and Lindsey knew he was up all night. The situation had begun to drive her crazy and throughout school she kept trying to figure it out. By the time she got back home, she had come up with a plan.

She entered her room, locked the door and skyped Yukino and Seun.

“Hey guys, so I have a plan” she began.

“Of course you do. What are we talking about this time?” Seun asked.

“My brother Seun. I have a plan” she replied.

“Okay Lin, let’s hear it” Yukino said.

“I’m glad you asked Yuki, I need you help me build a fight-bot about size of a six-year-old boy” Lindsey replied, speaking specifically to Yukino.

In the three years that they had spent as agents under Commander Nick, Yukino had grown to be one of the best young inventors C.L.A.U.S had at her disposal. She spent most of her free time taking apart the devices and equipment at the fort and building new ones.

“Okay, I think you need to explain this plan.” Yukino said.

“Slowly.” Seun added.

“Fine. I need Yuki to help me build a fight-bot that will attack my brother.” She said.

“WHAT!!!!” Seun exclaimed.

“You’re insane Lin.” Yuki added.

“Just hear me out. I want the fight-bot to attack him at the children’s park a few blocks away from school.”

“So you want a fight-bot walking about the streets of Manchester. Are you crazy?” Seun asked.

“No, I’ll design it with an inbuilt holo-cloak so it would look like a regular teenage bully. That’s not the part of this plan that bothers me.” Yukino said.

Lindsey smiled to herself. Over the years Yukino and Seun had become her best friends and she had particularly become really close to Yukino probably because they were both girls. At C.L.A.U.S. Lindsey had become a tactical expert and that usually meant she came up with the craziest plans for whatever team she was assigned to.

Yukino was the only person in C.L.A.U.S. that always thought on the same wavelength as she did. Seun was always skeptical although when push came to shove, he was crazier than both of them put together.

“Okay, you’re both crazy.” Seun concluded.

“Come on Seun, help out.” Lindsey pleaded.

“Fine, what bothers you Yuki?” He asked.

“What if you’re wrong and he’s not an agent?
And let’s even say you’re right.
What if he doesn’t fight back?
If he’s really a C.L.A.U.S. agent, he’ll want to keep the secret at all costs. He may decide not to fight back and get beaten instead.” Yuki explained.

They all waited in silence for about a minute.

“If Lin says there’s something off with him, then there is. She’s hardly wrong about things. What we need is a change of plan.” Seun began.

“What do you mean? This plan should work.” Lindsey protested.

“Lindsey you’re awesome with plans and that’s cool, but I know one or two things about bullying.
If we need this to work, the fight-bot needs to attack YOU while he watches.” Seun explained.

“Me? Why me?” Lindsey asked.

“It’s simple. He may be able to walk away from a fight if it was just him, but no one can stand it if someone they love is being beaten and they had the power to do something about it.” He said.

“Wow. That actually makes sense, you scare me Seun.” Yukino said.

Seun grinned.

“Very well then, I like this idea. How long do you need to get the fight-bot ready?” Lindsey asked.

“One week.” Yukino replied.

“Cool. I have to go; my parents should be looking for me now. Thanks a lot guys, you’re the best.” Lindsey said smiling.

“I know. Bye Lin” Seun said as he logged off.

“Later Lin” Yukino said also logging off.

 

A week and half passed and after testing the fight-bots Yukino sent and tweaking the plan a bit more, Lindsey was ready to act. The new plan was for the fight-bot to attack her on their way back from school. They usually rode the bus back home but once in a while they both walked home taking a shortcut that led them past an abandoned old warehouse.

They walked home in silence mostly, Smith had never been much of a talker and he grew even quieter after whatever happened to him happened.

As they approached the warehouse, the fight-bot sneaked up on them from behind snatching her backpack and running away.

“Hey, give that back” she said turning to face “him”.

The fight-bot looked like a fat thirteen or fourteen-year-old with ginger hair and way too many freckles. Lindsey had to admire Yukino’s creation, the girl was a genius.

“You talking to me?” he said walking towards her.

Just as planned she thought to herself. Yukino and Seun were hiding in the warehouse; Yukino was responsible for all the movements of the fight-bot holding an oddly shaped controller that was the length of her entire arm and wearing glasses directly connected to the robot’s optics so she saw through its eyes.  Seun on the other was the voice of the fight-bot speaking through a device that was linked to the fight-bot’s mouth.

The device modified his voice slightly, still Lindsey marveled at how much his British accent had improved in the last three years. (She still had trouble pronouncing his name)

“Give me back my backpack, please” She said in the best ‘frightened’ voice she had.

Smith stood still beside her very silent.

“Maybe I’ll take his backpack too” The fight-bot said. (let’s call him Max, saying fight-bot all the time is really exhausting)

“Do not touch him” She protested.

“Or what?” Max asked with a scowl on his face.

Max shoved her to the ground and started punching her. He landed two clean punches on her lower abdomen and one on her chest. This was not the first time Lindsey had been punched by a fight-bot but that didn’t make it a pleasurable experience.

“You were saying?” Max said, standing over here and kicking her.

“Leave her alone.” Smith said.

“You want to be a hero, kid. A tough guy?” Max asked.

“Please, I don’t want to hurt you.” Smith said calmly.

Max laughed, lunged at Smith and time froze.

Lindsey had seen hand-to-hand combat several times on the north pole, Seun was one of the best fighters in her age group and he had almost achieved ‘god status’ in handling weapons (seriously, the boy could fight with anything). Still, Smith’s movements were clean and fluid.

He gave Max two quick punches on chest and followed up swiftly with a high kick to his face. The holo-cloak flickered a bit and for a split second Max was a fight-bot again.

“What are you?” Smith asked.

Seun was too shocked to reply but Yukino was bubbling with excitement.

“I didn’t think I was going to use this today.” She said.

“Use what?” Seun said, turning to face her.

“Oh No. You have that smile again.” He said.

“Okay, here goes nothing.” She said with a chuckle hitting a button on the controller labelled BERZERK.

Outside, Max threw a quick succession of punches that Smith blocked with relative ease. He was getting faster and faster throwing a kick a that floored Smith.

“Smith!!!” Lindsey yelled genuinely concerned.

Smith got up looking very angry.

He dusted his clothes and calmed his breathing slowly, closing his eyes.

Max attacked him again with a punch and this time Smith caught it with his left hand. Almost immediately he delivered a quick jab with his right fist that shattered Max’s arm.

“ENOUGH!” Lindsey shouted.

Yukino turned Max off.

“Gladly, he broke my baby’s arm” Yukino said to Seun.

“That’s because you were trying to kill him genius” Seun replied.

Yukino grinned.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?” Lindsey asked.

“Nowhere.” Smith said, giving Lindsey her backpack.

“Smith, I know. You don’t need to hide it from me, I’m a member too.” She said.

He stared at her in silence for a bit.

“You are?” He finally asked.

“Yes. For three years now.” She said smiling.

“You’ve been a member of B.U.N.N.Y. for three years?” He asked, shocked.

“Yes I ha…wait, what’s B.U.N.N.Y.?” She asked.

“The organization that recruited me three months ago. What are you talking about?” He asked.

“C.L.A.U.S. I’ve been an agent for three years now” Lindsey replied.

“Who is your commander?” She asked.

“Commander? We have a master, Master Tibbar. We know him as the Easter Bunny, believe me he is not what we thought.”

“Who is your mas…sorry Commander?” He asked.

“Commander Nick also known as Santa Claus. Believe me, he’s not what you think either” She replied.

“Wow, this is weird” Smith said.

“Yup” Lindsey replied.

They walked home sharing experiences and exchanging information about their organizations while Seun and Yukino took what was left of Max and headed back to the North Pole using a teleportation device.

In all honesty Lindsey didn’t think telling Smith about C.L.A.U.S. would cause any problems until Christmas that year when Smith made the naughty list and didn’t get any presents. Lindsey investigated the list compilation for that year tracking down the agent that was assigned to her brother who claimed that he wrote Smith’s name on the nice list.

The same thing happened the next year and the year after that Smith got a present that put him in a hospital for a week (I’ll get to that in a bit). After this, Lindsey got very mad.

 

 

 

PHASE 3- TWELVE

Lindsey arrived at the North Pole after a mission and headed straight for Commander Nick’s office. It was the third day of September, she was twelve years old now and this was her last year as an agent of C.L.A.U.S.

She walked into his office and saluted.

“Agent Lindsey. Welcome, mission report?” Nick asked.

“Mission was a success, the naughty list has been updated and the LEGO Toy factory in London received an anonymous donation just like you instructed.” She said.

“Good. Dismissed.” Nick said with a wave of his hand.

“Permission to make an inquiry Commander” she said.

Nick gave her an impatient cold stare.

“Carry on” He said.

“For the past three years my brother Smith didn’t make the nice list twice.
Last year, he made the list and got a box load of his favorite crackers and he was so excited he ate them all.
We found out later that they were laced with nuts. I checked his file and it was clearly stated there that he is allergic to nuts.
When I questioned the agent in charge, I found out that his present was switched with someone else’s at last minute.
Why are you being mean and unfair to my brother sir?”

Lindsey let out a long breath as she finished speaking.

“Mean? Unfair? Where do you think you are you little shrimp?” Nick began.

Lindsey opened her mouth to speak but he kept her silent with a wave of the hand.

“How do you think I became the name and face of the biggest holiday season in the world?
Do you think it was by being soft?
Or considerate?
Do you think I do not have any rivals or competitors?
I thought you were smart Lindsey. But what did you do?
You opened your mouth and told our secrets to a member of my biggest rival’s organization”

“Biggest Rival? Wait, you mean the Easter Bunny?” Lindsey asked.

“Yes. HIM. Bloody Tibbar.” He responded.

“But my brother didn’t tell anyone about us. He wouldn’t” She replied.

“How do you know that little girl?
And even if he didn’t, you still broke a contract as an agent of C.L.A.U.S.
You’re lucky you’re the best strategist I have because that’s the only reason why I haven’t wiped your memory and sent you home.” He sneered.

“Okay. I messed up, I shouldn’t have said anything and I should have known you’d be watching. But if you want to punish anyone, punish me not him please.” Lindsey pleaded.

“Sorry kid but that won’t work. He is a member of B.U.N.N.Y. and he knows about us, I can’t let him live a happy life.” Nick said.

“He’s my brother, you nearly killed him last year.” Lindsey said sobbing.

“Yeah, too bad that plan failed because you discovered the nuts pretty quickly. Let’s look on the bright side though, you stop being a C.L.A.U.S. agent next year, and I can finally get my hands on him without you trying to save him.” Commander Nick said with a sadistic smile.

“You’re a monster.” She said with tears in her eyes.

“I know.” He replied with a grin.

“I won’t let you hurt him.” She said determinedly as she stormed out of his office.

She got back home that night and called a meeting of her friends. Thirty minutes after she made the call they both arrived in her room through the teleportation portal.

“Hey, we came as soon as we can. What’s wrong?” Yukino said, noticing the tear in her eyes and the redness of her cheeks.

“I’ll tell you, but first can you do something to our signals so no one from the North Pole can track us.” Lindsey asked.

“Including Commander Nick?” Seun asked.

“Especially Commander Nick” She replied.

Yukino brought out her mini-computer from her backpack and punched in some numbers for about a minute.

“Okay done, we have at least 29minutes 54 seconds before anyone finds out. Start talking.” Yukino said.

Lindsey narrated the conversation she had with her Commander Nick to her friends.

Yukino sighed.

“So what are we going to do now? We can’t beat him.” Yukino said.

“No we can’t, but we can stop him. I have a plan.” Lindsey said.

Seun shook his head.

“Out with it, Lin” he said.

“I’m going to steal the Christmas List and I need your help.” Lindsey said.

“I’m in” Yukino said.

“Really?” Lindsey asked.

“Sure, You’re my friend Lindsey. Besides, we haven’t done anything fun in a while”

Lindsey hugged Yukino and they both turned to look at Seun.

Seun stared at both of them and shrugged.

“I’m in. Although I’m pretty sure this is how we die” He said.

They all laughed.

“When are we doing this?” Seun asked.

“The 23rd of December. We have a lot of work to do before then though.” Lindsey replied.

“So we have three months and twenty days to prepare.” Yukino said.

She glanced at her watch.

“It’s almost thirty minutes, we’ll be back on the grid any minute now.” She said.

“It’s alright, we have your back Lin.” Seun said as he opened a portal home.

“I’ll see you soon Lin. I have to go too.” Yukino said leaving Lindsey in the room alone.

 

The months passed by in a flash as Lindsey, Yukino and Seun prepared to steal Santa’s list. When December came around, they got a lot busier trying to balance their normal lives with regular C.L.A.U.S duties and their planned heist.

On the night of the 22nd of December, they all gathered in Seun’s house in Nigeria. They sat around a table in his room eating what Seun called Jollof rice as they went over their plans again using a map of the fortress that Yukino downloaded.

The Christmas-list was held in a safe vault in the underground layer the fortress, it was off-limits to all agents. Commander Nick and his lieutenants, the elves were the only ones allowed on those levels. Fortunately for them, Yukino was the best at what she did so she hacked into the system’s main network to provide a detailed map of the underground layer.

“This meal is really good Seun” Yukino said.

Lindsey nodded in approval still eating also.

“Thanks, you can’t come to Nigeria and not eat jollof rice” He answered.

“So do we understand everything we’re supposed to do?” Lindsey asked.

“Pretty much.” Seun said.

Yukino nodded.

“I guess I’ll see you again in a couple of hours then.” Lindsey said as she opened a teleportation portal.

“Thanks for the meal Seun. If we survive this, I’m definitely coming back for more.” She said smiling before entering the portal.

“Make that two of us” Yukino said, giving Seun a hug before leaving.

 

 

 

“Lin, Seun. Do you copy?” Yukino said through her microphone.

“Yes.” They both replied.

It was the night of the heist and Yukino was in her bedroom in Tokyo. She set up her own little control room hacking into the cameras of the fortress to help guide Lindsey and Seun.

Lindsey and Seun were both dressed in black combat outfits covered from head to toe until you could almost not tell them apart save for Lindsey’s hips that were starting to take shape as she approached puberty.

Their outfits were equipped with invisibility holo-cloaks and a range of small devices that Yukino thought they would need. The plan was to travel light and avoid a fight as much as they could. Seun did not believe avoiding a fight was totally possible so he brought his twin knives just in case.

“Okay, Invisibility cloaks on?” Yukino asked.

“Yes.” They replied.

“Okay. Setting off the alarms in 3,2,1” Yukino hit a button and sirens wailed all over the Fortress.

Yukino set off an alarm in the largest packaging factory which sent most of the agents and elves towards the east end of the fort where the packaging factories were located.

“You have fifteen minutes guys, move fast” Yukino said.

Lindsey and Seun moved as quickly as they could, navigating the fort with Yukino’s help. They didn’t run into any agents and the few elves they ran into couldn’t detect them since they were invisible, and so far things were going smoothly, a little too smoothly for Seun’s paranoia.

“Okay guys you’re getting close to the elevator the underground elevators. Watch out for the pressure plates on the ground” Yukino said.

Lindsey and Seun already memorized where the plates were located from the map and they carefully avoided them.

“There are two elves at the entrance of the elevator, upper class. Be careful.” Yukino said.

“Copy that.” Seun said.

They already had a plan for the guards.

“You ready?” Lindsey asked.

“Does it matter? Go Lin, I got you.” Seun said reassuringly.

Lindsey approached the elevator and the elves looked at her.

“You don’t have clearance to be here.” One of them said.

“You can see me? Well, I guess this is useless then.” She said turning off the invisibility holo-cloak.

The other elf checked his data pad.

“Lindsey Matthews. Whatever you’re plan…Ouch!” He said as he felt a sharp pain on his neck.

He staggered a bit and dropped on the ground.

The second elf ran towards Lindsey throwing a punch, she tried dodging to the side but he saw through her maneuver and landed a kick on her ribcage.

“We taught you everything you know about fighting. Stand down, you can’t beat u…” He paused touching his neck before falling unconscious.

“Took you long enough” Lindsey said as Seun came out of hiding.

“Well, it’s not easy throwing a tranq-dart at a moving object, didn’t want to hit you” He replied helping her up.

“You threw it with your hands?” She asked surprised.

“Yeah, we travelled light remember? So I left the tranq-guns.” He said.

“Wow, you are good.” She said.

“Those tranq-darts will wear off in 45 minutes’ tops. Enough chit-chat, you need to move now.” Yukino said.

They entered the elevator and made their way to the underground layer. Yukino guided them through a few more traps until they reached the entrance to the room that the list was held.

Seun carefully placed a device on the security panel of the door connecting wires where Yukino instructed.

“Okay Yuki, you’re up” Seun said.

This was the most daunting part of their mission and it all rested on Yuki’s unique talents. A couple of minutes passed and they started panicking.

“Yuki???” Seun called.

“Almost there, a couple of seconds more.” She said.

The alarm sounded catching them by surprise.

“Yuki, was that you?” Lin asked.

“Of course not.”

“They must be on to us.” Seun said.

“How?” Lindsey asked.

“Doesn’t matter. We need to move NOW!!!” Seun blurted out worried.

“Done. The code is 3-4-9-0-5-5-5-2-7” Yuki said.

Lindsey punched in the numbers and they stepped inside as the doors shut behind them.

The room was mostly empty with a few antiques scattered around, directly in front of them was a transparent glass vault. Inside the vault was the datapad that had the Christmas list (you thought the list was written on a scroll didn’t you?).

They quickly attached another of Yukino’s devices to the vault.

“Okay Yuki, you’re…” Lin began stopping abruptly as Seun put his finger on her lips to silence her.

“Something’s wrong.” Seun said.

“What do you mean?” Lin whispered.

“The alarm went off over ten minutes ago and no one is here yet. This is going way too smoothly.” Seun replied.

“Maybe the alarm was for something else. There could have been another… SEUN, WATCH OUT!!!” Lindsey screamed a little too late as a knife slashed his shoulder from behind.

Seun reacted quickly turning to block a second slash with one of his knives but the large looming figure responded even faster kicking him away.

“The code is 2-6-7-9-3-8.” Yukino said.

Lindsey quickly punched in the number but got punched away before she could press ‘ENTER’.

“You pathetic shrimps thought you could do this and I wouldn’t find out?” Commander Nick said. He was flanked by one of the elves, his second in command who was usually by his side.

The elf walked towards Seun but he was already on his feet, a knife in each hand.

They both attacked each other with a quick succession of slashes and with every move Seun started slowing down.

“Give up boy. You’re bleeding.” He said.

Lindsey’s was also fighting a losing battle as Commander Nick kept blocking all her attacks and was practically throwing her across the room.

“You’re a disappointment.” Santa said walking towards her.

She managed to get up, blood oozing out of her nose.

“I took pity on you, I should have wiped your memory a long time ago.” He continued.

“Maybe…your… mistake.” Lindsey said struggling to speak.

“This ends now” He said.

“Yes…it…does.”  She said signaling Seun with her eyes.

Sprawled in the floor, Seun used the last of his strength to throw a knife in the direction of elf.

“Missed me” He said.

“Wasn’t aiming for you.” Seun grinned as the knife hit the ENTER button of the vault.

The vault bolted open and Lindsey ran towards it.

“Oh no you don’t” Commander Nick said blocking her.

He threw a punch at her but she dodged it quickly. Santa reacted quickly with a follow up punch but she fell to the ground quickly sliding through his legs which were spread wide open.

“She’s fast.” Commander Nick said in shock but before he could turn she was already at the vault holding the data pad in her hands.

The elf attempted to run towards her only to stopped by a sharp throbbing pain on his right foot. He looked down and saw a knife sticking through it pinning him to the ground.

“This time, I was aiming for you.” Seun said barely standing on his feet.

Commander Nick got to Lindsey, lifted her and slammed her to the ground.

“YOU…I SHOULD KILL YOU.” He sneered pinning her down by her neck.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Let her go.” Seun said.

“You dare give me orders boy?” Commander Nick replied.

“Take a look at your datapad.” Seun said.

He stared at Seun for a while, then he let Lindsey go picking up the datapad from the ground. After tapping the screen about three times his eyes widened.

“What did you do?” He asked.

“Well…” Lindsey said putting Yukino on speaker.

“When Lin held the datapad she placed a microchip that allowed me to hack into the fortress’ database.” Yukino said.

“That means that all your files; addresses, delivery numbers, contacts details and your beloved Christmas list are in my control now.” Lindsey explained.

“Why you little…” Commander Nick shouted in anger.

“What do you want?” He finally asked.

“I want you to put my brother on the nice list and give him the present he wants. Also, I want you to keep Seun, Yuki and myself in your full employment.” She said.

“That’s insane, you retire next year. The only way that could happen is if your memories remain intact.” Commander Nick said.

“Exactly. We don’t want to forget this and we certainly do not want to forget each other.” Yuki said over the microphone.

“What am I supposed to do with you worms?” He said rather calmly.

“That’s for you to figure out boss. Besides look around, you need us. Obviously.” Seun said.

“And if I refuse?” Commander Nick asked.

“You don’t want to find out.” Lin said.

Commander Nick gave her a cold long stare.

“Fine. I’ll give you what you want.” He said.

“Good, Yuki return the files to the datapad. If he tries anything funny between today and the night before Christmas, shut down the fortress.” Lindsey said over her microphone.

“Gladly.” Yuki said.

Lindsey stumbled as she tried to walk.

“Come on, let’s go home.” Seun said stretching his hands to help her.

“Quick question, where did you learn to move like that?” Seun asked.

“Move like what?” She asked in return.

“The way you evaded Commander Nick to get to the datapad. I’ve never seen anything like it.” He said.

“Oh that. I’ve been sparring with my brother, he taught me a few things.” She answered.

“Wow. Remind me never to get in a fight with him.” Seun said.

“So what now?” Lindsey asked.

“Well, first we need to get you both to the medics. After that we head to Seun’s for some of that Jellaf Rice” Yukino said.

“Come on Yuki. It’s called Jollof Rice, don’t ruin it” Lin corrected.

“Coming from the girl who still can’t pronounce my name properly…Ouch.” Seun said as Lindsey punched him on the shoulder.

They all laughed as Lindsey and Seun limped towards the elevator.

 

It was the night before Christmas.

For the first time in three years, there was present under the tree for Smith. Lindsey already knew what it was and she was glad he was finally getting the Christmas he deserved.