Okay, maybe a little early for this one, but it's not entirely what you think.
A while ago (1988) I wrote an early experiment centered around a what-if idea I had, that what if old Santa Claus was actually an alien from another planet. Sounds logical, right? I thought so too! Anyway, I break this one out about once a year. It's just a quick little story about...
"The Man In The Red Suit"
Mark Anthony Tierno
The air was still and magical as Billy and Lisa crept down the staircase and peeked into the living room, still hung with a bit of mist. Billy gasped as Lisa dropped her dolly with a squeal.
They both bolted towards the tree, heaped with presents and trimmings. Billy gazed wistfully out through the window trying to find the Christmas deliverer of such marvelous happiness.
The jolly fat man in the red suit sighed and sat back in his seat. He fingered the autopilot switch and settled back for the ride home.
"Last stop," he muttered to himself, as he gazed at clouds and countryside speeding by faster than sound.
He looked at the R.E.I.N.D.E.E.R. pulling him aloft. Such a quaint acronym, he thought to himself, to stand for Remotely Energized Integrated Night-Directional Electrically Enhanced Robots, although he still looked upon them as actual pets. He'd even named them after a song he'd heard, including the spare that he sometimes used, the one with the IR light for flying in low visibility.
The grav-sled finally sloped down to the North Pole base. Kris noticed a ship parked on the landing pad and wondered if it was another inspector come to poke around again. It seemed like only fifty years since the last one came around.
The Elves helped him down off the sled and then proceeded to busy themselves at seeing to the 'D.E.E.R. and the sled (an old Mark II grav-sled).
He thought about the Elves; he still wondered about that intense work-ethic that all natives of the planet Elfost seemed to have and wondered if they ever took a vacation at all.
As he entered the doors to the personal area of the station, his subordinate, secretary, advisor, confidant, and sometimes lover, approached him with a forced smile on her lips as she took his big Environ-coat and led him in.
In the parlor, in one of the plush antique chairs, sat a skinny stiff-lipped business-suit pretending to be a man. As Kris entered, the polyester-person got up, sniffed stiffly, and then stepped over to him.
"My credentials," the business suit said tightly, handing over his compu-disc. "I am a First-Class Inspector from Central Lifeform And Universal Services."
You could hear the capitals as he talked.
"Yes," he responded, turning the disc over in his fingers as he also reached for his pipe in his pocket. "We haven't had a visitor from C.L.A.U.S. headquarters in quite a few years."
"You are Dr. Kringle?"
"Just Kris," as he lit up his pipe.
"Hm. Well, I am here to look over your research station on this planet. We've had some strange reports about your operations. Like, for instance, why aren't you on Rejuv? You look quite old and degenerated, unlike your pretty little subordinate here," pointing to the lady present.
"It helps me to... blend in with the natives this time of year. Usually I am on Rejuv. And, by the way, I didn't quite catch your name."
"Mr. Trolkin," emphasizing the Mr., "now, please show me around this base."
Kris sighed and led him out the door.
"And this is where the toys are manufactured," she said. "The design is entered into that terminal over there, the quantity selected, and then the matter-energy fabricators create them and the Elves ship them off to storage."
"Yes, I understand all that," the Inspector rapped impatiently, "but why is all this necessary? You're just supposed to observe their culture, not get involved in it."
"Each of the toys has in it an environment monitor with a five year life span. Our computers and the Elves monitor received data all year round," Kris replied.
"Yes, I realize that, but I don't see why so many are needed, nor why all this propensity for commercialization is required. Why, they even know of you publicly! What kind of non-involved scientific study do you call that!"
"The only way that these natives can be studied is from the inside. Surely, you can't just expect us to–"
"I expect to see proper observance of scientific protocol, not this prepubescent emotional claptrap from an old quack in a red jumpsuit!"
"You shall not talk to my husband like that!" she yelled back.
"Yes, we got married in accordance with the local–" Kris began.
"So! Now you're actually becoming one of the locals. It's not enough that–"
"Mister Trolkin," Kris began firmly, "we have sent back quite a lot of valuable data for C.L.A.U.S.. What we do in our- Would you like to get on with the inspection?" he finished more calmly.
"I've seen quit enough." He paced over to the door then stopped. "I'm recommending that this so-called scientific outpost be closed immediately!"
The loud slamming door amplified the silence impressed upon the room.
"What are we going to do Kris?" she asked her husband while in the kitchen.
"I'm not sure," he said calmly between sips of his tea, a quaint native beverage, he thought, "you know I don't plot too well while not in rejuv."
"I'm sorry," she sat down beside him, "it's just that I'm so worried."
"Well," he patted her hand, "I'll just have to take care of him and C.L.A.U.S. for good."
Her eyes widened.
"Mmm. What are these called that I'm eating?" the Inspector asked.
"They're Christmas cookies," she responded diffidently. "Those are chocolate chip."
"Hm. Quaint. Well, when I make my report your– husband is it?– will get a Negligence and Interference hearing, but you might be reassigned. I might be able to–"
"Please don't!" She faced her back towards him.
"If you display any more of these odd emotional attachments, you may have to go through a competence hearing yourself," he pointed out, "and possibly even a mind-readjust as well."
Just at that time, Kris walked in, smile on his lips around his lit pipe, red cap and bulky furry red suit on, looking for all the world like a poster-boy for Christmas Seals.
"Aha! You come in displaying flagrant violations of at least a dozen different codes. You've had it now, and insanity pleas won't help either!"
A merry twinkle left his left eye and he calmly walked up, puffed twice on his pipe, and said, "There's something I want to show you, if you would be so kind."
The Inspector was about to unleash some hard efficient expletive but then stopped short and said, "Sure! Let's see some more of your pandering violations. You can hang yourself!"
Kris led him out across the compound and into a computer-filled room, ablaze with 3-D display screens, and nary an Elf to be seen amongst them. He sat in front of one of them, pressed a few studs, and popped up a display of a boy and a girl playing with some newly opened toys.
"Huh," he snorted, "you expect me to be overcome by a poor display of pseudo-sentimentalism for a couple of animals?"
As they did so, arguing was heard in the background, of matters of money and schools for the kids. The parents then entered the room, eyes ablaze with fury at each other. Then their eyes lit upon the two playing with their toys and softened in mid-gaze. The parents began to then play with their children.
"So what! We already found out their relationship with their offspring."
"Oh? Would that have been in the fiasco-ed Hamlin incident?" he smiled.
"Project Piper was a sound prospect to–"
"But it ended in disaster. No, such overt techniques are no good. Here, you will observe that the toys are the center of a child's life. But children are the center of a parent's life, and indeed, of most other adults' lives. Where negotiation fails, put in a questioning child and watch both sides try reaching an agreement. Why, just but put an old toy in front of an adult, with no one else present, and watch him soften with memories of his childhood. The sentimentalism can be a powerful tool of psychological warfare, and toys are a way of tapping into its potential."
"Well I've sure observed its effects on you," he snorted sarcastically. But then, his eyes drifted over to the image again.
He watched as the children and parents played, the presence of the children at play having diffused the fight, the parents even sneaking an occasional kiss when they thought the kids weren't looking. And then, when the kids had walked off to breakfast, the parents found themselves still playing with the toys... and each other.
The Inspector suddenly shook himself, having found himself caught up in the scene, and then clicked off the viewer and got up.
"Well, there just might be something to this... technique, after all."
"It could be quite a powerful tool," Kris suggested.
"Yes, well, I'll suggest to C.L.A.U.S. H.Q. that your project get a higher priority."
"I'll be glad to send off a few sample toys to H.Q., so you can then test them there. Say with some of our own kids– to observe the effects upon children of a superior race, naturally."
"Naturally. But don't hold out too much hope. After all, our kids aren't like these native animals you know."
"Of course not," he smiled good naturedly.
"But, we could plant a few sample tests in some solar systems we've been having trouble with."
"I'd be glad to supply the toys and such."
"Tell you what. Since you seem to have acquired a certain amount of resistance to this type of warfare, you can make the deliveries and be put in charge of the entire project."
"Why thank-you Inspector Trolkin. I gladly accept your gracious offer."
"Hmmm. Well, I have to get going back to H.Q. to make a report. I'll take two of these toys back with me."
"Very well," smiled Kris as he began reaching for a doll on the table.
"Uh, Dr. Kringle, could I take one of those red fire-engines too," he pointed, a bit nervous and pre-occupied.
"Why, of course," he chuckled, "here."
The Inspector was then showed out to his ship, last seen trying to finger the miniature firehose without being seen.
When Kris walked, smiling and puffing on his pipe, back into the house, his wife greeted him with a happy but concerned look.
"Kris, are you sure that it was wise to do it that way?"
"Well, I didn't like to bill the toys as some weapon of warfare to be used, but I think that will work out."
"But what if he hadn't gone for it so easily, dear?"
Kris opened his large bulky red coat, reached into an inner pocket concealed within its large folds, and brought out a small, cigarette case sized, Amiability-Field Generator (Model #: AF-25) and put it down on the table and smiled.
"Everyone's always friendly around old Santa," he chuckled.
She smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder while he chuckled like a bowl full of– well, you know.
He then put an arm around her and said, "Come honey, what with the new expanded routes come next Christmas, I'd better get through Rejuv right now."
So, if you look up in the sky one Christmas night, and see a jolly fat man wearing a red Environ-suit, in a grav-sled pulled by eight R.E.I.N.D.E.E.R. that just happen to resemble certain animal natives of a Class C world, then you may not necessarily be on Earth. For Christmas, and good old Santa, have spread to the stars, leaving the, sometimes old, jolly elf a quite busy schedule delivering all of those toys– excuse me, implements of psychological warfare.