Chris Stoesen Fiction: A Holiday Short

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Holiday Short

Do you ever have odd thoughts run through your head that you just go with to see where they go? This one came up while watching the holiday specials with my son. So we were watching Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I began to wonder if Santa's sleigh would produce enough of a radar signature for a man portable Anti-Aircraft missile to lock on. Could it be that I am tired of the story of Hermey the dentist and the bumble that bounces? Not really. I watch them several times each season. This was just one of those wandering thoughts that did not pass but became something else.

Kamisak Coffee Shop, Ivalo, Finland 0930 hours January 3rd

James Howard Ellison believed that he had to be in the armpit of the world. In his short tenure at the CIA, he had traveled far and wide. But the northern reaches of Finland was a first for him. Sure, it was better than that areas of Afghanistan, Iraq or the Sudan that he had been before. It was definitely not the tourist season here.

The coffee shop was part of a larger complex that included a guest house and a farm for husky's and horses. In his business, you never know where you will end up. He thought his boss was pulling his leg when he said he needed to debrief an elf. Yet here he was. He looked out the window and saw a dog sled team race by. He shook his head in disbelief.

The James leaned over the coffee cup and warmed his hands over the steaming fluid. He stared at the man across from him. Sure he was short, but an elf? There was no way. He did not have the thicker build that he thought midgets had. Sorry, little people or whatever the hell the politically correct term was these days. The guy's body looked like that of a child but he had crow's feet in the corners of his eyes. He could just make out a shock of gray hair poking out from beneath his stocking cap.

"You still don't believe it do you?"

He had heavily accented English. James assumed it was due to his Finnish background.

"What, in elves? Hell no. But my boss sent me to listen to what you had to say. So start talking."

The small man grinned at the American. He was enjoying the American's discomfort.

"OK, James, I will begin with just the recent incident. On Christmas eve, things were going as normal. All preparations were set and the operations staff was ready for the launches."

"Wait, what? Launches? Your people are firing rockets or something?"

The small man laughed. His face took on such a merry cast that the waitress, the sole other occupant in the coffee shop smiled as well.

"Rockets? No, the sleighs but wait. Listen to the story."

A White Hell - 2241 hours Zulu

The shivering was uncontrollable by now. He had improved his position as best as he could. The snow was packed around him up to his chest. He glanced at his watch again and decided it was time. He had stuck the watch in the snow bank in front of him so that only the face was visible. Hoisting the weapon to his shoulder, he managed to power up the radar tracking system in three attempts. As best he could, he pointed it in the general direction that he had been instructed.

Taking a slow shuddering breath, he tried to steady the weapon on his shoulder. The cold penetrated him so sharply, that he could not stop shaking. His eyes were drooping under his goggles. He was not sure that he could complete his mission. The warning light on the weapon's radar came to life and began chirping and warbled out a tone.

"Allahu Akbar," he whispered and jerked the trigger on the weapon without waiting for a lock tone. The backblast of the weapon turned the snow behind him instantly into water and steam. The flow of which rushed into his snowy foxhole. His eyes widened and he dropped the weapon. He never saw the result of his actions.

Over a mile away and some 20,000 feet above the arctic circle, the sleigh attempted to bank to the right to avoid the oncoming rocket. The Chinese engineers had done some of their best work with this rocket. The weapon followed the cousrse of the sleigh. When it drew close the missile exploded sending shrapnel into four of reindeer on the left side killing them. The explosion also tore the paneling from the left side of the sleigh. The combined forces pulled the sleigh and deer over into a descending roll. The roll became tighter and tighter as the sleigh descended directly down into the snow and ice below.

Kamisak Coffee Shop, Ivalo, Finland 0943 hours January 3rd

"Hold on, you are telling me, terrorists shot down Santa Clause? That is it, I am out of here. How old do I look, 10? Give me a break."

"No, I am telling you that they shot down A Santa Clause. Do you honestly think just one guy can accomplish all of that in one day? Oh please, there were one hundred and seventy-five launches that night. It was our largest ever, even with the decline in belief."

James pushed back from the table and slouched in the chair. He stared in disbelief. His boss sent him from his comfortable home out to this frozen waste for a joke.

"We are done here. Maybe I can get an earlier flight home." As James stood to leave, the small man threw a stack of three photographs on the table. The one on top was a man frozen from the waist down in ice that was holding a Chinese Made FN-6 launcher. The man in the picture was dressed in a heavy coat with gloves and goggles. But the long scraggly beard that protruded out of the opening in his hood below the face was visible.

James knew weapon systems. That was his specialty. He studied the weapon. There were modifications to it from the standard FN-6 launcher. He had recently received a report from the Asia desk about something that seemed very similar to what the report described. He snatched up the picture and studied it closely. The snow and ice, both in front and in back of the man, was gray and black from the blast of the launch. His eyes snapped up and he locked his gaze with the little man.

"Do you have access to the launcher? Can I see it?"

It was then that he saw the next image. It was an aerial view of wreckage. It was bits and pieces of a sleigh and reindeer. Wait, is that wrapping paper? And look, they were honest to God reindeer. Well, what was left of them after a missile detonation and a high speed impact with the ground. James' stomach rolled. He had dropped out of medical school when he realized that he could not stand the sight of blood. His predicament normally did not affect his work at the CIA but there was always those few moments. Normally he was better prepared and had some medication to help if he knew something was going to happen. Fortunately, the picture was not a closeup.

He slid the wreck photo aside to reveal the bottom photo. There was three dead, bearded men laying in the snow. Next to each was an identical FN-6 launcher. All three appeared to be unfired. His head snapped up and he looked at the small man.

"You have three complete systems?"

"Do you believe in Santa now?"

The small man scratched the side of his face and in doing so, pushed his knit cap up revealing a pointed ear. He subtly pushed the ear back up under the hat. James dropped into his chair again. He stared at the man or elf or whatever in disbelief. His mind was racing.

"How can we get one of those complete launchers and missiles? What would you like from us?"

The elf handed James an envelope. He retrieved the picture of the downed sleigh and placed it back in his inside pocket.

"We will be in touch. Tell Donovan that we will use the normal exchange."

"Where did the other three come from? What is the story there?"

With a shrug, the elf decided that it would not hurt to give this bit of information.

"Surely you have heard of Frosty the Snowmen?"

"What, like that kids cartoon that comes on every Christmas? You have to be joking. You have living snowmen? There is no way."

"The Frosties are just elves. We have our own intelligence service. We spread some disinformation that keeps the magic alive. The Frosties are the nickname we gave to our long range patrols that guard our borders. With their uniforms and the amount of ice that they tend to return with when on patrol, the name seemed appropriate. Our patrols discovered these three in their firing pits. We were able to stop them before they fired. They drove them back to base where this photograph was taken. We have some information about who sent them and where they came from. Its in the envelope."

The elf stood and began to put on his heavy winter coat.

"We will be in touch. Say hi to Donovan for me and ask him how his son is enjoying the toy truck. It was not easy getting one in that shade of green."

Before James could bring himself to utter another word, the little man was out the door. He watched in fascination as a reindeer approached him. The elf vaulted on the creatures back like a cowboy in a western movie and began to ride off down the snowy street and out of sight.

Shaking himself, James snatched the photographs and placed them in his own coat. The waitress approached the table and asked if he would like any more coffee. He glanced down at his untouched cup and could only shake his head no.

"How the hell do you write up a contact report on this?"

The End

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