Christmas came and Christmas went. Three times. Halfway to the fourth the first shuttle of colonists left the orbital transfer station for the Moon and thirty-seven families set up housekeeping in ‘pre-prepared dwelling units’, a nice phrase translating to furnished caves. In a little twist of that old elfin magic, every one of those families came from a cultural background with Santa Claus. Thirty-seven sets of parents brought fifty-nine children and twenty-two of those kids were young enough or imaginative enough to still believe in Santa Claus.
Even with another hundred families scheduled for next year and projecting high than averge birth rates, the soon-to-be-promoted Lunar Santa would have a very light delivery schedule for decades. A cushy job for the first little while.
Two dozen polar launches took supplies and construction crews to the Moon. Frank made the round trip five times and Santa managed one each year. Delays and problems put the schedule just far enough behind to make the deadline a challenge, but the Lunar North Pole Village would be ready on time, probably. But what was Christmas without a little bit of stress?
The reindeer problem remained a problem: reindeer had to breathe. Even if none of the colonists ever caught a glimpse, there was an image to maintain. Eugene and Jan hoped for some flash of brilliance.
To Santa’s surprise and amusement, Frank’s apparent stress level dropped as the project moved ahead. Between supervising regular operations, arms-length overseeing of lunar construction, and interviewing potential Santas, Frank put in hundred-hour work weeks, but seemed more relaxed than he had in years. Luna-Ho pushed him above some critical point and Frank became an elf again.
On August third, Frank and Santa met to discuss Santa search, and Frank spread a fistful of folders across the desk. “These are our final seven.” He leaned back in his chair. “My top three are Mike, Hans, and Xavier, but I think we should put all seven through the full process. Nelson and Xian can work things into your schedule.”
Santa waved a hand at the files. “I’ve been through all of the notes and results so far. Let Mario and Nelson do their thing. But you’ve gone to a lot of trouble not to have favourites before now. Talk to me.”
“Well, aside from the work ethic, which you’ve gotta have around this place, the overall jolliness, and the drive to make things work, they’ve all got some little trait that sticks out in my head somehow. Mike is a natural born list maker and he seems to be pretty good at checking things off. Even with all the high tech, it’s still a big chunk of your time through the fall.
“Hans has the bowl full of jelly thing down pat and a solid mind for details, almost more than anyone else around here and definitely more than anyone who applied or had their name thrown into the hat by nomination.
“Xavier uses his brain more than most elves. It’s a good quality for anyone to have and it’s gotta be important in a Santa. He doesn’t give the impression of being ambitious, but he never says no to a challenge.” Frank grinned. “HR flagged him for management a while back, pending the appropriate opening.”
“I get the feeling he’s your favorite.”
Hold up his hands, Frank shook his head. “I don’t want to influence your decision, Chief. You asked, but I really think you need a feel for the full breadth of available talent.”
“Don’t worry, Frank, I’ll give everyone the consideration they deserve.” The jolly old elf flashed his Number Two a winning smile.
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